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Before Trump and the “Goldwater Rule”: Diagnosing Hitler in 1943

In September of 1964 the serendipitously named Fact magazine presented readers with a series of articles under the heading, “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater.” The cover was even more emphatic, blaring, “1,189 Psychiatrists Say Goldwater Is Psychologically Unfit To Be President!”

Goldwater, the Republican candidate for president, was outraged, and eventually won a substantial libel judgment against Fact. But this was cold comfort considering his landslide loss to Lyndon Johnson. The archconservative’s legal victory did, however, chastise the headshrinkers, whose professional association ruled that, going forward, no public figure could be diagnosed long-distance. The “Goldwater Rule” decrees, in part, “it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination [of the subject] and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

That a World War II vet and two-term United States senator from Arizona could be judged unfit to be commander in chief seems a quaint notion in contemporary America, led as we are by a businessman with a checkered financial history and zero government or military service. But there have been earlier questions about presidential competence. In 1987, according to the PBS program American Experience, incoming White House chief of staff Howard Baker was told by his predecessor that President Reagan was “inattentive, inept,” and “lazy,” and that Baker and his staff should consider invoking the Constitution’s 25th amendment. This stipulates, in part, that the vice president can become “Acting President” if he and a majority of the cabinet believe that the commander in chief is unable “to discharge the powers and duties of his office”— whether due to insanity, paranoia, debilitating disease, or what have you. However, the Great Communicator impressed his new chief of staff with sunny banter, and Reagan finished out his term with high public approval ratings, only to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994.

Today, a much more public debate rages between psychiatric associations as to whether the Goldwater Rule should be lifted to enable professionals to probe the motives (and manias) of President Trump.

Recently, a group of concerned mental health professionals created an organization, Duty to Warn, that flouts the Goldwater Rule. Their homepage boldly proclaims them to be “an association of mental health professionals (and other concerned citizens) who advocate Trump’s removal under the 25th Amendment on the grounds that he is psychologically unfit.” The Duty to Warn group has also sponsored a newly released book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.

As America’s professional mental health experts continue to fight over the efficacy of a long-distance diagnosis of the POTUS, we do have an earlier example of an astral-couch session with another teetotaler of authoritarian bent — Adolf Hitler — which can perhaps give us insight into our current situation.

Version of Langer’s report available on the CIA’s website

In late 1943, psychoanalyst Walter C. Langer was commissioned by the Office of Strategic Services to gather a team of compatriots and plumb the workings of the volatile Führer’s mind. A number of typos betray the haste under which “A Psychological Analysis of Adolph Hitler: His Life and Legend” was compiled — in 1943, victory for the Allies was far from certain and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s government was seeking any way possible to divine what the madman across the water might do next. Despite often misspelling the subject’s name (“Adolph” rather than the correct “Adolf”), Langer and his team accurately predicted a number of Hitler’s moves as the war went south for him, including his suicide in Berlin as the “1,000-year Reich” collapsed, having lasted not much more than a decade. (They also spent quite a few pages speculating on rumors that Germany’s supreme leader was fond of having women urinate and defecate upon him.)

Cover for a 1972 paperback edition of the report, which was declassified in 1968

The report includes quotes from the Führer himself and others, as well as analysis from Langer’s team. Following is a sampling of Langer’s findings reproduced directly from a version of the report available on the CIA’s website (which is more legible than Langer’s hastily typed original). Also note that, where unattributed, the quotes come from Hitler himself.

It should be noted that there are differences (mostly in word choices) between Langer’s roughly typed original report and the later reformatted and illustrated CIA version, which apparently was based on Langer’s revised, declassified version. One example is the phrase “It would be analogous to curing an ulcer without treating the underlying disease,” in the original, which became, “It would be analogous to removing a chancre without treating the underlying disease” in the CIA transcription (pages 143 and 96 respectively).

Perhaps the most curious change comes in the report’s final paragraph. First, we have reproduced the CIA’s version, followed by Langer’s original typescript.

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Normel Person

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Hate Groups And Anti-Fascist Protesters Converge In Tiny Pikeville, Kentucky

After recent violent confrontations at Auburn University and U.C. Berkeley, the site of the next bloody showdown between white nationalists and anti-fascists was set to be Pikeville, Kentucky, a small, sleepy town nestled in the Appalachian foothills. That’s where the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party announced they and other groups would hold a rally on the steps of the courthouse, and where antifa groups from across the South and Midwest immediately announced they would meet them. In the end, despite heavy bluster on both sides, the event was reasonably peaceful: lots of shouting, lots of racial slurs, but no head wounds or broken windows.

The rally itself was held on Saturday, April 29, but the night before the Traditionalist Worker Party and their new coalition—among them a KKK affiliate called the Global Crusaders, the National Socialist Movement, some militia types, and an old anti-Semite from Illinois named Arthur Jones — held an informal assembly up in the hills of Democrat, KY near Whitesburg, in a grassy field on private land off a muddy, winding dirt road.

The event was organized by the head of TWP, Matthew Heinberg, who chose Pikeville due to the economic downturn from the loss of coal industry jobs, and because eastern Kentucky is a predominantly white area that overwhelmingly voted for Trump. Heimbach sees the region, as he told his new friends, as symbolic of a sector of white America that’s been abandoned by the federal government.

“We didn’t leave America,” he told the crowd. “America left us. Our people were motivated by Donald Trump’s election and by the promises he made us.”

Among the many speakers, “Commander” Jeff Schoep, head of the National Socialist Movement, was particularly fiery and blunt when discussing the burgeoning racist alliance. “It’s not about the uniform you wear or the flag you fly,” he told the group. “It’s about the color of our skin.”

Among various reaffirmations of the group’s core white supremacist beliefs, the potential for violence was also discussed frequently. Schoeps made clear that any cowardice in the face of antifa violence would be met harshly.

“If I see anybody running or breaking ranks you better hope the reds catch you,” he said, not quite joking, to nervous-sounding laughter. “You better hope the antifa get you.”

Most of the speakers only briefly mentioned immigration or jobs, focused as they were on more ancient hatreds. Arthur Jones, who is 69 years old, denounced the government as a “two-party, Jew party, queer party system,” and complained, “President Trump has surrounded himself by Jews, including a Jew in his own family.” The crowd muttered in disgust.

The next day, in an empty downtown Pikeville, a barricaded section around the courthouse awaited the TWP and friends, as did a line of various local and state law enforcement officers and roughly over a hundred counter protesters. At the rally’s scheduled start time of 2 p.m., only a few people from the secessionist neo-Confederate League of the South were penned into the designated Nazi area; Heimbach and his followers were more than an hour late. The protesters and the League of the South passed the time by trading insults, as the locals stood by and watched in dismay.

“I just wish everybody would pack up and go home and give us our town back,” Steve Hartsock said, a Pikeville city commissioner.

“These people are not from here,” said another man standing by, who declined to give his name (“I work in local government,” he explained.) “Neither side. They singled us out for an unknown reason. I wish they’d just go back to wherever they’re from.”

Heimbach and friends finally showed up late and loud, in a long convoy of cars. A few openly carried assault rifles. The antifa crowd responded with boos, jeers, and chants: “Punch a Nazi in the face! Every nation, every race!” a section of the crowd yelled, in unison.

“What are you waiting for?” a guy in a TWP shirt roared back. He had SS lightning bolts tattooed on his face, along with a straight razor running down his jawline; a Confederate flag decorated his arm. A few minutes later, the white supremacists broke into taunts of their own: “Take a bath! Take a bath!” they yelled, and “Race traitor cucks!” mixed with an occasional Nazi salute.

The afternoon wore on, hotter and louder with each passing minute. The various white supremacist groups took turns at the mic, which was occasionally interrupted by antifa agents disconnecting its power source. Yet for the most part both camps stayed docilely on their sides of the street. Reporters and photographers roamed between them, snapping photos. Rob Musick, a local pastor in a long white robe, tried to remind everyone of Jesus’ love for all parties involved, and tried vainly to get Heimbach’s attention.

“Matt!” he yelled “It’s nice to see you, brother.”

“We started dialoguing a few days ago,” he explained hopefully. Heimbach didn’t meet his eyes or respond to his greetings.

The TWP and associates, having had their say, posed for a group photo in front of the courthouse and began a procession back to their vehicles. Antifa loudly followed, still remaining on their side of the street. The barb-trading increased in aggressiveness, as the borders became less delineated without the metal barricades. So much so that suddenly a column of state police in riot gear swiftly appeared and created a wall of shields.

Neither group seemed interested in challenging the wall of helmeted police, focusing instead on congratulating their side on a clear-cut victory. The TWP drove away, tossing a single concussion grenade a block away from the protestors as a parting noisy gift. The antifa marched back through downtown to their cars, a column of riot police nervously keeping an eye on them and the storefront windows they passed by, a noticeable shared sense of victory in the air and a few relieved expressions on the faces of local police.

The war would next move to the most familiar battlefront of them all: Twitter.

Additional reporting by Anna Merlan.

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Rightbloggers Enraged by Science and Climate Marches — But Thank the “NY Times” for Bret Stephens!

From Spiro Agnew to Sarah Palin, American conservatism has long had a strong anti-intellectual component, and the election of an incoherent con man to the presidency has only made stupidity more central to its movement. Look at the current edition of National Review: The conservative flagship, once run by the erudite William F. Buckley and featuring in its heyday writers like Joan Didion and John Leonard, now features bizarre celebrations of Billy Joel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

So it stands to reason that the March for Science two Saturdays back and last Saturday’s People’s Climate March — both of which opposed The Leader’s fund-cutting, data-erasing, planet-endangering approach toward any knowledge that irks the enablers of his grift — reignited their hatred of eggheads and impudent snobs.

Don’t feel too bad for them, though: They got some comfort from the New York Times’ status-hire of a straight-up climate change denialist.

The success of the April 22 Earth Day March for Science, which focused attention on the administration’s animus against environmental science, was galling to rightbloggers, and they did what they could to minimize it.

“March for Science comes under microscope over left-tilting political agenda,” claimed the Washington Times, with examples road tested in previous anti-protest propaganda; for example, if you remember the ginned-up controversy over anti-abortion groups uninvited to the January 21 Women’s March, this bit will sound awfully familiar: “What rankles many critics is that the march has positioned itself as the arbiter of what represents legitimate science and what doesn’t by accepting partnerships with some groups and rejecting others . . .” (Among the march’s rejects: “the Discovery Institute, which argues for intelligent design.”)

National Review’s Jonathan S. Tobin raged that it was also science that abortion is murder but none of these so-called scientists were marching for that (“the life-begins-at-conception idea is a basic truth rooted in science not religion”).

Much of the brethren’s wrath was turned, strangely, on Bill Nye the Science Guy, TV star and prominent spokesman for the March for Science.

HeatStreet’s Emily Zanotti repeatedly informed readers that Nye was not a scientist but a mechanical engineer, as if that were an intellectual disqualification for his role (much like, say, being a reality show host is a disqualification for being president). Brandon Morse at Glenn Beck’s the Blaze agreed (“Can we stop pretending Bill Nye is a science guy already?”). The Daily Wire listed “9 Reasons You Shouldn’t Listen To Bill Nye About Science” (“3. Nye doesn’t understand the basic science surrounding the abortion debate”).

Rod Dreher called Nye “The Afraid-Of-Science Guy” and “Dirty Old Man Bill Nye” because he disseminated a cartoon featuring talking ice cream cones that suggested it was OK to be gay or trans, a toleration Dreher opposes with every fiber of his being. “These people are entitled to say whatever crackpot thing they want to, and to show ice cream cones licking each other until they all melt down,” Dreher sputtered, “but they are not entitled to call it science.” That’s for the Discovery Institute to decide!

Well, that march was huge, and so was Saturday’s, as even right-wing outlets had to report. In response, rightbloggers rolled out some vintage Al Gore Is Fat global warming material (“IRONY: People’s Climate March Postponed In Colorado Due To Heavy Snow” — yes, in some underperforming school districts, this is a sick burn).

Breitbart featured a rant by house environmental writer James Delingpole, “THE PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH – AKA WATERMELONS’ WAR ON CAPITALISM – IN PICTURES” — green on the outside, red on the inside, get it? Delingpole’s essay consisted of photos of marchers and what he probably imagined to be witty remarks; for example, he showed a sign that said, “Make Love Not CO2” and remarked, “How is this even possible? Do these Greenies really know as little about science as I fear?” Apparently, CAPITALISM doesn’t get jokes.

The Washington Times blamed everything on George Soros, helpfully described as “a longtime top donor to Democrats and left-wing causes,” who according to a Media Research Center report gave “$36M to groups behind People’s Climate March.” MRC revealed the nefarious front groups include the NAACP, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. And that’s not counting the money conservatives believe Soros pays directly to protestors! It’s a miracle the guy’s still solvent.

Jerry Dunleavy at the Resurgent attacked “Bill Nye the Science Guy’s Science Lies” — yes, they were still after Nye; even Milo Yiannopoulos, the disgraced alt-right It Boy, attacked Snopes.com for spoiling a joke about Nye’s lack of a proper science degree. Guess it’s gonna be a long road back for Milo.

When that didn’t move the masses, there was always the antique bit about liberal protestors leaving garbage in the street. “Maybe the Earth would be better off if the people who say they care so much about it just stayed home and didn’t create more garbage,” said Kyle Olson of the American Mirror. Makes ya think!

Cold comfort as these ancient tropes may have been for the brethren, they were given a real boost by the maiden column in the New York Times of that paper’s latest right-wing hire, former Wall Street Journal man Bret Stephens. While Stephens is awful is many of the traditional ways, as he demonstrated in a remarkable Vox interview, his climate march weekend column was a dilly. Here’s a tiny taste:

We live in a world in which data convey authority. But authority has a way of descending to certitude, and certitude begets hubris. From Robert McNamara to Lehman Brothers to Stronger Together, cautionary tales abound.

You get the idea: So-called scientists think the Earth is warming, but people make mistakes, so you should definitely go instead with the con artists and corporate flacks who say the scientists are the real frauds.

Rightbloggers produced some expected takes: “Times columnist blasted by ‘nasty left’ for climate change piece,” headlined the New York Post — why, some liberals even swore on Twitter! But these were not nearly as interesting as the reactions of Mainstream Media people — you know, the ones we’re always hearing are as reliably liberal as a paid Soros protestor — who seemed perplexed that some people were mad at (and even planning to boycott) the Times for amplifying yet another denialist in its pages.

“Readers,” assured New York Times national editor Marc Lacey, “the @nytimes puts a priority on both aggressive coverage of the very real threat of climate change . . . and free speech.” (The Times also takes seriously the danger of cholera . . . and the right to pump water anywhere along the Thames free from meddling interference.)

“Really didn’t expect otherwise smart climate advocates to go the way of Berkeley protesters on the NYT,” harrumphed CNN media reporter Dylan Byers. Byers later called proposed boycotts “remarkably dumb and self-defeating in this case” and then, get this, said it was “frustrating to see liberal Twitter proving it can be as intolerant & illogical in the Trump era as conservative Twitter was in the Obama era.” The Times has a constitutional right to your subscription money, intolerant Berkeley fascists!

“Who’s Afraid of Bret Stephens?” said Politico‘s Jack Shafer, who chortled over the “howling ricocheting through the liberal precincts” since Stephens’s column had “traumatized the Times mind-meld like nothing before. . . . Demonstrations outside Times headquarters, clever protest placards, giant street puppets, and a picket line can’t be far off.” You know how those liberals love their protest puppets! Shafer also compared the reaction to Stephens to that accompanying the Times’ hiring of Nixon speechwriter William Safire, whose style and example Shafer was clearly following.

The moral of the story is, you may have science and moral right, but The Leader has the power — as the behavior of his high-profile camp followers shows.

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A Conversation With The Woman Who Got A Fearless Girl Tattoo

As this week’s cover story makes clear, I’ve got my doubts about the Fearless Girl statue erected next to the Charging Bull statue in Bowling Green by State Street Global Advisors. But lots of people are enthusiastic supporters of the statue. So when I heard that someone had posted a photograph of their Fearless Girl tattoo to the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation, I wanted to speak with her to figure out why.

Misty Allen, a 47-year-old from Portland, Oregon, who works in technology, graciously agreed to talk with me. Below, edited for length and clarity, is our conversation.


Village Voice: Hi, Misty, I’m writing a story about the Fearless Girl statue and how people are reacting to it. Given your recent tattoo, I thought you might be a good person to talk to. Can you tell me how you decided to get the tattoo?

Misty Allen: Sure. Before I even knew who put the statue there, I started seeing images of it, and it resonated really strongly with me. I work in tech, I’ve been in corporate America my whole life, I’ve dealt with a lot of sexism and misogyny, like many women have, and just her pose — strong, with her chin up, just facing the bull — that really spoke to me. I know there’s been some backlash against the fact that it was put there by a big corporation, and I respect those opinions.

Full disclosure: I wrote something kind of skeptical about it, which you may have seen if you looked me up before we talked, but I’ve been interested in the weeks since in how people are seeing it in different ways, bringing their own stuff to it and reading different things into it.

Yeah, that’s what art is about, right? It speaks to your life’s path and things you’ve experienced. Art is going to speak to people in different ways. I feel like anyone who is speaking out for more diversity and empowering more women to speak up and stand out, I don’t care where it really comes from. I’m sure there are limits to where I would care about where it comes from, but for me, I was not upset that it came from a corporation, because I feel like people in those environments really need to speak out too, and need to speak out even stronger.

As I kept seeing these images of it, there was something about it. One thing that I’ve always struggled with as a woman in a corporate, male-dominated world is being able to find my own voice in a way that I can have that strength, but still encapsulate the fact that women are feminine and vulnerable as well. I know that people complain about the fact that the statue is of a young girl, but for me, that was showing that women can pull all of our strength and vulnerability together into one and embrace every part of what it means to be a woman, instead of turning into men, which is what I’ve seen a lot of women do — we feel like you have to act emotionless and strong and confident.

Especially with this election. Trump represents every man who has ever sexually harassed me, every man who has ever called me “honey” in a meeting, every man who has ever taken my idea for his own or spoken over me. He’s that guy. And the fact that he was elected president is just devastating, and it has made me realize that I need to speak out and be louder.

Can you talk a little more about the different kinds of bullshit you’ve had to deal with in your career?

Sure. I’ve managed to be successful despite it — there are women who have experienced so much worse than me. But there have been so many times when I’ve been the only female in the room. I sell business software, business solutions, so I’m generally going into manufacturing and distribution companies and talking to them about our software and how it can help their business. There have been many times where I have been at a manufacturing plant and been the one leading the conversation — and this is when I first started, fifteen years ago, it hasn’t happened as much lately — but I would ask a question and the answer was given to a male colleague.

Just completely talking around you.

Yeah. There’s so much stuff like that. I have experienced being told I was a leader and very important and then not invited to leadership meetings, for example. Or having my ideas taken as someone else’s. I was told many times that I made too much money, and I wouldn’t get that money elsewhere if I went anywhere else. I have been hit on so many times by my bosses, my co-workers, my customers. In one particular situation, it was really bad, and we were trying to close the deal, and I went to my boss and I said, “I am super uncomfortable, this guy is really coming on to me.” He was the decision maker. And I was basically told, “Well, this is a really big deal and we really need them as a customer, so if you could just deal with it until they sign the contract, that would be great.”

Wow.

No support, just like a piece of meat for a lion, just, “Hang out there until we get what we want.” I look back and I think, “God, I put up with so much shit! Why did I put up with that?” And I think it was because I thought I could never get another job and never make that much money and I was lucky to have it. I was made to feel that way the whole time, so I was undercutting myself. And I finally stepped out of it and have moved on and am very happy, but the last few years, it’s really started to sink in, the things that were said and done, and I’m looking back and really thinking through everything I experienced, and then Trump runs for president, overlapping the whole thing, that guy. I’m trying to process everything that happened in my life, in my career, and that guy who embodied all of it got elected president.

Did you identify with the Clinton campaign, then, on that same symbolic level?

No, not really. I was a Bernie supporter all along. I came around to her when it became clear that she was the candidate, and it became obvious very quickly that, looking at my choices, she was the choice. I’m not a one-issue voter, I’m not a one-vagina voter, I’m not just going to vote that way automatically.

The full tattoo

You said the statue encourages you to speak up and be louder. What does that look like for you?

I feel more empowered in my own voice. Luckily I left that job a couple years ago and have landed one at a company where diversity is a big focus and there are a lot of women in leadership. I’ve gotten involved in educating younger women and encouraging them to get into tech, so my voice is definitely getting stronger there.

But my voice has gotten even louder in my personal life. I’m not letting things slide anymore. I’m not allowing the jokes to go by without saying anything, and I am seeing more and more of things that I believe we just ignore and push aside because it’s too much. I’m taking on more of that. In discussions, and in standing up when I feel like I need to stand up, whether it be for me or for anything else.

Do people recognize what the tattoo is referring to, or does it require explanation?

I think I’ve only had to explain it to one person. In the age of social media, that image has reached so many people. The reactions have generally been good! Some men of an older generation — I’m 47 — have said something like, “Oh, wait until you’re older, I don’t know if you’re going to like having that on your arm.” Yeah, I’m pretty sure I knew that it was permanent when I went in! I got my first one 25 years ago, so I’m clear on the concept of tattoos.

Sometimes it’s just nice to have an older man explain your body to you, though, I would think.

Ha! Yeah, I really appreciated it! I’d never thought of what my body will look like when I’m sixty until that man decided to tell me. It was really sweet of him.

But the main thing about the tattoo is that it’s for me. I think the fact that it’s so personal to me, too, it’s not like I’m out there shoving my tattoo in people’s faces and yelling about female empowerment. It’s my life, it’s my representation, it’s a reminder to myself to put my hands on my hips and open my mouth and stand up for myself. It’s for me.

That all makes sense. I feel like a jerk now. Can I put to you some of my reactions to the statue and get your thoughts on them? What bugged me about this from the beginning was that the company that put this out has not really put its money where its mouth is in terms of its own leadership. And the timing of it, right after they had bad press for getting caught out stealing from their customers, just seemed cynical to me. Maybe if someone else had put the statue up, I might have had another reaction, but I just wasn’t convinced that these people were acting in good faith.

Yeah. That’s the one thing that kind of sticks in my craw a little bit, is that exact piece that you just explained. I’m not that thrilled about that part of it either, to be honest. But the image and the art itself had already seeped into me so deeply and hit a nerve in me before I learned about that. So while I’m not thrilled about it, I was already committed to what the statue meant to me.

But I feel like in the last year I’ve seen a lot of criticism and backlash against people who are speaking out for what they believe in, like you’re not allowed to say that because you’re white, or you’re not allowed to say that because you’re a man, and I just feel like we should all be allowed to speak out. So maybe it was self-serving for them, on some level, but it did something. It had an effect. The feelings of empowerment that people see when they see that girl standing there, I think that in twenty years that’s going to be the part that’s still hanging out there. The company has had a lasting impact, whether their intentions are what they should be or not. There’s too much criticism of who’s speaking out on what, and when and which people can do what. People are allowed to be outraged, even if they’re not the ones being personally oppressed.

What are some examples of that, where you see people are being told to shut up and sit down when they’re trying to raise an issue?

First of all, my experience online is that white men who are trying to say anything right now to stand up for the right thing, a lot of them, if they say one thing, it’s, “But you’re a white man, you don’t understand.” We’re just quick to trigger on that.

Or, I don’t see how white women speaking out against racism and all the awful things that have happened, I don’t see how we don’t have the right to do that. I know that I don’t understand what it’s like to be a woman of color in this country — I know what I don’t know, and I know that I’ll likely never be able to know what that feels like, but is my voice not allowed? Is it not as legitimate? I can’t join in my chorus of outrage? It just doesn’t seem right. It feels like people on the left, we’re attacking inward instead of coming together.

I think we may disagree about some of these things, but it seems like part of a conversation that a lot of people are working through right now. Some people have criticized the statue as corporate feminism, a very specific sort of feminism that’s only for a very specific kind of woman, focused on boardrooms. It’s not a statue of a woman making minimum wage.

Then someone make that statue! You know? Because they’re perceived to be fighting for only a smaller group of women, does that mean they can’t fight? It’s all important. That’s why what’s happening in this country needs all of us, needs all of our voices and experiences and all of our outrage to be out there, speaking out as loudly as we can. The country needs all of it.

Well, thanks for talking with me about all this.

Sure, thanks for your interest, and for opening yourself up to someone who loves the statue so much they had it tattooed on their body. If I start getting hate mail, I’ll just send it to you.

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Fearless Girl Is Not Your Friend

When the “Fearless Girl” statue first appeared in Bowling Green the day before International Women’s Day on March 8, staring down the “Charging Bull” statue on Wall Street, it did so through a city licensing program that issues temporary permits for commercial activity in public space. It’s the same program that regulates the blight of cookie-cutter “street fairs” and under which, last August, a giant walk-in Prego Pasta Sauce jar was erected in Chelsea to raise public awareness about the company’s new line of “Farmer’s Market Sauces.”

This makes lots of sense: “Fearless Girl” is its own exercise in corporate brand-burnishing, the product of a campaign conceived in the New York offices of an enormous multinational advertising conglomerate, McCann, working on behalf of a worldwide financial colossus, State Street Global Advisors, an arm of the 225-year-old State Street Corporation, which currently manages an estimated $2.5 trillion in assets.

As the investment management division of State Street Corporation, which also includes a custodial bank administering $28 trillion in assets, State Street Global Advisors devises customized investment strategies for institutions with a lot of money to deploy — pension funds, universities, major charitable foundations — and builds mutual funds and exchange-traded funds for ordinary investors.

State Street’s last appearance in the headlines, in January, was occasioned by the company’s settlement of a suit brought by the United States Department of Justice, which alleged that it had defrauded its own customers by charging them secret commissions. In exchange for a deferred-prosecution agreement, State Street agreed to pay a $32.3 million fine to resolve the charges and offered to pay the same amount as a civil penalty to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Fearless Girl’s carefully choreographed debut coincided with SSGA’s announcement that it would begin pressuring the 3,500-odd companies in which it invests to install more women on their boards of directors. State Street’s public statement couched its argument in narrowly economic terms, noting that “companies with strong female leadership generated a return on equity of 10.1 percent per year versus 7.4 percent for those without a critical mass of women at the top, which is a 36.4 percent increase of average return on equity.”

TV cameras and photojournalists surrounded the Fearless Girl statue last month, awaiting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that she would stay opposite the bull into 2018.
TV cameras and photojournalists surrounded the Fearless Girl statue last month, awaiting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that she would stay opposite the bull into 2018.

In the weeks since Fearless Girl was rolled out, a growing parade of ordinary citizens and politicians have celebrated the installation as a powerful work of public art and a symbol of a critical issue of our day. Pilgrims come to Bowling Green to take selfies with the statue, among them Senator Elizabeth Warren, who paused in her crusade against the unregulated excesses of the financial industry to caption her own tweeted statue-selfie with the slogan “Fight like a girl.”

Misty Allen, a 47-year-old from Portland who works in tech, was so moved by the Fearless Girl that she had it and the bull tattooed on her arm. The sculpture feels like a testament to the sexism Allen has encountered in her own career: “It’s a reminder to myself to put my hands on my hips and open my mouth and stand up for myself,” she told the Voice.

For some, Fearless Girl carries extra significance in the age of Trump, the perfect embodiment of the overlap of financial avarice and violent sexism. “Right after [the election], this miraculous girl appears and created such a powerful sensation because she spoke to the moment,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio last month, announcing that he had interceded to allow the statue to remain in place beyond the limits of its commercial permit. “Sometimes, a symbol helps us become whole, and I think the Fearless Girl is having that same effect.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio posed with the statue for the cameras March 27.
Mayor Bill de Blasio posed with the statue for the cameras March 27.

The statue’s fans thrill to her apparent gesture of challenge and resistance to the Charging Bull, Arturo Di Modica’s 1989 love letter to the wild, surging energy of Wall Street and finance capitalism, installed as the market worked to recover in the wake of the “Black Monday” financial collapse of October 1987. In its conception of the newer statue, McCann brilliantly appropriates the iconic image of the ballerina dancing atop the bull, created by the Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters, that became a foundational symbol of Occupy Wall Street in 2011. The notion that Fearless Girl is positioned in opposition to the bull has been reinforced by Di Modica himself, who is driven to distraction by this recontextualization of his statue, spitting out a steady fusillade of angry press releases and threatening to sue State Street for what he considers a profound alteration of his work. “I put it there for art,” Di Modica told the New York Post and MarketWatch last month. “My bull is a symbol for America. My bull is a symbol of prosperity and for strength.” The spectacle of an old man raging against an upstart girl for adulterating his celebration of capitalism has only helped cement the perception that the girl and the bull are in conflict. “The sculptor is annoying & the combined image is refreshing & complex,” Emily Nussbaum, a TV critic for the New Yorker, tweeted recently.

A poster that ran in Adbusters magazine in 2011 helped set off Occupy Wall Street.
A poster that ran in Adbusters magazine in 2011 helped set off Occupy Wall Street.

But if the dyad of girl and bull has been cleverly staged to evoke a thrilling frisson of opposition and dissent, that is emphatically not what the company that commissioned it is actually selling. Fearless Girl is intended “as a complement to the charging bull, which represents economic strength,” said Lynn Blake, an executive vice president at State Street Global Advisors, at a press conference at City Hall last month. “She’s not even defiant. She’s not raising her fist against the bull. She’s there to represent her role as a leader, to stand on equal footing and to play a powerful role in expanding economic prosperity for the world.”

Kristen Visbal, the sculptor who created Fearless Girl, also emphasized the statue’s conciliatory ambitions. “She is strong, but not belligerent,” Visbal said at the press conference. “She is proud, but not confrontational.” Visbal echoed an argument at the center of State Street’s campaign: that companies with more women on their boards of directors make more money for shareholders. “Together we make this wonderful contribution,” Visbal said, “these better decisions that result in increased profits.”

The genius of Fearless Girl, then, is that it siphons the growing groundswell of resistance to worship of the golden bull and all it signifies, and redirects that enthusiasm back into a channel of assent. The bull and the girl are not in opposition. They are, in fact, on the same side, two faces of the same thing: capitalism, presented both in its raging, china-shop-obliterating aspect and in its approachable guise, the one that promises that anyone — even a girl! — can aspire to preside over this energy from the Olympian heights of a boardroom.

Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted a picture of herself with the statue, along with the words “Fight like a girl.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted a picture of herself with the statue, along with the words “Fight like a girl.”

Let’s leave aside State Street’s own recurring trouble with the law, which includes not only this year’s episode but the great Magnetar pit-trap of the pre-crash bubble, a famous scam in which State Street sold more than $1.5 billion in mortgage derivatives without telling its customers that the product had been designed by a hedge fund poised to profit if the product failed. When the dodgy mortgages underlying the product inevitably went belly-up, State Street’s customers took a bath, and the hedge fund, Magnetar Capital, cashed in its short bets.

Let’s leave aside as well the question, itself the subject of much debate, of whether or not the best application of feminist energy is the Lean-In project of helping already wealthy women ascend the final rung of the ladder to sit on the boards of multinationals, or whether that effort is better spent pursuing economic and labor reforms, like equal pay or maternity leave, that would benefit a wider circle of more vulnerable women, but which might not mesh as seamlessly with corporate profit-seeking.

Let’s table, too, the fact that State Street’s commitment to its stated corporate-feminist goal is transparently thin, considering its own corporate leadership is a catastrophically unreconstructed sausage-fest in which 82 percent of its senior executives and all but three of its eleven directors are men.

With its Fearless Girl, State Street seeks credit for intervening in the amoral logic of the market to pressure companies it invests in to install more women in corporate leadership. But seeking plaudits for pursuing a moral agenda invites ethical scrutiny of the rest of State Street’s behavior, which will lead to some dark and destructive places.

Misty Allen, of Portland, Oregon, was so inspired by the Fearless Girl she had it tattooed on her arm.
Misty Allen, of Portland, Oregon, was so inspired by the Fearless Girl she had it tattooed on her arm.

State Street invests its clients’ trillions across virtually every sector of the investment universe and offers them innumerable investment products, most of which are passive funds constructed to meet some investment goal — regional diversification, say, or tracking the overall performance of given market sectors. In this respect, it’s no different from other investment giants like BlackRock or Vanguard. The grand Wall Street tradition is chasing profits wherever they may be found, a pursuit outside of moral distinctions. (Exchange-traded funds, by definition, mirror the activity of the stock exchange itself.) What these companies also have in common is that, with the exception of a handful of small funds designed to eschew particularly ethically unsavory industries, their financial products are all generally designed to fulfill a single purpose: make money.

Through its funds, State Street is deeply committed to an industry whose entire business model is taking as much carbon as possible out of the ground and putting it into the atmosphere. As of the end of last year, State Street owned $18 billion worth of ExxonMobil, $14 billion worth of Chevron, $1.8 billion of Valero, $2 billion of Kinder Morgan, $2 billion of Anadarko, $2.8 billion of Occidental Petroleum, and $3.2 billion of ConocoPhillips.

And if there is money to be made from tools of war, State Street will make it that way as well. The company owns $12 billion of Lockheed Martin and $5 billion of Northrop Grumman, $4 billion of Boeing and $2 billion of General Dynamics, so it makes money from Tomahawk missiles, Paveway bombs, ICBMs and submarine-launched nuclear missiles, and all sorts of attack helicopters and warplanes, including the one that dropped the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan this month. Through Northrop Grumman, State Street makes money keeping America’s nuclear missiles ready to rain hellfire anywhere our president may direct them. It owns $1.7 billion of Raytheon, which makes missiles, depleted-uranium weapons, and a microwave gun — for use against crowds — that makes its targets’ skin feel like it’s boiling. A recent Intercept report spotlighted three major defense contractors poised to profit from Trump’s push to fortify the border with Mexico. State Street has a stake in all of them, to the tune of more than a third of a billion dollars.

State Street owns $5 billion each of Philip Morris and Altria, and $1.8 billion of Reynolds American, which means it makes money from an addictive drug that kills nearly half a million people a year in this country alone. State Street looks at an industry with a six-figure body count and sees a revenue stream, a valuable component of a diversified fund.

Pepsi pulled an ad featuring Kendall Jenner after controversy erupted over its co-option and commercialization of protest imagery.
Pepsi pulled an ad featuring Kendall Jenner after controversy erupted over its co-option and commercialization of protest imagery.

This is not to say that State Street’s executives take actual pleasure in the cancer wards full of smokers, in the slow-rolling annihilation of climate disaster. More likely they view those things as incidental, dissociated through the gray calculus of exchange-traded funds and well-balanced portfolios. It’s a safe bet they view the Fearless Girl in the same way: not as a virtuous cause, but as just another means to the one and only end.

It’s possible that popular resonance of the Fearless Girl can somehow wrest the master’s tools from his hand and re-inscribe the statue with a more hopeful and promising meaning than its creators intended, one that stands outside the closed loop of passive complicity in the status quo. For that matter, it’s conceivably possible that the recently controversial Pepsi commercial — which enlisted a denatured simulacrum of street protest as the backdrop against which Kendall Jenner demonstrated the power of carbonated high-fructose corn syrup to soothe a glowering riot cop — could yet be repurposed in the service of a global movement for social justice. But that sort of jiujitsu is no easy thing. Works born of cynicism have a way of staying stickily cynical. We are better off making our own art, seeking out symbols unburdened by the entanglements that perpetuate the suffering we wish to overcome.

 

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The Week We Learned Bill O’Reilly Isn’t Conservative and Lena Dunham Is

Last week, two TV celebrities left the air, albeit under different circumstances: Longtime Fox snarling head Bill O’Reilly got canned from his popular The O’Reilly Factor show, presumably because sexual harassment suits made him more of a liability than his ratings could justify; and, after six seasons, right-wing bête noire Lena Dunham ended her show, Girls, with her character having a baby and moving upstate.

The other thing these two events have in common is that the rightblogger response to them creates an eerie mirror image, as we shall see.

Some conservatives were angry that O’Reilly was fired or, as Jesse Lee Peterson at WorldNetDaily put it, suffered a “lynching” by “man-hating feminists.” Peterson has a forgiving definition of lynching, though: For one thing, unlike most lynchees, O’Reilly still has a national tour scheduled. Also, as to the charges, “I don’t know about past allegations,” Peterson admitted, “but even Stevie Wonder can see that the latest allegations against Bill are false.” If they ever come to trial, maybe Peterson can serve as a character witness.

“He may not have had the most graceful pick up [sic] lines and he may have been a hothead at times,” wrote Truthfeed, “but as of now, we have yet to see any evidence he committed any wrongdoing.” I have to admit, the encomia of O’Reilly’s fans are funnier than anything I can come up with.

But as the news sank in, a few of the bigger right-wing writers, perhaps sensing that the fading of such a seminal figure from the scene was not merely the tragedy of one man but a dark omen for the whole Old White Rage model of wing-nut discourse, began to spread the word that O’Reilly’s brand of conservatism was not really conservative at all.

“BILL O’REILLY’S SECRET: HE WAS A CENTRIST, NOT A CONSERVATIVE,” announced Joel B. Pollak at Breitbart. Pollak quoted a right-wing professor to the effect that “the average American, once his political views are no longer distorted by media bias,” is an ideological match with Ben Stein. Stein is best known for his film and TV work but was also a former Nixon speechwriter; he writes for the impeccably right-wing American Spectator, is buddies with Mark Fuhrman and has the attitude toward black activism that such a friendship would suggest, and not only thinks global warming is bullshit but also thinks evolution is, too.

Nonetheless, Pollak didn’t see Stein’s attitude as conservative but as “average American” — in fact, as the professor wrote, “significantly more liberal than politicians like Michele Bachmann or Jim DeMint,” which is rather like saying your run-of-the-mill thrill killer isn’t up to the standards of Bluebeard or Ed Gein. And Pollak found O’Reilly in tune with Stein; thus, “he was the elusive center.”

Pollak said this also “explains why [O’Reilly] was often criticized by conservatives, and often scolded them in return.” Pollak did not cite any examples of these alleged divergences of opinion — which is odd, since his own publishers recently reported a fine one: George F. Will declaring O’Reilly “replaceable.”

At National Review, Ian Tuttle allowed as how O’Reilly might be some grody old person’s idea of a conservative, but not that of “my conservative friends, twentysomethings, many of them from reliably red states,” who are the future of the movement.

While O’Reilly was “repulsed by the radicalism of Berkeley and the Black Panthers,” explained Tuttle, he was also born in 1949, and so was “reared by a generation with warm feelings toward FDR’s New Deal economics”; hence, he was always “looking back affectionately to the economic ascendancy and cultural consolidation of the 1950s.” This, in Tuttle’s view, puts O’Reilly “on the right side of the political spectrum — but nearer its center than we often recall today” — that is, O’Reilly hated black activists and hippies, which is conservative (as is seen in Tuttle’s own work on Black Lives Matter and defense of the Confederate flag); but he also liked a strong middle class with a safety net, which apparently is not conservative.

Conversely, said Tuttle, the next wave of conservatives “rejected as illiberal the policies of the New Deal and the Great Society,” as do Tuttle’s own “third generation,” whose “media are podcasts and Twitter, and while they’re certainly combative, they are more interested in a savvy, cosmopolitan conservatism that goes toe-to-toe with progressivism on its own turf . . .” As examples of these exciting new conservatives, Tuttle named Ben Shapiro, Mollie Hemingway, and Mary Katharine Ham, who, how can I put this, are not going to be setting the airwaves on fire anytime soon. But who knows — maybe their podcasts are lit.

Most conservatives (besides David French and Rod Dreher) have yet to follow Pollack’s and Tuttle’s lead, preferring to either wallow in persecution mania or hastily throw O’Reilly over the side as a flawed vessel. But if O’Reilly doesn’t bounce back from this, expect the standard comeback to be that he was never really conservative — you know, like they did with John McCain and Mitt Romney.

On a less grim note, Lena Dunham wrapped her final season of Girls two Sundays ago. As I have chronicled repeatedly, since even before the series debuted, conservatives have repeatedly denounced Dunham for supporting Democratic candidates, for doing nude scenes despite not having a female Fox News anchor physique, and for her show, which featured everything they hate: New York City, women with jobs, homosexuals, casual and interracial sex, etc.

But that was before the end of Girls’ final season, in which Dunham’s character, Hannah, finds out she’s pregnant. Expecting a Sacred Feast of Abortion Finale, some rightbloggers reflexively raged according to custom: “LENA DUNHAM’S ‘GIRLS’: UNBORN BABY A ‘PARASITE GROWING INSIDE OF YOU,’ ” Breitbart hollered and had Dr. Susan Berry report that “the abortion industry has fought against any attempts by states to restrict abortion or to mandate health and safety standards in abortion clinics.”

But in the end, Hannah kept her baby, and conservatives spun to praise the actress as an avatar of accidental motherhood.

“Lena Dunham is a favorite punching bag for many of us on the right,” said Teri Christoph of Smart Girl Politics, because, among other reasons, “she wears a p*$$y hat.” Also, “Dunham had a rather privileged upbringing in New York City, after all, so her experience as an average person is virtually nil,” unlike the blue-collar icon Donald Trump.

But in the last episode, Dunham “chose to show how an unplanned pregnancy could be a good thing for a young woman,” so Christoph was able to praise her as “self-aware enough to know that many facets of the feminism she espouses in real life are ultimately bad for women.”

Other conservatives agreed that while it wasn’t prudent to remove Dunham’s scarlet letter of liberalism, she had still proven, perhaps unwittingly, that abortion is murder. “Don’t Tell Her, But Lena Dunham Just Made A Pro-Life Season Of ‘Girls,’ ” said Ericka Andersen of the Federalist, as if her show turned right-wing while Dunham was out on a smoke break.

“I don’t know for sure if she supports abortion up to 9 months of pregnancy — but let the record show, she probably does,” said Andersen, but a character having a baby is pro-life and that’s the important thing. “They could have thrown in a late-term abortion . . . but they wouldn’t dare go there,” claimed Andersen. “Why not? It’s her body, right? Because it’s not, and everyone — yes, EVERYONE — knows it.”

At National Review, Kyle Smith proclaimed “Lena Dunham’s Ultimately Conservative Message.” “Lena Dunham Totally Disrupts the Feminist Narrative in ‘Girls’ Finale,” cheered Susan L.M. Goldberg of PJ Media. “Harrumph harrumph harrumph [splurt],” said Ross Douthat at the New York Times.

And so the lesson of last week was that Bill O’Reilly isn’t really conservative, and Lena Dunham isn’t really pro-choice. It’s amazing what they can come up with when the only alternative is common sense.

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Free Public College Has Arrived In New York — With Some Big Catches

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to waive tuition fees for some New Yorkers at any two- or four-year state college, first covered in the Voice in February, has survived the state budget brawl — but it comes with some unexpected and alarming caveats.

The plan, called the Excelsior Scholarship, will be phased in over the next three years beginning this fall but has some noticeable differences from the $163 million program Governor Cuomo first conceived of. That version came with no major catches for those students who would be eligible for it.

Not so in the final version. The most glaring addition: a requirement that students live and work full-time in New York state following graduation for as many years as they received aid, lest their scholarship be converted into a loan they’ll have to pay back.

Officials from the governor’s office told Chalkbeat that the loan conversion was justified: If New York is going to pay for kids to go to school, then its economy ought to benefit from that investment.

“Why should New Yorkers pay for your college education and then you pick up and you move to California?” said Cuomo on a call with editorial writers from around the state, as reported in the New York Post.

But the rule could potentially mean students have to turn down opportunities — the things that a college education is supposed to create — to avoid student debt, the burden the program is meant to alleviate in the first place. Suppose a graduate wants to begin work at a job out of state, one with a higher salary, say, than what they can get here?

State officials said on Monday that they plan to include provisions that will prevent loan conversion for students who pursue advanced degrees out of state, provided they return to New York afterward. An exception will also be made for students who join the military.

“Forcing college graduates to live and work in New York is wrong. A grant should be a grant, not a loan with an escape clause,” wrote Tom Hilliard in an op-ed for the Center for an Urban Future. Other experts say that forcing participants in the plan to stay in New York incentivizes unemployment; students who can’t get a job in the state could opt to remain here, potentially on public benefits, to avoid debt instead of moving elsewhere to work and pay taxes. So far, the plan still includes no additional provisions to support colleges as they prepare for an influx of students, or to help make sure participants understand what they’re signing up for.

Though marketed as free college, the program is more accurately described as a “last dollar” plan, meaning it will award eligible students a scholarship to fill in gaps left over after they receive state and federal financial aid, including New York’s Tuition Assistance Program and Pell Grants. By 2019, any student from a family that earns up to $125,000 will be eligible to apply.

Other additions to the program include a minimum GPA requirement and on-time graduation, something many CUNY students struggle with. Students must also take fifteen credits per semester, meaning part-time students, many of whom belong to a growing sector of nontraditional students (those who work full-time, have children, care for elderly family members, or are not straight out of high school, for example), are excluded entirely. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, three-quarters of undergraduate students were not recent high school graduates in 2011, the most recent year for which such data is available. Undocumented students are also excluded. Additional money was allocated to allow students who opt to attend private universities to use the existing Tuition Assistance Program for added help, something the state senate and private college officials across the state pushed for. Those students will receive up to $3,000 and must also agree to live and work in the state after graduation.

And the final bill still does nothing to help students whose tuition is already covered in full by state and federal aid; those students are often forced to take on loans to pay for room and board, food, textbooks, and student fees — all expenses the governor’s program ignores. John Aderounmu, 20, a junior at Hunter College and member of the Campaign to Make CUNY Free Again, says many CUNY students will be ineligible.

“Not many students are going to have that gap covered because most already have their financial aid to cover their tuition,” said Aderounmu. Those students, he said, must work jobs to pay for rent or books and, as such, take fewer than the required thirty credits per year.

Other states and cities host similar programs for community colleges that come with no income restriction, no requirement to stay in the state, and considerable academic support that begins at the high school level and continues through college graduation, particularly in Tennessee. There, community college is free for any high school graduate in the state regardless of income. Oregon and the city of San Francisco have similar programs. Rhode Island is considering a bill that would make tuition free at two-year colleges only.

The Campaign to Make CUNY Free Again, a coalition of CUNY students and faculty, slammed Cuomo’s program in a release, rejecting his characterization of the program as “free college,” one which happens in tandem with a planned tuition hike for CUNY schools over the next five years. For students unable to meet the terms of the Excelsior Scholarship, college is getting less affordable.

In a release, the group said that the governor’s plan “aids middle-income students while turning poor and working-class students into a profit center, continuing the forty-year trend of reducing access for the poor to public higher education and shifting the funding burden to students.”

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Albany Is A Dysfunctional Sewer But At Least Students Might Have St. Patrick’s Day Off Next Year

The state legislature has roughly a week to come up with a budget that sets New York’s legislative priorities. Raise the Age reform, which would prevent the state from charging 16 and 17-year-old kids as adults, passed in the Assembly but languishes in the Senate, where Republicans have blocked it. Substantive ethics reform, touted by Governor Cuomo in his state of the state speech, is a distant memory (a Republican state senator was charged with corruption on Thursday morning). Upstate Republicans are moving to punish New York by shifting Medicaid costs from the federal government to the state, all while “Trumpcare” is poised to leave millions uninsured and millions more with higher premiums. But the State Senate did manage to pass one bill this week: S6747A would make St. Patrick’s Day a holiday in New York City public schools.

The bill, sponsored by Queens Senator Tony Avella, a member of the controversial Independent Democratic Caucus, is tailored specifically to districts home to more than one million students; New York City is the only district in the state that qualifies.

Avella touted the holiday’s significance as a celebration of Irish culture and heritage.

“Two years ago when we passed the Lunar New Year school holiday…it occurred to me, all these years we have had St. Patrick’s Day in New York City, it’s a huge holiday not just for the Irish but for all New Yorkers. Why have we never given consideration to making that a school holiday?” Avella told the Voice. “If anyone deserved to have a holiday based on long standing tradition, it certainly is the Irish-American community.”

In February 2016, city teacher Frank Schorn filed a civil rights suit against the Department of Education, claiming that their scheduling of parent teacher conferences on St. Patrick’s Day violated his right to march in the massive parade up Fifth Avenue. City Council’s Irish Caucus had repeatedly asked the Department to reschedule, and they refused.

Mayor de Blasio refused to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade for two years after organizers banned gay and lesbian organizations from marching under their banners. The mayor ended his boycott this year.

De Blasio campaigned on promises to add three religious holidays to the school calendar, which has long observed Christian and Jewish holidays, and the sacred Muslim holidays Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as well as the Lunar New Year, celebrated by many of the city’s Chinese families, were added in 2015.

Avella also sponsored a bill to add Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, to the school calendar. It has yet to make it out of committee.

“Once we did Lunar New Year, we set the precedent that if you’re going to celebrate holidays particular to one group or another you have to be fair to all, and that’s something the city of New York is going to have to look at,” said Avella.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade actually happened in colonial New York City, in 1762. Successive waves of Irish immigration to the city over the next 35 years brought several small-scale iterations of the parades organized by Irish groups and, in 1848, they merged.

Through the decades, the Americanized version of the holiday became associated with binge drinking and violence. In 1867, the New York Times described the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade as a “riot” where “swords and spears” were in use. In 1894, a headline read: “The Death Rate Increased By The St. Patrick’s Day Parade.” The St. Patrick’s Day parade eventually became emblematic of growing Irish political power. Today, the parade is mostly secular, attended by New Yorkers of many ethnicities and backgrounds.

Still, Avella insists that the religious focus of St. Patrick’s Day has emerged over the last decade as the predominant motivation for celebration, and insisted that a day off from school was not akin to condoning the sorts of behavior commonly associated with the holiday.

“It was a problem decades ago with St. Patrick’s Day being associated with drinking, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore,” said Avella. “Obviously school-aged drinking is illegal. I think it’s a party celebration and that doesn’t mean that because we give a school holiday that should encourage any sort of illegal drinking or drinking to excess…[the parade] is clearly not what it was like 10 or 20 years ago.”

He cited increased “education” on the holiday’s true meaning for what he calls a reduction in vice, though he didn’t provide examples of what kind of education, or where and when it happened. Avella insisted that St. Patrick’s Day is a holy day of obligation in which practicing Catholics are required to attend mass.

According to Mercedes Lopez Blanco, who works in the communications office at the Archdiocese of New York, St. Patrick’s Day does appear on the Catholic liturgical calendar and attending daily mass is encouraged, but not required, even on St. Patrick’s Day.

“On certain days we honor certain saints and March 17 happens to be the day St. Patrick is honored on the liturgical calendar,” said Lopez Blanco. “A mention is made in that mass and that mass is said with him in mind.”

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Report: Charter Schools Poised To Take A Much Bigger Bite Out Of NYC’s Budget

New York City charter schools may be in for a major budget boost, according to a new report from the city’s Independent Budget Office, one that puts New York City taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars.

The city Department of Education’s budget for charter school funding in 2018 represents an increase of $138 million over current levels, but according to the IBO, that number could rise to as much as $274 million for next school year.

Funding for charter schools is determined by a formula codified in state law, and has twice been frozen, causing spending for charter schools to lag behind that of district schools despite overall increases in education spending. In 2014, the state legislature set charter school tuition at $13,527 per student, plus a supplement of $500 this year, sending a total of $14,027 per student to city charter schools. The 2014 act expires this year, which means the tuition formula would shift to determine the new funding amount by multiplying the city’s district school spending in 2015-2016 by the percentage growth of the state’s total education spending over the last three years.

The IBO used three estimates of said growth to calculate its projections after the formula changes — spending for charter schools increases substantially on the city’s dime under each one. Mayor Bill de Blasio has long battled with the city’s charter school representatives over taxpayer’s fiscal responsibility to the schools, which are partly run using public dollars but privately managed.

Currently, charter schools in the five boroughs receive over $1.7 billion from the city DOE’s budget, used to educate over 100,000 students — a small fraction of the city’s over one million public school students. And while it’s true that charter schools have traditionally received less per-pupil funding than their district counterparts (and their funding has increased more slowly, due to tuition allocation freezes in 2009 and 2013), it’s also true that the DOE provides “non-cash resources” to the schools, which tacks on an additional $4,904 per student at charters located in DOE buildings (for schools who receive lease reimbursement and those with none, the numbers are $3,993 and $1,188 per student, respectively). This includes books, materials, transportation, food, and, in some cases, rent-free building space (or lease reimbursements). Charter schools also receive supplementary funding for special needs students, and are eligible for private funding.

When IBO accounted for charter schools that receive rent-free building space in existing DOE schools, per-pupil funding rises to $18,933 per student this school year, narrowing the disparity with district schools to a difference of 5.7 percent; traditional public schools got $20,078. The disparity is larger for a small number of charter schools that receive lease reimbursement for private space, and those who do not receive any public assistance for building space—these schools got up to 24 percent less money than district schools. Private funding to charter schools varies widely, with some major chains with hefty financial backers, while other “mom and pop” schools rely primarily on DOE funding.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, a charter school ally who has in the past received large donations from charter school supporters, most recently a $65,000 donation from the pro-charter school, Wal-Mart backed group New York Campaign for Achievement Now, has proposed to keep the supplemental funding but would shift responsibility from the state onto the city, to the tune of an additional $54 million, which is included in IBO’s estimated city tax burden. Earlier this year, he proposed lifting the city’s charter school cap, which restricts the number of new schools allowed to open each year (Mayor de Blasio is a staunch supporter of the cap).

The IBO report comes just days after President Donald Trump’s “America First” budget proposed deep cuts in federal public education spending, partly to help fund a $1.4 billion voucher program, which lets parents use public tax dollars to send their children to private schools.