The Reconstruction of Georgia, Redux

Occupied Georgia

For several years now, Georgia – or at least parts of it – has been under the control of occupying forces. The enemy power, a corrupt and lawless, autocratic authority, rolled into Georgia long ago and has since refused to leave, choosing instead to exert its influence to dominate the political establishment and thus to deny the people of Georgia their God-given and internationally recognized right to self-determination.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, both of which were passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 and both of which state that “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” And yet, in Georgia, the people are NOT able to exercise their right to self-determination and are, therefore also unable to pursue their economic, social, and cultural development. This subjugated people is at the mercy of its occupiers, unable to govern itself and unable to remove the yoke of its oppression.

Despite all of this, no one, anywhere – in the human rights community, in the global brotherhood of states, or even among the world’s anti-colonialist intellectual and political forces – seems prepared to lift even a finger for the subjugated people of Georgia. They’re ALL perfectly content to look away and to pretend it isn’t happening. It’s easier that way. Why, after all, should they put themselves and their reputations on the line for a distant people, whom they neither know nor ever will? Who are they to stick their noses into other people’s problems? They have their own problems to worry about. And if the Georgians suffer, well, it’s not a perfect world, and not everyone can be saved.

And since most of you have likely already have figured out the bit here, I’ll admit it, for the record: no, I’m NOT referring here to the occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Vladimir Putin’s thugs. Rather, I am referring to the American state of Georgia – Atlanta, Athens, Valdosta, etc.

Five years ago, the duly elected legislature representing the people of Georgia passed a “religious liberty” bill that would have granted some legal protections to opponents of same-sex marriage. The state’s duly elected governor, Republican Nathan Deal was non-committal on the bill when it was passed, but within days, was “encouraged” to see the light by a massive invading force, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time:

The governor, though, had ample cover from the measure's critics. Executives from dozens of big-name companies, including Disney, Apple, Time Warner, Intel and Salesforce, called on the governor to veto the bill. The NFL warned it could risk Atlanta's bid for the Super Bowl and the NCAA hinted it could influence the state's ability to host championship games. And Deal's office said two economic development prospects have already abandoned Georgia because of the legislation.

Unsatisfied with their victory over the people’s legislature, these same forces hung around the state with bated breath, just waiting for their next opportunity to tell the elected representatives of the state just where they should stick their “self-governance.” Three years after the initial confrontation, the occupiers got their chance, when the (still) duly-elected representatives of the state of Georgia passed and the (newly) duly elected governor of the state – Brian Kemp – dared once more to try to govern themselves. In my book, The Dictatorship of Woke Capital, I briefly describe the events of 2019 as follows:

[S]everal large media companies—“Disney, Netflix, and Warner Media”—had begun a campaign to punish the people of Georgia by crip­pling the state’s economy. Why? Because the elected representatives of the people had passed a law—in keeping with the values and beliefs of the state’s residents—to restrict abortion after a fetal heartbeat could be detected. These mega-media corporations were unhappy with the law, so they were threatening to pull production of their projects from the state. It was blackmail pure and simple. Pulling business from Georgia would serve only to hurt Georgians, including, of course, many women. But the media companies had their principles—or had, more likely, been told by activist employees and shareholders what their positions should be—and they were determined to make a stand, a blatantly undemocratic and coercive stand….

…about the same time, the CEOs of “hundreds of companies” signed a full-page ad in the New York Times, insisting that abortion restrictions like the ones enacted in Georgia were “bad for business.”…

There is no plau­sible fiduciary reason to claim that abortion restrictions/protection for the unborn is “bad for business.” That was simply the language that the activists, the corporate executives, and their PR specialists had decided would allow them to play the victim and demand that democratically elected legislatures and governors change the democratically approved legislation that they had enacted. It was mere cover—and poor cover at that.

In the book, just before this discussion about Georgia and its fetal-heartbeat law, I describe the phenomenon of “woke capital” as “the top-down, antidemocratic means by which some of the most powerful and best-known men and women in American business are endeavoring to change capitalism, the securities markets, and the fundamental relationship between the state and its citizens—and to ‘save’ the world.”

Unfortunately for the people of Georgia, since 2016, their state has had the grave misfortune of being the most prominent proxy for “the world,” i.e. a place desperately in need of perpetual “saving.” The occupiers of the state – the woke capitalists – wouldn’t dream of uttering even a mildly critical word about their Chinese Communist Party business partners in the People’s Republic. But then, the people of Georgia are not especially well known for running folks over with tanks in the public square if they happen to get a little too lippy. And so, for their own good, the Georgians are forced to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous egos – those belonging to the likes of Tim Cook and Bob Iger – while these same egos literally kowtow before men who are literally mass murderers.

Now, as you may or may not have heard, both the people of Georgia and their occupiers are up to their old tricks again, the people trying to govern themselves, and their occupiers insisting that to do so would somehow be a “threat to democracy.” Late last week, the (STILL) duly elected legislature representing the people of the state of Georgia passed, and the (STILL) duly elected governor of the state, (still) Brian Kemp, signed an election reform/election integrity law. And the (STILL) unelected and entirely illegitimate policy scolds in Big Business stomped their feet, rent their garments, and cried to the heavens that the people of Georgia should not be allowed to govern themselves.

In an unusual twist, this time, someone stood up to the mob. While the other major corporate employers in the state were berating their employees for daring to self-govern-while-peasants, one of the major employers broke from the consensus to suggest that maybe all the hyperbole surrounding the new law was just that, hyperbole. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian released the following statement:

Delta believes that full and equal access to voting is a fundamental right for all citizens. Over the past several weeks, Delta engaged extensively with state elected officials in both parties to express our strong view that Georgia must have a fair and secure election process, with broad voter participation and equal access to the polls. The legislation signed this week improved considerably during the legislative process, and expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting and protects a voter’s ability to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason. For the first time, drop boxes have also been authorized for all counties statewide and poll workers will be allowed to work across county lines. Nonetheless, we understand concerns remain over other provisions in the legislation, and there continues to be work ahead in this important effort. We are committed to continuing to listen to our people and our communities, and engage with leaders from both parties to ensure every eligible employee and Georgia voter can exercise their right to vote.

As corporate political statements go, that’s a pretty good one. It’s even-handed. It praises the positive reforms in the law. It mentions concerns but doesn’t have an emotional meltdown over them. And it suggests a bi-partisan path forward. In the current corporate climate, such a statement is, frankly, an act of nearly absolute bravery.

Which, of course, is precisely why it wouldn’t – COULDN’T – be allowed to stand.

Yesterday, Bastian issued a revised statement, notably less brave than the first one:

Last week, the Georgia legislature passed a sweeping voting reform act that could make it harder for many Georgians, particularly those in our Black and Brown communities, to exercise their right to vote.

Since the bill’s inception, Delta joined other major Atlanta corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties, to try and remove some of the most egregious measures from the bill. We had some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics that some had proposed.

However, I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.

The right to vote is sacred. It is fundamental to our democracy and those rights not only need to be protected, but easily facilitated in a safe and secure manner.

After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong.

Although the Washington Post suggested that Bastian and Delta changed their minds on the Georgia law because an escaped mental patient compared them to the Klan and threatened to boycott them, I have other thoughts.

As of the end of the fourth quarter of 2020, the largest shareholders in Delta Airlines included: #1. Vanguard Group (10.22%); #2. BlackRock (5.59%); #5 State Street Corporation. These three asset management firms – known collectively as “The Big Three” of passive management – control somewhere around $20 trillion in assets collectively. And that amounts, in this case, to 19.2% of Delta Airlines. Two of the three – BlackRock and State Street are profiled in Chapter 8 of The Dictatorship of Woke Capital, which is the longest chapter in the book and is called “The Players, Part One: On the Left.”

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We would like very much to see the incoming and outgoing calls and texts on Ed Bastian’s phone over the last week. We can’t say anything for certain, obviously, but we suspect that it was used in a number of text and voice conversations with important institutional investors, all relaying similar, less-delicate, and more-obscenity-filled versions of the message that Isaiah took to Hezekiah: “Set your house in order, for you shall die.…”

It will be interesting, now that he has tried, desperately, to set his house in order, to see whether Bastian will still die or if he will be allowed to recover. We won’t be surprised one bit if he dies – metaphorically speaking (we suppose). That’s the primary tactic of the woke capitalists, after all, to punish a few bad actors so severely that they can “encourage” the rest to fall in line of their own volition.

Meanwhile, the people of Georgia will remain largely overlooked and undefended, as the occupiers and the fledgling insurgents battle all around them, using the average state resident’s livelihood and right to self-governance as mere abstract concepts to be weaponized to defeat one another.

THIS is the Dictatorship of Woke Capital. Get used to it.

Especially if you live in Georgia.

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