Monday, April 30, 2018

You're soaking in it

You're soaking in it!
I've been sitting in front of the blank screen for nearly an hour and I've got nothing. In general, there's plenty of reason to be upbeat about life -- my family is healthy, my neighbors are excellent and my world is, for the most part, safe and secure. Yet all I see around me, on the internet and on social media, is bile. Oceans of bile.

We're soaking in it. And it's corrosive.

 At least this morning, I'm not sure how to craft a message that isn't undercut by snark and bile. We have no lack of worthies deserving of scorn and shunning. But scorn and shunning merely feeds the beast. We need to do better than that.

It's time to think about how to get better.

Friday, April 27, 2018

How long can you tread water?

One of the enduring images of my childhood:

Image result for bill cosby fat albert intro
Hey hey hey!
And a defining comedy bit:

And now, Bill Cosby is a convicted rapist. He may be able to appeal the verdicts long enough to avoid actually going to prison, but that's the endgame. So, what do we do with his significant legacy? This is a man who entertained my father in the 1960s (he owned the album pictured on the YouTube link), taught me life lessons in the 1970s, and was America's Dad in the 1980s. We are 30 years on from his greatest triumphs, but it's all out there to see and hear. Or do we pretend those triumphs don't exist going forward, because Bill Cosby the man behaved in despicable ways when the camera was put away and the recording devices weren't running?

As a rule, comedians are screwed-up people. Aside from perhaps Bob Newhart, you'd be hard pressed to find a great comedian who didn't behave badly in their private lives. Cosby's contemporary, Woody Allen, is a monster in dozens of ways. He continues to work because his work remains profitable to the niche audience it targets. Cosby hasn't been so fortunate.

We struggle with work of geniuses who are monsters. I can't pretend that Bill Cosby's work had no influence in my life. Nor do I think I should.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Come and get me, copper

I suppose it's easy for me, with over 1,000 miles of the North American landmass and the North Atlantic separating me from its jurisdiction, but I suggest the Merseyside Police do something that's anatomically improbable:

Big Merseyside is watching you
If you click on the actual tweet and read the comments, you'll see this exchange, which sums the matter up pretty well:

Freedom of speech, just watch what you say
The world is full of Kierans, lying on their backs and thinking about the National Health Service. If you want to understand how completely lost the Brits truly are, recall their Olympic Tribute to the NHS at the opening of the London Games back in '12:

You might recall the composer of this Riefenstahlian ditty, Mike Oldfield, who is best known for composing the theme from "The Exorcist." I don't know that it's possible to exorcise what's taken root in England, but we'd better damned well understand that the world they inhabit, where parents of Alfie Evans are denied the ability to seek medical treatment for their child, a child the NHS would prefer to scrub off the books, is what many of our neighbors seek for us. And if you object in a public manner, the Merseyside Police are going to be monitoring you. And I have no doubt our neighborhoods have plenty of people who would happily sign up for such a world.

The heel of the boot is always closer to your throat than you know. And the North American landmass and an ocean aren't going to matter. The Merseyside Police may not be coming for you, but they have contemporaries.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What's it all about?

What's it all about? Algorithm.
What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie
I know there's something much more,
Something even non-believers can believe in
I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you'll find love any day, Alfie

Burt Bacharach may believe in love. The NHS believes in its prerogatives.

This summer I hear the drumming

The best observer of the current moment continues to be Victor Davis Hanson. And what he's observing is, well, frightening:
Each cycle of hysteria demands another, as the race to the bottom has descended into which celebrity or politician can discover the most provocative — or crude — Trump expletive. “S***” and “f***” are now the ordinary vocabulary of angry Democratic politicos and officeholders. Are we reaching a point in the so-far-failed Resistance where little is left except abject violence in the manner of the Roman or French Revolution? The problem for Trump’s pop-culture foes is not whether to imagine or advocate killing the president. That’s a given. They just need to agree on the means of doing so: decapitation (Kathy Griffin), incineration (David Crosby), stabbing (the Shakespeare in the Park troupe), shooting (Snoop Dogg), explosives (Madonna), old-fashioned, Lincoln-style assassination (Johnny Depp), death by elevator (Kamala Harris), hanging (a CSU professor), or simple generic assassination (a Missouri state legislator).
There's more:
After the prior era of hysteria, between 2005 and 2008, when books and docudramas staged the imagined assassination of George W. Bush, and celebrities like Michael Moore and activists such as Cindy Sheehan reduced Bush to the status of a war criminal, the Left in 2009 demanded a return to normal political discourse and comportment, with the election of Barack Obama. A newly contrite and apologetic America was abruptly worth believing in again. In 2009, the CIA and FBI suddenly were reinvented as hallowed agents of change.
And there's more, with the next two words being the crucial ones:
Bush careerists, including Clapper and Brennan, were now damning the very counterterrorism practices that they once helped put in place, while offering Obama-like politically correct sermons on the benign nature of Islamism. Surveillance and jailing were appropriate punishments for suspected Obama apostates (ask James Rosen or Nkoula Basseley Nakoula). The IRS was weaponized for use against Obama’s ideological opponents. Suggestions that the president was unfit or worse became near treasonous. Unity was the new patriotism. The assumption was that Obama had ushered in a half-century of progressive norms, not that he so alienated the country that he birthed Donald Trump.
Trump won because he wasn't part of the cabal. But in order for Trump to have any chance of curing the fever, we need to see something Hanson despairs we'll see:
We are entering revolutionary times. The law is no longer equally applied. The media are the ministry of truth. The Democratic party is a revolutionary force. And it is all getting scary.
It is. I sense a long hot summer ahead. And, of course, hit the link.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Since I've been concentrating on the exploits of my daughter and her pals, I haven't written a post about politics in a week, but there really hasn't been a need to do so. Nothing has changed. The Democrats attack, the people yawn, and Trump tweets about it. No one's mind is being changed at the moment about anything. All the events placed in front of us -- nekkid dude shooting up a Waffle House in Nashville, crazy dude mowing down pedestrians in Toronto -- are ancillary to the arguments we will never resolve.

The translation of the title of this post is "the more things change, the more they stay the same." The real point of the phrase is the immutability of human nature. We are all flawed in our behavior and our thinking. Although it's not particularly fashionable to state it in this way, we are all sinners. We all need to do better. And we rarely do better, because doing better requires a commitment to change, and in most instances we'd rather not change our ways.

In his invaluable work "The Devil's Dictionary," ol' Ambrose Bierce understood it well:

LIBERTINE, n. Literally a freedman; hence, one who is in bondage to his passions.

BEHAVIOR, n. Conduct, as determined, not by principle, but by breeding.

BORE, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.

I'm seeing a lot of all three lately. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Triumph in Dayton

I assume the other spectators at the University of Dayton Arena must have thought we were nuts. The score was announced -- in second place, with a score of 94.675, nine four point six seven five, Irondale High School. As our substantial group of parents -- over 50 of us, along with some grandparents and siblings, too -- heard the announcement go up, we started cheering madly.

We hadn't won. We finished second. The first place school, Plainfield High School of Plainfield, Indiana, was victorious. Not Irondale. But it didn't matter to us. Finishing second was a tremendous accomplishment.

In plain sight
Anyone who has spent any time involved in the marching arts knows how much time and dedication is needed to win competitions. Irondale's drumline program has now won three state championships in a row and has placed 8th, 9th, and now 2nd in the country in its class. This year's show, titled "When It Ends," is based in part on the song "Waiting for the End" by the band Linkin Park. The record will show it is the most successful show in the history of this activity, both at Irondale and in the history of the Minnesota Percussion Association, the body that oversees indoor percussion programs in the region. We're not sure what comes next -- Fearless Maria is graduating, but there is little question that she has been part of something special. And as parents, Mrs. D and I were fortunate to be part of it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Give the drumline some!

We are and we will. Light posting for the next few days.
Off to Ohio to kick butt and take names

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match

This amuses me:
The CD8 DFL had a very long convention on Saturday,  After ten ballots, everyone promised to go to the primary.

Nothing especially unusual htere.

The unusual thing?  The DFL trucked a bunch of Latino activists from the Twin Cities to canvass for the Metro DFL’s chosen candidate.
CD8 is pretty vast -- it extends from the far northern suburbs all the way to the Canadian border. But it's primarily a place where the local politicians that matter are from Duluth or the Iron Range. So, of course you'd want Alondra Cano to pick the candidate. Hit the link for more -- it's Mitch Berg, so you know it will be a fun read.

Who's up for a little defenestration?

It's a tried and true method of dispatching your enemies:
A prominent regional journalist investigating crime, politics and the war in Syria has died following a fall from a window of his fourth-floor apartment in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city.

Maxim Borodin, 32, was found by neighbours on the ground outside his apartment on Friday. He died in hospital two days later, without ever regaining consciousness. 
Of course, the authorities aren't gonna admit to much:
Police say there were no signs of forced entry into his apartment, and the door was locked from the inside. But friends and colleagues have said they are suspicious of the circumstances surrounding his death.
Locked from the inside proves nothing, but don't worry about that. It hadn't gone well for Mr. Borodin in recent months:
Mr Borodin was well-known for delving into Yekaterinburg’s criminal underworld. He was among those who broke the story of unreported deaths in the Kremlin’s shadow armies fighting in Syria. He also published investigations into Russia’s religious right, and the violent protests around “Matilda”, a supposedly blasphemous film depicting a love affair between Tsar Nicholas II and a young ballerina. 
As one of only few investigative voices in the region, Mr Borodin often felt the brunt of official and criminal displeasure. Just two weeks ago, he was in intensive care with a major head injury. And in October, he was hit over the head with a metal pipe – that attack he linked to his work covering the Matilda protests. 
There are places where being a journalist is a dangerous job. It rarely is here, but it's worth remembering the price you pay for running afoul of those in charge in a place like Russia.

Monday, April 16, 2018

You'd have to be nuts to. . .

move to Illinois. You would:
You’d be mistaken to think Harvey, Illinois has a unique pension crisis. It may be the first, and its problems may be the most severe, but the reality is the mess is everywhere, from East St. Louis to Rockford and from Quincy to Danville. A review of Illinois Department of Insurance pension data shows that Harvey could be just the start of a flood of garnishments across the state.

Harvey made the news last year when an Illinois court ordered the municipality to hike its property taxes to properly fund the Harvey firefighter pension fund, which is just 22 percent funded.
If you're not familiar with Illniois, Harvey is in the southern suburbs of Chicago and desperately poor, while the other cities mentioned are scattered throughout Illinois. There's more:
Now, the state has stepped in on behalf of Harvey’s police pension fund. The state comptroller has begun garnishing the city’s tax revenues to make up what the municipality failed to contribute. In response, the city has announced that 40 public safety employees will be laid off.

Under state law, pensions that don’t receive required funding may demand the Illinois Comptroller intercept their municipality’s tax revenues. More than 400 police and fire pension funds, or 63 percent of Illinois’ 651 total downstate public safety funds, received less funding than what was required from their cities in 2016 – the most recent year for which statewide data is available.
The linked article from Wirepoints goes into significant detail concerning the pension shortfalls that many cities in Illinois face. Of course, Illinois has gigantic pension problems at the state level as well:
Since the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in its May 2015 decision on Senate Bill 1 that pensions for current government workers can’t be modified, debate over pension reform has faded from view.

But ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. In 2015, Illinois’ state pension debt reached a record $111 billion. Government-worker pensions already consume one-fourth of the state’s budget. And every day Illinois goes without a solution to its pension crisis, the state’s pension debt grows by over $20 million.

The state’s pension crisis threatens to burden taxpayers with massive, ever-escalating taxes to bail out a system that is simply not sustainable.
I mention these things because Illinois isn't the only place where the wolf is at the door. In fact, you could look much closer to home:
Bloomberg Markets recently released a bombshell of a story on Minnesota’s public-pension system. “New Math Deals Minnesota’s Pensions the Biggest Hit in the U.S.” It reported that “Minnesota’s debt to its workers’ retirement system has soared by $33.4 billion, or $6,000 for every resident, courtesy of accounting rules. The jump caused the finances of Minnesota’s pensions to erode more than any other state’s last year … .”

Bloomberg has called attention to the fact that the financial stability of Minnesota pensions, relative to other states, has plummeted, and that even judged against its own standards, the system is in big trouble. The system admits to an $18 billion unfunded liability for state, local and school district employees. But the Bloomberg report puts our total unfunded liability at $108.9 billion. That’s more than $20,000 for every resident.
Do you have 20 large lying around? No? Me neither. Very few people are talking about these issues. It's long past time we did.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dawn breaks, maybe a bit

The invaluable Jon Gabriel, from his perch at Ricochet, concerning the NeverTrumpers still out and about:
There’s an old maxim in marketing: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Likewise, no reader will take advice from a pundit who despises them.
Right. And even David Brooks is starting to figure it out:
Part of the problem is that anti-Trumpism has a tendency to be insufferably condescending. For example, my colleague Thomas B. Edsall beautifully summarized the recent academic analyses of what personality traits supposedly determine Trump support.

Trump opponents, the academics say, are open-minded and value independence and novelty. Trump supporters, they continue, are closed-minded, change-averse and desperate for security.

This analysis strikes me as psychologically wrong (every human being requires both a secure base and an open field — we can’t be divided into opposing camps), journalistically wrong (Trump supporters voted for the man precisely because they wanted transformational change) and an epic attempt to offend 40 percent of our fellow citizens by reducing them to psychological inferiors.
Yep. That approach is going to be persuasive. There's more:
The main reason Trump won the presidency is that tens of millions of Americans rightly feel that their local economies are under attack, their communities are dissolving and their religious liberties are under threat. Trump understood the problems of large parts of America better than anyone else. He has been able to strengthen his grip on power over the past year because he has governed as he campaigned.

Until somebody comes up with a better defense strategy, Trump and Trumpism will dominate. Voters are willing to put up with a lot of nonsense for a president they think is basically on their side.
My own NeverTrump stance was predicated on the belief that Trump didn't really care and that it was a put-on. As it turns out, I was wrong about that. The evidence mounts that his concerns are real and genuine. His solutions may not work, but that's a public policy debate, not a personal debate. And for the Left, it's always personal. And almost always ad hominem. I keep seeing college friends who are openly cheering for the old white men who supported Trump (no one else could have, natch) to die so they can have their imagined paradise. I know a lot of old white men who have spent their lives making sacrifices for their families and paying plenty of taxes to support the bien pensant class that would spit on them if given the opportunity. Trump may not succeed; the forces arrayed against him are powerful and persistent. But he wouldn't be in the position he is if the people who claim to be better were actually better.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Brain dump

Random thoughts as we prepare for the 5th or 6th Snowmageddon of this endless winter:

  • Paul Ryan is leaving. He meant well, but he was never suited for the job of Speaker of the House. I'm guessing we're not done with him, though.
  • As mentioned, the forecast maps for Minnesota are increasingly dire for the weekend. We have already had nearly a foot of snow in April. Yes, it's April. I am sincerely hoping we won't have to worry about winter driving conditions when we go to Ohio next week. At this point, you can't rule anything out.
  • The Timberwolves are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2004. To put that in perspective, Fearless Maria was still in preschool then. She's off to college this fall. They're likely to get their butts kicked, but it's a start.
  • The only thing that is taking longer to arrive than spring is the IG report on the corruption in the Obama-era Department of Justice. I always have wanted to believe that the truth will out, but increasingly that seems like naivete.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

No time

No time for posting today, either. So it's an open thread. I'm hoping to write a longer piece later in the week about what's happening in New Brighton -- for now, let's just say the local government is having an extended clown show moment at taxpayer expense, all while claiming their continuous rake-stepping is about saving money. Here's a representative video:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Mellow out or you will pay

More prescient by the day:

You think they were kidding? Consider this:
If you were a political strategist looking to make California a model of how America could change for the better, what would you do? First, the Republican party and the conservative movement that captured it essentially would have to be neutralized — completely discredited and marginalized to the sidelines of politics. California would have to get beyond dealing with crazy conservative ideologues who could not face up to the real world of facts and let go of outdated ideas already proven not to work. No bipartisan dealing with zealots, no trying to pry one brave soul from a ridiculous pledge of no new taxes. No, the whole party must be decisively beaten — so decisively that it would take at least a generation for the party to get back on its feet again. In California, that very mission was accomplished by the Democratic Party and the voting public. Now the state is totally run by Democrats. All statewide offices are controlled by Democrats, and both Houses of the Legislature have Democratic super-majorities.
That's the vision they have. Do they get to impose it? Better decide now, while you still theoretically can. And you really ought to read the linked piece from Tom Leyden and Ruy Teixeira. They have a plan for your life and what you might want is irrelevant.

Close your eyes, can't happen here
Big Bro' on white horse is near
The hippies won't come back, you say
Mellow out or you will pay 
Mellow out or you will pay

It's a coup

Let's just call it what it is. There is no way in hell that Robert Mueller, or the Southern District of New York, or anyone else, should have any ability to raid the private attorney of the President of the United States, looking for something, anything.

If I were Donald Trump, I'd simply say the hell with it and do the following:

  1. Fire Mueller
  2. Fire Rosenstein
  3. Fire Sessions
  4. Fire the entire Justice Department, if that's what it takes to clean house
  5. Declassify everything, and I mean everything
  6. Release the IG report concerning what these shaved apes in bespoke have been doing to the country. All of it.
  7. Dare Adam Schiff to do anything about any of it, since I suspect he's up to his eyeballs in a lot of this, too
They've come to kill the king*. Either the king fights back, or the king dies. There's no point in showing any deference to someone with a dagger in his hand.

*Yes, I know Trump isn't a king, nor would I want him to be king. But he was duly elected and what is happening now is outrageous beyond measure.

Monday, April 09, 2018


As regular readers of this feature know, I grew up in Wisconsin and experienced the majority of my childhood in the 1970s. As a result of that timeline, I didn't get to see too many winning performances or experience too many championship seasons. I have vague memories of the Milwaukee Bucks winning their only championship in 1971, and I have better memories of the magical run of Marquette in 1977, as they won the NCAA men's basketball championship and sent Al McGuire out as a winner. Most of the other entities I cared about didn't do so well, though.

The world of marching band wasn't on my radar in those days, either. My high school, Xavier, did not have a marching band program. When we had our homecoming parade, they would have the pep band sit on folding chairs (with their music stands, of course) on the back of a big flatbed truck and play their songs as the vehicle rolled slowly down College Avenue. It was (a) ludicrous and (b) really, really unsafe, but that's how we did it. I knew the marching band was a big deal in college, but it wasn't anything that mattered. The band at Appleton East marched in the Orange Bowl parade in the early 1970s, but that was about it.

For the past four years, Fearless Maria has been part of the marching band program at her high school. And on Saturday night they won their third consecutive state championship:

3 in a row

Irondale High School competes in all the typical high school sports, occasionally doing well, but they aren't known for great success. They are great in winter drumline. Up until the last three years, I'd never had a chance to experience what it's like to be a state champion. Xavier won some state championships during my high school career, but that was at arm's length. Fearless Maria and her fellow drumline members are a full-on dynasty now and it's been a real education for me to see what it really takes to win a state championship and, even more importantly, what it takes to stay there. These kids put in an amazing amount of time into their shows. The other high schools that compete successfully in drumline in the state are mostly other metro schools, and the schools that Irondale will face in the WGI championships in less than two weeks span the gamut from small town enterprises to huge high schools. It's been an amazing experience and while we're ready for the next stage of her life, we'll miss these seasons.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Sleep with the fishes

The saga of Kevin Williamson, acerbic Never-Trumper, went into full-on frog and scorpion territory yesterday, as he was ashcanned from the Atlantic only a few weeks after he'd been hired to be the fully caffeinated Jennifer Rubin on their masthead. Where to begin?

  • Williamson is a talented guy and his primary value as a pundit is his willingness to call things as he sees them. Who could forget his initial discussion of the Trump campaign, Witless Ape Rides Escalator? You want invective? Have some! 
Donald Trump, being Donald Trump, announced his candidacy at Trump Tower, making a weird grand entrance via escalator — going down, of course, the symbolism of which is lost on that witless ape. But who could witness that scene — the self-made man who started with nothing but a modest portfolio of 27,000 New York City properties acquired by his millionaire slumlord father, barely out of his latest bankruptcy and possibly headed for another one as the casino/jiggle-joint bearing his name sinks into the filthy mire of the one U.S. city that makes Las Vegas look respectable, a reality-television grotesque with his plastic-surgery-disaster wife, grunting like a baboon about our country’s “brand” and his own vast wealth — and not see the peerless sign of our times?

  • So, if you're looking for a guy who can bash Le Grand Orange with flair, he's a great choice. But the problem is a guy who can write like that might have a few other opinions that might frighten the neighbors. And Williamson does
KEVIN WILLIAMSON (CO-HOST): And someone challenged me on my views on abortion, saying, “If you really thought it was a crime you would support things like life in prison, no parole, for treating it as a homicide.” And I do support that, in fact, as I wrote, what I had in mind was hanging....
 Later in the same episode of the podcast, Williamson continued that when it came to punishment for those who had abortions, he “would totally go with treating it like any other crime up to and including hanging” -- going so far as to say that he had “a soft spot for hanging as a form of capital punishment” because “if the state is going to do violence, let’s make it violence. Let’s not pretend like we’re doing something else.”
  • Was Williamson serious about that last part? You could read it as an argument against capital punishment, but not if your goal is to get a guy ashcanned. And so he was.
  • Now, in some ways this is a classic frog/scorpion moment -- you would think a guy who has lived in the media world as long as Williamson has would recognize that liberals like his former boss, Jeffrey Goldberg, aren't really his friends, and that he liable to get the Luca Brasi treatment at any moment that seemed propitious. But at the same time, if hacks like Jennifer Rubin can collect that sweet sweet Bezos money from the Washington Post simply by being reflexively against the Leader of the Free World, why wouldn't a more talented writer assume he could cash in, too, at a different portside enclave?
  • In some respects, Williamson is no different from Cindy Sheehan or the latest flavor of the moment, David Hogg. Williamson was potentially useful as long as he did the dance as it is choreographed, but the only opinions his minders really wanted were the ones they could sell to their audiences. He wasn't allowed to have any opinions of his own. And if you want a "peerless sign of our times," that's it.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Springtime in Minnesota

It's April 4, 2018. This is our mailbox:

Nothing is delivered
This is the forecast for Sunday:

I'm officially tired of this crap.

Friends who say things

Verbatim quote from one of my college friends, on Facebook:

The old white men who voted for Trump don’t need to be won back/appealed to. They need to die.

This lovely thought earned a "like" from 11 people, including 7 who were also college classmates.

That's the endgame, kids.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Labor of love?

At the current pace, we could have a total of 6000 posts on this blog by early next year; currently, we have about about 5700 posts. I've written nearly all of them; I have collaborated with Benster and Fearless Maria on a few hundred, and Mrs. D and my brother Stinger (alive and well, by the way) have weighed in periodically, but for the most part, it's been my deal.

That's a lot of blogging. I'm wondering how much longer I'll want to do this, though. I never tried to reach a mass audience; there have been times where a post of mine might get several hundred page views, but it's usually been because I insulted (or was perceived to have insulted) a small, passionate group of people. Don't piss off the Eric Carmen Fan Club. Or if you want page views, maybe you should. Go all the way.

But if writing (and blogging) is a labor of love, does it last?  I'm not certain. Lately Glenn Reynolds has been suggesting that blogging is ripe for a comeback. I'm not sure I agree, but it's possible. Most of my regular commenters operate blogs of their own, or have in the past. Do you sense, at this point, there's an opportunity for a resurgence?

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

There's a place for us

You hurry to a spot that's just a dot on the map.

           -- Frank Sinatra, "The Tender Trap"

When I was younger, I used to joke that my hometown, Appleton, Wisconsin, was a suburb without the city attached. The eternal joke about Appleton concerns one of its most famous sons, Harry Houdini:

Q. What was Houdini's greatest escape?
A. Getting out of Appleton.

I got out, too, but it wasn't an escape, really. I just didn't come back after I graduated from college. First I made my way to Chicago, then after Mrs. D and I were married, we came to the Twin Cities, over 25 years ago now. This is a major metropolitan area and almost 3.5 million people live here. But if you believe Bill Kristol, we're nowhere:
Earlier this year, Bill Kristol, editor at large at the Weekly Standard, tweeted ahead of the Super Bowl that it was too bad two Acela Corridor teams, the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, had to play their matchup “in the middle of nowhere.”

It was a reference to the host city of Minneapolis’ location in the Midwest, far from the "civilized worlds" of Boston and Philadelphia – the assumption being that unless you are on the East Coast, your town’s sophistication and glamour could not live up to the modern amenities of a cosmopolitan city.
Kristol has been busy sneering at nowhere for a long time now, as the author of the linked piece, Salena Zito, knows. For her part, Zito has been trying to understand all the nowheres that sent Donald Trump to the White House. She discusses one such place, Lost River, West Virginia, in her article:
The tale of the enigmatic vanishing of a flowing river that seemingly disappears underground only to reappear elsewhere is the stuff that holds visitors or children spellbound as the tale of subterranean passages explain away the naming of this town.

Lost River is one of four unincorporated towns along West Virginia state route 259 that attracted America’s frontier families for its rich resources; surveyed by 16-year-old George Washington, this area has never had much population, never had the commerce to keep enough people here long enough to make it boom, but just long enough to make it stick with tourists.

Today, it attracts them in droves from Washington, D.C., and is considered a destination point for gay travelers. The population is still small, and career opportunities are limited. And like the river that vanishes and then reappears as part of a larger, more important river, its pattern is very much like the pattern of the lives of people living in Middle America.
Zito's point is simple enough -- the people in these small towns haven't vanished, but they are rarely observed. In the past month or so, I've stopped in a few of these small towns -- Waverly, Minnesota, and Plainfield, Iowa. As we travel again later this month, I'll likely stop in a few more, perhaps in Indiana or Ohio. And we need to see the towns. Back to Zito:
In my estimation, there is no patch of geography in this country that is the "middle of nowhere." This is America; everywhere is the middle of somewhere.

Whether it is Tightwad, Mo., Mooresville, Ala., Hyder, Alaska, Oatman, Ariz., or right here in Lost River, W.Va., every place, large or small, depressed or thriving, or down to one mailbox on one lonely road, is somewhere.

We are all equals; we all contribute to the culture, diversity, dialect, and importance of this country. We build things, we serve in our communities, we serve in our military, we create families, businesses, and technology no matter where we are – we find a way to make each village and town and city a unique snapshot of this country.
As regular readers of this feature know, I've been taking pictures for almost half a year now and posting them on social media, sometimes here. These places are worth noting, because they matter. It took me a long time to understand that Appleton, Wisconsin mattered, and I had to leave it to really understand why. Some people don't want to understand the places they avoid. Back to Zito:
It is an idea and an ideal that Hillary Clinton not only got wrong in the last election, but is still getting wrong; her remarks in India in March reinforced that.

"If you look at the map of the United States, there's all that red in the middle where Trump won," she said. "I win the coast, I win, you know, Illinois and Minnesota, places like that."

She went on to say that where she won, America is thriving: "I won the places that represent two-thirds of America's gross domestic product. So, I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward. And his whole campaign, 'Make America Great Again,' was looking backwards."

Clinton is not the only person to hold that contempt. Many of her supporters have gone on to agree with her and to hold those same strident positions – and their condescension for half of the country has only deepened since November 2016.
Letting go of contempt is difficult. I went all ad hominem on a high school kid in these pages not long ago. But I'm trying. As Zito makes clear, we all need to keep trying. Her piece is well worth your time, so read the whole thing.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Everything and nothing

Blogging has rarely been as difficult as it is at this moment. And I think the invaluable Richard "Wretchard" Fernandez has the proper explanation:
Perhaps never in human history has the average man been bombarded with so many stories.  Yet paradoxically, never has the public been in greater danger of strategic surprise. If it is caught at unawares, the reason for its blindness won't be lack of bandwidth but in all the things it imagined were important that weren't.
Consider what we talk about these days. We've spent the better part of the previous month contemplating the deep thoughts of a pneumatic porn star and a pencil-necked high school opportunist. Apparently we're supposed to hate Cambridge Analytica, which 99% of Americans hadn't heard of before March 1, and yes, I'm part of that 99%. Meanwhile, the Pope is reported to have said that hell doesn't exist, EPA head Scott Pruitt spends too much money and too little money.

Does your head spin? Do you float on the water or do you sink? And if you discuss the issues of the day, do you amplify or distort? I'm not certain. Are you?