Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘Attitudes toward Public Institutions and Public Employees’ (Part 5 of 9)

This is the fifth in a series of posts considering Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

In Chapter 5, Cramer describes conversations she had with rural residents. In the early part of the chapter, she recounts discussions about the university system. Some rural residents tell her they don’t like Madison (and UW-Madison) because they see it as politically liberal:

Glenn: UW is the only place where you can be a hippie for forty years and not be out of place. [chuckles]
Dan: Sometimes you can’t tell them from the professors, either. [laughs]
Tim: Well that’s true, too.
KJC: Right, right.
Glenn: UW and San Francisco got about the same initials. [chuckles]
KJC: So what do you think the UW–Madison should be doing here in [this town]? And I mean that very broadly, like from students to ordinary folks who live here, you know beyond student age, are there things they should be doing?
Tim: I don’t know what they could do—I guess I’m like Glenn and the rest of ’em as far as the liberal—I’m not a Madison person. There’s a reason that I don’t live in Madison, I like [this town]. I don’t like Madison at all. It’s big, it’s . . . to me, I don’t like to drive in the city—
Glenn: Best part about Madison is the fifty-five miles that it is away.

But that’s not their primary objection, it turns out:

KJC: Why don’t [students from here] go to Madison? I mean I have all kinds of guesses why, but why do you think?
Tim: Cost is the biggest thing.
Dan: Tuition is higher in Madison than it is in La Crosse or Platteville [cities with other UW System schools] for one thing.

In any event, the university is a topic (but of uncertain priority) because Cramer’s made it one:

My presence alone, though, brought the university into the conversations. The first thing I usually said to these groups, especially during my first visits in 2007 and 2008, was, “Hi! I’m Kathy. I’m from the UW–Madison.” So I want to acknowledge up front that it is likely that these groups would not have talked about the university and higher education as much if I hadn’t inserted myself into their conversations. But my focus was not how much they talked about the university or other aspects of government, but how they made sense of it when they did so. Their conversations about UW–Madison provide a window to their attitudes about government and public employees more generally.

Here, Cramer’s claim about negative views of the university is tenuous, because she can’t show what priority the university has in residents’ minds. (In fact, she guesses they “would not have talked about the university and higher education as much if [she] hadn’t inserted [herself] into their conversations.”)

Oh my: Cramer wants to define a rural consciousness, but by her own admission the role of UW-Madison within that consciousness depends not on residents’ priorities but her own questioning. This is simply flimsy. (It’s for lack of a solid prioritization, presumably, that Cramer offers unquantifiably and nebulously that their responses are a “window to their attitudes.” How big and how clear a window neither Cramer nor we know, as she can’t reliably say.)

Cramer exhibits guilt about her role as an academic:

To be honest, I felt sheepish explaining to people during my first year of fieldwork that I wasn’t teaching any classes. In the midst of conversations about the wear and tear of common rural occupations on one’s body, I had a difficult time thinking of my job driving around the state, inviting myself into coffee klatches as hard work.

An honest admission, but nonetheless an admission of a bias (one that could be both more pronounced in focus-group questioning & less susceptible of review than it would be in data-released opinion polling).

Indeed, Cramer acknowledges that scientific opinion polling reveals that suspicion about education’s value extends far beyond a rural demographic:

Let me end this chapter by acknowledging that people of many walks of life feel distant from institutions of higher education and also public employees. First, consider that public opinion surveys suggest that many people feel a sense of disconnection from institutions of higher education. For example, a December 9–13, 2009, Public Agenda poll of 1,031 U.S. adults found that 60 percent of the public perceives that “colleges today are like most businesses and mainly care about the bottom line,” as opposed to “colleges today mainly care about education and making sure students have a good educational experience.”16 Also, that same poll found that 33 percent “agree strongly” and 27 percent “agree somewhat” that “colleges could take a lot more students without lowering quality or raising prices.”

If so many feel this way (however regrettable those views may be), we can be certain that this skepticism is not unique to a supposed rural consciousness. And as it is not unique, and even appears in rural residents’ conversations at Cramer’s admitted instigation, identifying anti-educational views with rural residents seems truly uncompelling to anyone other than those who would expect to find such views primarily in rural communities.

Previously: Parts 1, 23, and 4.

Tomorrow: Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘Support for Small Government’ (Part 6 of 9).

Daily Bread for 4.23.17

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of seventy-one. Sunrise is 5:58 AM and sunset 7:47 PM, for 13h 48m 34s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 12.9% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred sixty-sixth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

April 23rd is the traditionally observed birthday of William Shakespeare, on this day in 1564. On this day in 1954, playing for the Milwaukee Braves, Hank Aaron hits his first major league home run.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Craig Gilbert observes that Paul Ryan’s national popularity sags: “His favorability ratings have gone from positive to negative for the first time in Gallup’s polling. In a poll by Pew, his approval rating is 29%, his disapproval 54%. In a survey by Quinnipiac, 28% of voters view him favorably, 52% unfavorably. These national polls were all taken in the aftermath of the House GOP’s highly publicized failure to pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. But they also reflect broader forces at work in Donald Trump’s presidency. The speaker is now a less popular figure among GOP voters than Trump is. But as a partner of Trump in Republican-run Washington, Ryan has seen his standing suffer among Democrats and independents.”

Patricia Torres and Nicholas Casey report that Armed Civilian Bands in Venezuela Prop Up Unpopular President: “Carlos Moreno, 17, lay sprawled on the ground, a pool of blood around his head….The uniformed men who shot Mr. Moreno were not government security forces, witnesses say. Rather, they were members of armed bands who have become key enforcers for President Nicolás Maduro as he attempts to crush a growing protest movement against his rule. The groups, called collectives or colectivos in Spanish, originated as pro-government community organizations that have long been a part of the landscape of leftist Venezuelan politics. Civilians with police training, colectivo members are armed by the government, say experts who have studied them. Colectivos control vast territory across Venezuela, financed in some cases by extortion, black-market food and parts of the drug trade as the government turns a blind eye in exchange for loyalty. Now they appear to be playing a key role in repressing dissent.”

Dan Balz and Scott Clement report that Nearing 100 days, Trump’s approval at record lows but his base is holding: “President Trump nears the 100-day mark of his administration as the least popular chief executive in modern times, a president whose voters remain largely satisfied with his performance, but one whose base of support has not expanded since he took the oath of office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.”

Bob Holer reports that Tom Brady gives much to Best Buddies, but has taken millions for his own charitable trust: “The legend of Tom Brady has grown thanks to charming images of his celebrated appearances for Best Buddies International, a nonprofit dedicated to helping intellectually and developmentally disabled people….Yet Brady’s relationship with Best Buddies has changed in recent years. The organization has become a major source of funding for Brady’s own charitable goals. Since 2011, while Brady has served as the face of its signature Massachusetts fund-raiser and helped it raise nearly $20 million, Best Buddies has paid $2.75 million to Brady’s own charitable trust and has pledged to grant the organization an additional $500,000 in 2017 — a total of $3.25 million….Brady “really can’t take credit for being a great philanthropist when he is using other people’s money to help his own organizations,’’ said Daniel Borochoff, president of Charity Watch, a Chicago-based nonprofit that evaluates philanthropies and advocates for consumers. “It’s certainly not pure altruism.’’

What would it be like to work undercover in a Chinese iPhone factory? Dejian Zeng knows:

Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘The Context of Rural Consciousness’ (Part 4 of 9)

This is the fourth in a series of posts considering Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

If in Chapter 3 Cramer sought to provide the contours (outlines) of a rural consciousness,  in Chapter 4 she attempts to describe the context (the circumstances around it) of it all.

Cramer sees the obvious challenge to her work:

I know many readers will be wondering whether this thing I am calling rural consciousness is justified—that is, whether it reflects real or simply perceived disparities in government resources, concern, and attention.

(She doesn’t concede so plainly other challenges to her work, however: that a small government preference is not necessarily a rural product, any more than a socialist one might not be a rural product, that the divide in large areas is more than rural and urban, indeed more than economic, and that ample work across centuries in market theory sits outside her urban-rural framework but has nonetheless shaped life across this continent and planet.)

And yet, and yet, here’s Cramer’s answer to this question, as she frames it:

I know this because when I describe complaints of injustice among small-town residents to urban audiences, I am almost always asked whether it is actually the case, for example, that rural areas get fewer public dollars than urban areas do. In the conversations I observed in rural Wisconsin, many people thought they were getting the short end of the stick with respect to taxpayer dollars. But was that really the case?

The evidence is mixed.

That’s quite the concession. Imagine someone asking about the effectiveness of a medication, or of a parachute, and receiving that reply: the evidence is mixed.

Here’s how Cramer describes basic fiscal policy for rural and urban Wisconsinites:

In Wisconsin, rural counties do receive fewer public dollars than urban counties. In the aggregate, measures of both state and federal government expenditures at the county level in fiscal year 2010 show that more than 75 percent of this money went to counties with urban metropolitan communities (fig. 4.1)

However, there are far fewer people living in rural counties than urban ones, so a more apt comparison might be one that uses a per capita basis for comparison. Figures 4.2 and 4.3 show two correlation plots, with each dot representing a single county in Wisconsin. This pair of figures shows almost no relationship between how rural a county is and the dollars it receives in expenditures per capita from the state and federal government.1 Excluding outliers, a slight upward trend is evident, with more rural counties receiving slightly more dollars per person; however, the relationship is weak.2 But the evidence certainly does not support the notion that urban counties receive far more than their share of tax dollars per resident.

(Emphasis mine.)

Seeing this, that in fact rural residents aren’t short-changed in the amounts that they receive, Cramer must – if she believes that a rural consciousness depends on rural residents accurately and correctly observing a disparity with urban areas – find another economic explanation.

She does:

While this evidence does not back up the perceptions I heard among many rural residents that there is vastly disproporationate spending in urban counties and higher tax burdens falling on rural communities, many would also be quick to point out that what these numbers do not reveal is how effectively the money was spent. Even if the spending were proportionate across type of place, if the spending failed to meet the needs of people living there, it really would not matter. Some services simply cost less per capita in cities because of economies of scale.4

Where, though, does this economies of scale endnote (#4) lead? Here: “I am sincerely indebted to Ben Toff for these analyses and to Sarah Niebler for a similar set of analyses in the early stages of this project.” That is, Cramer’s presumably thanking Toff and Niebler for their data collection for the preceding Figures 4.1 to 4.9, not to an economies of scale analysis. She offers no such analysis here.

If Cramer cannot provide compelling data for her claim that a supposed rural consciousness rests significantly on an actual mis- or under-allocation of government funds to the detriment of rural residents, then she’s left either with (1) her own misperception of a rural consciousness, (2) rural residents’ misperception of their own condition, or (3) both.

By her own account, she cannot offer, so to speak, unmixed economic data.

That’s quite a predicament for her thesis.

Previously: Parts 1, 2, and 3.

Tomorrow: Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘Attitudes toward Public Institutions and Public Employees’ (Part 5 of 9).

Daily Bread for 4.22.17

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of sixty-four. Sunrise is 6 AM and sunset 7:46 PM, for 13h 45m 55s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 30% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred sixty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in in 1889, approximately 50,000 people take part in the Oklahoma Land Rush. On this day in 1970, the first Earth Day is celebrated, with Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson having been among those advocating for a dedicated day for conservation issues.

Recommended for reading in full —

Sebastian Rotella reports that Russia is engaged in a full-scale shadow war in Europe: “American politics was jolted when 17 intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russia had covertly intervened in the 2016 presidential campaign with the aim of electing Donald Trump. Such activity is nothing new in Europe, where Russia has launched a series of clandestine and open efforts to sway governments and exert influence, according to European and U.S. national security officials, diplomats, academics and other experts interviewed by ProPublica in recent weeks. “The Russians have had an aggressive espionage presence here for a long time,” a senior French intelligence official said. “The Russians now have more spies, more clandestine operations, in France than they did in the Cold War.” European and U.S. security officials say Russian tactics run the gamut from attempted regime change to sophisticated cyber-espionage.”

Aurelien Breeden offers a Guide to the French Vote (and How It Relates to ‘Brexit’ and Trump): “French voters will go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of presidential elections. In the wake of electoral upheavals around the world, including the victory of Donald J. Trump and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, the vote is one of several in Europe being closely watched worldwide….”

Damian Paletta reports that Trump’s ‘Big announcement’ on tax reform unlikely to reveal details, official says: “The White House will release on Wednesday the “broad principles and priorities” of their plans to overhaul federal taxes, a White House official said Friday night, downplaying expectations that the Trump administration would reveal key details underpinning the plan. President Trump said earlier Friday that he would release new information about his plan to overhaul the tax code on Wednesday, a sign that he is trying to accelerate one of his most ambitious campaign promises even though key specifics remain undetermined. “We’ll be having a big announcement on Wednesday having to do with tax reform,” Trump said Friday while visiting the Treasury Department. “The process has begun long ago but it really formally begins on Wednesday.”

Brian Fung explains Why Verizon is losing more cellphone customers than ever: “…aggressive moves by smaller carriers to build out their networks are paying off, said Roger Entner, an industry analyst with Recon Analytics, meaning that such companies as T-Mobile are chipping away at Verizon’s network advantage. In a recent federal auction of wireless airwaves, T-Mobile emerged as a major beneficiary, spending $8 billion to acquire rights to radio spectrum it will use to expand its mobile Internet capacity. “At least three of the four nationwide carriers [are] inching closer to network parity in the major markets,” Entner said. In addition, fewer customers are choosing to leave the smaller carriers for Verizon or AT&T, Entner said. This is important because in a market such as the United States, there aren’t many new customers left; most people already have cell service, and as a result, carriers have been forced to engage in costly price wars to poach subscribers from one another.”

Jason Drakeford, Dennis Overbye, and Jonathan Corum describe Dark Oceans: Surveying Saturn’s Moons:

Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘The Contours of Rural Consciousness’ (Part 3 of 9)

This is the third in a series of posts considering Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

The simplest way to think about Cramer’s work, by analogy, is to think of it not as a scientific poll of attitudes and preferences, but as a series of considered focus groups. Considered, to be sure, because Cramer ponders at length about how she should interact with rural residents, and has read well of academic literature on interactions like the kind she undertakes.

And yet, for it all, her work is truly the focus group work of a Wisconsinite who (at seemingly every turn) exhibits her own class consciousness, all the while insisting, in effect, that she’s suitably tamed that consciousness.

Consider how Cramer describes her role (effectually as a focus group moderator):

My obvious status as an urbanite very likely made the out-group of urbanites more salient (Turner et al. 1994). But rural consciousness was not an artifact of my presence. I say this for a variety of reasons. Rural consciousness was not just about rural versus city folks. It contained perceptions of the distribution of power, values, and resources that could not have been constructed suddenly in my presence. Second, the people I listened to revealed the perspective of rural consciousness quickly, suggesting that they used this perspective quite a bit, not suddenly when meeting me. Third, for the people who used this perspective, it was so fundamental to the way they talked about politics that when I asked about it directly they were often downright astonished that I found it necessary to do so.4

Cramer’s sure that her rural interlocutors lack awareness of their own perspective, but that her own role as an ‘urbanite’ is obvious. Perhaps so obvious to her, in fact, that she lacks an understanding of how quickly she assumes others’ imperception.

As for one rural coffee klatch she describes in Chapter 3 (jokingly named by its members as the ‘The Downtown Athletic Club’), their composition is hardly representative of must rural residents:

I quickly learned that all four of those men were former public school teachers. One had been a principal. Right away, they voiced concerns about state legislators raiding tax dollars out of the highway fund (they wanted that to stop), the liquor tax (they wanted that higher), the price of gas (they wanted that lower), and the cost of health care (they wanted someone to do something about it).

Most rural Wisconsinites aren’t teachers; many are not college educated. A focus group of retired rural teachers is not simply a focus group of rural residents.

There’s nothing unscientific about this methodology; the point is, rather, that there’s nothing exclusive (and so nothing conclusive) to it, either.

Cramer defines her terms:

“Rural consciousness” is the term I am using to describe a strong sense of identity as a rural person combined with a strong sense that rural areas are the victims of injustice: the sense that rural areas do not get their fair share of power, respect, or resources and that rural folks prefer lifestyles that differ fundamentally from those of city people….First, rural consciousness was about perceptions of power, or who makes decisions and who decides what to even discuss. Second, it showed up with respect to perceptions of values and lifestyles. Third and finally, it involved perceptions of resources or who gets what.

How is this different from other possible perspectives? A sense of oneself as a rural person, to be sure, but otherwise? One can be confident that residents of Staten Island and Los Angeles are concerned about ‘perceptions of power,’ ‘perceptions of values and lifestyles,’ and ‘perceptions of resources or who gets what.’

Cramer learns that rural residents don’t like high gas prices:

Few people like rising gas prices, but to people in rural communities—who typically drive long distances to everything—they are a major source of concern. By the time I met this group, I had come to realize that there was something important about the way many people in small communities thought about their towns in relation to more urban places.

Wouldn’t commuting – with gas or rail transit costs – be a concern just as much of suburban commuters near Washington, D.C. or Chicago? This simply isn’t exclusively or primarily a rural concern. For commuters in these areas, one might as easily come to realize that there was something important about the way many people in suburban communities thought about their housing developments in relation to more urban places. Wouldn’t transportation costs matter as much to poor urban residents without cars, without money for auto insurance, and the daily managing of public transit fares and schedules?

Cramer’s not sure how racial views play in all this:

So yes, it is highly likely that when people refer to “those people in Milwaukee” they are often referring to racial minorities. But notice how complex this is. The urbanites that rural folks were referring to were not predominantly racial minorities. When white outstaters (i.e., those living outside the major metropolitan areas) complained of the laziness in the cities in these conversations, their comments were almost always directed at white people: government bureaucrats and faculty members at the flagship public university.

In that way, antiurban resentment is not simply resentment against people of color. At the same time, given the way arguments against government redistribution in the United States have historically been made by equating deservingness with whiteness, these conversations are about race even when race is not mentioned.

Cramer believes that ‘arguments against government redistribution in the United States have historically been made by equating deservingness with whiteness,’ a claim that shows only how shallow her understanding of neoclassical economic and libertarian theory truly is. For Cramer anti-distributionist arguments rest – using the qualifier historically – on ‘equating deservingness with whiteness.’ Friedman, Hayek, et al., are here either ignored or misunderstood (likely both).

Worse, I think, is that this view of racism – that anti-urbanism is the general problem – dilutes particular racial injuries into a larger anti-urban potion. It’s an exoneration to say that people don’t dislike, let’s say blacks,  because they actually dislike urban residents. Those being subjected to stop-and-frisk in New York, for example, aren’t just urbanites; they’re disproportionately black or Latino.

(For a different assessment from Cramer’s of Wisconsin-specific views on race, consider Alex Macgillis’s 2014 essay on Wisconsin politics.)

In this way, Cramer’s concern about race is both too broad and too narrow.

That’s a bigger concern than how a group of retired, rural teachers perceives a woman in a VW Jetta.

Previously: Parts 1 and 2.

Tomorrow: Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘The Context of Rural Consciousness’ (Part 4 of 9).

Daily Bread for 4.21.17

Good morning.

Friday win Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of fifty-nine. Sunrise is 6:01 AM and sunset 7:44 PM, for 13h 43m 14s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 27.7% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred sixty-fourth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Today is the anniversary of the legendary date on which Rome was founded (April 21, 753 B.C.). Conservationist John Muir is born on this day in 1838.

Recommended for reading in full — 

Tim Cato writes that the Bucks annihilated the Raptors in Game 3 and it showed a glimpse of their future: “The Milwaukee Bucks stole Game 1, and they nearly did the same in Game 2. They’ll live with the small consolation prize that is Game 3. It was a thorough, brutal beatdown of the Toronto Raptors as the series shifted back to Wisconsin, starting the moment the game began and never letting up for a second. The 104-77 win puts Milwaukee up two games to one, with another game at home coming up. It’s too soon to count out Toronto, because we’ve seen them power through ugly series and inexplicably win them. But right now, it looks like the Raptors are headed for a couple more games, and then a quick extinction. They could easily be down 3-0, and they would need a lot going right to get the turnaround they desire. We’ll have a long talk about Toronto if they do indeed lose. Right now, this is about Milwaukee, and how the Bucks have maybe come together to play incredible basketball….The Bucks have made a clear statement that they should be feared. Even if they somehow seize up and fall apart in a series loss, something nobody is predicting at this point, consider how damn young they are. We see teams rise and fall out of the Eastern Conference constantly — remember how the Knicks were good for a season, and only that? Remember the Indiana dynasties that fell obsolete so, so quickly? Now, Milwaukee might be doing the same thing to Toronto, who has run in the top of the East for a few seasons now. The Bucks, unlike any of those teams mentioned before, are built to last long into the future.”

Michael Wines writes of a ‘Pivotal Moment’ for Democrats? Gerrymandering Heads to Supreme Court: “A bipartisan group of voting rights advocates says the lower house of the Wisconsin Legislature, the State Assembly, was gerrymandered by its Republican majority before the 2012 election — so artfully, in fact, that Democrats won a third fewer Assembly seats than Republicans despite prevailing in the popular vote. In November, in a 2-to-1 ruling, a panel of federal judges agreed. Now the Wisconsin case is headed to a Supreme Court that has repeatedly said that extreme partisan gerrymanders are unconstitutional, but has never found a way to decide which ones cross the line. Some legal scholars believe this could be the year that changes that. If that happens, they say, an emphatic ruling against partisan gerrymanders would rank with another redistricting decision: Baker v. Carr, the historic 1962 case that led to the principle of one person, one vote.”

Charlie Savage writes that Jeff Sessions Dismisses Hawaii as ‘an Island in the Pacific’: “WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke dismissively about the State of Hawaii while criticizing a Federal District Court ruling last month that blocked the Trump administration from carrying out its ban on travel from parts of the Muslim world. “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Mr. Sessions said this week in an interview on “The Mark Levin Show,” a conservative talk radio program….“Hawaii was built on the strength of diversity & immigrant experiences — including my own,” Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, wrote on Twitter. “Jeff Sessions’ comments are ignorant & dangerous.” The other senator from Hawaii, Brian Schatz, who is also a Democrat, expressed similar sentiments, writing on Twitter: “Mr. Attorney General: You voted for that judge. And that island is called Oahu. It’s my home. Have some respect.”

Jeremy Venook explains The Product-Placement Presidency: “Nevertheless, Ivanka’s quest to legally protect her own name is yet another demonstration of the ethical ambiguities that arise from a powerful businessman in the White House, staffed by members of his family. Quite often, the line between the Trump brand and the Trump administration is not a clear one. Famous (and profitable) as the family’s names were before Donald became president—there’s speculation that the name is the Trump Organization’s most valuable asset—Trump’s ascension to arguably the highest office on earth, and his subsequent decision to bring his daughter into the White House, have drastically increased their visibility. This fact has not escaped them. Speaking to The New York Times in March, Eric Trump said he believes “the stars have all aligned” to make their brand “the hottest it has ever been”—although he didn’t go so far as to explicitly acknowledge the role his father’s presidency may be playing in that heat. Likewise, the Trump Organization’s decision to double the initiation fee at Mar-a-Lago in January has been read by many critics as an implicit acknowledgement that Trump’s brand is more valuable now that he’s in the Oval Office.”

Why do we have grass lawns? Here’s why —

Gazette Editorial Begs Paul Ryan: Call Me Maybe?

 

There’s an editorial at the Janesville Gazette, hometown of Paul Ryan, complaining that Ryan won’t hold a town hall:

 

Paul Ryan, your constituents have waited long enough.

It’s time for a town hall, even if it’s only the telephone kind. Something. Anything to show your constituents that you—not only your staff—are hearing their concerns.

See, Our Views: Detached from his district @ Janesville Gazette (subscription req’d).

Ryan has ignored the Gazette more than once:

Your spokesman, Ian Martorana, told us you planned to hold a telephone town hall in March, but that never happened. Now he says you’re looking to schedule one in the “next three to four weeks but potentially sooner.”

Desperate for a reply, the Gazette – a paper that not long ago counted itself among community ‘movers and shakers‘, is now begging for anything, even a telephone town hall that the paper admits would be a dodge:

If the town hall isn’t for you, the telephone version works well because you can control who’s talking and when. Sure, it’s a dodge, it’s not as good as hearing from your constituents face-to-face, but it’s better than nothing.

Ryan’s in the presidential line of succession immediately after the vice president, but he won’t show up in person in his own district, and the Gazette is so lacking in influence with him that he simply ignores the paper.

They’re down to a bit of pleading:

Call Me, Maybe?

The Parts of A Multi-Part Project

 

There’s been talk in Whitewater about an out-of-town developer’s plan for a hotel, library, and a local clinic.

The easiest way to consider the project is to ask a simple question:

Is there any part of the project without which the entire effort would not go forward?

Identifying an indispensable part, if any, reveals the essence of the project and the priority among its elements.

Afterward, a follow-up:

Does any party to the project have a non-negotiable position about the proper location of the project?

The answers to these questions will offer the most accurate description of the proposal.

Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘A Method of Listening’ (Part 2 of 9)

This is the second in a series of posts considering Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

One might think that Cramer’s second chapter, ‘A Method of Listening,’ would be a dry (but useful & necessary) description of her methodology. It’s far from merely that: it’s an oddly personal description of her own class consciousness. So much so, in fact, that I’m not sure whether it’s a confessional of sorts, or an attempt to reach out-of-Wisconsin urbanites through tales of adventures among rural natives.

Cramer describes her thoughts when presenting herself to rural Wisconsinites:

My identity as an urbanite matters for how I perceive things. But it also matters for the way I presented myself. My training, like that of political scientists in general, was predominantly positivist. In other words, much of what I learned in school was how to analyze causation. I learned that the goal of a good social scientist is to approximate the scientific method as closely as possible. In such an approach, one aims to have little or no effect on the research setting.

Reasonable enough, of course.

Yet, indeed, she goes on at some length about visiting towns in the state, despite having lived in Wisconsin for most of her life:

When I first started my fieldwork for this study, I tried to wear the same outfit to every research site in a given round, or set of visits. My purpose was to try to interact with each group in precisely the same way, to act as a scientific instrument as much as possible. But as my work went on, it seemed that it did not matter that I dressed the same across groups. Blue-collar groups in low-income communities knew I was wealthier by virtue of my job. They knew I was different because I rolled up to their diner or gas station in a Volkswagen Jetta wagon, and parked it next to a bunch of Made-in-USA pickup trucks. I learned that, rather than obscure who I am, I had to be a human being in order to be welcomed into their conversations.

When would Cramer, dressed in whatever fashion, not been a human being to her fellow residents, or thought of herself as such?

To have a certain class consciousness is, itself, no impediment to understanding. Indeed, to acknowledge as much is mere self-understanding.

(It’s fair to say that I have a sense of this, coming from a pre-Revolutionary family. Yet, it’s never been so pronounced that I thought this simple truth made my fellow residents alien to me. I’ll readily acknowledge that listening to a white resident insist that his family’s three or four generations here entitles him to something more than others is both laughable and contemptible to me: the obvious truth is that he didn’t earn his family’s arrival, and many non-white families were brought here in bondage far earlier than a few generations ago. The past is a burden, not an entitlement, but burden in ways far different from being merely a socioeconomic bugbear.)

Cramer also ascribes to her rural visits a common gender bias from men in those communities:

In my daily life, I do not experience a lot of overt ogling. But I got ogled on these visits. People asked me out on dates, despite the wedding ring on my hand at the time. On my first round, when I traveled with a visibly pregnant belly, several groups of men joked with each other about which member was the father of my child-to-be. Walking in the door to a men’s group with one of the men resulted in a pretty embarrassing barrage of comments assuming we had just had sex….”

I don’t doubt Cramer’s accounts, nor do I condone any of these remarks directed to her; on the contrary, these comments made to her or about her are wrong in part and full. I’ve no desire to excuse any of them.

It does seem to me, however, that to imply that these conditions are worse in rural areas is to understate the subtle-yet-as-destructive harassment that women experience in urban and supposedly cosmopolitan places areas.

There are countless women at university, for example, who would not describe harassment as a primarily rural problem…

Postscript:

Yesterday, in Part 1, I expressed surprise that Cramer had a narrow, distributionist outlook that ignored the complexity of economic and philosophical critiques of state power (“Cramer gives not the slightest hint that there might be a vast body of liberty-oriented theory (including a libertarianism of the left as well as the right) stretching back centuries in America and thousands of years across civilizations earlier”).

A remark from Chris Hayes, the progressive author of A Colony in A Nation, Twilight of the Elites, and MSNBC host (published just after I posted yesterday) nicely summarizes the importance neoclassical economics (an understanding absent from Cramer’s first-chapter):

The entirety of the corpus of Hayek, Friedman, and neoclassical economics. I think it’s an incredibly powerful intellectual tradition and a really important one to understand, these basic frameworks of neoclassical economics, the sort of ideas about market clearing prices, about the functioning of supply and demand, about thinking in marginal terms.

I think the tradition of economic thinking has been really influential. I think it’s actually a thing that people on the left really should do — take the time to understand all of that. There is a tremendous amount of incredible insight into some of the things we’re talking about, like non-zero-sum settings, and the way in which human exchange can be generative in this sort of amazing way. Understanding how capitalism works has been really, really important for me, and has been something that I feel like I’m a better thinker and an analyst because of the time and reading I put into a lot of conservative authors on that topic.

I wouldn’t describe these ideas as conservative, but Hayes assesses them soundly. There’s not the slightest evidence Cramer sees that they might offer insight into Americans’ economic conditions before or after the Great Recession.

Previously: Part 1.

Tomorrow: Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘The Contours of Rural Consciousness’ (Part 3 of 9).

Daily Bread for 4.20.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with isolated thunderstorms and a high of sixty-three. Sunrise is 6:03 AM and sunset 7:43 PM, for 13h 40m 34s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 39.6% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred sixty-third day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

On this day in 1861, Robert E. Lee resigns his commission in the United States Army. On this day in 1836, an act of Congress creates the Territory of Wisconsin.

Recommended for reading in full — 

James B. Nelson reports that Milwaukee makes Conde Nast list of ‘6 U.S. Cities to Watch’: “Milwaukee made the Conde Nast Traveler list of “6 U.S. Cities to Watch in 2017,” thanks to its vibrant restaurant scene and “endless party” during the summer. The magazine compares Milwaukee favorably to Chicago, Minneapolis and Madison and says “Milwaukee has many, if not all, of the same qualities that make these sister cities buzz — and then some.” Conde Nast said the city is a “hotbed of locavore cuisine, and a spate of award-winning restaurants have helped the city shed its beer-and-cheese reputation.” The magazine cited Ardent, Wolf Peach, Odd Duck and Vanguard as examples — all on the Journal Sentinel’s Carol Deptolla’s Top 30 or Top Eats restaurant lists. Also cited are new hotels, including the Kimpton in the Historic Third Ward and the Westin coming later this spring downtown.”

Michelle Ye Hee Lee fact-checks Trump’s claim that Korea ‘actually used to be a part of China’: “He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years . . . and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes, I realized that it’s not so easy.” — President Trump, interview with the Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2017….If Trump was actually referring to the tributary system between Korea and China, then he left out a significant amount of context that distorted the relationship between them. Korea and China have long been intertwined, geopolitically and culturally. But Korea, or even Goguryeo, was not a spinoff of China, as he made it seem. Korea has its own unique roots and history. It would be worthwhile for the president to get his history lesson from Korean experts, perhaps at the State Department, rather than potentially self-serving accounts from foreign leaders.”

Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti, and Adam Goldman report that Trump Adviser’s Visit to Moscow Got the F.B.I.’s Attention: “WASHINGTON — Ever since F.B.I. investigators discovered in 2013 that a Russian spy was trying to recruit an American businessman named Carter Page, the bureau maintained an occasional interest in Mr. Page. So when he became a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign last year and gave a Russia-friendly speech at a prestigious Moscow institute, it soon caught the bureau’s attention. That trip last July was a catalyst for the F.B.I. investigation into connections between Russia and President Trump’s campaign, according to current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials. It is unclear exactly what about Mr. Page’s visit drew the F.B.I.’s interest: meetings he had during his three days in Moscow, intercepted communications of Russian officials speaking about him, or something else. After Mr. Page, 45 — a Navy veteran and businessman who had lived in Moscow for three years — stepped down from the Trump campaign in September, the F.B.I. obtained a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing the authorities to monitor his communications on the suspicion that he was a Russian agent.”

Casey Michel describes how Putin Woos the American Fringe: “Where the American far-right and hard-left carry distinct, disparate views on any range of subjects, there appears one area where they align: Russia’s apparent victimhood at the hands of a malignant West, and the righteousness of Moscow’s complaints about American encroachment. These talking points – of Russia’s putative “encirclement,” or of the West’s supposed degeneracy in the face of Moscow’s moral rectitude – are close echoes of Russian state news channels, especially Sputnik and RT (formerly Russia Today). These channels are notable for mixing slanted reportage and misdirection with more creditworthy reporting, an effective propaganda technique designed to sow doubt and confusion. These same figures of the American fringe — whether Green Party activists, white nationalists, or California secessionists — often subsequently show up on these channels. At times, this creates scenes of startling irony, such as when the state news channel from one of the least environmentally friendly countries in the world hosted the Green Party’s 2016 presidential debate. Green Party candidate Jill Stein, a trusty font of Russia-friendly talking points, even appeared next to both Putin and (now-disgraced) Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn at the Dec. 2015 gala honoring RT.”

Tech Insider describes how the 300-year-old Silms river in Canada vanished in 4 days:

Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘Making Sense of Politics Through Resentment’ (Part 1 of 9)

In a series of posts over the next week or so, I’ll consider Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. Cramer’s a native Wisconsinite teaching at UW-Madison.

Today, I’ll summarize her thesis, as she presents it in the first chapter of PoR,  ‘Making Sense of Politics Through Resentment.’

Cramer makes five principal contentions in the chapter:

1. That there is a partisan divisiveness in Wisconsin that “reflects broader trends in the United States. The country as a whole has seen increasing partisan polarization since the mid 1970s. (Layman, Carson, and Horowitz 2006; McCarthy, Poole, and Rosenthal 2008; Barber and McCarty 2013.)”

2. Cramer asserts that these divides are, in her words, more than ‘ideology’:

Some argue that the public is not actually polarized, that people are just better sorted ideologically into partisan camps than in the past (Hetherington 2009; Fiorina, Abrams, and Pope 2010). But others observe that there is more at stake here than ideology. Divides between identifiers with the two parties in terms of religious preferences, attitudes toward race, and racial demographics themselves are deeper than ever (Abramowitz 2013, 2014). The divides are not just about politics but about who we are as people.

3. This observation leads Cramer back to another one, that is in fact political and philosophical:

These divides are also reflective of the central debate in American politics today: What is the proper role of government in society and who should pay for it (Stonecash 2014)? There are those who believe government ought to be expanded in order to deal with the challenges we face, and there are those who feel that government itself is a major obstacle that should be shrunk.

4. Cramer contends that “another key feature of the times we live in is economic inequality (Piketty and Saez 2003)” and it puzzles her that

[t]here seems to be less support for redistribution here than in other countries with similar levels of economic inequality (Kenworthy and Pontusson 2005). Why? Why is it that most voters continue to elect officials who apparently do not represent the vast There seems to be less support for redistribution here than in other countries with similar levels of economic inequality (Kenworthy and Pontusson 2005). Why? Why is it that most voters continue to elect officials who apparently do not represent the vast majority of us?6 Or if one does not believe that interpretation, why is it that many low-income voters who might benefit from more government redistribution continue to vote against it? Why, in times of increasing economic inequality, have the preferences of the lowest-income voters moved in a conservative, rather than liberal, direction?

5. Cramer offers her answer, one that is the eponymous thesis of Politics of Resentment:

Listening closely to people revealed two things to me: a significant rural-versus-urban divide and the powerful role of resentment. This book shows that what can look like disagreements about basic political principles can be rooted in something even more fundamental: ideas about who gets what, who has power, what people are like, and who is to blame. What might seem to be a central debate about the appropriate role of government might at base be something else: resentment toward our fellow citizens. This book shows people making sense of politics in a way that places resentment toward other citizens at the center….I want to know what it looks like when people use social categories to understand the political world, and how they connect resentment toward particular groups to the broader stance of wanting less, not more, government redistribution.

Cramer’s work addresses a supposed rural consciousness she discerns among many Wisconsinites, and it rests on her assumption that they approach economic concerns in a particular way, one that flows from this rural consciousness.

Candidly, an aside Cramer offers about driving a VW Jetta in Wisconsin leaves me puzzled. She writes that

As a female social scientist driving my Volkswagen Jetta out from Madison, the state capitol and the second largest city in the state, I heard a lot of criticism of cities from people in small-town Wisconsin.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked with professional female colleagues who have enjoyed driving different makes and models of foreign cars, to places across Wisconsin, without rural residents looking askance at them for doing so. Indeed, many southern Wisconsin (and Illinois) families have properties in the sparsely-populated northern part of the state, and the sight of a VW, Audi, BMW, Lexus, etc. would not be unfamiliar to local residents.

It’s a significant exaggeration to say a woman driving a Jetta would get the sort of stares from rural residents that one might properly expect for a person riding a unicorn.

Cramer may be right about a rural consciousness, at least about Wisconsin, but her analysis – one that she confidently grounds in political science – omits any consideration of political theory (what was once called political philosophy). (Indeed, for a work about political claims, it’s telling that neither the terms liberty nor libertarian appear anywhere in the book.)

In her opening chapter, Cramer gives not the slightest hint that there might be a vast body of liberty-oriented theory (including a libertarianism of the left as well as the right) stretching back centuries in America and thousands of years across civilizations earlier.

This libertarian tradition (long before the term libertarian first came into use) does not rely on redistributive goals, but then it doesn’t suppose a theory of a rural consciousness of resentment, either.

A presentation that begins with a particular economic notion (that redistribution necessarily benefits many) and presents a perspective on rural consciousness as a social identity (one that has economic views within it) seems, at first blush, too much like a survey of world religions that considers only the relationship between Buddhism and Hinduism.

Tomorrow: Considering The Politics of Resentment, ‘A Method of Listening’ (Part 2 of 9).

Daily Bread for 4.19.17

Good morning.

Midweek in Whitewater will be partly cloudy, with afternoon thunderstorms, and a high of sixty-four. Sunrise is 6:04 AM and sunset 7:42 PM, for 13h 37m 52s of daytime. The moon is in its third quarter with 49.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred sixty-second day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Parks & Recreation Board meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1775, the Battles of Lexington and Concord begin the first military engagements of the Revolutionary War. On this day in 1862, Wisconsin Governor Louis Harvey dies while leading an expedition to relieve Wisconsin troops after the battle of Shiloh. The expedition was bringing “doctors, nurses, and much-needed medical supplies to soldiers when Harvey, crossing from one steamboat to another, slipped, fell into the swift currents of the Tennessee River, and never re-surfaced.”

Brian Stelter reports that Source: Fox News and Bill O’Reilly are talking exit: “A well-placed source said Tuesday afternoon that representatives for Fox and O’Reilly have begun talking about an exit. But this prompted a denial from sources in O’Reilly’s camp. Even one person close to O’Reilly, however, said he will probably not be back on “The O’Reilly Factor.” The original well-placed source said an announcement about O’Reilly’s fate was likely by the end of the week. The fact that none of these sources were willing to go on the record speaks to the delicate maneuvering underway. The network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox (FOX), will hold a board meeting on Thursday, a spokeswoman told CNNMoney. One of the sources said O’Reilly will be a primary topic. The Murdochs, the men who control 21st Century Fox, are pointedly not commenting on any of this. But conversations inside Fox have already turned to possible O’Reilly successors.”

Paul Farhi reports on a key detail in Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News future is increasingly in peril: “O’Reilly’s contract — signed in March — has an “opt out” clause that would require Fox to pay him a fixed amount if invoked, making extensive negotiations unlikely and unnecessary.”

Jason Samenow writes that The nation is immersed in its warmest period in recorded history: “The U.S. is enduring a stretch of abnormally warm weather unsurpassed in the record books, and it shows no immediate sign of ending. The latest one-, two-, three-, four- and five year periods — ending in March — rank as the warmest in 122 years of record-keeping for the Lower 48 states, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Freakish bouts of warm weather have accompanied this long period of historic warmth, unlike anything previously experienced. In February of this year, Chicago witnessed multiple 70-degree days for the first time and a record snowless streak. Denver hit 80 degrees as early as it ever has (in a calendar year). Meanwhile, spring arrived as much as three weeks early in the South.”

Rick Romell and Paul Gores report that These Milwaukee firms use H-1B visa program targeted by Trump’s executive order: “Milwaukee companies have actively sought to make use of the foreign-worker visa program that President Trump moved Tuesday to limit. Among the biggest local users of the controversial program are some of the area’s largest and most prominent firms, including Johnson Controls, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, Rockwell Automation and ManpowerGroup. In fiscal 2016, applications were filed for hundreds of skilled foreign workers — typically for computer technology jobs — at local sites of each of those companies. Leading the group was Johnson Controls, with applications for at least 508 skilled foreigners at its offices in Milwaukee County. For Rockwell, 359 were sought.”

An Alligator On Mount Pleasant Porch In Charleston, South Carolina didn’t feel like leaving:

Three Demographic Findings on the White Working Class

So much has been made about white working class voters since the last election, but some of the common notions about that group are wrong. Three quick points are worth making:

1. Most members of the white working class live in cities & suburbs, not rural areas. Max Ehrenfreund and Jeff Guo explain that

While it is true that the white working class outnumbers white [college] graduates in rural America — and the election did highlight a huge urban-versus-rural divide — many of them also live in and around cities.

A Post analysis of Census data shows that there are 62 million working-class white adults living in the metropolitan footprint of a large city with a population of over 250,000. There are just 37 million white adults with bachelor’s degrees living in these metropolitan areas.

Many working-class whites might live in outlying counties, but their neighborhoods are still intimately connected with the economic and social life of the nearby city. Metropolitan areas are defined as regions in which at least a quarter of a county’s population commutes to the city or elsewhere in the metropolitan area for work.

Via If you’ve ever described people as ‘white working class,’ read this. (Underlying data from U.S. Census.)

A small town like Whitewater may have many white working class residents, but most members of the white working class don’t live in small towns like Whitewater. (The largest group of residents in Whitewater, of any demographic, would be students at our local university. Non-student residents aged 25-65, for example – working class or otherwise – are a smaller population.

2.  Working class whites (nationally) have lower church-attendance rates than other white Americans. Peter Beinart explains that

Since the early 1970s, according to W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, rates of religious attendance have fallen more than twice as much among whites without a college degree as among those who graduated college. And even within the white working class, those who don’t regularly attend church are more likely to suffer from divorce, addiction, and financial distress. As Wilcox explains, “Many conservative, Protestant white men who are only nominally attached to a church struggle in today’s world. They have traditional aspirations but often have difficulty holding down a job, getting and staying married, and otherwise forging real and abiding ties in their community. The culture and economy have shifted in ways that have marooned them with traditional aspirations unrealized in their real-world lives.”

Via America’s Empty-Church Problem @ The Atlantic. (Underlying data from Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and W. Bradford Wilcox, Andrew J. Cherlin, Jeremy E. Uecker, & Matthew Messel, No Money, No Honey, No Church: The Deinstitutionalization of Religious Life Among the White Working Class.)

Sound demographics contradict the assumptions of both secular progressives and religious conservatives that secularization produces, necessarily, a more liberal population. Not at all: many supporters from this key, right-leaning Trump constituency have relatively weaker ties to religious institutions.

(This reminds of a key observation of Yair Rosenberg concerning online trolls backing Trump: they’re often nihilists.)

3.  The greatest beneficiaries of a government safety net are working class whites. Tracy Jan explains that

Working-class whites are the biggest beneficiaries of federal poverty-reduction programs, even though blacks and Hispanics have substantially higher rates of poverty, according to a new study to be released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Government assistance and tax credits lifted 6.2 million working-class whites out of poverty in 2014, more than any other racial or ethnic demographic. Half of all working-age adults without college degrees lifted out of poverty by safety-net programs are white; nearly a quarter are black and a fifth are Hispanic.

The result does not simply reflect the fact that there are more white people in the country. The percentage of otherwise poor whites lifted from poverty by government safety-net programs is higher, at 44 percent, compared to 35 percent of otherwise poor minorities, the study concluded.

Via The biggest beneficiaries of the government safety net: Working-class whites @ Washington Post. (Underlyling data from Isaac Shapiro, Danilo Trisi &  Raheem Chadury, Poverty Reduction Programs Help Adults Lacking College Degrees the Most, Center on Budget and Priorities.)

Millions of working-class whites rely on public assistance programs for their well-being. There’s much to consider about how and when government should provide assistance, but it’s simply false to contend that working-class whites don’t rely on these programs.

Local discussions in Whitewater about the supposed economic cost of diversity are grounded in error: in Whitewater, significant numbers of white working-class residents certainly use these programs to their benefit. (The false local assumption: “The feedback indicated while the community valued a diverse population, there also was a recognition that there is a funding cost associated with a diverse environment, often associated with socio-economic status or a lack of educational opportunities prior to arriving in the district”.)

A policy discussion founded on this supposed ‘recognition’ is a discussion founded on an incorrect foundation (although a false foundation that may be satisfying, perhaps, to a few among the community’s majority).

Daily Bread for 4.18.17

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of seventy-two. Sunrise is 6:06 AM and sunset 7:41 PM, for 13h 35m 08s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 59% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred sixty-first day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Common Council meets tonight at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1775, Paul Revere began his ride from Charlestown to Lexington, Mass., warning American colonists that the British were coming. On this day in 1818, Wisconsin becomes part of the Michigan Territory. (Wisconsin was a part of the Northwest Territory from July 13, 1787-May 11, 1800; the Indiana Territory from May 1800-February 3, 1809; and the Illinois Territory from February 3, 1809-April 18, 1818. The Territory of Wisconsin was formed July 4, 1836.)

Recommended for reading in full —

Roger Cohen asks Meet the new Trump . . . same as the old Trump?: “These reversals represent nothing less than a retreat to the status quo ante — that halcyon era before Trump and his cast of mental munchkins started messing with foreign policy. The policies that now seem to be in place are ones that even former president Barack Obama might support. In fact, with the exception of hitting Syria, he did. But before we start celebrating Trump as a drunk who has suddenly gone sober, additional reversals are in order. The president might want to declare that it is wrong to mock persons with disabilities. He might want to say something nice about Mexicans, and he might want to retract his belittling of John McCain’s heroism — acknowledge how the man suffered as a prisoner of war, choosing to undergo torture and confinement rather than accept freedom without pride. Trump might also want to praise the Khans, the couple who lost a son in Iraq and whose sacrifice he mocked by likening it to what it cost him to build his business. He might also want to say he was wrong to suggest a certain judge could not fairly preside over a case involving Trump University because he was of Hispanic ancestry. Trump was wrong, too, to turn the presidential race into one of schoolyard taunts — “Little Marco,” “Crooked Hillary” and the rest. In short, Trump might want to institute a policy of acting presidential. Now, that would be a reversal.”

Jim Dalrymple II describes how Russia works to divide America in a story entitled The Leader Of “Calexit” Is Giving Up On The Secession Movement To Live In Russia: “The leader of California secession campaign has decided that he would like to live in Russia permanently, and is therefore abandoning his efforts to make the Golden State its own country. In a lengthy statement Monday, Louis Marinelli, president of the separatist group Yes California, announced he was withdrawing his petition for a referendum on secession. Instead, he plans to apply to be a live permanently in Russia, where he currently resides. “I have found in Russia a new happiness, a life without the albatross of frustration and resentment towards ones’ homeland, and a future detached from the partisan divisions and animosity that has thus far engulfed my entire adult life,” Marinelli wrote. “Consequently, if the people of Russia would be so kind as to welcome me here on a permanent basis, I intend to make Russia my new home.” In the statement, Marinelli explained that he was “primarily motivated” to work toward California’s secession due to a “personal struggle” over his wife’s immigration status. But his wife now has a green card, and anyway he is disillusioned with the US and doesn’t “wish to live under the American flag.” It’s a blow to Marinelli’s organization, which rose to prominence after President Trump’s win in November, when its proposal of a so-called “Calexit” carried at least some appeal for many of the state’s liberal voters. Organizers had until July of this year to collect more than half a million signatures to get the issue on the state ballot in 2018.”

(Calexit was a Russian-fed effort to divide resistance to Trump, duping some Americans into believing that separatism was a sensible opposition strategy. Dividing this Union never was, and never will be, the right course; it’s something the Kremlin found appealing as an active measure to weaken America.)

Alan Rappeport writes that Trump’s Unreleased Taxes Threaten Yet Another Campaign Promise: “WASHINGTON — President Trump’s promise to enact a sweeping overhaul of the tax code is in serious jeopardy nearly 100 days into his tenure, and his refusal to release his own tax returns is emerging as a central hurdle to another faltering campaign promise. As procrastinators rushed to file their tax returns by Tuesday, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, emphasized again on Monday that Mr. Trump had no intention of making his public. Democrats have seized on that decision, uniting around a pledge not to cooperate on any rewriting of the tax code unless they know specifically how that revision would benefit the billionaire president and his family. And a growing roster of more than a dozen Republican lawmakers now say Mr. Trump should release them. “If he doesn’t release his returns, it is going to make it much more difficult to get tax reform done,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, pointing out that the president has significant conflicts of interest on issues such as taxation of the real estate industry and elimination of the estate tax. “It’s in his own self-interest.”

Peter Beinart offers Why Trumpism Will Outlast Steve Bannon: “But if Trump has moved the GOP toward nationalism and nativism, why can’t he—or a future Republican leader—move it back? They could, but it won’t be easy because the Republican coalition has changed. Between 1992 and 2016, the percentage of whites with college degrees that identified as Republicans dropped five points. Over that same period, the percentage of whites with a high-school degree or less who identified as Republicans rose 18 points. Blue-collar Republicans are far more hostile to immigration and free trade than their white-collar counterparts. And as Walter Russell Mead has famously observed, they tend to be “Jacksonian” on foreign policy. When they feel threatened, they support ferocious military attacks. But they have little appetite for expending blood or treasure on behalf of international norms or commitments from which they perceive little personal benefit.”

(One battle at a time: political ruin for Bannon, then Trump, then Trumpism. This long political war will not end until all are finished.)

Tech Insider shows how a Robotic bricklayer builds houses 3x faster than humans:

Margaret Sullivan on Great Local Reporting

Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post’s media columnist observes that Great local reporting stands between you and wrongdoing. (Sullivan was formerly The New York Times public editor, and the chief editor of her hometown paper, The Buffalo News.)

Sullivan explains what great local reporting means:

“In only 15 years, American newspaper companies slashed their workforces by more than half — from 412,000 employees in 2001 to 174,000 last year.

But that troubling trend wasn’t on the minds of journalists at the Charleston Gazette-Mail last year as they dug deep into the prescription-drug epidemic that was inflicting mortal wounds on their community.

No, what motivated them was the West Virginia paper’s unofficial motto: “Sustained outrage.”

That phrase, coined by former publisher Ned Chilton, “means a lot to people here,” executive editor Robert Byers told me last week, shortly after the 37,000-circulation paper won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. The family-owned paper (Chilton’s daughter is the publisher now) has a newsroom staff of about 50.

“You can do a hundred stories” on the opioid crisis, Byers said, “but we wanted to know where all these drugs were coming from, and how could so many pills be diverted onto the street.”

Needless to say, not all communities have newspapers like this. On the contrary, in the Whitewater area, we have papers so weak that they’d never come close to a serious journalistic nomination, let alone a real award. Many of them give each other prizes at local press gatherings, for third-tier work, on a participation-trophy theory of life. Indeed, the local climate is so weak that a small-town politician can brand his own website a news source, cover for years the political projects in which he’s been directly involved, and expect to be taken seriously for it.

If  one can say of the admirable Charleston Gazette-Mail that its unofficial motto is sustained outrage, one can say as easily of the Gazette, Daily Union, Register, and Banner that they might as well have a common, unofficial motto of sustained boosterism.

This local problem has been part of That Which Paved the Way to the weaker economic, fiscal, and social conditions that plague nearby communities. The way out will not come neither from more of the same ideas nor the same people pushing the same ideas.

Daily Bread for 4.17.17

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of sixty-nine. Sunrise is 6:07 AM and sunset 7:40 PM, for 13h 32m 24s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 68.4% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the one hundred sixtieth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Library Board meets this evening at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1951, Baseball Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle makes his major-league debut with the New York Yankees. On this day in 1897, author and playwright Thornton Wilder is born in Madison, Wisconsin.

Recommended for reading in full —

Brittany Carloni reports that Milwaukee Catholic school keeps it all in the family as grads return as staff, volunteers: “Gracing the lobby of the middle school at Notre Dame School of Milwaukee is a colorful mural created by the school’s Class of 2007, with painted representations of girls dressed in school uniforms, graduation gowns, lab coats and traditional dresses called vestidos folkloricos. One girl is Christian Oliva, who stands in her uniform of a plaid skirt and navy blue sweater next to her classmate Crystal Serna. Ten years later, the two 24-year-olds work side-by-side in a classroom at Notre Dame — Oliva as a teacher’s aide and marketing coordinator, Serna teaching first grade. “We never planned that we were going to come back here and we are also in that mural,” Oliva said. The two graduates are among 10 alumnae who have returned to Notre Dame School to teach in the classroom, work in school offices or volunteer in some way.”

Patrick Kingsley reports that Erdogan Claims Vast Powers in Turkey After Narrow Victory in Referendum: “ISTANBUL — A slim majority of Turkish voters agreed on Sunday to grant sweeping powers to their president, in a watershed moment that the country’s opposition fears may cement a system of authoritarian rule within one of the critical power brokers of the Middle East. With nearly 99 percent of votes in a referendum counted on Sunday night, supporters of the proposal had 51.3 percent of votes cast, and opponents had 48.7 percent, the country’s electoral commission announced. The result will take days to confirm, and the main opposition party said it would demand a recount of about 37 percent of ballot boxes, containing around 2.5 million votes.”

Maria Sacchetti reports that ICE immigration arrests of noncriminals double under Trump: “Arrests of immigrants with no criminal records more than doubled to 5,441, the clearest sign yet that President Trump has ditched his predecessor’s protective stance toward most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Advocates for immigrants say the unbridled enforcement has led to a sharp drop in reports from Latinos of sexual assaults and other crimes in Houston and Los Angeles, and terrified immigrant communities across the United States. A prosecutor said the presence of immigration agents in state and local courthouses, which advocates say has increased under the Trump administration, makes it harder to prosecute crime. “My sense is that ICE is emboldened in a way that I have never seen,” Dan Satterberg, the top prosecutor in Washington state’s King County, which includes Seattle, said Thursday. “The federal government, in really just a couple of months, has undone decades of work that we have done to build this trust.”

David Frum considers Trump’s foreign policy in On Military Upsurge: ‘If It Were Good Foreign Policy, Donald Trump Would Not Be Doing It’: “David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, argued that Trump won the Republican nomination for president because he promised to “fight and win wars.” “But now he’s embarked again on one of these open-ended conflicts,” Frum said. “There’s no plan that one can see. How does he even psychologically cope with the commitment that’s undertaking on behalf of us all?” Frum also said that it was a mistake to reflexively support Trump’s missile strikes in Syria. “I think a good rule of thumb is, if it were good foreign policy, Donald Trump would not be doing it,” Frum insisted. “There was no process, no deliberation,” he noted. “There was no inter-agency process because there are no agencies, there are no deputies meeting because there are no deputies. It seems to have been done fitfully and impulsively with no answer to the question, “Okay, so what do you do the next day?'” “Could he do anything that could change your mind?” [CNN’s Fareed] Zakaria asked. “He’s him,” Frump replied. “He’s never going to stop being him.”

Bret Israel writes about the Shoe-string theory: Science shows why shoelaces come untied: “A new study by mechanical engineers at UC Berkeley finally shows why your shoelaces may keep coming untied. It’s a question that everyone asks, often after stopping to retie their shoes, yet one that nobody had investigated until now. The answer, the study suggests, is that a double whammy of stomping and whipping forces acts like an invisible hand, loosening the knot and then tugging on the free ends of your laces until the whole thing unravels. The study is more than an example of science answering a seemingly obvious question. A better understanding of knot mechanics is needed for sharper insight into how knotted structures fail under a variety of forces. Using a slow-motion camera and a series of experiments, the study shows that shoelace knot failure happens in a matter of seconds, triggered by a complex interaction of forces.”

Reading and Reviewing

There are two books I’m eager to review here at FW: Katherine Cramer’s Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker (2016) and Amy Goldstein’s Janesville: An American Story (4.18.17).  Like many others, I’ve been awaiting Goldstein’s book for some time, knowing that significant works take time.

For both books, I’ll proceed with a chapter-by-chapter assessment. I’ve the luxury of taking my time, for two principal reasons: first, blogging allows a self-chosen pace; second and more significantly, both books are worthy of detailed reviews.

There is a third reason, too, and particular to Whitewater:  this city’s local policymakers have a position so weak that their particular maneuverings are of little value. For them, unfortunately, it’s the fate of a grinding attrition for the near future. These political few, and those who have been part of this small group over the last generation, will have little part in whatever successful short-term events Whitewater sees.

A sensible, productive person would stay as far away as possible.  This class is, with a few exceptions, composed of individually capable people who’ve collectively thrown away capability. See, Whitewater’s Major Public Institutions Produce a Net Loss (And Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way). A political critique of Whitewater is now less a matter of advocacy as it is a recollection and narration of cumulative political errors.

The better approach for the city is a true private charity and a true private industry, unconnected to political policy. See, An Oasis Strategy.

Of Whitewater’s local politics, what once seemed to me primarily a matter of advocacy grew to seem more like a diagnosis, and now seems like epidemiology.

There’s a history to be written about all of this, incorporating particular projects into a bigger work, but for now it’s a greater pleasure to consider what others have written.

I’ll start Wednesday, and continue chapter by chapter, taking time with it all.