Advocacy Seldom Reaches Chocoholics

local scene A necessary element of writing or speaking – if it is to be enjoyable and sustained – is to believe what one writes or says, and to express those beliefs as one naturally would. (Even more important, of course, is to hold sound ideas, but here I’m writing about the underlying feeling of expression.)

Writing what one believes, in the style one would naturally speak, is different from writing to please. Some may be persuaded, others not. It’s notable, however, that some are probably beyond persuasion. That’s not surprising; it would be surprising if all people were persuadable.

Consider Augustus Gloop, the unfortunate chocoholic from Roald Dahl’s 1964 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the later, excellent 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Gloop stuffed himself with chocolate for much of his young life, and probably had been rebuked for over-eating now and again. Yet, in the film, he just couldn’t stop gorging, at the risk of an accident, even as Frau Gloop recommended moderation in Augustus’s habits (“save some room for later”):

Someone writing to Augustus with words of caution would surely get nowhere: the porcine German boy was willing to eat to the point of calamity. Gloop was gluttonous even as a child. Had he been not a boy, but an adult German chocoholic with many decades of gorging, one could guess he would have, by then, been even more resistant to warnings.

One doesn’t write for Gloop, but of what one believes, and for those who are not yet in the grip of a ravenous craving like the one that held Gloop.

One City, Two Presentations of the Same Regulation (Follow Up)

local sceneLast week I wrote about the differences between a City of Whitewater announcement and the Whitewater Banner‘s reworking of that same message. See One City, Two Presentations of the Same Regulation. A local reporter shared some thoughts with me about the relationship between the municipal government and the Banner.

My main contention was that the Banner‘s reworking was amateurish, and somewhat more hectoring, than the municipal version. The local reporter pointed out that, most likely, city officials saw  an advantage in the Banner‘s version: it delivered the sterner message that they probably wanted to deliver (but that they knew would be unprofessional & off-putting). The use of the city’s logo above the message seemed the clincher, as the reporter followed up to say that other municipalities would have fought against the use of the logo in a re-worked message (and have sometimes done so). Either Whitewater hasn’t done so, or has done so only ineffectually.

(As you can see in the versions that embedded below – click for larger images – the Banner‘s version changes the words and style of the city’s original but still places the altered version under the imprimatur of a municipal logo.)

Under my assessment, the Banner‘s version was of lesser quality than the original. There’s another way, however, to look at this, beyond the idea of a less competent version of an original: perhaps the city wanted a second version, to drive home a restriction more bluntly (if also more awkwardly, with disparate fonts and different usage).

The Existential (Imagined and Real)

It was Michael Anton (writing as Publius Decius Mus) who exactly one year ago famously declared that 2016 was “The Flight 93 Election,” an existential fight for survival for state-loving conservatives:

2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.

To ordinary conservative ears, this sounds histrionic. The stakes can’t be that high because they are never that high—except perhaps in the pages of Gibbon. Conservative intellectuals will insist that there has been no “end of history” and that all human outcomes are still possible. They will even—as Charles Kesler does—admit that America is in “crisis.” But how great is the crisis? Can things really be so bad if eight years of Obama can be followed by eight more of Hillary, and yet Constitutionalist conservatives can still reasonably hope for a restoration of our cherished ideals? Cruz in 2024!….

The Flight 93 Election, Claremont Institute, http://www.claremont.org/crb/basicpage/the-flight-93-election/

Anton now serves in the Trump Administration (“Deputy Assistant to the President for Strategic Communications”), so he may content himself with avoiding a figurative plane crash at the price of electing a man who received three million fewer votes than the leading candidate.

Anton saw an existential threat, with conservatism on the brink, yet he should have stopped at the observation that others might see his claims as histrionic: they were and are exactly that. Had Clinton won, conservatism would have gone on well enough, perhaps even a bit better, in a politics of sometime gridlock and sometime compromise between a Democratic executive and a Republican legislature. America would have seen a world of conventional politics, not of existential threat to either conservatives or liberals. For better or worse, Clinton (and Ryan and McConnell) would have held office in times mostly of business as usual, not of extreme dangers.

Contra Anton, whose false claims of existential threats look truly histrionic a year later, it’s Trump’s election that now brings America to an existential crisis: Trump daily manifests authoritarianism, bigotry, xenophobia, ignorance, subservience to a Russian dictator, and serial conflicts of interest and self-dealing.

Those who opposed Trump, had we seen Trump defeated, would have been no dire threat to anyone who supported him. Now in power, Trump and his remaining cultish operatives are, however, manifestly a threat to American liberty, to centuries of constitutional and political development on this continent.

Anton had it exactly backwards: it’s Trump’s rise to power that represents an existential threat to our ordered and civilized way of life. We are now in an existential struggle, one that Trump has forced upon us.

This struggle is fought daily in the vast space between two great oceans, gripping over three hundred million within that territory, and billions beyond for whom the outcome matters immensely.

While the field of conflict is continental, it is not – indeed cannot be – national everywhere and yet local nowhere. Much of the decaying matter from which Trumpism springs (a love of authority, entitlement, grandiosity, mediocrity, conflicts of interest) exist in even the most beautiful small towns. It’s a candid admission that many of us – and here I count myself – have not done enough to challenge these local vices that have engendered a national sin.

No doubt we had excuses for our indolence even as we saw the local fuel that now feeds this national fire, reassuring ourselves that those of that ilk were doddering & bumbling, irritating & ignorant, yet mostly harmless.

We were unwise – foolishly rationalizing our neglect as generosity. We’ve now local and national hazards before us, with neither setting able to compensate for the challenge of the other. One would think, as was rightly said during another national conflict, that ‘one war at a time is enough.’ We’ve not that compensation; we’ve both problems now, both of our own neglect.

Multitudes will see loss and suffering before all this is over. Innocent people ruined at the hands of a bigoted, fanatical nationalism.

There is, however, this advantage: those of us in opposition and resistance are holding our own even now, and we have not yet given our best. Principle and perseverance will favor us.

However late to having come to see it, this threat is unmistakable now.

For Your Consideration, Dr. Jonas Salk

local scene Each year, newcomers arrive in Whitewater to take positions of one kind or another. Two weeks ago, in Welcome to Whitewater, I posed this question to new residents: “If Whitewater were perfect – that is, complete and lacking nothing – would anyone have needed you?”

Beyond that question, with its interpretation and answer left to others, I’ll offer no personal checklist, no set of rules for “how people talk around here,” no indulgent reminiscences, no cautionary words or sly advice.

Instead, I’ll offer the example of a great man, who remained to the last an industrious and humble man. Dr. Jonas Salk introduced his polio vaccine in 1955, saving the lives and health of people around the world. He worked until his death in 1995, his last project an attempt to develop a vaccine for HIV, a goal that others are yet pursuing even today.

Around the same time as the Salk’s vaccine was introduced (and after trials that assured him it would work), Salk wrote a letter offering an internship in his laboratory. The letter is a model of simplicity and humility. Salk writes kindly and directly, making no reference to his own accomplishments either in the text or below his signature.

His work was its own reward, requiring not the slightest ornamentation.

For your consideration, Dr. Jonas Salk —

One City, Two Presentations of the Same Regulation

local scene Small towns are meant to be (or at least are depicted in Hollywood as) simple, unassuming places. That’s not always true, to be sure — the same information can be presented in more than one way. There’s a place for look and feel, for style and manner, for how a town presents itself to its own residents and the world beyond.

No better illustration of the difference between Old and New Whitewater (states of mind, not ages or individuals) is found than in how the City of Whitewater and the Banner, a politician-publisher’s website, present information on a regulation against temporary signs. (Quick note: here I’m addressing style of presentation, not the underlying merit or stated motivations for the regulation.)

Each image expands into a larger window when clicked

Here’s how the municipal government presented a sign regulation on its website:

Here’s how the longtime politician’s website presented the city’s sign regulation:

These aren’t, to be sure, the same message, and illustrate the way that presentation changes meaning. Style affects communication: go, Go, GO, GO, and GO convey different meanings.

Indeed, there’s a way in which the older style leaves in doubt the success of the city’s efforts to project a more modern, business-standard presentation.

Film: Tuesday, August 29th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: The Founder

This Tuesday, August 29th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of The Founder @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

The Founder (2016), is the story of Ray Kroc, “a salesman who turned two brothers’ innovative fast food eatery, McDonald’s, into the biggest restaurant business in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence and ruthlessness.”

John Lee Hancock directs the one hour, fifty-five-minute film, starring Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, and John Carroll Lynch.  The film carries a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about The Founder at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Mentoring

local scene I’ve long held that Whitewater’s Major Public Institutions Produce a Net Loss (And Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way). This contention is true for several reasons, all leading to this result: “Whitewater’s major public institutions – her city government, school district, and local university – produce this unexpected result: although members of the government are certainly also sharp and capable individually, they often produce collectively a product that’s beneath their individual abilities or that of other competitive Americans.”

Why is this so? I’d suggest that in the breadth of these institutions, across all members, mentoring is weak. In a well-ordered and competitive profession or institution, a mentorship between an experienced leader and a younger work is a long process, lasting somewhere between five and ten years. There’s always particular to learn procedurally, but it’s just as true that the application of substantive, field-specific knowledge (medicine, law, finance, engineering) to particular circumstances is a gradually-acquired skill.

Some might suggest that a gifted young professional should advance more quickly than this, that someone in this position shouldn’t need a mentor for so long. I’d answer with two points: (1) some mentorships can productively last for decades, as a valuable if in later years less-used resource, and (2) it’s the most gifted young professionals who will gain the most from a long mentorship under a talented older colleague.

Ordinary grapes don’t take long to become juice; fine grapes slowly develop into excellent wines.

Mentorships in these local institutions probably go poorly because (1) the mentors are themselves weak or bad examples, and (2) younger workers are impatient to assert abilities that are, in fact, not nearly so developed as they would be in a truly nurturing environment.

Whitewater’s public institutions have particular public departments or administrative branches in which there hasn’t been a competent, capable leader for decades (literally, a generation or more). Each and every one of the employees who has come up in conditions like that has been cheated from a proper coaching and proper maturation within his or her field.

It’s worth stating what I believe to be a cold truth (almost always applicable): if an early professional’s development (the first five to ten years) is poorly guided, his or her whole career thereafter risks being markedly less than it might have been under sound guidance. Often the younger worker won’t even be able to discern the difference between his or her mediocre development and a competitive professional’s training.

Even someone with many developmental gaps can be brought to a sound professionalism if one begins early enough, and has the chance to guide positively, nurturingly. A younger professional who doesn’t have that experience is harder to guide positively, and (if there’s any chance of success) the task often requires more correction and discipline than anyone might wish.

A community that does not provide good mentors will not develop good professionals. It will find itself stuck with those who don’t know what they don’t know.  Good mentors need to be those with both practical and substantive knowledge in the younger employee’s field. General guidance and how-tos are not enough: a doctor could show a young lawyer around town, but that ordinary information isn’t why anyone consults with a doctor or a lawyer. A solid mentor, by the way, should himself or herself be reading field-specific material (e.g., as a physician with new procedures, new medicines, new approaches, etc.) or considering practical techniques (e.g., as a designer with new construction techniques, equipment, materials, etc.) each day. If one’s not thinking each day about one’s field, one needs rethink one’s line of work.

Someone who has gone nine or ten years without good guidance (e.g., no mentor, a weak mentor), is troublesome both on his or her own and to others. It’s an imposition on private time and resources to expect that private citizens to tolerate those who have wasted their own years and done little or nothing to help younger colleagues, colleagues who by then are simply a burden or risk to others.

A small town like Whitewater only makes matters worse when leaders insist all is well, all the time. Positive coaching should be a private matter. When accentuating the positive becomes the public ethos, younger workers will place public relations over the substance of their fields. Looking good as a goal impresses only the vain or weak-minded.

The public ethos should rest on the claim that whatever one does can be improved and advanced, internally through proper mentoring and externally through the adoption of best practices wherever they may be found.

 

Three Tiers of Public Communication

Local government – and here I am thinking primarily of a small town’s local government – has three tiers of communication: saying nothing, saying something, saying the right thing. (In the third tier, right refers to a full and fair means of communication, and not right as merely agreeable and pleasing.)

Saying nothing. Common enough and easy enough to understand: nothing’s said, and especially nothing – however truthful and significant – that might reflect negatively on officeholders.

Saying something. This is the tier at which government officials are most frequently perched: they say something they believe to be positive, omitting other portions of a story no matter how relevant or material. The climb from nothing to something is the ascent from silence to sophistry. In every case at this tier, the goal is a particular presentation, with a particular goal.

Government may play this role on its own, or it may be luck enough to find a Babbitt to speak of local authorities the way a prophet would speak of God. There are always a few people like this, but it’s truly good fortune when someone will play this subservient political role with relish.

The key problem here is that to say something isn’t to say something sensible or well-considered. Indeed, at this tier, there are very few statements that are carefully vetted. There’s no tenth-man critique when one merely says something – there’s no effort to examine whether the statement might endure a sound critique: the self-serving statements in this tier are offered without foresight, almost cluelessly.

Three quick observations here:

(1) A collection of officials’ statements on significant issues would typically be a plaintiff’s counsel’s dream: a trove of revealing, somewhat clueless admissions of ignorance, bias, over-zealousness, etc. There’s either no one in these small communities who reviews statements before they’re published, reviews them with any competency, or whose review is adopted as policy even if it’s competent.

One can see this because so many statements are, in fact, a trove of revealing, somewhat clueless admissions of ignorance, bias, over-zealousness, etc….

Sometimes local officials will concede (if privately) that there are problems elsewhere in the government, but that they are the fault of another agency, leader, etc. Liability seldom works that way, at least as a claim: everyone in the chain, touching a matter at any level, usually finds himself or herself implicated. Litigation rarely begins narrowly – it mostly begins broadly.

(2) Public relations is more than a story in the paper – it’s a story that’s presented both persuasively to a target audience and safely against possible adverse claims. It’s been my pleasure to know one of the state’s leading public relations executives: her work isn’t merely about making people look good at the moment, but equally about keeping them from looking bad later on.  She’s successful because she has a powerful, worthy foresight. (I’ve never seen her assess a situation without quickly considering, and measuring, the likelihood of adverse reactions, effectively ranking them in order of probability, and so focusing only on the remaining, meaningful ones, if any.)

(3) Here’s a simple technique that works on the untalented: Although anyone can sense danger when presented with a long and complicated question, the untalented will not sense the risk in a simple question. ON the contrary, they’ll likely think it’s a sign that the questioner is untalented, and so they’ll answer at length and without careful consideration, on, and on, and on.

It’s in that lengthy answer that they’ll reveal much, and leave myriad hostages to fortune.

Say the right thing. Here one says not merely what’s favorable, but what’s true, good or bad, favorable or unfavorable, confident in one’s ability to present and manage either.

It’s also the only tier in which one sits honorably.

Update: Sunday: Mentoring.

How a Campus Masks Local Mistakes

Many small towns, looking for something to attract visitors and newcomers, probably dream about the possibility of a college campus. Whitewater has a public university campus, and the majority of the city’s residents are students at that school. Thousands of students in the city assure a steady stream of retail traffic we would not otherwise have. Some, if not most, merchants in town would wither or shut down without the demand the campus generates.

A thriving campus is an advantage for a city.

There is a way, however, that a campus – with the demand that it alone can generate – masks failings elsewhere in town. Because a campus necessarily draws visitors large numbers, failings of local municipal and other public officials are more easily ignored or overcome. Non-university officials don’t need to work as hard or as skillfully in an environment where a university’s demand compensates (as it by volume necessarily will) for their own mistakes and sloppiness.

Consider a recent story about policing in nearby Clinton, Wisconsin, where some residents are upset that local law enforcement’s supposedly heavy-handed conduct is driving away potential visitors who would otherwise shop in that town. (A story on this matter, behind a paywall, is poorly written and almost deliberately vague, offering little beyond a general claim.)

Whatever’s happening – or not – with local officials in Clinton, Wisconsin, this much is true: like most tiny towns, they’re on their own, with no campus to compensate for local political and administrative failings.

A municipal mistake in a place Clinton echos like a single pea in a tin can – there’s nothing else to muffle the rattling.

Whitewater, Wisconsin’s public campus gives local officials (here I mean some, not all) more leeway for error, shoddy thinking, and low-quality work, secure as they are in the knowledge that demand will remain higher than if their work alone were the city’s principal attraction.

This is one reason that, despite the talent of some, Whitewater’s Major Public Institutions Produce a Net Loss (And Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way).  It’s also true that the university, itself, has generated demand even when its some of its leaders – Richard Telfer easily comes to mind – have been mediocre or worse (“There is one exception worth noting: the high-level leadership that former Chancellor Telfer gathered at UW-Whitewater is notably weak or troubled…”).

Whitewater has an advantage that towns like Clinton don’t have, but rather than use that advantage to its fullest – by producing to a higher level – some officials can batten on the demand that a public campus offers without having to provide the unassisted effort that most rural communities must.

‘Enough is enough’

The Los Angeles Times editorial board plainly states the truth about these times:

These are not normal times.

The man in the White House is reckless and unmanageable, a danger to the Constitution, a threat to our democratic institutions.

Last week some of his worst qualities were on display: his moral vacuity and his disregard for the truth, as well as his stubborn resistance to sensible advice. As ever, he lashed out at imaginary enemies and scapegoated others for his own failings. Most important, his reluctance to offer a simple and decisive condemnation of racism and Nazism astounded and appalled observers around the world.

With such a glaring failure of moral leadership at the top, it is desperately important that others stand up and speak out to defend American principles and values. This is no time for neutrality, equivocation or silence. Leaders across America — and especially those in the president’s own party — must summon their reserves of political courage to challenge President Trump publicly, loudly and unambiguously.

Enough is enough….

Via Enough is Enough.

And yet, and yet, look around: how many officials in cities and towns – so quick to proclaim themselves proud Americans, influencers, notables, movers-and-shakers – now have nothing to say about the most important political question of our time?

Years of glad-handing, business cards, expectations of special treatment, self-promotion at every opportunity, lapping praise and ladling puffery, and in the end, each of them shown as nothing more than lions that meow.

Film: Tuesday, August 22nd, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: The Zookeeper’s Wife

This Tuesday, August 22nd at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of The Zookeeper’s Wife @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017), based on a true story, is set in 1939, when during the Nazi conquest of Poland the couple who run the Warsaw Zoo turn the ground’s hiding places into a refuge for Jews and the persecuted seeking to escape the slaughter, while also trying to save the animals living there. The real-life couple saved over 300 people during the war.

Niki Caro directs the two hour, seven-minute film, starring Jessica Chastain.  The film carries a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about The Zookeeper’s Wife at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Welcome to Whitewater

Whitewater, a small town, sees occasional turnover from among her public officials, as would any town. Over these years, I’ve seen any number of officials arrive (meaning that any number of others have departed).

This is a beautiful town; I’d welcome all the world here.

No doubt, when someone arrives, he or she receives all sorts of advice, from all sorts of people.

I’ve neither declarations nor exclamations to offer.

Instead, I’ve a question, for each newcomer to ask of himself or herself:

If Whitewater were perfect – that is, complete and lacking nothing – would anyone have needed you?

How one interprets, and answers, this question provides counsel all its own.

 

Film: Wednesday, August 16th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: The Salesman

This Wednesday, August 16th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of The Salesman @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building. The film is the last movie in a summer series of foreign films.

The Salesman (2016) is dramatic thriller recounting how, “[w]hile both participating in a production of “Death of a Salesman,” a teacher’s wife is assaulted in her new home, which leaves him determined to find the perpetrator over his wife’s traumatized objections.”

Asghar Farhadi directs the two hour, four-minute film, starring Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini, and Babak Karimi. The Salesman won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. The film carries a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about The Salesman at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Molly Ball on ‘The Trump Show’

Covering Trump’s recent appearance in West Virginia, Molly Ball writes that

“HUNTINGTON, W.V.—Every day brings new drama, but the Trump Show’s themes remain the same. He’s come to tell his people that everyone else is wrong and they are right….

They have come here, more or less, to be lied to: Trump, in his speech, will say, “We are building a wall on the Southern border,” which is not actually happening, though some preexisting fencing is being repaired. He will also claim that thousands more people were turned away outside, which isn’t true, and that coal jobs are “coming back strong,” though only about 1,000 coal jobs have been created during his tenure—a decrease from the previous administration’s pace….

“The news pisses me off,” says Jerry Pullen, a 45-year-old local who’s sitting at the end of a row of wheelchairs and motorized scooters. He’s tired of the phony statistics, the negative tone. “I don’t think they should keep letting people into America when I’m unemployed,” he says. Raised a Democrat, Pullen dislikes both parties now; he only likes Trump.

I ask Pullen what Trump needs to accomplish to satisfy him, and he says, “Quit letting the Mexicans and Muslims in here. All the other foreign people, too. They’re terrorists. There’s too many people in this country—we’re overpopulated.” When he’s out on the street, he says, he can tell certain people are looking at him with contempt. “They hate me because I’m a white guy,” he says. “I can feel it.”

See The Trump Show Never Ends (“This is what’s going to happen, day in and day out—an endless loop of shock and fury…”).

Pullen and his ilk dubiously claim to be victims while simultaneously calling for the victimization of others.

Before Trump, before the Russians who leash him like an organ grinder’s monkey, before white nationalism became the alt-right, before Fox spent years flacking birtherism and then Putinism, there were many in cities and towns across America who tolerated, excused, and overlooked the worst.

Fallacious arguments, dodgy data, puffery, Babbittry, and buffoonery: we grew complacent, in reasoning and diligence, and in came those who thrive on such weakness. If we had done more – if we had been even more diligent in our opposition – we might have prevented much of this.

Trumpism and Putinism (they’re related, to be sure) have this in common: they thrive in places lacking sound principles and practices.

We have allowed ourselves, in towns across America, to become other such people and places. When we have reclaimed our just & proper tradition, we’ll need to keep our own negligence in mind.

Film: Tuesday, August 8th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Live by Night

This Tuesday, August 8th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Live by Night @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Live by Night (2017) is a crime drama about a group of “Boston-bred gangsters who set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.”

Ben Affleck directs the two hour, nine-minute film, starring Affleck, Elle Fanning,  Remo Girone, and Brendan Gleeson. Live by Night received a Broadcast Film Critics Association nomination for Best Production Design. The film carries an R rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Live by Night at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

When Lions Meow

No one is obligated to think about politics, let alone write about politics. (Indeed, in a more libertarian world, for example, the state would be smaller, and there would be fewer political matters of which to speak and write.)

In Whitewater and cities nearby, however, there are more than a few who have public, political careers. Some hold full-time office (elected or administrative), others sit on major boards or commissions, some are publishers for who politics matters greatly, and a number beyond are occupied with influencing public policy as activists or lobbyists. They freely chose these occupations.

Of those who are politicians or hold major public positions, how many have taken a clear public stand on Trump? (Here one means any clear stand, favorable or unfavorable, to his administration.)

One can hardly find anyone who has done so: not among politicians, not among those in prominent public offices, not among publications otherwise professing a political bent while ‘serving’ their cities (Gazette, Daily Union, Register, Banner). These men are self-professed lions, ambling about, glad-handing, passing out business cards, asking if others know who they are, if others understand how important they are, etc.

A child, asked what sound a lion makes, would probably say that lions roar. This would be the right answer, in almost all places. Lions would sound like the MGM lion:

In Whitewater and nearby cities, however, our local lions do not roar at all. Our local lions sound like the MTM tabby:

Unlike real lions, our local counterfeit ones squeak and mew when the topic arises, lest they alienate some fraction of their Trumpist readership by roaring honestly about Trump, or alienate some fraction of their reasonable readership by roaring against Trump’s lies.

On the most important political topic of our time, these local political lions are mere tabbies.

Anti-Immigration Measures, Wrong Yet Again

Embed from Getty Images

An anti-immigration position is for economics something like a flat-earth position would be for natural science: one may hold it only through either ignorance or disorder. (The ignorance would have  to be profound, as even the weakest grasp of economics would incline a rational person to acknowledge the benefits of a free, transnational  labor market; the disorder would have to be grave, as only obstinacy or prejudice would long resist a reasoned explanation.)

In this free, commercial republic, there are still some who are merely ignorant on immigration, but one has reason to believe that Trump pushes his line to fill empty vessels not merely with weak economics but with strong prejudices.

There are officials both in and outside the city who would bring Arizona-style ‘show us your papers’ laws to Wisconsin. They are wrong on economics, wrong on liberty, but at least they have this going for them: each and every one of these politicians (or the out-of-area mouthpieces on whom they rely) is an easily-identifiable troll for either ignorance or lumpen prejudices.

A quick note to the local officials of the city, school district, and university who are in the habit of inviting these anti-immigration politicians to public events: you debase the American tradition, and turn away from sound reasoning and thorough study, when you bring these few to your events. No supposed political necessity will justify their presence. One cannot profess a worthy education proudly and honestly while simultaneously offering a platform to the ignorant or biased. 

Just a bit of light reading in this regard —

Heather Long, It’s a ‘grave mistake’ for Trump to cut legal immigration in half:

President Trump endorsed a steep cut in legal immigration on Wednesday. Economists say that’s a “grave mistake.”

A Washington Post survey of 18 economists in July found that 89 percent believe it’s a terrible idea for Trump to curb immigration to the United States. Experts overwhelmingly predict it would slow growth — the exact opposite of what Trump wants to do with “MAGAnomics.”

“Restricting immigration will only condemn us to chronically low rates of economic growth,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. “It also increases the risk of a recession”….

Jeremy Robbins, Trump says the proposed immigration bill will raise wages for Americans. It won’t.:

But while moving to a merit-based immigration system, Cotton and Perdue also propose reducing the number of legal immigrants admitted into the United States every year by half — from about 1 million to about 500,000. They argue that having fewer immigrants will leave more jobs available for American workers.

But the economy simply doesn’t work that way.

Economists who study immigration overwhelmingly agree that immigration is an economic boon to our country. Indeed, nearly 1,500 Republican, Democratic and independent economists — including six Nobel laureates — recently released a letter stressing the “near universal agreement” among economists of all stripes on “the broad economic benefit that immigrants to this country bring.”

To that consensus, Cotton responds: “Only an intellectual could believe something so stupid.” He instead points to Canada and Australia as models for limited legal immigration. However, while it’s true that Canada and Australia admit far more high-skilled immigrants, they also admit more family-based immigrants. In fact, on a per capita basis, they admit 2.4?and 3.5 times as many immigrants, respectively, as the United States does….

Jennifer Rubin, A crass play to xenophobes will go nowhere:

Because the bill went nowhere in April and will not make it onto the Senate calendar for the rest of the year, it’s an obvious, typical play to Donald Trump’s base, once more using immigrants as scapegoats and distractions. (“Trump’s appearance with the senators came as the White House moved to elevate immigration back to the political forefront after the president suffered a major defeat when the Senate narrowly rejected his push to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” The Post reported. “The president made a speech last Friday on Long Island in which he pushed Congress to devote more resources to fighting illegal immigration, including transnational gangs.”)

When introduced in April the bill was roundly criticized by more than 1,000 economists. There is near-uniformity among respected economists that immigrants do not “steal” jobs from native-born Americans (in part because they have different skill sets and in part because they make the economy bigger), have almost no impact on domestic wages (except for non-high school graduates, where the impact is less than 2 percent) and are essential to keep the economy growing. By reducing the number of immigrants by a half a million, the bill would shrink the U.S. economy and exacerbate the problem of an aging workforce (immigrants statistically are younger than the native-born population).

Nevertheless, for anti-immigrant groups who often insist they oppose only illegal immigration, it’s a revealing moment. They cheer the idea that we should take fewer hard-working, pro-American immigrants through legal avenues. (Trump, by the way, continues to hire substantial numbers of foreign workers at his resort in Florida.) No, the anti-immigrant forces simply want to keep people unlike themselves out of the United States. Their economic arguments are tired, wrong and a pretext for xenophobia.

The notion that immigration restriction raises wages has been disproved by past experience. (Canceling the 1960s Bracero program, akin to the Cotton-Perdue plan for lowering immigrant numbers, had “little measurable effect on wages.”) A slew of conservative think tankers and former officials condemn immigration restrictionism as rotten for the U.S. economy. The plan was swiftly criticized by Democrats, pro-immigration activists and economically literate Republicans.  Trump’s promise of 3 percent annual growth was far-fetched; with a proposed reduction of 500,000 people, it becomes impossible.

This is a confidence game from Trump: the bill is for suckers who think Trump will actually get something passed, and it wouldn’t lift wages as promised even if it should pass.

The Limits of Cultural Shelter

In difficult times, some will retreat to apolitical, cultural matters.

An apolitical approach is not one that I would take, but for others perhaps it seems the best that one can do. Indeed, in Whitewater, I’ve advocated that approach for those who would not take an overt stand on the principal political question of our time (where one stands on Trump). See An Oasis Strategy.

Two key points:

1. Although one should support a diverse society, with many cultural opportunities, that hardly means that all subcultures are equally beneficial to society. Subcultures that espouse racism & bigotry (e.g., white nationalists, neo-confederates), or reject basic principles of reasoning and economics (e.g., Russian-style propaganda & lies, anti-market economic fallacies) don’t deserve support.

White nationalism is a subculture, to be sure, but it’s a lumpen, inferior one. It deserves only obloquy.

A cultural oasis as a refuge from political strife will not be found with those who have, themselves, embraced the very subcultures that advocate the degradation of the constitutional order. 

2. Keeping in mind the maxim that ‘one war at a time is enough’, it’s still worth remembering that when Trumpism meets its political ruin – and it will – the subcultures that sustained it will thereafter meet their social ruin. This was true of the Klan and the Bund. So it will be true of those who, while professing a merely cultural position, in fact supported Trumpism’s political one.

That’s a battle for another time, but a time that will nevertheless will follow in due course.

For now, it seems both right and inevitable that our children and grandchildren will ask us where we stood on the matter of Trump.

There will be only one worthy answer: resolutely committed to the American constitutional order, and so necessarily & resolutely opposed to Trump.

On Transgender Americans

One could write about the recent Twitter statement from Trump that “[a]fter consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” but there’s a broader question than military service. To be sure, I believe that transgendered soldiers should be permitted to serve, that their service would have no meaningful costs (it’s false to say as Trump has said that their service would be burdensome or disruptive), and that there are meritorious legal arguments in favor of transgendered soldiers’ continued service & against Trump’s rash declaration.

(It’s also worth noting that the president cannot unilaterally change military policy via a tweet, no matter how much he might like to do so.)

But it would be evasive, I think, to couch one’s position so narrowly (on matters of military service alone, however important that service is).

I’ve no claim to understanding the particular experiences of the LGBT community, but then one needn’t have such familiarity to see that there are political, ethical, and (indeed) religious arguments firmly supporting equal treatment for LGBT Americans. (On this latter point, there are those, for example, like Fr. James Martin, S.J., who are working to advance a more inclusive view.)

A well-ordered society is one in which all people have equal, fundamental rights at law, and where those fundamental rights are respected and protected.

These are not merely national matters.

It was only four years ago that a politician in this city, when writing about a Wisconsin supreme court race, highlighted (unfavorably, to be sure) the support one candidate had among two small LGBT groups. Nearby, more recently, one can find a trolling reactionary sure to complain about the LGBT community one way or another, all the better to endear himself to those whose only problems are fabricated cultural ones.

One would have hoped that Trump would not have opened yet another battle against another minority group, but then the more one sees of Trump, the worse one expects from him. There’s so very much to despise about Trump — after today, there’s even more.

More important, however, is a firm acknowledgment that many of us in this small community welcome all people, of any race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or orientation, as our friends and neighbors.

Film: Tuesday, July 25th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: 20th Century Women

This Tuesday, July 25th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of 20th Century Women @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

20th Century Women (2016) is a comedy-drama set in 1979 about a teenage boy, his mother, and two other women who help raise him in Southern California.

Mike Mills directs the one hour, fifty-nine minute  film, starring Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, and Lucas Jade Zumann. 20th Century Women received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay (Mike Mills). The film carries an R rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about 20th Century Women at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.