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

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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.

Film: Wednesday, July 19th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Silence

This Wednesday, July 19th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Martin Scorsese’s Silence @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Silence (2017) is a historical drama about two 17th-century Portuguese Jesuits who travel to Japan in an attempt to find their mentor, who is reported to have abandoned the faith.

Martin Scorsese directs the two hour, forty-one minute  film, starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson. Silence received an Academy Award nomination for Best Achievement in Cinematography. The film carries an R rating from the MPAA.

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

Enjoy.

Film: Tuesday, July 11th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Beauty and the Beast

This Tuesday, July 11th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Beauty and the Beast @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) is a live-action fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.

Bill Condon directs the two hour, nine-minute film, starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, and Kevin Kline. Beauty and the Beast received two MTV Movie + TV Awards, for Best Movie and Best Actor in a Movie (Emma Watson). Beauty and the Beast carries a PG rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Beauty and the Beast at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

‘What Putin’s team is probably telling him about Trump’

Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA from 2010 to 2013 and twice acting director, and Samantha Vinograd of the National Security Council staff from 2009 to 2013, speculate from experience on What Putin’s team is probably telling him about Trump:

This is a speculative account of a memo that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s national security team would likely send him as he prepares to meet with President Trump for the first time this week. It is not a reflection of how we see the issues; it is a reflection of how we think Putin’s closest aides see the issues.

Mr. President, when you meet with President Trump at the Group of 20 meeting this week in Hamburg, you will do so at a historic time. Russia is in its strongest position since the end of the Cold War; the United States, our great adversary, is the weakest it has been. We are on the road to achieving our fundamental national security objectives — for Russia to retake its place as a great power and to have a sphere of influence in the countries on our periphery.

This did not happen by chance; it happened because we took action. We undertook the most successful covert political influence campaign since World War II. We kept our nemesis Hillary Clinton out of the White House, and we installed a president who is deepening existing schisms in his country while creating new ones at home and abroad. This is the first time in history that the United States has been attacked by another country and not come together as a nation; instead, our actions have caused it to come apart. This is a great victory for us.

Needless to say, I’m not able to speculate reasonably on what Putin’s advisors are telling the Russian dictator, but any guidance that tells him that he’s won a great victory over America seems right to me.

Trump is a huge gift to Russian power, nearly in proportion to his ignorance, bigotry, nativism, mendacity, authoritarian tendencies, and preference for foreign autocrats.

Saying all this about Trump is simply stating the obvious about him, but it’s worth remembering that a core of American fellow travelers and fifth-columnists, having more sympathy for Putinism than America values, made Putin’s meddling and Trump’s excreable rise possible. (See, Useful Idiots: Trump is getting played by the Russians – but so is the rest of the GOP, where John Stoehr applies the phrase, dubiously attributed to Lenin, to contemporary politics.)

There are, in a rough, descending order of culpability for Putin’s interference in our politics, the following: (1) those who have collaborated with Russians or other third parties to undermine American liberty & sovereignty, (2) those sympathetic to Putinism (including white nationalists, anti-Muslim bigots, and theologically-confused & intellectually-stunted Americans who ludicrously think that Putin’s a moral exemplar), (3) those who wilfully refuse to see the damage Putin has done, (4) those who for years have maintained the low standards that have allowed Putin’s lies to flourish (including every glad-handing Babbitt in every town in America), and (5) those of us who should have seen more clearly, and dealt with the rest more assertively & decisively, all these years gone by.

Film: Tuesday, June 27st, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Lion

This Tuesday, June 27th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Lion @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Lion (2016) is the story of Saroo, who “years after he got separated from his family, at a train station in India, and long since adopted by an Australian couple, decides to go searching for his birth family.”

Garth Davis directs the one hour, fifty-eight minute film, starring Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham and Nicole Kidman. Lion received 6 Oscars nominations, including nominations for Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Patel), and Supporting Actress (Kidman). Lion carries a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

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

Enjoy.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 13: That Which Paved the Way)

This is the thirteenth and final post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Some months ago, I wrote a post that described my thinking about Whitewater’s current situation: her weak, superficial, conflict-riddled politics, and that of so many other places, was that which paved the way for Trumpism —

More than a few town notables in places like Whitewater paved the way for Trumpism. They made this possible. See, along these lines, The National-Local Mix (Part 2). Those of us in an implacable resistance have much work hard work, and likely many hard losses, before we prevail in opposition.

When we do, Trump will go, and Trumpism with him. More than that, however: the causes of Trumpism in places like Whitewater will go, too.

About eighteen months ago, thinking only of these earlier causes, I wrote in reply to a prominent social & political figure in town, predicting that ‘not one of those practices will endure to this city’s next generation.’

Whether she believed this, I don’t know, and candidly it matters not at all what either of us believes.

The prediction will prove true nonetheless.

This is where the city is, where the state is, where the country is, in a continental conflict that will grow yet worse before it ends.

There are local matters to address, but now in the context of the cumulative damage from many localities’ wrong choices.

The series: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), 7 (how it was supposed to be), 8 (nearby), and 9 (small-town harvards), 10 (mailers), 11 (fiestas and apple orchards), 12 (messaging), and 13 (that which paved the way).

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 12: Messaging)

This is the twelfth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

There are several news (or news-release dependent) publications in Whitewater: the Daily Union, Gazette, and Banner. Add to that over a dozen Facebook pages, and a few local government websites (city, school district, university in particular), and one might expect a diversity of opinion. (I’d certainly favor that diversity.)

It’s not yet here, however. These publications share a similar point of view: touting the local (or hyper-local) as exceptional, from an almost uniformly right-leaning direction. (Right-leaning as they see it: support for government intervention in the marketplace and cultural conservatism everywhere else. There’s much talk about businesses, but almost none about the free markets that make business and labor transactions efficient.  Nor is there even one of these publications that’s introspective; indeed, on this last point, their publishers would probably mistake their own views for the natural order of the universe.

(I don’t know how many people on the planet treat municipal emblems with the kind of reverence that one might show for a holy icon, but if there’s a sociologist who’d like to study that outlook, Whitewater’s coördinates are 42°50’6″ N 88°44’10” W. )

Into this environment comes a public relations and media manager for the city of Whitewater. A sharp, long-time reader pointed out the problem with a public-relations manager for city government: the Banner’s politician-publisher now does that job for free. Not as stylishly as a media manager could, to be sure, but with a thrall to authority that never fails.  The advantages of a private publication are lost when its publisher has spent decades holding public offices.

Most of these publications have an elderly readership; the rest have elderly publishers or (for organizations with Facebook pages) an elderly membership. Those wondering what happened to the bobby soxers will find the answer at the city manager’s annual state of the city update, where senior citizen attendees turn out for autographs to listen appreciatively.

The real gap is a demographic one: Whitewater’s residents in their 70s & 80s don’t look like residents in their 20s and 30s. (For that matter, I don’t look like residents in their 20s and 30s, but then I don’t claim to hold anything other than a single perspective, as an emissary of one, so to speak.)

Whitewater’s mostly churning the same cream through similar churns, and finding that the butter all tastes the same.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), 7 (how it was supposed to be), 8 (nearby), and 9 (small-town harvards), 10 (mailers), and 11 (fiestas and apple orchards).

Tomorrow: Part 13.

Film: Wednesday, June 21st, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: A Man Called Ove

This Wednesday, June 21st at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of A Man Called Ove @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

A Man Called Ove (2015) is a comedy-drama about “Ove, an ill-tempered, isolated retiree who spends his days enforcing block association rules and visiting his wife’s grave, [who] has finally given up on life just as an unlikely friendship develops with his boisterous new neighbors.”

Rolf Lassgård stars in the one hour, fifty-six minute film, in Swedish with English subtitles, also starring Bahar Pars and Filip Berg. The movie was an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film, and received an AARP Movies for Grownups Award. One can find more information about A Man Called Ove at the Internet Movie Database.

Please note: this film is being shown on Wednesday, June 21st.

Enjoy.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 11: ‘Fiestas and Apple Orchards’)

This is the eleventh post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

In the Wall Street Journal, Pennsylvanian Crispin Sartwell writes of Fiestas and Apple Orchards: Small-Town Life Before Trump (“My corner of Pennsylvania was thriving again—until immigration agents began carting people away”):

I live in York Springs, a no-stoplight town near Gettysburg, in the middle of what’s known as the South Mountain Fruit Belt. Adams County grows more apples than any other in Pennsylvania and is fourth-highest producer in the nation. The fruit belt is not the Rust Belt, but the biggest employers are canning plants: Knouse, Rice and Mott’s. Down the road in Biglerville, they call the high-school teams the Canners.

York Springs, known locally as “Little Mexico” or “Rednexico,” has a population of 800 or so, 46% Hispanic, according to the 2010 census. This, I daresay, is now inaccurate: If you made the population 1,100 and 70% Hispanic, you’d be nearer the mark. Many people came to Adams County as seasonal apple pickers, and orchards need tending year round, so they stayed. Some became orchard managers, and some started businesses: hair salons and restaurants, grocery stores and landscaping companies.

The mix is a remarkable thing: Oaxaca in a Wyeth painting….

Now, however, York Springs has become a target for immigration enforcement. Statistics by locality are hard to come by, but an attorney speaking at a community forum last month at the Adams County Agricultural Center said there were at least 15 actions in York Springs during February and March, with many more since, including street arrests and traffic stops that have resulted in detentions. People are held at the prison in the city of York, 25 miles down the road, and the phrase “they took her to York” has become the expression for someone who’s been taken into the immigration system….

This stringent enforcement of immigration law is destroying a rich, new rural culture. It’s likely to destroy the economy, too. The orchards generate over $500 million a year, and, one way or another, most of the jobs. But the local growers, many of whom have been operating the family orchards for generations, worry they won’t have enough manpower this fall to harvest the crop.

More than one town in this country, meaning truly many of the people in those towns, will see ruin before this federal administration of the lumpen and the lying meets its end. The injustices inflicted, to be sure, will be worse for those who experience them than for those on the sidelines who merely find them uncomfortable, offensive, or unfair.

In all these things, however, it will be helpful to have a long memory.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), 7 (how it was supposed to be), 8 (nearby), and 9 (small-town harvards), and 10 (mailers).

Tomorrow: Part 12.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 10: Mailers)

This is the tenth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Worried over a large-scale party in 2016, Whitewater’s local government set about looking for a plan for 2017. College-aged adults are a plurality of the city’s population; they are a majority of the city’s adult population. Solutions included drafting a mailer (an early version of which I have embedded below), directing possible attendees to a website exhorting them to celebrate responsibility, and hoping for rain to dampen outdoor activities.

(It’s also worth noting that the city recently began using a new drug detection dog, whom officials believe will “just light-up a room,” and with whom residents are “sure to fall in love.” One wishes police K9 Ruso the best, but neither his animal magnetism nor his detection abilities would be of much use during a major celebration, or for many of the unfortunate crimes that otherwise beset small-town Whitewater.)

One can say with confidence that neither mailers, nor dogs, nor municipal websites, nor raindances, nor ice cream socials with elderly residents, nor pictures with smiling children, nor public relations managers are a substitute for the daily trust that comes from genuine community enforcement, with positive relationships with all members of the community. Arms length is no substitute, and belies the value of six, or twenty-six, or sixty-six – however many – proudly-cited years of tenure.

There are few more powerful indictments than decades wasted.

Download (PDF, 670KB)

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), 7 (how it was supposed to be), 8 (nearby), and 9 (small-town harvards).

Updated: Sunday, 6.18: Part 11.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 9: Small-Town Harvards)

This is the ninth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Alana Semuels asks Could Small-Town Harvards Revive Rural Economies? Her contention, as she succinctly describes it:

 

College campuses and educational institutions can bolster the economies of small towns that otherwise would be struggling like many other rural locations throughout the country. Many of the rural areas that are thriving today are either home to natural features they can capitalize on—like Aspen, Colorado, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, do with skiing—or they’re the home to colleges or universities. The main benefits of educational institutions are twofold: They often produce research and technology that can be parlayed into new businesses, creating jobs nearby. And they bring to the area students, who spend money on restaurants and services, and attract professors and administrators, who do the same and also buy houses and cars.

Pick out any rural college town and it’s likely doing better economically than other nearby rural areas. The unemployment rate in Kearney, Nebraska, home to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, for example, is 2.5 percent, compared to the state’s overall rate of 3.4 percent. In rural Corvallis, Oregon, the home of Oregon State University, the unemployment rate is 3 percent, while surrounding rural counties such as Lincoln have a rate as high as 4.8 percent. According to Jed Kolko, an economic researcher at the job-search website Indeed.com, non-metropolitan counties that are growing in population have 30 percent college graduates or more; those that are shrinking tend to have populations with less than 30 percent college grads.

It goes without saying that Whitewater has not seen the economic gains across the city that some of these communities have seen. There are a few reasons for this, among many:

1.  Limited community support for the university.

2.  Community support that’s not really support. University employees who make excuses for their own institution in order to ingratiate themselves into the part of town culture that has limited support for the university are third-tier advocates. Just about every university-affiliated town notable has this problem. (See, from yesterday, Nearby.)

3.  Ersatz tech development instead of meaningful achievements. The Innovation Center is mostly the CESA 2 building. It’s what one builds when one wants to misapply a big federal grant to claim a successful tech affiliation that, in fact, falls far short of its promise. Boasting about the Innovation Center is boasting for the gullible or ignorant.

4. Self-affirming studies from the university that look more like flimsy press releases (and are, from the very get-go, conceptually flawed).  (See, The Value of Sports.) Studies like that should be embarrassments to accredited, degree-granting institution.)

5. Too much administrative emphasis on sports victories. Winning seasons are hard, and are not the accomplishment of non-athlete administrators. Banking on victories, in any event, is hard when Wisconsin’s D3 environment, overall, is sufficiently balanced that victories will naturally be spread over several schools (each with the ability to do well nationally). Expecting a permanent place at the top is a sign of how little someone knows about the challenges of a competitive environment.

Worse, pressure to stay on top leads to injury to individuals for the sake of an administrator’s pride.

As a community matter, though, too few are committed to the university as a university. They advocate for it in timid, compromising, unrealistic, and ineffectual ways. A town grandee or two walking around in a purple jacket isn’t meaningful advocacy – it’s self-congratulatory fashion.

Whitewater’s not close to a university that advocates for itself powerfully. There’s scarcely anyone among the university-affiliated who’s also formidable advocate for the school within town, and not one on the Media Relations team. Good writing is not enough – one must be emotionally resolute. (If Sen. Nass & Chief of Staff Mikalsen can back someone off, one’s not up to the job.)

(Models of strength in advocacy: @JRubinBlogger and @sarahkendzior. They’ll see their views through, come what may. So very admirable.) 

The university won’t be what it can be until a new group of university advocates emerges.

Until then, we’ll not have the small-town Harvard we otherwise might.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), 7 (how it was supposed to be), and 8 (nearby).

Tomorrow: Part 10.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 8: Nearby)

This is the eighth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Just beyond the Whitewater proper lie several towns that form the rest of the Whitewater Unified School District. They play a key role in life within Whitewater, far beyond school policies.

A few observations:

The New Divide. Where once the main local issue was a town-gown divide within Whitewater (a divide that also represented political divisions between red and blue), the main divide now implicates small towns nearby. Whitewater proper (the city) will never be red again. The small towns nearby are likely to stay red, at least for years to come. See, Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 6: Divided).

Affinity. In many ways, remaining red voters in the city have more in common with those in the nearby towns than they do with their fellow city residents. Whitewater’s red-leaning residents (especially the aged ones) are now probably closer politically with voters in the Lima Center or Richmond Township than they are with Whitewater’s average voter. I would venture that local politicians like Stewart or Binnie would run better outside the city than in it. It’s not that they couldn’t do well in the city – it’s that they’re now ideologically closer to those outside of it. They’ve not appreciably changed, but the whole city has evolved in ways that make their politics closer to those in nearby red towns.

Chief Otterbacher’s outlook certainly fits more closely with the towns near the city than within Whitewater.

Jan Bilgen’s longtime role on Whitewater’s PFC & as a university staffer who describes the students whose careers she’s supposed to be developing as though they were almost feral children, and Jim Winship’s political influence as a college professor who fought to restrict student housing from his own neighborhood, would probably play even better outside Whitewater than in it.

(Perhaps Winship would describe himself as a progressive, but his views on student housing have been a reactionary departure from, for example, genuine progressive Thurgood Marshall’s recognition of the importance of freedom of association against housing restrictions. I’ve written previously, from a libertarian viewpoint, in support of Marshall’s view, expressed in his dissent in Village of Belle Terre v. Borass, 416 U.S. 1 (1974). SeeWhitewater’s Planning Commission Meeting from 5/10/10: Residential Overlay.)

The more conservative views outside the city have allowed, or encouraged, officials to advance red-leaning policies that would have been rejected within Whitewater proper. (District officials Runez, Parker, and Jaeger would all fall within this category – this, however, is a longer subject for another series. For now, a theory: professions of neutrality have actually advanced right-leaning policies with disregard to a majority of city residents’ views. Those internally who would normally be opposed to these policies often yield to the first belligerent reactionary they encounter. Others are co-opted with awards,, etc., and become advocates or appeasers of views they would reject if not for their easily-manipulated vanity.)

Unrequited. If those outside the city represent a more right-wing view that would fail within the city, what do they give in return for appeasement of their politics?

Not their money, to be sure: the longstanding move of retail shopping away from Whitewater shows that if those in towns nearby want to see an imposition of red views, they still take their money to places beyond Whitewater. Grocery shoppers in area towns, who once shopped in Whitewater, have shifted to other places for their needs; one of the main challenges of a co-op is simply gathering retail demand that has found satisfaction in other cities.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), 6 (divided), and 7 (how it was supposed to be).

Tomorrow: Part 9.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 7: How It Was Supposed to Be)

This is the seventh post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Consider the contemporary town-gown conditions in Whitewater. Here I am referring to present-day conditions, over the last ten or fifteen years. Part of the solution to this, surely, was meant to come from university-connected residents serving in local municipal government (e.g., Stewart, Bilgen, Winship).

Who better, the theory goes, to bring harmony than those both working on campus and residing in town?

(In earlier generations, Whitewater also had a crossover between university-affiliated residents and local government. Those earlier experiences, however, occurred when the university was much smaller than it is now, with fewer students, when student housing needs were different, and when students were more like boarders than apartment tenants. Earlier cases, from the ’50s or ’60s, aren’t applicable, and are uninteresting as examples for current policy.)

So, how did this recent decade go, among relations between the largest number of Whitewater’s residents (college-age students) and the smaller number of working-age adults from 25-64?

One can guess not well, if Whitewater’s still contending over local parties, if her police chief is fretting over “mob rule,” and if Jan Bilgen is declaring – in 2017! – that a campus informational campaign would be “starting soon to remind students “how to be a good neighbor” and that any trouble that they might possibly have with law enforcement could have a detrimental effect on their standing as a good student on campus.”

UW-Whitewater’s Marketing & Media Relations might want to work on that as a campaign:

“Hey, Mom and Dad, those kids you raised, and on whose tuition we depend, need some work. Have you been raising them in a barn for their first eighteen years, or what? Try harder!”

Whitewater’s former police chief worried over ‘raucous’ behavior; her present one worries over ‘mob rule.’ All these decades, yet it’s mostly been treading water.

I’d guess a minority of university faculty or upper-level staffers even live in Whitewater. Of those who live here, an even smaller number seek influence within city government.

This means that those who are part of a city-university nexus are a minority of a minority. Those who have sought so strenuously to be a part of town & university affairs are hardly representative of the majority of their colleagues on campus. Whether those colleagues (had they been more interested) could have done more, one cannot say.

One can say, however, that these unrepresentative few find themselves contending with the same problems, year after year, without success. Perhaps a desire to be popular, to hold influence, leads them to compromise from both sides in ways that short-changes everyone. In any event, the theory of relying on those who are (or seek to be) both campus and town notables looks better as a theory than as a practice.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), 5 (working age), and 6 (divided).

Tomorrow: Part 8.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 6: Divided)

This is the sixth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

Years ago (in 2010), I wrote of a red-blue divide within the city, where some elections favored red-leaning voters, and some blue-leaning voters. See, Why Whitewater Isn’t a Progressive City; Why Whitewater’s ‘Conservatives’ Hold the City Tenuously.

Over time, the city proper has become more dependably blue. State and national political trends, affecting local demographics, have probably assured this result. See, The (Red) State, the (Blue) City.

Look at the last presidential election: Clinton carried the city, Trump carried the outlying towns within the area of the Whitewater Unified School District. (See, results from Walworth, Jefferson, and Rock Counties.)

Where once there was a divide between red and blue within the city, there is now a reliably blue city; the divide is now between the city and the smaller towns outside the city.

Older residents remember a more conservative city; that past won’t return. Current residents know that the towns nearby are more conservative than the city; that will stay true for the foreseeable future.

The city-towns divide represents things as they now are, and has consequences of economics, fiscal policy, education, and culture.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), 4 (demographics), and 5 (working age).

Tomorrow: Part 7 (How It Was Supposed to Be).

Film: Tuesday, June 13th, 12:30 PM @ Seniors in the Park: Collateral Beauty

This Tuesday, June 13th at 12:30 PM, there will be a showing of Collateral Beauty @ Seniors in the Park, in the Starin community building.

Collateral Beauty (2016) is a drama about Howard, who, “retreating from life after a tragedy…questions the universe by writing to Love, Time and Death. Receiving unexpected answers, he begins to see how these things interlock and how even loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.”

Will Smith stars in the one hour, thirty-seven minute film, also starring Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Michael Peña, and Helen Mirren. The film carries a PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

One can find more information about Collateral Beauty at the Internet Movie Database.

Enjoy.

Whitewater, Cultures & Communications, June 2017 (Part 5: Working Age)

This is the fifth post in a series considering related local topics of cultures & communications within the city.

To love something truly is to see it clearly, with dry eyes. So if federal census data show that the largest group in the city – by far – is college-age residents 20-24 (5,300), and that those young residents easily outnumber traditional working-age residents (3,892), what can one say about those 25-64 year-old working-age residents? (Quick note: I’m in this age bracket.)

The first thing one can conclude is that in absolute number, they’re fewer than nearby Fort Atkinson. I’ve written on this before (see, Data Around Whitewater’s Size), but it bears repeating (data from the American Community Survey using 2015 data as the 2016 data do not have demographics by age):

Whitewater, aged 25-64: 3,892.

Fort Atkinson, aged 25-64: 6,454.

There are implications to a smaller working-age population than a student population.

When working-age residents 25-64 insist they’re the real town residents, they’re doing so only from innumeracy or arrogance: residents aged 25-64 are a demographic minority.

There’s a second implication, too: in absolute terms, the 25-64 age group isn’t so large as it presents itself.

Indeed, it’s not so relatively large within the city, or relatively compared to a nearby city.

So if there’s a claim to a superior position, that group (of which I am a part) does not have a numerical claim to superiority.

Previously: Parts 1 (introductory assumptions), 2 (population), 3 (oasis), and 4 (demographics).

Tomorrow: Part 6.