Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1863

From first proclamation until now, across generations, Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation has inspired and reassured (and ones hopes does so again today):

The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans. mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.


By the President.

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Boo! Scariest Things in Whitewater, 2017

Here’s the eleventh annual FREE WHITEWATER list of the scariest things in Whitewater for 2017. The 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 20142015, and 2016 editions are available for comparison.

The list runs in reverse order, from mildly frightening to truly scary.

10. Dirty Dogs. This town’s like a magnet for every smooth talking heel with a scheme to develop the place, a just-what-you-need-be-prosperous-quick plan. They’ll come in packs, or at least a couple from the same litter, and before you know it, you’re facing the Attack of the Dirty Dogs. It’s almost as though someone might try to convince a town to pay for a poorly planned, ratty excuse for a festival by taking a beloved children’s series and turning it into nothing but a pile of doggie doo. You say it couldn’t happen, but look just 13.9 miles to the north, and perhaps you’ll change your mind…

9. Demand.  It sounds bad, doesn’t it, the demand for something. The word sounds so pushy, so coercive, so oppressive. But when residents complain that there’s too much demand for student housing, they’re not describing the Big Bad Wolf at a straw house.

They’re describing ordinary buyers and sellers in the housing marketplace, looking to make voluntary and cooperative transactions to rent places to live. Some of the same people who enjoy our Farmers’ Market or a City Market refuse to accept a housing market.

8. Big Projects.  The cost of spending on one big project is both alternatives passed over and, for any community, constraints on how much can be spent on other projects while serving the last project’s debt. Going big on one project, and pretending it’s done and in the past, doesn’t place that project in the past – the influence of that past expenditure reaches into the present, and limits the future.

7.  Fairness.  Here’s a question that this community might consider: what does it mean to be fair? Does fairness require that, in all cases, each person should be treated alike, or does it require that in some cases persons should be treated alike and in other cases goods and services should be distributed to each person based on need? (That is, is all justice commutative, or is justice sometimes commutative and sometimes distributive?)

For thousands of years, civilization has recognized more than one concept of justice, with each applicable in different situations. Whitewater’s had a problem – and has recently & happily shed at least one administrator too dense to comprehend any of this – with seeing how important these distinctions are.

When commutative justice is misapplied to deny services to the needy, the denial is injurious specifically and ignorant generally. 

6. What’s Inside.  It must be scary, because leaders would rather start with a discussion of what’s outside than what’s inside. No, and no again: one builds outside to assure vibrant relationships inside. Those relationships are more than the building, more even than photos or videos of what’s happening inside.

5. Comparative AdvantagesThey must be scary, because officials have such trouble grasping them. It makes sense to follow the best practices of others, but a comparative advantage requires doing something better (often a specialization) over one’s competitors. Doing the same thing as everyone else only leaves a community lost in the shuffle. Everyone in the state has a flimsy business development scheme, a new construction project, etc. Every town has roads, buildings, etc. 

4. Personal Awards.  If you’re leading with your personal awards, you’ve already lost anyone accomplished. It’s that simple. When an email signature line lists individual awards, there’s a good chance of over-rating, and an excellent chance of vanity. Accomplishment should be clear after acquaintance. There’s a better way than leading with one’s individual achievements: For Your Consideration, Dr. Jonas Salk.

Team awards, by contrast, are different: they’re not about one person, but about the gains to a group or organization. That’s not vanity – it’s legitimate pride in group accomplishment.

3. That Which Paved The Way. Trump and Putin didn’t emerge overnight. When they came on the scene, many communities across America were vulnerable to their lies and manipulation. Smarmy glad-handers played a role in advancing junk claims, and weakening critical thought. They were part of That Which Paved the Way.  

2. Tabbies, Not LionsMen who were supposed to be the lions of this community, roaring of themselves as movers and shakers, visionaries, dignitaries, etc., are now mostly silent when Trump’s name comes up. Suddenly, but not surprisingly, they’re quiet about the most significant political development of our time.  When they do speak, it sounds like When Lions Meow.

1. Trump.  Of course: autocratic, bigoted, ignorant, contemptuous of democratic traditions and desirous of dictatorial ones.

However serious the challenge from Trump, there’s this consolation: Trump did not carry the City of Whitewater last year. What he did not do in ’16, he will never do. The majority in this small city rejected Trump last year, they would reject him again this year, and they will forever reject him.

We’ve a long slog ahead, but we’ll come through this a free and, one can truly hope, a stronger people.

Best wishes to all for a Happy Halloween.

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.

Boo! Scariest Things in Whitewater, 2016

Here’s the tenth annual FREE WHITEWATER list of the scariest things in Whitewater for 2016. The 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 editions are available for comparison.

The list runs in reverse order, from mildly frightening to truly scary.

10. It’s Gremlins. Ordinarily, people assume that the success or failure of government policy rests with government officials. That makes sense, and follows thousands of years in which history has assigned responsibility and accountability to those who hold power.

Listen in Whitewater, however, and you’ll hear that our several challenges come from the location of the city, the people in the city, the people outside the city, the people who might once have heard about the city, or capitalists, socialists, Methodists, whatever…

None of that is true.

The truth is that things go wrong in Whitewater because tiny gremlins interfere with otherwise self-promoting noble efforts of taxpayer-supported bureaucrats public servants to advance this community.

The existence of these creatures has been known for over seventy years, but seldom publicized to avoid widespread panic in the city.

I’ve obtained documentary footage that Warner Bros. produced in 1943 for the United States Government, so that Pres. Roosevelt and leading figures in the nation might better understand the gremlin threat. They’re devious little creatures, to be sure.

Accountability, shamountability… it’s been gremlins all along.

9. Potholes.  Back again as a problem, and at this rate it might as well become a perennial. Whitewater’s spending often looks like that of a fashion model, who purchases clothes to look good but forgets (or doesn’t care) to eat properly. A building here, a building there, but few jobs from them and few good roads from place to place.

It screams to visitors: the fundamentals aren’t right.

8. Opinion.  It’s as though officials were too fearful to find it on their own.  In a small Midwestern town, it somehow takes a survey company, or a polling company, to let officials know what residents would like.  No one can ask on his or her own?  What’s the point of being an insider – a sophisticated, highly-connected, smooth-talking swell – if one does not know in one’s very bones what the community wants?

The Founders didn’t have School Perceptions or Polco for their towns, let alone their colonies, but they were able to gauge community sentiment well enough.  We don’t need a knock-off version of Gallup to get the job done.

    Perfect for exploring the town that pays one’s salary.

For a small amount per person, full-time leaders in this city should be outfitted with a pair of stylish and comfortable Hush Puppies, and told to walk about and see the town in which most of them live.

All it takes is a willingness to walk around – unobtrusively – and listen to what people are saying, and to watch how residents and visitors shop in town.

If one’s working (assuming one is working) at the Municipal Building and cannot for tell for days that oil is leaking into Cravath Lake, a bit of walking around might be the answer.

7.  Tenure.  It must not be what it’s cracked up to be, because leaders are heading for the door as soon as they can.  The big question in Whitewater used to be ‘how long have you lived here?’  The new questions might as well be ‘do you live here at all?’ and ‘if so, how long do you plan on staying?’

I love this small town, and cannot imagine being anywhere else.  It’s coldly disappointing that others don’t see the same.

6. Department Heads.  Department heads must be scary, because they get just about anything they want, whatever the cost.  They may receive a few questions, but the check arrives for the requested amount, just the same.

5. Vendors. Even scarier than department heads.  A consultant or vendor shows up, talks down to everyone in the room as though the audience were drunk or deranged, and people scamper around (including department leaders) to give the vendor whatever he wants.  

4. Cannibalism.  Rather than work together, internal strife divides municipal departments.  It’s not always outsiders they’re concerned about – it’s often each other.  Problems don’t come from conflicts outside the Municipal Building – they often come from within it.  It’s like a B-movie about protein-seeking natives filmed on set at 312 W. Whitewater Street.

3. Memory.  One is only supposed to remember events the way, and for as long, as leaders wish them to be remembered.  The future will write the history of the present, at a length and in a detail different from insiders’ wishes.

2. Revenue.  This city administration now finds itself on a search for revenue, hunting for it wherever it can be found, from residents who already pay taxes.  Each dollar of government-acquired revenue is money taken from the private economy in fees, taxes, or through sketchy government-run ventures.

This leads to efforts like the proposal to bring trash into the city.  The city is bigger than its government; it rests on private citizens, the foundation of whose prosperity is private enterprise.  No one owes an acquisitive few their mediocre and destructive proposals.

1. Stagnation.  Our risk isn’t collapse, as once happened to Whitewater.  It’s a lengthy stagnation, where longterm stagnation means (inevitability in a country that’s growing) relative decline.  We’re awash in public money but it’s not sparked the private economy adequately.  There are some impressive green shoots in this city, but they’ll risk withering if we’ve only an arid climate of stagnation.

Presenting the city to the entire area as though it were a vast enterprise zone, with few if any regulations, would be a committed effort to align us more closely with communities enjoying solid growth.

There’s the 2016 list.

Best wishes to all for a Happy Halloween.