FREE WHITEWATER

Half-Right About the WISGOP

Thomas Edsall, writing in the New York Times, quotes Jerry Taylor and Will Wilkinson of the Niskanen Center think tank on Republicans’ political economics. Two quotes from Taylor Wilkinson stand out – one right, and one wrong (at least wrong for Wisconsin).

From Will Wilkinson, a view of cultural issues’ importance:

The G.O.P.’s success in struggling places has given them a false impression that voters who live there will stay faithful as long as they keep feeding them culture-war chum. Trump’s populism offered a false but compelling diagnosis of their economic problems, immigrants and insufficiently protectionist trade policy, which dovetails neatly with rural white anxieties about declining cultural status and relative political power. If you can align threats to identity with threats to material security, as Trump did, it’s pretty powerful.

Yes, that’s right: this is an underlying WISGOP strategy.

From Jerry Taylor, however, comes a view of Republicans’ economic views that isn’t true of the WISGOP at all:

only reliably ensured when government is minimized, taxes are nearly inconsequential, and free markets and property rights are given the greatest scope possible. Marry that with their belief that a rising economic tide will lift all boats, and you can quickly see why they’re at a loss to explain what’s going on in rural America.

The conservatives of Wisconsin are most certainly not small-government advocates; they’re supporters of state capitalism (state intervention as a producer or partner) and crony capitalism (state intervention for buddies & pals) in amounts – literally, in Wisconsin – reaching billions.

The WEDC, Foxconn, and wasteful, nutty capital-catalyst projects like those from the Whitewater Community Development Authority (CDA) aren’t small government, limited government, responsible stewardship, or free-market ideas of any kind.  (FREE WHITEWATER has a category devoted to each of these agencies or projects.)  See also Nationally and Locally: The Big-Government Conservatives Are Economy-Wreckers.

In places like Whitewater, projects like this are an opportunity for pro-government conservatives to play with public money as though they were legitimate private capitalists.  They’re not legitimate capitalists at all; if they cared about being legitimate, they would use only their own money in their own private investments. 

At the same time, for a fraction of the amounts of public money they waste each year, genuine needs – long ignored – might be addressed.  These men have, instead, failed to improve individual and household well-being time and again.  See A Candid Admission from the Whitewater CDA and Reported Family Poverty in Whitewater Increased Over the Last Decade.

Wilkinson may be right about Wisconsin conservatives’ strategy, but Taylor is wholly wrong about Wisconsin conservatives’ economic and fiscal policies.

These are not free-market men; these are well-fed, public-money-sucking, control-what-they-can men.… Continue reading

The Case for Impeaching Trump

Yoni Applebaum contends It’s Time to Impeach Trump (“Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals—and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs”):

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.

Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.

This is not a partisan judgment. Many of the president’s fiercest critics have emerged from within his own party. Even officials and observers who support his policies are appalled by his pronouncements, and those who have the most firsthand experience of governance are also the most alarmed by how Trump is governing.

….

Trump’s bipartisan critics are not merely arguing that he has dishonored the presidency. The most serious charge is that he is attacking the bedrock of American democracy.

For those of us who are Never Trump, our early opposition has proved well-founded.  Impeachment, removal from office, and indictment on federal or state charges if prosecutors find a sufficient basis: that should be Trump’s fate.

Applebaum considers Andrew Johnson’s impeachment as a precedent for action against Trump.

So it is.… Continue reading

Daily Bread for 2.19.19

Good morning.

Tuesday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of twenty-seven.  Sunrise is 6:44 AM and sunset 5:32 PM, for 10h 47m 15s of daytime.  The moon is full with 100% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the eight hundred thirty-second day.

The Whitewater Common Council meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1868, photographer Edward S. Curtis is born:

Edward Sheriff Curtis was born near Whitewater. As a young boy, he taught himself photography. His family eventually moved to the Puget Sound area of Washington state. He settled in Seattle and opened a photography studio in 1897. A chance meeting on Mount Rainier resulted in Curtis being appointed official photographer on railroad magnate E.H. Harriman’s expedition to Alaska. Curtis also accompanied George Bird Grinnell, editor of Field and Stream magazine, to Montana in 1900 to observe the Blackfoot Sun Dance. After this, Curtis strove to comprehensively document American Indians through photography, a project that continued for over 30 years. Working primarily with 6 x 8-inch reflex camera, he created over 40,000 sepia-toned images. His work attracted national attention, most notably from Theodore Roosevelt and J. Pierpont Morgan, whose family contributed generously to his project. His monumental work, The North American Indian, was eventually printed in 20 volumes with associated portfolios. Curtis’ work included portraits, scenes of daily life, ceremonies, architecture and artifacts, and landscapes. His photographs have recently been put online by the Library of Congress.

(Morning Eagle – Piegan. 1910. Original caption: “At an age of more than ninety, Apinakuipita is still hale enough to ride his horse to the tribal gatherings.“)

 

Recommended for reading in full:

Charlie Savage and Robert Pear report 16 States Sue to Stop Trump’s Use of Emergency Powers to Build Border Wall:

The lawsuit is part of a constitutional confrontation that Mr. Trump set off on Friday when he declared that he would spend billions of dollars more on border barriers than Congress had granted him. The clash raises questions over congressional control of spending, the scope of emergency powers granted to the president, and how far the courts are willing to go to settle such a dispute.

The suit, filed in Federal District Court in San Francisco, argues that the president does not have the power to divert funds for constructing a wall along the Mexican border because it is Congress that controls spending.

[Read the full lawsuit here.]

Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, said in an interview that the president himself had undercut his argument that there was an emergency on the border.

“Probably the best evidence is the president’s own words,” he said, referring to Mr. Trump’s speech on Feb. 15 announcing his plan: “I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster.”

The lawsuit, California et al. v. Trump et al., says that the plaintiff states are going to court to protect their residents, natural resources and economic interests.

  Inside Corning’s Gorilla Glass Factory:

Immigration as a Community Lifeline

Art Cullen writes Help wanted: Rural America needs immigrants:

President Trump argues that keeping immigrants and refugees out of our country is a matter of vital national security. He has made it his campaign thesis and shut down the government over it. Here in Storm Lake, Iowa, where the population is about 15,000 and unemployment is under 2 percent, Asians and Africans and Latinos are our lifeline. The only threat they pose to us is if they weren’t here.

That’s been the case for years all over rural Iowa and southern Minnesota, in the heart of the Corn Belt, where anyone who wants a job cutting hogs or laying block or working as an orderly can get one.

One part of the rural condition in American today is that, after college, our young people go to Des Moines or some city beyond for a job in finance or engineering that simply doesn’t exist in the old, county-seat towns of 5,000 people. “Everybody has to go someplace else,” Iowa State University regional trade economist Dave Swenson says of the youth exodus. “There isn’t a Plan B or Plan C.”

As rural counties are drained of young people with higher educations, immigrants flow into the vacuum. The influx began 40 years ago and continues today. First, Laotians from Thai refugee camps (they fought alongside us in Vietnam) came to Iowa in the 1980s. A land debt crisis later that decade blew up the family farm and foreclosed the future of so many young people and small businesses. The farm boys who once raised hogs by day and worked the night shift at the packing houses lit out for Texas and the oil rigs. Young Latino men, mainly from the Mexican state of Jalisco, came in to work the meatpackers’ kill floors. Now, the pigs are raised in huge confinement buildings, not family farms, and Latinos keep them clean.

(Note: Art Cullen is the editor of the Storm Lake Times in Northwest Iowa. He also recently wrote the book “Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper.”)

Here one sees a rural community’s challenge: it cannot survive productively without newcomers, but there’s resistance to newcomers who don’t think, sound, or look like the old-timers in these towns.

Even in small towns, there’s a futile defiance in resisting the free movement of labor, capital, and goods.  Subsidies, regulations, and prohibitions: they’re nothing against the collective energies of tens of thousands that reward the free & creative and punish the restrictive & controlling.… Continue reading

Daily Bread for 2.18.19

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of twenty-five.  Sunrise is 6:46 AM and sunset 5:30 PM, for 10h 44m 29s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 97.8% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the eight hundred thirty-first day.

The Whitewater Unified School Board meets at 6 PM and Whitewater’s Library Board at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1885, Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is published in the United States.

 

Recommended for reading in full:

 Conor Friedersdorf writes of The Snowflake in Chief:

To support President Trump is to be complicit in the rule of a thin-skinned authoritarian who denigrates the free-speech rights of people who criticize him.

The latest illustration: his weekend outburst against Saturday Night Live, a sketch-comedy show that has regularly poked fun at every American president for 40 years. The most powerful snowflake in America was triggered by Alec Baldwin. “Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC!” Trump tweeted. “Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!”

….

Trump’s SNL tweets are of a piece with a larger, disturbing pattern of behavior in which he violates his oath to protect and defend the Constitution by calling for First Amendment freedoms to be abridged by bureaucrats and legislators; and by calling the press a public enemy and a target of his “drain the swamp” agenda.

 Stephanie Mencimer reports Trump Judicial Nominees Are Refusing to Endorse Brown v. Board of Education (“In normal times, it would be unthinkable. Under Trump, it’s become a trend”)”

There’s no Supreme Court decision more widely celebrated than Brown v. Board of Education, the unanimous 1954 ruling that abolished school segregation. But this month, when Neomi Rao appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing on her nomination to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, she refused to say whether she thought the case had been correctly decided.

Asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) whether the court had made the right decision in Brown, Rao replied, “As a judicial nominee, I think it’s not appropriate for me to comment on the correctness of particular precedents.” Blumenthal asked her for a yes or no, but Rao would say only that Brown is “an incredibly important decision of the Supreme Court”—a dodge she twice repeated when pressed further.

….

Rao is one of at least 10 Trump nominees to the federal courts in the past year who have refused to offer an opinion on Brown. Several of those nominees have been confirmed or approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and set for a full Senate vote.

….

Both of former President George W. Bush’s Supreme Court appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and archconservative Justice Samuel Alito, had no trouble answering the question in the affirmative during their confirmation hearings, nor did Justice Elena Kagan when she was nominated to the court by former President Barack Obama.

  Inside the ant lab – Mutants and social genes:

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Circumstantial Evidence is Often Very Reliable

Trump’s defenders – many of whom would otherwise support aggressive criminal prosecutions – sometimes argue that the case against Trump is merely circumstantial (no “direct evidence of collusion”).  These apologists ignore what in other cases they might acknowledge: that circumstantial evidence can strongly, reasonably support a conclusion.  Eric Swalwell and Chuck Rosenberg (as recounted by Natasha Bertrand) offer some examples:

Swalwell:

What is circumstantial evidence? Suppose I’m trying to prove that my son Nelson ate some freshly baked brownies that we made together. When I turned away, all of the brownies were out. When I turned back, one was gone…

I didn’t see Nelson eat a brownie — that would be direct evidence. But when I returned, he had crumbs on his shirt, and chocolate on his lips and fingers. That would be considered circumstantial evidence that Nelson ate a brownie.

Rosenberg (via Bertrand):

Chuck Rosenberg gave me another example: you wake up with snow on your front lawn. Do you have direct evidence that it snowed? No. But the circumstantial evidence is strong, and far more likely than someone driving up to your house and throwing snow on your lawn.

So many of these law-and-order Trumpists set aside a principle of evidence underlying law and order when it comes to Trump.… Continue reading

Daily Bread for 2.17.19

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will be snowy with a high of twenty-nine.  Sunrise is 6:47 AM and sunset 5:29 PM, for 10h 41m 43s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 93.3% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the eight hundred thirtieth day.

 

On this day in 1801 (following a tie electoral college vote between Jefferson and Burr), the House of Representatives on the 36th ballot elects Thomas Jefferson as the third president of the United States.

 

Recommended for reading in full:

 Shamane Mills reports Wisconsin Trails Nation In Offering School Breakfasts:

The number of Wisconsin students who received breakfast at school through a federally subsidized nutrition program decreased slightly in the 2017-18 school year. And while about 83 percent of schools in the state participated in the School Breakfast Program, that actually puts Wisconsin near the bottom nationally.

“If a school is not offering the school breakfast program, then children cannot access it,” said Crystal FitzSimons of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), which released its School Breakfast Scorecard on Wednesday.

Schools in Wisconsin that don’t offer breakfast for low-income students tell the state Department of Public Instruction they can’t afford to.

“The biggest barrier to providing breakfast is funding,” said DPI spokesman Thomas McCarthy.

On top of federal money, Wisconsin has a school reimbursement rate for free and reduced breakfast of 15 cents a meal. But the state hasn’t paid schools that statutorily set rate since 2006. Because of a shortfall in the account that pays schools for providing breakfast, the reimbursement has fallen to about 7 cents, said McCarthy.

(One would prefer conditions in which no student needed subsidized meals, but we’ve not those conditions, and in any event expenditures of this kind are slight – and far more valuable – as against any number of needless business subsidies or capital projects.)

See also Food Research & Action Center, School Breakfast Scorecard, School Year 2017–2018:

 Corri Hess reports DNR Considering We Energies Proposal To Increase Mercury Limits Released Into Lake Michigan:

Utility company We Energies wants to increase the amount of mercury it can release into Lake Michigan from its coal-burning power plant in Oak Creek.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources held a public hearing earlier this week to discuss the proposal, drawing more than 100 people opposing the plan.

We Energies spokesman Brendan Conway said the new limits wouldn’t cause a health risk to humans or wildlife.

“We are not asking to be asked to be treated differently than anyone else along the lake,” Conway said. “Other permitees along Lake Michigan have received similar or higher mercury variances. People should also understand this variance we are talking about is allowed by the EPA and the DNR so this is not an imminent public health risk.”

(That’s some spokesman We Energies has – he contends it’s not an imminent health risk. This begs the question of whether it might be an intermediate or long-term risk. The question of dumping mercury isn’t answered sensibly because others dump it, but by an assessment of cumulative effects.  Conway offers a mush-for-brains level of reassurance.)

 Tour These 6 Capitals of European Craftsmanship:

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Daily Bread for 2.16.19

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will be mostly cloudy with a high of twenty-eight.  Sunrise is 6:49 AM and sunset 5:28 PM, for 10h 38m 58s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 86.2% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the eight hundred twenty-ninth day.

 

On this day in 1923, Egyptologist Howard Carter opens the burial chamber of Tutankhamun.

 

Recommended for reading in full:

 Glenn Kessler and Meg Kelly write Fact-checking Trump’s announcement of a national emergency:

Where to begin with President Trump’s rambling news conference to announce he was invoking a national emergency to build a border wall? It was chock-full of false and misleading claims, many of which we’ve previously highlighted, either in our database of Trump claims or our list of Bottomless Pinocchios. Here’s a summary of 14 of the most noteworthy claims, starting with immigration ones first. [The full article addresses each claim.]

 The Committee to Investigate Russia writes Stone Case Definitely Tied to Russian Hacker Case:

In arguing against a change of judge for Roger Stone, special counsel prosecutors reveal search warrants on accounts related to the 12 indicted Russian hackers turned up Stone communications with WikiLeaks. Not only does this explain the relevance of Stone appearing before the same judge assigned to the Russian hacker case, but it also presents the possibility Stone’s outreach was more than just the one exchange we already know for certain.

Although Zachary Basu of Axios reports Mueller says Paul Manafort should serve 19-24 years in prison, that’s a misreading of the government’s sentencing memorandum.  In fact, the Special Counsel’s Office doesn’t expressly make any recommendation of its own:

As an initial matter, the government agrees with the guidelines analysis in the Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) and its calculation of the defendant’s Total Offense Level as 38 with a corresponding range of imprisonment of 235 to 293 months, a fine range of $50,000 to $24,371,497.74, a term of supervised release of up to five years, restitution in the amount of $24,815,108.74, and forfeiture in the amount of $4,412,500.

Second, while the government does not take a position as to the specific sentence to be imposed here, the government sets forth below its assessment of the nature of the offenses and the characteristics of the defendant under Title 18, United States Code, Section 3553(a).

(Emphasis added.  This is very clever – agreeing with the PSR is less than taking a position on a specific sentence.  The court may decide not to impose so lengthy a sentence in any event.)

Hope Kirwan reports Wisconsin Counties Hopeful New Money For Groundwater Will Help Address Causes:

Gov. Tony Evers announced he was directing the state Department of Natural Resources to allocate $75,000 to the Southwest Wisconsin Groundwater and Geology (SWIGG) study in a statement released Wednesday.

The SWIGG study focuses on private wells in Grant, Lafayette and Iowa countries. An initial round of testing found 42 percent of tested wells were at unsafe levels of bacteria or nitrates, a compound linked to a variety of health problems.

Helping Kids With Cerebral Palsy Walk with Wearable Robots:

The Amazon-New York Deal, Like the Foxconn Deal, Was Bad Policy

Derek Thompson writes Amazon Got Exactly What It Deserved — And So Did New York:

Amazon said on Thursday that it will cancel its plans to add a second corporate headquarters in New York City. The company had pledged to build a campus in Queens’ Long Island City in exchange for $3 billion in subsidies.

In a statement, Amazon blamed local politicians for the reversal. “For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term,” the statement read. “A number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project.

In a period of growing antipathy toward billionaires, Amazon’s corporate-welfare haul struck many—including me—as a gratuitous gift to a trillion-dollar company that was probably going to keep adding thousands of jobs to the New York region anyway. The company has more than 5,000 employees in the five boroughs, including 2,500 at a Staten Island fulfillment center and at least one thousand more in the Manhattan West office building.

….

The larger truth is that corporate subsidies, including the $3 billion package offered to Amazon, are often pernicious and usually pointless. Studies showthat these sorts of measures “have no discernible impact on firm expansion, measured by job creation.” Yet every year, local governments spend more than $90 billion to move headquarters and factories between states, a wasteful zero-sum exercise whose cost is more than the federal government spends on affordable housing, education, or infrastructure. In the most garish example of corporate-welfare absurdity, Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing company, solicited up to $4 billion in subsidies from Wisconsin in exchange for a factory and tens of thousands of workers. Now it’s an open question whether that facility will ever get built.

There’s a broad coalition – across the political spectrum – that opposes these deals.  In New York, opponents were mostly progressives, but free-market advocates have always opposed these giveaways funded on the backs of ordinary taxpayers.

See also The Outrage of Corporate Welfare (Amazon, Foxconn, and others).

Indeed, each and every person – including Whitewater’s public officials, business lobbyists, and local reporters – who kept pushing Foxconn is either disqualifyingly ignorant or disconcertingly mendacious. 

Previously10 Key Articles About FoxconnFoxconn as Alchemy: Magic Multipliers,  Foxconn Destroys Single-Family HomesFoxconn Devours Tens of Millions from State’s Road Repair BudgetThe Man Behind the Foxconn ProjectA Sham News Story on Foxconn, Another Pig at the TroughEven Foxconn’s Projections Show a Vulnerable (Replaceable) WorkforceFoxconn in Wisconsin: Not So High Tech After All, Foxconn’s Ambition is Automation, While Appeasing the Politically Ambitious, Foxconn’s Shabby Workplace ConditionsFoxconn’s Bait & SwitchFoxconn’s (Overwhelmingly) Low-Paying JobsThe Next Guest SpeakerTrump, Ryan, and Walker Want to Seize Wisconsin Homes to Build Foxconn Plant, Foxconn Deal Melts Away“Later This Year,” Foxconn’s Secret Deal with UW-Madison, Foxconn’s Predatory Reliance on Eminent Domain, Foxconn: Failure & FraudFoxconn Roundup: Desperately Ill Edition Foxconn Roundup: Indiana Layoffs & Automation Everywhere, Foxconn Roundup: Outside Work and Local Land, Foxconn Couldn’t Even Meet Its Low First-Year Goal, Foxconn Talks of Folding Wisconsin Manufacturing Plans, WISGOP Assembly Speaker Vos Hopes You’re StupidLost Homes and Land, All Over a Foxconn Fantasy, Laughable Spin as Industrial Policy, Foxconn: The ‘State Visit Project,’ ‘Inside Wisconsin’s Disastrous $4.5 Billion Deal With Foxconn,‘ and Foxconn: When the Going Gets Tough…Continue reading

Daily Bread for 2.15.19

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be sunny with a high of eighteen.  Sunrise is 6:50 AM and sunset 5:27 PM, for 10h 36m 14s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 76.7% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the eight hundred twenty-eighth day.

 

On this day in 1865, at the Battle of Congaree Creek, South Carolina, the 12th Wisconsin Light Artillery participates in the Union victory over elements of the Confederacy’s Army of Tennessee.

 

Recommended for reading in full:

 Peter Schuck writes of The Real Problem With Trump’s National Emergency Plan:

President Trump is verging on a declaration of national emergency — purely in order to fund his wall. And if he does, the courts may — or may not — reject his gambit.

But the fact that he may actually possess the legal authority to require agencies to waste billions of dollars simply to fulfill a foolish campaign promise he thinks won him the election is itself scandalous. The theatrics surrounding his petulant threat to do so obscure a vital question for our democracy going far beyond this (non)crisis, a question to which Congress should immediately turn: Who decides what constitutes a national emergency?

In hundreds of laws, Congress has given the president the power to decide. (The Brennan Center for Justice has compiled an exhaustive list.) But by failing to define crucial terms, legal standards and accountability rules, Congress has handed presidents an all-too-handy tool of tyranny commonly used by autocrats to amass more power, crush dissent and eviscerate democratic institutions. In Mr. Trump’s case, it has handed an unguided missile to an ignorant, impetuous man-child.

Congress should have known better. After all, it enacted the National Emergencies Act of 1976, which purported to regulate such declarations, only two years after President Richard Nixon’s abuses of power forced his resignation. The act actually made matters worse in a key respect: It defined a national emergency as “a general declaration of emergency made by the president.” This circular definition, of course, is no constraint at all. Or as Humpty Dumpty says to Alice, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

 Robert Costa, Rachael Bade, Josh Dawsey, and Seung Min Kim report ‘Off the rails’: Inside Trump’s attempt to claim victory in his border wall defeat:

“We thought he was good to go all morning, and then suddenly it’s like everything is off the rails,” said one senior Republican aide.

By midafternoon, however, Trump was back on board — agreeing to sign the legislation with the caveat that he would also declare a national emergency in an attempt to use existing government funds to pay for wall construction. It was an option that Republican leaders had urged him to avoid but eventually accepted as necessary to escape the corner in which Trump — and his party — were trapped. McConnell promised Trump he would encourage others to support the emergency in a bid to get the president to sign, according to people familiar with the conversations.

  Why Valentine’s Day Isn’t 1-800-Flowers Busiest Day:

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The Middle Lane is a Dirt Road to Decay

Media critic Margaret Sullivan writes that The media feel safest in the middle lane. Just ask Jeff Flake, John Kasich and Howard Schultz:

One of the supposed golden rules of journalism goes like this: “If everybody’s mad at your coverage, you must be doing a good job.”

That’s ridiculous, of course, though it seems comforting. If everybody’s mad, it may just mean you’re getting everything wrong.

But it’s the kind of muddled thinking that feels right to media people who practice what I’ll call the middle-lane approach to journalism — the smarmy centrism that often benefits nobody, but promises that you won’t offend anyone.

Who is the media’s middle-lane approach actually good for?

Not the public, certainly, since readers and viewers would benefit from strong viewpoints across the full spectrum of political thought, not just minor variations of the same old stuff.

But it is great for politicians and pundits who bill themselves as centrists.

Yes, indeed.  The adult in the room, the triangulating schemer, the reptile whose body temperature requires a choice place in the sun: they all want to direct the debate positionally, situationally.

No, and no again: pick a few sound principles, and defend them against any and all.… Continue reading

Accreditation in Context

There is a liturgical tradition in which parishioners reflect on what they have done and what they have left undone.  A secular equivalent for Whitewater would ask a policymaker to consider not merely what has been done so many times before, but what might – and should have been – done, years ago and now.

So it is with police accreditation: that Whitewater sought this certification for many years is hardly to the city’s credit.  Indeed, one would expect that the city’s officials have the ability to manage these matters on their own with no announcements or awards for doing so.  See Accreditation: What Would Anyone Have Done Differently?

Following the preferences of Whitewater’s former chiefs isn’t a virtue – it’s closer to a resplendent error.  Longstanding practices of this kind will never substitute for genuine town-gown respect, or equality of treatment for all people within the city.

An out-of-town insurance agent‘s reassurances, specifically, amount to laughable hubris: an insurance company’s concerns about claims are neither a dispositive legal determination of liability nor a representation of residents’ experiences (as the insurance agent is not a resident).

Doubtless, there are some residents who will take comfort in accreditation.

And yet, and yet —  the indication of Whitewater’s better condition will not come when other cities look at her accreditation checklist – it will come when other cities look to her work in town-gown relations or relations among demographic groups.

What’s been done matters less than what’s been left undone.… Continue reading