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Boosterism

Whitewater’s Local Government: Always Literally, Not as Often Seriously

It was the Trump apologist Salena Zito who, by way of defending Trump, suggested that his words should be taken ‘seriously, not literally.’ (She offered this defense in a deceitful effort to absolve Trump from the plain meaning of what he said, at any moment. Instead of considering his statements, one was supposed to take…

Social Capital and Hardship

What role does social capital play in a community’s health? Adam Gopnik, in The Paradoxical Role of Social Capital in the Coronavirus Pandemic, ponders whether there’s a relationship between communities with high social capital and a community’s public health. Gopnik uses a traditional definition of social capital as the “parts of society that, without being…

Built Against Substantive Change

Over time, no matter how small the city, national conditions and trends make their way to the edge of town. Some towns will address these conditions, but others will be resistant to substantive change. For those towns in the latter category, business as usual and rhetorical feints suffice in response to powerful forces to which…

Public Relations v. Journalism

Anyone familiar with a proper newspaper should be able to tell the difference between public relations and journalism: the former advances a corporate or government perspective, the latter reports and assesses that perspective. There are public relations outfits (often called media relations) in big and small communities, with this obvious difference: small communities have few…

The Lingering Problem of Local Exceptionalism

A common error in small rural communities is the persistent, false claim that local officials are examples of a local exceptionalism that makes them implicitly immune from the flaws and mistakes that beset the rest of humanity. Under this thinking, while there may be problems in the wider world, there are no local examples of…

Saving What’s Left of the Janesville Gazette

The nearby Janesville Gazette is ending its Saturday and Sunday print editions. See The Gazette to cease Saturday, Sunday print editions. The Saturday edition should have been canceled years ago; ending a Sunday edition, however, is a sign of a grave illness.  For any paper, even one treading water, the Sunday edition should be a mainstay.…

Boosterism, ’30s Style

Although the Roosevelt Administration was (whatever its other mistakes) candid about the economic conditions it faced, there was in the ’30s, as there has been over the 2010s in Wisconsin, a delusional impulse to happy talk – regardless of economic conditions – among some politicians and some business groups. Margaret Bourke-White‘s Kentucky Flood depicts the…

Local Voting & Voting Locally in Whitewater

The spring election, conducted during a pandemic, is now behind Wisconsin. There’s little question that statewide, it was a good night for Jill Karofsky and Lisa Neubauer. (I supported both candidates.) Whitewater – the city proper – also supported these candidates. A majority of the city’s voters did, in fact, prefer these voters even while…

An Empty-Headed Man’s Next Gig

Updated with a longer – and so more revealing – video of Kushner’s vapidity. When Jared Kushner is finished impairing America’s response to a pandemic, he’ll need something else to do. Wisconsin still has the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and in small Wisconsin towns like Whitewater one finds development hucksters, business leagues of landlords &…

A Newspaper’s Boosterism During a Pandemic

A worthy person – a man or woman committed to reason, honesty, and seriousness of purpose – would have little respect for the Janesville Gazette. This critical view is not a new one, truly: the paper’s work has been inferior during the Great Recession, during an opioid crisis, during cheerleading for countless state and local…

Local Public Policy as if Charitable Assistance

Whitewater’s policymakers, and those of other small, rural cities, should – in these times of economic stagnation, a lingering opioid crisis, failed business welfare, and an approaching recession – view their principal obligation as if it were charitable outreach. (It’s not charity, of course, but that’s how policymakers should view it: as both palliative and…

Declines, Recessions, and Rhetoric

While yesterday was a bad day for the financial markets, it’s the underlying – and troubling – fundamental condition of the economy that matters far more. Places like Whitewater, that adopted business special interests’ “if-you-build-it-they-will-come” approach despite increasing poverty and stagnation in household and individual incomes, are especially vulnerable to a downturn. Market Declines. Steven…