Monday, June 25, 2018

Plains Pops: Some Quick Thoughts About The Week Of June 17-24, 2018

So I go to my final Speech and Debate Association National Tournament as a coach, but I don't bring my laptop and all sorts of stuff happens.  Here are some quick hits about news of the past week.

1. People scream at members of Trump's administration while they are dining out and a restaurant refuses to serve Sarah Sanders. Civility matters. Quite frankly, the restaurant should have comped the meal and written Romans 12:20-21 on the bill. The fact that the Christian cake baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple did not take that tack indicates a lack of Bible study or creativity.

I also would have made sure that Stephen Miller, who may or may not be a white supremacist, was able to dine without people yelling at him. I may have had every person of color working at the time spend a few minutes hovering over his table, in an effort to ensure good service of course. 

2. The United States Supreme Court decided in favor of South Dakota in South Dakota v. Wayfair. I don't know what long term effect the decision will have on small Etsy or Ebay sellers. I seriously doubt, however, that the decision is "a win for South Dakota and for Main Street businesses across America.
                             A quick look at my Amazon and other online orders reveals that most of what I buy isn't available at a local brick and mortar store. No one locally sells Chimes Ginger Chews, Daelman's stroopwafels, Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving cream, fountain pens, Kizer ZipSlip folding knives, LionSteel, folding knives, Anker charging cables, adapters to change a micro USB cable to a USB 3 cable, Koffee Kult coffee, Story Supply notebooks, good quality fat man clothes or the vast majority of products I buy online. 

Further, online retailers seem to offer a larger reduction on MSRP than brick and mortar stores even with sales tax added. In addition, let's assume that "main street businesses" in Sioux Falls carry these items, I'm driving at least 160 miles round trip, a cost that certainly makes Amazon and online businesses much cheaper. Further, travelling to Sioux Falls does not equate to  supporting local businesses. In short, paying online sales tax is not going to change my buying habits.

3. Quite frankly, I am not sure why this Tweet is not grounds for impeachment for anyone who has sworn to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." 

The Fifth Amendment is clear: "No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. . . ." The President apparently believes that a charge of being an undocumented person is enough to ensure guilt. Threats to due process anywhere are threats to due process everywhere. They certainly not provide evidence of upholding the oath of office.

By the way, history is replete with examples of the term "these people" expanding. Those at the border today will become another group tomorrow.

4. The United States needs to do better for children. Whether it's the abuses of slavery from the colonial period through the Civil War, the removal of Native American children from their families, the orphan trains of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the separate and unequal treatment during the Jim Crow era, or the separation of families at the border, we have not done enough to care properly for the poorest and neediest children.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

I Rise To The Bait And Respond To A Trump Tweet

I get it. The 45th President of the United States likes creating kerfuffles by tweeting things that outrage his opponents who then provide responses that give him fodder to use at his rallies. It's a tried and true propaganda technique. That said, this tweet goes too far even for the low standards the nation has set for Trump.

Let's leave aside for the moment that this deal is more vague and less enforceable than the one struck by the Clinton administration and that Trump himself began the war rhetoric with "fire and fury" tweets.

"Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!" is a direct assault on the First Amendment. Pointing out that something the President considers an accomplishment may indeed be flawed makes one the nation's "biggest enemy"? Bigger than Russia? China? Iran? By the way even if North Korea does give up its nuclear program, that doesn't mean it won't have offensive cyber warfare program and there are plenty of vulnerabilities.

We were given a republic and told it was our duty to keep it. Pointing out a leader's flaws is part of that duty and doesn't make one an "enemy."



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Minor Musing On Civility In The Public Square: Trump Opponents Have To Do Better

Larry Kudlow, one of Trump's economic advisers, suffered a mild heart attack last night. Many people took to Twitter to express sentiments like "Karma is a Bitch."  Kudlow is in public life, so people slamming him for saying that Justin Trudeau stabbed Trump in the back is part of the game. Wishing him continued ill health or celebrating his heart attack is not.

I gave up any minuscule hope that Trump sycophants would develop a sense of decency after reading about the "joke" that people were using a Bible verse to hope former President Obama's days would be short. However, I expect people with the wit to see through Trump's populist bull to have the decency to understand that becoming an ass just because one's political opponent is already an ass does nothing except double the population of asses in a world that's overpopulated with that species.

Part of defeating Trump and his populist cult is showing that there's a better alternative. Relishing the fact that a Trump adviser had a heart attack doesn't illustrate that alternative.

Herein endth the rant

Monday, June 11, 2018

What $130 Fountain Pens Reveals About The Trump Administration And Its Critics

Scott Pruitt took a lot of heat earlier this month when it was revealed he spent $3,230 on fountain pens and journals. The twelve pens cost $1560,  $130 each. The journals cost $1670. There are several reasons, however, that the cost of the fountain pens is not the problem.

First, no one seems to mention the journals. A YouTube prepper channel can sell customized journals made with Leuchtturm paper, an excellent paper by the way, for $19. Similar non-customized journals retail for $13. Pruitt likely wanted a larger journal to present to foreign dignitaries, but he should have been able to get them much cheaper.

Second, nearly every fountain pen geek will contend that a Pilot Metropolitan is one of the best starter pens for those first getting into fountain pens. That Japanese made pen retails for $18.50. Had Pruitt wanted to go with a luxury option, he could have purchased a German made Pelikan M805 that retails for $520.

Instead, Pruitt went with Cross, an American company that has made the pens used by Presidents since Gerald Ford. Therein lies the problem. Cross is nothing if not corporate. Granted there are not that many American fountain pen manufacturers, but two spring to mind that would have been far better choices than Cross.

One is the Edison Pen Company in Ohio. Brian Gray creates pens with unique filling mechanisms, but I'm sure he would have made one if his standard pens like the Edison Collier in a basic black for Pruitt. If Pruitt needs to go with a metal pen, he could have used Karas Pen Company. Their Ink fountain pen is an excellent example of American craftsmanship and engineering. That pen retails for $100.

Fountain pens are a luxury item. Governments use luxury items during every ceremonial occasion. One problem with Pruitt and the rest of the Trump administration is the hypocrisy. This is an administration that came to power because a lot of working people erroneously believed Trump would speak for them. Yet when given the choice his administration defends and empowers the corporation instead of the small business. As with their tariff policy, the Trump adminstration's purchases indicate that they don't care about the people who put them in power.

The fact that critics focus on the cost instead of the underlying hypocrisy is also alarming because ineffective criticism will lead to Trump's second term. Finally, because I can, here's Woody Gutherie's reminder that some will rob you with a fountain pen.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

If I Had A Sunday Morning Talk Show: Questions For South Dakota's Gubernatorial Candidates

Given the fact that I have a face best designed for radio and voice best suited for silent film, I am unlikely to get a Sunday morning talk show. My curiosity, however, does prompt the following questions that I hope the candidates will be asked.

First question: The Trump administration has asked a federal court to remove current protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Do you support the administration's effort? If so why? Please explain what protections you believe people should have.

Second question: The Trump administration has held office for 72 weeks. It has tried to roll out several "infrastructure weeks." Given the federal government may not be able to create an infrastructure plan and South Dakota's infrastructure earned a D+ in 2017, what can the South Dakota do to improve it's infrastructure without federal support?

Third question: Recent celebrity suicides have brought the issue to the forefront of the national discussion. "Suicide numbers in South Dakota have increased substantially in recent years. According to a recent report from the Centers For Disease Control, the state's suicide rates have increased 44.5 percent between 1999 and 2016. " What is your plan to help South Dakotans dealing with mental illness?

Fourth question: James Poulos, one of the nation's best young public intellectuals, has opined that the digital age accelerates public passions while predigital institutions have become too weak to react. What would you do to help South Dakota's public institutions be more responsive to the public demands created by the digital age?

Finally, former Indiana governor and current president of Purdue University, Mitch Daniels has said
Pollsters have even begun to use the term “hatred” to describe the degree of estrangement. They tell us that members of both tribes [those with a university education and the hopes of a good paying job and those without those advantages] tend to belong mostly because of their animosity to the other side. In almost reciprocal numbers, they describe the other side as “closed-minded,” “dishonest,” “unintelligent,” even “immoral.” As we trust each other less, trust in the institutions of our society has eroded in parallel. Almost no sector—government, business, the media, higher education —has escaped a steep drop in public confidence. Some constant vigilance and skepticism about centers of authority is a healthy, all-American instinct. 
But ultimately, to function effectively as a free and self-governing people, we must maintain some degree of faith that our institutions and those leading them have our best interests at heart, and are performing their duties with sincerity and integrity. And today, we plainly lack such faith.

South Dakotans are not immune the erosion of faith in our fellow citizens, leaders and institutions. What will you do as governor to begin the process of restoring that faith?

Scripture And Song For The Week: Matthew 14 Edition

22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

When Blog Comments Meet Hollywood

Over at Dakota Free Press, one Cory's one of his frequent interlocutors has taken to making numerous comments that follow the same theme.
It doesn’t matter. So long as the democrats align themselves with change the constitution, baby killing, open borders, islamist worshiping, MS-13 honoring, drug riddled, spies in the presidential election, raise the taxes, forced health insurance, IRS prosecuting conservatives and russian colluding left they do not have a chance.Listen to what I am telling you: . . . You are being ANTI-CULTURE against your neighbors who will not vote to destroy their way of life. . . .  . .” 
In another comment, he expresses the idea that women need protection because they are "venerable."
. . . They are animals and you know he was speaking specifically about the members of MS-13. . . . You don’t care . . .  any . . . woman nor do you care if they had any rights at all. It’s an act. I’ve seen it a thousand times. A male claims to support women’s rights. Acts as if he is in support of the feminist movement. Attends the rally, events and protests and then when the unsuspecting woman is venerable they strike. It’s been all over the news lately and in almost every case it is an ugly male, in poor physical condition, normally a loner. . . . 
It's probably just me, but these sorts of pronouncements always remind me of this speech from the Coen brother's classic O Brother Where Art Thou?. (If this doesn't post properly, the speech begins about 50 seconds in and ends at about 1:54)


Friday, June 8, 2018

A Musing About State Representative Michael Clark's Statements

State Representative Michael Clark brought some unwanted national attention to South Dakota this week when he opined on Facebook that businesses should be able to discriminate based on race.  To the best of my knowledge, I have never met Clark, so I have no basis to judge whether he is a racist or merely a person who refuses to think before he speaks. I know this is late, but a part of Clark's comment that got little attention stuck in my craw and I needed to think it through a bit.

Clark's racially charged comments overshadow a statement that revealed some deep cognitive dissonance inside the populist/Trumpist movement, a movement which mislabels itself as conservative.

Clark asserts, "The vote of the dollar is very strong." 

No one should dispute the dollar's power, but the statement contains many implications. In the context with the rest of his statements, one could take it to mean that businesses should discriminate against anyone they chose so long as the business makes a profit. In short, the public can legitimize racism, sexism or any form of otherization it chooses. This reading re-enforces the idea that Clark's comments reflect a deep racism.

The statement may also imply that good, hard-working decent folk will boycott businesses that unjustly discriminate based on race, creed, gender or sexual orientation. This reading implies that the United States has permanently rejected the hateful ideas that produced Jim Crow laws in a wide swath of the nation. This reading implies that human nature has somehow been altered since George Wallace said, "In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny . . . and I say . . . segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever." [ellipsis in original]

While the latter reading may be more generous, the belief that human nature has changed and people will suddenly cease supporting with their dollars and voices those who practice injustice is flawed.

The self-proclaimed social conservatives who make up the backbone of the current populist moment used to hold as an article of faith that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" It's unlikely that the "wicked" will use their dollars to fight injustice. If one wants a secular source, all one has to do is compare the statements made by characters in the Iliad and the entitled pronouncements from professional athletes or other celebrities. If one wants a bit of science, humanity makes up .01% of life on Earth but have destroyed 83% of mammalian life. No amount of dollars seem to change behavior.

In short, trusting the dollar to change human behavior is as foolish and dangerous as advocating legalized discrimination.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Today In The Culture Wars. . . .

Unfortunately, none of these is from The Onion.

This first one is rather long, so a key passage is included.

The Struggle Over Gamers Who Use Mods To Create Racist Alternate Histories

There’s a long history of racist mods for Paradox grand strategy games. Last year the company stomped out mods for its space sim Stellaris that removed people of color from the human factions and advertised itself with the proclamation, “No multiculturalism here!” There’s a mod for Hearts of Iron IV called “Aryan Goddess,” designed by the ethnonationalist Taylor Swift fan-site of the same name, which has since been purged from the internet. It makes Swift, in full Nazi regalia, the leader of the Third Reich and includes custom tech-tree options like “Bad Blood” and “1989,” both of which are adopted from her music. But perhaps the best and most prominent example is the Deus Vult mod, which, according to Steam, has been downloaded 9,210 times. 
Functionally, the mod offers a daffy, puerile interpretation of the 11th and 12th century crusades. One of the most powerful National Focus options in Deus Vult is called “Enslave Saracen.” (“Saracen” is a Medieval-era catch-all for Arabs and Muslims.) The description of the upgrade reads: “The purging of all infidels and saracens will take time, by enslaving them we will have a disposable workforce.” Functionally, it boosts your campaign’s construction speed, expediting your conquest of Jerusalem.
I don't believe the rest need explanation.

Brzezinski says Trump complains he can't watch porn in White House.


Let's Curb Some Enthusiasm

Cory Heidelberger has several qualities I lack, chief among them unflagging optimism. He is also indefatigable. That said, his post analyzing Billie Sutton's ability to blunt Kristi Noem's advantages in the general election is more than a little too sunny. It is my duty, as a curmudgeon with years of training, to rain on the picnic.

Cory writes that he "underestimate[s] how much charisma Congresswoman Kristi Noem projects." As a quick aside, I can't underestimate Noem's charisma because I don't see it. I don't know if there's a noun that sufficiently names how vapid and vacuous I believe her speeches, interviews, and policy pronouncements are. Cory's and my lack of appreciation of Noem's charisma doesn't matter. The fact is Republicans have adopted her as a "favorite daughter." Combine that with the fact that Republicans have 93,632 more South Dakota registrants than Democrats, and Sutton's cowboy hat styling and profiling come up a bit short.

More importantly, Congresswoman Noem has the an intangible that I could never coach my female debaters to develop: mean girl immunity. A few possessed that intangible naturally, but before every tough round, I would tell all of female debaters, "It's not fair, but society at large and most judges are going to view the guy as tough and the woman as a witch, so be nice." The negative ads in the recent primary once again illustrate Noem won't have to "campaign nice" in the fall. When Sutton responds, Republican voters will reflexively defend their "favorite daughter."

Finally, there's logistics. Noem has run numerous statewide races. Republicans have a plethora staffers with statewide experience. Sutton and the Democrats have a thin blue line.

I know that every human has feet of clay; I hope Sutton finds a way to discover and exploit Noem's weaknesses, but Sutton's task takes Sisyphean to a new level.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Surprising OnLine Poll: Thune Disapproval

Via this morning's Yankton Press & Dakotan, I stumbled upon this online poll: "Do you approve or disapprove of the overall job performance of Sen. John Thune?"

Let's get the caveats out of the way: it's not scientific; it's not accurate; it can change by the time I finish typing this post; Thune won't be a the ballot in November; he will win if he runs again because the Democrats won't field a candidate; children should eat vegetables and not smoke.

That said, it's refreshing that for a brief moment in time, the majority agrees with me that he's not doing a good job for South Dakota. By the way, I voted only once.

From 8:15 am 6/5/18
Click to enlarge

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Prediction, A Hope, And A Fear About Tomorrow's Primary

First, the prediction: Kristi Noem will defeat Marty Jackley to win the Republican nomination for governor.

Second, the hope: Dusty Johnson will win the nomination for the House of Representatives. The fact that Shantel Krebs and Neal Tapio both base their candidacies solely on the fact that they want to go to Washington to help Donald Trump is troubling. I can remember a time when Republicans were conservatives who believed that representatives went to Washington  to represent the people of their state not the leader of their political party.

Finally, the fear: the Marsy's Law "fix" will win. The merits of the amendment are dubious at best. However, having a so-called "victims bill of rights" that prevents victims from using the court system to insure those rights are protected is ludicrous.

Some Musings About 500 Days In Trumplandia

It's been 500 full days since Donald Trump became President. Here are my reflections

First, it has been a long 500 days. It doesn't matter if one views the man as an answer to prayer or a narcissistic two-year old trapped in a 70 year old's body, the noise coming from the oval office and the responses to that noise overpower everything else in the public square.

Second, and more importantly, it seems as if tribalism has become entrenched. Republicans seem happy.
Others, including me, are, to put it mildly, less sanguine.


Madison may have been wrong in Federalist 10 when he wrote,
The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.
As a quick aside, earlier in the essay, he correctly analyzed a problem that politicians today ignore.
But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. 
Third, I keep trying to find a literary comparison that fits Trump. The one I keep coming back to is Gessler, the sheriff who demanded all bow their heads to his cap which had been run up a flagpole. I think Trump would love everyone to bow his or her head to a MAGA cap.

Fourth, I'm reading more Jonah Goldberg, David French, and more NRO than I have in years. The strange bedfellows cliche is true in interesting political times.

Fifth, the white evangelical sellout has been stunning. Franklin Graham's and others' blind support comes dangerously close to deifying the man.

Sixth, the imperial presidency continues. Two headlines suffice to tell the story: Trump claims 'absolute right to PARDON myself' and Giuliani: Even if Trump had shot Comey he couldn't be prosecuted

Seventh, as I think about the Presidents who served during my lifetime, Trump has the moral failings of Clinton and Kennedy along with Nixon's paranoia. He lacks the dedication to service that Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush possessed. Further, he lacks Carter's decency, Reagan's optimism, George W. Bush's desire for compassion, and Obama's eloquence and calm.

Eighth, if I were a a betting man, I'd wager that Trump wins re-election, not because people love him, but because the opposition is divided and perhaps incompetent.

Finally, the problems will get worse because no one is talking about solutions. Instead, the response to any political or policy issue begins and ends with "What about Clinton?" or "What about Obama?" instead of asking "How can we fix it?"

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Scripture And Song For The Week: Galatians 5 Edition

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

When Bad Religion And Bad Politics Meet...

The result is--please forgive the trite phrasing--God Awful!

At about 48 seconds into the video below, Franklin Graham says, "Look for the candidates that best support Biblical principles. That doesn't mean the candidates necessarily live Biblical principles . . ."

Seriously? I must be reading the wrong Bible. For your edification, enrichment, and enjoyment, James 2: 14-26
4 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without [a]your works, and I will show you my faith by [b]my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is [c]dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made [d]perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was [e]accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.


A Minor Musing About The Last 3 Novels I Taught And Politics

In my excitement to discuss my new party affiliation, I forgot to mention that I have become a retiree. I may pick up a part-time job, but I am pretty sure I have corrected my last high school assignments.

As I was preparing notes about theme and characterization, it struck me how Wuthering Heights published in 1847, Things Fall Apart published in 1958, and All the Pretty Horses published in 1992 help explain the current zeitgeist. None of the musings made it into my lecture notes, but this is a blog not a classroom, so one can express musings that may not be classroom appropriate.

Heathcliff, the brooding protagonist, of Emily Bronte's novel, exclaims, "'I shall not stand to be laughed at. I shall not bear it!' By the novel's conclusion, Heathcliff has caused the death of Hindley, his adopted brother; ruined the life of Edgar, his rival; and indirectly murdered his son by denying him necessary medical care. At the conclusion of his life, Heathcliff says,
My old enemies have not beaten me; now would be the precise time to revenge myself on their representatives: I could do it; and none could hinder me. But where is the use? I don't care for striking: I can't take the trouble to raise my hand! That sounds as if I had been labouring the whole time only to exhibit a fine trait of magnanimity. It is far from being the case: I have lost the faculty of enjoying their destruction, and I am too idle to destroy for nothing.
Like Heathcliff the populists who fueled Trump's ascent seem motivated in part by the belief that "coastal elites" frequently disparaged them as denizens of "flyover country." In short, they don't want to be laughed at.

Further, they seem to view the other party as dangerous and a "threat." A 2016 poll found,
For the first time in surveys dating to 1992, majorities in both parties express not just unfavorable but very unfavorable views of the other party. Today, 58% of Republicans have a very unfavorable impression of the Democratic Party, up from 46% in 2014 and just 32% during the 2008 election year. Among Democrats, highly negative views of the GOP have followed a similar trajectory – from 37% in 2008 to 43% in 2014 and 55% currently. 
An overwhelming share of those who hold highly negative views of the opposing party say that its policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.” 
Currently, 45% of Republicans view the Democratic Party’s policies as a threat, up from 37% in Pew Research Center’s 2014 study of political polarization. The share of Democrats regarding GOP policies as a threat has risen 10 percentage points (41% now, 31% then).
In the current climate, there seem to be enemies aplenty and proposed policies are seen as efficacious if they produce "liberal tears." Had the Bernie Bros been successful, efficacy would likely have been measured in "conservative angst." More importantly, it's unclear if or when the angriest of the populists will lose "the faculty of enjoying . . .destruction" or if they are "too idle to destroy for nothing." If they are not, the 1960s may seem like a time of peace and tranquility.

Like Heathcliff, Okonkwo, the protagonist of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, had obsessions: Okonkwo's "life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and weakness." Okonkwo, therefore, "was ruled by one passion--to hate everything his father Unoka had loved. One of those things was gentleness . . ." In 1988, George H. W. Bush sought a "kinder and gentler nation." Given the current state of public discourse, we've lost a lot of ground in the past two decades.

Achebe took the novel's title from William Butler Yeats's poem "The Second Coming." The following lines from the poem need no explication.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
After having his innocence "drowned" in a series of violent picaresque adventures, John Grady Cole, the protagonist of Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses,  returns home and engages in this brief exchange with his friend Rawlins. Cole begins the conversation,
I think I'm goin to move on.
This is still good country.
Yeah. I know it is. But it ain't my country. . . .
Where is your country? he said
I don't know, said John Grady. I don't know where it is. I don't know what happens to country.
Like John Grady Cole, I don't know what "happens to country." I do worry that we are nearing the time when our country be a place where "[t]he best lack all conviction, while the worst [a]re full of passionate intensity." If that event takes place, this won't be anyone's country.


Friday, June 1, 2018

A Minor Musing About My Republicanism

Let's see if I remember how to do this; it has, after all, been a long time. In fact, it has been far too long to detail all of the reasons for my not posting content regularly, so I will just get on with some recent highlights.

I was the recipient of this tweet. Ok, it wasn't sent to me directly, but it does apply to me, so I thought I would share it.

That's right, I registered as a Republican. As a new registrant, it seemed prudent (Wasn't that a George H.W. Bush word? Look at me trying to fit in right from the start.) to learn what the party stands for, so I went straight for Sibby Online and South Dakota War College's comments sections.

Sibby's posts indicate that a new registrant who is resuming blogging after a long hiatus should put Cory Heidleberger's name in every post title and frequently use the suffix -ist and the prefix anti-. For example, one should refer to those who disagrees with one's views as an anti-American, Islamist, Marxist, anti-God, anti-Bill of Rights, leftist social justice warrior. The former tactic seems both redundant and desperate. Stylistically, I prefer to write with concrete nouns and action verbs, and the latter labeling seems modifier heavy.

Labels also seem to be large part of the DWC comments sections as well. Some label others as Republicans in Name Only (RINOs) or faux conservatives; however, it seems that DWC commentators label themselves: one is a true conservative, a constitutional conservative, a rock ribbed Republican, a social conservative, a fiscal conservative, a law and order Republican and the list goes on.

Because labels seem so central to Republicanism, I have decided to label myself. I believe I will be a Washingtonian Lincolnian Eisenhowerite, a WLE Republican.

My reading of republican political philosophy indicates that Republicans should support candidates who are of superior caliber. In fact, some Republicans indicate that the the American Republic was established to be presided over by men like George Washington of whom it was said, "Correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence, and virtue always felt his fostering hand; the purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues." (I'm still trying to discover how supporting a President who paid off a porn star to be silent about their ongoing affair supports this criterion, but I am sure further reading in the above sources will provide an explanation.)

In America's most divided moment Lincoln urged Americans to allow themselves to be " touched by the better angels of our nature." (There are a lot of tweets coming from the nation's top Republican that make wonder if the Lincoln still matters to Republicans, but they hold Lincoln Day dinners, so it must just be my inexperience with the party that causes this confusion.)

Eisenhower's farewell address warned:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. 
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Many Republicans now decry the "deep state." At first blush, the "military-industrial complex" and the "deep state" seem to be similar entities. However, it seems that many party members reflexively support generals like John Kelly or James Mattis and oppose diplomats with decades of experience who advocate "peaceful methods." This difference is a hydra-headed conundrum.

I'm sure I'll be able to sort out this puzzle by watching Fox News evening programming. Establishing that practice should help me develop into a "knowledgeable" citizen. Unfortunately, Tucker Carlson's smarmy condescension and Sean Hannity's braying bore me so that I'm no longer "alert."

Up until now, I have labeled myself as a farm boy trying to make his way in the world. It is a serviceable and accurate label. Labeling one's self as a Republican is much harder.