2020 Election, Idaho Politics, Trump

An Obligation of Office…

Idaho’s senior senator Mike Crapo did something unusual. His constituents should find it unsettling, even arrogant.

The Republican announced that he will seek a fifth term in the Senate by issuing a press release. No questions asked or answered, thank you very much.

Crapo, who calls himself an “unwavering conservative,” did serve up a little political red meat in his release – no substance, but plenty of fear. “The threats to our values, our way of life and our Constitution itself are intense, extremely well-funded and well-organized,” Crapo said.

I’d like to hear more but Crapo’s not taking questions.

Idaho Republican Mike Crapo.

There once was a tradition – perhaps more an obligation – that when candidates announced for high public office they would tour the state, making a series of appearances at airports or hotel ballrooms and engage journalists on why they were applying for a job. A big part of the deal was to answer questions, or at least act like you were doing so.

Like so many other things we can be bemoan as lost to a better past is the notion that a politician, particularly one asking to be re-elected, has an obligation to answer questions. Crapo, long ago more at home in Washington than in Weiser, doesn’t stoop to answering questions. I know this because I asked him, or more correctly asked his staff, a few questions via email.

The first was: “Do you believe Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 presidential election?”

I also asked: “Why have you not spoken out against the lies and misinformation that have been spread about that election? For example, on January 6 you made no statement at all about the events of a year ago, even while the former president was continuing to repeat lies about the election.”

I wanted to know how Crapo feels about the investigation underway into the events of January 6, 2021, so I asked: “Do you support the House investigation on the events of January 6, 2021?” And “why did you oppose an independent commission (to investigate the Capitol attack) when it was considered by the Senate?”

Knowing that Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican Party and shows every inclination to run for president again in 2024, I asked Crapo: “If Donald Trump were to run again for president in 2024 and win the Republican nomination, would you support him?”

Trump endorsed Crapo long before the senator announced his re-election last week, so I thought it would be interesting to know whether Crapo sought that endorsement and how it came about, so I asked.

Just before the Idaho governor proposed to increase funding for Idaho State Police protection of the State Capitol in Boise – 13 new positions at a cost of $2.8 million – presumably in anticipation of more violent stunts like the militant Ammon Bundy pulled off in 2020, I sought Crapo’s views about the danger of politically motivated violence.

Just to jog your memory, a police officer who testified at Bundy’s trial in 2021 said, “It was chaos,” with six State Police officers “pushed, shoved and battered” by a crowd of protesters. The day before Bundy was arrested, an angry mob stormed into the Idaho House gallery. A door was broken down. Bundy is, of course, seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Idaho.

So, I asked Crapo” “There is growing evidence that many Americans on the political right are willing to engage in violence in the interest of their political positions. Do you view this as a danger to democracy?”

And since the senator has been around for a long time, I posed this question: “Given Idaho’s long history of dealing with various hate groups, including the Aryan Nations, why have you not spoken out against this trend or condemned, for example, groups like The Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and the rightwing activist Ammon Bundy? There have been anti-Semitic attacks on, for example, the Anne Frank Memorial in Boise, but you have made no effort to condemn them. Why?”

At one level, I didn’t expect much from Crapo, the thirteenth most senior member of the Senate. He long ago became a get-along, go-along Republican in lock step with his party’s leadership, voting to convict Bill Clinton and let Trump skate, twice. Crapo rarely utters anything beyond the sterile talking points that GOP political consultants crank out for him.

But frankly I did expect an answer to the question about Biden being legitimately elected. South Dakota’s very conservative Senator Mike Rounds, for example, said recently when asked the same question I put to Crapo: “The election was fair, as fair as we have seen. We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency. And moving forward — and that’s the way we want to look at this — moving forward, we have to refocus once again on what it’s going to take to win the presidency.”

I thought a question about whether Crapo would support Trump – again – might get a “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it” type response. Or an invitation to zing Bundy or disavow the radical Proud Boys might actually present an opportunity for a career politician to show a bit of leadership, not to mention backbone.

By the way, I told Crapo’s staff I would publish any response in its entirety.

Here’s the totality of what I got in response to my questions:

“Marc, we have known and worked with you a long time in your various roles. But, these questions indicate a blatant partisan bias. Senator Crapo has repeatedly addressed these questions and people know how he feels about these issues. Moreover, to suggest Senator Crapo has not spoken out against acts of violence or hatred – political or otherwise – is categorically false. He won’t participate in such a thinly-veiled partisan effort intended to distract voters’ attention away from the national debacle unfolding at the hands of Biden/Schumer/Pelosi.”

I guess Crapo could have saved time by simply giving me a two-word answer.

In fact, most of his constituents don’t know where Crapo stands on a lot of these questions and many others, because silence on big issues is a political strategy in the modern GOP. Much safer to invoke a “national debacle.”

But you might ask why a guy who has been in Congress for 30 years won’t answer even a simple question, knowing his entire answer will see print, about whether the last election was honest. Why is a senator who has Trump’s endorsement unwilling to talk about it? And when given an opportunity to condemn political violence or anti-Semitism attacks the premise of the question.

What is Crapo afraid of? What should you be afraid of?

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Additional Reading:

Some other items for your consideration…

The Long-Term Care Challenge

My pal, Rob Saldin, a really talented scholar and political analyst, is out with a deep dive into the challenges of “long term care” – LTC. Rob teaches at the University of Montana and heads the Mansfield Center’s ethics and public policy programs at the university.

“LTC is expensive — so expensive that it can deplete a middle-class family’s lifetime of savings in a few short years. Notably, the term ‘middle class’ here includes a vast demographic range, from those just over the poverty line to those maintaining six-figure retirement accounts decades after they leave the workforce. To be sure, once individuals have burned through their assets to the point of impoverishment, Medicaid swoops in to pick up the tab. But this intervention only shifts the burden to state budgets, which crowds out other spending priorities.”

Here is a link to the piece in National Affairs.


‘Don’t Look Up’: Hollywood’s primer on climate denial illustrates 5 myths that fuel rejection of science

The cast of “Don’t Look Up…”

Perhaps you have seen the film. I enjoyed it, even as it’s a little over the top. Apparently, folks either love it or hate it. Here’s a good piece on how the film explores some myths about science denial.

“The movie is an allegory for climate change, showing how those with the power to do something about global warming willfully avoid taking action and how those with vested interests can mislead the public. But it also reflects science denial more broadly, including what the world has been seeing with COVID-19.”

Link to the piece in The Conversation.


The Last Time We Had an Insurrectionist President

He was the long forgotten John Tyler, who as a former president helped stoke Civil War. Goodness, history can enlighten.

“Whether and how Donald Trump thinks about his legacy is known only to him, but the rise and disgrace of John Tyler, the traitor-president, should serve as a warning about how insurrectionist presidents are remembered—in Tyler’s case, with disgrace at first, and then hardly at all.”

Here’s the story.


Many thanks, friends. Stay safe. Get your booster.

2020 Election, Insurrection, Trump

Who You Gonna Believe…

In the flood of end of 2021 public opinion polling – most of it dire as to the state and future of the country – it’s easy to fixate on the obvious. Lots of our fellow Americans have answered the classic Chico Marx question – “Who you gonna believe me or your own eyes” – by doubting their own eyes.

To cite just two examples in public opinion data assembled recently by Ipsos/NPR:

  • Twenty-two percent of Americans say there was major fraudulent voting in 2020, and it changed the results of the election. This number jumps to a 54% majority among those whose primary news source is Fox News or conservative news media, 52% of Trump voters, and 45% of all Republicans.
  • Nearly one in three Republicans who are regular political news consumers (30%) say the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol a year ago where five died and hundreds have been charged with various crimes was carried out by Antifa/government agents, compared to 7% of Democrats who follow political news closely.

To maintain these beliefs – a stolen election, a riot led by Antifa thugs rather than violent Trump followers – requires a willful disregard for what your eyes reveal.

What we all saw…

Time and again Donald Trump and his supporters were rebuffed in election challenges brought in federal and state courts. Often Trump appointed judges rejected specious claims of election fraud. Trump lost a case at the Supreme Court where he had appointed three justices. Lawyers representing the former president have been sanctioned and fined for frivolous use of the courts to advance lies about the presidential election.

The facts are crystal clear unless you willfully chose to ignore them.

As for that deadly attack on the Capitol a year ago this week, the first-hand accounts of the savagery and mayhem that have emerged over the last several months when laid alongside the pictures we all saw that day paint a shocking, ugly picture of a political movement resorting to violence in an effort to stop the certification of a fair election. Yet, lies that defy our own eyes have clearly gripped many Americans.

A reader took me to task recently saying, “So you buy into the conspiracy that bunch of unarmed not so bright folks who flooded into the capital, many in costume stole one lap top and left litter not destruction behind was some sort of an organized insurrection meant to over throw the government? Well if so it was the most feeble attempt ever seen in the history of the world.”

The comment, heartfelt I’m sure, is also complete and utter nonsense. I don’t know – no one does – what was in the hearts and minds of the attackers, organized or not, but it seems pretty clear they hoped to create enough ruckus to stop the counting of electoral votes, the only action Congress was engaged in. And for a while they did stop the counting, breaking down doors and windows, injuring 140 cops and taking over significant parts of the Capitol.

Trump clearly hoped to use the crowd to intimidate then-vice president Mike Pence – why else would the mob chant “hang Mike Pence” – to disallow votes from several states and thereby disrupt the Constitutional process to affirm the next president. In his warmup act before the attack, Trump mentioned Pence by name several times, including hoping that his own vice president wasn’t listening to “the RINOs and the stupid people that he’s listening to.”

To dismiss the historic and awful events of January 6 as a “feeble attempt,” or as one Republican lawmaker said, “a tourist visit,” is simply delusional, down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole stuff, but it’s where a lot of fellow Americans find themselves. It is where a representative democracy finds itself.

We must acknowledge there is no chance these folks will find the truth. They are, sadly, and tragically for the country, pathologically attached to lies that are daily disproved by their own eyes. To paraphrase Voltaire, these Americans have been fed a steady diet of absurdities and now embrace atrocities.

As the columnist Eugene Robinson asked recently: “How did we become, in such alarming measure, so dumb? Why is the news dominated by ridiculous controversies that should not be controversial at all? When did so many of our fellow citizens become full-blown nihilists who deny even the concept of objective reality? And how must this look to the rest of the world?”

Surely a partial answer to Robinson’s question is Donald Trump, who lied himself from Barack Obama’s birth certificate into the Oval Office, but Trump has had plenty of help in the dumbing down effort that has us awash in lies.  

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results by the U.S. Congress, in Washington, U.S, January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

Trump will never change. My critical reader will never change. But what about the vast sweep of the rest of the modern Republican Party? What of the once more-or-less levelheaded western conservatives? It’s a hard reality to swallow, but the actual survival of the kind of American democracy we once protected is increasingly up to them.

Forget about the Kevin McCarthy’s, the Ted Cruz’s and the striving clowns like Idaho’s Russ Fulcher or Washington’s Cathy McMorris-Rogers. They have made their bed on a hill of lies. They care about saving nothing but themselves.

There are some others out there who clearly know better and must in their hearts quake at the thought of what very clearly might have been, and what could be. What of Idaho’s Mike Simpson or former Oregon congressman Greg Walden? Are there not at least a few other conservative truth tellers to join Liz Cheney in the defense of democracy?

It’s worth remembering what Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said immediately after January 6 last year.

“The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Sadly, many politicians sometimes make overheated comments or use metaphors that unhinged listeners might take literally. This was different. This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”

This year McConnell said nothing about Trump, but attacked Democrats.

Make no mistake democracy’s enemies are on the move. They have momentum unincumbered by truth. Before January 6, such an atrocity was unthinkable. A year later, believing it can’t happen again – and succeed next time – is as delusional as the lies that got us to this point.

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Additional Reading:

A few other items you may find of interest..

Rebecca Solnit: When the President of Mediocrity Incites an Insurrection

A piece from a year ago that is worth revisiting.

“The epithet ‘God give me the confidence of a mediocre white man’ has mostly been used for milder circumstances, but the confidence—in their own rightness as they assaulted the symbolic center of the elected government as that government was engaged in the solemn process of confirming the choice of the voters—was stunning. Of course if there was no electoral college—an institution created to amplify the white men who enslaved Black people, Trump would never have become president in 2016, and in 2020, the Biden victory would have been affirmed and unshakeable months ago, but one of the rites of the creaky old process designed for an 18th-century 13-state nation exist was underway when the invasion transpired. You could argue that it’s because Trump won the presidency while losing by three million votes last time that he felt entitled to keep it after losing by seven million votes.”

Always read Rebecca Solnit:


The Plot Against American Democracy That Isn’t Taught in Schools

A great piece here from Rolling Stone.


Wayne Thiebaud, Playful Painter of the Everyday, Dies at 101

Pancake Breakfast by Wayne Thiebaud

“In person he was a classic of the old American West, a slender man of Gary Cooperish charm and dry humor — soft-spoken, modest, layered, self-assured. Often bathed in Pacific sunshine, Mr. Thiebaud’s art looked at first flush radiant and plain as day. But on closer inspection, his pictures of idealized pies, spaghetti entanglements of highways and gumball machines rimmed in blue halos required unpacking. A rustling of unexpected sadness occasionally crept into the paintings after that initial leaping rush of joy — an unsentimental nostalgia for a bygone era or some long lost love.”

A classic New York Times obit of the painter.


Thanks for reading. Stay safe. All the best.

Conservation, GOP, Pandemic

Same Song, Second Verse…

Forty-eight years ago this week Republican president Richard Nixon signed into law the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a landmark piece of legislation that, as Nixon said, gave our government tools to protect “the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed.”

This most unlikely environmental president, a guy who walked the beach in wing tips, proclaimed the protection of nature “a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.”

Nixon on the beach in wing tips

The ESA was largely written by scientists, passed Congress with huge bipartisan majorities, and while it became a controversial law, nearly constantly under attack from the political right, it has worked to preserve many species. I regularly, and happily, watch a healthy population of bald eagles soar past my living room window.

The Endangered Species Act is as good a jumping off point as any to assess the state of the county, particularly the widespread rejection of science and how we have come to politicize absolutely everything. We have gone from a broad consensus about the role of science in public policy to some people attacking health care workers and burning face masks to demonstrate their “freedom.”

Just one example makes the case for the incoherence of the moment. Five Republican dominated states – Arkansas, Iowa, Florida, Tennessee and Kansas – have decided to provide unemployment benefits to workers who have lost jobs for refusing to get a free and very effective vaccine against a disease that in two years has killed nearly 820,000 Americans. Talk about perverted science. We are incentivizing people to get sick, and in many cases die.

And the stories continue to accumulate of people who refused a life-saving medicine believing the disease would never catch them, but then did.

For 75 years or so, the conservative movement in America held at bay its most reactionary, violent and conspiracy addled adherents. Beginning with the witch hunting demagogue Joseph McCarthy, the Republican Party flirted with, embraced but ultimately rejected the dividers and the poison spreaders.

William F. Buckley, once regarded as the intellectual godfather of modern conservatism, read the John Birch Society out of the Republican Party in the 1960’s, but the conspiracy crowd never went away. Goldwater lost in a historic landslide, but remains the godfather of the modern GOP.

Now the crowd that would have supported him in the 1960’s is in control, and armed, full of grievance and wallowing in a pond of scummy nonsense.

No state has ridden this wave more shockingly than Idaho. The state has always been a conservative bastion, only infrequently trusting a Democrat with high office. An argument can be made that the seeds of the state’s current hard right lurch were sown in 1964 when Idaho Republicans largely rejected the moderate leadership of then-governor Robert Smylie. Two strands of Idaho Republican politics – conservative and utterly reactionary – have been at war ever since.

Smylie became the target of the hard right when he less than enthusiastically supported Barry Goldwater’s presidential aspirations in 1964. As a governor and former attorney general, Smylie was well known and widely respected nationally and in the West. He was considered, as one regional columnist put it, “one of the shrewdest politicians the GOP has.” Smylie was regularly mentioned as a legitimate vice-presidential candidate or as a cabinet secretary in a Republican administration.

But Goldwaterites took over the party in 1964 and Smylie lost in a Republican primary two years later to one of the most conservative, and as it turned out least capable, candidates to ever reach the governor’s office. After Don Samuelson flamed out doing what the hard right wanted him to do – nothing really – Democrats held the governor’s office for a quarter century. The reactionaries retreated but never went away.

Headline in the Boise Capital Journal after Republican Governor Bob Smylie lost a primary in 1966

In a way, political history is repeating, but this time it’s worse. Many elected Idaho Republicans have embraced an anti-science, anti-public health and anti-education agenda more radical than anything in the 1960’s. More traditional conservatives like a former attorney general, secretary of state and house speaker have been forced to undertake independent efforts to “take back” the state from the modern heirs of earlier Birch Society crackpots.

Meanwhile, a supporter of radical militias and opponent of public education challenges the incumbent governor who has been pushed nearly as far to the right as Samuelson was sixty years ago.

Idaho’s federal delegation, rarely willing to stand against the intolerance and negativity of the most reactionary elements in the Republican Party, has predictably stood idly by while the state’s politics have been polluted and radicalized. The “big lie” about the presidential election has metastasized without so much as a Tweet of opposition from this group of career politicians. They remain more concerned about re-election than the threats of violence that grow louder by the day.

Political courage in the elected ranks of the Republican Party is as endangered as the species that Richard Nixon sought to protect nearly 50 years ago. There is no Bob Smylie, who battled the reactionaries of his day, and few examples to rival that of then-Oregon governor Mark Hatfield who used the big stage of the keynote speech at the Republican convention in 1964 to denounce embittered conservatives.

“There are bigots in this nation,” Hatfield said in 1964, “who spew forth their venom of hate.” He called them out by name – the Birch Society, the Klan and Communist groups. Hatfield, a deeply religious man, was denounced, as the New York Times reported, as “a demagogue and hate monger” who was “anti-Christian.” One critic asked of Hatfield, perfectly in tune with the current moment, “is there no one with courage to make a speech to say ‘I am for white folks?’”

There was a time not that long ago when Idaho Republican leaders tried to foster a broad consensus approach to the state’s governance. Then-governor Dirk Kempthorne, for example, recognized the danger of the state’s shockingly low vaccination rates for school aged children in 1999 and launched a high-profile initiative to educate parents. Do nothing Republican legislators carved up the plan to the point it eventually collapsed into ineffectiveness. Idaho’s vaccination rates remained dismal, and over time resistance turned to denial and then death. Not surprisingly the state’s vaccination rates are the worst in the country.

Twin Falls, Idaho Times-News in 2000

This is not just a failure of politics, but a repudiation of the very concept of government acting in the best interest of the most people. 

In a democratic system the sole reason for political parties to exist is to create a forum for competing policy ideas – ideas based on truth, reason and attainable action that can address real issues. We now have one party unwilling – or unable – to engage rationally on real issues.

So sadly, we leave 2021 where we began this dismal year with American democracy in profound peril. It almost makes you long for the 1960’s.

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Additional Reading:

A few other items for your New Year weekend consideration…

Harry Reid, former Senate majority leader and Democratic kingmaker, dies at 82

Whatever you think of his politics or his approach to legislating, Harry Reid was a figure of monumental importance to modern American politics. His death has occasioned many thoughtful obituaries, none more insightful that this from Megan Messerly in the Nevada Independent.

“Over more than three decades of service in Congress, Reid earned a reputation for fighting relentlessly to protect his home state and everyday Americans. As Senate Democratic leader for a dozen years, he played an instrumental role in passing the Affordable Care Act and shepherding through Congress pivotal economic recovery legislation in the wake of the Great Recession.”

Here is the link to the Independent story with lots of good stuff about Reid’s rather remarkable life.

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid holds an undated photo of him with former Nevada Gov. Mike O’Callahan in his office at Bellagio on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. (Jeff Scheid-Nevada Independent)

Other Reid stories here from my pal Bob Mann.

And this from journalist Zachery D. Carter.


What college football’s past 20 years can teach us about America

Regular readers know I have my issues with college football – too much money, clear evidence of much physical and mental damage to players, too little accountability and much too little to do with higher education.

And, of course, I’ve checked in on a few end of year games. Still, college football is a mess.

“Many college football fans have chosen to just not think about the mounting evidence that the game they love can cause CTE for its players. Such denial not only allows continued enthusiasm for college football but also shapes Americans’ decisions to let their kids play the sport. In 2017, for example, The Wall Street Journal reported that in football-crazy Alabama, the participation rate in high school football had increased by an astounding 40 percent in the previous 10 years, the very same period in which scientists definitively established the football-CTE connection.”

Thoughtful piece here that won’t likely make you feel better about the sport.


Notable People Who Left Us in 2021

A fascinating life story of architect Richard Rogers from The Guardian.

“He was author of the groundbreaking Lloyd’s building in the City of London and the Pompidou Centre in Paris, but his impact was manifest less in his own buildings than in his influence on public policy, which saw a fundamental shift in the perception of inner cities away from being something to endure or escape, to being something desirable to enjoy.”

And Charlie Sykes has a look back at the man who perhaps more than any other remade the modern conservative movement – Rush Limbaugh.

“In the Age of Trump, Limbaugh might not have been the most important figure, but he was a central player in the devolution of the conservative mind.”

Understanding Limbaugh helps explain a whole lot.


People gave up on flu pandemic measures a century ago when they tired of them – and paid a price

You are probably as tired as I am of the pandemic – and reading about it – but this piece is very good. Ironic that many of the people who worry about how history is taught are the biggest spreaders of misinformation about Covid.

History matters.

“If we have anything to learn from the history of the 1918 influenza pandemic, as well as our experience thus far with COVID-19, however, it is that a premature return to pre-pandemic life risks more cases and more deaths.”

Link here to the article by medical historian J. Alexander Navarro.


That’s all I got for you. Except – to a happier New Year. All the best.

Christmas

All the Shining Gifts…

The satirical website The Onion recently featured this in one of its “fake” news bulletins: “White House Warns Supply Chain Shortages Could Lead Americans to Discover True Meaning of Christmas.”

What a concept.

Around all the phony talk about “a war on Christmas” and given the excesses of the online buying orgy that is “Black Friday,” it does us well to pause, reflect and remember what we celebrate just as winter begins and we creep toward a New Year.

I usually try to find time around Christmas to re-read some favorite things and re-watch some favorite movies. It helps to make the season bright.

I’ll read again the Christmas scene in Willa Cather’s remarkable Death Comes for the Archbishop, a book that creates “a luminous calm” as we enter the life of a priest struggling to bring the religion of the old world to a new world.

Bishop Latour comes to his dining room for his Christmas dinner and after a prayer joins Father Joseph for the first course, “a dark onion soup with croutons.” The bishop tastes, “critically,” Cather says, and then smiles at his companion. The soup is wonderful. The moment is blissful. The companionship sublime.

“When one thinks of it,” the bishop says, “a soup like this in not the work of one man. It is the result of a constantly refined tradition. There are nearly a thousand years of history in this soup.”

What a wonderful way to think about what will grace your table this Christmas.

Speaking of bishops, I will watch – we always watch – the 1947 film The Bishop’s Wife, a wonderful little movie that features Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young. The bishop’s Christmas sermon will make you forget any supply chain issues.

Loretta Young and Cary Grant in the best Christmas movie you may never have seen

I’ll find the time to read again – I always do – James Joyce’s The Dead, not strictly speaking a Christmas story, but a perfect little tale set at the feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the evidence of Christ’s divinity to the Magi. Joyce’s novella is, of course, loaded with characters and images and meaning not the least being the exploration of the divide we all face between life and death.

Better it is, Joyce tells us, to “pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

I’ll spend some holiday time remembering, like Dickens, my Christmas past. I have an enduring memory of an uncle of mine – my mother’s brother – being the first person I ever knew who had an artificial Christmas tree. My mother was too proper to say so, and I know these fake trees are now all the rage with millennials, but she was appalled by that tree. Me, too. Still am.

Yup. That’s it…

Mom was so passionate about the perfect “real” tree that she would, if necessary, make her tree just right by carefully grafting a spare branch into a bare spot on the tree, tying the evergreen with black thread to hold it in place.

I can still see my dad at the Christmas tree lot holding the eighth or fifteenth or thirtieth candidate tree for mom’s inspection. That one is too bare on the left. This one too tall. That one too squat. Ah, that might do.

That cheesy, silver tree of my uncle’s came in a box. You snapped it together limb-by-limb and then illuminated it with a groaning rotating light that changed color. It was hideous, which makes the memory of my mother stringing lights, placing ornaments and hanging tinsel all the richer.

Family legend held that we developed the tradition of exchanging presents on Christmas Eve the year after my older brother woke up the household at 4:00 am on Christmas morning tearing into his gifts. As my brother and I grew older the Santa Claus visitation was always arranged while dad took us to “run an errand” or look at Christmas lights in the neighborhood.

Like a visit from Marley’s ghost, I can clearly see the living room, mom’s tree, my Christmas stocking and my brother’s and the little Christmas figures she would haul out every year.

In so many ways for so many people it has been another brutal year – a pandemic that will not end, a political system riven with senseless partisanship, a lack of good faith everywhere you turn. The notion of the greater good, the common interest, a commitment to others before self seems as dead as Scrooge’s old business partner Jacob Marley. 

I like the Dickens Christmas sentiment best of all. In the great scene in A Christmas Carol where Scrooge encounters the ghost of his former business partner, he tells the ghost that he had once been a great businessman. Marley’s disagreeing response is, in many ways, the essence of the story, the essence of Christmas.

“Mankind was my business,” Marley says. “The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Let all of us this Christmas make humankind our business. It is, after all, the birthday of the prince of peace we celebrate. Supply chains and tinsel should not get in the way of that.

What would He wish for? Not division, not strife or hunger or intolerance or unkindness. He would celebrate life and love and ask that we remember – and live accordingly – able to embrace the little things that make a fleeting life larger and better.

“All the shinning gifts,” as David Niven’s Bishop Brougham says, “that make peace on earth.”

Here’s to all those memories and to a better tomorrow. Happy Christmas.

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Additional Reads:

A few other items of interest…

America is now in fascism’s legal phase

This piece is, admittedly, pretty hard going for Christmas, but it is very important.

Jason Stanley is the Jacob Urowsky professor of philosophy at Yale University. He is the author of How Fascism Works.

“Often, those who employ fascist tactics do so cynically – they do not really believe the enemies they target are so malign, or so powerful, as their rhetoric suggests. Nevertheless, there comes a tipping point, where rhetoric becomes policy. Donald Trump and the party that is now in thrall to him have long been exploiting fascist propaganda. They are now inscribing it into fascist policy.”

The warning signs are all around us. Link here to Professor Stanley’s piece in The Guardian.

And…this is highly recommended. The clear and present danger of Trump’s enduring “Big Lie,” a superb piece of reporting by Melissa Block on National Public Radio.


Jane Smiley on Her Writing Process, Beloved Pets, and Writing in Paris

Something a bit lighter here.

Jane Smiley is a novelist and essayist. Her novel A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992, and her novel The All True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton won the 1999 Spur Award for Best Novel of the West. She has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1987. Her novel Horse Heaven was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2002, and her latest novel, Private Life, was chosen as one of the best books of 2010 by The AtlanticThe New Yorker, and The Washington Post.

Link to the podcast interview.


The Most Scathing Book Reviews of 2021

“Among the titles being cast into the maw of the volcano this year: Blake Bailey’s oozing hagiography of Philip Roth, Mitch Albom’s latest cavity-inducing parable, Andrew Sullivan’s overfull toilet of essays, and Malcolm Gladwell’s smug apologia for American butchery.”

The most brilliantly bilious book reviews of the year.


Enjoy the holiday weekend. Stay safe. Get your booster. Thanks for reading.

Insurrection, Trump, Watergate

What Did They Know and When Did They Know It…

It was the summer of 1973.  Congress was struggling, amid tense and often angry partisanship, to understand who was really responsible for the break in a year earlier at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C.

The story – quickly dubbed Watergate – unfolded over a period of many months, with details large and small emerging in news reports and, we now know, by leaks from a top official at the FBI, among others. Watergate would emerge as an example of massive political corruption – one of the great scandals in American history.

In those days the United States Senate was led by a flinty Montanan, a former Butte copper miner who became a university history professor and eventually majority leader.

Mike Mansfield was a Senate “institutionalist,” meaning he literally dedicated his 24-year career to elevating the institution he led, and he was always protecting the Senate’s prerogatives and reputation.

When it became impossible to avoid questions of whether Watergate’s crimes reached the White House and were perhaps being covered up by officials in the government, Mansfield acted in the interest of the Senate and the nation.

He went to Republican leader Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania and proposed a select committee to investigate. Scott agreed. Then Mansfield made one of the most consequential decisions of his consequential career – he selected a drawling, elderly North Carolina constitutional lawyer by the name of Sam Ervin to chair the committee.

Ultimately, the Senate vote to create the committee was unanimous, but only after Republicans tried to get a committee divided equally among GOP members and Democrats – Democrats held a healthy majority in the Senate at the time. Florida Republican Edward Gurney – shades of current Republican congressional tactics – attempted unsuccessfully to broaden the investigation to include the 1964 and 1968 presidential campaigns. The focus would be Watergate.

February 8, 1973 – Billings Gazette

Ervin was no one’s idea of telegenic. His fleshy face sported big jowls and a double chin. His white hair was often untamed. His black horned rim glasses perched uneasily on a big nose. Ervin was a throwback, a conservative southern Democrat and dead-end segregationist suspicious of too much government and too much racial equality.

But Ervin also revered the Senate and the Constitution, particularly that concept that no one is above the law. Importantly for Mansfield, Ervin was in his last term. He wasn’t running for anything.

Mansfield surrounded ol’ Sam with what appeared to many at the time to be a lackluster group of Senate second-stringers, but they had been selected with purpose. None had national political ambitions that might get in the way of a serious investigation of serious crimes.

Ervin’s investigation became critical to unraveling Watergate and forcing a presidential resignation.

From left to right – Senators Baker and Irvin, Majority Council Sam Dash, Senator Herman E Talmadge of Georgia and Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii

Republicans, meanwhile, selected a handsome, articulate senator from Tennessee by name of Howard Baker to co-chair the Watergate committee. Baker was the son-in-law of the legendary Senate Republican leader, Everett Dirksen, who had operated in a highly cooperative, bipartisan way with Senate Democrats, especially Mansfield.

Still, it was widely expected that Baker would be a loyal defender of President Richard Nixon, whose role in Watergate was always at the center of the investigation. And for a long time Baker was a defender. And then he wasn’t.

On June 29, 1973, Baker asked a simple question of former White House counsel John Dean that came to define Baker’s Senate career. Dean had been fired by Nixon and was now cooperating with the Senate committee.

“My primary thesis is still,” Baker asked, “what did the president know, and when did he know it?”

Baker posed the question believing he was helping Nixon, who had repeatedly denied knowledge of the Watergate break in or any effort to cover it up. He was hoping the question would exonerate Nixon, or at least make the issue one of Nixon’s word against Dean’s.

But Baker did not yet know there were tapes – many tapes – of Nixon’s conversations with White House aides orchestrating the cover up, including trying to get the CIA involved.

All this history is worth remembering in light of the increasingly apparent role of the former president in stimulating many of his followers to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6. No Watergate analogy is perfect, but Donald Trump clearly egged on the attackers, delayed responding to the chaos aimed at Congress and his own vice president, and is now attempting to use every avenue to prevent the fully story from coming out. It’s very Nixon-like.

Text messages released this week to former Trump chief of Staff Mark Meadows – a 21st Century variation of sorts on Nixon’s White House taping system – seem to show that the former president was very involved in events leading up to and including January 6.

Trump’s own son begged Meadows to get the president to do something to stop the attack. “He’s got to condemn this s@#t ASAP,” Don, Jr. messaged.

The turd polishers at Fox News even weighed in imploring action from Trump to stop the carnage. Meadows knows all this. He also knows what Trump said and did. It’s why his contempt of Congress is so important.

One text to Meadows really stands out: a House Republican messaged him, even before several states had finalized vote counting, that Republican legislatures in Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania ought just ignore the voters and name their own slate of Trump electors.

This was an early example of the political weaponizing of the “big lie” that the election was stolen. January 6 was a follow on.

Here’s a way to think about updating Howard Baker’s classic question: not only what did Trump know and when, but what did your member of Congress know and when?

It’s clear some members of Congress were communicating with the organizers of the attack and with the White House. What did they know and when? We deserve to know. If there is nothing nefarious about the actions of members of Congress who swore an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution then so be it, but we need to know.

Most House Republicans, including every member from the West with the exception of Liz Cheney of Wyoming has tried to hamper the January 6th investigation, labeling it “partisan,” and voting to let Meadows and others get away with stiffing Congress. But all that is a smoke screen.

Congress has every right – indeed an obligation – to investigate such fundamental and dangerous abuses.

Congressional power to investigate and hold accountable the executive branch was established as long ago as 1792 and has continued through the Civil War, the sinking of the Titanic, war profiteering during World War II, Watergate and Benghazi.

By undermining the ongoing investigation of January 6, Republicans may be protecting themselves from the wrath of Donald Trump and his most fevered supporters, but they are putting partisanship ahead of American democracy. We need to know what all of them knew and when they knew it.

Meanwhile, it seems worth noting that a detailed Associated Press survey of every single claim of voter fraud in six contested states found fewer than 475 questionable votes out of millions cast. “The findings build on a mountain of other evidence,” the AP report said, “that the election wasn’t rigged, including verification of the results by Republican governors.”

Yet, the lies continue. Holding to account those involved on January 6 has truly become the urgent necessity of democracy.

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Additional Readings:

A few other suggestions that I think will be worth your time…

Nicholas Kristof Wants to Be a Governor. Why Won’t He Talk to National Media?

Actually, I think it’s pretty smart of the former New York Times columnist turned Oregon gubernatorial candidate not to spend any time worrying about national media. He should be talking to the Eugene Register-Guard and the Ontario Observer. Still, this piece does pose some important questions.

Nick Kristof: journalist turns politician

Garret Epps, writing in Washington Monthly, used Kristof’s book – Tightrope – as a takeoff point for his questions.

Tightrope is a terrific book, regardless of what one thinks of Kristof’s proposed policy responses, which include improved early childhood programs, universal high-school graduation, elimination of unwanted pregnancies, a monthly child allowance for families, programs to wipe out child homelessness, and a ‘baby bond’ given to each child at birth to generate wealth as kids grow up, and programs to guarantee a job for any American who wants one.”

Here a link to the full story with some historical context on whether journalists get very far in politics.

Spoiler: It’s rare, but Oregon has some history.


How a Kennedy Became an Anti-Vax Juggernaut

I confess I’ll never understand the anti-vax attitude. It boggles my mind. And there is this.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. strode onto the stage at a Southern California church, radiating Kennedy confidence and surveying the standing ovation crowd with his piercing blue Bobby Kennedy eyes. Then, he launched into an anti-vaccine rant. Democrats ‘drank the Kool-Aid,’ he told people assembled for a far right conference, branded as standing for ‘health and freedom.'”

Here’s the link:


When Radio Stations Stopped a Public Figure From Spreading Dangerous Lies

I have been listening to a terrific podcast called Radioactive. It’s produced by Tablet magazine and focuses on the rise and eventual demise of the 1930’s Catholic priest and radio personality Father Charles Coughlin.

The Royal Oak, Michigan radio priest who pioneered hate on the airwaves

Coughlin was a fascinating and dangerous character. Read this and then listen to the podcast.

“Coughlin’s Detroit ministry had grown up with radio, and, as his sermons grew more political, he began calling President Franklin D. Roosevelt a liar, a betrayer and a double-crosser. His fierce rhetoric fueled rallies and letter-writing campaigns for a dozen right-wing causes, from banking policy to opposing Russian communism. At the height of his popularity, an estimated 30 million Americans listened to his Sunday sermons.’

From Smithsonian magazine:


Bros., Lecce: We Eat at The Worst Michelin Starred Restaurant, Ever

Finally, the viral story of the week – or perhaps the year. An absolutely hilarious and bitter review of a Michelin star restaurant in Italy.

“We headed to the restaurant with high hopes – eight of us in total, led into a cement cell of a room, Drake pumping through invisible speakers. It was sweltering hot, and no other customers were present. The décor had the of chicness of an underground bunker where one would expect to be interrogated for the disappearance of an ambassador’s child.”

It gets better. Here is the review:

And here’s the Washington Post on how the review went bonkers viral.


As always…have a good weekend. Be safe. Get the booster.

GOP, Politics

Bob Dole Is Not Amused…

It seems fitting, in a perverse way, given the abysmal state of American conservatism, that much of this week has been given over to bipartisan tributes to a politician who was one of the last remaining links to a Republican Party not in thrall to conspiracy, crackpot science ideas and grifting con men.

Kansas senator and Republican candidate for both vice president and president Bob Dole, who died recently at age 98, was about as removed from the current crop of do-nothing, stand for nothing GOP senators as it is possible to imagine.

As Bob Dole might have said, “Bob Dole doesn’t understand this craziness.”

Dole: A Different Kind of Republican…

The Kansas politicians was many, many things: a legit war hero who lost the use of his right arm to fascist bullets in Italy but whose party now thinks nothing of a bunch of Neo-Nazis marching brown shirt style in Charlottesville; a bipartisan deal maker whose party now wants to shut down the government over efforts to control the worst pandemic since Kaiser Wilhelm; a guy with a sense of humor in contrast to a party totally lacking in self-awareness, not to mention soul.

Dole was a hard-core Republican, but I find no record of him dismissing Democrats as “communists.”

In truth, Bob Dole was a serious guy. Remembering his career underscores how incredibly unserious one political party – his party – has become.

Dole’s legislative record puts to shame virtually every sitting United States senator. He will forever be remembered for his role in creating the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law written by a disabled guy who had to teach himself to write with his left hand. Dole worked with liberal Democrats Tom Harkin and Ted Kennedy to get it passed.

Dole could be a rough, even nasty partisan. He once called Jimmy Carter a “Southern-fried McGovern,” but still worked with liberal George McGovern to establish food security programs like food stamps and school lunches. Dole voted for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

This was once what serious political leaders did – they worked to address serious national problems. Today’s Republican Party, devoid of true conservative principles, is a nativist cesspool of disinformation, culture war nonsense and performative grievance.

Consider in the days since Dole died:

  • A former Republican congressman and White House chief of staff – Mark Meadows – has defied a congressional subpoena compelling him to tell what he knows about the events surrounding the January 6 attack on the Capitol by Donald Trump supporters. The same day Meadows reversed course on the summons – he originally said he would comply – he went on Fox News to downplay the assault. This Republican won’t respect a lawful demand from the branch of government he once served but will happily talk nonsense to Sean Hannity.
  • While the president was engaged in diplomacy at the highest level with Vladimir Putin, a Republican senator – Roger Wicker of Mississippi – actually suggested the United States lob missiles at Russian military bases, volunteered that American troops might “be on the ground” in Ukraine and that the U.S. might engage in a nuclear first strike on Russia. Wicker’s reckless, warmongering loose talk is a glaring example of the arrogance, ignorance and lack of seriousness on the American right.
  • And in Wisconsin, a Republican former judge investigating phony allegations of vote fraud has threatened to jail the mayors of Madison and Green Bay over their responses to his hyperventilating nutjobbery. Meanwhile, an independent conservative group has again confirmed there was no vote fraud in Wisconsin in the last election.

One could go on at length but suffice to say this is not Bob Dole’s Republican Party. Dole acknowledged as much in a final piece written earlier this year and by his agreement released after his death.

“There has been a lot of talk about what it will take to heal our country,” Dole wrote in the Washington Post. “We have heard many of our leaders profess ‘bipartisanship.’ But we must remember that bipartisanship is the minimum we should expect from ourselves.

“America has never achieved greatness when Republicans and Democrats simply manage to work together or tolerate each other. We have overcome our biggest challenges only when we focused on our shared values and experiences. These common ties form much stronger bonds than political parties.”

What Republican today thinks like that, much less behaves like that?

“When we prioritize principles over party and humanity over personal legacy, we accomplish far more as a nation,” Dole said in his last op-ed. “By leading with a shared faith in each other, we become America at its best: a beacon of hope, a source of comfort in crisis, a shield against those who threaten freedom.” Dole wasn’t describing the Republican Party.

A top aide to retiring Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman has succinctly described the GOP approach to politics. “If you want to spend all your time going on Fox and be[ing] an a**hole,” Corry Bliss told National Journal, “there’s never been a better time to serve. But if you want to spend all your time being thoughtful and getting s**t done, there’s never been a worse time to serve.”

It logically follows that the Senate Republican leader recently announced that the party will have no legislative agenda in 2022 – none. Oh, Mitch McConnell and his acolytes will continue to obstruct, delay and fail to engage, but they won’t try to solve any problems.

Little wonder Portman is retiring. Bob Dole would understand.

It is impossible to remember Dole and his role in American political life over half a century without recalling his remarkable sense of humor, another attribute totally missing in today’s political class.

When Republicans took Senate control in 1980 for the first time in a quarter century, Dole realized the Senate – and his party – was changing. He knew that successful Republicans candidates that year like Dan Quayle in Indiana, Steve Symms in Idaho and Chuck Grassley in Iowa were nothing to celebrate, and he joshed truthfully: “If we had known we were going to win control of the Senate, we’d have run better candidates.”

Dole meant that as a joke, more or less, but we live with the legacy – a party unconcerned about policy, often devoid of truth and increasingly undemocratic.

We do well to celebrate a serious politician like the man from Russell, Kansas. We’d do even better to elect more like him.

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Additional Reading:

A few other items you may find of interest…

Burying Leni Riefenstahl: one woman’s lifelong crusade against Hitler’s favorite film-maker

An Austrian documentary filmmaker has dedicated much of her life to correcting the record about Leni Riefenstahl, the woman who made movies for the Nazis.

“During the Nazi era, Riefenstahl had been the regime’s most skilled propagandist, directing films that continue to be both reviled for their glorification of the Third Reich and considered landmarks of early cinema for their innovations and technical mastery. Once the second world war was over, Riefenstahl sought to distance herself from the regime she had served, portraying herself as an apolitical naif whose only motivation was making the most beautiful art possible. ‘I don’t know what I should apologize for,’ she once said. ‘All my films won the top prize.'”

A long and fascinating story from The Guardian:


What Propelled Vivian Maier’s Earliest New York Photographs?

I can unreservedly recommend an excellent film about a remarkable photographer – Finding Vivian Maier.

Three Rabbits by Vivian Maier

And this is an excerpt of a new book on Maier, who captured daily life in New York and elsewhere starting in 1951.

“Many have observed that Vivian possessed an underdog’s perspective, and regardless of her circumstances, she identified primarily with the working class. While the beginnings of such an affiliation is apparent in her French photographs, this point of view would permeate her New York work. Possessing a progressive perspective, she was drawn toward capturing the intersections of race and class.”

Here’s a link to the excerpt…and be sure to look up the documentary.


The Woman in Black

I really enjoyed this piece – it is a bit gruesome – about the last judicial duel in France in 1386. A bit before my time, but really fascinating.

The story is the basis for a new film – The Last Duel – starring Matt Damon and Adam Driver. The story line involves an alleged rape, the accusations of a noble woman and a fight to the death between the accused the woman’s husband. OK, then…

“The trial by combat would decide whether she had told the truth—and thus whether she would live or die. Like today, sexual assault and rape often went unpunished and even unreported in the Middle Ages. But a public accusation of rape, at the time a capital offense and often a cause for scandalous rumors endangering the honor of those involved, could have grave consequences for both accuser and accused, especially among the nobility.”

Link to the piece here:


The 100 Best Baseball Books Ever Written

I can nitpick a few of these “best 100,” but it is a pretty solid collection of books on baseball. Reading about the great game will have to do while the billionaire owners sort out their issues with the millionaire players.

“There are, of course, inner-circle Hall of Fame baseball books. On any self-respecting list, you’ll find The Glory of Their TimesThe Summer GameEight Men OutThe NaturalVeeck as in WreckCan’t Anybody Here Play This Game?Ball Four, The Boys of SummerThe Lords of the Realm, and Moneyball. Those titles appear here, of course, along with our pick of 100 indispensable books no baseball fan should be without. In no particular order…”

Good piece from Esquire:


Thanks, my friends, for following along. Get the Christmas cards done. All the best.

Education, Politics

Illiberal America…

There was a time when Boise State University, the 22,000-student college in Idaho’s capitol city, only made national news with a football team that played on a garish artificial blue turf.

Now, with the football team struggling, BSU is grabbing national attention for arguably more important reasons. The school is front and center in the raging culture wars around the value of higher education, diversity and equity, sexual orientation and, believe it or not, feminism.

The Boise State story has many threads, including being part of a growing national effort – orchestrated on the illiberal libertarian right – to broadly discredit education at every level. Like everything else these days it’s all political. Stay with me. I’ll try to connect some of the dots.

The latest Boise State angle involves a tenured professor in the political science department of the university, Dr. Scott Yenor. Yenor is a scholar of political theory, but more importantly he is a provocateur, which is an important angle of the larger story.

Yenor recently gave a speech in Florida at the National Conservative Conference. Among other intellectual luminaries on the agenda for this Trumpy conference were Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, two Republicans who aided and abetted the January 6th insurrection. Christopher Rufo, the guy who singlehandedly created the pseudo-controversy about Critical Race Theory, also spoke.

Yenor’s Florida speech – now widely available on the Internet – advanced some of his theories about family life, marriage and feminism.

Using language that would have made Archie Bunker, TV’s most famous bigoted white guy, blush, Yenor said, among other things, that “independent women” who seek fulfillment in “midlevel bureaucratic jobs like human resource management, environmental protection, and marketing” are – I kid you not – “more medicated, meddlesome, and quarrelsome than women need to be.”

The professor suggested it was a mistake for women to be recruited into fields that have long been dominated by men. “Young men must be respectable and responsible to inspire young women to be secure with feminine goals of homemaking and having children,” Yenor said, suggesting that the achievements of men have not been adequately “celebrated.”

No word on what the professor thinks about women as political science majors, but this part of his speech might provide a clue. “Every effort must be made not to recruit women into engineering, but rather to recruit and demand more of men who become engineers. Ditto for med school, and the law, and every trade.”

It appears the larger point Yenor was attempting to make is that “feminism,” and the radical notion that women and men should be treated equally, have come close to destroying the American family, weakening the institution of marriage, and generally putting us on a path to utter societal destruction. Yenor has produced a wide array of articles and books on this theme.

Typically, many were quick to condemn Yenor, and he may have created serious questions about whether women students he has taught at Boise State have a cause for action, particularly if they can show Yenor’s “theories” have penalized them in some way. Did he grade the “striving women” in his classes differently than men, for example? Expect more on this. The university would do well to get in front of the issue with its own investigation.  

Boise State, correctly in my view, defended the professor’s odious views under the necessary umbrella of academic freedom. Pointy-headed academics on the nutty right are entitled to be as silly as are their counterparts on the crazy left.

Yenor’s ideas, while backward, demeaning, even hatefully misogynistic are worthy of debate. Worthy of being demolished. Worthy of being broadly rejected. Yenor should not earn a wider platform by becoming the latest crackpot martyr who has been “silenced,” which one suspects was part of his rationale for taking on half the human race. What better way to get a bucket load of attention these days – and a Fox News hit – than by saying outrageous things and being called on them by “liberals?”

The university’s “official” response was supplemented by a tepid statement to the effect that women are appreciated at the school. But to date there has been no serious pushback against Yenor’s nonsense. This is what you get, I guess, when you operate in a state where the political leadership is either weak or fully onboard with the craziness of modern conservative politics.

But here is where the Yenor/Boise State story goes wider. Make no mistake, the real agenda here, and that of the people who gave Yenor a platform in Florida, is to discredit public education. The goal is to play to growing resentment among conservatives about modern “liberal” education – and I use liberal in the classic sense – being a leftist plot to undermine America.

Yenor is deeply connected into the world of the anti-education Idaho Freedom Foundation, and he was a member of the phony education indoctrination task force created by Idaho’s Trump-endorsed candidate for governor, current Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin.

Yenor is a “Washington Fellow at the Claremont Institute,” the once widely respected conservative California think tank that now happily endorses the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump won the last election.

The Institute’s “Center for the American Way of Life” – Yenor is listed among the Center’s scholars – argues, Trump-like, for a new rightest movement. “The Right must be morally unflinching in refuting the Left’s ideologies,” its website proclaims. “It must speak clearly and confidently about the effects of radical feminism, ‘antiracism,’ and globalism. It must be prepared to protect its children, its property, and its standards from encroachments.”

Nothing short of revolution is required, Claremont says, to free the country from “the adversarial press and media, Big Tech oligopolies, and corrupt universities.” Trump authoritarianism, however, is just fine.

A Claremont “Senior Fellow” is John Eastman, a law professor and author of the crazy, anti-constitutional “Stop the Steal” memo that attempted to create a rationale for then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject the Electoral College votes of several states and keep Trump president.

Eastman is deeply implicated in the events of January 6, subpoenaed by the congressional committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Scott Yenor, you might not be surprised to learn, recently wrote a defense of the insurrectionist law professor who was – surprise – not exactly given the red-carpet treatment at the recent National Political Science Association’s conference.

So, back to the Boise State prof. He’s clearly not a dim bulb – I have met him, by the way – but even gifted minds can lead others astray. He’s playing a game on the fringes of the far, far American right, not unlike the old Birch Society or Phyllis Schlafly once did. The game is to inflame by outrage and hearken back to “America’s better days” when mom was home in an apron waiting for her man to return from men’s work.

Birch Society billboard

This is the “real America” these throwbacks advocate, and what better way to channel it than arguing that women are always better off barefoot in the kitchen rather than as educated professionals?

The American “revolution” Claremont and its scholars envision isn’t just insulting, illiberal and undemocratic, it’s a profound rejection of modernity and a repudiation of a society that has struggled for decades to create equal opportunities for all its citizens without regard to the makeup of their chromosomes.

It is essential to refute and reject these dangerous people – mostly mediocre white men – who claim so cavalierly the moral high ground that justifies revolution. They have already proven they will stop at nothing to create an authoritarian America, and they are prevailing. It’s probably just a coincidence that Scott Yenor’s misogyny is in the news just as the Supreme Court prepares to roll back the abortion rights American women have had for 50 years

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Additional Reading:

A few more things worthy of your time…

Is society coming apart?

I am a huge fan of the historian Jill Lepore. Her recent long read piece in The Guardian explores what’s happened to the ideas of social fabric and community. Very good.

“Forging stronger bonds in a post-pandemic world, if one ever comes, will require acts of moral imagination that are not part of any political ideology or corporate mission statement, but are, instead, functions of the human condition: tenderness, compassion, longing, generosity, allegiance and affection. These, too, are the only real answers to loneliness, alienation, dislocation and disintegration. But the fullest expression of these functions across distances as easily spanned by viruses and flood waters as by broadband cables and TikTok videos, requires both society and government.”

Always read Jill. Here is a link:


How to Save a Ski Town

Affordable and workforce housing is in shockingly short supply across the American West. This piece from Outside Magazine explores how one town in Colorado is trying to address the need.

“When the situation reached its breaking point over the summer, Crested Butte officials acted swiftly. In June, the town council declared a state of emergency, the first time a Colorado municipality had used the designation for a housing crisis. This enabled them to bypass certain municipal codes and provide some immediate relief, like purchasing a six-bedroom bed-and-breakfast and converting it into dorm-style housing for local workers. They also began allowing RV and tent camping on private property in town. In July the council issued a moratorium on new short-term rental licenses for a year, and officials resumed discussions about a controversial tax on empty homes, which they had started in 2020 but tabled for the pandemic.”

Link here.


Fabiola Letelier, Chilean human rights activist, dies at 92

Some of you may remember a sensational and outrageous murder that took place on the streets of Washington, DC in 1973.

The gruesome scene of the assassination of Orlando Letelier in 1973

“One of the most brazen acts of state-sponsored terrorism ever perpetrated in the United States took place on Sept. 21, 1976, when Orlando Letelier, a Chilean exile and leading critic of strongman Augusto Pinochet, was assassinated in a car bombing on Washington’s Embassy Row.”

Orlando Letelier’s sister never gave up on the memory of her brother or on the fight for human rights and justice.

Read her story here:


Scotland names its snow plows and their titles for 2021 are still amazing

Love this story…

“On first glance, some of the names may not make sense to people in the US, but note the country calls these vehicles ‘gritters’ — that makes ‘Gritney Spears’ make much more sense. This week, social media again took note when revamped names started appearing on the national map of snow plows. The pun game is still very strong.”

Link here…and Vermont is doing the same:


Thanks a million for reading. Stay well. And stay in the game.

Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving of Our Discontent…

The public opinion polls tell us that about two-thirds of our fellow citizens think we are seriously off on the wrong track. That number has been remarkably consistent for the last year.

And why not? We’re in year two of a deadly pandemic. Our political system is broken. Seventeen-year-old boys, most of whom would not be considered safe at the wheel of an automobile, can show up in a neighboring state with an assault rifle and create tragedy. The Internet, once considered as great a creation as Gutenberg’s printing press, is a smelly cesspool of conspiracy, hate and craziness, and quite a few dog photos. A murderous thug is threatening war in the heart of Europe, while a Chinese strongman does the same in the South China Sea.

What is the world is there to be thankful for in this season of thanks?

Well, Adele has a new album.

Adele…has a new album

No, seriously. Why even bother with all this thankfulness? The world is a mess. The country is going to hell. Kevin McCarthy is measuring the drapes in the Speaker’s office. Joe Biden’s feet and back hurt. And due to the world’s supply chain chaos, my plastic Christmas tree is stuck in some shipping container in a loading dock in Long Beach.

Actually, that last thing is not true. I am thankful that I have never had, nor will I ever have an artificial Christmas tree. So, begin from there.

I do think the country is in a bad place and there is much reason to be very concerned about everything from politically motivated violence to gerrymandering to a washed-up television game show host making another run for the White House, but this week I’m not going to despair. At least not too much.

This is the week, after all, for the most American of holidays, a day of thanksgiving created by the most American of presidents in the midst of the uniquely American civil war. I’m thankful there was an Abraham Lincoln. I’m thankful he was aware enough to proclaim Thanksgiving at a moment of supreme trial for a country divided and in danger of collapse. That bloody war ended. The nation got a new birth of freedom, well sort of. We have work to do, my friends.

Lincoln began that first Thanksgiving proclamation with thanks for “fruitful fields and healthy skies.” He reminded Americans that 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 cannot fail to penetrate and even soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.”

Indeed.

So be thankful for your turkey, if you had one, or even your vegan main dish and remember you might do a good turn for someone less fortunate who has much less and much less reason to give thanks.

Give thanks for family if you have one. Remember to be grateful for friends if you have some. Do you have a good book or a football game on the tube for entertainment and distraction? Be happy. Be thankful.

Do you have a fly rod or golf clubs? How about a working automobile or a dry and warm place to put your head down tonight? Is there a six-pack in the frig? Did your mom call? How about the memory of that high school basketball game or the girl or boy friend you made the summer when you were 14-years old? Be thankful.

I’m thankful for journalists and the First Amendment, even if it does tend to elevate nitwits like Tucker Carlson. I’m grateful for real historians and librarians and people who listen. I’m thankful that the country has had some remarkable political leaders. Mike Mansfield. Mark Hatfield. Howard Baker. Maurine Neuberger. John McCain. Cecil Andrus. John Lewis. Birch Bayh. Margaret Chase Smith. Phil Hart. Frank Church. Dr. King. John Sherman Cooper. Nancy Kassebaum. Everett Dirksen. Google them. Be grateful for great people.

I’m thankful for baseball. I’m thankful for NPR and the BBC and a warm fire on a cold November night. And poetry – Yeats and Sandberg, Auden and Sylvia Plath. I am grateful for community newspapers and people who volunteer at food banks, donate to libraries, adopt dogs and pick up junk on the beach. Be thankful for life saving medicine and health care workers.

I give thanks for my parents who didn’t have much, including no higher education, but who made sure my brother and I had everything we needed, including a diploma. I’m grateful for a favorite uncle who wrote me letters and treated me like royalty and for an aunt who could stroke a golf ball straight and long and made the world’s best raspberry jam.

Thankfulness extends to all the people – they know who they are – who gave me chances, handed me more responsibility than I was old enough or smart enough to exercise and then congratulated me when I didn’t totally screw up, and forgave and forgot when I did.

I’m grateful for the person who is the first reader of everything I write and who can talk me down off a ledge or get me off my high horse. Be grateful if you are fortunate enough to have a love of your life.

I’m thankful for memories of Thanksgivings past and cranberry relish and whiskey from the Highlands. And I am really and truly thankful for what it has meant, can mean and must mean again to be an American. I tired of the tribal wars and senseless divisions. I long for leaders who get that and want to be Americans before they want to be re-elected.

I am thankful for that original Thanksgiving and Lincoln’s eloquent proclamation. And I’m thankful for his call to fellow Americans in another dark and troubling time where this most wise and decent man fervently implored “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, tranquility, and union.”

Let it be said. Let it be so.

Be thankful.


Additional Reading:

Some Thanksgiving weekend diversions and thought provokers…

Ryan Smith has a pitch

I have said it before and will say it here – read everything McKay Coppins produces. His work usually appears in The Atlantic, but this piece about the new owner of the Utah Jazz basketball team, Ryan Smith, was in the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.

It is definitely worth your time.

Billionaire Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith

“When he bought the Jazz last year from the Miller family — old-school Utah stalwarts who made their fortune in car dealerships — it felt emblematic of a broader changing of the guard. The state’s new establishment is younger, richer and more connected to the global elite than any class of leaders that’s come before. And they may be better positioned to finally win Utah the prestige and recognition it’s always craved.

“But not everyone is on board with their vision. For all of its recent aesthetic transformation, many in Utah are still governed by a small-c conservatism. Detractors fear that if Smith and his peers get their way, the state will be overrun with fleece-vested finance bros and Silicon Valley expats. They warn of a Utah diluted of its focus on family, faith and frontier frugality, and defined increasingly by workaholism and decadent consumption.”

High tech, big basketball, Utah and LDS culture. What’s not to like. Here is the link:


It Wasn’t a Hoax

Another writer and thinker who has found his voice during our troubled time is David Frum. His latest piece reminds us that it’s a lie – a really big lie – when The Former Guy talks about “the Russia Hoax.”

It is not a hoax…

“Since Donald Trump declared for president in 2015, it’s seldom been possible to get to the bottom of one scandal before Trump distracts attention with a bigger and worse scandal. For more than a year, the United States has been convulsed by Trump’s frontal assault on election integrity and the peaceful transfer of power. He has, one by one, eliminated from politics Republicans who upheld the rule of law, and urged their replacement by stooges who repeat his Big Lie. Republican candidates for office talk more and more explicitly about taking power by violence if necessary. These dark threats have understandably overwhelmed the effort to fill in the blanks of the Trump-Russia scandal of yesteryear.”

Frum does a marvelous job of reminding us what everyone who has followed this story knows as fact. Link here:


Family, Pfizer, Zoom, and Other Things I’m Grateful For

Mona Charon writes in the same vein as my essay this week.

“There’s lots to lament, which is why it’s more important than ever to exercise gratitude.” Indeed. The link:


D. B. Cooper Homage Music Video “November 1971″

I saved the very best for last. You’ve probably seen the stories this week recalling D.B. Cooper and the mystery still surrounding his skyjacking of an airliner in 1971.

Do yourself the favor of watching this utterly delightful 5:48 short film, a musical takeoff on the old and still fascinating story.


Take it easy. Get some rest. Be grateful. And then get to work. We have a democracy to save.

Thanks for reading.

Books, Politics

Don’t Ban Books…

I own a lot of books.

Some might say an excessive number of volumes. I’m a collector, but also a book advocate. I like books. I live in many ways to be surrounded by books and the ideas, insights, controversies and confusion contained between their covers.

I own books I love and some I hate. I grew up with books. My dad subscribed to the old Readers Digest condensed book program that sent several times a year a hard cover volume of five or so “condensed” books to our living room. My dad would devour those stories and patiently wait for the next volume to arrive. It rubbed off.

Growing up I loved books by Clair Bee, a hugely influential basketball coach at Long Island University from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. Coach Bee invented the one-third-one zone defense, which can still be effective if you have a quick team that can shift, cover and defend.

Most of all, from my perspective, Clair Bee wrote books – the Chip Hilton series, 23 books in all about a humble kid who starred in football, basketball and baseball. These books for would be sports stars had titles like “Buzzer Basket” and “Touchdown Pass.”

A Chip Hilton book…

I eventually moved on to history and biography and finally discovered novels. My love for books led me to serve on two library boards in two different states. I collect books on presidents and U.S. senators and have books on ones I admire and loath. I have critical books about Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan and books that place both of them among them the greatest political leaders of the 20th Century.

Books are like that. Complicated. Full of controversial ideas. Some are well done. Some aren’t. Some endure, many don’t.

I have a book that was written in 1937, a critical, first-hand account of Franklin Roosevelt’s scheme to “pack” the U.S. Supreme Court that same year. Two well-placed journalists wrote it. It reads like a novel and has stood the test of time as a source on the near Constitutional crisis FDR created. Is that book the total story of that controversial part of the Roosevelt presidency? Of course not, but it is a piece of the story. Dozens of other books have been written about the same subject and I expect many more will be written. They should be written and read.

I have a dozen books, at least, on Thomas Jefferson. Not one of them is the complete Jefferson. Individual books point the way to begin to understand a subject, and no book is the only “truth” about any subject. That is why I have a dozen books about the third American president. He is a complicated story.

All this by way of saying be wary, be very wary when anyone says they want to ban or remove books. Sadly – and this happens periodically, which is also sad – a bunch of folks across the country right now think banning books is a good idea. But in fact, it is a horrible, dangerous idea.

Search “book banning” and you’ll find some shocking stuff right now. Two school board members in Virginia actually said recently that some books in the school library ought to be burned. They clearly haven’t read any history.

A school board member in Florida actually filed a police report suggesting it was crime to feature one particular book in a high school library. A Texas lawmaker has suggested more than 800 books that he believes ought to be prohibited in the state’s schools, books dealing with race, sex, human rights and a volume that would be laughably ironic on such a list if it wasn’t so sad, a book entitled The Year They Burned the Books.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented volume of challenges,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Executive Director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom told Time. “I’ve worked for ALA for 20 years, and I can’t recall a time when we had multiple challenges coming in on a daily basis.”

Here’s something you can learn from reading books. One of the first things that happened in Germany in 1933 after Adolf Hitler came to power was the destruction of thousands of books. This is widely documented, including at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, but also by historian Richarad L. Evans in his brilliant three volume study of The Third Reich.

A book burning in Germany under the Nazis

On a single day – May 10, 1933 – organized and well attended demonstrations took place in 19 different German university towns, as Evans wrote, where “huge numbers of books by Jewish and left-wing authors were piled up and set alight.” But in Germany, of course, more than books were banned. Jewish and leftist professors were pushed out of universities and artists and museum directors were sacked, with many fleeing the country.

It wasn’t just the ideas espoused by these people or the concepts in their books, paintings or films that Hitler and his henchmen sought to eliminate. “What the Nazis were trying to achieve,” Evans says, “was a cultural revolution, in which alien cultural influences – notably Jews but also modernist culture more generally – were eliminated and the German spirit reborn.”

It was a kind of Make Germany Great Again moment.

The cultural war that is flaming on the political right in America has, of course, the same basic aim. The “alien cultural influences” that are under assault today are members of the LGBTQ community, anyone who believes the study of American history must reckon with race and slavery, “elites” of every flavor, university professors, school board members, and always Jews and people of color.

And some conservatives, seeing this cultural war as a means to sow division and frankly scare people, are weaponizing books for political means. A conservative just won the governor’s office in Virginia by these means, and governors from Texas to Idaho will happily fan these flames of resentment and anti-intellectualism if it means placating the fringe actors who want to cancel any culture at odds with their own beliefs.

Put me down as a radical believer in free expression. I favor books and ideas, even especially ones I disagree with. Banning books is abhorrent. Allowing this to happen, or heaven forbid normalizing it, is a big step down a very slippery slope.

We should know better.

We must know better.

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Additional Reading:

Some other items I found of interest and hope you do…

Who Poisoned Joe Gilliam…Twice?

A remarkable story from Willamette Week’s outstanding Nigel Jaquiss.

“Two criminal investigations are pending into Joe Gilliam’s attempted murder, one in Lake Oswego and another in Arizona. Police in both jurisdictions declined to comment.

“Both agencies believe, however, that someone close to Gilliam tried to kill him last year with a toxic metal called thallium. And they did so not once, but twice.

“His guardian and the judge overseeing his custody are concerned enough that someone will try again that they will not reveal his exact location.”

A fascinating and disturbing true crime read.


Inside the Red-State Plot to Take Down a Top Trump Ally

I always read the work of McKay Coppins in The Atlantic and this piece about Utah Senator Mike Lee is great.

“First elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, Lee has long rankled the local establishment in Utah, where he is viewed by many as a showboating obstructionist whose penchant for provocation routinely embarrasses his home state and its predominant religion. Lee’s MAGA makeover during the Trump presidency served only to exacerbate that perception. Now, as he prepares to run for reelection next year, Lee is bracing for a concerted, multifront campaign to unseat him. He seems to know that a third term isn’t guaranteed.”

Good political reporting. Here’s the link:


Sam Huff, Fearsome Hall of Fame Giants Linebacker, Dies at 87

Sam Huff: Football great

“Playing for the Giants in their glory years of the late 1950s and early ’60s, Huff came out of the West Virginia coal country to anchor a defense that gained the kind of renown that had previously been reserved for strong-armed quarterbacks and elusive runners.”

A great obit of the Hall of Famer in the Times.

And while I was reading about Huff’s remarkable career, I came across this – a CBS documentary about Sam Huff, narrated by, who else, Walter Cronkite. Great stuff.


Trains, Planes and Automobiles

And…an early Thanksgiving wish for all of you. This review of my favorite Thanksgiving themed movie with the greatly missed John Candy and the vastly talented Steve Martin.

Anyone need any shower curtain rings.


Be safe. Keeping reading books. Thanks. Happy Thanksgiving.

Football, Pandemic

No Statute of Limitations on Stupidity…

In his great book about legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, David Maraniss quotes one of Lombardi’s players about how most big-time athletes – perhaps particularly professional football players – really are.

Most “are basically lazy guys,” said one-time Packer safety Tom Brown. “We want to take the easy way out. We are so far superior. We’ve always been better. As nine-year-olds. Ten-year-olds. We were always the best athletes on the field. We probably got preferential treatment from youth coaches and all the way up. So we really never had to give one hundred percent effort. Because if we gave seventy-five percent, we were better than all the other kids.”

A terrific book about a coaching legend

We easily distracted Americans love our sports stars and celebrities. When those people seem genuine – faking sincerity, after all, is the greatest talent of celebrity – we love them all the more. If they are a little outrageous at times, no worries. A bit of outrageousness is a small price to pay for a pass brilliantly thrown or an interception skillfully picked.

Aaron Rodgers, at least until a few days ago, had all the ingredients we relish in a big-time sports celebrity. The Packer quarterback is a really good player. He plays for what is still the marquee franchise of the National Football League, a team with fans who actually own shares in the team and show up for games played on frozen turf in a stadium so far from the bright lights that Wikipedia locates it in “the north central United States.”

Rodgers seems – or seemed – to be the real deal. A legit sports hero of the old school. A three-time NFL Most Valuable Player with a sure-fire lock on the Hall of Fame. But like Tom Brown’s typical player, it turns out Rodgers is just lazy. So far superior to the rest of us and to his teammates, coaches, locker room attendants, and football opponents, not to mention family and friends, that he assumed he could lie his way through a requirement that he be vaccinated against Covid-19.  

Turns out Rodgers is a role model. A role model for millions of selfish, self-centered, fact-challenged Americans of the year of our lord 2021. Rodgers is in the words of columnist Max Boot “a pandemic ignoramus,” a role model for the millions of Americans who continue to deny science and through their ignorance keep a deadly pandemic rolling along.

Rodgers’ defense of his indefensible behavior sounds like it could have been uttered at any number of local school board of public health meetings across the country. The “woke mob” was after him, Rodgers claimed in an interview where he riffed on conspiracy theories, peddled nonsense about vaccine effectiveness and generally made a fool of himself.

Of course, the Packer quarterback – he missed last week’s game after testing positive and his team lost, but hey, no biggie – is different in one respect from most of his fellow science-denying conspiracy theorists. He gets paid $33.5 million a year. But in our times, there is clearly no price point on stupidity.

The sports journalist Sally Jenkins sacked the quarterback pretty effective. “He will now be known as a guy who is slicker than his TV hair,” Jenkins wrote, “who thought he was unique, too much so to follow rules, and more precious than anyone in the room. May he make a speedy return to the Green Bay Packers with no symptoms, but as for sympathy, that should be diverted to people who shared spaces with him when he was unmasked, who now have to sit around and wonder whether they brought something home because he was too coy with the coronavirus.”

In a second interview earlier this week, attempting to clean up his first interview, Rodgers appeared to attempt contriteness, saying, “I made some comments that people might have felt were misleading. And to anybody who felt misled by those comments, I take full responsibility for those comments.”

Rodgers: We thought he was smart, but he called an audible

It was a classic non-apology apology, the weasel words of our times. What Rodgers was really saying was, “I’m sorry if you were offended by my stupid comments, but, you know, that’s kinda your problem.”

Rodgers will no doubt return to the Packers, and the NFL, home to all number of domestic abusers and cranks of every kind, applied a tiny financial slap on his $33.5 million wrist. Rodgers’ endorsement deals, undoubtedly worth more than his play calling, will continue. And we’ll move on to the next dust up, maybe the socialist vaccine indoctrination tactics of Sesame Street’s Big Bird.

In the whole scheme of things that matter, Aaron Rodgers ranks somewhat lower than the Detroit Lions. He’s a winner that has become a loser, an “I did my research” crank masquerading as an All-Pro quarterback. What does matter with this loser from Green Bay is what matters with the millions like him who keep fueling the pandemic. They are not just stupid; they are damn poor citizens.

Sure, don’t get vaccinated for yourself. That is your right. Anyone can be nitwit, a nitwit who could get really sick and maybe die.

If the selfishness, stupidity, and self-centeredness just impacted the Aaron Rodgers of our world it would be one thing, but he – and so many others – must know they impact their family, friends, neighbors, the mom and child casually encountered in the grocery store or the teammate in the locker room. It’s not about a silly quarterback, it’s about the community. It’s about something bigger and more important than some stupid misinformation he read on the Internet.

Whether Rodgers appreciates it or not, he and every Packer lives a Green Bay career in the shadow of the great Lombardi, a man with low, if any tolerance, for nonsense and selfishness. His “brilliance was his simplicity and dependability,” Maraniss wrote, and his insistence on standards.

Surely some of the Lombardi legend is the product of myth making, a feature of much of sports history, but the guy did speak of enduring values. “People who work together will win,” the coach said. “whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.”

The problems of modern society. What a concept that an individual might have some, even tiny responsibility to help with the problems of modern society.

Anyone old enough to remember Lombardi and his great Packer teams can be pretty certain of what the old man would think of the silly guy in the huddle acting a whole lot smarter than he is.

—–0—–

Some good reads…

My “carefully” curated selections this week.

Lee’s Fault

The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee

A new biography to add to the shelf of biographies of Robert E. Lee. I think I’ve read most of them. Here is an interesting review of the latest by Allen C. Guelzo.

“In 1861, of the eight colonels from Virginia who had graduated from West Point, Lee was the only one to fight against the United States. As Adam Serwer, a columnist for The Atlantic, argues, ‘But even if one conceded Lee’s military prowess, he would still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black.'”

History is all about grappling with figures like Lee, worts and all. Here’s a link to the review:


A year after the election, America has turned the news off

Turns out a lot of Americans aren’t paying all that much attention to the news. Short article from the Columbia Journalism Review.

“On television, between October 2020 and October 2021, according to Nielsen data, CNN was down 73 percent, to 661,00 viewers. Over the same period, MSNBC was down 56 percent, to 1.2 million viewers, and Fox News was down 53 percent, to 2.3 million viewers.”

Might be the you know who is no longer president factor. Link here:


The Literary Adventures of Polly Adler, the Algonquin Round Table’s Favorite Madam

Great piece…

“In one of the most spectacular examples of the law of unintended consequences in American history, Prohibition gave the underworld a cachet it had never had before. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution banning the sale of ‘intoxicating liquors’ had the perverse effect of transforming the sleazy underbelly of vice into a cutting-edge counterculture. ‘Slumming’ had long been the hobby of sporting men, raffish intellectuals, and wealthy young rakes who had so much money and social stature that they could afford to flout conventional morality. Now anyone who wanted a glass of beer was forced to consort with criminals.”

Here’s a link:


See you next week…be careful out there.