Creative corner

    Interview with the Umpire

    Having put off reading Michael Wolraich's "Unreasonable Men" on the Roosevelt/La Follette saga for almost 3 years, the following exchange sprung from my wish to snapshot my reactions before I forgot, as well as take advantage of having the author in our midst. Being historical but somewhat akin to our times, the book provides the opportunity to look at a more crystallized version of today's issues, institutions and personalities. Rather than trying to keep the cross-hairs on a confusing, ever-moving target, we can evaluate these events more leisurely, with the luxury of hindsight and room to contemplate, without getting mired down in too much "he said, she said", thus avoiding the trap of “having a dog in that fight”. Sometimes our emotional attachment to events seems to be our biggest hindrance to grasping them.

    This "Entrevista" took place over email on Michael's return from Mexico ("don't destroy Dagblog while I'm gone!") largely as a single block of questions focused on the book's events and a couple followups. Many thanks to Michael for playing along and giving us a chance to play hookie from the exhausting current political chaos. A followup installment is expected to dig more into contemporary parallels.

    For readability, my questions and comments are in bold or brackets, Michael's in normal type.

     – Peracles Please

    Unrisible Irrascible Men

    Michael Wolraich's Unreasonable Men is an engaging exercise in political map making, following the fashions of the times with the entrenched interests of every year. The period in this case is the turn to the 20th century up to pre-WWI America, when her social development lagged significantly behind her economic success, but I found myself wishing for similar vignettes in other ages and historical climes. It's not the most weighty of tomes - finished in 1 day - but I'm not alone in not having time for say Carl Sandburg's 6-volume set on Lincoln - Unreasonable Men is more in the spirit of Hamilton, the Musical - a theater piece you can enjoy and put down, though revert to and contemplate with pleasure.

    Dissipating Power

    I remember it well, the heated 2008 campaign, and one of the vaunted risers in the party - scratch that, *conscience* of the party - Samantha Power - had just called Hillary a "monster". In this case it was for "deceit", saying anything to win, but it might as well have been for Powers' forte, foreign policy - poking holes in US reactions in Bosnia and Rwanda and elsewhere.

    9 years later, Powers goes out like a vanquished lion - braying in futility in her last moments as UN rep against Russia's transgressions in Syria. But what happened in-between? Where did these outspoken values go in the Obama years with a largely reactive, not pro-active stance on human rights and threading our way through more Mideast engagements and muddied mushy responses? Seth Mandel provides a comprehensive summary of this transition from Lion Queen to largely defanged kitten.

    This is not a post of schadenfreude - I'm saddened and confused and disheartened. It's symbolic of the real world as we know it, the demise of optimism and righteous fury, and where we get tripped up time and time again. The other side's busy ignoring that world, running red lights, hitting pedestrians on the sidewalk - but still, careful driving doesn't make you a good driver. But it's a helluva lot easier to tell if someone's a good driver than whether they're doing the right thing in foreign politics.

    Danny Cardwell's picture

    Black History Month > American Exceptionalism

    The myth of American Exceptionalism starts with the Christian belief that God chose to bless this land and “our” forefathers more than the rest of creation. This myth asks us to believe that a loving God smiled down on the massacre of indigenous peoples, the brutal enslavement and murder of Africans, and the subjugation of women. History is full of dissent against this belief and the systems that dehumanized people for the sake of our “Manifest Destiny”.

    Danny Cardwell's picture

    Pushed Out Of The Tent?

    Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

    -- Frederick Douglass

    This is my favorite quote from Frederick Douglass. It’s a divine truth; its wisdom is applicable to any epoch. Every person will have to deal with questions of justice, poverty, ignorance, and class. Douglass knew firsthand that Justice, in the form of basic freedom, ranked higher than issues connected to poverty, ignorance, or class. I struggle trying to find new ways to explain this to some of our allies on the left. The election of Donald Trump has caused some to question whether the Democratic party should continue to advocate for people who have “identities” that are problematic to electoral success. If the Democratic party is willing to eschew Justice for the sake of victory in 2018 and 2020 it will end up more fractured than it is now, and I promise, there will be no victories to show for the effort.

    Danny Cardwell's picture

    Diane Nash: Still Fighting

    In an era where the left seems more occupied with being right about their technocratic arguments than engaging meaningful causes related to life and death, it was refreshing to travel from my little corner of the Confederacy amid the throngs of Confederate flags and Trump Minions to meet someone who risked it all. Diane Nash's humility was the only thing that topped her quick wit and intellect. She wrote her will at 19! To put that in context, most of the new left (some twice her age then) won't stand up to their boss and ask for a raise. The new left expects people to follow them into battles over the environment or trade deals,but then turn their back when it comes time to address police brutality and our fraudulent criminal justice system.

    The Unchangeable Hopelessness of Being

    [To Terry]. Eight years ago midnight New Year's Eve, I watched fireworks flying across the remote mountains with a queasiness in my belly as the world's economies melted down and Obama prepared to assume the presidency, and I meditated and prayed for his success as only an atheist can do, feeling that if the elements could pull together in some kind of Shakespearean concoction, we'd find a way out of this madness.

    It's been a maddening 8 years with occasional somewhat neutered success. The bailout that extended the tax breaks "stimulus" madness, retaining trader bonuses, forked stimulus cash straight to banks that never got used, diverged into largely unpunished mortgage theft after the dust had settled, and as a side-show had Washington bean counters combing over Detroit business trying to understand cars only in terms of cashflow, investors (gotta give the previous owners 100 cents on the dollar), and retirement plans. The health care that'd been derived from Hillary's campaign turned into an industry-friendly mixed cocktail, only after 2 years of favors and invites to all the objectors that never quite showed up in the end. That Nebraskan Senator who helped shove the no-abortion-benefits into the package and then got voted out of office anyway - all those Blue Dogs are gone now, but Obama still played the deficit scold compromise game with the Republicans that they largely won, tying hands for greater social programs. Rahm made it clear that unions no longer had a sure place at the table.

    Bring on the Lepers

    I stopped by an exhibit in the station this eve, a nice large format profile of dozens of homeless and the sheltered, their stories - the guy who finds out he's adopted when he finally gets his various documents on leaving high school, the woman who manages to free herself from an abusive husband only to lose her leg to disease and get thrown out of guest work in England, another who can't manage to stay off the juice, one's a mechanic who works hard but always finds himself on the wrong end of some scam or people who don't pay the bills. They describe their day, how they survive and pass the time. I see similar folks in front of the station, handing out their magazines trying to earn a few coins of respectable money in return for their soup and sandwich. Some have started giving tours to tourists and locals, showing the city from the homeless point of view, even though one's a struggling male prostitute with AIDS, others have different impediments that make it unusual for them to mingle and present their world.

    "There are a million stories in the naked city - this has been a few of them". A few that cut through.

    Danny Cardwell's picture

    The Hug Heard Round America

    On December 15th 79-year-old John Franklin McGraw plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge of assault that stemmed from the well-timed forearm shiver he delivered to 26-year-old Rakeem Jones at a Trump rally in March. He was charged with a misdemeanor for a crime that had felonious intent. North Carolina state law allows such offenses to be classified as misdemeanors, so I can’t blame him, but let’s be honest: he was sentenced to unsupervised probation for committing an assault captured on video. If you're reading this and believe Rakeem Jones would have received such a lenient sentence had their roles been reversed you should do a quick Google search of this continent's history.

    Danny Cardwell's picture

    What Colin Kaepernick Learned From James Blake and Jesse Williams

    I was standing there doing nothing — not running, not resisting, in fact smiling… the officer picked me up and body slammed me and put me on the ground and told me to turn over and shut my mouth, and put the cuffs on me.”

    James Blake

     

    Danny Cardwell's picture

    God Didn't Bless America

    Lee Greenwood first released God Bless America in 1984. After 911 it was re-released and has become the new unofficial national anthem. It's a song that invokes patriotism and unity. I've heard this song an uncountable number of times; I read the lyrics a few times before I sat down to write this. God Bless America gave me the inspiration to write about the public killings that were on display last week. I wish I lived in the America Lee Greenwood sang about. I wish I felt like I was part of the American fabric the way he did in 1984. In an age when people are more and more envious of the material wealth others have, I find myself envying the sense of patriotism people like Lee Greenwood have. It hurts to knowing America has never loved me the way Lee Greenwood loves her.

    Ramona's picture

    The Worst Mass Shooting in U.S History Happened Today. Hello, NRA. Are you There?

    Today we woke up to news of another mass shooting, this time in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  The facts about it are sketchy but it looks like a hate crime, an obvious act of terrorism.  The horrific news, coming in bits and spurts, is that 50 people are dead and 54 have been injured.  It's being classified as the worst mass shooting in U.S history.

    The shooter's name is Omar Saddiqui Mateen, an American on the FBI watch list thought to be inspired by Isis.  The motive, it appears, is a murderous hatred of gays, but the ease of owning military-style assault weapons gave him an opportunity to act on it. It was about as carte blanche as it gets.

    Ramona's picture

    The Flint Water Crisis: It's All Obama's Fault

     

    Jake May—The Flint Journal-MLive.com/AP

     

    Nearly every day I'm hearing from people who are just now paying attention to what's been going on in Michigan  Their reactions to the latest and the worst insult--the water poisoning in Flint--are many and varied, but tend to follow the same theme:  WTF??

    I'm not here to judge, but it's not as if our bleating protestations haven't been wafting through the air for years. (They have been--even before 2011, when the GOP gerrymandered their way into absolute power and Rick Snyder took the oath he pretended he didn't hear.)

    Ramona's picture

    Dear Free Press: That Water Situation in Flint is Partly Your Doing

    Dear Freep: I'll get right to it. I used to be such a fan. Remember how you used to be the blue-collar paper in Detroit and the News--that rag!--was the paper of the Republicans?  Good times.

    Ramona's picture

    There's a Poison In Michigan And It's Not Just In The Water

    You've probably heard that the water supply in Flint, Michigan is loaded with lead and has been poisoning the city's children, along with everyone else.  So far, there are 200 confirmed cases of lead poisoning among children under six, with some 9000 more believed to be at risk.  That's just the kids.

    Danny Cardwell's picture

    Raising The Minimum Wage Treats The Symptom Not Our Illness

    In theory, raising the minimum wage would pull millions out of the hell called poverty. There are, however, unintended consequences that come with doing this: a portion of the very people such legislation is designed to help would be hurt; some jobs would be eliminated through automation, and the productivity requirements for those fortunate enough to have a job could exceed their physical capabilities. We could, inadvertently, speed up the economic Darwinism many workers are currently facing. There's enough Prima facie evidence for us to admit that low wages are now a structural part of global capitalism. In order to properly address the growing wealth gap we have to be wiling to admit that there are industries that depend on a supply of unskilled low wage laborers.

    Danny Cardwell's picture

    I support The Oregon Militia. . .

    I support the Oregon Militia and the dozens of interlopers who've joined their ranks. I think mandatory minimums are unjust. I've helped inmates in the Commonwealth of Virginia fight Draconian sentences handed down by judges with reputations for, "laying brothers down". I support the idea of civil disobedience.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Don't Ever Call the Cops: The Tamir Rice Story

    The Tamir Rice story, and the irresponsible decision not to prosecute his killers, is breaking my heart. And while the worst sufferers are Tamir's family, I have found myself thinking, ever since he died, about the poor soul who called 911. That person was just trying to do the right thing, but the positive, neighborly gesture led to disaster. Calling 911 brought the Cleveland Police, and because the police came a child died. Everything would have better if the police had not come.

    Ramona's picture

    Peace Is A Wish Our Hearts Make

    As someone who wallows in politics, in opining, in making fun of those who, if I were the violent type, would be subject to ear pulls and nose-tweaking, I'm still surprised when, like clockwork, these are my thoughts at Christmas time:

    Ramona's picture

    The Murders at Planned Parenthood And The Unbelievable GOP Response

    Yesterday on Morning Joe, Joseph McQuaid, the publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, was asked why his newspaper was endorsing Chris Christie for president.  Mika Brzezinski asked what successes in Christie's record would stand out as something he could accomplish on a grand scale. Without even blinking, McQuaid rattled off three things.  The first two, apparently in order of importance, were these: Christie is pro-life and has vetoed several pro-abortion bills.  He has defunded a block funding for Planned Parenthood.  (The third one--because there were three--was about Christie keeping taxes in check.)

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