Beau Biden’s tragic death of cancer and Joe Biden’s “Promise Me, Dad”

Joe Biden’s memoir, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose” intermixes the most productive years of Biden’s vice-presidency under Obama, with the tragic loss of his son Beau Biden in 2015 to an aggressive brain tumor.

The book narrative is often out of sequence, starting out on vacation and then shifting to his vice-presidential home near the Naval Observatory, before taking off with competing narratives.

Beau had served as Delaware attorney general, and had been quite supportive of progressive causes, including LGBT marriage equality. The family’s Catholic upbringing did not lead to any personal moralizing on the social issues.

Biden first notice symptoms around 2010, which went away until about 2013 when he was diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma. His genetics made the cell type particularly aggressive.  The physicians (including MD Anderson in Houston) tried a novel approach of engineering a live virus that would attach itself to the tumor cells and stimulate an immune response.  In the end, it seemed promising for a while but Biden suddenly deteriorated and died with family present on May 30, 2015.

I had an uncle who apparently died at age 60 of a similar tumor in 1976.  Even with genetic causes, its actual appearance is unpredictable.

Biden discusses his foreign policy work, especially with regard to ISIS, Russia, and Central America. He covers the second Obama term well, a history that took a shocking deadend with the election of Trump. He wrote the book just before we have a real understanding of the Russian “fake news” campaign and of the way Trump would be able to resurrect tribalism within “the proles”.  Biden is quite specific in his account of Putin’s cruelty with rebels in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.

He also talks about infrastructure, and his work on improving natural gas lines and other critical infrastructure, some of which he says is made of wood. He does not seem to particularly oppose pipeline developments and on may economic and industrial policies he may have been more conservative than Obama.  But he would have supported aggressive policy on climate change (picture above: damage in Florida keys from hurricane Irma, my visit).

But he also talks about the depth of the financial crisis of 2008, and of the need to make work pay better in relation to capital.

Toward the end, he talks about the sudden decision not to run against Hillary Clinton, and about his reservations about superfund money in the Democratic Party primaries.

Beau’s story also reminds me of the narrative of Lee Atwater, who collapsed at a speech in 1989.

Somehow, I wonder about the “originality” of books by established politicians, who have made their names for themselves before taking up the pen.  Echo Hillary’s book.

Author: Joe Biden (Beau Biden)
Title, Subtitle: Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose
publication date 2016
ISBN  1250171679
Publication: Flatiron books, hardcover (airport purchase) also Kindle, 264 pages
Link: official

(Posted: Monday, November 20, 2017 at 10:30 AM EDT)

“LBJ”: Rob Reiner’s new film soft-pedals LBJ’s “accidental” presidency after Kennedy

I recall a drizzly late fall Election Day in 1964, after I had turned 21, when my father said, “Nobody can beat LBJ”.

And I remember the Sunday evening in Special Training Company at Fort Jackson, SC, March 31, 1968, a day I had cleaned a grease pit with a toothbrush, one of the lowest days of my life, hearing that LBJ would not accept a nomination for a second full term as “your president” in that year of “Medium Cool”.

LBJ” is a nice biopic by Rob Reiner, from Castle Rock Entertainment, with unusual distribution through Electric Entertainment.

The first half of the film walks through the day Kennedy was assassinated, with LBJ (Woody Harrelson) recalling earlier days in his career, when Kennedy needed him on the ticket in the 1960 election but then had to rein him in.   Johnson, while able to use the word “negro” with a bit of condescension, found himself moving toward Kennedy’s  (Jeffrey Donovan) thinking on civil rights, while fighting off powerful senator Richard Russell (Richard Jenkins), especially on deal to put a defense plant in Georgia and hire token blacks as engineers. Johnson also expresses his political cynicism to Robert Kennedy (Michael Stahl-David).  LBJ’s own experience with his own housekeeper helps shape his views toward progress, while Russell makes phony arguments about “freedom”.

The American public was not told of Kennedy’s death for 38 minutes, while LBJ mulled being sworn in immediately in Dallas on the plane, out of fear of a bigger conspiracy.

The film bypasses the Cuban Missile Crisis completely, and makes only brief references to Vietnam, which would heat up in 1965, after the time period covered by the film.

LBJ was capable of being quite crude in his talk, like about his clothes and tailor (“Sartor Researtus” indeed), and Ladybird (Jennifer Jason Leigh) covers for him, even in bed.

Name:  “LBJ
Director, writer:  Rob Reiner
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, 2017/11/5, afternoon, good audience
Length:  98
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Electric Releasing, Castle Rock
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017 at 11:45 PM EST)

“Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House”: slow, stage-like back-story of “Deep Throat” whistleblower on Watergate

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House”, directed by Peter Landesman, and based on the autobiography of Mark Felt and John D. O’Connor (by this name, as well as “A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, Being ‘Deep Throat”, and the Struggle for Honor in Washington”.

Mark Felt was the FBI special agent who became the whistleblower who broke open the Watergate scandal.  Felt did not reveal his role publicly until a Vanity Fair article by O’Connor in 2005.

The film is slow-paced and studious, mostly indoors (actually the studios in Atlanta were used), often darkly lit, the furniture plain. It is rather like a stage play. Felt (Liam Neeson), shortly after the Watergate breakin in June 1972, becomes aware that the White House is interfering with the independence of the FBI, particularly in scenes with acting director Patrick Gray (Martom Csokas.  A few weeks before the 1972 election, he makes the famous (“Deep Throat“, as named after the infamous porno film, which I actually saw on Times Square in 1975) pay phone call to Bob Woodward (Julian Morris).  There’s no effect on the landslide in 1972, because Nixon is able to paint the protesters as essentially pinko radicals.

But after the election, moving into 1973, things unravel pretty quickly.  The film telescopes the final months of Nixon’s presidency, which I personally remember well because I was going through a major transition in my own life, having “come out” a second time.  I would start a new job at NBC that would lead to my moving into Greenwich Village the Monday after Nixon’s resignation.

Diane Lane plays Mark’s wife Audrey, and yet you get the feeling that their marriage has become an afterthought.  The script does mention all the scandals underneath J. Edgar Hoover, whose passing is honored early in the film (early 1972).  The script probably just barely hints at the idea that Hoover was likely homosexual himself.

The film never depicts Nixon with an actor, or even Carl Bernstein.

The film is not quite as eventful as “All the President’s Men” (1976, Warner Brothers) by Alan J. Pakula, based on the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.

Name: “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House”
Director, writer:  Peter Landesman, Mark Felt, John O’Connor
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2017/10/6, late, small audience
Length: 105
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Sony Pictures Classics, Endurance Media, Playtone
Link:  official

(Posted: Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 10:30 AM EDT)

Hillary Rodham Clinton tells “What Happened”

I can remember when reading the little stories in “Fun with Dick and Jane” in grade school, we waited to read “What Happened”.  So I chuckled just a little that Hillary Clinton named her autobiographical analysis of the 2016 election that.

The book does pay heed to women in politics, but the elements of the 2016 election leading to her defeat do lead themselves to functional decomposition, the way a systems analyst would see things. These components include Trump’s own behavior during the campaign and debates (including the second debate where she wanted to yell “You creep”), Russian hacking and disinformation with fake news, and most of all “those damn emails” leading to the notorious Oct. 28 Comey Letter, as well as the painful Election Night with the slow motion acceptance of electoral college defeat.

Clinton’s perceptions should indeed alarm us.  The idea of blatant racism and “whitelash” played a much bigger role in the behavior of the electorate than many of us could have expected (although Michael Moore had been warning about it). Clinton often mentions the “zero sum game” thinking of the alt right, where the economic losses of less educated working class heterosexual whites are seen as the result of gains by “others” (blacks, gays, and especially immigrants).

Russian meddling, leading to the fake news manipulation of social media (and the ultimate “Comet Pinc Pong” incident) shows a serious social problem among the nation’s professional “elite” class (including black and gay professionals).  I saw relatively little of the “fake news” in my own social media feeds because my online behavior normally connects me with people in a more intellectual mainstream.  I have contact with Hollywood, with the book world, academics, and with some pundits on both right and left, and including some doomsday preppers (normally on the right).  So I see some material at the margins (Breitbart on the right, and Truthout on the Left), I see very little material that is patently outrageous.  But it seems like a lot of people did.  It is rather scary that Putin saw the insularity of America’s privileged intellectual class and realized that a campaign of disinformation leveraging resentment and fear could really work.

I’m a bit perturbed to see her name Sinclair Broadcasting in Baltimore as one of the participants in his whole mess (p. 361).  Sinclair owns WJLA7 in Washington, and tried to bring to light the threats to the power grid in some reports in the summer of 2016 that got suppressed.

Clinton talks about Putin’s macho values (I think its ironic that he likes to bare a completely hairless chest when riding horseback) and the way they put individuals in their “rightful” place in a system where fascism is returning to replace communism.

The Russian hacking also connected to various schemes to make it harder for certain minorities to vote.  Black and Latino turnout in key states was considerably less than had been expected.

On the email scandal, Clinton pleads that she did not starting using computers at work herself until the middle 2000’s, and that she started in a world where it was still normal to use one’s own personal computers and servers even for sensitive work.

Indeed, in the 1990s in the mainframe computer world in which I worked, it was normal and acceptable to use personal laptops in fixing production problems, which could lead to exposure of consumer PII, but at the time (pre Y2K and just as the Internet was heating up) it was seen as much less of a risk than it would be now.  It was also acceptable to take listings home that had production consumer data printed.

Clinton does think that the Comey letter did provide Trump with his ninth inning rally, and maybe a couple of unearned runs, by baseball analogy.  Remember, the whole incident could not have happened if Anthony Weiner had not committed a sex offense, an observation that provides an ironic comparison to a bizarre incident that happened in 2005 when I was substitute teaching that I have discussed here before – apparently I had not seen the end of it, but I never thought this sort of thing could throw and election. Also ironic were Trump’s self-incriminating comments overheard on Access Hollywood.

On p. 465, the last chapter “Onward Together”, one of her supporters, a history teacher, offers some partisan moralizing.  “Privilege” alone makes that teacher’s students responsible for others.  It doesn’t wait for marriage and having babies.

Author: Hillary Clinton
Title, Subtitle: What Happened
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-1-5011-7556-5
Publication: New York, Simon and Schuster, 18 chapters unnumbered. 494 pages, hardcover, e-book
Link: publisher

(Posted: Friday, September 15, 2017 at 9 PM EDT)

“Kill All Normies”: a meta-pamphlet about Milo’s world and even Pepe the Frog

Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right”, a booklet (120 pages) by Angela Nagle, seems to attribute the rise of nationalist populism as a kind of sum-effect of the chaos on the Internet in the past ten years or so.  As the author says in her last chapter title, it isn’t funny when the culture wars go offline.

I’m rather shocked at the meanness and bullying that happens on line, and the revenge and stalking;  Melania Trump has said she wants to do something about it, even if it helped her husband get elected. The behavior reflects a certain cynicism and even nihilism, that the “system” is leaving a lot of “us” out, so we might as well rebel against civilized living.

Nagle’s presentation is non-sequential and rather random, so it is hard to follow an argument.  But gradually she gets into the same territory covered by Milo Yiannopoulos in his book “Dangerous” (July 13).  She gradually develops a comparison to Milo’s style of conservatism, which I would call hyper-meritocracy (a preoccupation with other people’s virtue and its visual evidence, and a cult of personal competitiveness) but not libertarianism and definitely not alt-right or fascism, and the older Par Buchanan type of conservatism evident in the 1980s with the “Moral Majority” crowd.  She almost manages to make cis gay men as likely to prefer conservatism to the particularly constricting identity politics of the extreme Left.  The alt-right has its own identity politics, with a different crowd.  In the end, communism (or hyper socialism, Venezuelan style), fascism, and extreme nationalism (as Putin is verging on), and even theocracy (Islamo-fascism) all start to seem alike. They are all authoritarian, and easily morph out of excessive political concern over personal “right-sizing” and deservedness.

She manages to convey some interesting narratives, such as about the life of mass shooter Eliot Rodger and his manifesto “My Twisted World” (this 2014 Isla Vista case definitely made “manifesto” a bad word, but so did the luddite Unabomber Ted Kaczynski in the 1990s with his “Industrial Society and its Future” where he ranted about the imposition of socialization).  She also gives a perspective on the hit film “Fight Club” (1999, Fox, directed David Fincher, with Ed Norton and Brad Pitt).

She also conveys pretty well just how far some people go into group identity belonging, especially on the radical Left.  People have amputated their own limbs to “belong” to “people with disabilities”. She has the same horror at the staged anarchical violence at Milo’s events. She discusses “manosphere” as something sometimes disfigured by tattoos and wounds, something far removed from the cleaner fantasies of the 1960s when James Bond told us “what it means to be a man”, or when a perfected (except around red kryptonite) Clark Kent conveyed that on “Smallville” in the 00’s.  (Tom Welling has gone downhill since then, sad to say.)

In the end, it seems like “populists” dislike “elites” who watch and criticize but don’t step up and swing and take the risks of getting beaned.

Vox interview with author.

Salon discussion of the book.

Author: Angela Nagle
Title, Subtitle: “Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right
publication date: 2017
ISBN: 978-1-78535-543-1
Publication: Zero Books, 120 pages, paper (ebook), 7 chapters and conclusion
Link: publisher

(Posted: Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017 at 11:15 AM EDT)

“Battle for America”: Steve Bannon’s prop piece for the 2010 midterms sounds like a rant now

Battle for America” (2010), directed by Stephen L. Bannon, and primarily narrated by Dick Morris (along with Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter),  is one of the three Bannon films offered by Citizens United in a three-DVD set that as of this time seems sold directly by CU (six weeks ago, I could not find it on Amazon but it’s there now).  But the films could generate some interest now given the inauguration of Donald Trump and his elevation of Steve Bannon in the early days of his administration (maybe to author the failed travel bans).  But this film was put out before the 2010 Congressional “mid term exam”.  (Yup, a mid term and a final.)

It starts out by showing the inauguration of Barack Obama on Jan. 20, 2009 before going into a monotone rant centered around the Left’s plan to turn America into a European socialist state taking 40% of the economic GDP instead of 30% as in the US (as is claimed).  It starts calling the 2009 Democratic Congress “imperial” (like Haydn’s 53rd Symphony, as in my old recording of it by Stokowski).

Right off the bat, it asks if providing health care is allowed as an enumerated power in the Constitution. Playing devil’s advocate, someone asks if building an Interstate highway system was (as during Eisenhower).

It calls Washington the “Village of the Damned” (then “Why We Fight”). The film also shows some old clips from Hollywood Biblical spectacles for illustration.

The narrative purports to support individual freedom and individualism (Ayn Rand style), but seems willing to allow churches and families to barge into the private lives of those who don’t conform to gender norms.

To its credit, the film does correctly characterize collusion between government and shadier aspects of Wall Street, leading to the 2008 financial crisis.

“To replace self-reliance with reliance on government”.  Yes, a good buzzphrase, looking toward the nanny state regulating soft drinks.  True, an aging population that doesn’t reproduce itself will have trouble supporting itself.

On health care, yes, the film argues the conservative case against government health care (not the least of which is waiting lists).  But we have a choice, based on moral hazard:  we cover everyone, we depend on private volunteerism to cover people who can’t pay for themselves, or we let people die (which contradicts conservative “right to life” goals).  The film threatens to zero-fund health care (“Obmacare”) if it passes.

The film says “the greatest threat to national security is the national debt”. This was one year before the debt ceiling crisis in the summer of 2011, when the US credit rating went down.

The last section is called “How We Win”.  Well, “The Tea Parties”, of course. Then, “Floodtide”.

“Reward people who carry the water rather than drink the water”.  Like Ronald Reagan, the true Aquarian.   The film has a shot from “Titanic” with the newspaper byline, “Women and children first.”

Newt Gingrich talks a lot, but he’s more effective when the talks about electromagnetic pulse, which doesn’t get mentioned here.

The film throws around the term “The Last Best Hope”, but that’s the name of a film by the Nuclear Threat Initiative!

Oh, there is no such thing as a conservative Democrat (like Sam Nunn).

Morris mentions Barney Frank, to run the banking system, as “involved in a gay prostitution scandal;” back in 1989.

At then end the film shows some building fires (like in “Backdraft”). But the film then says, “We don’t have to risk our lives” like conscripted soldiers.

Name:  “Battle for America”
Director, writer:  Stephen K. Bannon
Released:  2010
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  CU DVD purchased, 2017/4/18
Length:  82
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Citizens United
Link:  donation

(Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at 10:15 PM)

“The Trump Survival Guide” by Gene Stone; what can “you do”? Join movements? Volunteer? Become an activist?

I read about this little handbook in the Washington Blade print edition at dinner last weekend.  It’s a new Bantamweight book “The Trump Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Living Through what You Hoped Would Never Happen”, by Gene Stone, a little paperback and Kindle how is prolific with advice guides.  (Should read, “what you had hoped…”.)

The back cover says “Don’t Despair, Don’t Retreat, Fight Back”.

The book  is set up in fourteen short chapters about various issues.  Each chapter introduces the history of the issue, says what Barack Obama did about it, then speculates what Donald Trump might do, and then what to do about it personally.

The historical narratives assume a reader who knows very little history.  So this book, in a sense, is “for people”;  it’s not an argument about what policy should be (although it generally is “liberal” to moderate in tone).  I don’t write these sorts of articles or books myself, and I’ve sometimes been quizzed as to “why not”.   It may sell very well for a while.

The advice, “What you can do” is rather challenging.  It says, join organizations (or maybe movements?) Volunteer.  Become a teacher.  Become a mentor.  Volunteer in a soup kitchen.  Knock on doors and raise money.

I don’t knock on doors and ask for money because I view myself as a “journalist” and “above that”.  That makes me a spectator and critic, I guess.

On the volunteering, I find my own activity has to be very carefully thought through and matched to my background.  Many volunteer organizations are not very transparent and too bureaucratic and authoritarian in their own way.  I could imagine, for example, directing chess tournaments in underprivileged areas.  But I would like to get my own playing skill back up first (to something like USCF 2000).

All that said, there are some interesting points.

One is that Nixon conspired to get black people convicted of drug offenses so they couldn’t vote later.   I’ve heard that before, but it’s good to be reminded.

Another is the whole history of political parties, that at one time we had a “Know Nothing” party that predicts modern anti-intellectualism, and that the US has often had very discriminatory immigration policies in the past.

Still another is the attitude toward women’s work – that women were needed in the workforce during World War II, rather suddenly, so that the men could fight.  There is coverage of Trump’s inconsistency with regard to women (and his vulgar comments), and a hint that many men, ironically, see women’s work as a sign of their relative impotence, a profound cultural issue (which stands opposite to how male homosexuality often works).

He gives a good history of LGBTQ rights, especially pre-Stonewall, when society was deliberately intrusive into the private lives of gay people.  He covers the history of sodomy laws briefly, as well as DADT. He notes that Trump personally has claimed to support gay rights, but seems to be appointing anti-gay people to his Cabinet (Mattis seems OK on the DADT repeal as of this writing).  Trump seemed to treat gay contestants fairly on his own “Apprentice” show.

On immigration, he notes that Obama set up DACA but was pretty aggressive with deportations.  He notes that Mike Pence had once said he wanted to deport even the settled Syrian refugees.

On national security, he notes Trump’s own waffling on Iraq, but he doesn’t pay enough heed to the fact that Obama’s withdrawals may have helped allow the civil war in Syria to aid the spread of ISIS into Iraq and create random lone wolf threats to American civilians at home. I think the targeting of civilians, a kind of enemy conscription, is a bigger legal threat to other areas (like free speech online, with the terror recruiting problem) than most commentators realize. He does talk about the NSA and the torture issues.

On health care, he does explain that premiums for some people in the individual market, under the individual mandate, went up under Obamacare to help cover other people with pre-existing conditions.  People with too much income were not assisted with subsidies, so that is why many voters (who became Trump supporters) became incensed.  I like the idea of covering pre-existing conditions separately with a reinsurance vehicle. But you would have to debate, state by state, what gets covered this way.

He doesn’t cover the free press and free speech issues, or network neutrality, in much detail, but his brief statement on net neutrality sounds grim, like it could lead to censorship by telecom companies.

Author: Gene Stone
Title, Subtitle: The Trump Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Living Trhough what You Hoped Would Never Happen
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-0-06-268648-0
Publication: Dey St/William Morrow, 191 pages, paper, 14 chapters, endnotes
Link: author

(Posted: January 26, 2017 at 1 PM EST)

“Miss Sloane”: are lobbyists just manipulators who don’t believe in the causes they work for?


<tdFilmnation, Euorpa

Name: Miss Sloane
Director, writer: John Madden, Jonathan Perera
Released: 2016/12/9
Format: 2.35:1
When and how viewed: Regal Ballston, 2016/12/9, day, small audience
Length 129
Rating R
Link: FilmNation

“Miss Sloane” (directed by John Madden) gives us an aggressive young woman Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) who will do whatever it takes to win in the ultimate world of people manipulation: K-street lobbying in the Washington swamp, which Donald Trump promises his followers he will drain.

One of the key concepts is whether professional lobbyists believe in the causes they work for. Grass roots activist do. And individuals like me pick and choose our own goals.

Miss Sloane quits a firm that would have her work for the pro-gun, pro-NRA lobby and joins another one (Mark Strong) pushing for more intensive background checks and regulation. But the shenanigans in the Senate (with the hearings led by Senator Sperling (John Lithgow) are labyrinthine. Sloane talks fast and drags her young, largely young male staff along for the ride. A lot of the kids seem to be new college grads in their first jobs.

Then, there is the gigolo Forde (Jake Lacy) who makes his absolutely hairless bod a real spectacle in a couple scenes. Maybe Miss Sloane is a lesbian at heart.

And, of course, there is plenty of hacking (with little drones that look like real cockroaches) And there is also federal prison.

The film seems a little humorless, when compared, say, to “The Social Network”.

The film takes place almost entirely indoors. The credits say it was filmed in Washington DC and apparently Montreal. The outdoor scenes looked more like Montreal. It had a French-Canadian production team.

I don’t recall seeing Euorpa distribute directly into the US. This looks like a film that typically distributes from Lionsgate.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to ban lobbying by anyone for five years after leaving government.

(Posted: Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016 at 7:45 AM ESR)

“The Politics of Resentment”: A University of Wisconsin poly-sci professor plays Jack Kerouac on the road


Author: Katherine Cramer
Title, Subtitle: “The Politics of Resentment”
publication date 2016
ISBN 978-0-226-34911-4
Publication: University of Chicago Press, 285 pages, indexed, paper (also hardcover and e-book), 8 chapters
Link: publisher site

University of Wisconsin political science professor Katherine Cramer’s academic treatise, “The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker”, while focusing on her own research while “on the road” instate a few years back, ironically explains Donald Trump’s carrying some rust belt states during the 2016 presidential election, which would lead to Trump’s stunning electoral college win (assuming it sticks) and upset of Hillary Clinton.

Cramer worked out an agreement with the University to spend some of her sabbatical in 2007 interviewing “Ordinary People” (like the 1980 movie) in rural areas of the state, outside of the urban concentrations in Milwaukee, Madison, and, somewhat, Green Bay. She supplements that material with some narrative about Republican governor Scott Walker: his election in 2010, his gutting of public employee unions, and the 2012 recall attempt.

But Scott Walker (despite the subtitle of the book) is hardly the focus of her argument. She looks at political views of rural people and finds that “place” really affects identity as much as race, religion, nationality and gender. Why do we root for local sports teams? It’s a kind of eusociality.

The most remarkable finding is the “resentment” that many rural people have of “professionals” and “elites” from the larger towns and cities. There is something akin to doomsday prepper mentality here: elites can’t work with their hands and bodies, fix things for themselves and have to pay somebody.. It’s part of the “grow your own food”, and “change your own oil” mindset. If you can do more for yourself, you don’t need as much money. But it sets up a vicious cycle.

I ran into this attitude myself during Army Basic at Fort Jackson in 1968. In fact, in the dorm at the University of Kansas in graduate school in 1966-1967, I found the same thing, with many students from farms and small towns. I made good friends with a roommate from western Kansas (a town name Tribune) who was a disciple of Ayn Rand, resisted the draft, but also believed there was no homosexuality in small towns because that only happens when people are crowded together (but not true).

On one level, this attitude sounds like Maoism – everybody should take turns living in the countryside and becoming a prole. But rural people value freedom, and ironically don’t resent truly rich people (like Trump) as much as people who pretend to be important but who really don’t quite have what it takes to make it competitively.

People did have issues with government spending, in that less is done for them in rural areas (relatively speaking) than for people in cities, especially for racial or cultural (like LGBT) minorities. People also had somewhat muddled objections to proposals for health care. There was a feeling that rural people can’t afford putatively mandatory health care premiums and would rather take their chances and not go to the doctor. Of course, having more people uninsured means that medical providers charge insured people more to make up for the loss, a fact that seems lost on them.


Likewise, rural people felt they were taxed to pay for urban public transportation projects, but were at the same time subject to gasoline price fluctuations, and often have to drive much longer distances.


It would be interesting to examine the attitudes of rural people toward fracking, since (like in Oklahoma) their homes can be damaged by earthquakes caused my activity of major energy companies. The same kind of debate can be extended to the pipelines controversy (and native lands) in the Dakotas.

I got to know Wisconsin pretty well when I lived in Minneapolis from 1997-2003. I got to know Madison, Eau Claire, La Crosse, the Sparta bike trails, all in the south, pretty well. I got into the far north driving east of Superior a couple times. I visited Milwaukee and Green Bay once.

(Posted: Monday, December 5, 2016 at 1 :30 PM EST)

“A Perfect Candidate”: Oliver North’s run for the Senate from Virginia in 1994


Name: A Perfect Candidate
Director, writer:  R. J. Cutler, David Van Taylor
Released:  1996
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  TCM, 2016/11/7
Length 105
Rating NA
Companies: PBS POV, First Run Features
Link: PBS

A Perfect Candidate” (1996), directed by R. J. Cutler and David W. Taylor, traces Oliver North’s candidacy for the US Senate, from Virginia,  against incumbent Chuck Robb in 1994.

As the film opens, North is testifying to Congress about his involvement in the Iran Contra affair in 1987 during the Reagan years, where he helped divert money from Iran to free hostages in Central America. When questioned, he says he is proud of what he did, even if it is “the people” who are supposed to make policy.

But by 1994 North’s reputation is back.  I recall that he owned a security company in Virginia at the time and I would hear him talk in the car radio, on a talk radio program that competed with Vicki Jones, “the British Lady”, so enamored to following O.J.  He used to say he didn’t ask sexual orientation of job applicants, as if that were progress. “Babe” (1995), which supports animal rights and vegetarianism (even veganism) was one of his favorite films.

The film shows many scenes on a campaign bus. North gives a speech defending bringing up religion in public life.

In one scene, Robb accuses North of not respecting the Constitution, and of all kinds of other crimes. North runs to “take back the government from professional politicians.” Sound familiar?

Bill Clinton, already a target since Newt Gingrich took over the house in 1994, gets bashed.

North eventually loses.

I recall that Robb was helpful in the early days of the debate about allowing gays to server in the military and in trying to mitigate the worst of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” with SLDN.

The North candidacy for Senate occurred at the same time that I was starting to write my first DADT book.

In 2000, while living in Minneapolis, I briefly considered running for the US Senate from Minnesota under the Libertarian Party of Minnesota.

The film could be compared to “The War Room” (1993, by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, October Films), about the 1992 election that put Bill Clinton in office.  Clinton’s rise started in early 1992, after a post Gulf-war recession (“do grunt work”) after George H. W. Bush vomited at a state dinner in Japan, during the meat course.

(Posted: Monday, November 7, 2016 at 11 PM EST)