Tag Archives: Archive

Calling for integrity from Lakewood city council

On December 7, I joined around a dozen other people speaking against what is a frankly laughable rush by Lakewood City Council to turn over Lakewood Hospital and all its assets to Cleveland Clinic for dismantling and recycling. This was a first for me. Apparently I nonetheless did reasonably well—aside from achieving any interest from the addressees of my comments. I see this morning that Scene‘s Eric Sandy even quoted from me, though his suspicion about council’s reaction is the same as my own: “No dice, it would seem.”

Ah well. Some times, you have to stand up and speak for the record even if the people who most need to listen have blocked their ears. A time may come when statements I have made on this issue will, like those of many others, be remembered and thereby yet lead toward wisdom.

For now, for that record, my remarks to city council:

Prior to this year, 1996 was probably the last time that Lakewood performed a commensurate evaluation of health care. Although I am guessing, it may be that at least one member of council had yet to begin high school in that year, and at all events few of our public servants occupied their current roles.

For this reason I would like to regard some of the instances when opportunities may have been missed, as well as the drawn-out pace of affairs overall, as indicating something of a learning process rather than any intentional oversight. I would like further to note that on more than one occasion, city officials have demonstrated patience and understanding that seems highly appropriate given the uncertainties faced by all parties in this process, rather than fixating on whether or not every “i” is dotted in the first draft or on whose responsibility it is to reach out at a given moment.

Read More →

“Support the Troops” Reconsidered

Another archive item. To some extent the phenomenon about which I wrote the following, four years ago, seems quieter. In comparison with the intense volume of this century’s first decade, it probably is. I’ve wavered on reposting this in fact, but reading this persuaded me that it’s still worthwhile.

It’s that time again. Yesterday, the MMQB column of vacationing Peter King was turned over to First Sergeant Mike McGuire for some July 4th, rah-rah boosterism about America’s activities in Afghanistan.

Criticism of this, particularly on our most exuberantly patriotic, flag-waving All-American holiday, would no doubt be very poorly received by many, were they to read any such remarks. Despite the fact that the very document which makes this day a holiday, as the anniversary of its adoption, objects repeatedly to the government of the day’s expansion and elevation of the army within American society. America’s founders were indeed, like much of the nation throughout its early decades, suspicious of and opposed to standing armies in general, British or American. Hardly much precedent for an obligatory “support the troops” sentiment, then.

All the same I’m sure that King, who has sort of “adopted” McGuire as a patron hero during the past several years, would probably at least question my timing in making critical comments, if nothing else. Which is fine, since I’ve long questioned the active and energetic embrace by King, and many others, of “the troops” as a sort of all-purpose, all-weather, nonpartisan, unifying cause for unequivocal celebration.

Read More →

The Jischke Honors Building: Still Wrong

The basic concept of alumni-supported higher education is, I think, awkward at best. It’s also very tiresome in practice, when the ISU Foundation e.g. calls you up a dozen times within two years of graduation.

That said, I believe in sharing wealth, and I try to live my beliefs. My resources for doing so here are relatively modest, but when I can I try to support worthy causes. If a fairly lavish institution that delivers much of its direct benefit to the already privileged is questionable for inclusion among such causes, well, 1) nothing’s perfect, 2) Iowa State University does at least seem to be spending money relatively responsibly, these days, exceptions aside, and 3) I got quite a deal from the institution so if any non-affluent graduate has reason to be “giving back,” it’s probably me.

So I have, now and then, directed the occasional surplus to dear auld ISU. I have not, however, given one single cent to the ISU Honors Program and I am not going to do so any time soon. This I vowed nearly 15 years ago, this I still believe: the “Jischke Honors Building” represents an unethical, insulting double-standard, and I am not going to forgive or forget.

Read More →

The Tribalization of American Conservatism

Ezra Klein’s recent Vox post, “Obama Derangement Syndrome,” seems as good an occasion as any to post the following comments on a related proposition from late 2013. I submit that neither Mark Mardell, to whom I wrote the following, nor Mr. Klein is correct. Contemporary American conservatives’ inexhaustible hostility mostly is not the product of “old-school racism;” it is not the product of policy differences either. While the former is by no means extinct, we have a new tribalism in America.

Mr. Mardell,

I frequently encounter journalists like yourself (both foreign correspondents and Americans) struggling to frame the “Tea Party.” Let me help you out.

You are absolutely spot-on that “old-school racism” has little to do with contemporary Republican ire. I submit that you, like many others, go astray when you conclude that “opposition to big government and high taxation” are the answer, instead. You may be right, of course; I don’t think we can really be sure until such time as a Republican again occupies the White House, and the tea-party-within-a-party quietly evaporates, or does not.

I suspect that the former is more or less what will happen, however, because I believe the energy in modern American conservatism has less to do with small government or any other policy argument than it has to do with an updated “us” vs “them” tribalism. Quite simply, the Tea Party is the product of 20+ years of American conservatives creating their own narrative in which Democrat influence in government is inherently illegitimate.

Read More →

Lakewood, McDonald’s and community

This one feels a long time past. I originally wrote it in mid-2011, but it seems like so long ago.* I have always felt that I did some good thinking here, however. Meanwhile, I’ve decided now is the time to repost it here in my long-term archive. Lakewood is currently confronting another top-down plan to replace a familiar piece of the community** with some sort of corporate wheeze, and one of the most vocal critics has even declared the pending liquidation of Lakewood Hospital “another McDonald’s.”

No, no and no. Among many other differences, Lakewood Hospital actually matters, I think. Whereas the arrival of McDonald’s on Detroit Road, I argued and still argue, was mostly just a petty annoyance. Unfortunately I have a growing sense that too many people cannot tell the difference, a want of perspective that cannot be helping anyone, except those powers that are content to see citizen “meddling” diffused into griping about a dozen issues rather than concentrating on doing something about one.

For this reason among others, I’m going to skip most of the opening paean to Lakewood…

Lakewood is packed with locally-owned bars and restaurants; I even did a cartographic guide to the bars once. Meanwhile, fast-food chains and big-box stores are almost unknown. The biggest “big box” is a supermarket and there’s really just no room for a walmart or home despot, etc.; there are a few chain establishments like a Schlubway and a Domino’s and a Dunkin’ Donuts, but aside from one Taco Bell the only big-league standalone drive-thru greasepits are banished to the fringes of the city and completely absent from “mainstream life” in Lakewood. (Cue ominous piano chords.) That is, for now

This morning, I got up, stumbled around through the usual re-orientation to consciousness, pulled up teh intarweb and read with dismay of the “potential McDonald’s move to Detroit Theatre property.” Sacre bleu!

Oh the ignominy. When the theater closed several weeks ago, I wasn’t really concerned since it had always looked kind of shabby and I go to a movie theater at most once every two or three years anyway. Had I known, though… the Detroit Theatre is hardly “paradise,” but on the other hand “a parking lot” would be far less demoralizing than a McDonald’s.

Read More →

Keystone XL obsession, explained

With the Keystone XL pipeline proposal in the news again, lately, this seems like a good moment to pull another item up from my archives. It attempts to explain the bizarre depth of Republican politicians’ obsession with a pipeline that supposedly won’t make much of of a difference to anything, an obsession that seems all the more arbitrary with oil prices tumbling.

I created this about three years ago, and would probably adjust it a bit if I were starting over today. The red slice would probably be at least 50%, e.g. But, obviously, this is essentially a “fake” infographic; the relative proportions are the point rather than precise numbers.

Because they're psychotic.

Let technology do that for you…

Continuing my long-term archiving project, I just stumbled upon this doodle from… I don’t know. Whenever the iPhone4S and those “I found four locksmiths near you” commercials started running.

It's meant to be funny (kind of).

Ha ha… ha… ha?

America seen through television

I wrote this four years ago, during the previous midterm election campaign. Most of it still applies today, particularly the first half which has nothing to do with party politics.

I see very little television. I watch a few History Channel shows on the web, and an occasional football or basketball game. But I don’t watch the evening news, or Mad Men, or SNL or whatever else people watch. I don’t claim that this makes me a better person, in any way. (I’m not denying myself television because I think doing so is “good for me;” I just have no interest).

But it does make television, when I do see it, awfully strange. Especially television advertising.

For one thing, from what I can tell, if one judges by the assumptions made and promoted by TV commercials during most “mainstream” programming, one gets a very weird and rather dismal impression of male-female relations in American society. The near-exclusively prevailing concept of gender roles seems to depict men as affable-but-dim lunkheads, interested almost entirely in beer and sports. Women, meanwhile, are apparently all ballbusting shrews with no interests whatsoever, other than enforcing their total disapproval of, and maybe occasionally mocking, male behavior.

Presumably of course this is not meant to be taken seriously, but instead, “for laughs.” Ha, ha?

Read More →

Don’t cut back on “salt intake,” eliminate it

A few years ago, I wrote a pair of responses following a wave of online alarms about “salt intake.” In the first, my criticism was strictly linguistic. “Salt intake” is an awful, abominable phrase, and I had simply had enough of seeing it. Happily, the interweb’s obsession with this allegedly dire peril seems to have dropped away, but recently Sarah Kliff over at Vox provided it a bump. Ms. Kliff’s coverage of health care reform has been absolutely brilliant, these past years, and her look at the terrible menace of salt also achieves some admirable progress. I applaud her story’s headline, “we’re eating too much salt,” at least linguistically. You have to go four paragraphs in before any reference to “salt intake.”

That said, Kliff still resorts to this syntactical disgrace several times; once, in the alt-form of “sodium intake,” even in a subheading. Thus I shall continue my long-term archiving project by re-publishing the following, originally written in February 2010:

Read More →

Review: “Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde”

Note: From time to time, this site potentially constituting my personal record for ever after, I may corral a stray item from years past that merits some kind of lasting endorsement. The following book review suggests a good place to start; it may be one of the most popular things I’ve ever written. Goodreads (its second home) reports only six, as of this writing, but it seems like I get an e-mail notice that someone likes the review every other week… At all events, I do feel this was a good review of an excellent book, which I’m happy to recommend for a third time.

Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde
by Jeff Guinn

An absolutely fantastic work, rich in absorbing detail.

I’m far from being an expert on Bonnie & Clyde, so I can’t evaluate this against any other works on the pair. But it certainly seems like Guinn did a lot of research, and used it to very good effect. Unsurprisingly, there’s no Hollywood glamour in the story; yet for a tale of two largely inept, ineffective small-time criminals, it’s a remarkably dramatic and even moving story.

Front cover of 'Go Down Together'The element of inevitable doom in Bonnie & Clyde’s tale probably contributes a lot to this, and while Guinn makes it a very real presence, he hardly had to invent it; throughout much of their brief criminal careers, B&C knew there was only one possible ending to their story, and were often completely frank and casual about it.

Perhaps the most effective and surprising ramification of this, though, is how Guinn convincingly calls into question just how much Barrow and Parker ever really had a better alternative. The story of their dead-end world in Dust-Bowl Texas, and particularly of the Barrows’ utterly dispiriting poverty, comes across as just unremittingly bleak. Unless the prospects for a young person in Depression-era Dallas slums were significantly brighter than Guinn’s account suggests, one has difficulty seeing any reason Bonnie & Clyde would have particularly preferred lives of impoverished drudgery to brief careers as famous criminals, even allowing for the deglamorized reality of the latter.

In all honesty, though written as a biography of two celebrated bandits, Go Down Together is one of the most effective works of social criticism I’ve read in a long while.