Broward County: Where the Animals are Tame and the People Run Wild

It’s back in the news again:

So what’s the matter with Broward? Republicans tend to blame one-party Democratic rule, and even some Democrats agree that the lack of serious partisan competition has led to bad incentives and bad habits for county leaders, just as uninterrupted Republican rule at the state level has helped make Tallahassee’s political culture dysfunctional. Broward’s decentralized political structure, with a new and largely ceremonial mayor chosen every year from a nine-member county commission, has also reduced accountability: Broward’s independent fiefdoms like the election office, sheriff’s department and schools are essentially free to run wild. Broward’s public health system has been particularly problematic. Its CEO committed suicide in 2016 amid a federal investigation into shady contracts, and his successor, who got the job despite having a degree from a defunct diploma mill and despite being under indictment, recently resigned after less than a year in office.

I’ve used the modified Monkey Jungle phrase “where the animals are tame and the people run wild” to describe all of South Florida, but the original impetus to do it came from Broward County, that Strange Place to the South (for those of us in Palm Beach County.)  Broward County, however, is Ground Zero for South Florida’s basic problem: it’s made up of people groups who basically don’t like each other and don’t form a community, even when they vote alike, as they do in Broward.  The result is that, when community problems arise, nothing gets done, because there is no community, even with political unity.  People just yell at each other.

But isn’t the whole country getting that way?  To grow up in South Florida was to see the future, and sad to say it hasn’t been very nice.

Some People Want to “Build the Wall” Anyway

In this interesting piece on how “meritocracy” is killing youth sports, this note:

Parenting doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, but it often is. As Matthew Stewart wrote in an Atlantic cover story this year on the new aristocracy, those in the nation’s upper-middle class have “taken their money out of productive activities and put it into walls”—physical walls and social barriers—that make it harder for any child not born into privilege to reach the same level of success.

This is the same bunch, by and large, that gave the Democrats the House yesterday, who deride Donald Trump for wanting to build the wall at the border.  However, as long as their own walls can stand–gated communities are the most visible manifestation, but there are others–they’re happy to allow what goes on outside go on as long as they can insulate themselves from it.  That has driven much of the push-back on both sides of the Atlantic re immigration and other issues, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Personally I think it’s sad that the “meritocracy” (which it isn’t) that dominates our suburbs are choking youth sports’ ability to help people move up.  It’s also hurt our competitive edge as a nation in some sports (soccer comes to mind first) because it’s shrunk the pool of athletes who have access to the club sports. But until both sides of the political spectrum get real on how we got the inequality we have and how to fix it, problems like this will only get worse.

Rusty Runs No More in Florida

Amidst all the other election results, this, from Florida:

Amendment 13, a highly charged proposal to end greyhound racing in Florida, passed. It means the roughly dozen racing tracks in Florida will have to shutter by 2020. Animal protection groups celebrated the victory, calling the win a “historic effort.”

“Tonight, in an historic vote, Florida voters have delivered a knock-out blow to a cruel industry that has been hurting and killing dogs for nearly a century,” the Yes on 13 campaign wrote in a statement. “This is a small step in turning the page on a relic of the old economy, but a giant step for animal protection nationwide.

Florida is home to 11 of the remaining 17 greyhound racing tracks in the country.

“Because of the decision of millions of Florida voters, thousands of dogs will be spared the pain and suffering that is inherent in the greyhound racing industry,” said Kitty Block, acting president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Greyhound racing was a part of the landscape when i grew up in Florida, which inspired one of the oldest pieces on the site: Running Rusty.  I used the mechanical rabbit which the greyhounds chased to make a point about American life:

I suppose this is fine for dog racing but unfortunately too much of life for too many of us has turned into a dog race where whomever we feel is in control of our situation is “running Rusty” in front of us. From youth onward we’re motivated — pushed and shoved in some cases — to achieve goals which we may have had nothing to do with formulating and which we really feel we neither want nor are able to accomplish. If and when we reach these goals it seems that success is more elusive than ever because the “track owner” is moving Rusty faster than we can keep up by either making new demands or enticing us with new things to go harder for. This is called “being challenged” and of course has its upside but in many cases it’s manipulation, pure and simple.

It looks like Rusty, like so many Floridians, is being retired along with the dogs.  I really think this is another example of sentiment and respectability taking precedence over substantive good, but that can be said about just about everything in this country, and that includes the rest of the election last night.

And, sad to say, it does nothing to address the great paradox of American life: while many call for a more humane and just society, the corporatist nature of our system keeps “running Rusty” on all of us for their own benefit.

The only way out is this, and my prayer for you is that you will make the step.

Some People Like the Idea of an End to Birthright Citizenship

And they’re not whom you’d expect either:

Donald Trump’s decision to challenge birthright citizenship is earning applause from one corner: “Accidental Americans,” who would rather be unburdened of their citizenship as cheaply as possible.

As POLITICO reported in July, “Accidental Americans” — dual nationals who have U.S. citizenship but only loose ties to the country — are campaigning to be freed from increasingly onerous obligations linked to their American nationality. The group has since received the backing of French President Emmanuel Macron.

There’s always more than one side to every story.  American citizenship is, to some, like flypaper: something they are just stuck with.  Getting rid of it is an ordeal; no one in Washington, especially in the IRS, likes the old “love it or leave it” concept.

The idea that people in places such as Europe and Canada would have something nice to say about Donald Trump is interesting indeed.

Maybe There Is Something to Those Cocktail Parties

In the middle of a brief recap of the 2005 season of Donald Trump’s Apprentice, this sudden revelation:

The degree-holders were no richer than the degree-free. In fact, the average net worth of the street-smart team was three times that of the book-smart one. Were the college kids more intelligent? No again. Time after time, a dandruff-club nerd puzzled over something that a cool smart-aleck ended up accomplishing with one hand tied behind his back.

But then one challenge threw the difference into relief. The contestants were charged with renovating motel rooms. The book-smart people chose to host a pool party for prospective guests. The party was fun. The street-smart players started to flail.

Finally, one street-smart player observed that the book-smart crowd had an unfair schmoozing advantage. They had been to college, he said. So naturally they knew how to do … cocktail parties.

Why take on student debt and study special relativity, ladies and gentlemen? What’s college for? You heard it here first: cocktail parties.

Although the conclusion is meant to be in jest, there is something to this.  American culture is obsessed with socialisation, and drinking buddies are a strong bond.  Four years or more in the same watering holes will cement that bond.  But that, in turn, is one reason why American elites are so sybaritic in their focus: it’s the way up around here.  And that’s also why, when people like Jews and Asians come along with a real work ethic, they’re beaten down by the “well-rounded” (maybe well-rounder is more accurate) person.  It’s an aspect of this culture I find profoundly distasteful, and one that will be its undoing in the long run.

On a personal note: my grandfather could drink with the best of them.  But perhaps not the right people; had he chosen the people he drank with more carefully, perhaps he could have displaced Cliff Henderson as the leader of American sport aviation in the 1930’s.

Getting Rid of the White People Won’t Get Rid of Christianity

Some people evidently work under that assumption, as this ugly event in New York attests:

New Yorkers woke up Thursday morning to find colorful new street art popping up on trash cans along the Lower East Side.

Their message is clear – Trump and his supporters are “trash.” The controversial posters feature images of “Trump supporter” stereotypes with the words, “Keep NYC Trash Free.”…

Another features a white woman wearing a “Make America Great Again Hat” while holding the Bible.

Most of the Christians in the New York area I know aren’t white.  That’s a legacy in part of leaving that whitest (and soi-disant social justice) church, the Episcopal Church.  Most of these aren’t Trump supporters either.  If they had featured Christianity with a non-white person holding the bible sans Trump hat, it would have been more accurate to the reality on the ground, but the reaction would have been entirely different.

There’s an underlying assumption on the left that, if we could just get rid of white Evangelicals, Christianity and Trump will go away, and we can get laid, high or drunk without guilt or interference.  That’s simply not true.  God’s plan will go forth without white American Evangelicals or even the United States, if it comes to that.  In some ways, it would probably help.  Our country is headed towards a day of reckoning; we spend too much time and energy on things that won’t stop that reckoning.

They Didn’t Like Patriotism, and They Don’t Like Nationalism. That Leaves…

The problem with left-watching is that, if you do it long enough, it will have you scratching your head more than making you angry.

Fifty years ago, leftists hated patriotic people.  They burned the flag; the courts affirmed their right to do so.  They spat on returning veterans from Vietnam.  They pushed the sexual revolution upon us.

Today, they hate nationalists, although with an eye on the Europeans (who invented nationalism) I’m not sure most Americans understand the concept.  They won’t join the military, although they have no problem sending it to fight wars for their “moral” causes.  And they’re still pushing the sexual revolution upon us, although these days that’s turned into a national identity conundrum.

In the old days they thought this country was imperialistic and immoral.  These days they talk out of both sides of their mouth: on the one hand, they insist on you being “patriotic” to their idea of what this country ought to be (and conversely consider what isn’t to be treasonous) and yet routinely still consider it racist, bigoted, homophobic, etc.

The only thing left to do is to vote against these people at every opportunity, although they respond with bile over that.  But beyond that their duplicity tells us that they cannot be satisfied and that there is no point in being loyal to them.  So where does that leave us if they reassume control?  Reminds me of Count Czernin’s evaluation of the Bolsheviks…

That’s something we need to think about, not only as our election day nears, but moving forward.

Someday, the Last Hick Will Move to Town

And no a moment too soon either: this, another journey of the genre:

My education required a metaphysical moving away, I learned. A professor who could see me struggling through change asked me what scared me about it. I told her that I worried I would lose something, and she reassured me that I would be OK. But she is a brutally honest New Yorker, so she added, “Besides, you can’t unlearn what you now know.” Her words stung.

Having come from Palm Beach and lived in this part of Tennessee for forty years, I can assure Dr. Wilkerson that this place exhibits a complexity that rivals the island’s.  I can also assure her that her beloved trade unions were alive and well in Chattanooga, if she had bothered to come this far down and take a look.  But the elites which engendered the hostility that made this place fertile ground for unions are trying their own burying of the past by going progressive, perhaps for some it will make up for what’s gone before.

The serious sign of initial delusion on her part, however, was this:

Like Dolly Parton’s defenders, I grew up learning the myth that Appalachia was the home of white settlers who weren’t marked by the sin of slavery and thus were not responsible for America’s racism and, conversely, that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery in the first place. My ancestors worked hard as farmers. They built grist mills and lived in log cabins. They are the Appalachians of the American imagination — pure Anglo-Saxon. Dolly Parton rehearses this myth, and I imagine she was raised on it. Her Appalachia is pure and white and heroic; her Appalachia is drained of white America’s sins.

If there’s one thing East Tennessee is not, it’s Anglo-Saxon.  Other than the black people and more recent immigrants, it’s mostly Scots-Irish with a healthy dose of the Cherokee, something Elizabeth Warren’s attempt to claim has fallen desperately flat.  Getting past that myth-making and realising that, like the Asians on the other end, the Scots-Irish put the lie to the whole racial paradigm being promoted these days, is liberating, but I’ll bet that Dr. Wilkerson’s moving to town won’t let her see that for what it is.

I’ll be glad when the last hick moves to town, it will be liberating for me.

The War on–and for–Coal is a Waste of Time

Some think we’re on a downturn with coal:

Across Europe and the U.S., the decline in coal output recently has averaged close to 5 percent a year. If the world as a whole can reach 7 percent a year, it would be on track to meet the IPCC’s 2030 target.

The conventional wisdom is that this isn’t possible, as rising demand from emerging economies, led by China and India, overwhelms the switch from fossil fuels in richer countries. That may underestimate the changing economics of energy generation, though.

There is one basic reality that needs to be understood: coal is a mess.  It’s expensive to transport, messy to use (a boiler fired with coal is job security for those who clean it) and a pain to dispose of, as TVA found out the hard way at Harriman a few years back.

As someone who produced steam-driven equipment until the 1990’s, I can show you photo after photo of boilers in action fuelled by coal.  Before World War I most of our equipment, along with most construction equipment, was powered that way.  Homes were heated with coal; the house my great-grandfather and his brothers grew up in disposed of its chimneys and went to coal heating, appropriate for designers and builders of steam boilers and steam powered equipment.

But coal is, in the long run, always edged out by other, easier to transport and burn, fuels, or fuels that aren’t burnt at all.  With the spread of compressed air and hydraulics, steam and coal were banished from the construction site, and the equipment still powered by steam used oil-fired boilers, as we sold the Chinese in the 1980’s.  But the biggest enemy of coal–a fact not acknowledged in the article–has been natural gas, and the fracking boom has pushed coal off the stage faster than just about anything else.   There are of course the renewables, but for massive energy production these are not quite ready for prime time.  There is also nuclear power, but the environmental movement isn’t big enough to admit its mistake to allow it to displace fossil-fuel burning on a large scale, its angst over climate change notwithstanding.

Coal gets heavily used in the early stages of industrialisation because it’s located near the industrialisation, as was the case in the UK, US, Germany and later Russia and China.  But as soon as things move down the road, coal is inevitably displaced, perhaps not at the rate one would like but displaced all the same.

It’s in that context that Barack Obama’s “war on coal”–and Donald Trump’s reversal of same–needs to be seen as a waste of time.  It’s what happens when optics and politics get put in front of reality, and the less of that in our society, the better.

The Thing Brett Kavanaugh Won’t Do

Well, it’s over but the shouting, and there’s lots of that: Brett Kavanaugh has become an Associate Justice on SCOTUS, after one of the sorriest episodes in American government since Watergate.  (And there are many to choose from…)  Conservatives have high hopes for him on the Court, which is why the opposition was so vociferous.  But are those hopes justified?  I think there are reasons to doubt it.

One thing that comes to mind is one of Kavanaugh’s more careerist moves: his prosecutorial deflection of the investigation of Vince Foster’s death towards a suicide conclusion.  That alone should endear him with the Clintons, but their gratitude is no better than Tsao Tsao’s toward Kuan Yu in the Three Kingdoms.

But another is an unmistakable conclusion from the last fracas over his social life: Kavanaugh is a party animal.  That in turn leads one to believe that Kavanaugh will never overturn Roe v. Wade outright.  Why?  Party animals, especially preppy ones, need abortion.  At his level in society, such things are not moral issues to be decided but problems to be fixed.  Abortion may be the final option available, but for such things option it is.

And abortion was the core issue for Kavanaugh’s opponents.  Oh, there are others that stick in their craw, most notably the interpretation of regulations.  But this one is the hill to die on for those who oppose Kavanaugh.  It’s indicative of the strange nature of American politics that those whose policies are geared for a society where the highest goals in life are to get laid, high or drunk oppose him, while those who are trying to “bring America back to God” support him.

But American politics these days is a series of unappetising choices wrapped in high moral rhetoric.  SCOTUS is important, too important really, and that’s one of those enduring problems that we cannot seem to implement a way to fix.  Kavanaugh will not disappoint his tenacious supporters on some issues, but on others (especially those dear to religious conservatives) he will fall short of the expectations of both his supporters and his opponents, and some of us will realise all too late that the acrimony, certainly damaging for the country, was in vain.