The cicadas are coming!

“Millions of cicadas are expected to emerge after 17 years underground because, of course, it’s 2020”

I was here for the Great Cicada Deluge of 1987. In Cincinnati, at least, this was a truly epic event. There have been several minor outbreaks since then, but nothing like ’87.

For a few weeks during that summer, cicadas were everywhere. And then their bodies were everywhere. (They don’t live long—just long enough to breed.) Continue reading “The cicadas are coming!”

The rebel yell was a real thing

I’ve been reading a lot about the American Civl War of late. Any narrative of the Civil War worth its salt contains a description of the Confederate “rebel yell”. (And no—I am not talking about the Billy Idol song from the 1980s.)

But what exactly did the rebel yell sound like? There were, of course, no audio recording devices in Civil War times.  Continue reading “The rebel yell was a real thing”

The Gary Hart scandal, 1987

It was May 1987, and the USA was gearing up for a presidential election.

Trump wasn’t running. Donald Trump was still a real estate developer in New York City, and still married to his first wife, Ivana Trump. 

Ronald Reagan was nearing the end of his second term. George H.W. Bush, his vice president, was Reagan’s heir-apparent. 

The Democrats, out of office for two presidential terms, were looking for a new standard-bearer. The likely favorite was Gary Hart, a 51-year-old Senator from Colorado. Continue reading “The Gary Hart scandal, 1987”

‘Greyhound’: Tom Hanks’s next WWII movie

I grew up on stories of World War II–real ones. My maternal grandfather served in the US Navy, mostly in the North Atlantic. He made numerous runs between the US and the United Kingdom. And he told me many tales of dodging Messerschmidts and “wolf pack” U-boats. 

There was never really a modern movie done about his war, though. There have been lots of movies about combat in the South Pacific and in the Middle East. There have been many, many films about D-Day. Not so many about the perilous North Atlantic runs between the United States and England.

That’s why I’m especially looking forward to seeing the next World War II movie from Tom Hanks, Greyhound, which is all about my grandfather’s war—naval combat in the North Atlantic. Continue reading “‘Greyhound’: Tom Hanks’s next WWII movie”

Bryan Adams should not have apologized

Singer Bryan Adams apologizes for social media post blaming ‘bat eating’ people for coronavirus

The music of Canadian rocker Bryan Adams was part of the soundtrack of my 1980s youth. His early single “Cuts Like a Knife” was a hit on MTV during my freshman year of high school. I still enjoy listening to his music from time-to-time.

Bryan Adams, like many of us, is frustrated at the coronavirus epidemic. COVID-19, which originated in China, has now killed 292,000 people around the world, including 83,000 in the United States. Continue reading “Bryan Adams should not have apologized”

Obama’s partisan spin on the COVID-19 pandemic

Well, boys and girls, here’s a shocker, as reported by the media wing of the Democratic Party (also known as CNN):

Obama says White House response to coronavirus has been ‘absolute chaotic disaster’

This was CNN, so of course the coverage of former President Obama was fawning and unquestioning. 

This is also an election year, during one of the most politically divisive periods of American history. Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, is President Trump’s presumed opponent in the general election in November.

So, well…of course Obama wasn’t going to say nice things about President Trump. Obama is a politician, after all. Continue reading “Obama’s partisan spin on the COVID-19 pandemic”

Will drive-in movies make a comeback?

Drive-in movie theaters hope to usher in comeback for entertainment sector

I have only childhood memories of the drive-in. Back in the early 1970s, I would occasionally attend with my parents. 

I was very young then, no more than about five years old. I usually fell asleep in the back seat of my dad’s Ford Torino long before the movie concluded. At that age, I was seldom interested in the movies my parents were watching, anyway. Continue reading “Will drive-in movies make a comeback?”

Kent State + 50

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings.

This is another one of those events that occurred within my lifetime, but a few years too early for me to remember it. I had not yet turned two on May 4, 1970.

Growing up in Ohio in the 1970s, though, this was a topic that I heard a lot about.

Much has been said and written about Kent State over the past half-century. So I’ll be brief.

*** Continue reading “Kent State + 50”

No social distancing at Woodstock

Woodstock Occurred in the Middle of a Pandemic

I turned one year old in August 1969, so I didn’t attend Woodstock. (It wouldn’t have been my scene, anyway.)

But according to a contemporaneous news clipping from the era (see the link) Woodstock was held at the height of a flu pandemic that originated in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968 to 1969 ultimately killed 100,000 Americans and a million people worldwide.

I know: That was half a century ago. The Hong Kong flu was not COVID-19. Got it.

Fair enough. But the similarities of the two pandemics, and the difference in how we reacted to them, is nevertheless worth noting.

One important point: Obesity rates in 1968 were much less than what they are now.

Another important point: There was no Internet, no CNN spreading panic and outrage 24/7.

Imagine life before CNN and Twitter. To crib a line from a John Lennon song, “I wonder if you can.”

May Day and the victims of communism

Today is May Day, the most significant holiday in any country that adheres to the socio-economic system envisioned by Marx, Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Kim il-Sung, etc. 

The above video is an introduction to the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 4, 1989. I remember that. I was not there, in Beijing; but I did watch the events unfold on television. 

One of my friends, a woman my age from Vietnam, grew up under communist rule in her native land. She wants nothing to do with Marxism, or any flavor of socialism, ever again. Unsurprisingly, she was not impressed with the Bernie Sanders movement, or his assurances that somehow, his version of socialism would be “democratic”. (As my friend knows, Marxists always say that—until they get into power.) Continue reading “May Day and the victims of communism”

Should Trump have acted sooner against COVID-19?

Over the past week, a new narrative has emerged in the mainstream media: President Trump has finally, belatedly gotten serious about combatting the coronavirus, or COVID-19. A few brave correspondents at—heretofore the mainstream media headquarters of the Resistance—have penned editorials of cautious praise.

Journalists aren’t the only ones. Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, one of Trump’s most implacable archenemies in Congress, openly praised the president’s ‘incredible’ response to the pandemic. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has had nice things to say about President Trump in recent days. In the face of this unprecedented national crisis, the lion and the lamb are lying down together—albeit at a safe social distance of six feet.

But such newfound respect for the president is by no means unalloyed. The other side of the narrative is that Trump should have known better; he should have acted sooner.

There is evidence, after all, that the intelligence community warned the president about the true dangers of coronavirus back in February—even January. And while President Trump did place early restrictions on travel to and from China, the full mobilization of the American  homeland didn’t really get underway until around the Ides of March, give or take a few days.

This brings up an obvious question, the one posed by the title of this piece: Should the president have acted sooner?

Let’s not beat around the bush about the answer: Of course the president should have acted sooner. Most of the rest of us should have acted sooner, too. Speaking of the Ides of March: On Sunday, March 15, I exercised at my fitness center in suburban Cincinnati. I was still half-convinced that I was going to be able to continue working out in a public gym, just like I always have.

But I was wrong. The very next day, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine shut down all bars, restaurants, movie theaters…and health clubs.

I failed to take COVID-19 seriously at first for the same reason that President Trump probably failed to take it seriously. We’ve seen this movie multiple times before, and it has always ended fine for Americans.

No, I’m not talking about the 2011 pandemic film, Contagion. I’m referring to events in the real world. How many times since the beginning of this century have we seen a new flu arise out of  some distant corner of the world, only to dissipate before it reaches American shores?

There have been global outbreaks of H1N1, the avian flu, SARS. None of them seriously impacted daily life in America.

We all make future predictions based on past events. Why should it have been any different this time?

The experts warned President Trump about COVID-19 in January and February of this year. That seems almost indisputable now. But those same warnings, if more generalized, were out there during the presidencies of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. They did nothing, either…so long as they didn’t absolutely have to.

Yes, Bush and Obama were both warned. Over the past fifteen years, I have heard and read multiple warnings from epidemiologists. They repeatedly said that the emergence of a truly global, society-altering pandemic was a question of when, not if.

If I knew that, as a private citizen, then Presidents Bush and Obama also knew. We should have been stockpiling protective masks, ventilators, and hand sanitizer, in the same way that we stockpile petroleum. Imagine how much more prepared we’d be now, if we’d started such actions in 2012, or 2006?

The coronavirus wasn’t the only existential threat that we might have seen coming. What about sentient human threats, like stateless Islamic terrorism?

At the beginning of this century, the cataclysmic black swan event was 9/11. As most readers will know, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were behind that.

The dangers of Osama bin Laden were known to President Bill Clinton. President Clinton had at least one clear chance to take him out with a missile strike. Clinton didn’t act decisively, though, for fear of the political consequences.

And what of Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush? Bush believed that he was going to be a domestic policy president. Shortly after taking office, Bush deprioritized the work of the CIA’s “sisterhood”—a group of mostly female analysts who were then closing in on the Saudi terrorist.

Less than a year into Bush’s first term, 9/11 occurred. How’s that for lack of foresight?

President Reagan, the hero of my Republican youth, played a pivotal role in bankrupting the Soviet Union with an expensive arms race that a Marxist economy simply couldn’t win. During the 1980s, American aid to the Afghan mujahideen helped turn the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan into the USSR’s Vietnam. That effort not only drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan, it also contributed to the collapse of the USSR itself.

What Reagan didn’t foresee, however, was that a decade later, Afghanistan would become the home base of the Taliban. And one of the Arab mujahideen—that same Osama bin Laden—would eventually stop killing commies and start killing everyone else, most of all Americans.

Oh, and President Reagan also didn’t foresee that after the fall of the USSR, Russia was going to turn into something that is arguably worse. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is preferable to Stalin’s USSR; but Mikhail Gorbachev’s USSR might have been preferable to this new incarnation of czarist Russia.

Reagan’s predecessor, Jimmy Carter, also failed to act when he really needed to. Carter should have recognized by 1977 that the Pahlavi regime in Iran was tottering. When the Shah of Iran visited the White House in November of that year, tear gas marred the state visit, as Iranian students studying in the US clashed with riot police. CIA analysts and State Department officials based in Iran (which was then a US ally) warned Carter that something bad was coming over there.

But Carter ignored the warnings. Or at least he didn’t act decisively on them. Fifty-two American hostages spent more than a year of captivity in Iran. And for forty years now, Iran has been not a US ally, but our most persistent and troublesome foe.

I grew up Catholic during the 1970s. In those days, the administration of John F. Kennedy, America’s sainted Roman Catholic commander in chief, was still very much a part of recent memory. Portraits of the fallen president hung in at least one of my primary school homerooms. We memorized passages of Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address like we memorized passages of Catholic Church catechism. (I can still recite entire paragraphs of it from memory.)

Nevertheless, I can also see where Kennedy failed to heed warnings from his advisors, from history, and from common sense. Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs invasion (1961) was a disaster from the planning stage. Castro’s forces outnumbered the American-backed anti-communist guerrillas by at least 10-to-1.

Kennedy should have known that the Bay of Pigs wasn’t going to be a success. Members of the “deep state”, moreover, advised him not to proceed. But Kennedy went with his gut, and greenlighted the debacle.

The following year, Kennedy narrowly pulled us out of the Cuban Missile Crisis. But every historian will acknowledge that we could have just as easily been incinerated.

Why didn’t Kennedy foresee that the Soviets would put nuclear missiles in Cuba? After all, we had already put nuclear missiles on their doorstep, in Turkey. What the Soviets did was a logical escalation.

What was JFK thinking?

When presidents fail to heed the warnings of advisors and circumstances, the result is often a raft of conspiracy theories. There are Americans who believe that FDR deliberately sacrificed over 2,400 American lives on December 7, 1941, so that the isolationist American public would finally consent to join the war against the Axis powers.

By 1941, after all, FDR had ample evidence that a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was imminent. Relations between the United States and the Empire of Japan were already near the breaking point. For years, a final exam question at the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy was, “How would you carry out an attack on Pearl Harbor?”

The Japanese had also tipped their hand with their prior actions. Thirty-seven years before Pearl Harbor, Japan carried out a similar surprise attack on a different enemy. The Russo-Japanese War began in February 1904, when Japanese forces suddenly and without provocation bombarded the Russian naval base at Port Arthur, on the Chinese mainland.

Japan made an official declaration of war three hours later.

Did President Roosevelt knowingly immolate 2,403 Americans on the altar of geopolitics on December 7, 1941? If you believe that, then you essentially believe that FDR was a homicidal sociopath. I don’t believe that.

It’s possible, sure. But the far more likely explanation is that FDR, like so many US presidents before and after him, lacked a perfect insight regarding which dangers required an immediate response, and which could simply be monitored. For no president can respond with urgency to every potential danger.

Hindsight, moreover, is always 20-20. This is as true in our private lives as it is in the fates of nations. ICU units throughout the country are filled with terminal patients whose lifestyle diseases were entirely—or almost entirely—avoidable.

They were informed, ad nauseam, about the dangers of smoking. Their physician warned them to lose weight, to get more exercise. Watch that blood sugar, they were told. Your blood pressure is too high.

They had years to turn their situations around, to avoid disaster. And yet they still wound up in those ICU beds.

Why? They probably weren’t suicidal. But something else was always more urgent—more pressing. Who has time to worry about a heart attack that might strike you ten years in the future, when there is so much that demands your attention right now?

And so it goes with presidents. When you’re President of the United States, you’re constantly bombarded with warnings about short-term and long-term dangers to America. The Chinese are expanding their blue-water navy, with the aim of threatening the American heartland with nukes. Iranian and North Korean hackers are trying to take down our electrical grid. There’s also a new disease in Wuhan, China; you really ought to take a look at that.

On occasion, presidents overreact to a threat. (President Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq was a recent, textbook example of such an overreaction.) But most of the time, their mistake is to not recognize a potential threat until it becomes an actual, existential threat.

We can certainly make the case that President Trump fell into that trap in January and February of this year. He should have acted sooner and more decisively in a critical moment. He didn’t. But the same can be said of FDR, Clinton, Carter, Bush, and others.

President Trump is a polarizing figure. This statement doesn’t, in itself, mean that he’s objectively good or bad. It means what you already know: You can’t say his name in a group of people without eliciting strong reactions.

Americans tend to either love him or hate him. If you’re on the left, President Trump is horrible, evil—worse than Hitler, even. Worse than anyone or anything imaginable. Orange Satan.

If you’re on the right, meanwhile, President Trump is the nearly mythical figure of his political rallies (which won’t be resuming anytime soon, thanks to coronavirus). He’s The Art of the Deal, the charismatic host of The Apprentice. He’s the man who is going to Make America Great Again.

Perhaps Trump fits neither of those partisan hyperboles. Perhaps he’s simply yet another American president whose crystal ball was imperfect at a critical moment. And now, as a result, both the president and America find themselves behind the eight ball.

Notice how you don’t hear as much about the upcoming election in November in recent days. Oh yeah, that. We’ll certainly get around to it…provided we can all make it to the polls without having to don hazmat suits.

At the moment, most of us would be happy to simply see an America that is free of coronavirus. Let’s hope that President Trump, and our more conscientious leaders in both parties, get us there soon. There will be plenty of time to play Monday morning quarterback afterward, after the present crisis ends.

The Bernie Sanders of the 1930s: Huey Long

Bernie Sanders is not the first “share the wealth” populist to come along, and he almost certainly won’t be the last.

Around the turn of the 20th century, a socialist named Eugene V. Debs ran for president multiple times (not as a Democrat, but explicitly as a socialist). In the election of 1912, Debs won 6% of the popular vote.

And then there was Huey Long, the so-called “Kingfish”.

Huey Long came from a poor part of the country (rural Louisiana), though his family was well-off relative to his neighbors. Huey Long was egotistical, power-hungry,  bombastic, and extremely divisive.

Unlike Bernie Sanders, Huey Long explicitly disavowed Marxism. What Long seemed to want (other than his own political power and self-aggrandizement) was a more robust form of the New Deal welfare state, which was in its infancy in Long’s day. (Long was killed by an assassin in 1935.)

I’m presently reading Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long by Richard D. White.  This is a very readable biography; and I highly recommend it if you’re interested American history and/or economics. 

Coronavirus and oil

You may have noticed that gasoline is cheaper than it used to be. Here in Cincinnati, prices have fallen to $1.99.

The culprit? Coronavirus. Before the coronavirus epidemic, gas prices in Cincinnati were running close to $2.40/gallon.

With less demand for all kinds of fuel, oil prices have sunk to a three-year low.

Whether or not the coronavirus panic is exaggerated or not, one thing is certain: It is already affecting consumer behavior, and not in a positive way. Companies are telling employees to forgo nonessential business travel. Individuals are canceling personal trips—especially to the Far East.

Airline stocks have been battered, of course. At least one major airline, United Airlines, has announced a temporary hiring freeze.

The end of the world? Or the end of the global economy?

No. (At least, probably not.)

This too shall pass. Epidemics change behavior; but radical changes are usually only temporary.

I was a kid in the 1970s, during the first herpes scares. I was still in primary school at the time, so I didn’t have much of a sex life. I remember hearing, though, that if you kissed anyone, you would get herpes. Plenty of adults believed that, too. A popular joke of the time went, “What’s the difference between love and herpes? Herpes is forever.”

Then AIDS struck in the mid- to late 1980s. By that time, I was at least wishing for a sex life. This was the era of hyper-vigilance about “safe sex”. So no orgies for me, circa 1987 or 1988.

In case you haven’t noticed, there is still no cure for either herpes or AIDS, and people are still kissing and having unprotected sex. (I don’t know for sure about the orgies.) It therefore follows that they’ll start traveling again, coronavirus or no coronavirus…but maybe not as much as usual, for quite some time.

That said, there is no real upside to the coronavirus epidemic, with one possible exception: With less air travel and fuel consumption, we may not have to endure quite as many lectures about climate change for a while. The airlines aren’t the only parties who’ve been set back by the “black swan” event of coronavirus. The epidemic has put a damper on Greta Thunberg’s business model, too.

Bill Clinton: anxiety and oral sex

It’s tough being the leader of the Free World! So what is a middle age commander in chief to do…but enjoy rounds of fellatio with a White House intern in the Oval Office?

That’s apparently the claim that Bill Clinton makes in an upcoming documentary.

The Clinton-Lewinsky affair took place a generation ago. No one under the age of 40 even remembers it. Clinton could (and should) have simply let history render its verdict without a final word from him on the matter.

I’m a Republican; but I have fond memories of the Clinton years, overall. Clinton was the last of the moderate Democrats.

That said, it is clear that the guy had an issue with his urges. It is also clear that he wasn’t above using his power to exert his will on younger women.

I’ve seen documentaries about Paula Jones (who was at the center of another Clinton sex scandal) and Monica Lewinsky. Jones is now in her 50s, and Lewinsky is in her mid-40s.

After both scandals were over, Clinton went on to earn multimillion-dollar speaking fees, and millions more for his biography, published in 2004.

Jones and Lewsinsky weren’t so fortunate.

Paula Jones did get a settlement for her sexual harassment claim from Clinton’s days as Governor of Arkansas; but almost all of the money went to her lawyers. Monica Lewinsky, meanwhile, who had much promise in 1995, has struggled to find employment.

Jones has been divorced; Lewinksy never married.

Whether former President Clinton intended these outcomes or not, the fact is that two young lives—now not so young—were ruined because of his actions. Monica Lewinsky will forever be the butt of jokes about blowjobs, even though she’s far from the only human being to ever engage in oral sex.

Both women were also savaged by the Clinton PR spin machine in the 1990s.

Bill Clinton should simply apologize, and make no excuses. But this blog will withhold final judgment until the documentary airs.

Reporter asks Warren a stupid question, which she answers inanely

and which a CNN analyst then makes foolish comments about…

But first, a bit of background!

Of course, Elizabeth Warren did not lose her bid for the Democratic nomination because she articulated her message poorly, because she kept switching back and forth between the progressive fringe and what is left of the moderate middle in the Democratic Party.

Oh, no!

She didn’t lose because she spent most of her time in debates attacking other candidates. 

Oh, no!

She didn’t lose because well, elections are competitive endeavors, and most aspirants will lose.

Oh, no!

Elizabeth lost because…(drum roll) she’s a woman!

This is the narrative that Warren has repeatedly tried to promote ever since she saw that she was losing ground to Bernie Sanders.

And today, a reporter threw her the softball question, “We are left with two white men. Now what?”

Then Warren babbled about how horrible that was! And CNN analyst Maeve Reston then babbled further.

Give us a break….

This is one of the major reasons why the Democratic Party will get clobbered in November.

The Democratic Party used to focus on kitchen table, economic issues. They used to be a serious political party.

Now they’re torn between the lunatic dream of Bernie Sanders-style socialism (which very few Americans can take seriously) and Hobbesian identity politics. 


1984: a woman on a US presidential ticket

I could simply point out that the Democrats had a woman at the top of their ticket in 2016. But that’s too obvious, isn’t it?

The Democratic Party also had a woman on the ticket (for vice president) in 1984. Her name was Geraldine Ferraro. 

That was 36 freaking years ago….before Twitter existed, even!

I’m now in my fifties, and Ferraro ran for VP on the Mondale-Ferraro ticket when I was in high school. I didn’t even have my driver’s license yet, on Election Day 1984, when Geraldine Ferraro was on the Democratic presidential ticket. 

36 years ago!

And in 2016, the GOP had women running for the main prize, too: Carly Fiorina and Michelle Bachmann. 

Nobody said, “Hey! Get those girls off the stage!” And that was on the Evil Republican side. 

But despite all that, the end of Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is a singular cause for despair everywhere! Why? Because this means that a woman can never run on a presidential ticket. 

But how many of the people babbling about this even know about Geraldine Ferraro and 1984?

Based on the typical level of knowledge of US history (especially among younger voters), my guess is: Most of them have no clue. 

Sanctuary cities of all kinds, and our new nullification crisis

A handful of small cities and towns in Texas have declared themselves “sanctuary cities for the unborn”. These are communities that outlaw abortion within their city limits.

Abortion, however, remains legal within the state of Texas. And abortion is legal throughout the United States, owing to the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

This makes such laws, which impose penalties for anyone “aiding and abetting” an abortion, technically unenforceable.

The organization behind this trend, Sanctuaries for the Unborn, is banking on an eventual overturn of Roe v. Wade. This would make the local laws suddenly enforceable—and maybe even retroactively.

The term “sanctuary city” was of course coined on the left. It refers to cities where the local governments have chosen to disregard federal immigration laws.

There is an old word for this: nullification. The basic idea of nullification is that local governments have the right to invalidate, or nullify, federal laws that they disagree with, for one reason or another.

Nullification has also been practiced at the state level. In what became known as the Nullification Crisis of 1832, South Carolina refused to enforce federal tariffs.

During the height of the Nullification Crisis, President Andrew Jackson threatened South Carolina with military action. When a visitor from South Carolina offered to carry home any words that the president might have for the people of his state, Jackson said the following:

“Please give my compliments to my friends in your State and say to them, that if a single drop of blood shall be shed there in opposition to the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man I can lay my hand on engaged in such treasonable conduct, upon the first tree I can reach.”

No one is using the term nullification today, but that is effectively what the anti-ICE, sanctuary cities movement amounts to. The Democrat-controlled governments of San Francisco, New York City, and dozens of other smaller cities have effectively decided to nullify U.S. federal immigration laws.

California, meanwhile, now practices a statewide form of nullification—just like South Carolina in 1832. On October 5, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed California Sanctuary Law SB54. This law basically turns all California law enforcement personnel into federal outlaws, as they are prohibited (in most circumstances) from cooperating with ICE officials when handling illegal immigrant suspects.

Language matters, of course. Notice that Chicago doesn’t call itself a “nullification city”. The use of the word “sanctuary” is an attempt to claim the moral high ground.

We should therefore not be surprised that some folks on the right—who hold different concerns—have co-opted the same language. “Sanctuary cities for the unborn” focuses on the parties being protected, not on the federal (or state) laws being violated.

Like “reverse discrimination”, “cultural Marxism”, or “political correctness”, “sanctuary cities for the unborn” is a term that will no doubt drive the progressive crowd absolutely nuts.

In these highly polarized times, many of us believe that Americans on the other side of the political divide are not just misinformed, but morally corrupt, and maybe even downright evil. Therefore, they are completely beyond the reach of reason or persuasion.

If this is what you believe, then it’s a short psychological walk to the tactics of nullification— provided that you live around enough other folks who are similarly minded. In areas that tend to be ideologically uniform (like big cities on both coasts, or small towns in certain red states) a local nullification drive has high chances of success.

Sooner or later, though, there will be a challenge from state or federal authorities. President Trump may not threaten to hang the Governor of California from the nearest tree. (It might not be out of the question, though.) But the Trump administration has already taken measures to penalize sanctuary cities by cutting off portions of their federal funding.

Progressive municipalities that nullify national immigration laws are sowing anarchy. They are also attempting to rewrite immigration laws for all of us, since every community is porous, and connected to the rest of the country.

The “sanctuary cities for the unborn” laws, meanwhile, are mostly symbolic. Most women seeking abortions will be able to travel outside the limits of a small Texas town.

But the symbolism fails, too. This is the kind of law that easily plays into the narrative of pro-life activists as villainous despots from The Handmaid’s Tale. This seems to be an action taken out of political spite, more than anything else.

In addition to its role at the center of the Nullification Crisis of 1832, South Carolina was also the first state to secede from the Union in December 1860, provoking the American Civil War. So-called Fire-Eaters in the state capitol, Columbia, pushed through the legislature a “Resolution to Call the Election of Abraham Lincoln as U.S. President a Hostile Act”. The hysteria over Lincoln in the South in 1860 mirrors the hysteria over President Trump in progressive quarters today.

Nullification—whether it comes from the right or the left—is a bad way to attempt to change state or national laws that one doesn’t like. It may not lead us to civil war. But nullification makes our political system increasingly dysfunctional.

‘The Pacific’: HBO

I’m watching The Pacific on HBO. This series is a significant investment in time, but well worth it. 

There haven’t been nearly enough films and novels about the Pacific war. World War II movies and fiction tend to gravitate to the war in Europe.

Perhaps that’s to be expected. The war in Europe took place in the middle of Western Civilization, in countries that everyone is familiar with: France, Germany, Russia, etc.

And, of course: Hitler, the Nazis, and the Holocaust. Probably half the documentaries on the History Channel are about the Third Reich. 

Much of the war in the Pacific (the part that we were involved in, anyway), was fought on thinly populated, remote islands. While the ideology of the Third Reich is well known to anyone with even basic historical literacy, few Americans grasp the essentials of the Japanese Empire, and its major players. 

Those are among the reasons why the war in the Pacific has been such a challenge to storytellers, and–as a result–often neglected by them. But this HBO series does a great job of bringing “the other World War II” to life.

Fall of the Berlin Wall + 30 years

The Berlin Wall fell thirty years ago today, on November 9, 1989. (Several more years would pass before it would be systematically demolished.)

I won’t recount the entire history of the Wall’s fall here. (You can find that in various places throughout the Internet.) But I will provide a personal perspective.

I was twenty-one years old in November 1989, and a college student. Like most people at the time, I viewed the fall of the Wall with intense optimism.

And there was a lot to be optimistic about in late 1989: The USSR still existed, but a progressive-minded reformer, Mikhail Gorbachev, was at the helm. And he was allowing the Berlin Wall, that symbol of Cold War Soviet tyranny, to come down.

US domestic politics were relatively calm. Not everyone loved George H.W. Bush, of course. But few saw his administration as seriously divisive. This was an era when you could simply ignore US domestic politics, if you wanted to. There wasn’t a lot of drama.

There were problems in the Muslim Middle East. (Aren’t there always?) But the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait was still just a gleam in Saddam Hussein’s eye. No one in the West had yet heard of Osama Bin Laden.

We believed, at that time, that the world was on the verge of a peaceful new era of free markets, international harmony, and peace.

Some scholar–Francis Fukuyama, I believe it was–described this moment as “the end of history”, meaning: the end of traditional historical conflicts.

But it didn’t work out that way, did it? Russia did not develop into another Sweden (as many predicted at the time), but became a paranoid, bellicose, neo-czarist state, in some ways worse than the USSR. The Muslim Middle East continued its long descent into fratricidal chaos. China became more aggressive.

And the West–well, let’s just say that both North America and Western Europe looked much better in 1989 than they do today.

Proof that things don’t always work out as you expect. The evidence can deceive you. Sometimes the future is better than you anticipate, but sometimes it’s far worse, too.

Black Tuesday

On October 29, 1929, –90 years ago today–the world changed.

This was the Crash. Investors on the NYSE lost $14 billion ($206 billion in 2019 dollars.) Over the next four days, total losses would balloon to $30 billion.  You do the rest of the math…

Black Tuesday ended the Roaring Twenties–the Jazz Age of F. Scott Fitzgerald–and brought on the Great Depression.

I don’t remember Black Tuesday or the Great Depression, of course. Those who can are now a dwindling number.

But I do remember some of those who lived through it.  I heard about the Great Depression secondhand.

My grandparents often talked about life during the Great Depression years.  As my grandfather explained it, “You didn’t really consider yourself poor, because everyone around you was poor. Your cousins were poor. Your neighbors were poor.”

My grandmother maintained what the family jokingly referred to as “Depression mindset” through the end of her days. She was very frugal, and very much a hoarder…You know–the kind of person who reuses every glass jar, and buys tea bags in bulk because they’re cheaper that way.

Depression mindset is completely alien to those of us who were born in a time and place of greater abundance.

Reuse a glass jar? Heck, we think our iPhones are “old” after we’ve been using them for two years.

Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing…well, I’ll leave that one up to the reader.