New Normal.

The new governor of my native state, John Kasich, revealed his budget yesterday, and the news is familiar — a lot of what you like (education, libraries) gets slashed, a lot of things Republicans like (charter schools, “privatized” state institutions) get a boost, but most people take a screwing to some extent, and the bottom line is pretty much the same no matter where you stand. New Normal, folks.

Also, today, there was a story in the NYT out of Gallipolis, an impoverished little town on the Ohio River that was only on my radar screen during college, when I was a resident of southeastern Ohio. It was about what is increasingly the only avenue to the middle class available there — “government” jobs, that pay something above minimum wage and offer health insurance. The tale of the tape:

Now, as Ohio’s legislature moves toward final approval of a bill that would chip away at public-sector unions, those workers say they see it as the opening bell in a race to the bottom. At stake, they say, is what little they have that makes them middle class.

Gallipolis (pronounced gal-uh-POLICE) is a faded town on the Ohio River, one whose fortunes fell with the decline in industries like steel in bigger cities along the river.

…Today, storefronts are mostly dark. About one in three people live in poverty. Billboards advertise oxygen tanks and motorized wheelchairs. Old photographs in a local diner look like an exhibit from a town obituary. The region has some of the highest rates of prescription drug abuse in the state, with more people dying from overdoses than car crashes, according to Ed Hughes, executive director of the Counseling Center in Portsmouth, about 55 miles west of here.

It’s a rural Detroit, in other words, with less violence but maybe more despair. The “lucky” people in the story, the ones where two people can stitch together a household income of $63,000, have two sons, one of whom is a Marine, the other just enlisted. You want to know who puts boots on the ground while the College Republicans fight the war of ideas? There you go.

Although the story mentions “decades of decline,” you could come away with the idea that Gallipolis was once a thriving little town. Not in my lifetime, I’d wager. The region has always been the poorest part of the state, and the middle class has never had a firm footing in the Ohio Valley, dotted with towns like this. One of my roommates in college dated a young guy who’d hit the lottery of well-paid labor — he was a coal miner. Union wages for some of the most dangerous work available, with three showers at the end of every shift, one at the mine, another at home and sometimes another at our apartment, and still he left black streaks on her sheets. Coal dust gets deep in your pores. (And, of course, your lungs.)

But the woman with the two sons works as a janitor at a state institution for the mentally disabled, and considers herself lucky to have her job, as otherwise she’d be doing what her neighbors do — working three part-time jobs with no insurance. Here’s a chilling statistic:

A third of all private-sector workers under 30 have no health insurance, up from 15 percent in 1988, according to the census data.

What are we going to do with these people? Keep drumming up wars for their sons to fight? Or keep pushing propaganda at them and hope they don’t change the channel?

Well. I don’t want to hang crepe all over the place. Maybe we should change the tone to one of righteous snark-fury. Linda posted this low in the comments yesterday, but I want to make sure everyone sees it. Ezra Klein on Evan Bayh:

But Bayh did not return to Indiana to teach. He did not, as he said he was thinking of doing, join a foundation. Rather, he went to the massive law firm McGuire Woods. And who does McGuire Woods work for? “Principal clients served from our Washington office include national energy companies, foreign countries, international manufacturing companies, trade associations and local and national businesses,” reads the company’s Web site. He followed that up by signing on as a senior adviser to Apollo Management Group, a giant public-equity firm. And, finally, this week, he joined Fox News as a contributor. It’s as if he’s systematically ticking off every poison he identified in the body politic and rushing to dump more of it into the water supply.

For those of you who didn’t know Bayh when he was human, it’s even more distressing, what a comedown this is. For a while, he was golden, the sort of New Democrat in the Clinton mold that you thought might lead the state into a more progressive future, and away from the rube bumpkins (is that redundant?) who ran things when I arrived. But sadly, no. A political friend once told me, “Evan Bayh proved that it’s not impossible for a Democrat to out-Republican a Republican.” Where did I read recently — was it here? — that he’s only waiting for his father to die before he actually declares himself a Republican? I don’t know what shape Birch is in at the moment, but I’d say if he’s sentient at all, he already knows.

OK, I have to leave you with at least one smile on a day where the skies are still gloomy (although it’s above freezing!) at 10 a.m. Here’s one:

Arianna Huffington’s journalism ethics — laughable!

Posted at 10:12 am in Current events |

72 responses to “New Normal.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 16, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Less violence in Appalachia than Detroit? Out of doors, maybe.

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  2. nancy said on March 16, 2011 at 10:23 am

    Touché, Jeff.

    Seriously, though: What is the plan for uplifting the white, rural poor, or near-poor, or working poor, or whatever? Is it just cannon fodder all the way? I really do think about this, a lot. There are only so many weekend cottagers from Columbus and Cincinnati who can employ maids and handymen.

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  3. jcburns said on March 16, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Coincidentally, just yesterday, the PBS News Hour ran a long story (well, they’re all long, I guess) about the problems of income disparity pegged to a comparison between Crawford County Ohio (Bucyrus, Galion) and apparently booming Delaware County (shown as a prospering bedroom community for Columbus…especially Powell, Ohio, which was farmland when I lived in Columbus).
    Apparently meth and, increasingly, heroin use abounds around Galion (the county coroner says he’s seeing a lot more of it in his private practice, doesn’t know why.) Kids at the high school say they’re getting out. Nobody wants to work factory.
    For some reason I had mentally relegated this sort of poverty and struggle to the southern part of the state. No, I guess.

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  4. Jolene said on March 16, 2011 at 10:45 am

    What makes you think there is any such plan, Nancy? As Rana said a couple of days ago, we seem to be entering a phase of history in which, if you ain’t got yours, too damn bad.

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  5. 4dbirds said on March 16, 2011 at 10:48 am

    “There are only so many weekend cottagers from Columbus and Cincinnati who can employ maids and handymen.” This struck a chord with me. My 88 year old mother retired 15 years ago to her childhood home in rural Northern Missouri. She is not rich, but has a good income from my father’s army pension, her own pension, SS and a small trust her father left her. She pays part-time wages to a handyman and a cleaning woman. They show up and are eager because there is no work there. My mother ended up in the hospital and is now in a nursing home rehabbing. My sister and I are going out there in a week or so to assess her ability to live alone. I am very aware that if we have to put my mother in assisted living, two people will lose important income as a result.

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  6. Randy said on March 16, 2011 at 10:51 am

    How does this compare to the 90’s recession? I’m curious, because I know that one was awful here in Canada, and the effects lasted for years after it was officially over.

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  7. alice said on March 16, 2011 at 11:00 am

    From the “how bad are things?” department:

    I was in Miami, South Beach, a week or so ago: Plenty of empty storefronts (RIP Sassy Assy) but tattoo parlors & smoke shops seem to thrive.

    For rent & for sale signs everywhere, but I never thought I’d see “we take Section 8” signs on rentals 3 blocks from Miami beach.

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  8. Rana said on March 16, 2011 at 11:10 am

    On a different sort of post-apocalyptic note:

    My friend in Tokyo has put together an English-language blog for people in Japan who need information about the disaster, relief efforts, on-going dangers, and so on. Please forward to anyone who might need it.

    He also needs translators; email me if interested.

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  9. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 16, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Galion, Newark, Gallipolis — Nancy pegged it, sort of (EDIT – as did Jolene): there is no strategy for the non-urban/suburban parts of the state. None. You can debate the various states’ urban policies and the federal guidelines that come with their funding, and one can certainly challenge the sprawl-inducing incentives that pass for suburban “policy,” but there’s at least something to put on the table and argue over.

    Beyond the main urban-suburban rings, beyond Easton & Polaris around Columbus, out past King’s Island from Cincy, or when you drive farther than a McD’s at every stop on interstates leaving Cleveland, there’s a policy wasteland. Rhodes might have been a tool (I never met him), but the regional campuses for OSU represented something for the “in-between regions” of Ohio, and my sense is that this is true for all our neighbors.

    Mega-agriculture, the occasional outlet mall, and a spatter on the map of odd little college towns rooted in another century (see Marilynne Robinson’s essay cum speech in Harper’s on this subject), like Gambier, Oberlin, and Granville, plus governmental hubs with a state college like Bowling Green, Oxford, & Athens. There is not, and has not been for an era (you define it) any interest on the part of government to promote modestly-sized communities.

    If there is a strategy, one almost has to come to the conclusion that it’s a closely held, discussed only in whispered tones, plan-in-name only that, if you can edge close enough to hear about, boils down to this muttered aside between cigars out on the veranda: “The sooner the hinterlands clear out, the better.”

    Both Republicans and Democrats are utterly incoherent on anything that is neither urban-industrial or suburban-Wobegonian. Tax policy, federal spending, or incentives state & county, all conspire in a thoughtless, unheeding fashion to hammer away at clusters of homes at country crossroads, small towns with one shuttered plant and a convenience mart “downtown,” and shove what kids grow up there to either the military, prison (guard or inmate), or to move to Charlotte.

    Elderly homeowners leave properties to both rack, and ruin, aimlessly picking up property from relatives heading to nursing homes (in town), rent to young adults, and curse them when they half-burn down from candles or meth-making, then they buy a few more, and hire one holdout without the funds to move to Florida to stay behind and collect rents while they, of course, go.

    Schools continue to get bigger and become more and more eerily similar to prisons, no doubt because they are built by the same contractors who do major state projects, too roughly the same numbing, mindless specs. So the town school building goes empty, deteriorates, and reminds village residents each day of how they are fvalued by their county & state institutions.

    Marriage, a very rare commodity, is largely the province of those elders who’ve left for Florida at any rate, and the church is closed itself, or on a three-point charge — at best pastored a few hours a week by a semi-retired person who lives the next big town over, an hour away. So coupling, of course, happens, and the morality of serial monogamy is observed, as more children leaven the side-streets with plastic playhouses and the usual large front wheel gadgets.

    Driving away, you pass crosses, popping up at curves and sometimes along otherwise inexplicable straight stretches. The windproof candle in a red glass chimney, the wired bows and the arrangement of stuffed animals or Buckeye memorabilia is often the best maintained thing you’ve seen going through town.

    Drive past a few more clusters of these roadside shrines to latter-day saints-of-a-sort, you slow down to enter another. Then another.

    Move to the city, or get a county job, and if you say your prayers, and all goes well, you’ll buy four and a half acres out “away from people” someday, put a deer dummy in the back yard, have a big shed for your ATVs, and tell your wife “if one of those meth heads comes onto my property, swear to God, I’ll shoot ’em. I will, you just watch.”

    He will, too.

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  10. Peter said on March 16, 2011 at 11:15 am

    “decades of decline” might be an understatement. There are large swaths of southern Illinois that are like Galipolis, and they were said to be in a decades long decline when Harry Truman campaigned there in 1948.

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  11. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

    The one bright spot for Licking & Knox Counties right now (along with the Housing Trust Fund left unmolested in the budget melee):

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  12. basset said on March 16, 2011 at 11:29 am

    That, and the Mothman hasn’t been back in awhile… at least as far as we know:

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  13. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 11:59 am

    It was not long ago that Arianna was Ann Coulter without the Adam’s apple.

    I have thought for a long time that the basic goal of Republicans was a plutocracy. Lately I’m wondering whether it isn’t feudalism.

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  14. Sue said on March 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    prospero, in a few years, perhaps this is how we’ll be able to tell who’s who.

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  15. Rana said on March 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Evan Bayh is a total putz. I remember, back when he was “representing” me, that his responses to my letters and emails were always vague non-sequiturs meant to polish his image while not addressing the issue at hand. Write a complaint about defunding a school, he’d send back a note about his participation in a bake sale in another county, and so on.

    There are many, many, many things wrong with Mike Pence as a representative, but I will at least give him credit for actually responding to the content of my missives, even if his answers are invariably unsatisfying.

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  16. MarkH said on March 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    GREAT subject today, Nance. And a very thoughtful post by MMJeff. It serves as a reminder for those of us who may have forgotten what a part of Appalachia SE Ohio really is. And is, well, forgotten.

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  17. nancy said on March 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Yes, Jeff, excellent comments. It strikes me that what we’ve done, in the name of markets making things more efficient, is essentially made our smaller communities the victim of economies of scale. Smaller farms, kaput. Small industry, exported. Small shopkeeping, bigfooted by Wal-Mart.

    But for now, today, we have baby elephants frolicking in a kiddie pool:

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  18. Bob (not Greene) said on March 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Jeff (TMMO), that turned into a pretty awesome column. As a city kid, I have zero idea what transpires in “the country” and it sounds pretty damn grim.

    Of course, there’s grimness and similar stories of escape (the lucky) and decay (the typical) in urban areas that, at least on the surface, look a hell of a lot better of than Detroit. Take Chicago, for instance. Glittering downtown, lots of affluent suburbs. Also lots of inner-ring urban suburbs (I live in one), full of people with no health insurance working menial (or several) jobs, in homes no longer worth what they used to be. On our side of the block alone there are four homes vacant. One guy died, but three went south in foreclosure. And even before that the owners couldn’t care for the properties, so the decline started before they were shuttered. It’s like I’m witnessing a slow spiral of shittiness, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

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  19. jcburns said on March 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Yeah, America’s go-go growth tradition doesn’t seem to handle the concepts of “small,” “modest”, and “sustainable” well. True in business, urbanism, government, real estate, food, the business of sports (I could go on.)

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  20. Jeff Borden said on March 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    My mother-in-law lives in a city of about 50,000 in central Florida on the Atlantic Coast. Remember, this is a city on the coast enjoying the same kind of climate as the rest of Florida, but the town itself is shattered. Out by I-95 and the Florida Turnpike sit an enormous Wal-Mart, a ginormous Home Depot and pretty much every single chain restaurant you can name. Downtown, well, there is a struggling, old-line department store that only the elderly ladies still patronize, a few eateries eking out an existence, some bars on the marina and that’s about it.

    There is an enormous meth and crack cocaine problem. White folks with a decent income are fleeing south to more thriving towns featuring gated communities. The arrival of a county courthouse on the main drag is being touted as one of the greatest things in the past 25 years.

    And this is on the coast of fun and sun Florida.

    I have heard economists talk endlessly about how the big box retailers have “saved” Americans billions of dollars and I’m not going to dispute the argument. Wal-Mart is a mighty fine resource for many people. But damn, we ought to stop pretending that when these huge retailers open up we aren’t going to see a commensurate number of small businesses wither and die.

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  21. Scout said on March 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Jeff (ttmo), that was an incredible piece of writing. It was so rich and visual; it felt like I was there.

    These are desperate time for the middle class. As a boomer, I have no recollection of ever before feeling this sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. I despair when I realize that the very people who are being Republicanized out of existence are the same ones voting for their own demise. They fall for everything that comes out of Fux News and its inevitable ripple effect; the demonization of unions -by people who actually benefit themselves from collective bargaining even if they are not union – is the perfect example.

    There are plenty of smart people talking about what is happening, but the message does not seem to be reaching the masses. The middle class is willingly marching in lock-step to poverty, mindlessly and robotically absorbing insidious messaging from the powers that be.

    The one bright spot is what is happening in Wisconsin. Those people are pissed as hell and they are not going away. I’m fixing on that tiny pinpoint of light.

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  22. del said on March 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    So true, Jeff B.

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  23. moe99 said on March 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Wow. Lots to think about here. Thanks to Nancy and both Jeffs. And Monty Python is so ON TARGET these days, Sue.

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  24. Sue said on March 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    From ThinkProgress:
    ‘OHIO: Gov. John Kasich (R) has proposed cutting 25 percent of schools’ budgets, $1 million from food banks, $12 million from children’s hospitals, and $15.9 million from an adoption program for children with special needs. A Kasich staffer revealed yesterday that these cuts are more about politics then budget-balancing, telling the Cincinnati Dispatch that “even if there weren’t an $8 billion deficit, we’d probably be proposing many of the same things.” The plan includes tax cuts for oil companies, a repeal of the estate tax and an income tax cut for the rich that former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) halted last year because of the state’s fiscal crisis.’
    Here’s TP’s info about other states doing similar deeds:

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  25. Dexter said on March 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    JmmO: If you expand that #9 comment and submit it to any publication as a full article, they will have to publish it. The New Yorker usually relies on staff writers but I would love to see you published there.

    Williams County, Ohio is where I live, where Michigan, Ohio and Indiana converge.
    I have commented here before about how depressed this area is…for a long time the highest unemployment rate was here, and not Appalachia, which I believed, living here, but which made most run for Google to check it out.
    All three daughters went to high school here and all three left when fall terms started at U of Toledo for two, and at OSU in C-bus for the baby. And they never came back. This flight has been going on a long time, and although this town has a new , almost completed $63 million hospital renovation, and all three daughters work in the medical field, none will ever come back here.
    In rural and small-town NW Ohio, there is simply no future for any working class new-generation , and that is how it is.
    Oh, it’s different here. People would absolutely love to work in factories again, because generations of people bought the promise.
    This thing began unravelling thirty years ago and now it’s almost done.
    Reading my UAW monthly magazine, it’s sad to read the rhetoric. Only a relative few now enjoy what many thousands once had, and that is the employment in a place with union protection and fair wages.

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  26. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    It’s getting increasingly disturbing that Republican politicians that used to seem reasonable, like Tim “Bridgeman” Pawlenty and Kasich seem to be whoring to the worst aspects of what seems to be an every man is an island American political culture. Seems to me that Richard Lugar, of the unfortunate name, is like the last bastion of humanity and common decency on that end of the spectrum. And they are going after him with torches and pitchforks. I’ve despised Republicans all my life. What if there aren’t any anymore? Just a pack of rabid wolves.

    Rush is the biggest asshole on the face of the earth. It’s not even close, except for Jerry Jones. He’s also delusional and all-Oxy, all the time. What part of this puke is rational? Pray for Gaia to visit this turd with congestive heart failure.

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  27. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Mildly interesting story, but look at that out of shape woman in that picture.

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  28. Linda said on March 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Kasich was pretty much always a whore. He wrote a big conservative ideology book a few years back, then spent his post-presidential run (really) wilderness humping for Lehman Bros, selling their financial products to the state of Ohio’s pension fund. Of course, they tanked big time, so now he as to “save” the pension program.

    Have you noticed that Republicans do not even pretend that if you sign on with them, that things will get better? Just not worse. Reagan would roll over in his grave.

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  29. Jolene said on March 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    More Japan pictures. I know we’ve all seen almost more of them than we can bear, but take a look at #28. I found it touching and hopeful, despite the obvious difficulties. Despite everything, people connect, and people make do.

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  30. del said on March 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Jeff TMMO, your comment about violence in Appalachia struck a chord. I’m more frightened by the prospect of a social worker having to visit a shack in the woods than a Section 8 city dwelling. Violence seems ingrained in rurul culture, a fact borne out by my own experience as a wrestler (the best teams were always from the sticks).

    All this talk of our spiraling descent into the “new normal” reminds me of one of those Brokaw/Jennings 20th Century books I was reading the other day that explained how certain concepts came into popular consciousness to form part of our national identity. Seems to me our national identity then was based on the family farm, and later, suburbia.

    What, exactly, are the concepts on which we base our national identity today? Freedom? Free markets, freedom from taxes, freedom to follow God’s commandments, freedom from intrusion on our Second Amendment rights? Maybe we are screwed.

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  31. Kirk said on March 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    ThinkProgress might have some of its facts straight, and I’m certainly no defender of Kasich, but I would tread with caution, starting with its reference to the “Cincinnati Dispatch,” which does not exist. And the reference to an income tax cut “for the rich” apparently refers to a phased income-tax cut for all kinds of folks, certainly including the middle class, that has been going on for 5 or 6 years. Strickland indeed did put off last year’s part of it to save the state some money.

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  32. Jolene said on March 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    More to worry about: Four American journalists are missing in Libya.

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  33. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    So, do nuclear, but bite the bullet, spend the cash, and do not under any circumstances put spent rods on top of the containments, or ever let any industry shills have anything to do with regulations. Remember when Scalia said it was alright for Dickless to keep secret who he talked to about energy policy?. If this is left to private interests people will undoubtedly fuck it up big-time in the interest of profit. And that is bureaucracy, too. Nuclear waste? Shoot it into space.

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  34. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    What happens to the serfs. And these people populate the Teaparty. And this is close to as good as Neil gets without Steve.

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  35. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    What sort of moron ever thought fracking was a good idea? But shit, water quality, who cares? That’s why it’s alright to have bulldozed mountaintops into hollers and trashed the Eastern seaboard watershed to extract coal. I lived there when I was a little kid. And I love the mountains and the Tug River. My front yard and my back yard, and pure kid adventure.After all, who needs water? Grow rapeseed across the steppes and forget about fossil fuel and nukes. This is obviously sciontifically feasible., just not economically. Wealth might be turned upside down. Couldn’t have that, could we?

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  36. Hattie said on March 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Man, the whole world is turning into a dump.

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  37. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Western Canada is largely steppes, right? Vast fields of weeds could provide immense amounts of fuel. No duh. Weeds do not deplete the soil. American corn for fuel is asinine and, how would GOP say it, a slush fund that gives Bob Dole rides on corporate jets.

    Agribusiness is a cancer. Some of y’all must be guitar players. Was there ever a more elegant player than Mark Knopfler? Maybe Robin Trower. But look how he plays with just his left. And like a lot of really good guitar players, he’s a very good singer too. If you watch this, and you know how to play guitar, you might think this guy is the best. Richard Thompson and Steve Stills would be my picks. But this is truly awe-inspiring. If ads intervene, I swear it is not my fault.

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  38. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Hattie, not really, so long as people like you have the brains to realize it’s a possibility we want to avoid.

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  39. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Del, you are so right. Give me an urban Section 8 address to deliver bad news to, over delivering Christmas baskets to an isolated, rural, end-of-gravel-turning-to-dirt drive trailing off into a pair of trailers backed into a scrubby hillside, one half-burned out, being slowly scavenged into the other.

    But you still have to pause to look closely to figure out which one is occupied. You usually go with the one with a dog chained closest to it, but gauging carefully the length of sidewinding chain that unfortunately disappears into grass and some bicycle framed. Hey, I haven’t guessed wrong yet, with a foot or so to spare.

    Prospero, didn’t Knopfler have some sort of horrific accident a few years back, and he has to play a certain way to work around the injury? Tendons were involved [shudder] as I recall.

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  40. Dorothy said on March 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Jolene your link isn’t working.

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  41. Julie Robinson said on March 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    It’s not just rural small towns that have no jobs to offer. I have two family members who spent years looking for decent work and finally took jobs that pay barely in the two digits per hour. Since they were full time with benefits they really had no other choice. Serfs is a good word. Is it any wonder our daughter is already talking Canadian citizenhood?

    When we placed my MIL in a nursing home last week her previous caregivers also lost their positions. They didn’t earn a lot, but again, it will be hard for them to replace that income.

    My sister sounds remarkably upbeat considering her fire losses. It sounds like her friends and coworkers have rallied around big time and will help until I can get down there next week. Thanks for the caring comments.

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  42. moe99 said on March 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Kirk, the link ThinkProgress gives works–it goes to the Columbus Dispatch. Not Cincinnati. Understandable confusion perhaps if you’re not from Ohio or the surrounding states.

    And Prospero, Preston Reed is as fine a guitarist as I’ve seen lately. And I have been quite a fan of Knopfler.

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  43. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    NEW NORMAL: You are vassals. Moe. I know i’m in a minority, but I believe Steve Stills is rather remarkable. Jimy and Clapton both chose to play on his first album. I would say, the wah on Go Back Home is the best rhythm guitar extant. Bar none. Nothing remotely close. It’s actually better than the lead which is smoking.

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  44. paddyo' said on March 16, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Jolene, thanks for the link to the Atlantic’s latest photo page from Japan. Five days later, still riveting new pix . . .

    And BTW, besides the uplifting and hopeful tone in your favorite shot No. 28 (mine, too), I was also struck by the irony, if not poetry, embedded in that image. They are sharing around the fire something still dear to many of us who follow Newspapers! Still a reliable portable aggregator of data, albeit somewhat dated. More shareable than an iPad or smartphone. Most of all, a source of news in a place where electricity, phones, wireless and the ‘Net are still not back up and running . . .

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  45. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    On a brighter note, I had a moment to hunt a link for the text of the wonderful Marilynne Robinson speech that became an essay (mentioned by me in passing above), here:

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  46. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    So what kind of guitar do you play, Moe? I think the ultimate question about guitar playing is the King question. BB or Albert? This is like the choose wisely line in Lost Ark. Choose Wisely. Albert has BB beat all to hell, but John Lee rules. At the Chessmate, 6 Mile and Livernois. Oh, and that crap about Ted Nugent never using drugs. that is garbage, I SAW HIM. HE IS A Major league liar. Although who aactually cares. He’s a dickhead and nobody but some dumb POS LIKE BILL AMWHER IS GOING TO SOLICIT HIW QWWHOLE OPINION.

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  47. Bob (not Greene) said on March 16, 2011 at 4:05 pm


    BB or Albert? From a guitar playing point of view, Albert all the way, but BB can really sell a song. John Lee, well like a lot of blues guys — like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Mississppi Fred MacDowell — you just can’t teach that. It’s their style alone. I’ll take Fred MacDowell over both John Lee and Lightnin’. With those idiosyncratic styles, it’s really a matter of personal taste.

    I never gave much thought to Steven Stills, but I always thought Neil Young was underrated as a picker, especially acoustic. One guy I thought brought the house down as a guitar player — of course dead of an OD a few years ago — was Eddie Shaver, the son of the great Billy Joe Shaver, who will never get his due as THE outlaw country singer/songwriter.

    And yes, Mark Knopfler is an elegant player. I’ve always liked him.

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  48. CW said on March 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Prospero and Bob,

    You left out a choice on the King question. Don’t forget about Freddie!

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  49. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    We’re listening to Exiles, the new version, it is ridiculously worth the money for the new one. Unless you think sludge is just part of the wtones experience. m I think they are masters. On guitar, I’d mostly put Mick Taylor, He was the Stones, with Mick, for a long time. Keef was mostly bullshit. Keef may as well have been dead. This is all Mick Taylor. and he began as qa way better guitqar player in the first place.

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  50. Jolene said on March 16, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Here, again, is the link to the story re the reporters/photogs missing in Libya. Sorry for the non-functioning link above.

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  51. del said on March 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Prospero, your “vassals” observation reminded me of the starting point for legal research about the employment relationship in legal encyclopedias Corpus Juris Secundum and American Jurisprudence. Gotta look under M for Master/Servant. Amen.

    And, posted this before but here’s John Lee Hooker’s Hobo Blues:

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  52. Dexter said on March 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Who am I to declare the best guitarist? Nobody. But… Les Paul, when he picked his favorite guitarist, people listened.
    Tommy Emmanuel

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  53. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 6:17 pm


    Putting those ponds on top of the containments has got to be the dumbest thing anybody ever figured. Holy shit, how fucking dumb was that?

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  54. John G. Wallace said on March 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Jeff Borden – Sounds like Ft. Pierce…. If so that’s where the homeless tent city sits behind a nice friendly Publix. Just a guess, could be Port St. Lucie (or Port St. Lousy as they say here). Am I close?
    My website’s publisher is really into boating (actually yachting, but he gets it and likes the balance (poor guy) I bring to the table) and he says Ft. Pierce has one of the greatest public marinas in the world, but too many boat owners decided it isn’t worth using because walking to your car can (and has been) deadly.

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  55. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Del, I’ve seen John Lee hundreds of times but never heard that song. It’s fantastic. The Chessmate , at 6Mile and Livernois. Like I Cover the Waterfront, which is the greatest blues song other than Smokestack Lightning, in my opinion and of course Mannish Boy. That really, really white boy is perfect foil for Muddy. Probably the drugs.

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  56. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Saving space: we’ll put the cooling ponds for the spent rods on the roofs of the containment housings and save some space. This just seems spectacularly stupid. And could somebody explain how those spent rods will be transported safely across the USA from the SRP to Yucca Mountain and how they will be cooled in transit and in the repository? This sounds like asking for trouble.

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  57. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    And Dexter, it’s most likely Richard Thompson. That kinda beats Doc Watson, which nobody ever thought possible. There is actually no way to play better than that. And Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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  58. coozledad said on March 16, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Guitars? Did somebody say guitars? This must be them now:

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  59. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    I realize best guitar player is a fool’s errand. But it’s entertaining. Chet Atkins comes to mind,, Keith Richard was not the best guitar player in the Rolling Stones. First, Mick Taylor. Second, Woody. Could Keef have ever played those Faces licks? Not in about a million years. No accounting for styles, but I can play anything BB King ever played, and I’m just decent as far as skill. Albert is his big brother, and, I think, a better singer, too. Maybe it’s Buddy Guy. Maybe it was Dave Davies. Of course it’s a foolish discussion, but it’s endless and it’s entertaining. What’s the best Jimmy Page solo. I am absolutely sure it’s Fool in the Rain. My brother is just as sure it’s in Kashmir. Is either of those better than Dave Davies? Nope. And none of those is better than any Robin Trower. Or the real Fleetwood Mac, before they became a pop band. <a href="Steven Stills “>Steven Stills and this song is awe inspiring.

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  60. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    There is a more serious divide in humankind than ripping and tearing and opening presents with some decorum. You aren;t a real human being unless you choose between the Peter Green / Jeremy Spencer version of Fleetwood Mac and the Lindsay Buckingham/Stevie version. If you choose the latter, you are a weenie, with no taste whatever. Green Manalishi or You Make Lovin’ fun? No duh.

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  61. prospero said on March 16, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    They don’t give a shit.. In fact, they want everybody unemployed and they want to blame it all on the brown guy,

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  62. brian stouder said on March 16, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Jeff, that article you linked to is superb.

    An excerpt, which I particularly liked

    Like Persephone I passed from a lovely, sunlit world into the darkness of old certitude and severity. There I learned that there was an iron or, alternatively, a brazen law of wages. This meant that the great class of those who lived by their labor could not earn more than subsistence—and subsistence very strictly defined. Even the death clubs (in which 19th-century British workers pooled their pittances to pay for their own funerals) furrowed these lofty brows, being evidence that wages exceeded the minimum required for survival and therefore transgressed against that iron law and threatened to destroy civilization. Starvation could be rationalized as the friend of civilization, a natural mechanism for restoring balance in the labor market. What was forbidden in all these texts, to the great majority of the people, was precisely the pursuit of happiness—happiness in the 18th-century sense of that word: prosperity or well-being.

    Aside from that, I find myself bracing now for the worst of all possible outcomes, from the ceaseless, speedy downward spiral of events in Japan. The United States government has flatly contradicted the Japanese government, and forthrightly stated that one of the spent fuel rod pools is completely dry – despite statements to the contrary from the Japanese.

    Footage of Chinook helicopters dumping water into the area of Reactor 4 – and indeed, not wasting time by slowing and hovering, but instead making fast passes through the hot zone as they dump the seawater and go on – looks a hell of a lot like the last card to play, before the meltdown runs its course and we see another tarry, Chernobyl-like blast…and even then, things won’t have hit rock-ass bottom yet, as there are several more spent-fuel rod pools, which are said to be heating up.

    When the Emperor of Japan goes on television to tell people to remain hopeful, events are on a truly bad trajectory.

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  63. Dave said on March 16, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    I think large areas of southern and southeast Ohio were in decline long before current curses came along. My parents left there in 1948 because Central Ohio looked more attractive than anything Portsmouth and Scioto County offered. I daresay it was the same in many other southeastern and southern Ohio counties, I’ve met many folks over the years who left places like Ironton, Pomeroy, Jackson, and McArthur for the same reasons.

    Today, the meth labs and the like have even made walking around or driving around on back roads unsafe. My brother was recently advised not to go wandering around Meigs County, he was told he might not see anyone but he would probably be watched.

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  64. Dexter said on March 17, 2011 at 12:37 am

    Dave…the Auburn, Indiana paper has yet another meth-lab story of a Kendallville bust. I didn’t even read it; there are so many stories like this that it has become routine , and not worthy of a mouse click.
    Is it safe to walk the sidewalks anywhere at night in the midwest with all the crazies about?
    A vengeful dad shot up the local cop shop a few months ago, his simmering rage boiled over into violence towards the cops because his daughter had been killed when a man the cops were chasing for a traffic violation wrecked his motorcycle and the woman flew off and her head crashed into a curb…bad timing for a ride with a fellow bar customer.
    At least the cops caught the two kids who robbed and stabbed a man who was out for a stroll a couple weeks ago. The street is well travelled and lit, but so what? These punks stole the victim’s wallet and put him into the hospital.
    I am a night owl and I walk my dogs at night all the time, and I cycle at night in the good weather nights, too…now I can’t feel safe here for the first time in 34 years of living in this town.

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  65. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 17, 2011 at 7:13 am

    Thanks to many for kind words, as Nancy said in starting all this rolling, “I really do think about this, a lot.” (Mrs. Froberg would circle “a lot” in red, but sometimes . . .)

    What I don’t want to do is idealize, in some Rockwellian sort of way, rural/small town life. And since the 1890s, non-urban/suburban numbers in the US have gone from 70+% to 20% and still declining. Does the 18 or 19% of the country that hasn’t left Bucolia, OH really deserve equal treatment with the other 80%?

    Maybe not equal, but fair, that’s one thing. The other problem is that even despite, or maybe because of my generally conservative leanings, I look at most of suburbia and think “this simply isn’t sustainable.” Not economically, not resource-wise, not socially. And the one form of rural growth is what a like-minded pastor friend calls the urge to “privatize their utopias,” two-income couples with city jobs who drive to an enclave of four to ten acres, an overlarge house with a bigger outbuilding, one of a row carved out of a farmer’s section, hidden in the middle of the one square mile behind a series of enclaves.

    That’s the really unsustainable lifestyle, and in this county, $5 a gallon gas is going to put some people who’ve survived the last few years OK in the bucket, too. They can’t keep working the jobs that make this lifestyle possible, unless they switch from the big roaring diesel pickup or tricked out SUV, and even at that, it’s gonna get tough.

    I think smaller clusters with some form of interurban transport have a number of merits to them, but all my airy arguments boil down to this: I just dread the idea of ending up, in my lifetime if not my son’s, with the entire interstitial inbetween from the end of one suburban belt to the beginning of the next, with only emptiness . . . and factory farms, worked by undocumented immigrants and shuttle buses of urban work-for-hire temporaries. What we lose with the impending further collapse of anything resembling family (or just human scale) farms is a sort of slow-motion meltdown socio-culturally whose end we can’t quite foresee.

    There was nothing necessarily wonderful or ideal about growing up on farms (which I did not, but did my youthful years embedded in a matrix of them all around me), and there’s plenty of brutality and harshness in stories of rural life from far, far back. I just sense the end of that option, ironically becoming only available to the wealthy — like the irony of former fishing towns on the Atlantic now only liveable by hedge fund managers & callow heirs. Modest farmsteads and rural life may be as historically dated as a village blacksmith shop, but if they empty out and take all their social infrastructure with them, what happens when sprawlburbia becomes unsustainable? Do we shove everyone even more closely together in vast glittering cities? And maybe it’s that which I dread — with all due respect to Deborah, whom I believe lives in the heart of a city, and I don’t dislike the idea of that lifestyle at all: I just know the Dickensian likelihood of the majority of lives, the overwhelming plurality of lives, if we’re all to live nowhere but in a tightly compacted city.

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  66. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 17, 2011 at 7:16 am

    p.s. — If I had to live in a city, and could go where I pleased as things are today, I would surely pick Streeterville. But I’d not be able to keep from wondering as I walked up and down Michigan Avenue, and glanced back at the city from the lakefront beaches, “How long, O Lord? How long?”

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  67. coozledad said on March 17, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Water isn’t going to cool the exposed fuel rods at this point. I’m thinking if they dumped a few dozen mortgage lenders and brokerages on them from those choppers it might buy some time to preserve human life.

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  68. Bruce Fields said on March 17, 2011 at 11:05 am

    “what happens when sprawlburbia becomes unsustainable? Do we shove everyone even more closely together in vast glittering cities?”

    I think you’re leaving out a lot of stuff in the middle there…. E.g. traditional residential city blocks with detached or row houses are a far cry from suburban mcmansions, but don’t have to feel “shoved together” either.

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  69. moe99 said on March 17, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Nancy, I prefer ginandtacos take on the Michigan legislation to yours:

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  70. basset said on March 17, 2011 at 11:36 am

    what you mean “becomes,” kemosabe?

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  71. prospero said on March 17, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Mitch Daniels’ version of the Koch brothers.

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  72. Christy S. said on March 17, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Gallipolis — those are my people. I’m from the area where Ohio and West Virginia mesh, where the people speak with a southern accent but still root for the Buckeyes. Nancy, like you my heart aches for what is happening to this forgotten segment of our country. As they succumb to a choice between drug addiction and joining the military, my heritage’s culture is slowly, painfully disappearing. I finally moved my parents away from there last summer to be closer to me in San Diego so I now have no reason to go back. But I’ll never lose my connection to those wonderful people, their work ethic and their devotion to family and what’s “right.” Thank you for your post.

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