Saturday, June 23, 2018

No Will (the de-conservativization of the GOP)

George Will, Having Left Republican Party, Urges Conservatives to Vote Against Donald Trump (Fortune)
     George Will, a longtime political commentator and staunch defender of the conservative movement, chided the Republican Party, citing the party’s support for Donald Trump in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
     On Friday, Will published a column in the Washington Post explaining his view, using the kind of excoriating language his columns are known for. The column, titled “Vote against the GOP this November,” argued that the number of Republicans in Congress “must be substantially reduced.”….
Republican or Conservative, You Have to Choose
David Brooks, NYT, 6-25-18
     The never-Trumpers are having an interesting debate over the question, Is it time to leave the Republican Party? George Will and Steve Schmidt say yes: The Trumpian rot is all the way down. Bill Kristol says not so fast: Once Donald Trump falls, the party could be brought back to health, and the fight has to be within the party as well as without it.
. . .
     Conservatism, as Roger Scruton reminds us, was founded during the 18th-century Enlightenment. In France, Britain and the American colonies, Enlightenment thinkers were throwing off monarchic power and seeking to build an order based on reason and consent of the governed. Society is best seen as a social contract, these Enlightenment thinkers said. Free individuals get together and contract with one another to create order.
     Conservatives said we agree with the general effort but think you’ve got human nature wrong. There never was such a thing as an autonomous, free individual who could gather with others to create order. Rather, individuals emerge out of families, communities, faiths, neighborhoods and nations. The order comes first. Individual freedom is an artifact of that order [that sacred space].
. . .
     Conservatives fought big government not because they hated the state, per se, but because they loved the sacred space. The last attempts to build a conservatism around the sacred space were George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” and, in Britain, David Cameron’s Big Society conservatism.
     They both fizzled because over the last 30 years the parties of the right drifted from conservatism. The Republican Party became the party of market fundamentalism.
     Market fundamentalism is an inhumane philosophy that makes economic growth society’s prime value and leaves people atomized and unattached. Republican voters eventually rejected market fundamentalism and went for the tribalism of Donald Trump because at least he gave them a sense of social belonging….
. . .
     Today you can be a conservative or a Republican, but you can’t be both.
     The new threats to the sacred space demand a fundamental rethinking for conservatives. You can’t do that rethinking if you are imprisoned in a partisan mind-set or if you dismiss half of Americans because they are on the “other team.”…. 
     TRUMPISM AS A FAILURE OF AMERICAN EDUCATION. In my recent Philosophy 2 courses, I (briefly) focused on this conservatism, on Liberalism, and the relationship of these philosophies to Trumpism.
     Among other things, Trumpism is a massive failure of our educational system. Most Americans don't know the first thing about political philosophy. One who understands and has some fidelity to either conservatism or Lockean liberalism (and its descendants: classical and social liberalism) (or both) will utterly reject Mr. Trump and his politics.

Charles Krauthammer:  
     "I used to think Trump was an 11-year-old, an undeveloped schoolyard bully. I was off by about 10 years. His needs are more primitive, an infantile hunger for approval and praise, a craving that can never be satisfied. He lives in a cocoon of solipsism where the world outside himself has value — indeed exists — only insofar as it sustains and inflates him." 
David Frum: 
     Let Trump be Trump. 
     Let decent people be decent.
     Trust your country—not all of it, sadly, but enough of it—to notice and appreciate the difference. 
Bill Kristol:  
     “I’m a little surprised by my own reactions over the last two or three months.... One really is conflicted. I really could make a case that the country would be better off with the Democrats running the House, because, if the Republicans aren’t willing to check Trump, someone has to.” 
Jonah Goldberg:  
     "Off the record, Republicans often say they’re afraid Trump responds to being told not to do something by doing it out of spite. That’s a real concern. But it’s not an excuse [for not telling him to stop doing something]. 
     If Trump does fire Mueller and a constitutional crisis ensues, the previously silent, suddenly angry Republicans will be asked why they’re speaking up now. That is, if they speak up at all."  
* * * * *

     My latest post about life in central Montana a century ago: Freezing to death
     Montana isn't the coldest state. Still, brrr-wise, it's pretty chill.
     The names people choose to use about things and places tell us much about them and about their relationship to those things.
     Montanans have creeks named "Froze to Death" and "Starve to Death"....

1898: double murder at the Musselshell

     If anyone is interested, here are some recent posts on my Jenni Family blog. It concerns a famous hanging that occurred, in Lewistown, Montana, in 1900, over a double murder, occurring in a remote area to the east, to acquire 700 or so sheep, by three young men.
The Musselshell River

Thursday, June 21, 2018


And I followed her to the station
With a suitcase in my hand
And I followed her to the station
With a suitcase in my hand
Well, it's hard to tell, it's hard to tell
When all your love's in vain
All my love's in vain

When the train rolled up to the station
I looked her in the eye
When the train rolled up to the station
And I looked her in the eye
Well, I was lonesome, I felt so lonesome
And I could not help but cry
All my love's in vain

When the train, it left the station
With two lights on behind
When the train, it left the station
With two lights on behind
Well, the blue light was my blues
And the red light was my mind
All my love's in vain

Let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
Let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death

You can go with the crazy people in the Crooked House
You can fly away on the Rocket or spin in the Mouse
The Tunnel Of Love might amuse you
Noah's Ark might confuse you
But let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death

On the Wall Of Death all the world is far from me
On the Wall Of Death it's the nearest to being free

Well you're going nowhere when you ride on the carousel
And maybe you're strong but what's the good of ringing a bell
The switchback will make you crazy.
Beware of the bearded lady
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death

Let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
Oh let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death
Let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death
Oh let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death

He's five foot-two and he's six feet-four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of thirty-one and he's only seventeen
He's been a soldier for a thousand years

He's a Christian a Hindu an Atheist a Jain
A Buddhist and a Muslim and a Jew
And he knows he shouldn't kill
And he knows he always will
Kill you for me my friend and me for you

And he's fighting for Palestine
He's fighting for Israel
He's fighting for the USA
And he's fighting for the Russians
And he's fighting for Iran
And he thinks we'll put an end to war this way

And he's fighting for Democracy
He's fighting for his soil
He says it's for the peace of all
He's the one who must decide
Who's to live and who's to die
And he never sees the writing on the wall

But without him how would Hitler have condemned them at ...
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body as a weapon for war
And without him all this killing can't go on

He's the universal soldier and he really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from here and there and you and me and brothers can't you see
This is not the way we put the end to war

I knew Virginia once
She was a pretty girl
She walked in the wild fields
And swam the wild streams
I took her out one day to the
Civil War battlefield
Way down in Manassas
Where I told her my dreams

But now it's Disney's America
A long way from anywhere
You get what you pay for there
Man, you get it in spades
Just Disney's America
Virginia she chose to stay
And we drifted apart like runoff
Into the Chesapeake Bay

Then I had a family 
Virginia, I guess she forgot about me
She lives near the concrete sea
Or so people say
I don't remember much
About her gentle touch
My skin just turned so hard
And my feet turned to clay

You can[’t] get too excited
You can[’t] get too enthused
From Dismal Land to the Tragic Mountain
We are not amused

I knew Virginia once
She was a pretty thing....

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Old—and insane (—and when eugenics was in the air)

Young Frieda Flueckinger, c. 1893
     Here's another post on the historical blog I'm doing for a friend. You might find it interesting. And scary!

     You'll recall that Emma, wife of Fred Jenni (Sr.), died tragically at age 33 in 1906. That left her husband, Fred, a hard-working farmer, to deal also with a house full of children, including an infant [at his isolated farm in Fergus County, Montana].
     According to newspaper accounts, Emma's sister, Frieda White (née Flueckinger), then 26 years old, came to the assistance of Fred and his family. I recall reporting previously that, by that time, she had married Charles White—a much older man—and that she had a child with him in 1899. As far as I knew, she was still married to White in 1906.
     I am intrigued by Frieda, in part because we have a good photo of her, and, well, there you go. My perusal of made clear that Frieda married again in 1907 but also that Charles L. White, her husband, was still alive (until 1915).
     But I could find no record of a divorce decree.
     Frieda's marriage to White was common in the era. She was eighteen years old when she married; White was forty-seven. Pretty creepy, but that's a matter for another day.
     I examined Frieda's marriage license/certificate of 1907, when she married Hubby #2, Frederick Huppi, and it appears that she made no secret of her having been married previously, to White.
     So did she get a divorce? Wouldn't that have been unusual in 1906 Montana? Just what is the story here?
     I took another tack. I searched "Charles White" in local newspapers in the period between 1890 and 1920.
     It turns out that Charles White had mental health problems that involved violence, or at least threats of violence.
     I'll let the newspaper articles tell the story (though one wonders what they didn't tell).

2-2-98 Fergus Co. Argus
     Anything's possible, I suppose, but it's hard not to wonder if Frieda, at age 18, felt tremendous pressures to marry someone, even if he was more than twice her age. Pretty sad.

2-15-05 Fergus Co. Argus
     —A week after White's self-surrender:

2-22-05 Fergus Co. Argus
     He didn't stay there long, as we'll see. I suspect that Frieda and her son had at some point moved in with Fred Jenni to get away from Charles.
     Four months later:

6-21-05 Fergus Co. Argus 
     Three weeks later:

 7-14-05 Fergus Co. Argus
     Subsequently, the authorities check in on White, who claims to have taken poison....

7-14-05 Fergus Co. Argus
     White requests being sent to the asylum, where he'd been housed months earlier. But he was released.

8-8-05 Fergus Co. Argus
     Request granted:

8-29-05 Fergus Co. Argus
     I have found nothing else about White's institutionalization and death. The records at, such as they are, indicate that White died in 1915. I can find no newspaper articles reporting his death.
     As I said, Frieda married in 1907, two years after winning a divorce from White. (See below.)
     Here's a collection of relevant documents:

1900 Census. Charles White family included. (Frida and son Clarence are part of the household).
Frieda and Charles' wedding papers, 1898
1907 wedding documents
     But where did Frieda and her new family go? When did she die?
     I'll have to get back to you.

Re Warm Springs State Hospital
From Archives West.
Prior to 1869, Montana Territory made no special provisions for mental patients, their care generally being left to regular hospitals. The Helena Weekly Herald in a September 19, 1867, article on the county hospital commented on the need for a territorial insane asylum, stating that the county hospital was not the proper place for a "lunatic." 
Two years later the 6th Territorial Legislative Assembly passed a law authorizing an official territorial insane asylum to be owned and managed on a contract basis by private parties. A board of commissioners was established with one representative from each judicial district to oversee the asylum, establish rules for its operation, and perform periodic inspections. 
Until 1877 St. John's Hospital in Helena served as the territorial asylum. By 1874 it was accepting sufficient numbers of patients committed by Governor Benjamin Potts to require the construction of a separate building behind the main hospital. In 1877 Drs. Armistead H. Mitchell (1831-1898) and Charles F. Mussigbrod (d.1893), owners of a hotel and spa at Warm Springs, Montana, were awarded the contract for the care of the territory's mental patients. By 1886 the partners had expanded their operation from 160 acres to 1640 acres and from two buildings to thirty-two buildings, including a larger hotel, a house for convalescents, a separate building for violent patients, a large plunge pool, a laundry, storehouses, icehouses, and many other outbuildings. From 1891 to 1907 the hospital was run by Dr. O.Y. Warren, who was in turn succeeded by Dr. J.M. Scanland, son-in-law of Dr. Mitchell. Under private operation, the asylum continued to operate the hotel and run a large farm, specializing in pedigreed cattle. 
In 1910 a constitutional amendment was passed allowing the state to acquire the asylum. Negotiations were begun and on December 1, 1912, the Warm Springs hospital became a state institution. Dr. Scanland continued as superintendent. In 1917 the governor appointed a special commission to investigate charges of gross mismanagement and corruption at the hospital. The hospital management was exonerated of all charges. Gradually under state operation the emphasis changed from a custodial asylum to a hospital, as more modern procedures were adopted, but efforts were hampered by low funding. Care costs in 1938 of $.60 per day per patient were the lowest in the nation. As concepts of treatment of mental patients changed, the average patient load dropped dramatically from a high of over 1900 in the early 1950s to 1112 in 1972. Numbers of admissions per year were higher, but average length of stay was much shorter. Over the years the hospital operated under a variety of names including Mitchell and Mussigbrod, Insane Asylum of the State of Montana, Montana State Hospital for the Insane, Montana State Insane Asylum, Montana State Hospital, and Warm Springs State Hospital.
The Right to Procreate: The Montana State Board of Eugenics and Body Politics
From Women's History Matters
In 1924, headlines across the state decried the “butchery of the helpless” at the Montana State Hospital for the Insane at Warm Springs, where eleven inmates were forcibly sterilized. Hospital staff responded that all sterilizations had received the required approval and that eugenics was “necessary to the future welfare of Montana.” Eugenics—the idea that “human perfection could be developed through selective breeding”—grew in popularity in the early twentieth century, including support for forced sterilization. The movement reached its zenith in Montana in the early 1930s, and, despite growing concerns, the practice of forced sterilizations continued into the 1970s
Montanans’ support for forced sterilization was part of a national trend. Eugenics proponent Albert E. Wiggam, a national lecturer and trained psychologist, helped spread the eugenics gospel in Montana through a column in the Missoulian. “Already we are taxing ourselves for asylums and hospitals and jails to take care of millions who ought never to have been born,” Wiggam wrote. Many Montanans agreed, including the Helena mother who wrote the state hospital in 1924 in support of sterilization polices. “I am a tax payer. That means I wish there was no insane, no feeble minded, and no criminals to support and to fear. . . . The very fact that these people are inmates of state institutions proves that they are morally or mentally unfit to propagate their kind.” 
Montana institutions began sterilizing selected inmates in the 1910s, but it was not until 1923 that the state legislature created the Board of Eugenics to regulate the practice….

Monday, June 18, 2018

Of brothels, and cheerleaders and our country as a casino

Dennis Hof, center, and Heidi Fleiss, right, react after receiving election results June 12 in Pahrump, Nev.
David Montero / Los Angeles Times
If it’s not all juxtaposition, she asked, what is the binding agent? - Forrest Gander

It's beginning to feel like summer.  Rebel Girl has begun to read the morning newspapers (two!) and linger over them. She has even begun to write. The time and the newspapers have given her lots to think about. Her goals? A draft of a story or essay or poem - one per week.  We'll see if she can keep up the pace and her promise to herself. Still, she already feels mildly successful.

This week she was inspired by election results last week which included the the victory of Dennis Hof, the self-proclaimed "Trump from Pahrump," who may very well be headed to the Nevada statehouse.  David Montero's article "Dennis Hof: A pimp, a brothel owner, a businessman and now GOP nominee in Nevada" in the Los Angeles Times tells the story which evoked a great deal in Rebel Girl.  She could have gone in the direction of her own time in Pahrump in the 80s and 90s, but instead she went to her childhood and her fascination with the word "brothel."  

The moody result was picked by by the Los Angeles Review of Books and published online today. (That's pretty big," remarked her son who is not easily impressed. Most sixteen-year-old are not impressed by their parents.) Check it out below and click to read it in its entirety. It's all of two tight paragraphs. A meditation, an excavation. She hopes LARB might be interested in some of her other work.  She's got a few things started: one about the death of Ronald Reagan, the other about an educator who, all in good fun (ha ha ha) disseminates links to photos of a rival college's misbehaving cheerleader squad. We'll see. 

Jean Honore Fragonard, The Stolen Kiss

Brothel owner and reality TV star Dennis Hof advances in Nevada election. “Call him a pimp. A brothel owner. A businessman. Now call him the Republican nominee for a Nevada State Assembly seat…Hof, who has billed himself as the “Trump from Pahrump,” nabbed the endorsement of Nye County’s Republicans.” –David Montero, Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2018

The “Trump from Pahrump.” A brothel owner.
As a child, “brothel” was one of the words that fascinated me. I found it in the books my mother stuffed under her bed, the ones I was not supposed to read but did anyway when she was at work. She was at work a lot. I found it in the paperback books I bought at the corner liquor stores, the ones I found on the spinning racks by the magazines. (Remember when liquor stores sold books? The corner liquor store was my first bookstore. This was in the early 1970s.) I favored Tudor romances, Henry the VIII and his doomed wives. I especially liked the court intrigue, the young women on the margins, the virtuous servant girls and meek attendants who caught the eyes of courtiers (another romantic word!), the ones who had fine ankles and slim necks and who could, despite their humble origins, sing a light air, play a lute, or embroider a fine stitch.
To read the rest, click here.

We at Dissent hope your summer is going well, where ever you are.

Do let us know if there is something we should know.


8-14: do you regret all the lying?

✅ Trump Encourages Racist Conspiracy Theory on Kamala Harris’s Eligibility to Be Vice President NYT ✅ Orange County Sees Overall Coronavirus...

Goals and Values and Twaddle

blather: long-winded talk with no real substance*
The whole concept of MSLOs [measurable student learning outcomes] as the latest fad in education is somewhat akin to the now discredited fad of the '90's, Total Quality Management, or TQM. Essentially, the ACCJC adopted MSLOs as the overarching basis for accrediting community colleges based on their faith in the theoretical treatises of a movement.... After repeated requests for research showing that such use of MSLOs is effective, none has been forthcoming from the ACCJC [accreditors]. Prior to large scale imposition of such a requirement at all institutions, research should be provided to establish that continuous monitoring of MSLOs has resulted in measurable improvements in student success at a given institution. No such research is forthcoming because there is none….
The Accountability Game…., Leon F. Marzillier (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, October, 2002)
In the summer of ’13, I offered a critique of the awkward verbiage by which the district and colleges explain their values, goals, and objectives —aka SOCCCD'S G&V (goals and values) blather.
I wrote a post each for the district, Saddleback College, and Irvine Valley College efforts. (See the links below.)
This verbiage—stated in terms of “values,” “missions,” “goals,” “visions,” and whatnot—is often badly written. It is sometimes embarrassingly trite.
It occasionally communicates something worthwhile.
No doubt you are familiar with the usual objections to jargon. Higher education, too, has its jargon—an irony, given typical college-level instruction in writing, which urges jargon eschewery.
Sure enough, SOCCCD G&V blather is riddled with jargon and with terms misused and abused. For instance, in the case of the district’s dubious blather, the so-called “vision” is actually a purpose. Why didn't they just call it that?
As one slogs through this prattle, one finds that "visions" tend to be awfully similar to “missions,” with which they are distinguished. The latter in turn are awfully similar to “goals,” which must be distinguished from “objectives.” But aren't goals and objectives pretty much the same thing?
These perverse word games will surely perplex or annoy anyone armed with a command of the English language. In fact, readers will be perplexed to the degree that they are thus armed. Illiterates, of course, will be untroubled.
Here's a simple point: the district and colleges’ G&V blather tends to eschew good, plain English in favor of technical terms and trendy words and phrases (i.e., it tends to be bullshitty and vague). Thus, one encounters such trendy terminological turds as “dynamic,” “diversity,” “student success,” and “student-centered.” Even meretricious neologisms such as ISLOs and “persistence rates” pop up, unexplained, undefended.
Does anyone see a transparency problem with all of this? Shouldn't the public, or at least the well educated public, be able to comprehend statements of the colleges' goals and values?
In the case of the district, to its credit, all it really seems to want to say is that it wants to teach well and it wants students to succeed. Admirable!
So why all the ugly, common-sense defying, buzzword-encrusted claptrap?

Districtular poppycock: our “vision” and our “mission” and our tolerance of twaddle - July 31, 2013

THEY BUZZ: Saddleback College's "Mission, Vision, and Values" - August 4, 2013

IVC’s vision, mission, and goals: nonsense on stilts - August 5, 2013

THE IRVINE VALLEY CHRONICLES: no ideas, just clichés & buzzwords - Sep 30, 2013

*From my Apple laptop's dictionary