A Contrapuntal Hypothesis

A Facebook friend of mine posted a link to a February article from Americans Against the Tea Party, contending that the heaviest users of food stamps are white folks from Red States, and cites Kentucky’s Owsley County as an example. Now, the article seems to want to make a “What’s the matter with Kansas” argument, suggesting that by opposing the welfare state, these lumpenproles are voting against their own self-interest, but I can’t help but wonder if the very phenomenon under discussion is in fact a contributing factor to the disdain many Red Staters have for these programs.

If you live in an area like the ones under discussion, and you’ve seen (along with people whose needs genuinely require meeting) your various “no-account” in-laws/cousins/folks with the cars on the lawns and the kids running around at all hours who take advantage (in the cynical sense) of such programs, mightn’t that actually build distaste for the benefits they use as support, along with resentment of the beneficiaries?

This is not to say that the position of distaste/resentment is a good one — indeed, the holders of that position may be working from an insufficient sample (remember: anecdotes ain’t data), but this may be a more productive thing to consider than either claims of “false consciousness” or the triumphalist screech of “Hypocrite!” that often attends these exercises.

But it probably wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. Forget I said anything.

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Grinding Sausage

One of the reasons I got into the higher ed racket (besides the fact that it suits my peculiar skill set) was because it was a way to make sure the Spawn would have at least one college she could attend without a brutal price tag. Of course, since man proposes but God disposes, her current direction is sending her toward Flagship U down the road in Real City. That’s okay — it’s a state school and we’ll manage.

But even had she wanted to attend one of the schools in our tuition-exchange consortium, the schools typically would have been places much like Mondoville: small, non-elite institutions that may not be well known outside their regions, if at all. Not terribly selective, but at least making an effort to nod to the liberal arts in most cases.

And that’s fine as well — the Spawn isn’t one of those kids who calculates her GPA and class rank on the way back to her desk after receiving a graded paper. She’s smart, funny, insightful, and inclined to pursue her own interests, even at the expense of more widely recognized achievements — not unlike her dad or mine, both of whom seem have done pretty well. She’ll be a good fit at Flagship, I think, and would be a good fit at the smaller schools I mentioned. I think these are environments in which the Spawn will be able to be herself, where she won’t be groomed to be an Alpha-Plus.

There doesn’t seem to be much room for folks like the Spawn (or her dad, or his) in places like the Ivies these days — but what does that mean, and what happens to the kids who do fill up the classes at those schools? At The New Republic, William Deresiewicz has some thoughts. Essentially, he suggests, those kids are ground into sausage. Now I like sausage, but whether it’s a link or a patty, it’s going to look and taste like sausage, rather than whatever cuts of meat made up the raw materials. Considering what urban legend says goes into sausage, that may not be bad, but when it’s your kid, you don’t necessarily want him or her to take a turn for the wurst.

A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to friend and colleague Susan Epting, via Facebook.

Posted in Culture, Education, Family | 3 Comments

Some Florentine News…

I went to high school in Florence, KY, about fifteen miles from Cincinnati. Florence is also the home of the Florence Freedom, an independent minor-league baseball team.

Minor-league baseball (and especially the low minors, and especially especially the low minors in a major-league market) is not necessarily an easy sell. Consequently, it’s an area where the spirit of Bill Veeck can thrive, and where promotional gimmicks can thrive as well.

This brings us to the latest news from the Freedom. Seizing on the current revival of pop culture interest in Sherlockiana, the Freedom has decided to host a “Sherlock Holmes Night.” A local theater troupe will perform a Murder Mystery Theater performance throughout the night, but the real highlight will be the debut of the team’s deerstalker-look baseball caps.


Obviously, the game will be on the field — but it will be afoot as well.


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I Wasn’t Expecting…

…my new anthem to come from this particular quarter, but one takes allies where one finds them.

(And see? You probably were expecting the Spanish Inquisition after that title, weren’t you?)

Posted in Culture, Education, Music | 1 Comment

The Devil Will Not Be Mocked

One of the most depressing things I’ve heard in recent months was Mel Brooks’s acknowledgement that it would be impossible to make Blazing Saddles today. As it happens, when I’ve taught the Western in my film classes, I’ve closed the semester with Brooks’s film. (Remarkably, only a few of my students have seen it before, and even fewer have seen an unedited version. I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.) I actually find it a bit of a kick to watch the jaws drop… and then to watch the kids realize that it’s a powerfully anti-racist movie.

But the Outrage Brigade continues, as we’ve discussed quite recently, and an article I read today at NRO confirms it. Charles C.W. Cooke reports that the Norfolk, NE Independence Day Parade included a local man’s homemade float:

The entry, which featured a zombie standing on an outhouse marked “Obama Presidential Library,” was created by a veteran named Dale Remmich, and was designed, Remmich claims, to express the “political disgust” that he feels at the Obama administration’s mismanagement of the Department of Veteran Affairs.

OK — maybe not the cleverest joke in history, nor the newest. (Indeed, a Google image search for “Presidential library outhouse” reveals that this joke is deader than disco and Buddy Holly combined.) However, the reaction seems a bit disproportionate. Cooke quotes the Omaha World-Herald:

The U.S. Department of Justice has joined the discussions over a controversial float in the Norfolk Independence Day parade.

Were we even within Aldis Lamp distance of sanity, this would be laughed out of town, out of Nebraska, and out of society. Remember when “Don’t make a federal case out of it!” was hyperbole?

When the power of the federal government is used to harass people for holding political opinions, when “the process is the punishment”, then that government — and the society that approves it — is approaching irremediable levels both of power on the one hand and villainy on the other.

A nation that can’t make jokes, be they Mel Brooks’s or Dale Remmich’s, is a nation in serious trouble.

Posted in Culture, Education, Politics | 2 Comments

Stiff Upper Lip… No Sausage

A former student of mine has married an Israeli woman. They’re going through the process of bringing her into this country legally (How quaint!), so at the moment, he’s over here and she’s over there. Of course, over there is not necessarily the safest place to be, what with the rockets and all, but they’re doing the best they can and maintaining a sense of humor in the process.

And it’s the sense of humor aspect that I’m sharing today. Apparently supporters of Hamas  hacked the Facebook page for Israel’s Domino’s Pizza franchises today. They replaced the content with the usual idiocy:

“Today will strike deep in Israel, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Ashkelon, Ashdod more than 2000 rockets. We’ll start at 7. Counting back towards the end of Israel … Be warned!”

At least one user responded:

Hey, please reserve a missile for me with jalapenos, green olives, extra cheese, and mushrooms. You have my address. Tell the delivery boy to activate the alarm when it is arriving, so I know to put my pants on.

There were additional hijinks as well, which you can find at Elder of Ziyon‘s [sic] blog. In a particularly nice touch, when Domino’s retook the site, they posted the following image:



Well played, folks. And finally, if you’re of the prayerful persuasion, some kind thoughts for Dustin and Katie might be nice as they try to ride this out. Stay safe, ma’am.

A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to “Open Blogger” at Ace’s.


Posted in Culture, Faith, Politics | 1 Comment

For the Articles…

Many years ago, I made a brief attempt at doing stand-up comedy. I was dreadful, and eventually I figured out that my sense of humor is largely reactive. If someone says or does something, I can say or do something funny in response, but that doesn’t work too well behind the mike, unless you’re some sort of Kaufman-level performance artist type.

But despite my failures in that regard, I remain quite fond of the form, and I miss the days when Comedy Central would show lots of stand-up. Granted, they weren’t going to be showing my hero, but there was still plenty of good stuff. One comic whose work I enjoy a great deal is Gilbert Gottfried, former spokesduck and SNL cast member for about 30 seconds.

But what is a comic to do in a time of INTERNET OUTRAGE(TM pending)? Gottfried knows about that as well — hence the former in “former spokesduck.” In an essay for Playboy, Gottfried offers his take on present-day hypersensitivity.

(It should go without saying, given the source and Gottfried’s work, but the article gets pretty blue. You’ve been notified.)

A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to Jim Goad at Taki’s Magazine.

Posted in Culture, Politics | 5 Comments