Wednesday, November 22, 2017

From a Facebook entry on the "Divided States" ...

Happy Thanksgving [sic] or as The Precedent of the Divided States would say, I'm just another "Ungrateful Fool" #ucladad

image (not from facebook entry) from

Review: The Pilgrims’ Progress - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

The story of Plymouth Colony, told afresh through the life of one of its lesser-known founders, the Puritan printer Edward Winslow. David M. Shribman reviews ‘The Mayflower’ by Rebecca Fraser.

Tomorrow at 10 a.m., my brothers and I will huddle on a rickety Massachusetts grandstand a quarter mile from the Atlantic Ocean watching our old high school’s football gladiators face our most dreaded gridiron rivals from the adjacent colonial town. It is a Thanksgiving Day ritual as revered by us as the turkey feast that will follow. One of the cherished elements of the morning observance is to listen to the reedy strains of teenagers standing at midfield playing “We Gather Together,” which we and our fellow spectators believe to be the most American of anthems.
In truth, the hymn that includes the phrase “Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining” was originally called “Wilt Heden Nu Treden” and came from Holland. This instance of cultural appropriation is a mere coincidence—no one had the bright idea in 1935, when the tune was included in the national hymnal of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to search for a Dutch song of praise as a Thanksgiving homage to the Pilgrims’ sojourn in Leiden before they embarked for America. But like many historical accidents, there is a poignancy—a poetry, you might say—to the coincidence.
All of this came to mind while weaving through “The Mayflower,” Rebecca Fraser’s account of the Pilgrims’ progress. In the canon of American folklore, the tale begins in England and moves across the ocean—a seek-the-Lord’s-blessing journey that involves faith, daring, struggle and forbearance and that leads, of course, to the first Thanksgiving in November 1621. At that point, usually, the story peters out, much as many of us, post-feast tomorrow, will lapse into a food coma and doze in front of the third quarter of the Chargers-Cowboys game.  
There is nothing sleep-inducing about the chronicle crafted by Ms. Fraser, who by a separate family tradition—she’s the daughter of British historian Lady Antonia Fraser, who has given us biographies of Mary Queen of Scots and Marie Antoinette, among others—knows a good story. In Ms. Fraser’s telling, the Thanksgiving Day events so central to American identity and character merit a mere three sentences in a book that spans more than 300 pages. The lesson: There is more to the Pilgrims’ story—more to American identity and character—than our Thanksgiving rituals and reveries.
Review: The Pilgrims’ Progress


By Rebecca Fraser
St. Martin’s, 358 pages, $29.99
Ms. Fraser hangs her tale on the apprentice printer Edward Winslow, who came under the sway of Reformation scholars and was, as she puts it, “seized by a sort of valiant unquenchable fire.” Like others, he made his way to the Dutch city of Leiden, probably in 1617, hoping for freedom to worship at a time when, in England, he and his co-religionists felt themselves to be victims of persecution. Europe, Ms. Fraser tells us, was encrusted in what was known as the Little Ice Age, a period rather different from our own warming era.
The exigencies of frigid Holland were little as compared with the challenges, spiritual and physical, to come. It was in Leiden, where Frans Hals painted and religious exiles flourished, that Winslow was drawn into the circle of William Bradford and William Brewster, two breakaway Congregationalists whose spiritual searching was geographical as well as theological. For Winslow and others, religious fervor was mixed with the desire for exploration and colonization—for a new start in the New World. 
These devout voyagers—eventually leaving from Plymouth, England—thought of themselves as spiritual searchers crossing a metaphorical Red Sea to the new Promised Land. Their passage bore little resemblance to the biblical episode. Sea swells and sea squalls, and the mounting autumn cold, were among the hardships they endured aboard the Mayflower until they made landfall in what is now Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Their greatest achievement was not survival but an agreement—a document that was, Ms. Fraser says, “a consequence of their endeavor.” The Mayflower Compact set out a case for self-governance, creating a broad social contract to “combine ourselves together into a civil body politic.” [JB emphasis] From these democratic beginnings a powerful idea took root in a frozen foreign soil.
Much of the story that follows is familiar if only in a gauzy grade-school way: the planting of corn; the sicknesses and the deaths (one a day, for a period); the Indians, including Samoset, Squanto and Massasoit (names once known to every New England schoolchild). It was with Massasoit—“grave of countenance, and spare of speech,” in a contemporary account—that a rudimentary treaty of peace was signed. Article 6 proclaimed: “That when their men came to us, they should leave their bows and arrows behind them, as we should do our pieces when we came to them.”
This was not to be a peaceable kingdom, however, despite the fervent wishes of Winslow, whose repertoire of devout beliefs included coexistence with the natives and self-rule for the colonies. The astonishing influx of settlers from England upset the fragile balance of natives and colonists just as the idealism of the early days went into eclipse, though not without considerable discussion of materialism and grace, worldliness and wickedness. At one point, amid concerns that the colony had drifted from its godly moorings, charges of sedition filled the air. Ours is not the only American epoch when vital questions have been debated with breathless urgency.
Ms. Fraser’s tale offers an intimate view of colonial life, an approachable companion to more forbidding scholarly studies. Its principal flaw is that it wanders too widely, largely the result of the wanderings of its main character. But the emphasis on the Winslow story has purpose as well as poignancy. It was under the command of Edward’s son Josiah that colonial militiamen killed the son of Edward’s great friend Massasoit, during a war among colonists and Indians in the 1670s. But there is more. Josiah Winslow —a merchant trader dealing in sugar, iron and cloth and “part of the ferociously rapid infant American capitalism,” in Ms. Fraser’s characterization—was as fired with business acumen as Edward had been with religious fervor. In that way he was as much a founder of the American way as his father.
Mr. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Monday, November 20, 2017

No, the Divide in American Politics Is Not Rural vs. Urban, and Here’s the Data to Prove It: Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

Colin Woodard, [Original article contains links and more illustrations]; via TC on linkedin -- thank you!

Images from article, with comment: For now, please repeat after me: What divides Americans most of all isn’t the population densities of the places they live, but the centuries-old regional cultures to which they belong.

Within each of the 11 “nations” of the U.S., rural and urban voters actually behave very similarly—but very differently from voters in other regional cultures.

For several years now, political journalists, analysts, and pundits have been arguing that U.S. politics has increasingly turned into a struggle between urban and rural voters. Regional differences were once paramount, Josh Kron observed in the Atlantic after the 2012 election. “Today, that divide has vanished,” he declared. “The new political divide is a stark division between cities and what remains of the countryside.” Two years later, the Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote that there are “really two Americas; an urban one and a rural one,” going on to observe that since Iowa was growing more urban, Democrats could count on doing better there. Instead, an ever-more urbanized and diverse nation turned not just toward Republicans, but also toward the authoritarian nationalism of Donald Trump, prompting further hand-wringing over the brewing civil war. “It seems likely that the cracks dividing cities from not-cities will continue to deepen, like fissures in the Antarctic ice shelf, until there’s nothing left to repair,” concluded a lengthy New York story on the phenomena this April.

I don’t disagree that the United States is in crisis, with fissures breaking apart our facade of national unity and revealing structural weaknesses of the republic. Our federation — and, therefore, the world — is in peril, and the stakes are enormous. As the author of American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, however, I strongly disagree with the now-conventional narrative that what ultimately divides us is the difference between metropolitan and provincial life. The real divide is between regional cultures — an argument I fleshed out at the outset of this series—as it always has been. And I now have the data to demonstrate it.

If the central political divide were really between rural and urban, trumping the regional cultural differences I outlined in American Nations, one would expect to see rural and urban counties voting for opposing candidates within each of the “nations.” A map showing rural results by nation would present us with a sea of reds, contrasting with urban results as a collection of blues. But that’s not the case at all. Instead, the data shows quite the opposite.

Working with one of my research collaborators, Will Mitchell of NBT Solutions, a digital mapping and geoservices firm in Portland, Maine, I sorted the county-level results of the past three presidential elections via both “nation” and the National Center for Health Statistics’ six-tiered urban-to-rural spectrum, which categorizes every U.S. county by level of urbanity, from those that form the core of major metropolitan regions (1) to the completely rural (6), allowing an examination of the full spectrum of political behavior. I then compared the results for each type of county within each nation, revealing the degree to which urbanity, sub-urbanity, and country life alters political behavior both within and between the regional cultures.

The top-level results compare urban (or “metropolitan”) counties — NCHS’s categories one through four — with rural (or “non-metropolitan”) counties, categories five and six. They deal a devastating blow to the urban versus rural thesis.

In five of the regional cultures that together comprise about 51 percent of the U.S. population, rural and urban counties always voted for the same presidential candidate, be it the “blue wave” election of 2008, the Trumpist storm of 2016, or the more ambiguous contest in between. In Greater Appalachia, the Deep South, Far West, and New France, rural and urban voters in aggregate supported Republican candidates in all three elections, whether they lived in the mountain hollers, wealthy suburbs, or big urban centers. In El Norte, both types of counties always voted Democratic, be they composed principally of empty desert or booming cityscapes.

In two more regional cultures — Yankeedom and the Left Coast — rural counties only recently became at odds with their urban neighbors who vote Democratic. They supported Barack Obama in 2008 by 5.9 and 10.5 percent margins, respectively. In the 2012 contest, rural Yankeedom was a toss-up (Romney’s margin there was 0.02 percent), while the rural Left Coast again supported Obama (by 5.6 percent). Only in 2016 did they defect to the Republicans, the rural Left Coast going for Trump by 2.7 points and rural Yankeedom by a shattering 18.3, for reasons I’ve previously discussed.

Indeed, only two regional cultures consistently exhibit rural versus urban vote splitting, and together they comprise just 15 percent of the U.S. population. In all three elections, urban Tidewater voted for the Democratic candidate (by 15 to 16 points), while rural Tidewater voted narrowly Republican (by 1.5, 3.6, and 10.7 points). Only in the Midlands, that great swing region of American politics, was the split a stark one; while urban Midlanders went for Democrats by between 6 and 18 points in the three elections, their rural counterparts voted Republican by 15.2, then 22.6, and finally a condemnatory 40.8 in 2016. The stark urban-rural divide in the country is to be found almost exclusively in the Midlands, where it has a disproportionate effect on the Electoral College, as that region straddles several historic swing states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, and Missouri among them.

Note that these results do not include Hawaii (which, as part of the Greater Polynesia cultural area, lies outside my analysis), the southernmost part of Florida (part of the Spanish Caribbean area), or Alaska (which doesn’t release its election results by county), which means First Nation isn’t included in this analysis. (It’s overwhelmingly rural and Democratic, by the way.) It also omits New Netherland, because that small, densely populated nation has no rural counties at all.

That’s not to say that rural, suburban, and urban voters have the same political priorities — they absolutely do not, whether one lives in Thailand, the United Kingdom, or Colorado. But the differences between them are a secondary factor after deeper, wider cultural forces: the shared customs, beliefs, values, underlying assumptions, symbols, and stories that define and sustain the idea of being Thai or British or Far Western.

Consider the enormous variation between “nations” in the partisan margins among the United States’ most rural counties—the ones that don’t have so much as a town (or cluster of towns) with a population of 10,000 and are assigned to Category 6 by the NCHS.

In 2008, Obama won these extremely rural places in Yankeedom and essentially tied Mitt Romney in 2012. Despite the prevailing wisdom that white, rural, relatively poor voters are reliably Republican, huge swaths of rural, white, not-affluent northern New England, Upstate New York, and the upper Mississippi Valley voted for an African-American Democrat by large margins. In all three elections, Democrats won rural El Norte, and in 2008 they won the rural Tidewater as well; if there’s a divide in those latter regional cultures, it may be about race rather than density.

Nor are cities reliable bastions of Democratic support. The core counties of major metropolitan areas, like Phoenix, Jacksonville, and Virginia Beach — and lots of smaller ones, like Boise, Chattanooga, Corpus Christi, Mobile, Knoxville, Pensacola, Tulsa, and Wichita — voted Republican in every one of the past five presidential elections. But you know what they all had in common? Not a single one of them was located within Yankeedom, the Left Coast, or New Netherland, even though those three nations comprise 92 million people, or nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population. Dozens more voted Republican in many of these elections — including Houston (Harris County), Dallas (Dallas County), Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, Charlotte, Omaha, Indianapolis, San Diego, Baton Rouge, Tampa, and Cincinnati — and, again, were located entirely outside those three nations, with one exception (Grand Rapids, Michigan, in Yankeedom).

Far from voting alike, all but the very largest cities behave like the regional culture they belong to. Take a look at counties belonging to medium-sized metros—those with a population of between 250,000 and 1 million—like Des Moines and Dayton, Charleston and Knoxville, Albuquerque and El Paso. Instead of being reliable blue bastions, such counties in four of the “nations” — Deep South, Far West, Greater Appalachia, and New France — collectively voted Republican in 2008, 2012, and 2016, and those in the Midlands did the same in the latter two elections. Only in Yankeedom, the Left Coast, New Netherland, and Tidewater — “blue” nations in these election cycles — were these medium-sized metros reliably Democratic. Cities turn out to be creatures of the cultures they are embedded in.

One sees the same trends in the 368 major metro “fringe” or suburban counties, the ones the CDC calls “category two.” These are counties that belong to a metropolitan area with a population of 1 million or more, but themselves include neither the core city nor at least a quarter-million people from any of the principal cities in the metro. These are places like Galveston County (in the Houston metro area), Arapahoe County (in greater Denver), Baltimore County (surrounding the city of the same name, or Montgomery County, Maryland, on the northern border of D.C., which has a population larger than a half-dozen states). Republicans won this class of densely populated, affluent counties in four nations in the past three presidential elections: Deep South, Greater Appalachia, New France, and — this one poignant, as it reveals something about the ethnocultural geography of the region — El Norte. Republicans also won them by a hair in the Far West in 2012. In Yankeedom, the Left Coast, New Netherland, and the Midlands, these nations voted Democratic in these contests.

In fact, the only counties where voters reliably support one party, regardless of what American Nation they are in, are the 68 in Category 1: the core counties in metropolitan areas with 1 million or more residents. These counties, which account for 30 percent of the U.S. population, collectively supported Democrats in each and every nation. But even here, there’s a catch: The margin of victory varies enormously depending on what nation these big core counties are in. In the past three elections, major cities in the Left Coast went for the Democratic presidential candidate by between 50 and 59 points, while the margins in Greater Appalachia were between 8 and 15.2 points. The Democratic margins in major metros in the Deep South — despite their racial diversity — were just 11.5 in 2008, 14.8 in 2012, and 9.8 in 2016, while the figures for New Netherland were 51.7, 53.5, and 57, respectively. (An interesting aside: Note that the biggest margins of all were in New France, where New Orleans (Orleans Parish) supported Democrats by more than 60 points in each election, even as the rest of that nation went for Republicans by solid margins.)

Having said all this, one thing is indisputable: Donald Trump won a narrow Electoral College victory because scores of “blue” counties in rural Yankeedom and the Midlands responded to his authoritarian-nationalist rhetoric. It was in these places where he made the marginal gains on Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance — by 18.3 points in both the rural Midlands and rural Yankeedom — in ways that had electoral significance, tilting Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa into Trump’s side of the Electoral College ledger. How did this happen? That’s the topic for the next installment of “Balkanized America.”

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Power and love

image from

Soft power, smart power, and now sharp power -- Why so much said about the attraction of power, rather than -- simply/complexly? -- about that magical non-power called love?

Love is the hope of sharing dreams with others -- Anonymous
(of course, among many, many "definitions" of what is, ultimately, undefinable)

BTW, Just found this (11/29) from a FB "friend": "Making love for a long-married couple: 'it's an affirmation, not a confirmation'; or should the bons mots be, 'it's a confirmation, not an affirmation?'"

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New Russian Thriller has US State Department Working for an Independent Siberia

Paul Goble, Window on Eurasia -- New Series

Image (not from entry) from, with headline: Siberia wants to become a republic.

Staunton, November 17 – In the best traditions of Soviet agitprop, a new movie is being filmed in Bratsk about a supposed conspiracy of the US Department of State and George Soros to secure the secession of Siberia and the heroic efforts of a lone journalist to expose and defeat this effort.

The film, to be completed next year, is entitled “It Isn’t Life that is Nonsense,” and its director Artem Kim says he has chosen this subject because the issue of Siberian independence is increasingly important. He adds he is financing it on his own because the issue is too hot to handle as far as Moscow is concerned ( and

Kim says that earlier he supported autonomy for Siberia but within the Russian Federation but has changed his mind because he believes that “what the Siberian regionalists are proposed is suicide” and that it is necessary to use films as well as other means to convince others and especially the young on this point.

According to a report on the AfterEmpire portal, Kim, despite his claims of earlier sympathy with regionalism, is not to be found on any of the lists of such people that have appeared in the past. Siberian regionalists, it says, would never think about looking to the State Department as an ally in the way that he does (

The portal suggests that Kim may simply be trying to attract attention and, despite his words, government funding for his project. But it suggests that in taking up such a theme, the film director ought to remember how dangerous it can be to go even beyond what the incumbent Moscow regime wants.

“There was once in the USSR a major party writer Vsevolod Kochetov,” AfterEmpire points out. But he landed in serious trouble with his “odious” novel “What Do You Want?” about the machinations of the “cursed West.” Kochetov may have said what many in the party elite believed but they knew enough not to say it in public.

As a result, the entire print run of his novel “was removed from all Soviet libraries.”

A Foolish Take: Here's how much debt the average U.S. household owes

Leo Sun, The Motley Fool, USA Today

image from article

The average American household carries $137,063 in debt, according to the Federal Reserve's latest numbers.
Yet the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median household income was just $59,039 last year, suggesting that many Americans are living beyond their means.
Here's how much debt the average U.S. household owes in credit cards, auto loans, student loans, and mortgages.
Those numbers are unlikely to shrink anytime soon, according to NerdWallet. That's because the cost of living in the U.S. rose 30% over the past 13 years, yet household incomes only grew 28%. As a result, more Americans are using credit cards to cover basic needs like food and clothing.
Medical expenses have grown 57% since 2003, while food and housing costs climbed 36% and 32%, respectively. Those surging basic expenses could widen the inequality gap in America, as a quarter of Americans make less than $10 per hour.
On the bright side, education costs rose 26% during that period, and growth in student loan balances has slowed, so the picture could be improving for financially disciplined Millennials.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Our Elites Still Don’t Get It - Note for a discussion, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United."

David Book, "Our Elites Still Don’t Get It," New York Times

uncaptioned image from article

Freedom without covenant becomes selfishness. And that’s what we see at the
top of society, in our politics and the financial crisis. Freedom without connection
becomes alienation. And that’s what we see at the bottom of society — frayed
communities, broken families, opiate addiction. Freedom without a unifying
national narrative becomes distrust, polarization and permanent political war. ...