A Celebration in the Family

Of all the holidays, Cinco de Mayo is one of the strangest. As a holiday for people of Mexican ancestry, it is hardly even known in its home nation. It is a commemoration of a battle which ended an occupation absolutely everyone would otherwise rather forget. Its celebration is more commercial than cultural, coming off as something like St Patrick’s Day with better weather and better food.

But this is as good of a day as any to study the strange relationship between Mexico and the United States. With all of the twists and turns of a telenovela, this story is also one of an extended family with far too much effort wasted fighting.

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Renewing Our Cities

American cities are booming, or at least some of them are. The process of re-invention has been difficult and uneven for the economy as a whole, and old industrial cities are no different. The keys to successful cities? Reinvention, inclusion, diversity, and education.

That is the conclusion of a report from the Brookings Institution entitled “Renewing America’s economic promise through older industrial cities.” An analysis of the legacy industrial base shows that some cities have been successful, others have not. The differences? In large part, a willingness to embrace change and diversity, giving it the space and tools they need to blossom.

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On American Privilege

A repeat from a year ago on a bizzy month end.

Any essay on “privilege” has to start with a solid disclosure. As a middle-aged pale male, I have no business lecturing anyone on privilege. I’m at the top of the heap, and I know it. That is my point in this piece, after all. I have the privilege of contemplating privilege.

It still seems to me to be primarily the benefit of the doubt. If I walk into a store, I’m a customer – not a potential thief casing the joint. If the cops pull me over I get a certain level of respect that not everyone does, and I do use this to my advantage at times. If things get really bad and guns are pulled out, the benefit of the doubt makes me the good guy in the split second decision that separates life from death.

I have no illusions about any of this. That is, actually, my point through all of this.

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Get What You Pay For

Every day a new video circulates of bad behavior by police. Someone is harassed, beaten, or even killed in what appears to be an absolutely senseless fashion. Far too often, the victims are black – but not always. It can, and does, happen to nearly anyone.

Earlier this week, another video came in from Toronto. Constable Ken Lam was seen facing down the suspect in a mass killing with determination and grace. He never flinched, and eventually made a peaceful arrest. It was law enforcement at its very best.

What is different? There are many things that made this different, including the race of the suspect, to be sure. But as an example of the kind of cool professionalism we all hope to see in our police there is one important difference in Toronto – their law enforcement officers are paid much, much better than the average US cop.

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Our Brother’sKeeper

“Everyone is an idiot, not just the people with low SAT scores. The only differences among us is that we’re idiots about different things at different times. No matter how smart you are, you spend much of your day being an idiot.”

– Scott Adams, “The Dilbert Principle”

Three years ago, I was attempting to return to normal life after dealing with my brother’s suicide.  I had no idea how awful my own life was about to become.  Then again, this piece showed that I had a clue.  Yes, I have my moments when I can’t cope with things most of you consider simple and routine.

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Nuking the Narrative

North Korea has agreed to de-nuclearize! Trump’s foreign policy is a success!

Headlines something like this have been circulating for a few weeks, but they contain more errors than words. North Korea hasn’t agreed to remove nuclear weapons at all, but appears ready to try to negotiate for some reason. Any concessions on their part almost certainly have little to do with the US and a lot more to do with their only benefactor, China.

And the world is a much more dangerous place to the extent that anyone believes that North Korea is somehow becoming more peaceful, especially when it comes to believing this is a result of anything to do with the US.

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De-Bunking Buncombe

It’s a beautiful day and I haven’t done anything fun in a while.  Let’s try this from two years ago – back when we could laugh at Trump.

Every election year, it’s critical to evoke the Founding Fathers. What plan for a strong military would be complete without the spurious blessing of the Father of The Country, George Washington? How could you float a plan for tax givebacks, er, reform without evoking the Father of Liberty, Thomas Jefferson? Who would dare enter a conversation about the sanctity of our national credit without the hallowed words of Alexander Hamilton – or, indeed, his apparent ability to sing and dance his way to 16 Tony nominations?

No one, that’s who. But the process of doing so actually invokes one of the most important Founding Fathers of all, Felix Walker. His contribution to politics is nearly endless and absolutely critical.

Felix Walker, after all, was a US Representative from Buncombe Country, North Carolina, and as such gave us the concept of “bunk”.

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