The Publisher’s Desk

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by Joe Tortorici

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April 4, 2017

The Base –

As the Trump administration sputters and puffs its way through an alternate reality, anxiety remains in the fevered conversations of liberals across the country. Well beyond Trump’s imminent fall from grace, there will remain approximately twenty-six percent of the voter eligible public that forms his base of support. While the GOP rallies were visually alarming, the actual details are illuminating. Electoral analysis is always clear in hindsight, don’t you think?

The breakdown includes some common denominators. Classifications by age, ethnicity, gender, income, and education are the statistical low-hanging fruit. Candidate Trump led with Caucasian men over fifty years of age, with incomes between thirty thousand and seventy-four thousand dollars per year. They have some college education, a Republican Party affiliation, and are predominantly Protestant or Catholic. A significant percentage of this group simply loathed Hillary Clinton for a variety of reasons.

The undercard analysis addresses rural versus urban voters, and northern versus southern states. These lifestyle and environmental factors demand a greater delicacy of interpretation.

There are several issues that characterize the rural/suburban voter: power, resources, and respect. The state of Illinois is a good illustration. Decisions may be taking place in the capitol, Springfield, but power and clout emanate from the megalopolis of Chicago. The combined populations of Rockford, Peoria, and Joliet don’t come close to the nearly three million inhabitants of Chicago. However conflicted, political choices cater to the giant in the room. This leads to the allocation of resources, both physical and financial. Chicago provides an economic engine for the state’s income. Taxes and transient income fill the coffers of Illinois. The big city needs infrastructure expense to grease the wheels of commerce. It pays.

More ephemeral is the notion of respect. I have an acquaintance that resides in Wilmington, Illinois. This is exurbia by any definition and, if not farmland, rural to this city-boy. She refers to the urban malaise of Chicago crime and general lifestyle as “the freak show.” Well, screw you too. I don’t need to own an automobile to have a life. A short train ride brings me to the doorstep of the Art Institute. I can walk to one of three bars in my neighborhood and watch the hockey game. Call it what you wish, rube. And so much for mutual respect.

These lines become more stark throughout much of the country. Look at any map and you can see knots of concentrated humanity surrounded by neighbors living miles apart. A unique system of values is pervasive in each instance. No one lifestyle any greater or more American than the other.

The division between the northern and southern states is equally polarized. In the south, the issue remains institutional racism. Make no mistake, the south went to war rather than compromise the issue. It shapes the region. Once again you have to look at the landscape of the urban north and northeast. We live in a polyglot society that provides a home to people of many racial backgrounds. Much of the south continues to fight the Civil War. Still, racial animosity is too complicated for one paragraph. Urban centers, both north and south, suffer the effects of segregation and ethnic issues.

What Trump capitalized on, and the Democratic Party failed to grasp, was the sense of anger and hopelessness eroding the middle class…the labor pool that historically fuels the capitalist model. The concepts of labor and workforce have evolved radically. A sense of balance in the “system” is lost. The world is changing, as it should. So, why are we shocked?

The post-war industrial dynamo of American labor is being replaced by George Jetson and the “big red button.” Believe it. Automation and digital printing are replacing hand-crafts and precision assembly. While we were waiting for personal jet-packs and flying cars, “Rosie”, the Jetson’s good natured A.I. robot housekeeper, was becoming a part of everyday life. I now speak to “Cortana” on my PC for connecting to news sites while my hands are full of breakfast and coffee. My daughter has an Amazon ”Echo” module in her home and orders her music playlist with simple verbal commands. The future is now, as they say.

The children of West Virginia coal miners, Detroit assembly-line families, and Iowa/Kansas wheat farmers, see a different reality than their parents. They are connected to a world most adults can’t grasp. Star Trek communicators are glued to their being offering instant communication and a mesmerizing portal to places “other-than-where-you-are,” twenty-four hours a day, every day. The next generation of citizenry is becoming worldly in spite of themselves and will grasp the momentum. They are being conditioned and educated to new norms. The heavy-lifting workforce of thirty years ago will, for the most part, remain cozily in the past. New skills are required for survival. They will vote far differently than the previous generation and reflect their own world.

We are a society of “now” and “what have you done for me lately” customs. This election proved many pre-conceived notions completely wrong. The glaring reality is every one of us represents the “base” to one degree or another. Trump will pass. His penchant for mayhem and nihilism will be rectified with the passage of time. We, the “boomers,” will pass also and a new generation of voters will form the Americanism of another, better future.

 

 

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A popular post-election topic of conversation is the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross book On Death and Dying and the five stages of grief:

Denial & Isolation

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance

In the weeks immediately following the presidential election, I guillotined long-term relationships, alienated Christian-right acquaintances, sulked, cursed excessively at both the television and computer screen,  prayed to the electoral college, galvanized old enemies, threatened to burn the American flag…twice, engaged in hostile debate with a variety of subscribers on Facebook (the special op’s Marines were memorable), emailed my angst to Barak Obama, Dick Durbin, and Congressman Mike Quigley, berated Joe Scarborough in a personal message, and threatened physical confrontation with several other retirees. I fear retribution from the retired women far more than any worry about the Marines.

The end result was I felt no better and nothing got resolved. I’m left to wonder how the trolls keep up the pressure. The pall of animosity is too heavy for me to bear, though I continue to inject an occasional “snark” here and there as a reflex. The results of the election are tying knots in the social fabric of America. The idea of polarization doesn’t begin to plumb the depths of angst we are experiencing.

It is what it is. My acceptance of the election is final. I can’t stop the Russians.

How easy it is to throw my hands up and ask “What can I do?” First of all, I’m not nearly as clever as I believe. Second, I could never clear the vetting process to hold political office. No regrets, I had a good time.

In the search for relief, I found countless remedies floated throughout the internet. The best advice around paraphrases the admonishments of Bernie Sanders and other progressives. Commit to pro-active causes locally and be heard by your elected representatives.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan doesn’t give a damn about my displeasure with his actions. I don’t vote for him, therefore, I’m little more than a bulk email deletion. He might say differently in the heat of campaigning, but reality is forged at the ballot box, not his inbox. On the national stage, I have Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and Representative Mike Quigley. For the first time in my voting life, I corresponded with the President. I cast my ballot for him and he owes me.

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This is my “local.” I can see my apartment from here.

I live in a web of government representing one of the most corrupt states in the union. This is not anecdote. There are reams of data to support this ignominious status. None the less, while corruption may be institutional, it’s eminently dynamic. The ebb and flow of time brings variables to the population and economy of our fair state…as it happens everywhere. Crooked politicians come and go and official vice is not enough of a reason to give up hope for progress.

As my influence in the halls of Congress is limited, this is where I stand my ground.

  • PUBLIUS

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CHARLEY…

It is still difficult to grasp my friend’s passing. There was never an outward moment of self-pity or discomfort in spite of what must have been a physically withering treatment. Things were always “fine” and “what’s next” in the wonderful world of Charley Krebs.

The parent of this publication was a self-constructed “monthly” entitled The Chicago Progressive. Early on, Charley contacted me via email and stated flatly my publication needed an illustration or two. I was familiar with his excellent work in a local jazz magazine and knew what an asset this would be. Money was the object. Like every fledgling blog, there was none. That did not deter Charley Krebs. For the next year he was ahead of me at every turn, suggesting articles, sports profiles, politics, jazz, coffee…on and on. Our friendship was instantaneous.

The Chicago Progressive was retired after a year and Central Standard Time is the progeny. One of the first people I contacted was Charley. His health had deteriorated and he revealed the truth of his condition. The doctors could do no more. In what seemed like a very short month, Charley was gone.

He was the finishing touch, the polish of professionalism and one of the most imaginative, giving people I have known. We loved the same sports teams and reveled in every victory, lamented every loss. He was always current and incisive. Charley’s timing was like the phrasing of good music. His visual commentary had rhythm and perfect context. Charley taught me a great deal.

So long, buddy. The beauty and love left in your wake will never fade. The world is a smaller place without you.

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The Fate of Optimism –

By questioning the sincerity of my personal optimism, am I inherently pessimistic? If I need to ask the question, examine or attempt to quantify my sense of sunniness, am I missing the point…and therefore basically pessimistic about my optimism?

I remain confused. Obviously. It (confusion) is my one, reliable constant. I have a great deal of optimism about being bewildered.

This I know: We, as a nation, have faced greater perils than the occasional demagogue or political upheaval. There is a frequent comparison of modern times to the mid-sixties (1968 to be exact). I was there, living through the activism and angst, and I don’t see current events having the same gravity. The social wounds inflicted then were deep and literally issues of life or death. Study those years and you will wonder how the Republic endured. Fortunately, time provides us with a cultural scar tissue and an institutional memory of the pain. We will survive this election because we know how.

The Shadow of Hari Seldon –

I teach technical things to non-technical journalism and media students. It’s a challenge. From day one, my class is taught to not be intimidated by technical problems. One reliable method to stay on top of issues is the application of Occam’s Razor.

Occam’s Razor (or Ockham’s Razor), often expressed in Latin as the lex parsimoniae, translating to the law of parsimony, law of economy or law of succinctness. A principle in philosophy and science wherein assumptions introduced to explain a thing must not be multiplied beyond necessity, and hence the simplest of several hypotheses is always the best in accounting for unexplained facts.

How does this apply to media students?  When faced with technical complexity, reduce the issue to its simplest form. Remove variables and the solution will reveal itself.

When considering current events in the American experience, I find the application of Occam’s Razor inches toward Asimov’s fabled “Psychohistory.” Clear away all of the babble and hype, the super-saturation of information, second-agenda media conglomerates, and look to the core of our collective inertia. Apply this principle to the sea of humanity and you have to wonder if Hari Seldon could have predicted our present malaise.

Would Seldon have given us the statistical probabilities of a partisan devolution? In Asimov’s brilliant parable of government run amok, the fires of intellect are kept alive by science and education. Over the micro-scale of time, one can see waves of enlightenment followed by the rarefaction of cultural depressions. These cycles litter human history, coming and going with a regularity that rivals the tides. Fiction and reality become what we manifest.

 

  • Publius

 

ARCHIVE:

Genius and the Jester –

All of the angst surrounding Herr Trump seems an odd use of energy. Let’s say, heaven forbid, he wins the election. There isn’t going to be a wall on the Mexico/U.S. border; there will be no mass deportation of Latino or Middle Eastern people; there will be no plunder of the treasury or victory bonuses to Wall Street, Ivanka will not be the Secretary of State. The sensationalist tenor of Trump’s inflamed rhetoric is just that…a welt on the psyche of the electorate. Expect some swelling and bruise, but we will survive.

Our system of government is designed to protect us from ourselves. We will survive by the 535 men and women in congress and the process of judicial review in our courts. If you feel the current President has been obstructed, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. The genius of James Madison and the framers of the constitution was a concept of “separation of powers” and “checks and balances.” In 1787, the Pennsylvania Statehouse was filled with the cultural memory of a despotic King George. Great efforts were made to supplant the notion of a monarch, real or imagined. There are deep and profound roadblocks to any Trump madness.

The pivotal contests are at the state and local level. The importance of the under-card elections cannot be over looked. Police powers and educational mandates are structured at the state level. These are two civic functions in dire need of new administrative blood. In this area, Bernie Sanders gives us sage advice. Be involved on an intimate level with the politics of your immediate environment. Attend the meetings and ask questions, participate in the decisions, claim a seat on the board be it school, police review, environment, or urban planning. Have will and purpose. Be prepared for the long view of political change. Nothing will happen instantaneously but we have an opportunity for a new foundation.

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Great Expectations –

No, not that one.

I expound on the anticipation of competitive excellence from Chicago’s professional sports franchises. Hope springs eternal.

As I began to write about the coming Blackhawks season, it occurred to me how frustrating prognostication can be when talking sports…so, before the hockey news, a review of low-lights and high-lights seem appropriate.

The Bulls end their impersonation of the Keystone Cops with the trade of Derrick Rose, a star who never was. Without detailing his gross lack of skills, let it suffice to say he overstayed his welcome. Conversely, Tom Thibodeau was dismissed far too soon and the loss of Joacim Noah will be felt for a long time. Until the management hires an experienced NBA coach with a background of championship play, we “rebuild.”

Why is Jay Cutler still a Bear? The ownership continues to juggle an entire team and coaching staff around a second tier quarterback who is obviously not interested in being there. The empiric evidence is a failure of the team at every level. The era of sentimental ownership by the Halas clan has outlived its effectiveness. Virginia McCaskey should just let it go. You can count on crash and burn for another season.

The Cubbies can’t lose and my beloved White Sox can’t win. I truly want the Cubs to make a go of it, but there is always the “curse”…they’re the Cubs. I can’t believe Robin Ventura will return to the helm of the White Sox next season. Once again, Reinsdorf needs to pop for a big name manager with championship skills.

On to the Blackhawks!

There is always good entertainment in viewing the early power rankings. Speculation abounds and injuries don’t exist. The ideal hockey world.

The Blackhawks found the limits of adrenalin last season as they mounted their attack on St. Louis with rookies peppered throughout the line-up. Talented as they were, there is no substitute for veteran savvy on the ice. The Hawks were easily handled in the playoffs. Veteran Brian Campbell returns but Andrew Shaw is gone to the Canadiens…ouch. Shaw was a force on the ice. Forward Teuvo Teravainen, traded to the Hurricanes, was speed and skill. Such is the fate of talent as a commodity. Skill equates to worth and value as a trade option.

The Hawks brain trust believes there’s enough talent in the system to remain a contender. This season will be a test to see if that’s true. Centers and defensemen weigh in as the newest prospects. NCAA stars Nick Schmaltz (center) and Tyler Motte (winger) need to get “seasoned” in short order. Welcome to Oz, young men. European defenseman Michal Kempny is a cypher. The preview blurb is using the term “improving”…what exactly does that mean? The team remains shallow at Forward.

Powerhouse vet’s return for another season; Toews, Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, the large (6’4”, 200 lbs.) Artem Anisimov returns to center position, and the eternal Marian Hossa join the cast of great expectations for the season ahead. The season’s first half will tell the story. Power rankings from the NHL place the Blackhawks at number six.

There is good reason Tampa Bay is the real deal and a favorite for the cup. Captain Steve Stamkos returns under the tutelage of veteran Steve Yzerman. There is an abundance of hockey smarts at work in Tampa as they keep a powerhouse team intact for another season.

Here we go!

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