Open Thread

Readers are the best part of blogging — I love to get feedback, whether in email, comments, or through trackbacks. I am also lucky that several readers often send me interesting bits of news, opinion pieces, and other mail not directly related to any particular post. However, my schedule often stops my from replying to these emails in a timely manner, and regularly prevents me from giving my take or analysis on some event or news story.

Therefore, I am creating this “Open Thread” post. When I receive such a message and am unable to reply, I will direct the notice to this page. That way, a reader who wants to share something with the world will be able to do so. And other social readers can read, give their own thoughts, and participate in an expanded discussion.

What’s new to you?

24 thoughts on “Open Thread”

  1. I have a request. As a consequence of the 2000 census the NYT ran a series of articles on the depopulation of the plains, and that got me thinking. Since a big part of American history and mythology involved the crossing and settling of the plains I find it fascinating that in the course of a century there is a big population movement going out from the plains that seems to be pretty much ignored and certainly not mythologized. This kind of demographic change is big, perhaps as big as the movement of blacks from the South to the Northern cities in the first half of the 20th century and yet culturally it seems to have no significance. Dan, you are a plainsman, what is your experience and insight into this demographic phenomena?

  2. Phil,
    The Midwest depopulation is an almost unique phenomenon. The great mythology of crossing the country actually included crossing the Plains to get to the other side (Oregon and California if you will). The Great Plains was the last area actually settled in the continental US.

    The first great exodus from the Plains occurred during the Dust Bowl (Grapes of Wrath-style). Today's exodus is a bit different. The source of the problem is not faliure but “too much” success. Technology has allowed agriculture to grow in scale with less need for man power. Else where in America success and growth has been much faster than the Great Plains and many high-paying jobs beckon the youth (the blood, the life) of the Great Plains away.

    There is one geographer who currently is dedicating his work to studying this. James “Pete” Shortridge of University of Kansas recently gave a speech summing up his thoughts at the AAG convention in Lincoln. TDAXP blogged about that, check in the geography section.

  3. i'm from the rural Midwest (Iowa City), myself.

    i think part of the depopulation has to do with the lack of cities. the world is urbanizing. when we say the Great Plains are depopulating, do we include the large cities therein?

    in fact, medium-size cities in the Midwest are growing, especially college towns like Lincoln and Iowa City. they are becoming, more and more, desirable places for businesses to settle, especially those requiring a highly educated populace. with the jobs people look to these places as somewhere they'd want to move. the Iowa City housing market is notorious to people within Iowa, though people used to more demand find it familiar.

  4. Phil,

    That sounds like a Catholicgauze question, as he's written on the topic before [1]. However, I joined in in attending the AAG regional geography conference in Nebraska [2] a bit ago, so I'll add what I can.

    It's sad. It's very sad. It's the end.

    Time is against almost every villiage and almost every town. Time may be against most of the cities. In truth my state South Dakota never recovered from the Great Depression. Like Ireland (since the Great Potato Faminine) or Middle Earth in the Third Age, the ghosts of a past more populous than the present are every where.

    These towns are undergoing a change of scale. Essentially, “the West” is moving eastwards, as much of the Central Plains join the loneliness of the Great Plains.

    Those cities that are not dying are changing into something new. In South Dakota, the only area really doing well is the area around Sioux Falls. I fear that it will become a city in South Dakota, instead of a city of South Dakota.

    A speaker at the AAG suggested the reason it has so little cultural impact, while we hear about every cultural movement in the South, is that the South pre-dates the Eastern Establishment while the Midwest post-dates it. Thus the inability to form a midwestern “culture” as durable as southern “culture.”

    Sigh. Maybe Catholicgauze is more optimistic…


  5. Jayson,

    Thanks for those links!

    Pinochet is one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth centuries — in many ways the Chang Kai-Shek of Latin Ameria. The differences being, of course, that Pinochet also succeeded in the democratic transition of his countries (while the KMT strongman left that job to his son).

    Additionally, thanks for the information on the contractors. They are part of the Military-Industrial-SysAdmin-Complex [1] and they are a vital ingredient in success. They are heroes who gave their lives on the side of right.


  6. Hey CG, Sean and Dan, thanks for offering answers, each one gives me some things to think about.

    There has been a general movement from rural areas to cities and suburbs since WW2. Both my parents were from small towns and moved to the DC area, so they are typical of that movement. I wonder if the population movements on the plains are equivalent to those of other rural areas around the country or if the rural plains communities are experiencing a greater loss of people?

    Now for something completely different:
    I'm going to be moving in January and I'm looking for a destination. I'd like to find a college town with a good, lively culture and reasonably priced housing. I lived in Columbia, Missouri a few years ago and liked the atmosphere there, but I'd like to find someplace new. Now I'm considering Bloomington, Indiana, Bozeman, Montana, Ft. Lewis Colorado and some other places, but I can't make up my mind. Anybody have any recommendations?

  7. ooh, Dan: nice Tolkien reference! πŸ™‚

    was it Pinochet's greatness that allowed him to squirrel away 20+M$ in offshore bank accounts? πŸ˜‰

    Phil: i can recommend Iowa City, but it's not for everyone. i live in Columbia, SC right now, and it's too hot πŸ˜‰

  8. Sean,

    “was it Pinochet's greatness that allowed him to squirrel away 20+M$ in offshore bank accounts? ;-)”

    What does one have to do with another? I don't recall Frodo Baggins being criticized for his comfortable retirement…


    Your point was brought up at the AAG… China, India, so many other countries are also experiencing this.

    Interesting choice of relocation spots!

  9. what they have to do with each other, Dan, is: is that a legitimate 'reward' of being the dictator? it's part of the whole story, the integrated whole.

    that is not to say Pinochet didn't do many great things. i don't know. i'm not arguing it.

    i don't find your comparison to Frodo to be pertinent.

    what do you think of Mark's Pinochet post?

    (if you've commented over there, forgive me. i can't read his comments from work)

  10. Sean,

    Your concern ties in to something I mentioned back in October and talked to Phil about — an evolved fear of those who profit from power. [1]

    It's irrational. In comparison to the well being of sixteen million Chileans, an old man's comfortable (or luxurious — whatever) checking account is worthless. Like investigating the President for a land deal in Arkansas — how could it possibly matter?

    Such a fear may have made sense in the early stone age. A “wise leader” who eats more meat than anyone else is probably causing someone's starvation — and that someone could be you. But in a modern context?

    Perhaps his retirement (and here I am silent on the strategic wisdom of maintaining some freedom from maneuver from a potentially hostile government) is part of an integrated whole. If so, it's just as important as whether or not Bill Janklow got rich off of Citibank stock after attacking Citi Cards to Sioux Falls: something that should matter to no one.

    PS: I liked Mark's post and the discussion. I especially agree with Lexington Green, though I think he undersells Pinochet by comparing him to leaders who did not personally give birth to democracy.


  11. irrational. i can't agree.

    maybe in the context of realpolitik.

    but individual behavior, ethical behavior, will always matter. it will always be part of the picture. practically speaking, this is important WRT personal responsibility. you can't ultimately maintain personal responsibility if every action doesn't matter.

    of course, maybe it's just the Calvinist and Lutheran influences on me. i have been accused of being ethically punctilious πŸ˜‰

    since you like to quote song lyrics, here's one for you:

    'everything matters if anything matters at all' – Pierce Pettis, God Believes in You.

    however, it is impolite to not allow a man the last word on his own weblog. let me know when you want it and i will stop! πŸ˜‰

  12. The mid-terms are over and candidates are coming out of the woodwork. At this point, there are more questions than answers. Are Hillary's negatives too high? Does Obama have enough experience? How will Giuliani's skeletons play out in the red states? Is the new McCain electable?

    I think the main thing going on right now is that Barack Obama is peaking too early. The public will grow tired of his fresh face and youthful enthusiasm by the time the real campaigning even begins.

  13. Mark,

    Senator Obama has officially announced the start of the contest. [1]


    As far as juding Pinochet's soul — I don't know. I can't know. What's in his heart is between him and God. All I have for measuing that are observed behaviors — a truly terrible yardstick!

    But as for his worth as a man — as for the works he accomplished — those can be judged. Those are extroardinarily positive. And of those, his retirement planning is least important. So that may matter, just as a chocolate bar matters in a gravitational tug-of-war with a black hole! πŸ™‚

    This open thread has been very popular — cool! πŸ™‚


  14. Sean,

    Glad you're enjoying it! I see Catholicgauze has gotten into the act too…. [1]

    I'm aware of only one really good forum — the Democratic Underground [2]. And that's a site which does not have an associated blog. I think the dynamics of bloggin and teh dynamics of forums are different enough that it is extremely hard to do both well. So for now, the blog posts will all serve as mini-forum-threads πŸ™‚


  15. Good Day

    Just wanted to share my new experience.

    If your system fails to start due to an error corresponding to missing HAL.DLL, invalid Boot.ini or any other critical system boot files you can fix this by using the XP installation CD. Just boot from your XP Setup CD and enter the Recovery Console. Then run “attrib -H -R -S” on the C:\Boot.ini file and delete it. Run “Bootcfg /Rebuild” and then Fixboot


  16. Speaking of open thread have you abandoned this concept? Some of the best commentary I’ve read here at your fine establishment came via open thread posts. Say it ain’t so, Dan, say it ain’t so.

  17. Please bring it back so we can spark a debate about the NCAA’s new “No celebration” rule that has already flummoxed a dozen or so players I’ve seen in games today.

    And what Jay said… there were interesting links and comments in those posts.

  18. πŸ™‚

    Very kind. It will be brought back.

    I think I will need to tweak a wordpress setting or two to make the Open Thread a work-alike to what it was on blogspirit, but that will be done soon.

    I am flattered.


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