What I Like About U.(S.A.)
America the Frenemy
Made in America
MUST do to survive and prosper in the years to come. We’d like to send it to you after you watch American Consequences 2020 . You see, what’s coming next in our country will be a lot worse than the tech crash. It will be a lot worse than the mortgage crisis too. No matter how sound your financial footing, what’s coming in 2020 is the most important
Dear Reader, You feel it, deep in your gut. This is not the America it used to be . Anger on both sides is rising as we head into the 2020 presidential election. And in the words of socialist and potential Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders: “What seems radical today could become mainstream tomorrow.” For the first time in American history, a divided populace could put a socialist President in the White House in the 2020 election. How will this national nightmare turn out? If you feel like you’re never really getting the full story from the mainstream media, we agree. We filmed a brand new documentary called American Consequences 2020 to show the real story of how we got to where we are today... where we’re heading next... and how to protect yourself when we get there. This film goes deep with interviews with Dr. Ron Paul , Congressman Thomas Massie , economic journalist P.J. O’Rourke , Stansberry Research founder Porter Stansberry , and many more... Fed insider Danielle DiMartino Booth ,
If you sit on the sidelines and do nothing to prepare for the 2020 election... you may fall victim to this socialist agenda in ways you couldn’t ever imagine . Specifically, in this documentary, you’ll learn: • Why we could soon have a “total disintegration of society,” according to Dr. Ron Paul. • Why Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez is only the start of this massive political shift. • How “cronyism” got us here... and
Your Copy FREE
There’s so much more you’ll learn too including... • The one financial asset you must have to survive the next crisis. There’s no telling how bad social unrest may be. This strategy was taught to me by one of the richest and most successful men I know when we were in the middle of a crisis in South America. This secret costs almost nothing but could save your life. (page 82) • The incredible way the U.S. government took nearly 69% of Americans hard-earned savings, practically overnight, during a previous Jubilee. (page 7) • Why the debts Americans owe today on college, autos, and credit cards are actually much more dangerous than the money owed during the mortgage crisis of 2008. (page 27) To start watching this new documentary, simply visit the website below. You don’t want to miss this! SocialistElectionAMC.com
issue facing you and your money today. This book explains the history of financial Jubilees in America and elsewhere around the world.
what that anger will lead to. We examine what’s coming – and why it will be a national nightmare... we explain how this crisis has come about... and
we even dig into a shocking twist that essentially no one sees coming. Watch American Consequences 2020 today , before it’s too late. Your FREE Hardback Book And as a special bonus, we’ll also send you what could become the most important book in America over the next few years... It’s called: The American Jubilee , and it explains much more about America’s biggest problem today... and what you
And most importantly, it explains everything you need to know and what to do to prepare for the first Jubilee in our country in nearly 50 years . Will you survive the 2020 election? In The American Jubilee , you’ll learn not only what happened in the 1930s... but also what happened during two of America’s other Jubilees, in the 1840s and 1960s. And you’ll learn how other countries have implemented Jubilees of their own...
JULY 2019 : ISSUE 26
LOST? CLICK HERE
4 Inside This Issue
46 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings BY ROBERTWYSS
BY STEVEN LONGENECKER
6 Letter From the Editor BY P.J. O'ROURKE
52 Go To Your Happy Place BY P.J. O'ROURKE
Editor in Chief: P.J. O’Rourke Editorial Director: Carli Flippen Publisher: Steven Longenecker Assistant Managing Editors:
10 What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
58 Bison Are Back
12 From Our Inbox
62 The Rust Belt Shines BY BILL SHAW
16 Made in America BY TOM BODETT
Chris Gaarde, Laura Greaver Creative Director: Erica Wood Contributing Editors: Tom Bodett, Alice Lloyd, MatthewMoran, John Podhoretz, Austin Root, Nouriel Roubini, Buck Sexton, Bill Shaw, Robert Wyss NewsWire Editors: C. Scott Garliss, John Gillin, Greg Diamond Cartoon Director: Frank Stansberry General Manager: Jamison Miller Advertising: Ricky D'Andrea, Jill Peterson Editorial feedback: feedback@ americanconsequences.com
70 Forever Stocks
22 What I Like About U.(S.A.) BY ALICE LLOYD
BY AUSTIN ROOT
76 2020 Recession and Crisis Risk BY NOURIEL ROUBINI
30 America the Frenemy BY JOHN PODHORETZ
80 Book Grump
36 Oh Beautiful For...
Some Expected Things BY P. J. O’ROURKE
82 Read This
COMPILED BY P.J. O’ROURKE AND LAURA GREAVER
42 Summer Reading
BY AMERICAN CONSEQUENCES CONTRIBUTORS
84 The Final Word
BY BUCK SEXTON
INSIDE THIS ISSUE
F rom Easy Rider to backyard fruit cannons, this month we’re celebrating the things that make America. So pack up the cooler, grab the shark repellant, and throw on your American flag speedo, because our “America Is Great” issue is now live... Editor in Chief P.J. O’Rourke kicks things off by explaining the difference between patriotism and nationalism, why he loves traffic jams and urban sprawl, and how America was founded on happiness. Contributing Editor Alice Lloyd interviews Bill Ayers, Howard Dean, and more, to find out what the Left loves about the America they often rally against... Humorist Tom Bodett reflects on the “Must Do” spirit of American ingenuity, from the Apollo moon landing to a watermelon cannon in Michigan. Ecologist MatthewMoran looks at the reintroduction of bison to the Great Plains, and how the return of the once abundant animal is good for the environment and economics in the region... Writer and film critic John Podhoretz shows us how Hollywood and the box office love to hate on America... Analyst Austin Root makes the case for three “set it and forget it” stocks with the potential to boost your portfolio for years to come... while analyst Bill Shaw sees the signs of an economic rebirth in the Rust Belt.
Journalist Robert Wyss looks at the history of America’s pastime as we celebrate the 150th birthday of Major League Baseball... Our July contributors send us home with some summer reading, and our resident Book Grump offers rare praise for an author you’ve likely overlooked. We’ve uploaded a PDF suitable for printing to our archive page. And tell us what you think at feedback@ americanconsequences.com. Regards, Steven Longenecker Publisher, American Consequences As summer ripens around us, I find my American mind turns to mini golf. Unselfconsciously tacky, open to everyone who can front a small fee, likely to end in tears for at least one member of the family – mini golf, more or less, is America. “
Due to Unexpected Demand, Stansberry Research’s most secretive analyst is sharing his most high- conviction idea one last time:
he new bull market in gold is here. Since bottoming in August, gold has soared past $1,400 an ounce. It’s up nearly 10% in the last month alone. And this analyst suspects this is only "If I had to put ALL my money in one stock, THIS would be it." T the beginning of a much bigger move. Scotiabank predicted that gold would have far more buyers at $1,400 than its previous $1,300 level – with investors pouring in due to “fear of missing out.” You see, this analyst has been predicting a similar “pile-on” effect. And he says he wouldn’t be surprised to see another 20% jump within weeks . In short, this could be the best moment in decades to own gold investments. In this presentation, this analyst explains why this is the best moment to own gold and he shares the No. 1 move to make right now. He recently said, “I can almost guarantee it will surprise you.” See... physical gold moves slowly. And while the best miners can return hundreds of percent in a gold bull market – most of them are extremely risky. However, this analyst has found something much better. It’s a business with the same kind of upside as the very best miners... but the risk profile of a dirt-cheap value stock.
He considers it the single best gold business on the planet . And he makes the case right here why it could return upwards of 2,000% in the coming years. Keep in mind – you’ve likely never heard of this company. It’s not a miner. It’s not a fund or an ETF. And while it has a lot in common with royalty firms like Royal Gold or Franco Nevada – it’s better than those (with insanely high 85% pre-tax profit margins). This business is so stupidly undervalued that it could triple from these levels even with no movement in the price of gold. But if gold takes off the way he’s expecting – the gains could be far higher. Bottom line: This analyst considers it a “one- and-done” way to capture all the upside of the gold surge with minimal risk . But he doesn’t expect it to be available at this level for long. Get the full story while there’s still time, right here. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a “gold bug” or not. This opportunity is a way to potentially see 10 times your money or more... along with a nearly 4% dividend... and ultra-low risk. That’s why this analyst has gone on the record saying it’s the single best opportunity he’s ever found. Take a look at THIS and decide for yourself.
From Editor in Chief P.J. O’Rourke
Patriotism is a warm and personal business. Nationalism is another business entirely.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
CLICK HERE TO READ THEWEB VERSION
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
he difference between patriotism and nationalism is the difference between the love a father has for his family and the love a Godfather has for his “family” – the Bonanno family, the Colombo family, the Gambino family, the Genovese family, the Lucchese family... Patriotism is a warm and personal business. Nationalism is another business entirely. It’s the kind of business Salvatore Tessio talks to Tom Hagen about after Tessio’s betrayal of Michael Corleone. Tessio: “Tell Mike it was just business.” In 1945, George Orwell wrote an excellent essay, “Notes on Nationalism,” for the British magazine Polemic . The essay is too long to reprint here and too detailed in its analysis of Nazi, Stalinist, and Trotskyite political ideas that were put out with the trash long ago (although sometimes, unfortunately, recycled). But – in severe condensation – what Orwell had to say is: Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism... By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a
on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other [ideological, theological, racial, etc.] unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality. Sinking your own individuality into anything is not a prescription for happiness. Even if what you’re sinking it into is beer. (Maybe especially if it’s beer.) But being a White Nationalist – or Black Nationalist or Hindu Nationalist or Islamic Nationalist or Gay Nationalist or Whatever Nationalist – is worse than being drunk. At least if you’re drunk, you’re not part of a mass movement. Although I have seen something close to that at O’Rourke family Irish wakes. But too many O’Rourke’s fall down or pass out, so it ends up being more mass than movement. (And speaking of mass, we have to sober up and go to one the next day). What makes me unhappy about mass movements is just what Orwell points out. You lose your individuality in the “unit.” When you lose your individuality, other people – who aren’t part of your mass movement, who aren’t nationalists in your “nation” – lose their individuality to you. They cease to be people and become “Other People.” When that happens, you don’t see these others as individuals. It becomes easy to be afraid of them, hate them, regard them in a jealous way, and want to exert power over them. As Orwell goes on to say:
particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people... Nationalism, “ Sinking your own individuality into anything is not a prescription for happiness. Even if what you’re sinking it into is beer.
City Was Gone,” argue about whether WKRP in Cincinnati or The Drew Carey Show was the best TV program ever, and get suicidal if something goes wrong in “The Game” and Michigan beats Ohio State at Homecoming. I don’t want Ohio to conquer the world, or even Michigan. I don’t want everyone in the world to become an Ohioan. (We’d run out of miniature marshmallows.) And, come to that, I haven’t personally lived in Ohio for almost 50 years, but I’m still a loyal Buckeye. And, reading further in Orwell’s essay, I discover, to my surprise, that the way I feel about Ohio means I’m engaged in a “ moral effort:” Nationalistic loves and hatreds... are part of the make-up of most of us, whether we like it or not. Whether it is possible to get rid of them I do not know, but I do believe that it’s possible to struggle against them, and that this is essentially a moral effort. It is a question first of all of discovering what one really is, what one’s feelings really are, and then of making allowance for the inevitable bias... [Boo, Wolverines!] The emotional urges which are inescapable... should be able to exist side by side with an acceptance of reality. [Okay, okay, Tom Brady played for Michigan.] But this, I repeat, needs a moral effort. So become a patriot and you, too, can turn into a more moral person than Michael Corleone turned into, not to mention those fearful, hateful, jealous, power hungry people who went to the University of Michigan.
... as soon as fear, hatred, jealousy and power worship are involved, the sense of reality becomes unhinged... the sense of right and wrong becomes unhinged also. There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when “our” side commits it... one cannot feel that it is wrong, Loyalty is involved, and so pity ceases to function. Nationalism turns people into assholes or – as we’re called everywhere in America except the part of New England where I live – Patriots fans. Yeah, we call ourselves “Patriots,” but everybody knows we’re really “Patriot Nation.” It’s Chicago Cubs fans who are patriotic. Cubs fan: “I hope our team beats all the other teams.” Patriots fan: “ What other teams? There aren’t any other teams. And if there are any other teams, I hope they die in a plane crash!” I am also a patriotic Ohioan. Born and raised there. (“Round on the Ends and ‘HI’ in the Middle!”) I am devoted to that particular place and to the Ohio way of life, which I believe to be the best in the world. But I have no wish to force other people to go on family vacations to the birthplaces of all seven U.S. presidents who were born in Ohio (William Henry Harrison, Ulysses Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Taft, and Warren Harding), eat salads with miniature marshmallows in them, mist up when they hear Chrissie Hynde sing “My
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
Financial follies and disaster in the making
On July 10, Powell told us in no uncertain terms that it has not. Barring a sudden improvement over the next two weeks, the Fed will almost surely kick off a new rate-cut cycle when it meets at the end of the month. In fact, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch Tool, the probability of at least a 0.25% cut this month is now 100%. The only question is whether the Fed cuts rates by 0.25% or a more extreme 0.5%. Uncertainty at the Fed isn’t the only red flag we’re seeing today. The 10-year U.S. Treasury bond is the global paper-currency financial system’s “barometer.” The yield on this bond sets the price on all other risk assets. When this 10-year real yield is steady or rising, you’ll see “clear skies” ahead. But when the barometer turns sharply lower, and especially when it breaks through key Weathering the storm...
Bracing for the worst...
For months, the market has been anticipating that the Federal Reserve could begin to cut interest rates as soon as this month. But following a one-two punch of Fed announcements July 10, it’s now absolutely convinced. During testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell warned that the bank’s view of the economy hadn’t changed. He cited “uncertainties around global growth and trade” as a significant factor in the decision to leave rates unchanged. That same day, the Fed released the minutes from its June policy meeting and these painted a similarly “dovish” picture. Fed officials voted to leave rates unchanged in June, but many were in favor of future cuts if their outlook for the economy did not improve...
time. And believe it or not, this total now includes a significant amount of junk-rated debt as well. According to Bloomberg, some European junk bonds trade at levels where investors have to pay for the privilege of holding them. Yes, you read that correctly... Investors are now paying some of the riskiest companies to take their money. It’s truly a lose-lose proposition. If the company defaults on this debt, investors are likely to lose a significant amount of their investment. But even if everything goes right, they’re guaranteed to lose money on these bonds. Unfortunately, we fear this trend is likely just getting started... The central banks of Europe and Japan appear to have abandoned whatever caution about NIRP they previously had. And now even the Fed is seriously discussing negative interest rates for the first time. In short, despite the current record high amount of negative-yielding debt, the number and size of less-than-zero-return loans could still rise dramatically... which means new highs for gold and silver may not be far behind. If we see real yields on 10-year Treasury securities fall back below zero, gold will surge very quickly... some analysts predict it could hit $2,500 an ounce or more. And what if you’re one of the unfortunate investors paying for the “privilege” of holding junk bonds or deposits with near-zero percent interest? Well, consider yourself warned.
thresholds, a hurricane is coming. When yields on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond pay at or near zero, you’ll find investors fleeing assets tied to the dollar and seeking safe havens like gold. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond is currently just under 2.2% (and falling) while gold is about $1,400 an ounce and on the rise since June. Now, the Fed doesn’t directly control treasury rates, but a new round of rate cuts will almost certainly accelerate this trend. We’re not surprised to see gold surging again. If any of this sounds familiar, it should. In 2016, there was a massive expansion of negative interest rate policy (“NIRP”). The idea of “negative” interest rates is nonsensical. It’s like capitalism turned upside down. Instead of being paid to lend your money to a bank, government, or company, you’re actually paying them for the “privilege.” Negative-yielding debt simply shouldn’t exist in a healthy, free economy. And prior to 2014 or so, it was practically unheard of. But as the central banks of Europe and Japan began to ramp up NIRP in 2015, that all changed. Between late 2015 and mid-2016, the total amount of negative-yielding debt surged more than sixfold... from less than $2 trillion to more than $12 trillion. Late last month, the total amount of this debt broke through $13 trillion for the first Staying afloat...
FROM OUR INBOX
too have a connection to NWOhio, in a way.
Re: Our Newest Readers Weigh In
I grew up in a tiny lumber town in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California. After the lumber was cut and dried at the mill it would be loaded on flat rail cars and hauled down the Feather River canyon to Oroville, and then to lumber yards through the west coast. The steam engine that pulled these big loads was built in the nineteen-teens in Lima, Ohio by the Shay Co. From the WWII years until the rail line was inundated in the 1970s with the construction of the Oroville dam, these trains went down that metal track several times weekly. For some of its path the train track ran parallel to the windy, two-lane highway, and you could see the dark smoke coming out of the stack. We loved that train. A fewyears ago I tried to find out what had happened to that old Shay engine. I tracked it down to, of all places, San Diego, California where it had been housed in a railroad museum. Then I found out that it had been moved to the hills of West Virginia where it was being happily used on a short tourism route. Once again, our Shay steam engine was up in the mountains amongst the trees doing its thing. No, Toledo and NWOhio are not and were never a failure. The Midwest factories produced machines that worked, that hauled grain, cattle and people. Those machines enabled America to grow and put food on the table and money in the pocket. And some of those machines are still running a century later. Thank you, Ohio! – DonaldW.
What do I think of your magazine? In the simplest, simplest way possible all I can say it is fantastic. – John P. P.J. O’Rourke comment: John, that’s simple enough that even we can understand it! I truly enjoyed the articles from PJ O’Rourke. Americans have become so spoiled they can’t seem to appreciate anything anymore. Being a Senior Citizen I can easily remember a time of a much lesser affluent society with much harder work required to achieve even that! President Trump may rub many the wrong way, but give credit where credit is due! Not one of us is perfect or always right on either side of the fence! – Sandy B. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Right on, Sandy. And while you and I are appreciating things, let’s not forget to appreciate how much fun it is rubbing it in with young people about how much less affluent and harder-working the past was. One of my two high school age kids is off on a foreign exchange program and the other is taking tennis, golf, and sailing lessons. When I was their age, my summer job was working in an un-air conditioned appliance warehouse with no forklift for $1.10 an hour. Re: Toledo, Ohio P.J., thanks for your long and informative article about your hometown, Toledo, Ohio. I
Toledo’s famous sword-making. Also the answer is “And vice versa!” I was walking around in Toledo, Spain, and saw a street sign for “Calle Toledo Ohio.” I went into a shop and asked in halting high school Spanish, “How do you say the name of this street?” The shop owner replied, in a perfect Midwestern accent, “TWO-lee-dough oh-HI-oh.” Re: Concerned about the border This is “fear mongering”. Trump has created this amongst other things. When he took office, the Republicans controlled everything, and the border wasn’t an issue. If it was as bad as he claims, they could’ve done something about it since they had theWhite House, Congress & Senate. They did nothing. He’s just trying to scare as many people as possible. He has moved the fear to, “if you don’t reelect me, the market will suffer it’s worse collapse ever.” More fear tactics. Since his tariffs seem to be causing the most trouble, maybe he should look in the mirror to see where he can “fix” things. Hell, he even has many Republican politicians scared, and they don’t agree with him. So, let’s cut the crap, on both sides, and do what’s best for the people. Is that too much to ask? – David N. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Too much to ask of politicians? Yes, alas, David, doing what’s best for the people is way too much to ask of politicians. But if you ask them to do what’s best for themselves , you’ll get a quick and effective response.
P.J. O’Rourke comment: A great story, Donald. And you speak the truth. In Ohio, by gosh, we don’t fail. We may “succeed by other means,” but we don’t fail. I know Lima well – 70-odd miles down I-75 from Toledo, just on the other side of the old Great Black Swamp. And not only was Lima the home of the Lima Locomotive Works that produced the Shay engine (specially designed for steep grades and sharp track curves), but it’s still the home of the Lima Army Tank Plant where the M1A1 Abrams tank is made. And that’s a reminder to coastal elites that when they make fun of heartland America, they’d better do so from a distance. Too bad you wrote such a (nice) long article without mentioning the exquisite Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach song, while finding room for the John Denver hatchet job. – JimM. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Jim, I nominate you as Toledo’s Top DJ! EC’s and BB’s fabulous “Toledo” – from their 1998 Painted From Memory collaboration album – is, so to speak, music to my ears. A sample of the lyrics: But do people living in Toledo Know that their name hasn’t traveled very well? And does anybody in Ohio Dream of that Spanish citadel? The answer is “Yes!” Toledo, Ohio, (pronounced “TWO-lee-dough”) and Toledo, Spain, (pronounced “Two-LAY-dough”) are official Sister Cities and my Toledo’s newspaper, the Blade, is named after Iberian
FROM OUR INBOX
promote more humane treatment of animals in the state of Colorado. Makes me want to be either an illegal immigrant on the lam in downtown Denver, or a junkyard dog. Either way, I’d have more rights. Thank goodness for our president’s persistence and strength, despite constant harassment and redundant investigations. If it weren’t for President Trump nothing would get done in Washington and ISIS would still be making their vicious viral videos of chopped off infidel heads. In short, just build the wall – with lots of lights and sirens. The whiz bang technology add-ons can come later. – Virginia L. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Virginia, you make a number of good points. But, then, so do Calvin and Victoria below. Let them all in. they are just trying to survive. – Calvin S. I’m concerned about the way we are treating asylum seekers. I am freaked out about the stories coming out about the housing of children. What have we become? When did we become so hateful, resentful and downright mean? It is not against the law to seek asylum here. I just don’t knowwhat to do about it. Seeing those cages with children in them is making me sick... – Victoria F. P.J. O’Rourke comment: In my own opinion, our only hope for a more rational, more humane, and less politicized border policy is for America to realize that we don’t have an “immigration crisis.” There’s nothing
I am most concerned about our open borders, both Canada and Mexico, and they both need a proper border wall ASAP. – Edward N. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Beg to differ, Edward. Walls do not have a history of efficaciousness. The Great Wall of China didn’t prevent the Manchu invasion of the Ming Dynasty’s empire in 1644. The Maginot Line, the Siegfried Line, the Iron Curtain, and the Berlin Wall didn’t work either. To quote Robert Frost, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” Our border has become the world’s gateway to America . The situation is a travesty, a crime, an insult, an untold expense and total bastardization of American values, culture and identity. What’s just as appalling is that it’s an easy fix. The problem is visible and stoppable, but the Democratic regime – turned extreme left communists – need the headcount, aka votes. They don’t have a humanitarian bone in their bodies nor a brain to share among them. I’ve written my Congressman, Jason Crowe [D., CO], my Senators, Cory Gardner [R., CO] and Michael Bennett [D., CO], as well as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Cory Gardner is the only one who replied. I no longer feel represented. I live in Colorado, now a Sanctuary state, with 100% Democrat state government. Lots of new residents from Californians now run our government. Our new governor brags about his gay partner and how the “first man” will
the next location of their protests and, to hike and camp in locations that they feel are sacred habitat. Apparently, created only for them by the God they don’t believe exists. It’s a conundrum. Our governor is trying cut our bloated budget and, not surprisingly, every non- profit, entitlement-receiving, public employee union member and federal worker is up in arms. There’s more but, I’d rather read your submittals. Thanks for keeping our lights on. Cranially speaking. – Brad S. P.J. O’Rourke comment: Letter of the month, Brad! And thanks for the laughs. Maybe we should put you in touch with Edward N. and Virginia F. above. Sounds like it’s Alaska that needs the wall.
inherently wrong with immigration. Our country was built on it. What we have is a “refugee crisis,” with desperate people doing desperate things to escape from evil elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile our government is stuck in a traditional “immigration” mindset and doesn’t have a clue how to deal with the refugees, let alone the evil. Re: America is Roaring Buck Sexton’s email deposit was a perfect way to start my day. P.J. O’Rourke entered my life when I was a young lad in Jr. High and High School enjoying the fruits of his labors, National Lampoon . I mean, who WOULDN’T follow him on his adventures as a clear-headed, fully oxygenated adult after dosing myself with the aforementioned rag? Just sayin’. Thanks for the concise analysis of today’s societal and political travails. It’s been creeping up here to Alaska for quite some time. Why? The greenies and leftists who shit in their own mess kits in the Lower 48 are running up here in droves to escape their own filth. Unfortunately, they want to save us from ourselves by giving us plastic instead of paper bags and... but wait... now they want to take away the plastic bags because they’re polluting our cities and choking seals offshore – who are only trying to escape the indigenous peoples wielding Adirondack Big Sticks in order to club them into submission. And, the same natural resource that built this buxom state is a target of their climate change scorn. Of course, they drive to
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across the bottoms of television news broadcasts came into
city of Pontiac, Michigan, or through an automobile which is no longer made, and most importantly, which would be cooler to see ? That’s what I love most about my country. Of course somebody made a cannon that shoots watermelons – but what did he do with it? That’s the question that really matters. Americans make things. Okay, everybody makes things. Homo Faber – Man the Maker – is a well-worn anthropological touchstone. What separates Man from beast is our use of language and our propensity to make tools to make stuff to make our lives better. What separates Americans from the rest of Homo Faberdom is the urge to make things for the sake of making them. The product need not have any useful application whatsoever, though they often do. It’s making it that matters. NASA’s Apollo moon program is the prime example of American know-how, determination, and resources martialed into common cause. In the end, these expeditions produced several hundred pounds of rocks – arguably more than what might be gained with a watermelon cannon, but not by much.
play on September 11, 2001 for very good reasons, and – for reasons unknown –
never went away again. Soon after the original calamity was sorted out, news people ran out of actual news alerts to put into the endless crawl and began posting any scrap of evidence of life on Earth: “Senate convenes... Panda something... Atlanta temps seasonal... DOW opens down... Something panda...” Staring at a television one day in an airport lounge somewhere in America, hypnotized by this dribble of nonsense, an alert caught my attention, “Man fires watermelon through Pontiac with homemade cannon...” Try as I did to find out more, it was the last I heard of the story. The homemade watermelon cannon is not what captivated me. Instead, it was the ambivalence over whether he fired the melon through the
salt in 1641, and the court granted a patent for a mill for manufacturing scythes to Joseph Jenkes in 1646. (No rule or consensus has been issued to this day, however, on how to pronounce “scythes.”) Swim fins are cool. I didn’t know that was an American thing, but I will now flop down the beach in mine with new pride. As for the Franklin stove, frankly, I cannot understand how it took so long to think of it. One has to live with a stone fireplace for maybe half of a winter to realize what an efficient device they are for emptying your home of heat while consuming the woodpile. Two or three thousand years of feeding forests into chimneys to little effect and nobody says, “What if we put the fire in an iron box so we could control it?” Pythagoras? Da Vinci? Galileo? Anyone? You’d think that just by accident some Mesopotamian soldier on a cold desert night would have leaned a shield or something against the firepit and noticed how it radiated heat while keeping the smoke out of his eyes. Two or three thousand years of feeding forests into chimneys to little effect and nobody says, “What if we put the fire in an iron box so we could control it?” Pythagoras? Da Vinci? Galileo? Anyone? It took an American, Benjamin Franklin, to say, “This is bullsh*#t,” and pull out the sketch pad and welding torch.
Americans knew going in that a box of rocks was going to be the likely payoff, and they did it anyway. It wasn’t, “We are going to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade in order to own and subdivide it like Florida.” We did it because no one had ever done it and that was reason enough. The fact we got transistors and Velcro out of the deal was just good luck. We did it because we couldn’t think of a good reason not to. Robert Kennedy summed us up with, “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not.” When watermelon-cannon man’s wife asked him why, you know he shrugged, took a pull from his long-neck Pabst, and replied, “Why not?” I credit this trait to the fact that when early Americans, Homo “Detritus , ” were first drawn to, conned to, or dragged to the continent it was a simple fact of life that if they hadn’t brought it with them they were going to have to make it. They must have been awfully busy making the things they neglected to bring because a hundred years would pass from when the Spanish, English, and Dutch started nosing around North America in the late 16th and early 17th centuries to the arrival of the first meaningful American inventions: Swim Fins in 1717, and the Franklin Stove in 1742. There were two earlier outliers: The Massachusetts general court issued a patent to Samuel Winslow for a new way of making
Another what-took-you-so-long American invention is crash test dummies. What were they using before that? I doubt in their wildest dreams the inventors ever thought they’d see one in Congress, but why not? And, of course, the most American invention of them all – the Global Positioning System (GPS). We will never again have to stop and ask for directions. One could go on for pages on the contributions, great and small, Americans have made to the universe of stuff. But it would be chauvinistic, perhaps even nationalistic, to do that without also acknowledging the innovations and expertise of the other nations and cultures who have made so many amazing things while somehow never landing men on the moon. Six times. But thank you, France, for the mayonnaise. Americans have been killing it in the Department of Making Things for its entire tenure, but we’re by no means alone or even always out front in these modern, global times. A lot of the stuff we make we make in other places, and a lot of other places make their stuff here. But what America has that these other places don’t have is a society of “putterers.” (Does French or Russian or Mandarin even have a word for “putter”?) Americans can’t help but putter. We putter in our garages, and basements, and backyards. Armed with an arsenal of tools made in China and affordably priced at box stores strategically placed every six miles across the U.S., Americans are busy making things. A cannon that can shoot a watermelon through a car, or mid-sized city – no one’s really sure
Ben Franklin is also responsible for the all- American consumer tool, the mail-order catalog. (Amazon owes him royalties.) He came up with the lightning rod, bifocals, and the flexible urinary catheter – in that order. You can mark “Poor Richard’s” life challenges by his innovations: First, his aging feet start getting cold – wood stove. Gets tired of going out and dealing with the idiots on the streets of Philadelphia – mail order. Keeps sitting on his reading glasses – bifocals. Alexander Hamilton’s cursed central bank – lightning rod. [Fill in your guess] – flexible urinary catheter. Americans are also problem solvers. Thomas Jefferson invented the swivel chair so he could begin spinning in his grave over what we were going to do to the government he helped create before he was even dead. Like the Apollo program, we make things to solve problems we don’t have. Truck nuts, for example, and video games. And we make many things to solve problems we do have: Chemotherapy, dental floss, cardiac defibrillators, hearing aids, and traffic lights. Granted, our innovators are not always pulling in the same direction. Americans invented radiocarbon dating and the Creation Museum. We also discovered that science could be invalidated simply by not believing it. That innovation will literally change the world. Speaking of the End of Days, Americans claim the invention of mobile phones, personal computers, the Internet, and e-mail. We also invented light-emitting diodes (LEDs) so we could see all of that stuff charging in the bedroom.
We often hear boasts of the American Can-Do spirit. We’ve earned it, but I don’t think it’s entirely accurate. Can- do implies expertise, which is pretty evenly distributed across humanity. What Americans have is more of a Must-Do spirit. front of the TV. After a while, he’d come out with three or four vacuum tubes in his hand. They looked like light bulbs with pins for a base. He’d mutter something about RCA and vertical hold, then disappear to the hardware store. I can’t remember him ever coming back without the solution. He could finish concrete, mud sheetrock, wire circuits, and spent an entire summer retrofitting a modern hot water heating system throughout the house. I was sent into the dark little places with a flashlight to get the other end of whatever he was pushing through the wall. This is what we did on weekends. Dad seemed to know everything, but looking back on it now, I realize he was figuring it out as he went. He worked all day as an engineer at a plant that made heaters and air conditioners. He’d never built anything or worked in a trade of any kind. He grew up during the Depression in Chicago without a father. He was put to work on weekends fixing things, I suppose, for his mother and sister. They didn’t do a lot of family picnics. Neither did we. Weekends were for working. In high school, when I wanted a cabinet to lock up my record albums and protect my
– does not come out of thin air. It comes out of someone’s garage and is no less a miracle than Steve Jobs’ Apple computer. (While impressive, the Apple computer was not actually made in a garage and could not then nor today shoot fruit.) I’m not sure if my father was a putterer . The label invokes some sort of leisurely pursuit. An aimless tinkering. I never saw a repairman or professional tradesman in our house. Everything Dad did around the crumbling house I grew up in with my five siblings was purposeful and profoundly necessary. He never called a repairman or professional tradesman to fix anything. The garage was stuffed with tools, and whatever he didn’t have for the job at hand would be acquired – a tradition I embrace to this day. We once jacked up the sagging center beam of our two-story house three inches with big screw jacks and cheater bars in the basement. My job was to run upstairs every time we took a turn on the jacks to see if the plaster was falling off the walls anywhere. I was nine or 10 when I learned that with determination, three rented screw jacks, and some amazing swears, you could move worlds. The house settled and groaned in the night all the rest of my youth. The little kids thought it was ghosts. I knew it was my dad and me. My dad fixed everything – even our television. When the set would go on the blink, he’d unscrew the back and poke around with some kind of tester while looking at the scrambled picture in the reflection of the hall mirror he’d take down and propped on the sofa in
He’d watched Chicago improvise its way through the Depression. He joined the Navy and helped his country improvise its way through a war that left it at the top of the food chain for the rest of his life and mine. Once you do that, how hard can jacking up a stupid house be? We often hear boasts of the American Can-Do spirit. We’ve earned it, but I don’t think it’s entirely accurate. Can-do implies expertise, which is pretty evenly distributed across humanity. What Americans have is more of a Must-Do spirit. Dad could have left the sag in the floor. We wouldn’t have minded. At least we knew where to find our marbles. But dad couldn’t stand it anymore than his generation could stand the fact that the moon was just circling out there with nobody on it any more than a man, perhaps in Michigan, could stand the absence of a watermelon cannon in his life once he’d thought of it. “Man fires watermelon through Pontiac with homemade cannon...” I could watch news like that crawl by all day long. Tom Bodett is an author and broadcast personality heard regularly on NPR’s satirical weekend news quiz Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me. He has been the national brand spokesman for Motel 6 since 1986, which allows him to live in the middle of a hayfield in Windham County, Vermont, rather than near an actual job.
controlled substances from invasive brothers and sisters, it never occurred to me not to build it myself in the basement. By the time I got a car, I was 19 and in college, but that summer I lived at home making roadworthy a 1955 Pontiac Star Chief I bought with chickens still living in the trunk. I plugged rust holes (you could have safely fired a watermelon through that Pontiac), rebuilt the carburetor, rewired the lighting, and tore the dead radio apart. I went down to the hardware store with a handful of questionable tubes and came back with the solution. NASA landed the Viking 1 spacecraft on the surface of Mars in the summer of 1976 – the same summer I landed in Alaska, where I would spend the next 23 years. We didn’t even get a box of rocks out of Viking. I got everything I would ever be out of Alaska. Alaska in the ‘70s was still the wild west. The oil pipeline was hosing the state with cash and there weren’t enough people there to build all the houses, schools, and bridges to nowhere that needed building. I lied my way into every job I took – cannery forklift driver, high-iron construction monkey, logger, commercial fisherman, marine electronics technician, construction contractor. I had contracts to build three houses in 1979 without ever having actually built a house. But I figured it out. Like I’d watched my dad figure it out. The most important thing I learned from him was, “Anything that has been done is doable.” Where he learned it from, I can only imagine. My best guess is he got it as his American birthright.
Headshot of Tom courtesy of Beowulf Sheehan.
Even #Resistance feels patriotic sometimes, doesn't it?
What I Like It’s not necessarily a rational feeling, the patriotic stir. It has too many triggers to count, the strongest of which catches us unawares and doesn’t make much reasonable sense. Hearing Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ “Islands in the Stream” on the radio in a fussy Breton Village boutique did it for me once. The Shriners in the Memorial Day parade get me every time: There’s just something about the synchronicity of fraternity, philanthropy, tiny cars, and silly hats. And, as summer ripens around us, I find my American mind turns to mini golf. Unselfconsciously tacky, open to everyone who can front a small fee, likely to end in tears for at least one member of the family – mini golf, more or less, is America.
By Alice Lloyd
Scholars, activists, and overthinking politicians doubt the utility of sentimental American patriotism. But it is my strong suspicion that even they feel it sometimes, if not at parades or mini golf courses then, at least, in solemn contemplation of the space program and the national parks. Partisans dependably disagree, with conservatives tending to doubt whether anyone to their
left even likes what we love most about the homeland. President Donald Trump, who hasn’t helped matters much, has a habit of hugging the flag. Meanwhile, his supporters see the many various members of the #Resistance – the latter-day flag burners, the polite Republicans turned anti-Trump talking heads with cable-news contracts, the socialist youth and its septuagenarian framers – and
have hosted the Obamas in their community organizing era. Maybe misunderstanding the assignment, Ayers sent me an exuberant 4,558-word e-mail – an explosion of patriotic sentiment, you might say. And which, according to an online plagiarism-detection service, was partly an amalgamation of his Facebook posts from over the years. “The American Dream is mostly tubular (I like that word!), a pipe dream,” he writes, apparently winking at his own historical preference for pipe bombs. He contrasts lofty ideals and ugly realities, like “rampant consumerism, unchecked acquisition, being bigger and badder than anyone else,” and then adds – sarcastically, I think – “We are the chosen people, we’re building that city on the hill, and we are definitely number one. USA! USA! USA!”
read their disdain for reactionary nationalism as a blanket disregard for the nation. Some on the left do seem readier than ever to reject the American idea outright because its authors were white men who owned people. Others see signs of late-capitalist decay in every corner of American society and publicly decry blind patriotism as a ploy to placate the proletariat. Sure, they say these things – but do they really mean it? Unconvinced, I asked them... I asked lefty activists, perennial firebrands, progressive politicians, former conservatives now living in a perpetual state of Trump- fueled crisis, and one retired domestic terrorist what they love about America. I asked what, in 2019, gets their patriotic sap rising? I asked them to tell me what, if anything, makes them feel the way I feel about mini golf. The longest answer came from Bill Ayers , who you may remember as the founder of the Weather Underground – the group that bombed the Capitol building, the Pentagon, the State Department, and a long list of corporate headquarters, city courthouses, cop cars, and police stations in the 1960s, 1970s, and even for a little bit of the 1980s. Ayers lived as a fugitive for most of his tenure as a terrorist but never went to prison for his crimes. These days, he’s an education professor in his native Chicago and enough of a pillar of the conventionally liberal community to Bill Ayers Loves Bo Diddley
“We are the chosen people, we’re building that city on the hill, and we are definitely number one. USA! USA! USA!
In the less-than-fresh section that follows, he quibbles with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s famous line, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future” – taking this 1998 soundbite as proof that patriotism is “an arrogant myth that blinds people to
letter to the country whose Senate barbershop he once blew to bits was environmentalist Bill McKibben .
global reality; it’s a big lie covering aggression, invasion, and occupation.” Ayers’ dream for America, he then reveals, isn’t actually American at all, but universal: “for a world at peace and in balance, infused with joy and justice, and powered by love.” At that point, I nearly stopped reading. But then came the most appealing stretch of the sprawl: A paean to Chicago, from “the Chicago Cubs who teach us humility and perseverance,” to The Blues Brothers , Lake Michigan, and Bo Diddley. “Chicago is one of the things that’s so awesomely great about America,” he effuses. Further down the line, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden join that list. But then so do the Marx Brothers. And so – in a surprisingly sharp turn from wokeness – does Christopher Columbus and his crew: “We all know the story by heart, that foundational fable, and whatever else it represented, that exploit – part myth and part symbol – took a surplus of imagination and vision, resourcefulness and courage on the part of that wild and somewhat random crew.” Wild courage is what you need, Ayers eventually concludes, to love this country enough to plant explosives in its public buildings. The Environmentalist You’d Wanna Have a Beer With, and Other Burlingtonians Among the dozens of other activists Ayers name-checked in his long-winded love
McKibben teaches at Middlebury College, writes prolifically about climate change and its causes, leads protests and marches to save the planet, and is widely believed to be a top choice for Bernie Sanders’ presidential cabinet should the gravelly voiced Vermonter win the big cheese next fall. McKibben also let me know – at a more manageable length – what he loves most about America: Beer... He loves beer. “In 1979, America was down to 44 breweries, almost all of them producing the same swill,” McKibben answers, via e-mail: “Americans began fighting back, with the local spirit that has marked America since the battle of Lexington. Now there are more than 7,000 breweries, and while the market for big tasteless lagers keeps falling, the market for craft beers seems to keep expanding endlessly.” American beer is the best in the world, he adds, and his adoptive home state of Vermont boasts the best of the best: “Open a Heady Topper and then tell me I’m wrong,” he challenges, referring to Waterbury, Vermont’s cult-favorite craft brew. In craft beer, the men and women who make it, and the many more who consume it, McKibben sees a model for a brighter American future. “If only we could figure out how to do the same thing with every other crappy industry in America,” he concludes, “we’d be getting somewhere.” Burlington, Vermont’s long-serving former
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