Archive for February, 2016

Essays by Carl Nelson

February 27, 2016


The End of Experience


Prior to our entry into WWI, the sentiments of the general citizenry were quite isolationist.  Here’s what Mark Crispin Miller says regarding the work of Edward Bernays (among many others) to change that:

“… it was not until 1915 that governments first systematically deployed the entire range of modern media to rouse their populations to fanatical assent.  Here was an extraordinary state accomplishment: mass enthusiasm at the prospect of a global brawl that otherwise would mystify those very masses, and that shattered most of those who actually took part in it.”

As Bernays was to say later, “We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

One of the strategies employed by the Federal Government to deflect opposition to the draft in WW1  was to enforce its implementation at the local level.  This insulated the Federal Government from criticism of its policies.   Supporting the draft took on personal approbation.  Patriotic citizenry could question and bedevil the holdouts, the slackers, even root out the traitorous.  The Federal Government, in essence, released the mob.  (My grandmother’s defense of my grandfather’s German roots nearly got him jailed.)   This same strategy continues today.

In political circles there is a concept called the Overton Window, which “also known as the window of discourse, is the range of ideas the public will accept.” (Wikipedia).   What enlarges or shrinks this window are the intellectual and/or political players at the national level.  But what enforces this window of debate are the citizenry all around us.

In sales, when the prospect you have chosen to speak with is not moved by an argument whose advantages are overwhelming , it’s fairly certain that either you are not talking to the ‘decision-maker’, or that, for some reason, they do not find what you are saying credible.  Either way, you have fallen outside of that person’s Overton Window, and are left peering at the Overton Wall (my invention!).

You may have experienced this same level of mystification when discussing political issues either in person or as it more commonly happens today on social media.  Only experts need apply.  The powers that be have ruled personal experience inadmissible and most probably suspect.  Personal experience or anecdote will place you right outside the Overton Window alongside the rustics.  Common sense need not apply either.  It is outside the Overton Window too.  We’re all experts nowadays, or nothing.  And this applies to both sides of the issues.

Web links are the puppet strings.  More and more we move by them.  We think by them.  We exercise our freedom of expression through them.

Or, perhaps, for a less paranoid view, try this which is taken from an article by Nathan Heller in a recent issue of The New Yorker:

“The stories you encounter through your smart phone are stories, basically, asking to be found.

Getting outside of the museum is hard.”

“Encounter thinking” (real experience), “our response to the exceptional, saves us from the errors of consensus and the expectations of smooth process that, like the myths of consolation, leave us ill-equipped to deal with changes when they come.”

Unfortunately, personal experience, more and more, is useful only as a private curio or baubles to be traded in psychoanalysis.  It may rule our stars, but it has little impact socially.  Or worse, it could have a hazardous impact socially and even legally.  You can pass on a link with much less worry of being branded by the content.  You are merely passing on ‘what is out there’.  Whereas, you are personally liable for your personal views.

But what if there is nothing out there that you want to say – which can be copied and pasted?  And a lot that isn’t?

Well, here in our new America, we’re each choking on our own very private experience.  Grin and bear it or suffer the consequences.

P.S.  As a small update, it occurs to me that what the ‘Donald’ brings to politics, regardless the view of him, is personal experience.  He puts arguing a point from personal reflection back inside of the Overton Window.  And I think a lot of people respond to this.


Conservative Art

February 21, 2016

Poetry with a Conservative Slant


Artwork by practitioners of a Conservative viewpoint can be hard to come by.  If you’re a Conservative you’re accustomed to this.  If you’re not, you might be afraid of reaching down into the rabbit ‘hole’.

Well, fear not.  Here are a few sample snippets of some poems:


Big Government


 Sometimes I lie in bed at night

trying to imagine how big the government is

until I pass out.


And summer times I some times,

lie on the grass

and name each constellation

as a separate bureau.


That constellation there.

The big one.

That’s the Department of Health, Education and Welfare

with a total budget this fiscal year 2015

of one trillion twenty billion dollars.


Anarchist at the Political Fair


If we are our own worst enemy,

as we are so often,

what folly to cast aspersions!

I am not here to rile you up;

I am here to calm you down…

Continue to disagree as you will and as you must.

I am not here to change your minds – but to disperse them!

Altogether we constitute a pox!  There’s the truth of it.

Too much power is granted to too few.



If you enjoyed these starter hors d’oeuvres, you might enjoy this book:


Essays by Carl Nelson

February 20, 2016

It's a Small World2

It’s a Small World

(when it’s Fascist)


Every story takes place in a country where the character must be sacrificed for the good of the whole and the author is the sole authority.  There is a “greater good” to be achieved.   “Kill your darlings”, is the much quoted classroom tutorial phrase which comes to mind.  In a story there is no Constitution, no Bill of Rights, no questions of debt or expense – because stories are about conflict.  That is, they take place on a war footing.  A great problem is afoot, great things are at risk, strong leadership is required, new thinking is required.  Quibblers need not apply.  Basically a story is a country with a ‘strong man’ ruler where the author owns all means of production.

Even in the Land of the Free we are not so hostile to this moral fascism of the “greater good”.  We honor our military veterans, our fallen, our departed leaders, our selfless citizens who sacrificed for their children, their town, their school, the fire department, the police and all those who are self-supporting, pay their taxes and honor the law.  And as humans everywhere, we think in narrative.

But in our published narratives we demand a little more and peer a little further.  We do an autopsy.  We lift that curtain on the ‘soul’, take the character to task for their choices, dig and scratch right down to bedrock where we assay a true nature and a truth, and decide whether or not they are useful to the greater purpose.  Should the character be obliterated from history or enshrined in the canon?

If you are of the progressive turn of mind and worship at the altar of progressive change, you might want to extend an uplifting book into realms as yet unwitnessed.  Life is indeed better in some stories.  Why shouldn’t this narrative be extended?  Why shouldn’t what reads well, play well?   Why shouldn’t we fight for justice as the hero does in our book?  Why shouldn’t we change the town to run more like it runs in the uplifting story?  Why shouldn’t we demand more of human character?!  And why shouldn’t we enact laws to help shape and sustain these efforts?  Especially, if a particular story has caused a terrific outpouring of popular sentiment?  Who would be so cynical as to not want a better world?

Indeed.  Who doesn’t love Disneyland, where our positive narratives have been infinitely extended.  The characters entertain.  The workers sing and smile.  They arrive and leave through tunnels and back hallways behind false walls and eat and shit somewhere else.   And you don’t have to pay them.  Just one flat fee and it’s all handled.  No one panhandles.  No one protests (except perhaps the long lines).

One afternoon, while at Orlando, we got caught in a stalled attraction.  We were jammed in this dark, echoing tunnel among numbers of other boaters, while children’s voices of diversity – from all over the world – chirruped loudly through overhead speakers, “It’s a Small World”.  Over and over.  A constant barrage of melodic uplift.


I felt as if I might lose my mind.



Essays by Carl Nelson

February 11, 2016

Trail of Money

The Money Comes in Big Wads, or Not at All


This Mid-Ohio river valley town is a hard place to turn a buck.  As a salesperson you don’t have to make many phone calls to figure this out.  As I work my way down the Chamber of Commerce lists of local businesses I follow a lot of hardscrabble efforts and read a lot of unique business names.  I call and get a busy signal, a number disconnected, or a voicemail from six months previous.  Lots of pre-recorded voicemails predominate as the owner themselves are missing while out presumably massaging some other prospects themselves.  It often seems the selling around here involves a lot of sniffing of each other’s skat.  In short in this area, as in a lot of the rust belt and increasingly more coastal areas of the country, the hunting is getting scarce.  In these business pages you can certainly see people trying  …everything.  Pet salons, beauty salons, pawn shops, barber shops, chemical cigarettes, lawn services, clean-up services, insurance services, financial services, tax assistance…  Even the professionals such as accountants and lawyers are having to jog pretty fast just to get by, and they seem to go out of business nearly as fast as anyone else.  In my mind the local employment solutions remind me of when as children we tried to catch a bird or a squirrel with a box held up by a stick with a string attached to it with some yummy bait inside.  We used to wait a long time and rarely had any luck.  So also with fishing with string and a safety pin.

Most of the small business around here has been run out by the franchises.  The dime stores, the cafes, the hardware and clothing stores have been replaced by the Wal Marts, MacDonalds and Home Depots.  They take the money here, but their purchasing is done elsewhere.  The mines and oil companies pull the resources out, pay some pretty good blue collar wages, but they purchase elsewhere and take the money elsewhere also.  The chemical plants up and down the river are not as thriving as once, but they still pay some pretty good blue collar wages – but here again purchase and use the money elsewhere.  The government brings in some money in terms of schools and federal services.  There is a bit of farming and logging.  The industries with the most profitable looking presence around here are the hospitals, funeral homes, and tort law.  Just driving around you get the impression that the common activity is to die.  The most common posted historical photo is of some devastating flood.

Oddly there are some very good teachers and individual contractors around, as these seem to be relatively good paying jobs which allow some to the best people to remain in the area.  The majority of the service jobs remaining, however, barely afford a life.  And if you are a youngster trying to break into an occupation around here, there is not much job mobility and few openings.  Maybe every twenty years something will come along to rock the economy and a few job holders are lured from the safety of their sure employment into something else to create a vacancy.  Otherwise the suppliers and customers are as attached and committed to one another as an embryo to its placenta.

But, here, more and more it doesn’t appear as if we are alone out here in the woods of Appalachia.  Even in the metropolitan area of Seattle, where I once called home, and all around our nation people are talking about the hollowing out of the middle class.  At the dealership where we once worked in Seattle they demanded an extreme work ethic.  You could work extremely hard and earn quite a bit more money that we needed.  We could have also worked just a normal week taken home $150,000/year, gone to see all of our child’s games and made it home for dinner by 6 every evening.  Except that the latter was not an option.  The company needed $500,000/year from that territory.  Otherwise they’d get someone else.

I see this all around the United States.  The big game like an elephant, a whale or a rhino are still around.  And if you are equipped to hunt them, you will have more food than you can possibly need.  But most the deer, rabbits, squirrels, possum, fish, etc. are gone.  Normal people with normal skills need not apply.  You have been replaced by better software and robots.

Then, just the other day, this caught my eye.  It was an article written for “The Seattle Globalist” by Sahid Maxad, an immigrant who, after twenty years repatriated to Somalia.  Sahid writes:

“But I was also getting away from a mostly stagnant and unfulfilling life in Seattle — White Center to be specific.

I was tired of working dead end jobs just to pay the bills. I felt trapped in a vicious cycle, where I always ended up at the same starting point, with no end in sight. I felt as if I was living a real life version of the movie Groundhog Day.”

What Sahid found in Somalia was a very poor country, and yet one with “many continuous years of improved safety and infrastructure development.”  And the time seemed to be right.  “More and more people are choosing to take their savings and invest in startup businesses and NGOs in Somalia to help rebuild the nation on a grassroots level.”

“Returning diaspora members are positioning themselves for success beyond their wildest imaginations — especially compared to their prospects in the States. I’ve seen people come here with a modest amount of savings and leverage it into entire hotel chains and various other lucrative entrepreneurial enterprises.”

In other words, the game hunting is good there in Somalia for the burgeoning middle class.

I wonder if we might not see more and more of your own middle class heading for the poorer regions of the world in the coming years also, as they search out a better life.

Advertising Flattened


Essays by Carl Nelson

February 6, 2016

Carl Sleeping1

The Day I’m Not Called a Bigot, Racist, Islamophobe, Homophobe, Misogynist, Reactionary or Racist is the Day I’ve Failed My Country and Two Thousand Years of History

(or How I Developed a Soft Spot for Richard Nixon)


 I’ve never bagged all of these epithets on the same day, but I have landed three in one posting.  I was accused of “creating an environment where reactionary thinking was tolerated” and called a bigot and a racist all in the same thread.  And this was by my nephew.

There was a study conducted some time ago which was written about in an issue I had of The New Yorker.  It seems that individuals in crowds allow themselves more and more leeway to act delinquently depending upon the amount of implied consensus within the surrounding group.  That is, if everybody decides to kick someone when they’re down, that’s when we’re going to feel most free to get in a few licks ourselves.  If one person objects, several may hold back.  And if several hold back, this could demoralize several more.  We can see how this could start a de-escalation of what I would call bandwagon bullying.

As I heard a character say on a TV miniseries I was watching just the other night, “The law is like a muscle.  If you exercise it, it grows strong.  But if you don’t exercise it,”… it becomes such a weak thing as to be useless.  I feel the same way about the First Amendment.

Even living way out in the woods, such as I, a person can become as deeply involved in some fulmination through social media as if he lived in Brooklyn.   This is the miracle of our age.

Some days I don’t feel quite up to it.  I want to post a cute kitten.   Nevertheless I feel honor bound to pick up a post and swing it if a lynch mob should pass me by.  My feeling is that just one person can send the message that the real world is not quite ready to allow this violence that is fulminating.  They are going to have to wait a while.  They’ll have to cool their heels or search for better circumstances.  They’re not going to get a pass.  Not from me.  “Over my dead body,” as they say.

How does a person become this ‘mean, bigoted, racist, reactionary, misogynistic and homophobic’ person such as myself?

Well, just disagree.  That would be the first – and really only – step necessary.  Then continue to apply as needed.

Everybody is encouraged to go out and “change the world!”.  It’s the progressive way!  It’s Mao’s Cultural Revolution emulsified and fed to our young ones through their schools and media as mother’s milk.  It’s on the breakfast, lunch and dinner menu.  And our youth have become, apparently, what they ate.

Our media extol it.  Our Presidential candidates swear by it.  As George Bush said,  “Hell, if I were running again for President, I’d be for change myself!”

I can’t think of a better slogan for a culture and a life which is never satisfactory – perfection be damned.



Essays by Carl Nelson

February 3, 2016


 The Upstairs Bath

There is talk (in some halves) of having our upstairs bath redone.  Are there wives anywhere who are not thinking of refurbishing, restoring, remodeling, or refurnishing whatever home they inhabit?

My son, meanwhile, was talking over dinner about the shower he would like installed which pours down on you like a tropical rain.  He has been following a website which celebrates the way billionaires live.  Apparently he doesn’t want to be caught flat-footed when the money rolls in.

Myself, I had a fortune cookie which once said that I “would always have enough money”.  I have hung on those words.


There are two kinds of people.  (Didn’t you know this?)  One seeks freedom by acquiring as much money as possible.  The other seeks freedom by surviving on as little money as possible.  An example would be my identical twin brothers who are retired.  One travels the country in a bus which pencils out at about forty dollars per mile, (I believe he quoted me).  The other travels the Pacific in a sailboat.

One of my fascinations has always been visualizing the smallest possible accommodation in which I could live as cheaply as possible.  (I’m not alone.  A plethora of websites cover this.)  I’d always fantasized my chosen life would be as a modern Johnny Appleseed or wandering Country Western singer – a Woody Guthrie without the politics.  In a book of columns by Charles Krauthammer, the columnist writes about a mathematician named Paul Erdos who conducted all of his life from out of two suitcases.  One suitcase held the mathematical materials he was currently working on.  The other suitcase held his clothes and incidentals.  He would travel from friend to friend, visiting with other mathematicians, working theoretical problems and died having published 1500 collaborative papers.  Mathematicians would rank themselves in terms of degrees of separation from having published with Paul Erdos.  Ah, to be a living legend.

But with time I’ve realized this sort of life probably wouldn’t have made me happy.  I enjoy staying in one comfortable spot where routine smoothes incident and I’m left my time to dream.  And I need my companions: wife, son, dog and cat.  When the two of them are off shopping or otherwise occupied, I imagine myself without them versus with them.  There is no contest.

But with all of this comes expenditures.  Sigh.  And with expenditures comes debt.  And with debt comes the need for money.  And with the need to earn comes loss of time.  You get the drift.

One of my many daydreams is that I would have been good in business or at making money.  I spent most of my adult life in Seattle, Washington, where in the late 20th century start-up millionaires were hatching like baby chicks.  Tech money was condensing out of the air.  There were so many expensive cars motoring around the suburb of Redmond you no longer bothered to gawk.

I never attracted a dime of it.  Everyone around was pulling in their limit, and I couldn’t get a bite.  In retrospect, I think a major reason was probably because I never invested.  I never put my line in the water.  You don’t make any points if you’re not in the game.

And this is why we’ll probably redo our upstairs bath.

I don’t want to be left on the bench.

Essays by Carl Nelson

February 2, 2016


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