Regions of Mind

Self-assured but self-questioning.

U.S. regionalism,
foreign policy,
politics, life.

Geitner Simmons is an editorial writer with the Omaha World-Herald.
This weblog expresses his personal views only.
He is also
a Midwesterner,
a Southerner,
a husband, a father, a son. And always
a student.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

<< Southern Blogs >>

One Hand Clapping Matt Welch
Andrew Sullivan
Volokhs, et al.
John Ellis
Brink Lindsey
John Rosenberg Michael Barone Cornfield Commentary
Austin Bay
Eve Tushnet
Patio Pundit
The Wyeth Wire
Winds of Change
The Insecure Egoist
Queen City Soapbox
The Deregulator
Mike Silverman
Virginia Postrel
The Agitator
Max Sawicky
The Lincoln Plawg
Iain Murray
Stephen Pollard
Jeff Jacoby
Leonard Pitts
James Pinkerton
Robert Samuelson
Jim Miller
Brad DeLong
Ranting Screeds
Joshua Micah Marshall
Sneaking Suspicions
Media Minded
Scott Rubush
La Blogatrice
Amitai Etzioni
Alan Henderson
VodkaPundit Steven Den Beste
Right-Wing News
Jeff Jarvis
Charles Johnson
Nick Denton
Ken Layne

Rick Horowitz
Mad Kane
James Lileks
Filthy Pikers
Tom Purcell

Interesting voices:
Gay Forum

Independent Women's Forum

Regional studies:
Center for Great Plains Studies

Center for the Study of the American South

I work:

Jeff Koterba

Great Plains
Joslyn Art Museum

Great Plains
Art Collection

Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery

Museum of Nebraska Art

Louisville (Neb.)
Art Gallery

Plains poetry
and prose:
Prairie Schooner
literary quarterly

Sandoz, et al.

Nebraska Center
for Writers

University of
North Carolina Press

University of Nebraska Press

Louisiana State University Press

University of Oklahoma Press

Yale University Press

Worthy institutions:
UNC-Chapel Hill

University of Nebraska

Nebraska Humanities Council

Center for Afghanistan Studies

of note:
Prairie Cats

Sunday, March 14

Regions of Mind has moved to a new location, here.

Saturday, March 13
Hit and run

The lead editorial at the Omaha World-Herald today has some pointed observations about the way that Capitol Hill politicians treated the Nebraska businessman Bush was considering for the "manufacturing czar" position. The editorial:

Tony Raimondo, one of Nebraska's most accomplished business leaders, was the victim this week of an egregious case of political hit and run in the nation's capital. His reputation became entangled with presidential politics and in remarkably short order was trashed -- without justification.

The situation is doubly exasperating because, at this point, protesting against the way he was mistreated does little good. The Capitol Hill politicians and Beltway press corps, which spent a frenzied day on Thursday holding up Raimondo in cardboard-cutout terms as a supposed schemer of job outsourcing, have quickly moved on to other matters.

Sen. Ben Nelson (a Democrat) and Rep. Lee Terry (a Republican) both acted commendably by offering forceful defenses of fellow Nebraskan Raimondo, the chairman and CEO of Columbus-based Behlen Manufacturing. President Bush was about to name Raimondo this week as the administration's "manufacturing czar" -- until the campaign of the prospective Democratic presidential contender, Sen. John Kerry, decided to play politics with the nomination.

A press release from the Kerry camp indicated that Behlen, which makes prefabricated buildings, livestock equipment, plastics and industrial products, laid off 75 U.S. workers in 2002 four months after announcing plans to build a $3 million factory in China.

The implication was that Raimondo is among the "Benedict Arnold CEOs" whom Kerry has berated for shipping American jobs overseas.

The claim was nonsense. But it was enough to set off a train of demagogic attacks on Raimondo from Capitol Hill Democrats. Raimondo decided to withdraw his name from consideration rather than prolong the political circus.

In reality, Raimondo heads one of Nebraska's most impressive business enterprises, a company that has achieved success by pursuing a well-conceived long-term strategy of product diversification and export growth.

Behlen's new plant in China will make products for that country's domestic market and won't take jobs away from this country. Barry Kennedy, president of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, noted the bigger picture when he told the Columbus Telegram that "there's probably about 100 jobs in Columbus because Behlen is doing business in China."

Far from bilking its employees, Behlen is known for amply sharing the rewards with workers during good times. (It is an employee-owned company, after all.)

If Raimondo were the type of CEO who cynically sacrifices his company's U.S. workers for the sake of overseas expansion, Nebraskans most certainly would have heard an outcry against him within the state. Instead, he has a sterling reputation as a skilled business leader.

It would have behooved members of Congress and the Beltway press corps to take note of these realities, quite familiar to Nebraskans, before tarring Tony Raimondo as the type of disreputable business executive that he certainly is not.

Some additional information:

Behlen is a forward-looking company that works hard to involve workers in boosting productivity. Employees have responded well to the company's emphasis on training and financial incentives for productivity gains.

Like most manufacturing companies, Behlen has had to cope with big challenges during the recent recession. Several years ago when orders fell precipitously in the face of the national economic downturn, Behlen sought to limit the layoffs by reducing weekly hours for around 400 factory workers and asking salaried employees to take a 10 percent pay cut. When the economy improved, the company put the workers back on full-time and eliminated the 10 percent pay cut.

Raimondo, who is the board of the National Association of Manufacturers and chairman of the Omaha branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, can't even be described as a narrow Republican partisan. While he's firmly in the camp of President Bush, he's long been known as an enthusiastic supporter of Sen. (and former Nebraska Gov.) Ben Nelson, a Democrat.

By the way: I posted at my old Blogspot site because my current blog server, Blog-City, was having technical problems at the moment. My current site is now back up.

Thursday, June 12

Regions of Mind has moved to a new location, here.

My thanks to everyone who has stopped by here over the past year.

Wednesday, June 11

I am intending to launch the new site for this blog on Thursday. The name will remain Regions of Mind. An upcoming post here will provide the new URL. See you then.

Tuesday, June 10
Is it the Christian cross -- or only Thor's hammer?

A boar spear could be quite an effective combat tool when wielded by a Viking who understood its qualities.

Not far from the spear’s tip was a short metal bar secured at a perpendicular angle to the spear’s shaft. A Viking fighter could remain at a safe distance, use the metal bar to hook an opponent’s shoulder and rip into it. Or, if the opponent was using a shield, the Viking could use the metal bar to grab the shield’s edge and force the shield aside; with his opponent thus exposed, the Viking could make a quick lunge and skewer him.

The techniques of Viking combat were one of the points explained during a Viking re-enactor program at the recent Tivolifest, a Danish heritage celebration in Elk Horn, Iowa. Two groups of Viking re-enactors (one from Omaha, the other from Minnesota) set up an elaborate 11th century camp, demonstrated medieval crafts and put on a series of mock battles in a nearby field. I and my family were among those in attendance. It was quite a way to spend a late Sunday afternoon.

The mock battle began with two groups of about six Viking fighters each facing each other and shouting provocative remarks (in some Norse tongue). Then, with shields close together in phalanx-like fashion, the two sides slowly moved toward each other, grunting and banging their swords on their shields until the fighters came within striking distance of each other.

The Omaha re-enactors have Web pages here and here.

The most fearsome-looking Viking fighter was covered with black and brown animal skins and was referred to as a “berserker.” Berserkers were infamous as crazed fighters. Some would enter combat naked. Most drank a powerful drink that would narcotize them, feeding their rage even as it heightened their ability to tolerate pain. Berserkers grew increasingly reckless and uncontrollable outside the battlefield, to the point that authorities felt obliged to reign them in:

In 1015 King Erik outlawed berserks, along with holmganga or duels ... it had become a common practice for a berserker to challenge men of property to holmgang, and upon slaying the unfortunate victim, to take possession of his goods, wealth, and women. This was a difficult tactic to counter, since a man so challenged had to appear, have a champion fight for him, or else be named ni(dh)ingr, a coward.

The re-enactors included a wide range of Viking types, from a Viking who was part of an elite guard for the Byzantine Empire around 1000 to a Viking trader called “Ivor the Rus.” As the re-enactors’ Web site explains,

In order to be able to keep the fancy of all his customers, Ivor would’ve had to make it possible to claim both of the popular religions of the time. Simply by changing the way a piece of jewelry hung from his neck, he could show favor for one or the other, pagan or Christian. The usual, Thor’s Hammer, that most Viking men wore as a talisman of the Norse thunder god, was simply fashioned in such a way as to allow the wearer to invert it and portray the Christian symbol of the Cross.

One female re-enactor, representing a Viking woman in Russia, explained that in Viking culture, married women were obliged to cover their hair.

A male re-enactor, representing an “Anglo-Dane” in medieval England, noted that during the Vikings’ day, chain mail was expensive and used only by the well-to-do, whereas leather was cheap and widely available. Today, though, the opposite is true: Re-enactors who use chain mail, he said, don’t have to pay much for the metal they use. But re-enactors using leather have to pay quite a bit.

By the way: In 1999, at the very end of my North Carolina days, my final historical project at my old newspaper examined a Spanish expedition that traveled through Piedmont North Carolina in the 1560s. In putting that series of articles together, I had the privilege of working with an outstanding historical re-enactment group from Florida. The group specializes in 16th century Spanish explorer re-enactment. I plan to post on Spanish explorer topics here at some point in the not-too-distance future. Fascinating stuff.

No wimpy Dukakis, he

John Kerry may speak dreamily to the ideals of liberal Democrats, but he also knows how to use a gun.

And how to bring down doves.

And then skin ’em and eat ’em.

From the Washington Post:

The hat was a little mildewy. The green camouflage was fading, the seams fraying.

"My good luck hat," Kerry said, happy to see it. "Given to me by a CIA guy as we went in for a special mission in Cambodia."

Kerry put on the hat, pulling the brim over his forehead. His blue button-down shirt and tie clashed with the camouflage. He pointed his finger and raised his thumb, creating an imaginary gun. He looked silly, yet suddenly his campaign message was clear: Citizen-soldier. Linking patriotism to public service. It wasn't complex after all; it was Kerry.

He smiled and aimed his finger: "Pow."

(via a listserv run by Democratic activist/law student/blogger Wyeth Ruthven)

By the way: In their respective campaigns for the U.S. Senate, Nebraska Democrats Bob Kerrey and Ben Nelson have both played up their hunting enthusiasm during campaign time. Nelson succeeded Kerrey in 2000, when Kerrey opted not to seek re-election.

The wrong niche

Have you ever bought a product that was out of your “demographic”?

That was the case this week when my wife bought a modest cell phone. Although it has a sober silver design and fully meets our needs, the phone is geared toward teen-agers in several ways. One of its features is an option to receive daily updates from MTV.

Like, I don’t think so.

By the way: On a serious note, I heard on the radio program “Marketplace” this morning that teens are beginning to receive a lot of spam in their daily e-mail -- spam that includes pornographic material. I cringe at that, considering how graphic some of the material is that turns up in spam I receive.

Monday, June 9
Trade obstacles to our south

This article from In The National Interest explains how Brazil’s government remains an obstacle in promoting a Free Trade Area of the Americas. The piece also notes how frictions with the United States have undercut Mexico’s clout in promoting regional trade agreements:

Originally one of the main proponents of the FTAA, Mexico has been forced to build its own coalition after falling out of favor with the United States. Turning to its much-neglected neighbors to the south, Mexico is negotiating a free-trade agreement with Central America. President Vicente Fox has campaigned hard to gather a following for the Plan Puebla-Panama, a free-trade area that would unite the region from Mexico in the north to Panama in the south.

However, following Mr. Fox’s announcement that he would not support a U.S.-led intervention in Iraq , things have gotten harder for Mexico and -- in terms of negotiating trade treaties -- Mexico has lost some if its bargaining power. No longer viewed as the bridge to the U.S., a trade agreement with Mexico is not as critical as it was just a few months ago. As a result, the Central American nations -- in an attempt to hedge their bets -- have also begun negotiations for a free-trade agreement with the United States.

Big-media reporters and their city-mice ways

Predictable, but still infuriating: Reporters from the New York and London newspapers were polite in interviewing folks in the North Carolina mountain town where Eric Rudolph was arrested, but in their articles they unfairly trashed the town’s reputation. As described in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article:

Murphy residents are equally outraged by the way they believe the town has been portrayed to the world -- as a cousin-marrying, white lightning-swiggin', backward-stepping, white-supremacist-infested stronghold.

"The most frustrating thing is, you talk to these (media) people face to face, they're complimentary about your town -- telling us this is the nicest spot for covering news they've been in -- and then they get back and you can't believe what they write," said Tammi Johnson, manager of the Daily Grind, a gourmet coffee and wine shop.

Mayor Bill Hughes, retired from the Cherokee County school system, has an article from the New York Times and two from the London Times on his desk. Hughes is in disbelief about what he has just finished reading. ...

A London Times writer described Murphy as full of "aging sawmills and Baptist churches."

"Have you seen a sawmill since you've been here?" Hughes asked. "They make it sound like everybody up here can't walk straight because of cousin inbreeding," said the mayor, who has three degrees in education.

Yes, that’s just what they do: The parachute-journalists-as-piranhas find it easy to resort to stereotypes. I’ve seen that happen here in Nebraska, the same as I did back in North Carolina.

GOP anger; high art and urban landscapes; the Brown decision

  • Boy, are Republican activists in South Dakota cheesed off at this Democrat (and it’s not Tom Daschle).

  • Excellent op-ed piece at the NYT about how Lincoln Center is part of a failed urban vision from the 1950s and ’60s:

    Like the acoustics of Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center has never really worked. This island of culture stands apart from the city like a fortress, with an elevated plaza on the east offering a lukewarm welcome to one segment of society while concrete walls shut off the less fortunate segment represented by the public housing to the west. Centers like this deaden urban street life, bringing a rush of traffic and human activity all at one time and then lying almost dormant the rest of the day, like a stadium without a game.

    So it seems almost inevitable that the New York Philharmonic would leave Avery Fisher to return to its ancestral home, Carnegie Hall, declared an anachronism in the era of urban renewal. The alleged outdatedness of Carnegie Hall was part of the rationale for Lincoln Center's construction in the 1960's. In fact, it is Lincoln Center that is outdated, even though 70 years newer. ...

    the Philharmonic's move is like a shot heard around the world. This could begin the undoing of the country's islands of culture -- some with streets, some without -- from Miami to Dallas to Washington that sit in isolated glory, strangers in their own neighborhoods.

  • I knew that some New England states place great emphasis on municipal government, but I had no idea that county government, in Maine at least, is such a nonentity. The governor’s budget package includes a push to consolidate town governments into regional entities; the measure is meeting much resistance from the public.

  • DNA testing is used to resolve uncertainties over the death of Billy the Kid. Reports the article: “The goal now, he said, is to compare genetic evidence of Catherine Antrim -- the woman believed to be the Kid's mother, who died in 1874 and is buried in Silver City, N.M. -- and of Brushy Bill, who lived out his life in Texas.” Genetic testing is being used in Kansas, too, to look into the demise of Jesse James. xavier Basora sent me a link to a National Post article on that, but the link is no longer viable due to my tardiness.

  • Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education; Chris Scott points that out at the Insecure Egoist. Chris links to an article explaining how a South Carolina case was consolidated into the Brown case. I imagine I’ll have several posts next year on the Brown topic, given that it includes the intersection of race, history, the Midwest and the South. If that isn’t something that I’d post on, nothing is.

  • Jim Bakker has returned to TV.

    Sorry, this is all I have time for right now. I’ve spent most of my normal blogging time working on the new site for this blog. The new site will make its appearance in a few days.

  • Friday, June 6
    More on Raines

    While the topic of Howell Raines' resignation is still fresh, I'll mention this vivid graf from a Village Voice piece last April on the Raines regime at the NYT (I ran across the article while researching a non-Raines-related topic today):

    According to insiders, Raines is the kind of 1950s-style autocrat who manages through humiliation and fear. Aside from right-hand men Gerald Boyd and Andy Rosenthal and a core of loyalists, morale is said to be at a new low. There are many rooms in that palace and nobody sees the whole picture. But, says one source, "the old timers who lived through the worst of [former executive editor] Abe Rosenthal say they have never seen anyone be so arrogant, so petty, so mean. Vindictiveness is in." Another source says, "It's no longer about managing down. It's about paying obeisance to the king." Among cognoscenti, 43rd Street is now known as the "republic of fear."

    A familiar irony

    The oddity of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, whose membership includes unapologetically thuggish regimes, is frequently pointed out. The same irony was demonstrated this week in a U.N. conference touting the importance of democracy. Democratic change is a legitimate and important topic, but the U.N. gathering was held in Beirut -- the capital of a country with a sham democracy. Did anyone at the conference speak out forcefully against the strangling of Lebanese democracy by Syrian puppet masters? I hope so, but I doubt it.

    The article I link to reports that "Butros Butros Ghali spoke of the necessity of instilling the democratic principles inside the United Nations and the participation of non-governmental sides in forming norms and resolutions pertaining to the future of the globe." Handing NGOs even more power on the international stage: Now that would promote U.S. interests and security, wouldn't it?

    Onto to Omaha Beach

    Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day; hard to believe. Today, of course, marks the 59th.

    Shortly after he issued the order for the launch of D-Day, Dwight Eisenhower wrote the following note; he ordered an aide to release it immediately to the press if the invasion proved a debacle:

    Our landings in the Cherbourg-Harve area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.


    July 5

    A facsimile of the message, written in pencil on a plain white pad, is available here. Yes, Eisenhower mistakenly dated the message "July 5."

    As I've mentioned here on occasion, Eisenhower and I are directly related. We both have a common 18th century ancestor back in the Palatine region of Germany. Children of that German immigrated to Pennsylvania. Some descendants eventually moved south (my maternal forebears) while others moved west (Eisenhower's forebears).

    By the way: This info, including the URL, comes from Friend 3, whose observations have made occasional appearances here and who writes today that he "is looking forward to the new location" of Regions of Mind.

    And: My new blog goes up sometime next week. Won't be any radical change from this one. But I hope to say goodbye to the technical problems that have become a hassle for myself and for visitors here. Have a good weekend, everyone.