lawmakers reach bipartisan agreement to reform health care

Lawmakers announced in a remarkable joint statement from the steps of the Capitol that an agreement was reached to reform the nation’s health care system. A prepared statement read by both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) presented the initial details of a bill which would significantly alter the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) joined their Senate counterparts but did not address reporters until after the initial briefing. “It was a tough negotiation, neither of us really got what we wanted,” said Ryan, “but I’m confident we’ve arrived at the best possible solution for the country.” Exact details and the bill’s specifics will be released later this week.

Narrating several critical all night discussions deep within the Congressional offices, Pelosi outlined a bitter but ultimately productive process. “It got pretty heated in there, sometimes we weren’t sure if we’d pull it off. But I’m pleased we stuck with it. This bill will help Americans.” Pelosi was also pleased that the new so called ‘American Health Care Bill’ meant the Republican leadership would pull back their bill to repeal Obamacare.

From the White House, President Donald Trump released several Twitter statements expressing his praise for the joint effort:

“So glad those folks got it done! #fullofwin”

“Democrats wrote Obamacare alone, shoved it through. Republicans wrote their repeal alone, tried to shove it through. No more!”

“This is a big fucking deal. #America”

The gravity of the issue at hand is said to have compelled Senate and House leadership to carefully craft a series of key working groups that ultimately lead to the compromise. “We felt that with a topic that impacts 20 percent of the American economy, and literally effects the beating hearts of 300 million Americans that we needed to do it right, and do it right now,” said McConnell, clapping Schumer on the shoulder, “this guy and I are getting wrecked off the same whiskey bottle tonight.”

Visiting Washington DC with his family, Milwaukee native Paul Martinez expressed surprised delight, “This is why we brought the kids to DC, to see how special democracy is. We had no idea this would happen today though,” chuckled Martinez. “Totally,” stated his wife Nicole, “we were just hanging out by the Reflecting Pool and my sister texted me that we had to see this speech. We loved it! This is why we elect them to serve us out here.”

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the bizarreness of modern work communication

You need something from somebody who sits 18 feet from you. How do you go about interacting with them? Normally you’d just go talk to them face-to-face, right? After all, a family member who is 18 feet from you inside your home is just a normal random conversation. Not so, apparently, within the dreaded confines of cubicle hell.

A guy three cubicles over has called me on the phone this week. Twice. I can hear him talking to me in one ear through the phone. In the other ear I hear him talking in the same room. It makes no sense. But other people do this too. They call each other in our bank of cubicles. I can hear them both phone talk like they’re standing next to each other.

This stuff has also occurred recently:

– The boss e-mails an employee who works 30 feet from him saying “come see me”

– The boss shouts from his office at somebody who works 50 feet from him asking if they’re in the office

– The other boss talks to somebody over a cubicle wall, and then says they’ll just instant message the work task instead of telling them

– People say they will respond to an e-mail, but then call somebody instead

– People will call you and make decent shit happen, but then ask you to send an e-mail to work out all the details again

– Folks will e-mail somebody who works 10 feet away asking a simple question

I think all this text messaging, Snapchat, mind meld, e-mail, Internets, etc, etc has destroyed normal human communication. Any one of the above scenarios is best handled by two people talking face-to-face. Instead, this easy straightforward method of interaction is devolved into a whole plethora of ineffective means. This ineffective nature increases stress and otherwise further harms an already unhappy place to work.

Just talk to people face-to-face. It’s better for all of us.

Or, just go off the rails. Whatever.

– E-mail your boss when you arrive at work saying “I’m now at my desk”

– Call the person who works in the cubicle next to you to say “Good morning”, then immediately hang up

– Instead of handing your boss a printed 53 page report with a face-to-face explanation, scan each page individually, then e-mail your boss the document as 53 attachments

– Instant message somebody 17 feet away and ask them their lunch plans, then regardless of their actual response, tell them to send you an e-mail calendar invite for lunch

– Put up a sign with skull and crossbones icons all over it that says, “today I can only be reached via e-mail”, and when people try and engage you in face-to-face conversation you just tap the sign without saying a word

– Bring a small bird into the office and inform coworkers you’ll communicate via carrier bird only, but never ever actually do this, you just have the bird in the office for months without ever using it

– Shout over the cubicle walls, “what day is today?”, “what’s the deadline for that bullshit product we owe to the boss?”, “where are my keys?”, “is the concept of anti-matter an oxymoron?”

– E-mail your boss, “I’m coming to see you”, before leaving your cubicle to go speak with her

– Write “I went to lunch” in your own blood on a single white sheet of paper, leave it on your desk, then dump a 28 ounce can of tomato sauce all over your cubicle floor and walls, then go hit the pub for about three hours before nonchalantly returning to work

a comparison in game shows; and the global stage

Once upon a time there was this weirdo game show that dumb kids like me could watch called Legends of the Hidden Temple. Perhaps some of you remember this from your glory days of childhood football, candy, school lockers, and bad 90’s pop bands. This was during the highlight days of Nickelodeon, 1993-1995. A simpler entertainment era before the crushing reality of the Internets would consume all our lives.

The show featured six teams of two kids (one boy, one girl) who competed in some type of fake Mayan temple. They had to conduct physical feats, answer riddles, and generally do hard stuff. The show apparently had tough tryouts. Hosted by game show robot Kirk Fogg, it also had a second quasi host in a large stone talking head, former Simpsons basement dweller, five time convicted sex offender, Indiana Jones veteran, and jai-li extraordinaire Olmec. Olmec talked to the kiddies and gave them a background on the history of the artifact they had to find in the actual hidden temple challenge at the end of the show.

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Olmec tells Kirk that his glowing red eyes are actually a brain tumor.

I enjoyed this show because it was different, entertaining, had history, and was extremely competitive. In only 22 minutes of air time they had to cull the flock with 10 of 12 children summarily dismissed from play. In the first two minutes of the show four kids are eliminated in the moat challenge. In all their lives these kids might be on national television only once, and they’re gone in only two minutes. The knowledge test was next, that milled an additional four young ones. After a quick third round they got down to the final two who competed in the temple. I’m not sure if I’m remembering this right, but I seem to recall that the temple itself was hard, a substantial portion of participants lost. Turns out I’m right, the Huffington Post says only 32 of 120 teams (26%) actually won the whole thing.

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Would they ever make a kid’s game show again that required the use of helmets and mouthguards?

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Kirk explaining to these two, that since they made it this far, it indicates their likelihood of becoming future billionaires has increased by 723%.

It was a neat show, but it couldn’t have made much money because they cancelled it after only three seasons. Nobody would never make such a show again. After more than two decades, the following factors are disqualifying in our modern newfangled era:

– The show would be deemed racist for its cartoon depiction of various Amerindian cultures.

– When about 1/3 of American children are chronically obese, I’m not sure they could roll out a game show that required this level of childhood physical brutality.

– Nobody knows anything about history anymore, so those knowledge questions are out. I figure at least 78% of American children today think we fought the Redcoats in the Civil War.

– They would never get away with that level of competition, cutting 10 kids in 22 minutes. Today they would only drop 2 kids and both of them would still get trophies or some other kind of big consolation prize.

In other words, several key skills which I consider essential to a reasonably functioning society are lost from a modern kid game show. Specifically:

1) Physical fitness

2) A decent knowledge of history

3) The ability to comprehend that life is a vicious mill fest of suck, and while knowing that, still press on and do great things

Nickelodeon currently broadcasts only one game show. It’s called Paradise Run, and is made by the same production company that did Hidden Temple. I give you this description from Wikipedia:

At the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii, three teams of two children race around the Hilton Waikola Village competing in three different challenges that are given to them by Daniella Monet through the tablets that are provided for them. The teams are sorted by Team Makani, which is Hawaiian for “wind”, Team Nalu, which is Hawaiian for “wave”, and Team Ahi, which is Hawaiian for “fire”. The first team to complete all three challenges wins a four-day, three-night trip at the hotel while the runner-ups receive consolation prizes. During the completion of the challenges, they must take a selfie on a tablet and send it to Daniella. Once all three challenges are completed, they must solve a riddle. The riddle’s answer is a suite where Daniella and the parents of the teams are waiting, and the team must race there.

I’ve not seen this show, so I suppose it could be awesome. But I doubt it. Note these key points that make me want to vomit in my mouth:

a) Naked corporate sponsorship in a game show made for children

b) Only six children compete, instead of twelve, thus reducing the elimination factor by 50%

c) They use fucking tablets, which they use to take selfies, …, for fuck’s sake

d) The losers receive prizes

e) The game’s end state is nothing more than a hotel room prize directly related to said sponsorship

f) The limp wristed title

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Note the difference in contestant attire between this and Hidden Temple.  Specifically the lack of helmets, mouthguards, gloves, elbow pads, knee pads, and anything else requiring the children to do more than tap a tablet.

[claps hands in an empty room]

Where am I going with this, I mean other than to rant about game shows? Well, two places. In case you haven’t noticed, the world is a shit show right now. Two things in particular yesterday and today, the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire, and Syria.

You’ve got Kerry out there giving a speech on Israel. And you’ve got a Syria cease fire done today where Turkey, Iran, Russia, the Rebels, and Syria basically did a deal without America in the room.

You know, I kind of agree with a lot of what Obama and Kerry preach. Some of Kerry’s comments on Israel’s potential darkening religious nuthouse path are spot on. And you can make a valid and reasonable argument that Obama’s path of non-intervention in Syria was the best course among all the terrible options. But you know what doesn’t help, the messengers. Obama and Kerry have to be about the worst people to deliver this tact in American foreign policy.

Kerry comes off on the podium like that pretentious uncle who always complains too much and nobody listens to. Obama’s professorial pauses are enough to elicit yawns from even the most jaded of international diplomats. These two guys would have hated Legends of the Hidden Temple. Paradise Run seems right up their alley.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not a thank god they’re leaving so Trump can fix things message. Trump wouldn’t watch Legends of the Hidden Temple because it would require him to sit still for 22 minutes and not run his mouth. Trump is not the answer to this, and in any case, he’s such an outlier to the general American leadership psyche.

So I guess where I’m going is this is a lament. Obama and Kerry I think are more along the lines of the leaders that American culture is inclined to produce in the future. A bunch of ultimately weak people unfit to deal with the dangers of this planet. If you believe in a planet that should walk a path of growing freedom and democracy, that should be enough to trouble you, because nobody but America can guide that path.

Would they ever make something like Legends of the Hidden Temple ever again? I think not. Will America ever return to the global stage as a strong leader again? I hope so. But I fearfully wonder, what if not?

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Don’t dial America, it won’t answer, it’s too busy watching the delights of Paradise Run.

Putin is not Putin

I get the idea that 73% of the planet now believes Vlad is about seven feet tall, wears a pristine three piece suit, while dual wielding a pair of machine pistols, followed by a troupe of supermodels, and leaves all his enemies dead in his wake.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure none of this is true.  In any aspect, this guy just gets too much credit.  There’s Putin the idea, and Putin the man.  Putin the idea does not actually exist.  The man himself is basically just a gangster dictator.  Putin is not Putin.

Russia is powerful, it influences events worldwide and especially in it’s own backyard.  It has nuclear weapons, and a whole bunch of oil and gas.  But Russia is ultimately a troubled mess.  The economy is in the tank, demographic decline means by 2075 there will be like four Russians left, and generally speaking there’s nobody to carry on the party after Putin goes.

So when folks make Putin or Russia out to be this goliath, it’s not healthy.  It gives credence to a situation that’s not there.  Oh, Russia influenced the United States election?  I’m sure they did.  Did this single act cause Trump to win?  No.  And in any case, is everybody so blind to history?  Soviet Russia has influenced every U.S. election since 1917.  Please kindly go read history.

But when it’s made out that Putin alone has influenced the election, or even changed the outcome?  I’m sorry, but all that does is feed an image that doesn’t reflect reality.  Russia or Putin just simply isn’t that powerful.

You know once upon a time, the idea was that the United States shrugged off the rounding error threats from lesser nations led by gangsters.  But I guess, in today’s social media driven world, that we have to respond with hashtag anger to every petty little slight.  In 1984 or 1996, we’d have just shrugged at this.

we have a long history of loving dictators

So this Castro guy finally transferred his lunatic self to the next realm this last weekend.  I mostly just shrugged because to me this was a forgone conclusion.  The dude’s been a functioning corpse for the better part of a decade after he handed power over to his brother Raul.  Fidel occasionally surfaced to speak his mind here and there, but Raul’s been calling the shots.  But man oh man, did a whole bunch of people take this event to the stratosphere.  The universe had the opportunity to remind the universe how much they felt Castro was either a hero or a barbarian.

I tend to fall in line with the barbarian crowd.  But mostly, this weekend gave me the opportunity to become depressed at how many people in the West are all too happy to still gloss over the dark realities of people they happen to like.  Especially because a lot of these folks are running Western institutions.  I’ll go ahead and give Justin Trudeau a partial pass for his lovey comments on Fidel.  It’s generally okay to like a guy when he carries your Dad’s casket.  It’ll let that one go.  But if you want to understand why Brexit happened and the EU is tanking, look no further than Jean Claude Juncker’s comment that Castro was seen as a “hero”.  Hey Jean, you have problems with your brain buddy.  It’s time to retire, okay bro.  The EU needs like, people who aren’t a mess like you.

I only get this Castro worship as some kind of twisted complex that old people or hipsters use to take their brains back to 1967.  As in, to them it’s the idea of Castro being The Man’s nemesis, weed still being rebellious, and electric guitars.  Think of the dude smoking hash today in Denver, whilst wearing a Che shirt, drinking PBR, and commenting to his buddies about how much he truly, truly hates [insert anything here].  Okay, I guess, but you have to look past nostalgia and live in the real world.  Particularly if you’re in the business of running Canada or the EU.

Castro goes into my column as the consummate example of a guy who pours honey potion into your ear while he rams a stiletto dagger into your kidney.  The dude’s appeal to the bulk of humanity was all talk.  Castro talked a good game of social justice and equality.  Then he turned around and enriched his own personal elite and destroyed his country.  Depending on how you count, thousands or tens-of-thousands of Cubans were executed during his reign.  Tens-of-thousands more died at sea fleeing his utopia.  Also depending on how you count, perhaps 10-20% of Cubans left during the last five decades.  The equivalent number is if around 30 million Americans felt the country was so bad they moved to Canada, with the understanding that say two million would die during the journey.

It’s all well and good to have universal healthcare and education, but what do these matter when your doctors only make $23 a month (actual fact) or all that education doesn’t allow the student to actually think freely or speak their mind?  These are not the hallmarks of an enlightened regime or a decent ruler.  Castro was a brutal dictator, worthy of disgust.

But hey, it’s all good, for this is in our blood, sadly.  I’ve been reading Greek history again lately.  A few days ago I caught the tale of the Greek general and politician in Theramenes, Circa 411 BC.  This guy grows up in Athenian democracy, at a time when 0.0043% of the planet’s population had the pleasure of living under anything better than Vicious Overlord #43,298.  So what does Theramenes do with his life?  Well:

– Conspires to overthrow the Athenian democracy with the Persians and succeeds

– Somehow manages to separate himself from the oligarchy’s garbage reputation and is abroad as general / admiral when democracy is restored

– He’s let off the hook (for some reason) and then spends his time as a highly successful military commander

– But, after the Athenian naval victory at Arginusae he’s accused of fumbling the rescue of shipwrecked Sailors

– He shifts the blame off himself and onto six other Athenian admirals, then sits back and watches them go to trial and get put to death

– He helps negotiate Athens’ surrender to Sparta, then gets himself appointed as part of the new oligarchy / dictatorship

– The new oligarchy then proceeds to mill human flesh, execute Athenians just to confiscate their property, murdered non-Athenians in the city to get their money, and so on

– Theramenes eventually crosses the other oligarchs and they team up and put him to death to be rid of him; he dies like a boss though, insulting and mocking his rival Critias right after he drank the poison

I guess my point of this tale is for over a decade Theramenes plays at the pinnacle of Athenian society, politics, and culture before somebody finally decides it’s time for him to go.  You would have thought after that first coup somebody would have been like, “Hey, uh, Theramenes is a bad man, he’s probably got to go.”  But no, he sticks around, he continues to do harm.  I’m sure after he died, a whole bunch of Athenians were sad to see him go.  A nice old couple probably called him a “hero”, even though Theramenes’ goons had visited their neighbors the night before and killed them.

I’m not sure what to make of all this, really, other than to state we have a long history of loving dictators.  It’s weird.  It’s wrong.  But, it’s also human.  Whatever that means.

Milwaukee – Pabst Mansion

My Grandfather was so into Pabst beer that he named his dog after it.  This supposedly scruffy little mutt had a sharp personality.  So he fit well with his originally rough Milwaukee based namesake brew.  I think this also explains much of my obsession with all things beer, much to my detriment at times.

I suppose both my Grandfather and his dog would be rather troubled to see what’s become of Pabst now.  For you see, the tale of Pabst beer and of Frederick Pabst himself is a winding journey.  I think it emphasizes some of the best, worst, and weirdness of modern America.  I don’t know why all this fascinates me but please bear with my degenerate mind for this post is going to be a long one.

The man

Pabst was born in 1836 Prussian Germany to a poor local farm couple.  When he was 12 they immigrated to the American Midwest during a time where nobody was checking papers at the border.  This was still a time where America was a harsh, dangerous, and backward place.  Within a year Pabst’s mother died of cholera.  Pabst spent his teenage years working menial odd jobs just to survive and eat.  Somehow, he ends up with a lucky gig onboard a Great Lakes vessel.  Without an education or connections, he works his way up the maritime ladder and by 21 he’s a steamship captain with a name people know.  If you want yet another example to understand how American economic mobility is different nowadays, imagine what it would take for a 16 year old high school dropout waiter to become a ship captain within five years.

Pabst remained close to his roots and the German émigré community.  He spoke German at home his entire life.  He thus meets a fellow German in Phillip Best, marries his daughter, and ultimately uses his equity in the steamship trade to buy half of Best’s brewery.  From then on, Pabst is a brewer, though he maintains the title “Captain” Pabst for the rest of his life.  Thus proving once again that it’s awesome to be a captain, just ask Patrick Stewart’s ghost.  By the end of the Nineteenth Century the brewery is one of the planet’s most successful.  Pabst is Milwaukee’s leading citizen, he owns properties, resorts, banks, a theater, and on and on.  Though he came from nothing, he’s literally at the peak of American society.  He checks out to the next realm in 1904 as one of the more respected men on the planet.

The beer

By 1874 thanks largely to Pabst’s genius the brewery was the largest in America.  You could likely make the argument that by volume this meant they were the largest in the world.  Though I’m sure this is not provable given the dearth of statistics at the time.  I’m positive some dude in Bavaria was brewing ten times that amount in his basement closet alone.  In the traditional American style Pabst maintained their signature lager which ultimately became known worldwide as Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR).  Of note, they never won a blue ribbon or anything.  Pabst being the businessman he was just put a blue ribbon on the beer bottle as a marketing gimmick to indicate quality.  This gimmick has survived over a century and a half so I guess it worked.  It is also for this reason that if your local mayor or councilor tells you they’re solving a problem via a “blue ribbon” committee that you should immediately impeach them.

The PBR name and style survived prohibition as well as the post war era.  As the light American lager that it was, you can count on all the goods and bads that come with that designation: reliability, consistency, quality, safety (which was a big deal back then), but ultimately a relative lack of taste and variety.  In our new modern beer era folks tend to hammer this style of beer.  I don’t go that far.  It’s good for what it is.  It’s my preference for drinking on weeknights.  And it’s important to remember in our over-hopped, lunatic beer world of today, that once upon a simpler time folks were just happy to have decent, quality beer before they had to wake up in the morning and clock in at a tire factory.

Eventually though, things began to fall apart for this legendary company.  In a timeline of horrors not uncommon to other Midwestern businesses, in 1985 Pabst is bought in a hostile takeover by another self-made man turned beer baron Paul Kalmanovitz.  One can imagine that Kalmanovitz would have run the brewery well, but instead he died two years after the sale and it appears his trust made a true hash of it afterwards.  Sales plummeted and by 1996 in a nightmare haze Pabst brewing enters the contract brewing stage and the original Milwaukee brewery is closed.

For those unfamiliar with contract brewing, this is where the brand doesn’t actually own the brewery and hires some guy outside their company to actually make their beer (usually under the supervision of the brand’s brewmasters).  Lots of companies do contract brewing well, such as Sam Adams or various Japanese brands for their American sales.  But it can also be a true descent into frat boy style poor quality.  For example, at the recreational football league I play in somebody brought a 30 pack of Kirkland Light Beer (read Costco) as their contribution.  This was made for Costco by a contract brewer in Wisconsin and was awful.  Though beer being beer, and football being football, we did drink it.

Many will be well familiar with Pabst’s recent return to prominence via the hipster rage of going back to do things which were once cool.  This bizarre trend has enabled PBR to become somehow high quality whereas say Budweiser is perceived as not.  I don’t entirely understand this way of thinking but acknowledge that it does exist and has a somewhat legitimate feel to it.  After all, if my Grandfather loved this beer and named his dog after it, why not me too?  But it’s important to remember that Pabst basically isn’t in touch with the roots that the hipsters worship.  PBR circa 1968 is not PBR today.  What Pabst exists as today is its own independent LLC, headquartered in Los Angeles, financed by a private equity firm, and still only a contract brewer.  One wonders what Captain Pabst would think about this arrangement?  Where it has essentially no ties to Milwaukee, no basis in the self-made path he walked, and only a facade of the identity it once had.  And yet, still immensely popular.

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Pabst Mansion Entry.

The house

In 1892 at the pinnacle of his life Pabst decided to build his retirement home.  After two years of construction he moved into Pabst Mansion still located at 2000 West Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee.  In Pabst’s day, Wisconsin Avenue was called Grand Avenue and was home to the dozens of mansions that housed Milwaukee’s elite.  The other mansions are gone now and most of this stretch is home to Marquette University.  The Pabst Mansion remains intact largely due to its purchase by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee which bought it from Pabst’s children in 1908 and occupied it through 1975.  Following that, a bunch of truly dedicated and scrappy historical preservationists put their time, money, and reputation on the line to preserve the mansion.  These same people are mostly at it today.

The house itself is not fully renovated and in many ways isn’t quite the pristine piece of history that one wants when visiting such a place.  But they do a mostly great job of making it happen given their limited financial resources and the actual state of the house.  The Catholic Archbishops made extensive changes during their time including the painting of all walls, bathrooms upgrades, repurposing of rooms, and so on.  In order to acquire cash to progressively reconstruct the house back to its original condition, they’re forced to do some weird things like host weddings and receptions on the second floor in the old master bedroom area.

Photography isn’t permitted inside the house.  If you want to see what it looks like, the Internets offer you a variety of clean images.  I’ll roughly paraphrase here.

The tour begins on the ground floor reception hall with its adjoining parlor and music rooms.  There’s also the kitchen (tiny by today’s standards), dining room, and Pabst’s own office.  They advertise the mansion as 20K square feet of space.  I don’t think this is an accurate number unless you include all the closets, basement, and attic.  I think the true amount of livable space is less than half that.  My first impression was how relatively small the place is.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a massive house, but the dining room would barely seat a dozen folks in tight quarters.  The parlor about the same.  Pabst’s office is only slightly bigger than my cubicle.  I get the idea that this house reflects the style and temperament of Pabst and his family.  He came from nothing, so he wanted a tight, intimate existence.  Not the massive, airy, aloof nature of say a British country house of this era.  The wealth is instead displayed not in the house’s size but in the way it’s decorated.  The painting of the walls, the trim, the intricate wood carvings, the touches of silver or gold all give each room an immensely unique character.

The second floor houses the rooms of Pabst’s daughter and granddaughter, the family sitting room, and the Pabsts’ master bedroom.  Almost all of this second floor is renovated as well, though because of their renting requirements the master bedroom area is almost entirely empty.  In a shocker for the 1890’s, but what we’d mostly take for granted today, the house was unique in having a bathroom assigned to almost every bedroom.  Hot water and heating came via natural gas.  However air conditioning was a long future invention, the house is designed to funnel heat up and out an intricately designed trap door in the attic.  In a uniquely American touch that would appall the British counterparts of the day the servants quarters are toward the back of the house but on the same second floor where the Pabsts slept.  The third floor is populated by a series of bedrooms that were meant for the guests and for Pabst’s grown sons who would occasionally stay there.  Most of the third floor is not reconstructed and there’s just not much to see up there yet.  Though they have a vision for how it’s all going to look.  They said it’ll take years if not decades before the house is entirely reconstructed toward its original look.

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Pabst Mansion from the back.  The backyard (where the coach house once stood) is now a hotel parking lot with satellite dishes from the local ABC station.

The present

What are we to make of Pabst?  If a man’s primary purpose in life is to provide for his family’s future Pabst wins that unreservedly.  His children, grandchildren, and ancestors never had to struggle the way he and his parents did.  There’s not much to read on the current Pabst family.  Though if the tour guides were any indication they all seem fairly well off and help maintain the Pabst mansion with occasional support and the return of old artifacts.  Even if Pabst’s descendants aren’t at the pinnacle of society anymore, you can surely count it a success that the family rolls on.

The beer company is entirely different.  Its legacy is nothing along the lines of what he’d imagined except for the blue ribbon.  One of things that capitalism engenders is the idea that nothing is sacred.  Companies, brands, names live and die like it’s nothing.  It’s why the companies that have been around for centuries are so special and held with such awe.  But for the other 99% of brands or ideas, they’re all going to eventually die.  Pabst’s beer was a vessel for the success of his family, and then he and his family moved on, and now only its shell remains.  Not as a means to perpetuate the Pabst brand or ideas, but as a means for an LLC and private equity to make a ton of money off an identity somebody else created.  This is the reasoning that forced me to conclude that if I ever started a business of my own, that I had to have in mind to discard the sucker in a heartbeat without losing my mind.  Modern capitalism means you have to essentially not give a damn because you or your neat brand or cool idea will almost always eventually get bought out, you sell out, or it dies or fails.

I wonder, if because of this, a great amount is lost to the American ideal though.  The distance of modern capitalism to the ideas of Pabst’s day goes a long way to explain in my mind why we have such a disconnect between the elite and everybody else.  Pabst had a global brand, but was a Milwaukee man.  He had business and charitable interests throughout the city.  He helped improve the town and make it modern.  When he died and his brand left the city, a connection was lost.  I sincerely doubt the current Pabst LLC gives any damn whatsoever about Milwaukee from their LA headquarters.  Corporate tax methods, overseas profits, quarterly earnings, leveraged buy outs, faceless private equity firms & hedge funds, and whatever do not lend themselves to the type of community capitalism that Pabst practiced.

It’s one reason (among many, many) why so many of the Midwest’s businesses have failed in the last fifty years.  It explains why Pabst is no longer brewed in Milwaukee.  And, I dare say, it also explained (at least in some part) the black lives matter protest that was walking down the street as a exited the Pabst mansion tour.  I couldn’t help but think that if Pabst had been alive looking out his own window and seen that?  That his reaction would have been to tackle and battle the problems afflicting the city that he lived in, built, and loved.  That he would have had the temperament and clout to bring all the sides together, to forge a tough compromise, bang heads, to put his name and effort on the line to move the needle of society a little bit in a better direction.  We could do with some more of his kind today.  I think we desperately need it.

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Pabst Mansion from West Wisconsin Avenue (with the protest behind me).

This is Pabst’s letter to his children, read after his death.  It gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.  They hand these out on the tour.  Well worth it.

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we belligerently break down what the hell just happened

1) The outcome: people are pissed

This is a global phenomenon. There is an entire subset of humanity (half the population) in the democratic world who rightly or wrongly feel they’ve been left behind. They’ve got no skin in the game of a modern globalized, multicultural, interconnected world that the politicians, businessmen, and the media have built. Said politicians, etc, have tended to dismiss the concerns of these people as resistant to change on the kind end, and things like racist on the unkind end. Abject dismissal was always going to be a poor way to address the concerns of a substantial portion of society’s citizens. People who genuinely believe their children will have it worse off than they’ve had it don’t appreciate being called backward. The establishment (the other half of the population) have taken it for granted that the newfangled world they’ve built was always the right answer. And so it’s been a only natural that everybody should get aboard and reap the benefits. The problem is that the benefits haven’t trickled down to everybody. Not enough effort was expended to aid workers who lost their future to globalization. Too many elites spend more time worrying about corporate tax policy or transgender bathrooms than a opioid addiction that’s literally bleeding whole areas daily. These things matter. In any democracy, when half the electorate feels that both political parties are essentially ignoring their core interests, don’t be surprised when they get pissed and back fringe lunatics. This happened with Brexit, it happened with Trump, it might happen soon with Marine Le Pen. It will continue to happen until those that govern make it a point to work for all citizens, not just the narrowly defined slice of the country that happens to be inside the system.

2) Hillary was Donald’s Hillary

The prevailing wisdom of this campaign was that Trump was the perfect candidate for Clinton. She’d sail to victory because he was such a lunatic. I tend to think it was rather the other way around. Clinton was the perfect candidate for Trump to battle against. Where Trump was the anti-establishment guy, you could not have conjured a more inside the system player than Clinton. Where Donald could connect with voters in his own crazy way, Clinton probably couldn’t even properly connect with her own campaign staff. Everybody got aboard the fact that Clinton was going to make history as the first woman president. She even planned her coronation beneath a glass ceiling building. The problem with this line of thinking is that nobody bought it outside the bubble of politics. To the average voter, Clinton was always going to be there just because she was the other Clinton’s wife. The real glass ceiling of this election was that a lot of folks wanted somebody to break the glass on establishment dynasties, be it Bush or Clinton. In an election where well over half the country thinks things are going in the wrong direction, what people were definitely not looking for is more dynasty. They were not looking for a person who’s been in politics for forty years. Imagine if you will, how different this would have all played out had Sanders, Warren, or even poor Jim Webb been on the ticket. Any one of these people would have likely beat Trump. Anybody could have beat Trump. But not Clinton, she was the keen match he needed.

3) The division

After all of this, after all this mess, the answer is 60 million Americans pulled one lever, 60 million Americans pulled another lever, and 6 million Americans (like yours truly) threw their vote away. Statistically speaking, you could not imagine a more divided electorate. This is a rather troubling existence for the nation. The American system is built to produce divided government. But I wonder if it’s built to handle a consistently divided nation. Each side is talking past the other. Nobody wants to listen anymore. If 60 million folks think the other 60 million folks are not just wrong, but nefarious, we’re in for a death spiral. History tells us that tribal alliances can progressively break down and destroy a culture. And what we have here are truly tribal feelings. As an example, for the very, very limited amount of time I watched live election coverage I was troubled to observe:

a) An analyst on PBS who stated that the election was only playing out the way it was because of the “South” and it’s continuing capture of the broader political forces of America. In other words, if you lived in Ohio and voted for Trump, you didn’t do so because you’re protesting that the elites forgot about you. Instead, you were doing so because you were inherently racist. This is the idea that Trump won because a full 60 million Americans were too stupid to vote for anybody else or are just racist, or sexist, or whatever. Everybody surely remembers Hillary’s “deplorables” comment, right?

b) An analyst on Fox who stated that the election was only playing out the way it was because of “Conservatism” and it’s return to recapture America from the dark forces of liberalism. In other words, if you lived in New York and voted for Clinton, you didn’t do so because you were appalled by Trump or believed in the progressive ideas Clinton stated. Instead, you were do so because you wanted to destroy the old America to remake a new one. This is the idea that a full 60 million Americans wanted Clinton to win so they could detonate the country and remake it at the expense of the other 60 million. Or that 60 million Americans only want to milk the nation of the other 60 million. Everybody surely remembers Mitt’s “47 percent” comment, right?

I don’t know how you resolve the feelings of (a) and (b) without a lot of turmoil. I do worry, friends.

4) The reality

As stated, the American system is built to produce divided government. Whoever you voted for, either Clinton or Trump was going to run against the brick wall of this reality. The American President might be the least powerful Executive in the modern democratic world. It was designed to be this way from the beginning. People who think Trump’s going to rule as some unhinged dictator should not forget that the system is constructed specifically to prevent such a thing from happening. However badly you thought about Clinton or Trump, I assure you, American has previously survived far, far worse than these two idiots. I suspect, either way, that we’ll be sitting here four years from now with much the same situation on our hands. I could be wrong, but if you remember back in 2008, the Democrats were equally in control of all the arms of government power. What came of all that? You could say Obamacare, a few key Supreme Court decisions, etc. But largely, I don’t think most folks would say in the last eight years America has undergone earth shaking radical change. I loosely predict it’ll be the same result by 2020 or 2024.

Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, I just don’t see much changing for the average man or woman on the street. Trump voters are going to be rather disappointed to realize that their local mayor has far more power over their lives than Trump. They’ll be disappointed to see they can’t have problems that have taken decades to create wished away by a maniac who shouts loudly. Clinton voters are going to be rather relieved to see that even this guy can’t do the level of damage they feared. The needle will move, but for the most part people’s lives aren’t going to change. The system, the broader waves of our culture, are bigger than this election or Trump or Clinton. Where is our reality headed? As I’ve stated above, I’m worried, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you this, in the broader path of where we are bound, this election is little more than a rounding error. I wish, I wish we’d take a step back and think about the bigger picture. Instead, I fear, we’ll soon be wrapped up talking about small fry nonsense like the intricate details of Executive Order Whatever or Senate Filibuster Verbiage. This is disappointing, but also, rather comforting. One way or the other. Life goes on.