Two Lane Highway

If I hadn’t been flying down the, smooth as glass, (I suspect built with federal funds) back country state road at 80 mph I might have got the perfect image that describes modern day Kansas. As it was I was 2 miles down the road before it occurred to me. It was one of those cute rustic scenes. On one side of the road there are wheat fields for as far as the eye can see and in Western Kansas there is nothing to block your view so there is a lot for the eye to see. On the other side is the stereotypical Kansas windmill. It could have been erected 100 years ago, still working, still spinning. There is a stock tank at its base with a cow getting a drink. Picture perfect for a post card for Kansas anytime in the last 100 years.
However at the base of the spinning windmill is a solar panel that is really doing the work of pumping the water into the tank.

Kansans like to pretend that the old 19th century windmill is real Kansas and the solar panel doesn’t exist, it is not real.

Driving down US 50 on the way to Dodge City the world is filled with a unique human architecture. It is a square wheat field with a circle of green in the middle. You can see them on google earth but they are better up close, driving down a two lane highway. Then you can see what is growing. You can see the beauty in the contrast between the golden wheat waiting to be harvested and the green of the corn or alfalfa.
A two lane trip through Western Kansas leaves lots of time for thinking.

So why alfalfa hay in wheat country? I wondered. Then I saw a sign, “turn here to the over look point see the Dodge City feed lots.” Feed lots as a tourist attraction. Ha.
If you go to google earth and type in “feed lots, Kansas” you will see that western Kansas is dotted with feedlot operations. Most of the feed lots in Southwestern Kansas supply cattle to the beef packing operations in the Dodge City/Liberal/Garden city area. We are talking over 10,000 jobs in an area of fewer than 100,000 people.
Working in a slaughter house is dirty nasty work, on your feet, working the line, with many repetitive motions. So where do all these operations find their employees? Immigrants. They rely on fresh groups of immigrants to replace those who move on to find less demanding work. The bulk of Western Kansas economy is at the mercy of the US government’s immigration policy. But you wouldn’t know it if you listened to the freshman Senator from Kansas, a man from Western Kansas. In addition the economy that is not dependent on immigrants is dependent on world trade.
Get where I am going?
Republican policies are hurting Western Kansas, you would think the Democrats would be making in roads but they aren’t. Why because they aren’t there, they are staying in their little comfortable narrow minded enclaves on the Eastern side of the state. The only Democrats Western Kansans see are on TV, PETA, rioting protestors, AOC and her narrow mind NYC provincialism and so on.
On the other hand, for the Democrats, they aren’t here in Western Kansas so they buy into the quaint windmill myth but don’t see the reality that the solar panel represents. For Western Kansas is full of world players that market their agricultural products world wide. There are innovations coming out the agriculture/food industry world of Western Kansas that are every bit as impressive as anything coming out of Silicon Valley or the bankers of Wall Street

I guess where I’m going. There are opportunities for the Democrats in rural America but that would mean they need to get beyond the myths, stereotypes and prejudices. Get away from the mythic photo ops: the diners, butter sculptures, and stacks of hay bales.


31 thoughts on “Two Lane Highway”

  1. thanks, jack, full of wisdom as usual. 

    odd how the pendulum swings tho’ in this country.  both my parents who were born in kansas and raised in various parts of the far west were lifelong democrats – harry truman socialized medicine type devotees –  not much formal education but read a newspaper (s in the towns that had 2) every day, kept up with nat’l politics, always voted, lived both depression farm and boom town/city lives and always ready for the innovations of the day.  hard to realize the mid-west is no longer populated with their sort. 

  2. BTW, jack, also appreciated your spot on comment last night on the veep’s predicament:

    What is going on with Harris is simple they get a twofer, they can be bigots and misogynists at the same time. They get HRC and Obama all in one person. 
    The Bulwark goes into this a little


    “According to the analysis, a switch to veganism could save almost 8bn tonnes of CO2e a year by 2050, when compared to a “business-as-usual” scenario. (By comparison, all food production currently causes around 13.7bn tonnes of CO2e a year.)“

    I’m from a rural, Midwestern town of about 2,000 people. My cousin worked at a huge, slaughterhouse at the edge of town. My babysitter lived next to a smaller operation. When I was about 5, her son took me over and showed me the whole sequence. Live animal, killed an animal, stacks of hides, hanging carcasses. When I was in high school, I went to a ranch up near the Sandhills. There was a cattle branding. Calves were held down, branded, inoculated, and if male, castrated. It was brutal.

    IMO, the best way to help rural communities and the environment is to help farmers transition to growing plants and grains for human consumption, and, create greener manufacturing to provide jobs that pay well. As a kid from a small town, there were just no good options to stay there. When I moved to Texas for work, there was an un-PC joke about the things Texans hated to see. I’ll not repeat the first two, but the third thing was “a Yankee with a U-Haul.”

    Those who come to this country and end up doing the soul-crushing work of killing and dismembering animals could benefit by those same things. No need to ship raw goods across the globe and completed goods back here. Private investment in Central America and Mexico would help them, while removing a favorite issue of Republicans.

  4. WaPo has two articles today about lawyers in trouble for pushing the Big Lie. One is potential problems for Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood among others from a very skeptical Federal judge in Michigan for making statements in court and filing pleadings contesting Michigan election results without conducting the bare minimum investigations into the claims asserted as required by Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The other is from the chief counsel of the RNC, targeting Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, who were hired primarily to contest the election results – you know the ones that lost 60 times or so in court so far?

  5. pogo, hope law profs teaching ethics make good use of stuff like this in classes this fall and state bar examiners include/refer to them  on future tests.   here are excerpts from that wapo article you linked that should wake up a few of our colleagues to the financial risk they take for such behavior:

    If Parker decides to discipline the lawyers, she could require them to pay the fees of their opponents in the case, the city of Detroit and Michigan state officials. But she could also go further — assessing additional monetary penalties or recommending grievance proceedings be opened that could result in banning the attorneys from practicing in Michigan or disbarring them altogether.
    One of the first substantial repercussions came last month, when a committee of judges in New York state suspended the law license of former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who served as Trump’s personal attorney. The committee found that Giuliani had “communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large” in violation of his ethical obligations as an attorney.
    In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers (D) has asked a federal judge to order Trump and three of his attorneys to pay the state’s attorneys’ fees in a case the former president filed in December unsuccessfully challenging President Biden’s win there.
    Lawyers for the city of Detroit, as well as Nessel, acting on behalf of the state’s governor and secretary of state, later moved for the lawyers to be disciplined, arguing that the lawsuit was frivolous and relied on false evidence. Legal rules and federal law require that lawyers be truthful in court and avoid filing cases “unreasonably and vexatiously.”
    Fink, a lawyer for the city of Detroit, told the judge Monday that the lawsuit had helped undermine faith in the election and helped lead directly to the Jan. 6 attack. “We can’t undo what happened, but this court can do something to let the world know that attorneys in this country are not free to use our courts to tell lies,” he said.

  6. jack, how folk romanticize the rural countryside isn’t new.  even back in 1919 they did it. decades later you have willie and leon still singing about it

     With someone like you, a pal good and true

    I’d like to leave it all behind and go and find
    A place that’s known to God alone
    Just a spot we could call our own

    We’ll find perfect peace where joys never cease
    Somewhere beneath the stary skies
    We’ll build a sweet little nest somewhere in the west
    And let the rest of the world go by

  7. Old Man, just caught up with last night’s thread – fell asleep kinda early and didn’t follow it.  Yeah, just like a lawyer to bring up such legal niceties as jurisdiction.  I hope your helluva day comment is referring to the weather and not yourself.  And like you, the Beach Boys were part of my musical formative years – them, the Beatles and Elvis up until the Stones, Hendrix, Clapton (pick the group from Mayhall forward), Spirit, etc. joined the party.
    I have no idea under what authority Abbott, using his best western sounding talk of coralling and cabining lawmakers, thinks he can corral and cabin lawmakers during a special session of the Texas legislature.  What, set up a perimeter around the Satte House in Austin, arrest them if they try to leave and “jail” them in the house or senat chambers to gather a quorum?  Mebbe there’s a TX law that allows that, but it ain’t one he can just make up and make it stick.

  8. Farm life, commercial farming.  Feed lots, eau de cow, eau de pig.  Crops grow, crops don’t grow.  Eau de sang.  Family pig, Hamy.  Family rabbit, Bugs. Family chicken, dinner.  Seen it, walked it, hunted it, smelled it, felt it.  There is a reason, actually a massive number of reasons,  I am not a farmer!

  9. Jack…  really nice column.  Yup…  Democrats need to show up everywhere.  Show up at the cattle auctions…  show up at the county fairs.  And yes….  eat a corndog…  and at least don’t grimace while doing so…
    Even here in NH…  republicans show up to everything…  Democrats… not so much.

  10. Good post, Jack, although after my visit to the “conservative” side of town, this weekend, i can confidently assert that the simple folk i encountered there are never voting Dem, ever, for any reason 

    (Statistics show they are voluntarily killing themselves off with COVID, so it may not be a problem, electorally🤷‍♂️)

    Nice bead, btw, Mr. S💪

    Oh, and AOC is right more than not, and also sincere- i’ve grown to appreciate her

  11. AOC is top notch, and will be for some time to come.   Kid’s going places.

  12. Sturgeone – I am enjoying seeing youngsters like AOC stepping up and proving she is more than up to the task of leading Progressives.  I will state that I am sick and tired of old farts getting in the way of progress.


    “Texas House Republicans vote to track down absent Democrats and arrest them if necessary”

    “The procedural move carries little apparent weight since the Democrats who fled the state to break quorum are beyond the jurisdiction of Texas law enforcement.”

    “Under a call of the House, according to chamber rules, all entrances or doors leading out of the hall are locked, and members are not permitted to leave without permission in writing from the speaker.“

    I thought it was against fire safety code to lock doors of occupied buildings, even from the inside. My office had to undo a button that needed to be pushed to exit the building.

  14. axios:

    Dark web sites tied to the Russian-based cyber gang REvil were not operating on Tuesday, just two weeks after the group launched a large-scale ransomware campaign that affected more than 1,500 companies around the world, according to CNBC.
    Why it matters: It’s unclear whether the sites — which REvil uses to facilitate its ransom negotiations — are down because of a technical problem, a law enforcement operation, or some other explanation. The group’s public spokesperson has also been silent on message boards since last week, according to Politico.
    Flashback: DarkSide, another Russia-based hacking group, ceased operations after it shut down the Colonial Pipeline during a ransomware operation, leading to widespread gas shortages in the U.S. for several days.

    • The Department of Justice later announced that U.S. investigators gained access to the infrastructure DarkSide used to carry out its extortion operations and recovered part of the ransomware payment the pipeline gave the group to regain access to its computers.

    Yes, but: Security experts have said that cyber criminal groups sometimes disband and return under different names, and it therefore currently can’t be determined if the disruption to REvil’s web sites is permanent.

  15. LBJ biographer Robert Caro quotes him about teaching rural kids, “I swore then if I ever had the power to help these kids I would do it. Now I have the power and I mean to use it.”

  16. Poobah, I like Joe, and really, was there a choice last November? No, but Joe is no LBJ.  
    BiD, what Bink said is right – folks are eating more meat even as meatless options are being developed.  I’ve tried a few of them thanks to LP and his attempt last winter to go mostly meatless, and some of the meatless meat is good, some of it is tolerable, and some of it is, well, bad.
    And all that crap the TX legislature is doing to try and keep Democrats in the building so they can have a quorum and ram one-sided legislation to restrict voter access to DumAbb’s desk – I predict it will be enjoined and ultimately declared unsconstitutional.

  17. Red meat consumption has decreased. The poultry numbers have increased.

    Still, even one meatless day a week helps the environment, so all efforts are welcome.

    It’s been over a decade for me, so I no longer crave a meat analog very often. Gardein makes good, Italian “meatballs,” but I’m not a fan of the burgers unless I’m at a restaurant and …which I haven’t been since February of 2020. Mostly, I’m perfectly happy with what grows out of the ground.

  18. Jack

    As I started reading your very wise remarks, I had a vision of old 99 in the central valley of CA, doing 100 mph past nonstop acres of farmland.  Once upon a time it was a state of less than 20 mil and there were towns dotted across that landscape.  Then it made the mistake of televising the Rose Parade and people hip deep in white stuff moved west.  This was not an improvement.

    Kansas looks pretty good about now.


  19. Looked back on yesterday’s thread when I was AWOL.  The remark about Harris being a twofer is absolutely correct.  I remarked to Fearless leader on Twitter that is was Hillary all over again.  So Obama combined with Hillary is a lot to hate and the MAGAts love anything they can hate at the top of their lungs.



    “A “dramatic” surge in high-tide floods is just over a decade away in the US, according to NASA. The rapid increase will start in the mid-2030s, when a lunar cycle will amplify rising sea levels caused by the climate crisis…”

    “High-tide floods involve less water than storm surges from a hurricane, but the study’s lead author warns that doesn’t mean they are a less significant problem overall. “

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