Category Archives: Uncategorized

Who leaked Junior’s Emails to the NYT?


After listening to all the podcasts and after reading all the print stories about Donald Trump Junior’s apparent collusion with a ‘Russian government lawyer’, this is the question that nags me – Who leaked Junior’s emails to the New York Times?

This question about the leaker’s identity is not the most important issue raised by Junior’s collusion, I admit, but it is intriguing. I don’t have any information, but I’d like to speculate on the record – my hunch is that Jared Kushner’s attorney(s) are the source of the email leak. It would make sense; they would just be looking out for their client’s legal interests, since Jared and Paul Manafort were both included in the emails and the meeting with the Russian lawyer itself.

Of course, by that logic it could just as easily be Manafort’s attorney(s) at work too. I’m just spitballing here, and have no way of knowing. It’s just a hunch.

What theories would you entertain on the matter? Leave a comment here or on the Common Culture Facebook page!


Two New(to me) Podcasts – ‘The Takeout’ with Major Garrett and the ‘Face the Nation Diary’ with John Dickerson

major dickerson

Hello friends! This week I subscribed to two new-to-me podcasts. I will likely sample them for a few weeks, then decide if I really want to incorporate them into my regular listening library.

First, I added CBS’s The Takeout – a weekly podcast about politics, policy and pop culture hosted by CBS News Chief White House correspondent Major Garrett.

Then I subscribed to CBS’s Face the Nation Diary – an insider’s view of news, featuring FtN host John Dickerson.

As always, if you know of any other political podcasts that I might want to sample, leave a comment here or on the Common Culture Facebook page. Thanks!


Podcasts That I Recommend



Pictured above: Hosts of Slate’s Political Gabfest, Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz.

Week in and week out, I listen to twenty-one different political podcasts, and I thought maybe readers might be interested in tuning in to some of them, too. Below you’ll find 21 hyperlinks to each and every one of them.

Which podcasts do you listen to? Did I miss any of YOUR favorite podcasts? Turn me on to something new in the comment section! – Corey

10 Podcasts from TV or Radio sources

MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show

PBS’s Washington Week

PBS’s Shields & Brooks

CBS’s Face the Nation

NBC’s Meet the Press

ABC’s This Week

ABC’s Powerhouse Politics

NPR’s Politics Podcast

Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie

WBUR’s Freak Out and Carry On

6 Podcasts from Print sources

Slate’s Political Gabfest

Slate’s Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick

National Journal’s Quorum Call

The New Republic’s Primary Concerns

Politico’s Nerdcast

Politico’s Off Message

5 Podcasts from Online sources

FiveThirtyEight Politics

Political Wire’s Conversations

Pod Save America

The Daily Banter’s The Bob Cesca Show

What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law


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Personal Update: 7/7/17

17861854_10212487526966722_4541336447381620848_nGreetings, friends!

It has been a long while. I owe you all an update on my personal status. 🙂

Two years ago today, I was homeless and stranded in Colorado. I asked for financial assistance from you – my readers – and I received an abundance. The kindness of strangers kept me alive for awhile there, and I am grateful. Thank you.

By Christmas of 2015, an old friend heard that I was living out of my car. He had a spare bedroom for me in Fort Wayne, Indiana, if I could make it that far. I did, and a year and a half later, I’m still here.

Once I was indoors, I applied for Medicaid. Then Gov. Mike Pence had just approved the Medicaid expansion funding that then Pres. Obama had made available via the ACA two years earlier. After years of trying, I was finally approved for health coverage!

I also applied for disability. The struggle continues on that front; I have a hearing in front of an administrative law judge scheduled for the end of August.

So what have I been doing these past nineteen months, you ask? I’ve been working with medical and psychiatric professionals to address my health problems, and trying very hard not to hate myself while the process plays out.

In the physical realm, my diagnosis’s now include fibromyalgia, cerebellar ataxia, and, on a genetic level, Asperger’s syndrome. On the psychiatric side, I’ve been diagnosed with major depression, a general anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and when I’m at my very worst, schizoid personality disorder with avoidant features (which basically means that when my symptoms are aggravated, I will do whatever it takes to avoid interacting with other people).

Getting better is not a straight-forward path, but I have been making progress slowly. Here’s hoping the progress continues! – Corey

Post Script: I have a lot of loyal readers, but I have to send a shout-out to Linda Wetta. Linda, you’ve been supporting Common Culture (and me) through thick and thin, and I want to say thank you. I smile whenever I see that you’ve reacted to a link that I’ve shared, and I appreciate your patience and seemingly endless support. Thanks!! 🙂

Cultural Fundamentalism: America’s Truthiness Crisis (1 of 2)


Written by Corey McLaughlin for Common Culture and The Big Slice.

Many people these days appear liable to believe the very worst about their president and/or their government.

Bafflingly, they base their inclinations not on evidence or exacting scrutiny, but instead upon the hunches they feel in their gut. Somewhat presciently, Stephen Colbert labeled the phenomenon ‘truthiness’ back in 2005, and if anything, the development now dominates the mindset of the average American.

The truthiness crowd elevates hunches, instincts, and intuition to the same stature as hard data and empirical analysis. Such behavior, while often amusing, is absolutely irrational, serving only to corrode America’s collective spirit, to sap our strength, and to degrade our national character.

To remedy this condition, Many Americans desperately needs remedial lessons in both philosophy and history, because they have groundlessly adopted a philosophy of absolute skepticism; they have done so due to the infusion of fundamentalist evangelicalism into mainstream American culture and politics since the late 1970’s.

Part One of this essay details the philosophic aspects of this argument, while Part Two deals with the historical elements therein.


The NSA Case

There is an uproar this week in the press and in the general population over the data-mining methods of the National Security Agency (NSA). The program in question (named PRISM) is not new, nor is it doing anything illegal, according to the federal court in charge of oversight.

Some facts of the case remain classified; however, standard compliance with the FISA court has been maintained throughout the program’s existence, and senior intelligence officials have stated that American lives have already been saved with PRISM’s assistance. Many of the original, outlandish claims were subsequently disproven, as the whistleblower continues to look less and less reliable as a source. Little remains undetermined, and yet in spite of all this, a lot of Americans are absolutely convinced that Obama and the NSA are guilty of every accusation levied against them.


The Assumption of Innocence

Now in America, the rule of law is intended to be administered with a presumption of innocence, always. So the burden of proof is supposed to lie on the accuser, and not on the accused. This standard applies toward individuals as well as the groups, businesses, and the institutions that they create.

The presumption of innocence isn’t just some arcane rule of thumb, either. It is central to the American identity, and a fundamental principle of American Law – innocent until proven guilty – that’s as American as apple pie, right?

Since the federal government is being accused of wrongdoing, the presumption of innocence should undoubtedly apply to it as well; there are no exceptions to such a rule. And yet, the case against the NSA is based in its entirety upon unsubstantiated claims derived from questionable sources, while contradictory evidence is being ignored. The NSA’s culpability has already been presumed!


A Third Red Scare?

Much of the press and the public are foolishly fixating on the federal government and our president for alleged misconduct, rather than letting the investigation turn up the truth on its own. Accusations are preceding evidence; the cart is getting out in front of the horse, so to speak.

Ordinarily, allegations such as these would be verified and thoroughly vetted in our courts of law as well as in our media; this is the rational process established over the 200-odd years of our nation’s history.

This is the American way of doing business, devised to deliver maximum liberty and justice for all – and this approach is being subverted from within.

America has suffered through at least two other periods like this present crisis, where enemies were seen around every corner, and infiltrators were imagined in the highest offices. The “Red Scare(s)” of 1919–1921 and 1947–1957 were shameful chapters in our nation’s history. Sadly, it would appear that such sensationalism and fear-driven sophistry are in season once again.


The Golden Mean

Shifting gears, Aristotle taught about a concept called the Golden Mean. Here, a ‘mean’ is considered to convey something midway between two extremes – a happy medium, so to speak. Too little or too much of any particular virtue was to be avoided. For an easy example of the Golden Mean in action, consider acts of generosity.

The act of donating resources to the poor demonstrates some degree of virtue because it provides for (or improves upon) the general welfare of the giver, the recipient, and the society within which they both transact their lives.

But if you give more than you can afford, it diminishes the welfare of you and your household both physically and mentally; health and happiness do not reach their optimal levels, which necessarily indicates that a less-than-ideal degree of virtue was demonstrated. Likewise, if you give less than you can afford to give you are also behaving less virtuously, because the ideal ratio of health, peace of mind, and overall welfare are not attained in that instance, either.

There is, therefore, a happy medium to be reached when donating resources to the poor. Similarly, there are optimal balances to be reached when employing patience, kindness, cleanliness, skepticism, or any other virtue. Since skepticism is a virtue, then it follows that some degree of skepticism is always a good thing, but too much of it qualifies you as a cynic.

The difference between cynics and rational folk, then, is that a cynic employs too great a degree of skepticism when evaluating the merits of policies, people, or institutions, whereas rational folk’s aim is truer to the Golden Mean.



In recent years many Americans have succumbed to a personal philosophy of absolute skepticism, which one might also call cynicism. Cynicism is the perfect complement to truthiness. Where cynicism tells you to distrust anything you don’t already believe, truthiness tells you to accept only the truths that feel comfortable to you. When cynicism and truthiness are demonstrated in the same person, or groups of people, they become obtuse to a fault.

No amount of evidence can persuade a cynic to switch positions or beliefs once they have made up their mind. Cynics insist that their feelings are truth itself, because their emotional states feel “true” to them. These supposed instincts seem true because such a conclusion already supports their preexisting beliefs; they accept the answer that presents the least amount of conflict.

Stated more succinctly, cynics won’t change their minds because their minds are already made up.

Psychological research has supported the argument that humans, regardless of political affiliation, are naturally inclined to accept opinions that dovetail smoothly with their established systems of thoughts. This is our natural tendency as human beings – it is just easier to believe what fits into your worldview.

Humans are also naturally skeptical creatures, but we can suspend our disbelief. Rational people will elect to curtail their skepticism in light of evidence and systematic scrutiny, whereas cynics cling to their beliefs stubbornly. All too often, this translates to a conflation of political ideology with religious faith.

Some cynics have made up their mind on religions, others toward a political party or issue, still others against a particular president (ahem). When one is already convinced, then nothing the leader or institution does can ever be correct; no other policy could be the “right” one; no other religion can be legitimate. We’re talking about a militant cynicism, here.



We live in an age awash in pessimism, an time when those skeptical of authority and top-down institutions are as numerous as they have ever been before. We live in an era when three million people tune in daily to crackpots like Alex Jones, with an additional three and a half million devoted to the sophistry of Glenn Beck. We exist in a period of such skepticism that when a technician makes serious and unsubstantiated claims through a previously discredited blogger / activist / lawyer, even the journalists accept the narrative without question…or evidence.

The current NSA scandal-of-the-week owes its very existence to this absolute form of skepticism fused with truthiness. The incessant parade of accusations and sideshows threatens the health of our very Republic.

There tends to be a propensity toward such irrationality on the political fringes – and that holds true for both liberals and conservatives. This predilection now dominates – indeed, poisons – public opinion. It certainly cripples our institutions of state and nullifies the national will. All we can do when we get like this is bicker.

Our collective vision is plagued with a crippling cynicism, and the nation itself grows more dysfunctional with each disbelieving breath. In order to remedy this affliction, we will first need to understand its origins. Much of the current truthiness crisis owes its origins to fundamentalist evangelicalism, and the faith’s infusion into mainstream American culture in the late 1970’s.

Part Two of this essay will explore the historical underpinnings of the crisis.


Written by Corey McLaughlin for Common Culture and The Big Slice.

ATTENTION MIDWESTERNERS! Be sure to Like the Common Culture on Facebook for all matters Midwestern. See you soon!

“The Origins of Midwestern Regionality”

The following passage has been excerpted from the book “The Origins of Midwestern Regionality.”


“There were coherent regional stories in the United States by the 1840s and 1850s.

In political and literary discourse, Americans had begun to talk about their section as a peculiar variation on larger national themes, as a particular expression of American life and landscape.

Within imagined regional communities, there was of course considerable resistance to and dissent from emerging definitions.

Regional conversations mirrored the process of nationalism of which they were a part: a multitude of voices worked through issues of definition by focusing on the extent to which they felt included within or excluded from regional stories.

In the face of industrialization and immigration, some nineteenth-century New Englanders created a cozy world of pastoralism and domesticity, of white steeples and village greens, safe from the intrusions of urban hustle and working-class Catholics.

White Southerners had to fashion a tale around the issue of slavery, and many did so by celebrating the peculiar institution as the bedrock of a more humane society than that of Northern industrial cities.

In their broad outlines, these were stories about loss or potential loss, about dealing with the deleterious consequences of rapid change, about celebrating dissociation from national political and economic developments.


In what we call the lower and eastern Midwest there emerged an altogether different tale from very different sources.

Here a remarkably diverse group of people from all over the eastern United States were brought together within a nationally created and administered framework outlined in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

Here, too, was a place that attracted large numbers of western European immigrants, most notably Germans and Irish, in the 1840s and 1850s.

Here was a place where the conversation about specificity in the national discourse promised to be especially contentious.


Together, the many voices of the Old Northwest created a basic plot rehearsed again and again in regional newspapers, histories, fiction, and orations.

Obsessively interested in communicating with each other, the residents of the Old Northwest wrote and spoke at great length; they kept diaries, gave lectures, read books and newspapers, listened to sermons, and filled their days with discussions of the place in which they lived.

Those who had access to print dominated the regional conversation.

They were more Yankee than Southern, but there was no rigid separation of the regional migration streams.

Largely middle class in their occupations and manners, they were not defined exclusively by their wealth or profession.

They were, in general, people who not only liked to read and write but who thought it socially useful to do so.

They combined boosterism and morality in the creation of one of the most salient features of their landscape: the local college.

Hundreds of small sectarian schools appeared in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois in the 1830s and 1840s.

At once decentralized and democratized, they served the interests of God, capitalism, and the Republic by putting commercially viable towns on the map and training young men and women to participate in the body politic.



Unlike its New England and Southern counterparts, the Midwestern story as it emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century was not about alienation from either the market or the nation.

On the contrary, it was about near total identification with both, for few whites in the Old Northwest wanted to escape from either.

Difficult as it is for us to remember in an age when the popular image of the Midwest is one of mediocre conformity, contemporaries thought of the territory north of the Ohio River as a promised land.

Remarkable was the extent of social and religious experimentation in communities throughout Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. Shakers, Mormons, English reformers, African Americans and a host of others tried to mold parts of the landscape to their purposes.

Often harassed by their neighbors, they were nonetheless part of the extraordinary complexity of life in the region.

Many people saw the Midwest as malleable, as a place of liberation from tradition and a source of enormous energy for change, both of which were made possible by a unique combination of place, capitalism, and nationalism.

The fortunate residents of the Old Northwest had the power to perfect this world.

“If we do but try – try heartily and cheerfully,” the young and ambitious Ohio lawyer Rutherford B. Hayes asserted in his diary, “we can be, for all the purposes of every-day happiness, precisely what we could wish to be.”


In a larger sense, according to the Cincinnati editor and poet William Davis Gallagher, the Old Northwest was home to “an Experiment in Humanity higher in its character and sublime in its results” than anything tried anywhere else.

Here were “the freest forms of social development and the highest order of human civilization.”

All sign pointed to “a Day…dawning upon this North-Western region,” which would awaken all “to a just sense of their real dignity and importance in the social scale, by proclaiming to them that they are neither slaves nor nonentities, but true men and women.”

Development was the main theme of public life in the Old Northwest.

Seeking access to markets, middle-class Midwesterners trumpeted canals and railroads with such abandon that they often neglected the details of who would pay for them.

What mattered was the promotion of commerce. And they celebrated with gusto their ability to do just that.

By the 1840s and 1850s, a whole host of people in the Old Northwest saw their history as one of rapid and inexorable progress: the arrival of hardy pioneers, the conquest of noble savages, the taming of a wilderness, the transformation of a landscape from forests to farms, the growth of civilization in churches, schools, and cities.

Indeed, Midwestern boosters positively celebrated the loss of simpler, rural times that many New Englanders and Southerners lamented.

By 1850, the regional narrative was so commonplace that an author introduced the popular story of the rough and tumble boatsman Mike Fink by assuming that his readers agreed that “the savage and the wild beast” and “dark forests” had given way to “villages, towns, and cities, rife with the bustle and progress of a vast and rapidly growing population of civilized and enlightened beings.”

Exaggerated and contested, the story of the Old Northwest was a narrative of success: We came, we saw, we conquered, we improved, we are deservedly enjoying the fruits of our labor. What the story lacked in irony and nuance it possessed in energy and optimism.


By the 1850s, middle-class Midwesterners had flattened the complicated and contested history of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions into a linear narrative of unimpeded progress.

It was a story that extolled benefits without reckoning their costs.

The blood and treasure expended on conquest of land and native peoples, the grinding poverty of frontier life, the damage done to nascent commercial networks and transportation systems by two national financial panics and economic depressions – none of these was interpreted to mean that the social and economic development of the region had not flowed smoothly, but instead proceeded by fits and starts.

Utterly unapologetic, Midwesterners had no need to take refuge behind plantations or village greens; unabashedly unrefined, they celebrated the changes wrought by the market and national revolutions: a landscape of small towns and cities, in which banks, stores, and public buildings featured prominently.

To be sure, dealing with some of the same fears as native-born, white New Englanders and Southerners, Midwesterners were creating a history that would both obscure and discipline growing numbers of foreign and urban residents.

But the Midwestern tale was not solely nativist.

German Protestants were deeply implicated in formulating this story.

In Cincinnati, the headquarters of the Midwestern world of print, it was Germans who gave shape to the cultural refinements that the city’s early boosters had craved.

Elsewhere, in Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, prominent Germans became bulwarks of the Midwestern doctrine of materialism and morality.”



The Origins of Midwestern Regionality,” written by by Andrew R.L. Cayton and Susan E. Gray, excerpted from pages 9 – 11 in “The Identity of the American Midwest”, edited by Andrew R.L. Cayton and Susan E. Gray, and published in 2001 by the Indiana University Press.


The Roots of Gen X’s Political Cynicism

The Roots of Gen X’s Political Cynicism


Written by Corey McLaughlin for Common Culture and The Big Slice.


I can’t speak for others, but my generation isn’t exactly the most trusting bunch of voters out there. If you have ever wondered about the origins of Generation X’s undying political cynicism, then this column is for you.


Generation X first appeared on the political stage as young voters in the 1980’s, but we were already soaked with 1970’s skepticism by that time. In the ‘70’s, the people’s faith in their nation and its government had begun to falter. This loss of faith started with the growing disappointment in President Johnson’s stewardship of the nation’s affairs.


To be fair, Johnson had pretty big shoes to fill after President Kennedy’s assassination. Things got off to a good enough start for him, but quickly went sour. On the Right, they were furious over Johnson’s Civil Rights agenda; on the Left they were incensed over the travesties of the Vietnam War. The rising discontent set the stage for ardent Cold Warrior Richard Nixon’s ascension to the Oval Office.


The nation hit the reset button again as Nixon took office, just as they had with Johnson – granting the office their full faith as the reins of power were transferred between stewards. But as history would show, Nixon failed to live up to the faith placed in him in his handling of the Vietnam War and again during the Watergate scandal.

As Nixon left the White House and President Ford took over, the nation wondered about the federal government in a new light. President Ford’s pardon of Nixon only served to deepen the distrust. Two consecutive men had just ascended to the presidency in nontraditional manners, and neither had fulfilled their duties quite like the public had expected. Both transitions were perfectly legitimate of course, but the U.S. had not yet returned to normalcy after the violence of the late 1960’s and the continued turbulence took its toll on the very credibility of government.

As it would happen, the 1970’s were also a time of economic contraction. America’s economy had just expanded for two full generations, but the boom was petering out by the middle of the decade. American business had thrived after WWII, when America was the only nation left with manufacturing capabilities. Domestic spending increased along with wages, and the future seemed bright indeed. But that expectation was unrealistic; eventually, the rest of the world would rebuild their manufacturing capabilities, and the great expansion would sputter to a trickle.

So American manufacturing began its long, steady decline. Unemployment rose. Wages stagnated and inflation skyrocketed, which created an ominous economic condition known as ‘stagflation.’ New President Jimmy Carter would be slow to act – only to clamp down with too much force when he finally did notice the economic peril at hand. Carter’s economic ineptitude obscured his foreign policy prowess, and the nation declined to give him another opportunity in office. In retrospect, Carter may have received more grief for his failures than he truly deserved, as America’s faith in government had already endured many staggering obstacles by the time of his electoral loss in 1980.


And then there was Ronald Reagan.

Reagan ushered in an era of optimism to a great portion of the nation. A new conservative coalition was swept into power along with him, an alliance born from the blending of: Barry Goldwater-styled Cold Warriors, Libertarians both social and fiscal, the newly-minted ‘Religious Right’, and a group of hawkish defectors from the Democratic camp known as ‘Neo-Cons’. This marked a new age in American democracy, an era that conservatives hoped would “starve the beast” of big government and end the entitlement programs believed to irresponsibly placate racial minorities or to flagrantly ‘buy’ the votes of the impoverished. It also marked the beginning of a new age of bitterness and absolute cynicism among my fellow Gen X-er’s.

Reagan’s administration was mired in a genuine scandal during his second term. After a decade that had only exacerbated the plight of the poor and the elderly, President George H.W. Bush did little to soothe our conviction that government was more a hindrance than a blessing, but President Clinton reminded my generation of JFK’s ideals. Liberalism was newly inspired; it has a reinvigorated ideological center, but lacked an overarching agenda.

Political players had changed since the Reagan days as well. Many politicians now had precious little experience in legislating and the business of government, and their ignorance only served to diminish the federal government’s reputation. By Clinton’s second term, it became clear that the Republican Party was not going to demonstrate traditional civic decorum. Speaker Newt Gingrich’s federal shutdown, together with the Republican’s asinine attempt to impeach our president over tawdry and irrelevant charges, cemented their reputation in much of my generation, making permanent the endless cycle of partisanship that dominates the discourse among Gen X-er’s today.


Nothing has improved much since Speaker Newt Gingrich launched that assault on democracy. It was an inevitable escalation of the conservative coalition’s “starve the beast” strategy, and until we can drive that mentality out of every state and federal office, the partisanship is doomed to continue.

Government cannot function if half the members of the legislature are intent to destroy our inheritance, and that is exactly what the Tea Party and their ilk aim to do to this great nation.

If we can defeat that ideology of absolute cynicism, then we can return this nation to its proper course, where ‘liberty and justice for all’ means something beyond ‘survival of the fittest’ or ‘might makes right,’ as they would have it.

Maybe then we can get on with the agenda Americans really want and need – jobs, growth, peace, and renewal.


Written by Corey McLaughlin for Common Culture and The Big Slice.


ATTENTION MIDWESTERNERS! Be sure to catch the Midwest Report every morning on the Common Culture Facebook page for all matters Midwestern! See you soon.