"Slarrow" refers to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" from Hamlet's soliloquy. Here are the chronicles of such darts and whatever attempt there may be to take arms against such a sea of troubles.

Location: Ozarks, United States

Monday, January 17, 2005

Beautiful Briny Sea

Well, well. It's another episode of a blue-stater trekking into deepest, darkest Red America.

Actually, I feel relatively generous towards this piece--more Lileksy than Blairlike. The writer has enough familiarity with so-called Red America (given his background) that he can at least pick out good, solid, representative quotes from people. I get the sense that the team made a genuine effort to go out and find the story instead of having the story in their heads and just looking for some warm bodies for the [insert name here] writeup.

There are a number of instances in which the authors let their biases bleed through a little--particularly the cracks about diversity and sameness--but overall the team does a decent job of letting the people they met speak for themselves. But here's the thing: pretty much all the people interviewed sounded to me like good, decent people who said plain, decent things. (In fact, it's odd to me that anybody would find these people odd or frightening, yet obviously some do.) I particularly liked Allen Stuhr and Merv Ocken who, in a few simple comments, exemplify the principles of sound conservation, the primacy of "we the people", and federalism:
"I'm the village water officer," Stuhr explained. "For more than 100 years, we've lived with arsenic in our water. It is a naturally occurring element. It isn't contamination -- it's natural."

During the Clinton administration, the Environmental Protection Agency lowered the amount of arsenic allowed in water, from 50 parts-per-billion to 10. "Now all over Nebraska, villages are having to build new water treatment plants to remove a naturally occurring element," Stuhr said, which costs "millions of dollars."

Does Washington pay? I asked.

"They'll loan us the money," Stuhr answered. "And whose money is it to begin with? And once we get the arsenic out, why, then we have a hazardous waste problem, because there is nowhere to dispose of it."

Bush would like to restore the previous standard. You might recall that many Democrats howled that Bush was willing to poison people, but in these parts, Bush's proposal was greeted as simple common sense.

Merv Ocken: "The problem comes in when you try to pass one law that will apply to everyone all across the country. In New York or Washington, certain laws might make sense. But you get out here, where there's sometimes just two people living in an entire section, and it's different."

A section is 640 acres, or one square mile.

Average population per square mile of Manhattan: 50,000.
This exchange is a real gem (and offers some insight why sometimes Red staters think about the coasters--and Europe--so infrequently and often in the same terms.) What people at the top tend to forget is that the causes they push for end up being implemented by people like Allen Stuhr; the consequences of their ideas falls on him, and he's become an expert in the issues near and dear to him in his own hometown. It's like the sea in which the bloggers swim which is full of amazing people that the "standard" nets just don't pick up.

The whole charge of bias and groupthink revolves around the notion (to continue the net analogy) that the MSM is fishing with a net with five-inch-square holes which leads them to conclude that there are no fish smaller than five inches in the sea. When they find them, as they have in this article, they tend to treat them as exotic, unbelievable specimens. To us little fish, it's both amusing and bizarre that we're viewed with such surprise and awe and fear.

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