During the First World War, the Kansas Socialist Kate Richards O’Hare was thrown into prison for violating Woodrow Wilson’s Espionage Act. Her crime? Telling a North Dakota audience that their rulers in Washington regarded farm mothers as “brood sows, having sons to be put into the army and made into fertilizer.” Apparently our Secretary of Agriculture agrees. See this piece by Joel Salatin on his recent meeting with Tom Vilsack.

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Bill Kauffman
Bill Kauffman was born on November 15 (also the birthday of Bobby Dandridge) in the otherwise forgettable year of 1959. He was an all-star Little League shortstop for the Lions Club Cubs but soon thereafter his talents eroded. After an idyllic childhood in his ancestral home of Batavia, New York, birthplace of Anti-Masonry, he was graduated from Batavia High School in 1977. He earned, more or less, a B.A. from the University of Rochester in 1981 and went therefrom to the staff of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the only dairy farmer in the U.S. Senate. Two and a half years later he left Moynihan’s staff a bohemian Main Street anarchist who loved the Beats, the New England transcendentalists, early 20th century local colorists (Sarah Orne Jewett his Maine gal), cowpunk music, and the crazy old America. Neil Diamond and Karen Carpenter, too, but don’t tell anyone. He bummed around out west for a while, sleeping in bus stations and writing derivative poetry in Salt Lake City flophouses (nah, he’s not a Mormon, just a BYU fan) before an ill-starred year in graduate school at the UR. He took a seminar with Christopher Lasch and thought on it. In the spring of 1985 he flew west to become an assistant editor with Reason magazine. He had great fun in Santa Barbara with that crew of congenial editors drinking far into the night at Eddie Van Cleeve’s Sportsman’s Lounge, but in ’86 he flew east to become the magazine’s Washington editor. Always homesick, Kauffman persuaded his lovely and talented wife Lucine, a Los Angelena, to move back to Batavia in 1988 in what he called a “one-year experiment”—the year to be measured, apparently, in Old Testament terms. They’re still there—or, more accurately, five miles north in Elba (apt name for an exile!), where Lucine is Town Supervisor. She may well be the highest-ranking Armenian-American elected official in the country, at least until the voters of California send Cher to the U.S. Senate. Take that, Turks! Lucine and Bill have a daughter, Gretel, 17, who writes and acts and plays piano and French horn. Their lab mutt, Victoria, whose tail graces the accompanying photo, is now departed, to their sorrow, but a cat, Duffy, darts in and out of the house when the mood strikes. Bill is the author of nine books: Every Man a King (Soho Press/1989), a novel, which was recently rescued from the remainder bin by a New York Sun article proclaiming it the best political satire of the last century (the Sun thereupon set); Country Towns of New York (McGraw-Hill/1994), a travel book about God’s country; America First! Its History, Culture and Politics (Prometheus/1995), a cultural history of isolationism which Benjamin Schwarz in the Atlantic called the best introduction to the American anti-imperialist tradition; With Good Intentions? Reflections on the Myth of Progress in America (Praeger/1998), his worst-seller, a sympathetic account of critics of highways, school consolidation, a standing army, and the Siren Progress; Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette: A Mostly Affectionate Account of a Small Town’s Fight to Survive (Henry Holt/2003; Picador ppb. 2004), a memoirish book about his hometown which won the 2003 national “Sense of Place” award from Writers & Books; Look Homeward, America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists (ISI/2006), which the American Library Association named one of the best books of 2006 and which won the Andrew Eiseman Writers Award; Ain’t My America: The Long Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle American Anti-Imperialism (Henry Holt/ Metropolitan/2008), which Barnes & Noble named one of the best books of 2008; Forgotten Founder: Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin (ISI/2008), a biography of a brilliant dipsomaniacal Anti-Federalist who warned us this was gonna happen; and Bye Bye, Miss American Empire (Chelsea Green/2010), a cheerful account of dissolution. Bill is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and a columnist for The American Conservative. He has written for numerous publications, including The American Scholar, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Nation, Chronicles, the Independent and The Spectator of London, Counterpunch, Orion, University Bookman, and Utne Reader. He is vice president of the Genesee County Baseball Club, which owns the Batavia Muckdogs of the New York-Penn Baseball League. Come summertime, he can be found in the 3rd base bleachers at Dwyer Stadium. He is also active in the officerless (of course) John Gardner Society. Bill is more handsome than the photo on this site would suggest. See books written by Bill Kauffman.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Nobody will never invite Salatin nowhere again, but bless that man all over again and thanks, Bill, for the notice. Filed under I Could Spit.

  2. I certainly appreciate seeing Bill Kaufman giving kudos to a Kansas socialist. As for Vilsack, I’ve never been too sure of him since he fired Shirley Sherrod on the basis of an unproved accusation from a notorious blogger, which all blew up in both Vilsack’s and Breitbart’s face when the “white farmer” she supposedly discriminated against stepped forward to say “She’s the best friend we ever had. She saved our farm. They are not treating her right.” As I recall, the media offered condolences to the farmer’s wife when first interviewing her, on the death of her husband, and had to apologize when she said “He’s out driving the tractor right now.” Egg on the face of nearly every elite in America. Even Benjamin Jealous, the head of the NAACP, joined the bandwagon, having failed to look into the details.

    But I digress. To give Vilsack his due, which ain’t much, the Obama administration has been trying to prove its national security God and country cred since the 2008 general election. Vilsack was appearing in the red end of Virginia (sociologically, if not geographically) and thought he’d score some cheap points. God knows what he really believes, and for the rest of us, that’s a problem.

  3. Vilsack — Yuck. A typical modern Democratic hack. The only good thing about having him in DC is that he’s no longer in Iowa. His wife was unsuccessful in gaining a two-year all-expense-paid trip to DC when she lost a congressional race in my district last year. I wonder if either of the Vilsacks will return to the Hawkeye state to live after the Agribusiness job is done. Influence peddling pays well in the imperial city.

  4. Farm mothers in the Enriched World are almost an endangered species from a free market that regards the cheap land of Australia and sub-Saharan Africa as the best farmland. This in spite of their soil fertility – measured as available phosphorus – being at best one-tenth that of most soils in the northern and western hemispheres. The only way Enriched World farming on soils actually designed therefor could become productive is through prices and wages in the Enriched World falling drastically relative to the Tropical and especially Unenriched Worlds.

    It’s notable that in Australia farmers are a major source of recruits to military academies, and in the Enriched World where land scarcity makes farming inherently uneconomic, this would be easier to achieve.

  5. They should have changed the Department of Agriculture’s name to the Department of Agribusiness …or even the Department of Agrisubsidymonkeyshines . The word Agriculture is redolent of societal ends, something the current debacle has inverted, the strivers in Washington are principally into programs that will reach an end of society, replacing it with a yakked about dystopia.

    Salatin is a breath of fresh air in the prevailing atmosphere of gas. He violates Washington Protocol by daring to be practical. Heaven forfend. That this dolt Vilsack would extoll the virtues of the cannon fodder pipeline in a meeting about agriculture is astounding but then this is likely the underlying reason behind “immigration reform”. America , currently, loves its contract Hessians. Fear is the basis of the new growth economy.

  6. Jeff, you can hope that Vilsack will face a similar fate to Tommy Thompson, whose elevation to the Bush cabinet was for Wisconsin the silver lining in the 2000 election result, and came back in 2012 to find himself the most liberal Republican in the party primary for U.S. Senate, and lost the general election to, of all people Tammy Baldwin.

    You know why people such as Kate Richards O’Hare are so scarce in rural society these days? The populist farmers who demanded government intervention in the pitiless logic of the free markets can’t afford to live there any more. The big boys found ways to scarf up all the money, as they usually do.

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