Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Crackup of Justin M. Nickels

-- the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. 
F. Scott Fitzgeral - "The Crack-up"  Esquire magazine 1936
This quote was recently used by MSNBC pundit Larry O'Donnell in an attempt to reconcile the fact that he (a self professed Liberal) had been taken to a Koch funded hospital after his car crash last year.  He credits that hospital with saving his life.   What O'Donnell was trying to say was that he felt you had to be a bigger man to accept the idea that he somehow benefited from the largess of a man whom you excoriate on a daily basis for his political machinations and greed.

What O'Donnell did not understand is that he took the quote entirely out of context.  Apparently he thought it was saying that duality is something to aspire to.  To the contrary Fitzgerald was delivering a scathing bit of sarcasm to those who behave in certain prescribed ways in order to achieve success and acceptance.

Quite the opposite of the kind of acceptance of two views that O'Donnell's soppy tear filled comments implied, Fitzgerald was saying that you cannot continue to function with two opposing notions of yourself and described himself as "a cracked plate" that was no longer serviceable for many things but still whole enough not to be thrown away.  Like the cracked plate, he was being kept in a dark cupboard.  He then makes a complete break with his past and decides (in a very Koch-ian way) that altruism and optimism would be abandoned.

"There was to be no more giving of myself -- all giving was to be outlawed henceforth under a new name, and that name was Waste. [...]
 The conjurer’s hat was empty. To draw things out of it had long been a sort of sleight of hand, and now, to change the metaphor, I was off the dispensing end of the relief roll forever.  The heady villainous feeling continued."
Perhaps the quote was more appropriate than Mr. O'Donnell knew?  Just not in the way he intended.

So, imagine my surprise when the young Mayor of Manitowoc (in his usual manner) used the quote in one of his many words-of-wisdom facebook posts.  Having read the essay long ago I pointed out that this did not have the meaning that he seemed to think it did.  Another of his facebook fans questioned that so I proceeded to explain what the source of the quote was and what it was really saying in the context of the piece.  Fitzgerald was in effect, having a nervous breakdown.

What happened then was more than a surprise, it was a shock.  Nickels himself chimed in justifying his use of the quote and quickly descended into personal attacks.

Now, if there is one thing that had fed into the squeaky clean image of Justin Nickels it is his silence on a lot of issues and his personal demeanor.  Unlike his pal and political cohort Matt Kadow, Justin has had self control.  There is no speech he has ever given, no position he has ever taken, no public comment he has ever made that has taken a risk or staked out any notion of controversy.  He has played it safe - at least until now.  At the 2013 Democratic Convention he served up some real Liberal red meat, something he would never do at home.  But a Dem convention is a safe place to make the right sounds.  Things done at home have been kept considerably more quiet and out of sight.

 Mayor Justin M. Nickels speech to
Wisconsin Democratic 2013 convention

A safe place to sound Liberal

Republicans and the Tea Party, he said, are “putting a price tag on everything and a value on nothing.”He said that in a society where people increasingly care about themselves more than others..."
“While they are living in a world focused on “me,” Democrats are focused on “we”–“we the people...” 

In sharp contrast for this is his political support (one might say operative) for DINO Democrat Jim Brey.  Brey has consistently taken exactly the opposite position of everything Nickels espoused at the 2014 convention.  I knew that Nickels had circulated nomination papers for Jim for the 2012 Assembly race and had probably privately let it be known that Brey had his personal endorsement.  It was passed off by some Dems at the time as a necessary political move to get Brey's cooperation on the City Council but given Brey's disdain for all things Liberal it simply didn't jive with the face Nickels presented at the convention.

I've already written about how Nickels participated in a campaign to get me ejected from the Manitowoc County Democratic Executive Committee.  More details will be presented in a future blog.  Its also safe to say that at least one other politician was targeted with Nickels' help at the behest of Brey - but again - thats another blog.
"I have spoken in these pages of how an exceptionally optimistic young man experienced a crack-up of all values, a crack-up that he scarcely knew of until long after it occurred. I told of the succeeding period of desolation and of the necessity of going on, but without the benefit of Henley’s familiar heroics, “my head is bloody but unbowed.” For a checkup of my spiritual liabilities indicated that I had no particular head to be bowed or unbowed. Once I had had a heart but that was about all I was sure of."  F. Scott Fitzgerald
One would think that having succeeded in showing me the door at the Dem party Nickels would at least let things settle down.  He hasn't.  In what is perhaps the most shocking example of his new found hubris he was recently caught engaging in a defamatory web post with Alderman Jason Sladky and Brey about me.  When I confronted him on this he made no attempt to apologize or even distance himself from the slander.  For Sladky that kind of thing is par for the course.  His references to "illegal duck commander" are a right wing Benghazi charge that I had been caught hunting ducks out of season (I wasn't) but that doen't stop him.  Brey is a serial slanderer who often posted on the old HTR forum anonymously who here now admits to it and repeats his greatest hit - as he sees it.

The reference to selling a major electrical producer is about
my reminding people the Brey and Sladky did try to sell MPU.
Nickels "Quack" comment indicates he had been participating in the smear
and knew about it and its implications.

Brey formerly denied making this post
now admits it and repeats the offense.

Justin M. Nickels
Justin M. Nickels

You are making so sense, at all. Please don't call me son. It's degrading to someone who has earned more respect than you ever will.

Congrats on screen capturing me saying "quack".

The problem is that he has said a good deal more than "quack".  He in fact repeated Brey's post in the "Crack-up" exchange.

  • Justin Nickels Kendall - Bernie only talks behind his computer screen, rarely ever in person. 

    The best thing to do would be to ignore him, eventually he will go away. Right now he is just talking to himself anyway.

I responded with this composite of their previous "discussion saying that it was obvious where he had gotten it.  He quickly deleted it.

  • Bernie Starzewski Its just so nice to get personally attacked by a mayor and two aldermen. Excuse me but is this sort of thing common in city council meetings?
  • Bernie Starzewski Ooohhhh we didnt like that image did we? Nothing like a little censorship by a smart politician! Maybe you should exercise a little judgement in what you post on the web, huh son?

Lets consider for a minute that this was just about a mis-used literary quote.  It was not at all about any great political topic.  People reference stupid quotes all the time on the web without having any idea of where the the quote came from, what the context was or what the actual meaning might have been.  You then have to ask, why was I attacked?  One can only suspect that the real meaning cut a little too close to the bone.

Or perhaps it was a kind of Freudian slip?  Maybe what spoke to the young mayor was the very idea of duality, the notion that you could present one face while practicing something else.  Maybe you can set aside your values and give yourself that "heady villainous feeling" while deciding to simply crack from your shiny image.  I wouldn't know.  You would have to ask the mayor.

In the interest of fairness and accuracy here is the entire conversation.  The only edit was to replace the image deleted by Nickels.
He has since removed the entire topic.

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
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  • Diane Berry and 28 others like this.
  • Bernie Starzewski Depends on whether or not you try to act on both of them at the same time.
  • Cindy Nitsch Your quoting him...not good.
  • Bernie Starzewski This is one of those nifty little quotes that sound so cool until you understand that Fitzgerald is writing from the point of view of a man having a nervous break down...
    13 hours ago · Like · 2
  • Kendall Behnke But the beauty of a quote is the fact that it is one person's philosophy for another to make sense of in their own way and build off of as a free-thinking individual.
    11 hrs · Like · 2
  • Bernie Starzewski Uh.... no. It is from his essay "The Crack up" about a man no longer able to deal with the duplicity of his ambitions and so decides to shed all his values and expectations.... much like his character of Nick in The Great Gatsby after witnessing the depravity below the surface of upper class life. I find it a very interesting choice of quotes.
    3 hrs · Like
  • Bernie Starzewski He is talking about the futility of trying to achieve success by behaving and doing and saying things according to expectations. He is pondering the idea that in his quest to succeed the public face he has put forward is not his true face. An interesting quote to be advanced by a budding politician....
    2 hrs · Like
  • Kendall Behnke I understand that, and I agree, it is interesting if taking it from the same point of view, but I was just offering a different aspect. If we took everything exactly how it is fed to us without molding it into something new and of value, we would be quite one sided.
    2 hrs · Like
  • Bernie Starzewski There is being one sided and then there is duplicity. You are confusing dynamism with duality. This is about achieving success by feeding others an artificial image. Fitzgerald is saying that success is not worth that price.
    2 hrs · Like
  • Justin Nickels This is why I posted it. A great watch, for those who can get out of their partisan box they live in:
    Play Video

    Lawrence O'Donnell's Opening Segment 6/23/14 Return to MSNBC 75 Days After Car A...See More
    2 hrs · Like
  • Bernie Starzewski MSNBC is considered a partisan news outlet, isnt it? Its apparent that O'Donnell didnt understand the context of the quote either. Thats what happens when you grab some quote off the internet without knowing its origins. I guess I spent too much time studying English literature....
    1 hr · Like · 1
  • Bernie Starzewski At the same time, Koch is a great example of Gatsby... putting one face to the public while undermining public institutions and corrupting politicians with acts of immorality. The quote is in fact a rejection of that behavior and not advice for living your life.
    1 hr · Like
  • Kendall Behnke Bernie, I think you're missing the point I was trying to make, but some things are meant to be discussed in person, and not via text. It can definitely create a lot of problems. I wish I could take the video Justin posted into consideration in my reply but it won't play on my computer for some reason.
    1 hr · Like
  • Bernie Starzewski The video is about the seeming contradiction of Odonnell being taken to a Koch funded hospital after his accident. It is in fact a perfect example of what Fitzgerald was talking about - creating a false face in order to achieve success. But both Odonnell and Justin completely missed that because they didnt know the origins.
    1 hr · Like
  • Bernie Starzewski The quote is actually deep sarcasm in saying that only really smart people can navigate the hypocrisy.
    1 hr · Like
  • Bernie Starzewski In case anyone is interested here is the essay in its entirety.
  • Justin Nickels Kendall - Bernie only talks behind his computer screen, rarely ever in person. 

    The best thing to do would be to ignore him, eventually he will go away. Right now he is just talking to himself anyway.
  • Bernie Starzewski Its just so nice to get personally attacked by a mayor and two aldermen. Excuse me but is this sort of thing common in city council meetings?
  • Deleted graphic
    Text read:"I guess we know where you got that!"

  • Bernie Starzewski Ooohhhh we didnt like that image did we? Nothing like a little censorship by a smart politician! Maybe you should exercise a little judgement in what you post on the web, huh son?
    8 mins · Like
  • Justin Nickels Bernie - quit talking to yourself on my facebook page. I am not ashamed at all of what I say to you publicly. In fact, I plan on making a statement on your letter to the editor in today's paper. 

    Please don't post on my page anymore. I deleted Jon Fessler for the same reasons I would delete you.
    6 mins · Like
  • Bernie Starzewski No problem. There are lots of ways to publicize your web activities... 
    5 mins · Like
  • Justin Nickels And I am completely fine with that. The more your open your mouth, the better I look. Just don't bother me anymore.
    5 mins · Like
  • Bernie Starzewski All I did was to point out the inaccuracy of your quote. It was not a positive meme. You and you alone decided to escalate it. Lot of that going around lately.
    4 mins · Like

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