Friday, August 12, 2016

Clintonomics: We, Not Me

Hillary Clinton went to Michigan to deliver her speech on the economy.

Mrs. Clinton called for making the biggest infrastructure investment — $275 billion — since World War II, and urged aggressive spending on green energy to counter China and Germany. And she repeated her plans to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for in-state middle-class families.

And she sharply criticized important elements of Mr. Trump’s tax cut plans, particularly the elimination of the estate tax and his plan to cut the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent; she said his plan for business owners included what she called the “Trump loophole,” which would “allow him to pay less than half the current tax rate on income from many of his own companies.”

She characterized her opponent’s economic doctrine as a “more extreme version of the failed theory of trickle-down economics” mixed with his own “outlandish Trumpian ideas that even Republicans reject.”

And she rejected Mr. Trump’s promises to ease financial regulation and do away with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which he calls detrimental to average Americans.

“Even conservative experts say Trump’s agenda will pull our economy back into recession,” and cause the loss of 3.4 million jobs, Mrs. Clinton said, pointing to an analysis for Moody’s Analytics led by Mark Zandi, who advised Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Mrs. Clinton’s remarks often transcended policy, as she sought to portray Mr. Trump as an out-of-touch businessman who would squash the working class. She talked about her grandfather’s years of labor in a lace mill in Scranton, Pa., and her father’s small drapery-printing business in Chicago.

“This is personal for me,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I am the product of the American middle class.”

The major difference that I see between what Hillary Clinton put forth and that by Donald Trump earlier in the week is that while neither of the candidates came up with radical new ideas — even Ms. Clinton’s most ardent backers will admit that there’s nothing in her speech that we didn’t hear from every other Democrat running for president since 1932 (updating the WiFi reference from the REA) — Mr. Trump focuses on the individual (I’ll cut your taxes, I’ll find you a job), Ms. Clinton’s plan requires all of us to participate.  We instead of Me.

That’s a major difference between the two parties.  The Republicans focus on merits of rugged individualism, the small business owner, and the family values as if they all existed outside of any community responsibility.  Of course it’s all right to be against gay marriage if you’re not gay or oppose reproductive rights if your wife doesn’t mind being told what to do with her body.  It’s perfectly okay to home-school your children so that they don’t find out that Jesus didn’t have a pet T-Rex.  The government shouldn’t tell you what to do, although there’s nothing wrong with you telling someone else how to live their life.  And paying taxes just takes money out of your pocket to give it to someone who will spend it on booze or worse.  Oh, yes, let’s all talk about how much I love my country, but let’s make sure that everyone agrees with me first, okay?

To be fair, it hasn’t always been that way with the Republicans.  They used to be very community oriented and it was a Republican president who spent the most money on a government infrastructure project — the interstate highway system — in the history of the country.  (The fact that the underlying idea behind the interstates was to provide the military with unfettered coast-to-coast highways to defend against the Red Tide was only a minor selling point.)  But in the last forty years, the GOP has turned into the What’s In It For Me? party, and Donald Trump is the unabashed symbol of it all.

The Democrats would rather get us all involved, even if we might have different family structures or ambitions.  As their nominee once wrote, it takes a village — we all participate — and as we work together, nothing can stop us from achieving greatness.  Yes, we have to pay our taxes, but that keeps the roads and schools open, and if we help those with the least, it benefits us all.

There have been some notable failures and unintended consequences in those noble if sometimes naive plans to help us all, but what matters is that the motives were to support the community and all of us and appealing to the better nature in us to help the other person first.  It’s why we have a police force and a fire department and a water and sewer system that are publicly operated, not relying on an AR-15 and a garden hose next to the outhouse.

Our economy has swung from the right to the left — the robber barons of 1898 vs. the New Deal of 1933 — and back again — The Great Society of 1965 vs. Trickle-Down of 1981 — and spent most of it somewhere in between.  Based on what we’ve heard from Mr. Me Trump and Ms. We Clinton, we’re better off going with Us.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Trumponomics: The 2016 Edsel

When the Ford Motor Company introduced the Edsel in September 1957, they made a huge deal about claiming it was a totally new car with features never before offered on an automobile and styling that defied convention.  The company created a separate division for Edsel, invested millions of dollars in advertising and ballyhoo, and the world waited with bated breath to see this revolutionary new car.

Well, we all know what happened.

1958 Edsel Bermuda

1958 Edsel Bermuda

The 1958 Edsel was basically a redressed Ford or Mercury depending on which model was ordered, and the revolutionary new features turned out to be either gadgets that could be picked up from the J.C. Whitney catalogue or gimmicks such as the floating-dome speedometer and the push-button transmission mounted in the steering wheel hub that were a distraction and a danger to the driver.

And the car was not very well-built.  It was rushed into production and had flaws as it came off the line.  So despite all the pre-sale hoopla, it turned out to be just another car with an appeal to no one.

The Edsel came to mind when I read what Donald Trump’s “major economic policy” had in store.  Delivered at the Detroit Economic Club and read from a Teleprompter, Mr. Trump revived tried-and-failed economic ideas that were clunky old GOP policies such as massive tax cuts for the rich, simplifying the tax code, and ballooning the deficit, all paid for by the yuuge number of jobs that would be created out of thin air; nothing we haven’t heard from Republicans from Herbert Hoover to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.  The difference yesterday was that, like the Edsel, it was dressed up in Trump drag with the usual promises of being the greatest economic restoration since the New Deal.

Mr. Trump also promised to reduce regulations on business — another oldie but a goodie from the 1950’s — and bring back coal and oil as energy sources.  (At one point I had to laugh out loud when he said that Hillary Clinton, who supports renewable energy, represented the past while he, the advocate of coal and oil, represented the future.  That would be true if this was 1816.)  He also wants to wall us off from the world in terms of trade — an idea that runs counter to most of the Republican mantra of free trade — and slap tariffs on countries such as China.  Gee, I wonder how China would retaliate?

We have seen the results of Mr. Trump’s economic ideas.  They were the backbone of Ronald Reagan’s administration which resulted in a massive deficit and eleven tax hikes during his term.  The first Clinton administration was able to pull it back and hand George W. Bush a surplus, which he promptly pissed away just in time to trigger the 2008 recession from which we’re barely recovered.  It’s also been done in microcosm in the state of Kansas where Gov. Sam Brownback has turned a prosperous state into a prairie version of the Great Depression.  (When Gov. Brownback launched his plan, he boasted that Kansas would become a model for other states to follow.  Yes; watch what he did and do the exact opposite.  Good modeling.)

It didn’t take the Ford Motor Company more than about six months to realize that the Edsel was a disaster.  The Edsel Division was merged with Lincoln and Mercury and the 1959 models were cut back to one basic car with different trim levels, and by the time the 1960 model year came around, it was nothing more than a Ford with different trim.  The plug was mercifully pulled a month after the 1960’s were rolled out and Edsel became a synonym for a colossal failure on every scale: scope, objective, and results.

But at least Ford knew when to get out.  The Republicans keep badge-engineering their 1958 models with new gimmicks, hoping that there’s an electorate that will fall for it yet again.

*

Footnote for antique car fans: A vestige of Edsel survived when Ford brought out the Comet in 1960.  Originally intended as the Edsel version of the compact Ford Falcon, the Comet was a stand-alone brand sold through Lincoln-Mercury dealers and was an instant success, selling more in the first year than all the Edsels in its three-year run.  In 1962 it became the Mercury Comet and was sold in various generations until 1977.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Short Takes

Khizr Khan says Donald Trump lacks “moral compass.”

Muslims go to church in France to show solidarity in light of attack.

Florida Zika virus cases came from local mosquitoes.

Deadly flooding hits Maryland.

Someone in New Hampshire won $487 million.

Tropical Update: Invest 97L shows up in the Caribbean.

The Tigers swept the Astros, making two sweeps in a row.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Short Takes

Trump appeals to Russia for help in his campaign.

All charges against police dropped in Freddie Gray case.

Apple says it has sold 1 billion iPhones (but not to me).

President Obama has chosen a historic Chicago neighborhood for his library.

John Hinckley to be released.

The Tigers swept the Red Sox 4-3.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016

Short Takes

Transgender men and women will now be allowed to serve in the U.S. armed forces.

Iraqi airstrikes hit 200 vehicles carrying ISIS fighters.

Turkish police arrested 13 people in connection with the attack on the Istanbul airport.

Former London mayor Boris Johnson dropped his bid to run for prime minister.

R.I.P. Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock that basically predicted where we are now.

The Tigers rallied in the ninth to beat the Rays 10-7.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.  Oh, and happy new (fiscal) year.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Short Takes

Multiple deaths reported in suicide attack at Istanbul airport.

Deadly train crash in Texas.

Senate Democrats block G.O.P Zika “poison pill” bill.

Trump promises to confront China over trade pacts.

NASA’s Juno probe approaches Jupiter.

R.I.P. Pat Summitt, winningest coach in Division 1 basketball.

The Tigers beat the Marlins 7-5.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Britain Exits

Via the Guardian:

The British people have voted to leave the European Union after a historic referendum in which they rejected the advice of the main Westminster party leaders and instead took a plunge into the political unknown.

The decision in favour of Brexit, following a bitterly close electoral race, represents the biggest shock to the political establishment in Britain and across Europe for decades, and will threaten the leaderships of both the prime minister, David Cameron, and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The value of the pound swung wildly on currency markets as initial confidence among investors expecting a remain vote was dented by some of the early referendum results, triggering falls of close to 10% and its biggest one-day fall ever. Jeremy Cook, chief economist and head of currency strategy at WorldFirst, said: “Sterling has collapsed … It can go a lot further as well.”

By 4am, a series of key results signposted a likely leave victory. After a lower-than-expected margin of victory for the remain campaign in Newcastle, where it won the backing of 54% of voters, there was a jolt after midnight when leave captured Sunderland with 61.3% of the vote in a city that has traditionally been a Labour stronghold.

Stock markets reacted negatively, with some off as much as 10%, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who called for the vote, announced that he will step down by October.

Quoting a friend who has lived in Britain since the 1970’s:

I’ve kept out of this until now, as I am not eligible to vote in the UK, but I’ve watched it all unfold with great interest, and I’m very unhappy to see this result. The UK has now given power to the far right. Petty little Fascist pricks like Nigel Farage and others like him will now be calling the shots. I don’t see good things coming of this, socially or economically. Too late to change your minds now. A very sad day in history.

As one BBC news reader said, “Yeah, well, there you have it.”

Curtain Comes Down On New Theatre

Yet another vibrant but financially-strapped South Florida theatre goes dark.

New Theatre Logo Crop 06-24-16New Theatre, one of the most high-profile Florida theaters for 30 years and developer of the Pulitzer-winning Anna in the Tropics, is closing, its board of directors announced Thursday.

The cause appears to be economics although the specifics have not been disclosed.

It came to a head several weeks ago when the board asked Artistic Director Ricky J. Martinez to work this summer without pay.  Martinez resigned May 23, a disclosure delayed until Thursday because Martinez wanted to give the board time to get “the financials in order,” he said in an interview Thursday.

[…]

Thursday’s news hit the theater community hard because so many people had worked at the company.  While numerous companies have opened and even thrived in recent years, the closing is the latest in a series of crippling hits: Florida Stage in Manalapan/West Palm Beach closed in 2011, Promethean Theatre in Davie in 2012, Mosaic Theatre in Plantation 2012 and Women’s Theatre Project in Fort Lauderdale/Boca Raton in 2015.

The theatre has also produced four of my ten-minute plays and had my new full-length in their schedule for the upcoming season.  I’m sorry for the people who have put so much of their time and effort into bringing new and vibrant theatre to Miami.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Short Takes

Venezuela is circling the drain.

The Justice Department released transcripts from the 911 calls during the Orlando massacre.

The Supreme Court — with one notable dissentmade it easier for police to conduct searches.

Oakland has trouble keeping police chiefs.

Trouble in Trumpland.

Tropical Update: TS Danielle is heading across Mexico.

The Tigers beat the Mariners 8-7 in extra innings.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sunday Reading

A Long Line — Bill Moyers and Michael Winship on the history of American demagogues.

There’s a virus infecting our politics and right now it’s flourishing with a scarlet heat. It feeds on fear, paranoia and bigotry. All that was required for it to spread was a timely opportunity — and an opportunist with no scruples.

There have been stretches of history when this virus lay dormant. Sometimes it would flare up here and there, then fade away after a brief but fierce burst of fever. At other moments, it has spread with the speed of a firestorm, a pandemic consuming everything in its path, sucking away the oxygen of democracy and freedom.

Today its carrier is Donald Trump, but others came before him: narcissistic demagogues who lie and distort in pursuit of power and self-promotion. Bullies all, swaggering across the landscape with fistfuls of false promises, smears, innuendo and hatred for others, spite and spittle for anyone of a different race, faith, gender or nationality.

In America, the virus has taken many forms: “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, the South Carolina governor and senator who led vigilante terror attacks with a gang called the Red Shirts and praised the efficiency of lynch mobs; radio’s charismatic Father Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic, pro-Fascist Catholic priest who reached an audience of up to 30 million with his attacks on Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal; Mississippi’s Theodore Bilbo, a member of the Ku Klux Klan who vilified ethnic minorities and deplored the “mongrelization” of the white race; Louisiana’s corrupt and dictatorial Huey Long, who promised to make “Every Man a King.” And of course, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama and four-time presidential candidate who vowed, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Note that many of these men leavened their gospel of hate and their lust for power with populism — giving the people hospitals, schools and highways. Father Coughlin spoke up for organized labor. Both he and Huey Long campaigned for the redistribution of wealth. Tillman even sponsored the first national campaign-finance reform law, the Tillman Act, in 1907, banning corporate contributions to federal candidates.

But their populism was tinged with poison — a pernicious nativism that called for building walls to keep out people and ideas they didn’t like.

Which brings us back to Trump and the hotheaded, ego-swollen provocateur he most resembles: Joseph McCarthy, US senator from Wisconsin — until now perhaps our most destructive demagogue. In the 1950s, this madman terrorized and divided the nation with false or grossly exaggerated tales of treason and subversion — stirring the witches’ brew of anti-Communist hysteria with lies and manufactured accusations that ruined innocent people and their families. “I have here in my hand a list,” he would claim — a list of supposed Reds in the State Department or the military. No one knew whose names were there, nor would he say, but it was enough to shatter lives and careers.

In the end, McCarthy was brought down. A brave journalist called him out on the same television airwaves that helped the senator become a powerful, national sensation. It was Edward R. Murrow, and at the end of an episode exposing McCarthy on his CBS series See It NowMurrow said:

“It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”

There also was the brave and moral lawyer Joseph Welch, acting as chief counsel to the US Army after it was targeted for one of McCarthy’s inquisitions. When McCarthy smeared one of his young associates, Welch responded in full view of the TV and newsreel cameras during hearings in the Senate. “You’ve done enough,” Welch said. “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?… If there is a God in heaven, it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.”

It was a devastating moment. Finally, McCarthy’s fellow senators — including a handful of brave Republicans — turned on him, putting an end to the reign of terror. It was 1954. A motion to censure McCarthy passed 67-22, and the junior senator from Wisconsin was finished. He soon disappeared from the front pages, and three years later was dead.

Here’s something McCarthy said that could have come straight out of the Trump playbook: “McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled.” Sounds just like The Donald, right? Interestingly, you can draw a direct line from McCarthy to Trump — two degrees of separation. In a Venn diagram of this pair, the place where the two circles overlap, the person they share in common is a fellow named Roy Cohn.

Cohn was chief counsel to McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the same one Welch went up against. Cohn was McCarthy’s henchman, a master of dark deeds and dirty tricks. When McCarthy fell, Cohn bounced back to his hometown of New York and became a prominent Manhattan wheeler-dealer, a fixer representing real estate moguls and mob bosses — anyone with the bankroll to afford him. He worked for Trump’s father, Fred, beating back federal prosecution of the property developer, and several years later would do the same for Donald. “If you need someone to get vicious toward an opponent,” Trump told a magazine reporter in 1979, “you get Roy.” To another writer he said, “Roy was brutal but he was a very loyal guy.”

Cohn introduced Trump to his McCarthy-like methods of strong-arm manipulation and to the political sleazemeister Roger Stone, another dirty trickster and unofficial adviser to Trump who just this week suggested that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin was a disloyal American who may be a spy for Saudi Arabia, a “terrorist agent.”

Cohn also introduced Trump to the man who is now his campaign chair, Paul Manafort, the political consultant and lobbyist who without a moral qualm in the world has made a fortune representing dictators — even when their interests flew in the face of human rights or official US policy.

So the ghost of Joseph McCarthy lives on in Donald Trump as he accuses President Obama of treason, slanders women, mocks people with disabilities and impugns every politician or journalist who dares call him out for the liar and bamboozler he is. The ghosts of all the past American demagogues live on in him as well, although none of them have ever been so dangerous — none have come as close to the grand prize of the White House.

Because even a pathological liar occasionally speaks the truth, Trump has given voice to many who feel they’ve gotten a raw deal from establishment politics, who see both parties as corporate pawns, who believe they have been cheated by a system that produces enormous profits from the labor of working men and women that are gobbled up by the 1 percent at the top. But again, Trump’s brand of populism comes with venomous race-baiting that spews forth the red-hot lies of a forked and wicked tongue.

We can hope for journalists with the courage and integrity of an Edward R. Murrow to challenge this would-be tyrant, to put the truth to every lie and publicly shame the devil for his outrages. We can hope for the likes of Joseph Welch, who demanded to know whether McCarthy had any sense of decency. Think of Gonzalo Curiel, the jurist Trump accused of persecuting him because of the judge’s Mexican heritage. Curiel has revealed the soulless little man behind the curtain of Trump’s alleged empire, the avaricious money-grubber who conned hard-working Americans out of their hard-won cash to attend his so-called “university.”

And we can hope there still remain in the Republican Party at least a few brave politicians who will stand up to Trump, as some did McCarthy. This might be a little harder. For every Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham who have announced their opposition to Trump, there is a weaselly Paul Ryan, a cynical Mitch McConnell and a passel of fellow travelers up and down the ballot who claim not to like Trump and who may not wholeheartedly endorse him but will vote for him in the name of party unity.

As this headline in The Huffington Post aptly put it, “Republicans Are Twisting Themselves Into Pretzels To Defend Donald Trump.” Ten GOP senators were interviewed about Trump and his attack on Judge Curiel’s Mexican heritage. Most hemmed and hawed about their presumptive nominee. As Trump “gets to reality on things he’ll change his point of view and be, you know, more responsible.” That was Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. Trump’s comments were “racially toxic” but “don’t give me any pause.” That was Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Republican African-American in the Senate. And Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas? He said Trump’s words were “unfortunate.” Asked if he was offended, Jennifer Bendery writes, the senator “put his fingers to his lips, gestured that he was buttoning them shut, and shuffled away.”

No profiles in courage there.  But why should we expect otherwise? Their acquiescence, their years of kowtowing to extremism in the appeasement of their base, have allowed Trump and his nightmarish sideshow to steal into the tent and take over the circus. Alexander Pope once said that party spirit is at best the madness of the many for the gain of a few. A kind of infection, if you will — a virus that spreads through the body politic, contaminating all. Trump and his ilk would sweep the promise of America into the dustbin of history unless they are exposed now to the disinfectant of sunlight, the cleansing torch of truth. Nothing else can save us from the dark age of unreason that would arrive with the triumph of Donald Trump.

Buy Out  — Alexia Fernandez Campbell in The Atlantic on those of us who refuse to retire.

The term “gray-haired professor” may seem like a cliché, but there’s some truth to it. Academia has long had a disproportionate number of employees older than 65, and the average American professor is getting even older.The share of people older than 65 teaching full time at American colleges and universities nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010. College professors are now among the oldest Americans in the workforce. Job satisfaction, job protection due to tenure, and concern about their retirement nest eggs are all reasons they cite for sticking around longer. And while their experience is valuable in its own way, the cost of paying senior professors in an era of rising expenses and shrinking endowments has led universities to borrow a budget-cutting strategy from the corporate world: buyouts.A growing number of private and public universities are resorting to offering large sums of money to faculty and staff in exchange for early retirement (or, if they prefer, heading back to the job market). In the past year alone, Oberlin College here in Oberlin, Ohio; the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire; and the University of North Dakota, all offered some sort of voluntary separation-incentive deal to faculty members.

John Barnshaw, a senior researcher at the American Association of University Professors, says the financial crises of 2008 dealt a big blow to universities, which had invested much of their endowments in stocks and other financial products. “They started paying very close attention to their portfolios in a way they never have done,” says Barnshaw. “One of the ways they saw to save money was to offer retirement packages.”Oberlin College, an exclusive liberal arts college about 45 minutes from Cleveland, is testing out this cost-cutting strategy. I recently spoke to the president, Marvin Krislov, about the unexpected, end-of-semester buyout, which was offered to about a third of the faculty. Krislov says the college needs to offset expensive health-care costs and employee salaries. Additionally, he says that Oberlin’s commitment to offering grants and financial help to students from all socioeconomic backgrounds is a source of financial stress. Nearly half of Oberlin’s students receive some sort of financial aid. Tuition and fees, without aid, is about $50,000 a year.This is the first time the college has offered early retirement packages, says Krislov. Since about 90 percent of faculty is tenured, many end up working way past the traditional retirement age of 65. “[The buyouts] allow us to have more predictability in knowing who is going to be working and until when,” he says.

To take the buyout, employees must be at least 52 years old and must have worked at Oberlin for at least 10 years. The college will then pay their salaries for a year after they leave and waive health insurance premiums during that time.

One reason academia has seen so much aging has to do with federal law. In 1986, Congress barred employers from enforcing mandatory retirement ages, but colleges and universities were exempt for a while. They were able to impose a retirement age of 70 until the exemption expired in 1993. A recent survey of college professors now shows that 60 percent plan to work past the age of 70.

The buyout programs seem like a direct path to reducing the numbers of most highly paid employees. But it also poses a risk: When those professors leave, their tenure-track positions may be replaced with non-tenure-track ones, meaning that over time, the number of tenured positions on campus could plummet. Though tenure has its detractors, it also serves a valuable purpose: Tenured faculty can’t be fired without just cause, which is meant to foster academic freedom and innovation. The rise of tenured positions in the United States was a response to McCarthyism, when university professors were fired for real or imagined ties to the Communist Party.Over the years, the share of tenured teaching positions has been shrinking, while the percentage of part-time positions has increased. A report from the American Association of University Professors shows that, in the past 40 years, the percentage of professors in full-time, tenured positions dropped by 26 percent and tenure-track positions dropped by 50 percent. Meanwhile, academia has seen a 62 percent jump in full-time, non-tenure-track positions and a 70 percent jump in part-time teaching positions. Today, the majority of academic positions are part-time jobs.“Our concern is that those tenure-track jobs are not being replaced. That they are just hiring a bunch of part-time professors,” says Barnshaw.

At Oberlin, Krislov says he will not replace full-time, tenured positions with part-time jobs. But he might move positions to departments with more in-demand fields, though he wouldn’t say which ones.

One tenured professor taking the buyout at Oberlin is Roger Copeland, who has been teaching dance and theater there for 41 years. The 66-year-old professor (whose former students include Girls creator Lena Dunham) said he was surprised to get the offer as the semester came to an end.

“I was completely dumbfounded,” said Copeland, a few hours before signing the separation agreement. “I don’t think anybody suspected that the [financial] situation could be so bad.”

Copeland hadn’t plan to retire for at least another four years, but said he couldn’t pass up the deal. He says he understands why the college is doing it, and thinks it will inject the faculty with fresh blood and new ideas. “For what they pay me, they can get two people out of grad school,” he says.

About 85 people so far have accepted the buyout (16 are professors and all are tenured; the rest are administrative and professional staff), representing about 25 percent of all eligible employees, Krislov says. He expects this to save the college about $3 million per year, depending on how many positions are replaced. According to him, the goal isn’t to replace tenured professors with non-tenure-track faculty. “Our commitment to tenure and tenured professors is iron clad,” he says.

Your Prairie Home Companion — Cara Buckley on the retiring Garrison Keillor.

ST. PAUL, MINN. — Garrison Keillor was riding shotgun in a rented Chevy, motoring east through the steamy Midwestern heat.

His linen suit was appropriately rumpled — everything about this public radio legend suggests disregard for crisp lines — and his gangly legs were jacked up against the glove box, as he resisted suggestions to slide his seat back. Hitching a ride with a reporter from Minneapolis to his home here, he filled the yawning silences with a weird little singsong, “bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp.”

He had just spent hours rehearsing for the following night, May 21, when he hosted “A Prairie Home Companion,” at the State Theater in Minneapolis, before a packed, adoring crowd for the last time.

After more than four decades of hosting this homespun Americana musical variety program, which he created and which, in turn, created him, Mr. Keillor is retiring. He has done this before, in 1987, though that retirement ended up being a sabbatical. In 2011, there were rumors — baseless, Mr. Keillor’s people said — that he was thinking of abandoning ship then, too.

But this time, Mr. Keillor, 73, said he means it. He has named a successor and lined up meaty post-“Prairie” projects, among them columns for The Washington Post, a screenplay and a book. While he has a solo tour planned through the year, along with a “Prairie”-esque Labor Day weekend show at the Minnesota State Fair, he will host his final official “Prairie Home Companion” on July 1 at, of all places, the Hollywood Bowl.

“It’s very much real, and it’s simply a matter of wanting to rearrange one’s life,” Mr. Keillor said after we had arrived at his large, handsome Georgian house, and he had eased his stooping 6-foot-4 frame into a porch chair. “In order to do these things, I’ve got to clear out the big buffalo in the room, which is the show.”

At his home, Mr. Keillor looms, a melancholy presence, and doesn’t make much eye contact, keeping his bespectacled eyes averted under scraggly eyebrows. Rather than savor the conversation, he seems to cordially endure it. His mellifluous voice, likened to a down comforter or “a slow drip of Midwestern molasses,” feels warmly familiar to any public radio listener who has heard him sing “Tishomingo Blues,” which opens his show each Saturday evening.

Yet as familiar and cherished as “Prairie” has become to millions, it was always about Mr. Keillor’s fascinations, rather than the inner tickings of its host.

“It was never about self expression, never,” Mr. Keillor said.

Everything about “Prairie Home” — the Guy Noir and Lives of the Cowboys sketches, the spots for Powdermilk Biscuits and the Ketchup Advisory Board, the monologues about the fictional Lake Wobegon — sprang from Mr. Keillor’s imagination. But the man spinning the plates at the center of it all managed to stay a mystery, even to people who know him well.

“Garrison in person is quite different,” said his longtime friend, the writer Mark Singer. “Garrison does not express emotion in interpersonal conversations the way the rest of us do.”

Performers often cultivate alternate personas, but with Mr. Keillor the difference is startling. That night, onstage in Minneapolis, he was garrulous and affable, and afterward ventured out onto the sidewalk to meet his hundreds-strong admirers, many of whom feel they know him intimately.

As fans flocked around him, Mr. Keillor graciously deflected questions, directing queries back to the scrum. This helps him gather story ideas but also serves as a bridge from his onstage personality to his default setting, the introverted, removed man who seems miles away, even when you’re sitting two feet from him on his porch, eating the jelly beans he has set out.

“His gaze is often floating and takes you in from a strange distance,” said the writer and editor Roger Angell, who in 1970 edited Mr. Keillor’s first piece for The New Yorker. “He is certainly the strangest person I know.”

There is debate about whether Mr. Keillor should have exited a while ago. His weekly radio audience peaked 10 years ago, at 4.1 million, and has since dropped to 3.2 million. While that does not include listeners on Sirius XM, or the show’s three million monthly digital requests, many stations have dropped their Sunday repeat broadcast of his show.

“Prairie Home” captured a time, before tweets and Facebook posts, when people talked more over fence posts and pots of coffee but nowadays feels increasingly removed from many listeners’ lives.

“A lot of the conversation has been: ‘Did Garrison wait too long? Should Garrison have done this years ago?’” said Eric Nuzum, former vice president for programming at NPR. “The problem of ‘Prairie Home Companion’ is it’s part of public radio’s past, not their future,” Mr. Nuzum said. (American Public Media distributes “Prairie Home”; NPR member stations air programs from APM as well as from other distributors.)

Still, Mr. Keillor played an outsize role in shaping what public radio has become.

He was a pioneering force and taught public radio valuable lessons, Mr. Nuzum said. The live performances and touring built audiences and kept them connected and deeply loyal. That proved lucrative, as did sales of “Prairie Home Companion” recordings, books, clothes and tchotchkes. Mr. Keillor also became one of public radio’s earliest celebrities, appearing on the cover of Time in 1985.

“‘Prairie Home Companion’ came on the scene just as public radio was trying to figure out what its identity was,” said Ira Glass, the host of “This American Life.” “The fact that here was such a visibly weird, funny, idiosyncratic show opened up the space of other weird, idiosyncratic shows, like ‘Car Talk,’ and our show.”

Adored as he has been by millions, Mr. Keillor drove a few critics around the bend.

Detractors view “Prairie Home” as excruciatingly hokey, syrupy and dull. In a 1993 episode of “The Simpsons,” Homer bangs on the television — the Disney Channel broadcast the show in the late ’80s — hollering, “Be more funny!” In a withering review of Robert Altman’s 2006 film, “A Prairie Home Companion,” Rex Reed called Mr. Keillor “a myopic doughboy” and his program “a lumbering, affected and pointless audio curiosity.”

Yet Mr. Glass believes that many people mistake “Prairie Home” for quaint, homespun nostalgia, even though the tales from Lake Wobegon are, as often as not, richly emotional, contemporary and quite dark.

In recent monologues, Mr. Keillor has lambasted the gun lobby, told of people’s relatives being buried alive and mentioned a would-be suicidal woman left bald after she accidentally set her hair on fire in her gas oven, a presumably fictitious anecdote that is trademark Keillor: equal parts alarming, heartbreaking and funny.

“Like Howard Stern, Garrison Keillor created a packaging that nonlisteners took as real,” Mr. Glass said. “And the actual show is so much more complex, and human and complicated than nonlisteners think it is.”

Mr. Keillor has had health concerns, suffering a stroke in 2009, and, less than a week after the Minneapolis show, a seizure. But he insists it’s his other projects that compelled him to step away. After July, he will continue to have a small radio foothold, hosting “The Writer’s Almanac,” a stand-alone five-minute radio program he started in the early ’90s. And “Prairie Home” reruns will continue to air. Jon McTaggart, chief executive of American Public Media Group, the parent of American Public Media, said that as much as “Prairie Home” contributed financially, he has faith in the allure of the new version of the show and that “this transition has been planned for a while.”

Still, the future of “Prairie Home Companion,” and public radio, without Mr. Keillor remains somewhat of an open question.

Mr. Keillor’s handpicked successor, the folk musician Chris Thile, 35, who first performed on the show as a teenager, cheerfully admitted in an interview that it could all go down the drain if audiences reject him after he begins hosting on Oct. 15. Details are still being hammered out, but Mr. Thile plans to do musical numbers and comedy bits. There will be no Lake Wobegon.

 Doonesbury — Nobody knows more.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Short Takes

Pakistan and Afghan forces exchanged gunfire across their borders, killing several on both sides.

President Obama smacked down Donald Trump’s attack on Muslims.

Hillary Clinton won the D.C. primary.

DNC computers breached by Russian hackers.

The black boxes from Egyptair flight have a ten-day deadline.

Retail sales in May surpassed expectations.

The Tigers beat the White Sox 11-8.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Short Takes

U.N. warns that 20,000 children are trapped in Fallujah.

Search teams pick up possible signal from Egyptair black box.

Trump U staffers describe “fraudulent scheme.”

President Obama returns to Elkhart, Indiana, touting economic recovery.

Ken Starr resigns from Baylor in wake of sexual assault scandal.

Switzerland opened up the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest on record.

The Tigers beat the Angels 3-0.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Short Takes

American special forces along with Syrian and Kurdish fighters are moving closer to Raqqa, the ISIS stronghold.

House rejected $37 billion defense bill because it included LGBT protection.

Baylor University fired their football coach and demoted President Kenneth Starr over sexual assault scandal.

Gas prices hit eleven-year low just in time for the holiday weekend.

Tropical Update: Invest 91L looks like it’s getting stronger.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Monday, May 9, 2016