Leadership when the boss is indicted

A podcast with Jan Jutte, Washington’s former Acting State Auditor

Adam Wilson Talks To Everyone, Season 2, Episode 4

Jan Jutte steered the Washington State Auditor’s Office through a major crisis when the then-elected State Auditor Troy Kelley was charged with federal financial crimes. In 2015, Jan was about to retire from her long career in public service, but instead stepped up as acting state auditor. 

We talk about the bizarre situation of telling your boss that they don’t get to make the decisions. Dealing with the press. Trying to put distance between professional work and politics. And how, at one point, Kelley decided he literally didn’t want to see Jan — but continued to leave her to runt the office while he focused on his legal defense.

TRANSCRIPT. I use an automated transcription service. When in doubt, refer to the audio. Thanks.

Wilson:
Wilson here today. We’re talking to Jan Jutte who, after 30 years in the public accountability business was about to retire until her boss, Washington state auditor Troy Kelley, was indicted on federal charges. Jan found herself leading the agency where she had spent her career through the greatest political crisis it had faced in more than a century. She did it with grace. She did it with poise. It was amazing to watch and I was there to watch it. I hope you enjoy this conversation with her about leadership, about ethics and honesty and how one handles a crisis. It’s obviously abbreviated. There was so much more that went on and Jan and I talked a little bit after recording this, how there’s many details we had to leave out, but suffice it to say, it’s still an amazing story. If you enjoy this, please check out my website, AdamEHwilson.com, where I have some other stuff for you. And with that away we go.

Wilson:
I am here with the one and only Jan Jutte, and we’re gonna talk about everything, but not everything. We’re gonna talk about a lot of things, Jan. But before we do please introduce yourself. And, and where are you from originally? I don’t know if I’ve ever asked this, like where you grew up.

Jutte:
So I’m Jan, Judy and I was born in Tacoma, Washington and spent the first 16, 17 years there went to Bellevue and finished high school in Bellevue. Spent a couple of years in Texas, outside of Houston, adopted a daughter there and ended up back in Olympia and, and in Olympia for 42 years now. Wow. And

Wilson:
I didn’t know. You spent time outside of Houston.

Jutte:
Yeah, I did. That’s where for spring, Texas. Small town outside of Houston. I went back there just recently. It’s not nearly as small as it was when I lived there. I think the highway’s like, I don’t know, eight lanes or 10 lanes or something now. yeah, it was a four lane highway that hardly had any traffic on it.

Jutte:
But time goes on.

Wilson:
So that’s right. Well, look what we’re gonna get into it because this, I think this is actually gonna be a bonus length episode by the time we get into it. Cause we have a ground to cover this. Let me I’m just gonna tell a, I’m gonna tell a little story so that we don’t have to like keep going back and telling all the dates about a little time Jan and I had with the one and only Troy Kelley, who was the state auditor. And we both worked for him at the state auditor’s office. Troy Kelley was elected state auditor in 2012 after what the press called a blistering campaign. And the blisters came from accusations dating back prior to his time in elected office. He was in the legislature before he was an auditor. But he was in the real estate business and business partners argued with him.

Wilson:
And there were suggestions that he was keeping at least some of these funds that he was supposed to partly repay. And it’s super complicated. We don’t need to get too far into it, but there was hot and heated debates about whether or not he had actually held onto money that he was otherwise supposed to return. After he won election in 2012, he took office in 2013 and there was basically no news about Troy Kelly until March of 2015, cuz he kept his head down after that campaign. But in 2015 March news breaks that federal agents have raided his house on and served a search warrant and the treasury department was in there rifling through his computers and this obviously roils politics, people, it hits them papers. There’s a lot of news. He is indicted, charged with an array of crimes related to his former business, including theft and money laundering.

Wilson:
And things are pretty off the hook until may when and Troy who he was Troy to us, I guess I’ll just keep calling Troy did something literally unprecedented, like never had happened before, which is, he said, oh, I’m gonna take a leave of absence from the office I was elected to fill. And for the reason, like he didn’t want to be a distraction. He didn’t want it. You know, there’s a, he wanted to get out of this fracas that was forming and there was a recall effort. And he said, Jan, our guest today, Jan, you are now the acting state auditor. And he disappeared. He just went away for a while off my radar off the news media’s radar, things were happening in his case. But as far as the office went, suddenly Jan found herself in charge.

Wilson:
And that went on till December of 2015, December of that year, when the legislators started saying that maybe we’ll just impeach him because they were not happy with his behavior. They felt like he had abandoned his office. And so to fight that off, he reappeared one day, like almost literally in the office in December, 2015, he was around in a sort of mysterious way until April of 2016 when his trial finally starts and things take another strange turn because after several days of deliberation, the jury is actually hung. They cannot come to a conclusion and it’s up to the prosecution, the feds to decide whether or not they’ll try again. And he is back in the office the next day after that trial, after that nonverdict came through he fairly promptly fired three senior staffers, including me and some good friends of mine.

Wilson:
But Jan was still around and Jan got to help manage the office through a very awkward nine months or so until his term expired. Troy did not run again for obvious reasons. He was the new state auditor, pat McCarthy took office in January of 2016. And she’s great. But he, Troy got to stick around for another trial in 2017. And I think it was December, he was finally convicted of nine felony charges, including possession of stolen property, making false declarations in a court proceeding and tax fraud. Interestingly, he was acquitted of high accounts of money laundering. So it was still this kinda weird mixed bag. Right. and then he used to keep this going. He kept fighting it for like four years and it wasn’t until a year ago, ish, March of 2021. He had exhausted all his appeals, meaning that he had appealed to the us Supreme court and been turned down unbelievable. And it was unbelievable and now it was finally time for him to serve his sentence, which at this point was one year, one day clearly like a message there. Like you’re, you’re gonna go to prison now. And since that was March of 2021, I have not seen a story saying that he is out, but I, yeah, he didn’t, I assume

Jutte:
He didn’t actually go in until mid or late June of last year.

Wilson:
Oh. So,

Jutte:
So there was still some other wranglings going on before he actually was to, you know, taken to into a federal prison north of Reno in, in California. Wow. Okay. And but with good behavior, this is may the, you know, getting mid-May I’m assuming that he is probably out probably freshly out. I mean, you know, probably not that long ago. Yeah. But I’m assuming that he is not in prison anymore, so

Wilson:
Well, yeah, I do wonder. And you know, the, the final note to make there is that although this was the biggest thing in the world in Washington political news in the early days as he left office, as these appeals wound down, you just don’t hear about ’em anymore. So you know, yeah. You have to go looking for the information to know what kind of like, what’s kind of like important to us, like what happened to that amazing climactic period, but yeah. Well then

Jutte:
That would be Austin Jenkins really followed it closely even to the point of doing enough research that he wrote a pretty big what I think was probably gonna be a beginning of a book. Hm mm-hmm but when, by that time, like you said, in the beginning, everybody was hot and heavy on it. And then when I took over and there was no more news, I mean, you know, the office just continued for a little while after I took over, I would have reporters coming in, but after a while it was like, Hm, they’re just running just like, they always ran. We’ll just watch for a great report.

Wilson:
And,

Jutte:
And so there really wasn’t much interest in what Austin was doing. So he stopped and he he’s the one who noticed that it had been rejected by the us

Wilson:
That’s

Jutte:
Right. Supreme court and that he was where he was gonna go. So I haven’t touched base with Austin to see if he knows if he’s out or not. Maybe Austin isn’t even checking anymore.

Wilson:
Yeah. It’d be, it’s like a, it is. And talking about coming down to individuals, it’s true that like Austin Jenkins stayed on top of that story and was reporting on things long after everyone stopped. Yeah. And it is, I don’t know, it’s a, it’s a strange, quiet, weird end to a strange

Jutte:
Was really surprised how quickly the interest just dropped off and, you know, the public just said, oh, it’s over. No, it’s not, but okay.

Wilson:
Yeah. yeah. well, you know, I, when I think about it, I feel like Troy was kind of the archetypal and battled ruler, the luckiest king, surrounded by people, you know, he, he really viewed himself as hard done and was, but also, you know, people questioned his ability to do the job. And he’s just like there as an archetypal sort of surrounded leader figure who maybe did ill and you, Jan were sort of like the other archetype here, like the wise steward who was in no way, you know, like implicated in any of it and were asked to like, hold up the other end of the spec. You know, if he’s like the strange quasi-criminal turned out, actually criminal end of the poll, you had to be like the upright auditor end of the pool. Right. And if you think I’m exaggerating, people just stick around. But this is kind of a, we talked about this a little bit beforehand, Jan, this is like a story in three acts and let’s start with act one act one is you think you’re gonna retire after a long career with the’s office, but then, then this, the, the federal law enforcement shows up with a subpoena. They search his home, it’s all over the newspapers. Start there. I mean, okay, well, what are your thoughts when you look back in

Jutte:
That time? I remember it was a nice sunny day. It was a Friday afternoon. And you know what Friday afternoons are like in most people’s offices, you’re kind of winding down and mm-hmm, , you know, you’re laughing with your coworkers, those who came in on a Friday that don’t have Fridays off. And, and, you know, you just kind of you know, looking forward to the weekend and I get a phone call and they tell me you need to come up to the, I was in the sunset building and they told me, you need to come up to the insurance building and said, why? Because we’re gonna be served with a subpoena in a little bit from the feds you need to get up here. So,

Wilson:
Yeah. And then to be clear with folks like you’re working, sunset’s kinda like an office building where most of the state auditor’s office work actually happens when they say you have to come to the insurance building, it means come onto the capital campus with the big dome and the big columns, the official that’s where the actual office of the auditor is. Like, you have to get down to HQ with the big stone steps in front, because something big and official is about

Jutte:
To happen. Right. And, and at this point in time, I had been the, the director of legal affairs. So subpoena, you know, called Jan and I was in the process of becoming the director of operations. And so it was kind, kind of both positions really, you know, at least in my mind when I got the phone call, that’s what I’m thinking, cuz I’m thinking we’re getting a federal subpoena for our office, you know, for

Wilson:
Right.

Jutte:
You know, some fraud we investigated or something. I mean, which I thought was really weird cuz we always cooperate with him. Why, why the subpoena? So I, you know, I jump in my car, drive up to the Capitol campus. I go into my office up there and go down the hall to the person who called me and said, what’s going on? And they shut the door. Well, we’re gonna get served with this subpoena. And this is what it’s about. And they tell me this whole story about Troy and it’s like, what is being char there only as being chart, they’re investigating him for fraud and money launder the state auditor. I mean, I I’m just shocked. And then you know, about this time, the FBI shows up with the subpoena and our conversations are in the over

Wilson:
Your eyes have just slightly shrunk down to normal sides when the FBI walks in. Yeah

Jutte:
so, yeah, I mean it was just really strange. However, the records that they wanted from us were really not significant. They were they were records of people that Troy had brought on you know, like their payroll records and the work they’d done and those sorts of things. Okay. We produced that and delivered it. I actually drove to Tacoma and hand delivered it to the FBI sometime the next week. Okay. All right. And, and at that point I was designated the contact for the FBI. So from then on when they had questions mm-hmm they came to me I was also the executive level over public records, which you can imagine what something like this would do to public records requests. Oh yeah. I was also the contact person for public records when there was a concern. I mean, you, they could just file it and it would go through the normal process. I didn’t need to be involved in that, but, but if a press person had a problem or perceived problem, those phone calls would come to me or right. You know, why, why are you withholding such and such? You know what, whatever,

Wilson:
You know,

Jutte:
I’m not really busy, really fast

Wilson:
that’s right. I’ll try and remember to talk about public records. Cause there’s actually, I think some when we’re talking about like the transparency,

Jutte:
The great, we, we came up with some great solutions that I think have been mimicked by other organizations now. But we just, that was a combination of our attorney who helped us brainstorm and, and Mary, who is our public records officer, just trying to figure out the best way to manage this barrage and not have anybody feel like we were stonewalling them because we weren’t, we were overwhelmed. We have one public records person.

Wilson:
exactly.

Jutte:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was,

Wilson:
She can only do so much. Yeah.

Jutte:
Overwhelming, unbelievably overwhelming. We had to bring in other people to help her. I mean, we couldn’t keep up, but anyway. Yeah, yeah,

Wilson:
Yeah. We’ll maybe we’ll cross that bridge and act two, but act one. So now you’re, you’ve been subpoenaed, you’ve delivered a few papers. But what what, what do you think of when you think back to like it becoming when he’s indicted and now this is like front page news, like, what was your first inkling like? Okay, now, now this is an actual crisis.

Jutte:
Well, to be honest, my first thought was he needs to resign. He needs to step away. Mm-Hmm I mean, you know, you have to realize at this point in time, I have 30 years, over 30 years into the office. Right. was ready to retire, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a love for this office. I just think that in, in fact here I am five years retired, I’m still calling it our office

Wilson:

Wilson:
That’s right.

Jutte:
It will always be a

Wilson:
Part of you were invested. Yeah.

Jutte:
I mean, the work that this office does is amazing work that the public has no clue really as to mm-hmm the benefit that this office provides them by making sure that state and local government is you know, spending their money legally and appropriately. And that we’re on top of frauds. And I mean, we, and it’s an office that has extremely high percentage of college graduates and mm-hmm, , it’s very professional people. I mean, it’s just a standout office. And to think that there was this man who had been there this very short amount of time was soiling the name of the state auditor’s office. I mean, my, my first thought was he just needs to resign. He needs to step away. Right. And,

Wilson:
And you weren’t alone. You weren’t alone. I mean, like, I think as soon as people and I don’t just mean in the office, but like, I think as soon as this broke and it, it, it hit the nightly news and it was on the drive time radio the immediate expectation in the political spheres, like, well then you’re just gonna have to resign and fight this. If you say you didn’t do it fine, but you have to get outta here. And I think it really blew some political minds that he said, no. Yeah. Like Troy Kelly was like, no, , I’m going to stick around. And that’s that’s you know, I remember

Jutte:
Because Troy thinks about Troy, he doesn’t, he, none of the decisions he made were for the benefit of the office, they were all for the benefit of Troy. Now some of them ended up being to the benefit of the office, but mm-hmm , that was just, you know an accident . I mean, that yeah. Was it was all about Troy.

Wilson:
It’s true. It’s true. You know, and I don’t, you know, it’s kinda somewhere in there’s there’s like the human element and I, yeah, I was talking to my wife, Jessica, before we got on just last night, like yeah. You know, I wonder if he’s outta jail yet. And you know, it’s kind weird and it’s, you know, I also remark, you know, like Jan and I don’t have any like animus, but, you know, he was not, he wrecked a lot of havoc and did a lot of damage and, and Jessica made exactly the same point you did, because it was all about Troy Kelly. Like every decision was about Troy and he just has a very narrow worldview. So everything he did, you know, certainly beforehand, but definitely, definitely once things got hot and heavy, then every decision was made with a, a, a, his own personal viewpoint, which again, sets up this weird thing where you were left with the job of trying to separate his personal problems from the professional work of what’s supposed to be an accountability and transparency office.

Wilson:
Right. well, let’s talk about that conversation. So at some point there’s like a month of editorials and the, the, I, I remember the press literally were trying to like catch him coming into the office. Like physically, if you guys don’t know, you know, like out there in TV land, a podcast land, you know, like when you have to get footage of the guy that’s being accused and you’re a cameraman for a TV station, you actually have to physically find the guy you can’t like stage a walk through. So they would try to find him when he was coming up, those stone steps. And it was like this weird game of cat and mouse where he’d somehow he would get in the back door when they were at the front door and the, you know, it was hilarious. So crazy.

Jutte:
Some of that coverage was some of that footage was unbelievable. I mean, he thought he, I think he thought he was making himself look good, but he didn’t

Wilson:
I had the same impression, like he’s like, I did a really good job there. It’s like, you literally were filmed running away. , you know, ,

Wilson:
there was a terrible moment for Thomas Shapley, who was directors of communications, where I think a hoard of press showed up in the insurance building, you know, the big officials building and’re out in the lobby. And like, we wanna talk to Troy and I’m pretty sure that Thomas felt like Troy was gonna come out and say a few words. And then didn’t, and then it was just kinda like, this is again like this isn’t, if you’re a news consumer, this is like something you read about in a flat piece of paper, or you watching a flat screen, but in real life, when you’re in these situations, it’s a, three-dimensional, you know, a dozen reporters moving over, Thomas Shapley, Thomas Shapley in the doorway being like, I don’t think he’s gonna come out and somewhere he’s like listening behind him because the guy is physically there somewhere moving around, you know, but this goes, this goes on for like a month. And then tell me about how you learned that you were gonna be in charge and he was gonna step aside. And, and what went through your mind when he came up with that plan?

Jutte:
So first of all, the week before I found out it was gonna be me, I had been in talking with him, making my recommendation, which was not me

Wilson:

Jutte:
We, we had a chief of staff who was amazing and he wasn’t high on Troy’s list at that particular left time, because, well, just because they had different styles. And anyway, I was trying to make my case that he really was the best person to run this office in Troy’s absence. But then the Monday before I, I was ultimately to take over, I was driving home from work. I was in his, in an area at the time that didn’t have great cell service, but I could see that it was Troy calling. So I answered it. And of course he talks really softly. I wear hearing aids, I have trouble hearing him to begin with. And then I’ve got a poor connection. So I’m trying to follow what he’s saying to me. And so when we got, when he got all done, I said, okay, I need to repeat to you what I think you said to me. And so I repeat that you are, you are designating me as acting state auditor, is that correct? Yes. And it’s gonna be May 4th. Yes, that’s correct. So I was almost home by that time. So when he and I got done talking, I got home and I called the other members of the executive team because I was sure he didn’t and he had right. And I didn’t want them to hear it some other way.

Wilson:
Mm-Hmm

Jutte:
and then I sat down and just started thinking about what that meant. And the, I irony of this whole thing was my original retirement date was May 1st. And he was delegating to me as of May 4th. Now he already agreed to stay on for a few months to implement a new position, which was director of administration. So I had, I had planned a trip of a retirement trip starting that weekend of following May 1st. And I didn’t cancel it. I told him when I was gonna stay on for a period of time to implement this position, I was still gonna take this retirement trip with my daughter and son-in-law two grandkids. And he had agreed to that. So anyway, so this is what I mean, I have all these things swimming in my head. I have a trip planned,

Wilson:
Right? Yeah. This is like normal human stuff. Like, wait, wait, wait,

Jutte:
Wait. On the day I was gonna retire, gonna start this new position. And, and now I have just committed to staying through the rest of his term, not a few months. I just have all this going on. It really wasn’t as much about running the office. I’d been in the office over 30 years. I’d been over almost every division of the office. I’d I’d done audits myself. I mean running the office, wasn’t, wasn’t all the stuff that was going through my mind. It was all this other stuff.

Wilson:

Wilson:
And then, well then you make it official. I remember there’s a great, at least a memory of mine is that this has to be made public. And I think there was some inclination that this is, this was gonna be his solution to the problem. But you ended up having like an actual press conference where you talked to people about this and it was well attended. And I remember one of the stories, I think it was the Seattle times remarked that, you know, you’re in an office where Troy’s stuff is on his desk. Troy’s stuff is on his wall, you know, you know, but standing on the carpet, you know, it is just like you meeting folks in the office is Jan Jude .

Jutte:
Yeah, that, that was my first ever pre first ever, and last press conference. And, and to Thomas’s credit, it was Thomas who said, you know, this is, this is the best way to handle this. Jan. Let’s just invite everybody and let’s let, ’em meet you. And you just talk about your vision and you’ve got this, you, you know, this office, you’ve got this and they’ll be here comfortable with what’s happening. And so we did, and I had, you know, three of the members of the executive team standing behind me off to the side who were the other three people that Troy was considering. And they were behind me, not, I mean, they were behind me literally, but they were behind me in spirit. They were gonna that’s right. Me through this. And that was abundantly clear. But yeah, it went, it went, well, I the one, this one is probably fine.

Jutte:
You know, they kept throwing question after question after question at me and I, I was able to handle, but I remember that I had been meeting Troy to give him some, oh, I think it was, you know, we were trying to figure out from the time we got served with these papers and Troy thought maybe he would go on administrative leave. We were trying to figure out the legal ramifications of that. So I had some right ag memos on, you know, what that meant and how we might do it because there is no such thing as administrative leave for an elected official. Right. So I mean, I, I asked a whole bunch of questions during this period of time of the ag office that had never been asked in the history of the state. So,

Wilson:
Well, yes, I was

Jutte:
Sending his papers to him anyway. And so we decided to meet at, at an Asian restaurant in DuPont and they just kept asking me question after question after question. And finally I said, I don’t remember the name of the restaurant it’s by Starbucks in DuPont and find that TEI chicken. And so did, and they just laughing. It was like, what more can I tell you?

Wilson:
The noodles? We’re fine. Yes. It’s so true. And there were, yeah. yeah. The demand for information is off the charts. The questions are unprecedented and, you know just so everybody knows you, if you are an elected to an office, like you are the state auditor, then you are not like you are the public servant, but you weren’t an employee who clocks in, clocks out. You don’t yes. Have vacation time. You are the state auditor and you’re paid to be the state auditor. And you’re

Jutte:
The state 24 hours a day, seven days a week,

Wilson:
Wherever you are. Right. Yeah. Unless you, and even if you say otherwise, like, so, and so’s making these decisions, you’re delegating that you’re still somewhere, the legal chain goes all the way up to you and from you to the public. Cause the public picked you to handle, to be in charge of everything that happens in that office. So yes, at things like, oh, I’m not gonna be the auditor right now and Jan’s going to do it. It raises like, you know, how does that work do? And, you know, he made a big deal of not getting paid and not getting, you know, he, he tried to like somehow separate all those, like HR benefit stuff to make it, especially clear that, Hey, look, I’m backing out. You guys want me to resign, but I’m not gonna resign. I’m just backing out for a while. But at the same time, if you talk to a legal scholar, they’re like, wait a minute. You know, like he’s still around. He didn’t give up his office. So in theory, he could have come back at any moment and just said, I decided we’re not gonna go right anymore. We’re going left. I don’t wanna go top. I wanna go bottom, whatever. But we’ll get to that. That’s act

Jutte:
Two. Yes, we will.

Wilson:
so I do think like there’s something to talk about. There is like let’s as a, as a example of the difference in your style and talking about this demand for like, what’s going on, what’s happening is, is auditor’s office in chaos, are those public records requests. Everyone wanted all of his calendars. They wanted every email he ever sent. They wanted to know everything in anything Onri in writing that was going on with Troy Kelly. And we, I, we only had one public records person. We were going as fast as we could. And we did. I, the thing that stuck out to me is like, we just started like taking, like once we had gone through like say the emails and said, this is what’s publicly disclosable, we just put it up on the website. You know, you talk about like being open. We’re like, here it is everybody, if you wanna look. And

Jutte:
And in, in part that was because, you know, we’d have 15 press people asking us for, you know, public records, you know, emails and calendars. And, but they would all have a little bit different parameters. And you know, so each one had to be handled independently. And so we just said, let’s start putting ’em up on the website. They’re public records that, I mean, what’s to hurt with that. And then if, you know reporter number four sees that all the records they wanted really are in the one that we just filled, then they can cancel theirs. Or they at least have them earlier because part of the accusation was they didn’t want one press person getting information before they got their information. Well, right. You know? Okay. I get, I get that whole competition thing for you, but I don’t know how we manage that internally. Right. So that was our solution. And that, that was in part, you know, brainstorming between myself, our attorney and our public records person. We just said, you know, we wanna be as transparent as possible. How do we demonstrate that? And I think that became a Best’s practice. I mean, I think we were really praised a lot for mm-hmm us taking that and just saying, here it is, we, we have nothing to hide. As soon as we redact something, there it is. It’s out on the net, go get it.

Wilson:
Right. Yeah. It’s a start of a theme or it was part of, I don’t think it was a start, but it was a example of a theme that you struck that, you know, and as you often point out, you know, there’s other people involved, the executive team at Sao was very good and there was a sort of like, we’re going to be the best auditor’s office we can be anyway. And Troy’s problems are Troy’s problem. So yeah. Talk about that where, you know, it’s probably a little much to say, well, what’s your vision when you had just been like, Hey, you get to here’s the keys to the car, start driving . But you know where did that tone come from and how did it serve you in act two, which is the, now you now you have business cards to say, Jan, Judy acting state

Jutte:
Well, let go back and just say one more thing about act one. When after the phone call on Monday night I asked Troy if he and I could meet on Tuesday, he didn’t always come in every day. So I didn’t know, but he did. And we sat down and I said, look, before I accept this position, I’ve got some, I’ve got some requirements. If I’m gonna run this office, I’m, you’re not gonna interfere. I will make my own decisions. You don’t get to give me input. I’ll give you reports, you know, every week, every two weeks, once a month, whatever of what’s happening, but you don’t get to question what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. What was some of the other, I mean, there was a laundry list of things that you know, oh, that I, we, this office, I will not, Thomas will not take any questions regarding your charges.

Jutte:
That is your personal thing. We will talk about Sao. We’ll talk about what, how, what we’re doing internally. We’ll take care of public records. We’ll do all of those things. But your thing, if we get phone calls, we will refer those phone calls to you. Or if you wanna give us your contact, your attorneys’ contact information will return, will refer them to your attorney. And he agreed to all of those things. Now, some of those things will fall apart as we move forward into phase two . But it’s important that people understand. I, I knew this was a risk and I knew that we had to come to an agreement right up front that if I’m the boss, I’m the boss. If I’m not, I’m retiring.

Wilson:
That is an extraordinary deal, right? Yes. It’s. I mean, I love that you were so upfront and to think about this, you’re like, you’re saying, well, fine, I’ll take over, but to my decision’s not yours. And yes, this is a very important again, getting that line in the sand that like, if you, they ha, if the world wants to talk about Troy Kelly and Troy Kelly’s charges, then they have to go talk to Troy Kelly and his legal team. Yeah.

Jutte:
They have nothing to do that. The state of Washington has nothing to do. This is between him and the federal government for things that happened long before we even knew there was a Troy Kelly, we have no role in this.

Wilson:
And it didn’t, it was, well, it

Jutte:
Didn’t take very long for people to realize that and they quit calling. So, yeah,

Wilson:
But I mean that again, like not everybody would’ve taken that tact. It was the right one to do clearly in hindsight. And it’s just, again, I think like a, a great decision when you think about like a crisis decision making, right. You know, like when you think about how to lead an organization through a crisis, like splitting that off early was like brilliant and necessary and led to like, what I thought was a pretty idyllic maybe that’s too strong a word, but it was a compared to that big explosion in controversy and crisis. That second act where Troy Kelly has faded into the background for most of us, you are making decisions. And it seemed to me that the office went rolling right along like the audits were being done. The work was, and the work was not being questioned. Cause I know we spend a lot of time thinking about, well, now if we put out an audit saying, well, this person broke this law or they didn’t follow this, this they’ll be like, well, what do you know? You’re the auditors office and your guys, you know, yeah. Like in the stocks downtown. So

Jutte:
Yeah. I, I just thought it was important to establish that cuz we will see later in this conversation that that agreement fell apart. He forgot about that agreement again, because it was all about Roy, but

Wilson:
Right. Yeah.

Jutte:
No, but yeah. You know, again, I make the point, this office has extremely good policies, procedures, really extremely good management structure. And we talk a lot internally and keep each other informed. It was easy to run the office. Plus I have 30 years of experience on both state and local side. Most of it on the local side, but on the state side also I was not unknown to our audit clients. I might have been unknown to the public, but I was far from unknown to our audit clients. And I had become a national speaker on, on governmental auditing and accounting. So I was even known to those national organizations because I had spoken at their conferences. So I didn’t have to prove myself to anybody in the office, anybody that we audited or anybody that we interacted with nationally which made it, I’m gonna say easy, but , I mean that there were other things, but, but it did make it easy.

Jutte:
I mean, and our staff is so professional. I mean, all I had to do is say nothing has changed. Keep on doing what you’re doing. If you need help because a client has more questions than you feel you can answer, you know, have them call your manager, have them call Kelly, have them call me. And we’ll take care of it. We got very few of those calls. These people know what they’re doing. They have relationships with these audit clients. They know them. We just went on, I, we didn’t miss one date of issuing reports. No reports got delayed.

Jutte:
Yeah, the signatures got changed on the bottom of the report, but Yeah. So I mean that part of this job was amazing. And the one thing that it did was solidify the executive team I’ve been in this office had been in this office for over 30 years. I don’t know, probably 24 or 25 of those years. I’d been in management. Mm-Hmm I had never, there always was somebody on executive team who had their own little agenda. Not now once we, once we were in this position, we were all in it together.

Wilson:
Right, right. There’s that sort of like unification of like, if you’re under pressure, then we’re gonna yes. Pull together and we’re

Jutte:
Gonna, yeah. I didn’t have to worry about a single person on that team, on the executive team talking about something they, that we said we weren’t gonna talk about. Or because there were things that we didn’t want to get to the field staff. They didn’t need to know it. They, it would’ve just stressed them out. We were dealing with it. But, and those things stayed within the executive team as they should have. And that, I, I never once had to worry about if somebody was off doing something that might cause me a problem. They weren’t, they were right there for me. And I had excellent people. I mean, I had, you know, I had Diane Perry in over administration who had been over administration at state patrol watery at DSHS. Right. You could handle it. Yes. I had Chuck file over performance audit need I say anymore. I mean, I had Kelly who had been, you know, director of local government for a number of years. I mean, I just had such a strong executive team that it was amazing.

Wilson:
It was, it was a kind of, it was a cast of characters. You know, there are a few folks who are still in the office, but a lot of them like you, you know were, you know, like they were near retirement, they had decades of experience. And so it was kind of like an ACE squad of like, if you need steady people who know how this works, you had a pretty incredible cast. I, you know we mentioned him, but not by the name, Doug Cocker I’m the chief of staff was himself, a county auditor. Yeah. And I really enjoyed Doug. He definitely wasn’t Troy style. Cause if Troy was spoke softly and spoke to three people, Doug Cocker spoke loudly and spoke to the whole room every time. But he literally the guy, you know, as you know,

Jutte:

Wilson:
Yeah. He as a old, like kind of a old school politician, should he knew every person’s name like, oh, that was his, I felt like that was like, he saw his job description was like, your job is to learn the name and the interests of every person who works. Cause it was

Jutte:
Like four and he pretty much did all 400.

Wilson:
It was amazing. I never was in a room with him at any kind of office meeting where he could not like, Hey Caitlin, how are you? You know?

Jutte:
Or in the middle of some do you know? So and so on team. So and so, and they did this

Wilson:
Yeah. , it’s true. I remember Barb Hinton who was the, the lead auditor of Kansas’ legislative audit division was also with us at that time. So it was, it was a pretty remarkable squad and I mean, what’s do you have like a, a moment that sticks out that when you thought, okay, actually we’re gonna do this we’re we’re we are making this happen. Like we’re running the ship.

Jutte:
I don’t think I ever doubted it from the very beginning. I mean, I knew that people going in, I was part of the executive team. I knew who I had in place going in and I knew this office inside and out that wasn’t my worry. My worry was the press, the external stuff, the public records. That’s really where, where my concern was. And you know, you talk about Doug. I mean, Doug immediately put together a plan of making sure I got around the state to all the local government associations, whatever they had going on. So that mm-hmm and if they didn’t have anything going on, then we set up a specific appointment so that they knew I was on board. I had not changed my phlo. I mean, you know, just, just needed to make that connection.

Wilson:
And can’t reassure, ’em like, I’m here.

Jutte:
Yeah, yeah. I’m here. We’re gonna continue on and you have my phone number, call me if you need me. I mean mm-hmm and it was well received by everybody. So yeah, I mean it, I, I just knew all aspects of the office were covered. It was all the other stuff that really was more of a concern to me

Wilson:
Makes

Jutte:
Sense. I’m not a politician, which in part maybe makes why, part of the reason that Troy and I are at opposite ends, I’m a profession, right. Who wants to see this office succeed? Because it does an amazing thing for the state, for this people of this state versus a politician who wants to stroke their ego and continue to have a political job. That wasn’t my, I mean, I made it clear from the very beginning. The governor met with me that same day. I had the press conference and I made it clear to him from the very beginning. I’m not running for this office. It’s not right on my list at all. I will get us through this term and somebody else will take over.

Wilson:
Right. Well, you know, and I, I feel like we have to acknowledge that that was governor Jay Insley and his crew. And they were definitely in my view, helpful, like they, oh yes, this was not a case of them like cutting the office loose and being like, well, , you know, it looks like your ships burn. See it. I felt like they did as much as they could do because it is a separately elected official who’s in charge of the auditor’s office. And then there’s the governor who runs most statewide executive agencies. But so, and there, there can, and there should be limits to like what one official can do to influence another’s agency. But in the, I, I, you know, I don’t think anybody will ever know how much like that kind of back chatter and support there can be between particularly, you know, when the governor’s office holds the keys to, to the budgeting systems, to the you know, whatever the HR systems, you know, the computer systems, you know, they were in any way trying to undermine us was my, if anything, trying to prop

Jutte:
Us up fact, the governor does have the authority to ask the attorney general to put an observer in, in an elected official’s office that they have concerns about. So had, had, he had concerns with me after he and I talked, he could have asked the attorney General’s office to put an observer in our office and report back to the governor as to whether we were yeah. So,

Wilson:
But that didn’t happen.

Jutte:
That didn’t happen. But when you and Thomas and Doug got fired, he was gonna fire me. And that’s what stopped him. Wow. Because

Wilson:
He, well, that’s see. Yeah. ,

Jutte:
We’re getting ahead of story again.

Wilson:
Don’t jump ahead. Don’t jump ahead. That’s the cl battle. Okay. So this is we’re in phase two and things, so things are running fairly well and you know the audits are getting done just so everyone knows. There’s like over 2000 local governments in Washington, cities, counties, fire districts, water districts, every one of them gets audited. There’s like 2000 audits put out every year and this, so it’s, the auditor’s office is not like you got a couple jobs to do. It does a lot of work and that work just kept right on humming. And the audits went out every week, like they’re supposed to but then yeah you, you know, you reference like Troy started to forget some of that deal. And as we got into the fall we started hearing political rumblings. Like you, you know, again, yeah. This sort of this world of like, Hey, I’m a little city and I’m worried that you guys aren’t gonna do my audit properly. And those people are being taken care of, but to the larger scale political apparatus of this state, they’re like, oh, ho, ho, ho. You know, this guy just like walked out. He should have resigned now he’s not in office, but he still holds the office. And the trial hasn’t happened yet. And there begins to be this rumbling of like, we’re just going to impeach him. And this is like a bipartisan thing.

Jutte:
He got, he got signed by a large number. I don’t remember anymore of a bipartisan telling mm-hmm design. Yes.

Wilson:
Yeah. Yeah. So tell me, tell me about that. Like, when did you start getting the feeling like, oh, he might be, he might be back.

Jutte:
Well, at first I thought maybe he was gonna be gone.

Wilson:
.

Jutte:
But then kind of out of the blue, I didn’t, I mean, I knew that the legislators had sent the, these letters, you know, saying they wanted him to resign. The governor had sent a letter telling him to resign a as we were moving towards this session. And and all of a sudden I’m sitting at home in the evening, you know, watching brainless, nighttime TV and my phone rings and it’s Troy and I’m thinking, oh, brother .

Jutte:
And he informs me that he and his attorney have decided he’s going to come back to the office the next day. And I, the next day, the next day. And I said, oh, Troy, please don’t the office is running well, the staff will be upset over this. This is, but again, my argument was about the office, which I should have known better. I should have been thinking about things I could say that would be to benefit to him, but it was all because the legislature was now in the process of I lost the word

Wilson:
Impeachment,

Jutte:
Impeachment, and mm-hmm they were going to impeach him because he had abandoned the office. And so the only way he could stop that impeachment was to come back. And he assured me that even though he would take back his title of state auditor, and I would no longer be acting state auditor, I would still run the office as if I was acting state auditor. He just wanted to stop the impeachment.

Wilson:
Yeah. Yeah. He just wanted to save his own hide there, which, and so, and his own pride. And I mean, to, again, trying to be fair to Troy Kelly, he I’m sure to this day believes he was totally innocent. And he felt like if to be impeached and removed from office was like, you know, on what grounds I am totally innocent. But that was a crazy day. And I,

Jutte:
Well, I think the other, I think the other thing was, you know, at this point he’s spending a ton of money on attorneys. And by coming back, even though he wasn’t actually working, he could reinstate his benefits and his pay. Mm-Hmm and I think that was also a consideration. I mean, I think he could now see that this was probably going to go through whatever money he had set aside. Oh yeah. And, and he needed money. So it was a combination, but again, it’s all about Troy. It’s not about the office. It’s not about what’s best for the office or the state. It’s about the best for drawing.

Wilson:
Oh, well, yeah, absolutely. But it, it is kind of like, again, just the, the strange of this episode of the way, the sort of tragic quality of it is like, I I’m guessing now, but I feel like when they said, well, how much ill gotten gains are we talking about? It was somewhere around a million dollars, a million dollars of, I gotten gains of which I feel like if I remember this correctly, he like immediately, once he got an attorney and he was charged, he gave like $300,000 back, right. Oh like, well, here’s a down payment to show my good faith. Well then now you’re down to 600,000 something. Right. You know I forget how much exactly he put in there, but then he’s paying like five attorneys for what would turn out to be like this week long or more jury trial that I am sure burned through. I mean, I’m sure it was like a half million dollar defense at least just to get through that first round and then he had another trial. So it is kind of this interesting scenario just for him financially in that, like, he got rich through means that we now know were not entirely.

Jutte:
And, and toward you, you say it was a, a million and that is the, the amount that they had documented, but there mm-hmm . But if you do some analysis of it, the FBI would say that it, it is probably 3 million. It’s just that you have all the records to be able to prove the 3 million. So they prove the million, which, you know, we do, we do when we do fraud audits too. There’s sure there’s a certain amount of that money. That’s just, you know, it costs you $5 to go find a dollar of it. So you just quit. Mm-Hmm but yeah, so it it’s up to millions of money.

Wilson:
So right on, on the table, but I am sure that whatever, even three is probably gone by now.

Jutte:
Oh, oh, absolutely.

Wilson:
Absolutely. Like he is in fact, his

Jutte:
Second, second trial, he asked for a public defender, but he wasn’t given the public defender because he wouldn’t sell or Mortgage’s house and he wouldn’t take out his 401k. Geez. So,

Wilson:
Yeah, my gosh. Yeah, my gosh. Okay. All right. Yeah. Back to the story. the finances aside, but its clearly did not work out and yeah, it just kind of gross to think about. So he, he comes back and I, I remember this day because this is when Thomas Shapley, the communications director is like, I am done with this guy. I am not doing, I’m not gonna stand out there in the lobby and talk to reporters who I’m supposed to tell the truth to on his behalf. And so then I got to go up there he’s like, oh, battlefield promotion, Thomas Thomas is not going. So you get to go Wilson and well

Jutte:
In sports next up

Wilson:
that’s right, exactly, exactly. And I thought, you know, what’s interesting is that it went fine because this was a slightly different Troy, right? This is a Troy that’s been out for a while. And not that he was suddenly forthcoming and apologetic or anything, but it worked fine to be like, here’s, here’s a couple reporters I wanna talk to. And he talked to him, here’s another couple and you wanna talk to him and then you tell all of ’em the same thing I am back officially. I am innocent. I blah, blah. You know, it was just like, kinda like I’m Troy and this is what I’m doing. So that was okay in like kind of the inverse way of like the big, first big explosion was like, oh man, this is chaos and confusion. And now Troy’s gotta go, Troy comes back. But it’s not really back. Right? Like he’s not doing anything that I could tell that was like really interfering with the office. He was kind of symbolically back. Am I reading that right? From your perspective?

Jutte:
Yes. When he first came back, it was pretty much what he told me. I’m gonna come back, I’m gonna make appearances periodically, but you’re still running the office. So just keep going the way it’s been going. And so we did that for a while and I thought, okay, well this will work till the end. I can do, I can do this.

Wilson:
Right. Yeah. That went on for a couple months. Cuz he is getting really, his mind was on his trial. Yes, yes. Clear. Well everybody’s would, but I mean, I think that his mind was, you know, 23 hours a day, except for the one where he is probably asleep was working on that trial. But that takes us to act three, which is like now he really is on trial. he’s so now you know, we’re doing our job and, but he’s literally on trial and the coverage is back and it’s a bizarre thing. There’s kind of a spectacle cuz it’s again about financial misdeed. So hard to piece apart, hard to make the argument. So share your memories. Jan, how did it go when your wa let’s stop right there? What were your thoughts during that period where you were like trying to keep things operating? And literally the boss, the state auditor of Washington is on trial

Jutte:
and the presser showing him on TV every night, they’re getting the most unflattering pictures of his expressions to put on TV at night. this, this whole 21 months really taught me a lot of things about press. Right. you know, if, if you’re not in their favor, you’ll never have a picture that is flattering if you not in their favor, every picture will be flattering I never had a picture that was anything other than, you know, very, very good. I mean, right. You know, anyway

Wilson:
Well some of that is like an accurate reflection of reality, you know in that, like you stood in front of the cameras and smiled and answered questions till you were like, literally explaining what you had for lunch. Right. which engenders a certain like amount of credibility and Troy would literally sometimes he would talk, but more often he would, he had, yeah, he had these strange expressions on his face. Like he was pained to be having to talk to you or,

Jutte:
You know, losing weight. I mean, it was pretty obvious. Yeah. Yeah.

Wilson:
Mm-Hmm he didn’t look well at all. No, he did not. I mean, who would, but yeah.

Jutte:
Yeah. So anyway, back to your question so it, it was a difficult time. I tried to convince him not to take his pay while the trial was active to just go back on leave mm-hmm , you know but, and you know, if you don’t wanna actually take leave, at least don’t take your pay. Because I just think the office is gonna be ridiculed and I don’t want this overshadowing, the good work we’re doing. And as it turns out the press, really, I mean, you know, they did report that he was being paid, but they didn’t make as big a deal out of it as they could have. Mm-Hmm and we really didn’t get the public calling us or anything. I mean, we got a couple, I mean, I took a couple calls that were pretty rude, but you know yep. That’s nice. I,

Wilson:
But I remember, well, he kinda set us up in that way too. Troy did, in that, like he would come in during his trial on Fridays. Yes. I felt only. So that the answer is Troy Kelly working would be yes. Yes. Not that he was actually no conducting office

Jutte:
Business. He didn’t actually do anything. If anything, he’d just be in the systems scoping and seeing what was out there that he, you know, could irritate us over. But

Jutte:
Yeah, he didn’t actually do anything productive, but I think that just the visual of that, the, you know, how that played out. I, I really tried to get him to not take pay during that time, but he wouldn’t which is an indicator he needed the money and, and I get that. I, I get that, but mm-hmm , but again, my role is to protect the office, my oral, to keep the office running. Right. And to be ethical and honest, and that didn’t match with what his goals were. So yeah, he did take his pay and it, it did get some press, but not as bad as I thought it was gonna be. But I did worry about it quite a bit. Because you know, any, any black mark he would bring to the office just was not deserved by the office. So, you

Wilson:
Know, yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, at this point, really, like not only did, were his, his crimes commit, his commit crimes were committed before he took office, but then he had been out of the office and not making decisions there for some time in me in a mean any kind of meaningful way. So it really didn’t deserve to reflect on the office. But then we get this bizarre, the, you know, the jury goes to deliberations for day one day, two day three. I think it was like, it really was like four or five days, maybe six. Yeah. I don’t deliberations.

Jutte:
How long? I just remember that you went on and on. Yeah.

Wilson:
Yeah, yeah. And then this is like, okay, they can’t do it. They’re not gonna come to anything. So he was acquitted of one charge out of like 14 and the, the other 13 are hanging out there and and he’s gonna, and he’s back the next day. So talk about that sort of like 24 hour cycle between like, oh, it looks like they’re not gonna get a resolution to like now. And then when I say he’s back, I think now he’s like, I’m back. And in his mind he had been acquit of everything in

Jutte:
My, yeah, yeah, of course. Yeah. That’s how he would see it. That was really, really interesting. And I hope that I’m not saying something that governor Insley would be upset about, but postman David postman and I were in touch on a regular basis. And and his attorney at the time, who is now the us attorney just LA brown, his last name was brown mm-hmm anyway, we were in touch every single day that the jury was in deliberations. The governor already had the, my swearing in documents ready.

Wilson:
Oh, wow.

Jutte:
Mm-Hmm everything was set up. We were keeping each other in the loop constantly. And all of a sudden I get a phone call that says he was just acquitted. He was it. We, no, the jury just came back. He, it was a hung jury. Right. And all of us were just stunned, you know, out of 17 or 18 charges that there wouldn’t have been one felony, which would’ve right. Once he was convicted of a felony, he automatically would be out of office that that would remove him. So the governor was totally ready to make this a done deal and right. I, I mean, that was just

Wilson:
As well, he, you know, a good choice and would be pragmatic to do so. Like, you want to be like, cut this off. Be like, now it’s over, but no. Right.

Jutte:
Yeah. So and then, like you said, then the next day he princes in like king or what, I mean, it’s just, you know, it’s like, and it was uncomfortable. I mean, it got to the point and, and again, he still was not he wasn’t running the office on a daily basis, but at that point he felt empowered to sometimes just randomly show up at executive team meetings. And there would be certain things that we really didn’t want to talk about in front of him cuz we knew he had a different opinion than we did. And we knew what was right for the office and we didn’t wanna fight about it. And I mean, it, it, it became uncomfortable and he, you know, he would throw a wrench into something that we were working on. Yeah, it, it, he had a different attitude when he came back that, but he still wanted me to run the office at that point, which was bizarre.

Wilson:
Yeah.

Jutte:
And you started to see, or those of us who interacted with him frequently more frequently than we probably wanted to you began to see that his mental health was taking a toll. Mm-Hmm that he was N not as rational as he used to be. It was hard to talk, talk to him about in most anything. Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Wilson:
He, he had a, so my, my last bit there, he, at first, when he came back, cause he didn’t wanna be impeached. He would hang out at the insurance building near the capital and sort of a symbolic I’m in the office way. And then everyone skid and there was very few people who would stay up there with him, except for like me sometimes and the woman who had to answer phones for, you know, when you call the state auditor’s office and people just kept their distance. Then he gets the hung jury and he starts showing up in the business office where most of the auditors are, you have state agency auditors, local team auditors, the financial people for the agency itself, the HR department, all these people in the hub of activity. And he starts showing up there, I think in part, because he was trying to hide from the press. Yes. At the Capitol, he was trying to avoid being seen well and

Jutte:
Well, and that office was secure. You couldn’t, oh, you couldn’t walk into that office without a key card or the receptionist letting you in. So he knew that the press couldn’t get to him.

Wilson:
Right. Absolutely. He was kind of hidden away and he took this little, like literally this office, like down to like the end of a hall,

Jutte:
No

Wilson:
Window. And I remember, yeah, no window. People would like peek down the hall. I remember this. And like, look to see if the light on was in there. Right. They didn’t

Jutte:
Wanna go down there and then go the other way around so that they didn’t have to go by his door. They

Wilson:
Were physically avoiding him. Yes. Yes. And then, you know, but it didn’t take long for him to give me the hi ho Thomas Shapley the hi Doug Cochran, the hi ho. And that was very painful. But I remember that we all three of us talk like, well, we have to talk publicly about this. Cuz we felt like there were more next. Like he was just going to go through the office. And so we felt like we had to like make a big stink out of it and talk to the press when maybe you normally wouldn’t because we wanted him to know that this was not, that this was newsworthy that people outside of his own brain would say that this is untoward. And that’s what we could do. But as you were hinting, you know, like he was maybe gonna try and get rid of you. He was talk, talk about like how you checked that sort of like the, the attempt to sort of behead the whole office, if you will, or at least the executive team.

Jutte:
Well, it, yeah, it was really aimed at people that he felt should have been defending him during his trial. He had completely, this is why I wanted to bring up that we had this agreement up front and he had totally forgotten that agreement. And even when I tried to remind him of that agreement, he would just brush it off and no, I should have been defend, you know? And, and so was, you know,

Wilson:
Was picking up the phone and been like, Hey no, Troy, Kelly’s a great guy. Yeah. That’s what he started

Jutte:
Thinking. Yeah. He couldn’t possibly have done this. He’s just way too nice. But so it was the two communication guys, you and Thomas and he, and Doug had not been getting along for a while. And of course Doug was not go, Doug was taking some of the press calls and he was not gonna defend him. And then me. And so he fired the three of you. And by the way, I, this was, he waited until I was on vacation. He wouldn’t do this right with me sitting there in the building with him. Mm-Hmm because he knew that the first one who got fired, would’ve gone straight to me and I’d have been in there. But he was informed that if his intent was to fire me, when I came back from vacation, that they were pretty sure the governor would ask the attorney general to put an observer. And he did not realize that the governor had that authority. And so he stopped short of firing me. But when I came back from vacation, he promptly informed me. He never wanted to see me again. I could continue to run the office. But when he came to the sunset building, he did not want me in the sunset building. He wow. Yeah. And we pretty much didn’t see each other, but, and an occasional time where we accidentally passed in the hallway or something, which was mm-hmm me, but

Wilson:
yeah. You didn’t miss him.

Jutte:
Yeah. But, but it was really weird because, you know, he would be in the computer systems, looking at decisions we’d made or whatever. I mean, we were interesting, we were constantly trying to continue to run the office professionally without him interfering in it. Yeah.

Wilson:
So that’s tough to do. Yeah.

Jutte:
Our goal at that point in time was just to get to the end of the term. Sure. And things functioning. So

Wilson:
Sorry. Get my little visitor here, came by to steal my water. Oh, he’s intrigued by your story, Dan. He also in shock.

Jutte:
When I got my vacation. He not only informed me didn’t want to see me anymore, but then I, I, well, of course, while I’m on vacation, I’m on the phone, you know, first Doug calls me and I mean, you know, it’s just, and then we had other exempt people calling and my next, I don’t know, I didn’t know he was gonna do the other ones. I mean in fact my daughter and son-in-law will tell you that that vacation was awful. So when I got,

Wilson:
Yeah,

Jutte:
Kinda

Wilson:
Hard to focus, right? Yeah. On your vacation. When

Jutte:
The HR person approached me and asked me if I just wouldn’t take vacation again, till until the term was over. And so I, I did take a few long weekends, but we just didn’t let him know, but I didn’t take another vacation.

Wilson:
So did just so you could keep your eyes on just so he

Jutte:
Would go, I was there because it was pretty clear that if I was there, he wouldn’t do it. I, I don’t know why I intimidated him that much, but evidently I did.

Wilson:
Well, you’re intimidating.

Jutte:
So while I was gonna, I mean, I, if I kept him from firing more good people that’s what I was gonna do. So so

Wilson:
I think that’s the end of act two. I mean like kind of, or what do you wanna add

Jutte:
There? Well, I just wanted to add that, you know, I mean, Tom has had already given his notice to retire, so he retired a little bit earlier. Doug, Doug landed on his feet, you know? I mean, he, he just went ahead and retired. He could, and he probably wasn’t planning on doing it that quickly, but you know, oh, well, but you were the one that really, it, this was not fair too. You were doing your job, you were defending the office, you were answering on behalf of the office. You were, you were doing an excellent job. And every one of us on the executive team, including the other two got fired, just wanted to see you land on your feet because it was totally wrong. You had a young family, you’d just been, I mean, yeah.

Wilson:
Well, I appreciate it. I appreciate it. Thank you. And, you know, it’s all worked out and we, we can, we won’t flash forward to that, I guess, to the complete end, but, you know, what’s, that was a strange moment for me personally, that yes, we Jessica and I were engaged. We, you know, we were mid getting remarried. But we ended up getting married that summer anyway. And , you know, it was strange because here were all these folks from the work family, right? Like lots of our friends from Sao and, you know, it was great. It felt good. And it was a great time to get married and, and move on, but it was also this very strange thing. And I remember talking to, I mean, the, we had John from the office do the officiating , you know, so like the guy that married us, literally reading the band was from the office.

Wilson:
But then they, you know, we’d hear these terrible stories of the awkwardness right now. You know, like there, there was supposed to be the summer barbecue, which was an Sao tradition and folks in the Olympia area anyway, would go to like the parking lot and barbecue, hot dogs for a day in the summer and talk, build team rod about, I just about combined team spirit and comradery to team lottery, but that’s what they would build. But, you know, they described to me this scene, which you were probably there for where they were handing out like, you know, five years with the office and good job on this audit kind of awards. But there was literally like this bubble around Troy, cuz he tried to go there. And so, but nobody wanted to get literally within like 10 feet of him, you know, like there was like this kind of chill and so I can , you know, it just, it lets people, I hope people understand that, like it was otherwise a very tight knit office. Yes. And great spirit. But there was this kind of weirdness started out at weirdness and then just ended up straight at disdain. Like I didn’t realize that he just told you, I don’t want, literally don’t wanna see you. Yeah. Like, I mean, come on.

Jutte:
Yeah. Well that’s the first time I’ve ever told that publicly. I mean the executive team knew it, but publicly wow. You know, that was one of those things that I said, you know, the staff does not need to know this, that we can keep the office running smoothly. They don’t need to know this. This is the stress that they don’t need. So this stays with us and it did

Wilson:
Got it. Well, tell me about that now. I, okay. I’m gonna skip forward. Cause I, you know, , there’s too much to go into, but so, but things generally, you just have to like I think of this as like landing the plane without the engines. Right. He’s back, he kind of feels like he can do things, but you don’t want him to do things. He’s not innocent even though he feels innocent. And so you have to sort of like just be there and help the, help him get to the end of the term, help the office survive till the end of the term he’s out in January of 2017. It’s like, you know, your elect, the election was in November, 2016. New auditor takes office in January, 2017. That’s pat McCarthy who later, you know, let’s finish that story, hires me back later.

Wilson:
Thank you pat. She’s great. Wonderful. and I, you know, just, she really is like a good person and that’s who you wanna work for. Yeah. but you had to kind of bring that in. And we talked about this a little bit when we were thinking about doing the podcast, this was a, like, people were throwing flowers at you at the end of this because you had to put up with it and keep things going and tell me first of all, I mean you, what was it like to kind of do that kind of weird sort of like I’m gonna try and retire again now under completely different circumstances

Jutte:
Three times, three

Wilson:
Times three. Yes

Jutte:
Well I just have to say it, it was the strangest way to enter, to end a career. What I think was a stellar career, actually the offers gave me great opportunities to, you know, to become expert in governmental accounting and, and auditing and speak nationally and participate with national organizations as well as all the local government organizations in the state. It you know, right up till this all started. And I, I think virtually every one of ’em gave me some, I have a whole box of awards out there in the garage that last, you know, six months or something

Wilson:
Like these are professional organizations too, like are saying, wow, you really, you know, thank

Jutte:
You for this together. One, some of them gave me lifetime memberships to their organization and you know, I got plaques and just all kinds of things that but it really wasn’t just me. It was the whole executive team. And I can’t say enough for our staff, our staff, you know, this could have been very disruptive and they got up every morning and went to an audit site. And every time they went to a new audit site after May 4th they would have to, you know, answer questions and, and keep it professional and keep moving forward. And you know, people who’ve never worked in our office, don’t understand it, what a tight budget they have to conduct in some cases, a three year audit. So to take the time to calmly answer people’s questions and give them reassurance was an impact to them, but they did it. And every time I got an award, I would just praise the staff because they did it. I didn’t do it. They did it.

Wilson:
Well, but you know, you did something, do you have, I totally agree everybody. That’s part of what makes you great. , you know, I absolutely appreciate the truth of what you’re saying. But would you, do you have looking back on any advice for leaders who are, you know, what, what do you do when the boss gets indicted? Jan, what’s your,

Jutte:
I don’t, I don’t any leader. I don’t care if the boss just got indicted or you just worked your way up and you’re the leader, be honest, be open, be ethical, and then it’s all gonna be okay, do your job, whatever your expertise is, do your job, know your job, be honest, be open, be ethical. And the rest of it takes care. It takes care of itself. You

Wilson:
Got nothing. It sounds remarkably simple, but you

Jutte:
Say it does. And, and, and once you kind of get in the habit of it, you don’t even think about the alternative. Why would I hide this? This is what happened. And if I hide it and they find it, it’s gonna be worse than if I just say we made a mistake. I mean, mm-hmm, , mm-hmm, why not be open. People are forgiving, but if you hide it and if you’re, I mean, I just have no patience with somebody who’s not ethical, but right.

Wilson:
It’s true. But it’s, it’s amazing how if you are, are working long enough or alive long enough, like how frequently those three rules are violated Jan, like and Troy Kelly was not the first, there are plenty it’s astounding to me. How frequently, you know, I guess our fraud audits are a great example. Like how often people are not open, they are not ethical.

Jutte:
The whole need to have a state auditor’s office or CPA audit firms is because people don’t follow those three things. And in government being open is just non-negotiable. I mean, that’s, it’s what you signed up for. So don’t complain about it. Don’t hide it. Don’t whatever, that’s what you signed up for that living in the United States of America. If you’re in, in government, you signed up to be open.

Wilson:
Absolutely. You know, this is how democracy works is that we, the people have the power and we delegate that power to elected officials, to government agencies, and we expect that job to be done. And we expect to be able to see for ourselves that it was done and to have someone check and see that it was done and that the money went were supposed to. And I totally agree with you that there’s, there should be no patience whatsoever for any kind of ation or dishonesty in government. I mean, that’s part of, you know, you’re talking about a culture and I think that’s, you know, kind of what SAOs about is maintaining that culture of honest brokerage in government, you know?

Jutte:
Yes.

Wilson:
Well, what are you doing now? Jan?

Jutte:
Well, finally enjoying the grandkids. I was traveling a lot till the pandemic hit, but now I’m starting back up again, just got back from six days in Victoria and leaving June 1st for three weeks in Montana and enjoying life enjoying.

Wilson:
Yeah. Right. How’s that transition? I mean, you talk about like, you know, like kind of that strange, like farewell where you had managed through the worst but people recognized it, you know, do you did that, like what your appetite for sticking around doesn’t seem like, it seems like you were like, no, now I’m going back to plan a, which was retired.

Jutte:
The only time I thought maybe I should have run for office was during a pandemic. I’m, I’m an extrovert. I’m single mm-hmm and I was locked down. I didn’t like it. Right. but I mean, the flip side of that is, you know, financially I wasn’t impacted, I have a nice home. I mean, I, I had a lot of things going for me, so I, I really can’t whine too much, but I will . but but no, I, I miss the people and prior to the pandemic, I went back and saw the people a lot. I had was having lunch with pat every, you know, three, four months or something after the office. And so I was still in touch and got to see a lot of the people, which I really did miss them. But and, and I’ll honestly say going from working to retirement was the hardest adjustment I’ me.

Jutte:
It really was much harder than you know, adjusting to being acting, state auditor, or adjusting to the mini twists and turns that Troy had. You know, I, I, I loved what I did. I loved getting up every morning and going there mm-hmm I just knew that it was time. And in part I wanted to have some time with my grandchildren before they were in school, full time because of the extra 21 months, I missed my granddaughter. She was into school full time, but my grandson, I got some time with before he was in school. But yeah, it, it definitely took me a while to adjust to this new not quite so driven but yeah, it’s, it’s good.

Wilson:
Good, good. Well, I am really glad to catch up with you. I feel like we just breeze through some crazy times in record time. People, this is like a true statement. People will never know.

Jutte:
No,

Wilson:
You will never know how truly bizarre that all was. And like you said, the numerous, you could probably just write a book based on the attorney General’s opinion you had to get

Jutte:
. Yeah.

Wilson:
You know, and the strange, the strangeness of it, but I’m glad we got to talk because and I’m glad that you’re doing well, because it was, I feel like probably not taken as seriously as it should have been. I feel like there’s a little bit of a leaning on, maybe we could close on this. There’s a leaning on this culture. We have of good government that, oh, well, we’re gonna get rid of them. The, the, the wheels of justice will turn and it’s all gonna be okay. And then it kind of was because good people stepped up. But we need to remember that’s because there were good people and that they knew what good was and they stepped up and not just because there’s always somebody ready to do that. And I think that we have seen, and I don’t wanna get too political here, but there have been instances where there, you know, the wheels of democracy were in question where there maybe somebody good wasn’t gonna step up or the things weren’t gonna follow the rules and they’re not there to be taken lightly.

Jutte:
Yeah. Yeah. It’s a, you know our country rules in a way that is kind of a, a delicate balance. And I think we, as citizens need to stay in touch with what’s happening. I get a little frustrated with some of my friends who pay huge attention to what’s happening at the federal level, but they don’t even vote for school board or city council or county council, or and it’s important to know what’s going on locally, as well as those higher levels. We have the power if we want to stay educated enough to wield that power. And it’s discouraging when, when we don’t and it, and it puts our governance at risk.

Wilson:
Well put well put, which is why we should all vote for Jan Judy, best retiree.

Jutte:
Oh,

Wilson:
Well, thank you, Jan. I really appreciated catching up with you.

Jutte:
Yeah, this was, this was great.

Wilson:
We’ll stay in touch, right? Yes. Maybe we’ll rehash times twice over .

Jutte:
Yeah. Maybe this summer we could meet at a park and the kids could play, cuz I haven’t seen the kids in forever.

Wilson:
That would be great. Yeah. And you can yeah, they they’ve changed

Jutte:
A little bit. Yeah. I’ll bet.

Smoked goods are good for the family

Podcast episode 2.3 with Kevin Mayer

Adam Wilson Talks to Everyone, Season 2, Episode 3

Kevin Mayer has taken up smoking. And I don’t mean of the nicotine variety, but smoking all variety of foods, from bacon-wrapped Oreos to cheeses and beyond. I really enjoy his focus on family and the way when we cook, we bring family together. Hope you enjoy this episode.

TRANSCRIPT. I use an automated transcription service. When in doubt, refer to the audio. Thanks. 

Wilson here. Today, we’re talking to Kevin Mayer, a long-time, great, friend of mine who has taken up smoking. And I don’t mean of the nicotine variety, but smoking all variety of foods. And it’s really amazing. The repertoire he’s built up from bacon wrapped Oreos to making jalapeno cheese. And he talks about the delicacy of trying to smoke cheese — which I hadn’t thought about before, but it does tend to melt. So how do you avoid melting the cheese while you’re smoking it? It’s good stuff. I enjoyed it. And of course through it all, I really enjoy his focus on family and the way we cook, we bring family together. So it’s a great time. Hope you enjoy it. If you want to check out other stuff I’m doing as always go to Adamehwilson.com. And tell your family, tell your friends, like subscribe, all that stuff. And away we go.

Wilson:
I am here with Kevin Mayer, the man. And why don’t, why don’t you introduce yourself and where you’re from, man?

Kevin Mayer:
Hey, Wilson. Ugood to catch up, my man. Kevin Mayer, I am from Genesee, Idaho. Home of Adam Wilson.

Wilson:
Oh, man. Yeah, the greatest

Kevin Mayer:
It is. It’s unbiasedly. I’ve done some research. It is the best place to grow up in the country.

Wilson:
See, it’s gonna start showing up on lists and then they won’t, we won’t be able to visit anymore, like

Kevin Mayer:
Spokane. Yeah.

Wilson:
It’ll be like you remember, we used to like we’d go up to Spokane. It was like “Spo-Vegas,” you know, people…

Kevin Mayer:
Man, I do. Boo Radley’s and oh,

Wilson:
Go to O’Dote’s, the Irish bar there and …

Kevin Mayer:
Oh yeah. I put a dollar on the wall, a dollar on the wall. And if that dollar’s on the wall, if they find your name on the dollar on the wall, then you, then you drink as if you were a friend and not a patron. If you run out of money.

Wilson:
Nice. See, yeah, that’s good stuff. But yeah, word’s gotten out and now, you know, I don’t know how Genesee is, but it seems like it’s — I was just there not too long ago. It’s blowing up. Right? Like not like blowing up. But there was like I dunno, there’s just, there’s more kids there. I think. I don’t know if you keep track.

Kevin Mayer:
Dozens. There’s dozens of kids. Yeah. And so, yeah, it’s it’s crazy. I, I think there’s probably at least hundred kids in the high school. It’s something. It’s really booming.

Wilson:
Yeah. There you go. Have put on an addition.

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. Trailer out, back for the extras.

Wilson:
Yeah, exactly. Okay. Okay. Well, look, man, we’ve been friends forever, but I’m so glad you decided to do the show. We could talk about anything, but what I have noticed you doing social media wise and your social media persona is doing like crazy. I’m. I’m about to call it barbecue. Although I bet we could talk about like what it actually is, but like just amazing stuff in the culinary arts, right? Oh

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. My smoked goods. And I mean that to be meats, cheeses, desserts, pickles relies boy, I, I can think of other nuts. I I’ve smoked Toppings, we’ve done ketchup mustards. We’ve done seasonings. It’s the salt. I mean, you can do it all,

Wilson:
Anything on there. You can smoke like ketchup and mustard. What do you,

Kevin Mayer:
You can, you can’t well, I mean, you really, you’re just, you’re just adding a layer of smoke to whatever it is you wanna put on there. And so you want smoke ketchup, you know, put it on the smoker for an hour, make sure it’s in something safe, so it doesn’t blow up. Right. You don’t wanna put the plastic bottle on there, but yeah. Put it on there for an hour. Yeah.

Wilson:
I’m sure.

Kevin Mayer:
Smokey mustard, smokey ketchup. We’ve done a little relish over the years. You can do anything. I mean, the, the possibilities are endless and that’s kind of where I got intrigued. I watched a buddy do this about 20 years ago, 15, 20 years ago. And he made us some chicken on his trigger and I could not at the time believe how wonderful it was. It was, it was juicy on the inside. It’s crispy on the outside. It was just amazing. Right. And it’s just this totally, totally new to me. And I always thought, boy, someday, I’m gonna do that. And then you know, fast forward I get married shortly after that. And, and my wife buys me a electric smoker Christmas birthday, I don’t remember one of the two they fall close together. Right. Right. And, and off we go and right. And I’m doing these things and, and with wood at the time that was wood chips into the electrics smoker. That would just add a flavor of the smoke. Right. But it’s running on electricity. It’s actually plugged in. So …

Wilson:
How does that work? An electric smoker? Is it just like, kinda like an element in it or something it’s just like burning the chips? What’s …

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, so it’s yeah, it’s got an element in there. And, and you plug it in like a, a outdoor plugin. Right. And it’s got racks in it. The electric one, I had required a water tray at the bottom, or it’s not required, but it’s recommended you put it, fill with water and then the smoke kinda passes through there and into the meat, onto the racks. And then there’s a chimney on top. And the smoke kinda just, as you can imagine, it just rises up, it pours through the food, it goes out to chimney. It adds this level of, of smokey flavor, you know

Wilson:
Sure. OK.

Kevin Mayer:
Cherry wood, apple, wood, whiskey chips Hickory, whatever your choices are or whatever it is you like they’ll have different unique profiles. And that’s kinda where I’ve started. And then the goal always was I I’m gonna work my way up once I get that into getting a once I can get that figured out, cause it’s, you know, five, 600 bucks or whatever, 700 bucks. So they’re

Wilson:
Okay.

Kevin Mayer:
Serious. It’s an investment. Right. Right. And then the,

Wilson:
Oh, that’s, you had to level up

Kevin Mayer:
You, you’re not kidding. And that’s for sure. And, and so we worked through this for a couple years and then as luck would have it for me, a guy in Clarkston, Washington, which is close to where I live in Lewiston now had one for sale. He’d only used it twice and it was virtually brand new. And it was about half price of what they normally cost. So I, I, I was able to catch him very quickly once he, once he had it posted for sale. And I, I said, I’m coming over. I’ve got, I’m my way. You know, knowing, knowing I’m buying and, you know, I call’s my wife and told call. It’s like, Hey, we really need to jump on this. As luck would have it. It was July. And my standard propane barbecue had just gone completely to pot, right?

Kevin Mayer:
Over a large 4th of July barbecue. It was falling apart. And so got through that. And then, okay. Later that week, this guy had this one for sale and I, I went and inquired about it and I grabbed, my oldest brother said, we’re gonna have to go get this. I’m gonna need some help. And when I got there, the guy, the guy who was selling it, I said, man, this is, this is brand new. And, and he was gonna give me pellets and he is gonna give me a cover. Oh, wow. And I’m like, what’s the, what’s the story? Does it not work? Is there some problem? And he, and he said, and I quote, yeah, the problem is my wife decided she doesn’t like smoked food after I bought this. And so he said, you know, wrapping this back to wives, he said, she, she told me she’s not eating smoked food. She doesn’t like the way it tastes and to get rid of it. So here I am.

Wilson:
So like he had failed to follow your, you know, smarter, more strategic approach, right. Where you,

Kevin Mayer:
The key, the key, if possible, is to allow said, wife, call in my instance to, to decide that we, we need the trigger.

Wilson:
We, right. You know,

Kevin Mayer:
As a family yes. As a unit, this is, this is something we need. And so that was probably five or six years ago. I still got the same one. It’s still still running strong. I just

Wilson:
Like a point

Kevin Mayer:
But to her was that I would burn it to the ground before I got rid of it. And I’ve tried. So we’re off and rolling.

Wilson:
I, you, weren’t the first man, by the way, to like decide, call somebody, tell and Clarkston, Washington, you know, Clarkson, Washington. I know. Cause I, I used to live there. You, you can call people and say, I’ve got some money. I’m coming your house. I’m bringing my older brother in case I need some help and we’re

Kevin Mayer:
Went smoothly. We loaded it up and took it home. Got it. Up. One flight of stairs to where my deck is. Yeah. And it’s, it’s been in the same spot with the exception of changing a couple rubber, rubber mats that I keep it on ever.

Wilson:
Well, this is, so this is the, is like the piece of equipment, the much sought after piece of equipment, which you got a great deal on, but you gotta tell people like, so the trigger is a whole thing. Like, what is this thing versus like, I think most people when you’re talking about, well, I’m gonna cook some food on the back deck. They’re thinking of like a, a pillow shaped barbecue with some briquettes in the bottom. Right. But this is a whole new whole level up, right. I mean,

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. Whole level up. It’s a, it’s a pellet smoker. It it also plugs in right. For, for keeping temperature and whatnot. So that, and but you, you run it off of wood pellets not the same kind. You hear how house width, but food grade, wood Pelle similarly you can get ’em in all different kinds of flavors and and you, you fill ’em into your, into your trigger and it just, it pushes them through an auger and, and puts smoke up through the grates of your trigger. So you can imagine it somewhat like a barbecue in the you’re you’re stuck in on greats. But the idea is that you’re running it off these wood bets. And at least for me, and, and I know there’s people that don’t do it this way at a very low and slow tempo. So I I’m a big fan. Oh yeah. When I use mine of, of low and slow, that’s where it’s at for me,

Wilson:
Like the Beastie Boys.

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah, exactly. Like the Beastie Boys. I’ll keep things on a pretty slow, pretty slow process. You can get your triggers up to, you know, I won’t speak for everyone. People line ’em with bricks and they do all kinds of things to get the heat up. Mine usually won’t go above 3 50, 3 75. Oh,

Wilson:
Really? Won’t go above that. OK.

Kevin Mayer:
Unless I get, you know, you can, you can do things to get them there. I usually won’t do that. I’ve had, oh, I’ve had, you know, a couple barbecues where I did do, I was just making hamburgers and the grease flares up. And you can, you can catch a fire in there, which I’ve done. You can, you can unfortunately send you off the tips of your hair. If you wear it up kinda spiky, which I’ve done. There’s some debates on whether or not my eyebrows have been scorched

Kevin Mayer:
During some of this process. That’s that’s every time that’s happened to me when I’ve done it at a higher temperature than I’d like, so I’m not, I’m not saying don’t, if that’s what you’d like to do, then my all means have at it, but it’s not really meant for cooking burgers and dogs. And then things that require a higher temperature it’s to me. Yeah. And for my purposes and the people, I know that, that run them it’s more low and slow and add smoke flavor over hours and hours of cooking to ingrain that flavor in with your food. That’s what I do.

Wilson:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s a totally different environment. Like, so I, I do not, I do have, this is, you know, get there’s this important wife element in all of this. Right. And I remember mentioning to, to my wife, Jessica, that I really, I like, you know, I grill and just like the Weber. Right. So it’s what most people think of like high temps on an open. Great. And I was like, yeah, someday I’m gonna get the the ranch kettle, which is the giant one, the huge style, barbecue. And then we’ll do like a whole pig or something. And she, one day on my birthday, I think I go off and I’m driving outta the driveway to go get some of the kids and semi pulls up in front of the house and she, and I see Jessica going out to talk to him like, Hey, I gotta go get the kids. What are you doing? She’s like, oh, I’m gonna just talk to this driver. She used to work for the teamster. She’s like, you know, just talk some shop. I’m like, oh, it didn’t. Even to me, like, I was like, go truck driver. I gotta go.

Wilson:
And I get back. And it was the ranch kid. I had been delivered on a pallet. Right. So this, oh man. Huge thing. I was like, what? So I,

Kevin Mayer:
That is awesome.

Wilson:
Yeah. It was a great gift. Super generous, but it’s so big to your point, like the, the couple times I put it to use and you’re like cooking burgers or dogs, the amount of temperature that comes outta there, like, yeah. I like sin the arm hair. Right. You know, like percent you’re using cheap, like barbecue tools and they’re made outta plastic or they, that plastic on the end, they just, it melts off. Right,

Kevin Mayer:
Right. Things get a little hazy. You you’re watching it. And it’s like, whoa, it’s kinda a warp warped vision of what you’re actually cooking. And

Speaker 4:
Yeah. Yes. And it’s which

Wilson:
It’s done in a flash too. You’re like, you put it on and you work your way to the other side, like, oh, that’s burning quick, quick.

Kevin Mayer:
Well, and I won’t speak for you, but I’m out. And it’s the middle July. Let’s call it. Or July 4th, somewhere in there in Lewiston, Idaho, which I’m at, it’s a hundred degrees. Right. And I’m on my back deck and, and I’m sweating. And if I’m barbecuing I say, barbecuing, not smoking. If I’m doing Bo burgers and dogs or whatever, I I’m gonna have a few cold beers. Let’s just call it out. Yeah. I’m not, not having cold beers and barbecuing in a hundred degree weather.

Wilson:
No, sure. No, it’s a safety precaution is what it’s,

Kevin Mayer:
It really I’ve gotta stay hydrated at all times. And you know, and so they might, might have played into some of the chaos around trying to barbecue in a smoker. But you know, that’s tough to say,

Wilson:
You know, it’s hard to know. It’s hard to know how things would’ve turned out otherwise.

Kevin Mayer:
It’s, it’s tough because, you know, maybe I, if I hadn’t had those peers, I would’ve passed out heat exhaustion. You don’t know how these things go.

Wilson:
You could have like, yeah. Faceplanted into the trigger because, so, yeah. But you know, this is, this is all like, this is like what people think of, or like, not what people think of, I guess, but like, this is like mainstream barbecue. You’re sweating like a pig on the 4th of July cooking burgers. And you the Trager helps you go like to that low temperature for hours, like a long time, right? Like hours, right.

Kevin Mayer:
Hours and hours. I mean gosh, on a normal for July, if I’m not doing something weird like that, where I I’m rushed, I’ll put something on in the morning. Like, I’ll, I’ll get up, get something, going, put something together, put it on the trigger, like wings or, or something that cooks it a lower temperature, or even like a pork shoulder. And then you’re not out there. Cause what you’ve done is you just it on the trigger and you know, okay, I’m gonna put this at 2 25 over time. You figure out temperatures with weights and, and what you’re cooking. And, and you know, I know I’ve got three, four hours. I can go do whatever I need to do before I need to do whatever’s next in my process to get this thing going. It’s just, now it’s just sitting there soaking up smoke.

Wilson:
Right.

Kevin Mayer:
As long as we’ve got pellets and nothing weird’s happening you know, you can wander away or you know, last summer I had a niece graduating high school up in Genesee Taylor, high Taylor. Yep. And

Wilson:
One of the hoards, what she, the H

Kevin Mayer:
Yes, oldest brother’s youngest daughter. He has three daughters, very patient man.

Wilson:
He is old Pete. Yeah. He’s a good man.

Kevin Mayer:
Oldest brother Petto. Yes. And And what the request was, the request came down. What Taylor wanted was six. Well, she wanted pork shoulder. She wanted pulled pork.

Wilson:
Oh, right. The classic, the classic.

Kevin Mayer:
Right, right. We’re talking like a hundred, 200 people. Ooh. So I call who call is my wife is very helpful in these things. Cause the way my mind works, I underst down the smoking process and then the temperatures and getting things together in flavors. But the actual idea of 200 people to me, it’s just like, hell yes. I can figure that out. Right. Absolutely. That’s no

Wilson:
Problem. I just take the recipe and I multiply it by 20 and

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. That’s the part I don’t do. And she, and call’s like, you know, you need like of whatever it was. I’m like, OK, cool. And she’s like, hang on, do you think that’s all gonna fit? I’m like, I don’t, I assume so. She’s like, well, you’ve already committed. And so I’m like, well then looks like we’re locked in. It ended up being what we did was six, 13 pound pork shoulders. And that’s what would fit and, and for like, shoot, I started ’em at maybe 5:00 PM because I knew this was gonna be an overnight process. And so I put ’em on at five, maybe four or 5:00 PM. And then I just let, ’em go all night. Right. I, I mean, I got him maybe once, maybe twice to make sure everything was copacetic and just let it go. And it’s just sitting there soaking up smoke and it’s cooking, you know? And then you get your, your thermometer out. And probably by the time I was done, these things smoked for 14, 15 hours.

Kevin Mayer:
And when you’re done, though, you pull ’em apart. I mean, yeah. You pull the bone right out. There’s no struggle. Like just put, put a pair of gloves on you, grab the bone, it slides right out. And then it’s just a matter of ripping this stuff apart with your hands. And you’ve got all this beautiful pulled pork and really you haven’t done that much. I mean, there’s some prep. Right? Always. and you know, we, we did a couple different ones. We did. So ’em with a couple different kinds of barbecue sauces. So whoever likes, whatever can get, whatever. Right. Man, the process and the slow cooking process allows for really tender meat and can just slide a bone outer you’re in good shape,

Wilson:
Shape of beauty, the thing of beauty do you so how’d it go over? How were the 200 people I had,

Kevin Mayer:
I had several people while we were up there, couldn’t believe that we made it. And I say we, because Callie helped me. She, she, she helped with a lot of stuff. I

Wilson:
Either don’t wanna do. Were they talking to you at all at this point? Are you just like,

Kevin Mayer:
No, no. They were like, this is amazing. Someone were like, this is the best I’ve ever had and, and, you know, take it with the great assault. Right. These are a lot of people I know, but you know, still it’s no that’s worth the effort. Right.

Wilson:
It’s good.

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. Yeah. Happy, happy family members that you were able to pull it off and happy wife. Cause she’s getting some credit for it too. And so it’s it was good man.

Wilson:
Happy wife, happy life, my friend.

Kevin Mayer:
You ain’t good.

Wilson:
What about so I would, I took a stroll through memory lane before this and like looked at some of the stuff you’ve done and like okay. So sure. Pull pork shoulder is like the classic of North Carolina barbecue. And I think you did yeah. Did you like another classic smash burgers, right? That’s where you like

Kevin Mayer:
Smash burgers. That’s a recent thing. Yeah, we did that. I, I get these ideas you know, from various places and I saw that one somewhere online. I wanna say maybe all things, barbecue. There’s a guy on there, chef Tom and I’ll give him a lot of the credit for a lot of the stuff I watch and get ideas from. And I think did one, I just kind tweaked made it my own, but you essentially you’re smashing the burgers. And the way I like to do it is I get a handful of chopped onions. Okay. And I smash the chopped onions with my hand into the burger and make it flat. And so it also then incorporates those onions. And you know, maybe do hire me one, do 12. You can probably get 12 really good ones out of maybe a pound and half a meter or something.

Kevin Mayer:
And then put ’em on the grill or on the trigger. Those do cook a little bit of a higher temperature. I try to slow mine down a little, maybe like two 50. And then I pile ’em up and so get ’em on there and then hit ’em with some cheddar cheese. Then you get some bacon, then you get pickles. And I put all this on the a before I’m done. So that all gets some of that smoky flavor to it. So I got, I get two burgers on there, the smash burgers and then the pickles of the bacon

Kevin Mayer:
Various sauces depending what, who I’m cooking for and what they want, kids, wife differences, et cetera.

Wilson:
Right.

Kevin Mayer:
They turn out, well, it’s a flatter burger, right. But it’s it’s big and very tasty. That’s actually how I prefer to make ’em nowadays. Oh yeah.

Wilson:
OK.

Kevin Mayer:
I prefer that to regular burger as long, you know, you make a regular hamburger for people, especially if you’re barbecuing and it’s tricky people it’s too pink. Yeah. It’s not pink enough. Mine’s pink.

Wilson:
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Difference between like pink and nobody wants it and burner crisp. Nobody wants it is like a couple seconds. It seems like, you know what I mean? That’s

Kevin Mayer:
Right. Yeah. It’s like, you turn around. Cause your kids say, Hey daddy, and you turn around and all of a sudden you’ve got burnt hamburgers.

Wilson:
Yeah.

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. So, yeah. It’s with these, you take out some of that guesswork cuz they’re flat already. So when they’re done, they’re done.

Wilson:
That’s cool. Well that, yeah, that’s an innovative technique for like the classic burger, but then, but you’ve gone farther afield than like these twists on classics, right? Like what did you real recently did like chicken drumstick lollipops, or it looked like you were like cutting the, to stand up and

Kevin Mayer:
Very recently in fact this weekend and that was my first go at it.

Wilson:
OK.

Kevin Mayer:
I got a chick, a chicken rack, like a drumstick holder.

Wilson:
Okay.

Kevin Mayer:
For my birthday and I, I wanted to put it to work, see how it did and this weekend I had some time. So to make the lollipop out of the drumstick, you have to cut the, cut the drumstick above where the bone part is. And so just a little bit above there, slice it all the way around. And then you are essentially scraping all of the what’s the word I want rubbery parts of the drumstick off, right? Yeah. So which are the parts I don’t like I’m, I’m not the drumstick person for that reason. I like chicken thighs better, but that’s the reason why. And so I had, I was making Arine putting Arine, you know, for an hour or so. Let the, let the, let a marinate, meanwhile, while I’m making the Brian call who volunteered to help me is doing all the work. And

Wilson:
I interviewing the

Kevin Mayer:
I wannas what you see on, on, or wherever I social is my work, but behind the scenes, poor C who is volunteered to help me either because she doesn’t want me to cut a finger off Or, or she doesn’t want me to be doing it all day helps. And so she, she did the prep work and then onto the, onto the Drager after the Brian and pretty painless, you know, you season them up onto the trigger for oh a couple hours. And then at the end I hit him with a, like a Mo sauce, which is barbecue sauce or whatever else you wanna put in it.

Wilson:
Right. And

Kevin Mayer:
Due to the shape of them, which are like a lollipop imagine a drumstick lollipop. Yeah. Due to the shape, you can just dip it right in. So it just, it dips into the barbecue sauce.

Wilson:
Oh, I hadn’t even thought of that. Yeah.

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. And then back onto the trigger for, I don’t know, 15, 20 minutes to get a glaze on the barbecue sauce. And off we go and they were a little spicy for my liking. Okay. For my first go at it full disclosure. But my son, who’s all things spices. He devoured him so good. We’re all set there. That’s

Wilson:
Cool. No, I guess people can’t see it, but like the, the, what I thought was cool is the way you’ve cut the stick. You don’t have like a, you know, like a bulbous, whatever, you know, like a classic chicken leg, you’ve cut it down. So it’s like a lollipop. You just got meat at the top and a bare bone. And I could see how that yeah. It would just be like perfect for a sauce. And

Kevin Mayer:
It’s yeah. It’s, it’s pretty, it’s pretty good and unique and I’ve never done it. And my buddy Shannon, he does. And he, he tell me about him. In fact, we were over the weekend, we were having a beer on Saturday and he was telling me, he’s like, Hey man, you gotta, you gotta fire these up they’re killer. And so I took them up on it and I, and Sunday, I, I decided to give it a whirl. So it’s good stuff.

Wilson:
That’s cool. And okay. There’s more of your amazing concoctions I wanna ask you about, but we should talk about like grinding and prep, because this is like transformational in my view, like, you know, when we were, you know, when we were like in our twenties VO, we’d like, you’d go like get a steak and you just like, slap it on the barbecue and, and kick it and that, you know, tasty, but like the difference between that and something that’s been marinated or bra overnight is like, yeah,

Kevin Mayer:
Oh, you’re not kidding. And I remember those days and just a very small little $20 grill from Walmart and two big steaks and no concern of butter or seasoning or

Wilson:
Yeah.

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah, for sure. And you know, now depending what it is, I like different kinds of bris. If I’m doing a steak I don’t need anything but salt, I get core salt. Mm.

Wilson:
And

Kevin Mayer:
I’ll do, what’s called a dry Brian and you coat coat the steak in salt and air on the side of more salt, right. By liking like you wanna be able to see salt and, and if you can get co salt all the better, and if you really want to get crazy, I’ve probably got six or seven different kinds of quar salt that are flavored. Like I’ve got seaweed, salt and lava, salt, Hickory, salt. Huh. And you just coat it. Right. That’s all you need to do. And I just put it in the Ziploc bag. I like to go overnight if I’m smart enough to plan my day.

Wilson:
Nice. Okay.

Kevin Mayer:
And what’ll happen is that salt goes all the way into the steak. It absorbs into the steak and I’m not much for science, so I don’t understand.

Wilson:
Then, then the magic happens.

Kevin Mayer:
So back out what comes back out. So it goes in and then some way shape or form, it comes back out. And what you have is beautifully, your ISED all the way through. And so its the simplest thing you can do. And it’s the one thing I recommend for a

Wilson:
Haven’t that’s a though a great idea. I mean it grilling it, but the idea like packing it and letting it sit for a

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. And then like a, we a wet Brian, you know, sounds just like it is it’s it’s liquid along with seasonings. And there’s a million to choose from my favorite one. We do every year at Thanksgiving, it involves 12 beers, some onions, some garlic. Yeah.

Kevin Mayer:
And you know, you’d think, well, yeah, great. And this guy wants to put beer and everything, but it’s, it’s just the beer breaks down some of the tissue. And so we always, almost always we’ll put the Turkey in that overnight. Sometimes 24 hours, let it help break down and, and make it more tender. Nice. And then you just add, add the things you like, right. What do you wanna taste in your wet brine and add it, you know, season wise, if it’s, if it’s salt, if it’s garlic, if it’s paprika, if you like butter, you know, you can get butter flavor seasoning and, and throw it in there, whatever it is. You like throw a handful of that in there with your bride.

Wilson:
Oh yeah. That’s that is magnificent. You know, I think, you know, basic one of my favorite Bing things is that you take a, you know, it’s just like basic Brian like might be like brown sugar, salt and water. Yeah. But if you add in like some bourbon again, like you’re not, there’s not gonna be any alcohol at the end of this, but it does add like a bourbon flavor or right. That’s right. Anything else you wanna put in there and let like, especially I think pork, you know, it gets so dry if you don’t do that, but if you Dorine it, it’s like oh man. Okay. So

Kevin Mayer:
Bourbon, bourbon’s a great one. That’s good call out. And I would be Remi, I didn’t say that bourbon is in the, we do a Turkey every year,

Wilson:
So yeah. OK. So, well Turkey didn’t you do like what do you do for Turkey? Tell me about Turkey

Kevin Mayer:
Turkeys, man. We could, we could, we could do a whole show on turkeys.

Kevin Mayer:
Turkeys is where some of this journey began because we started call and I don’t do normal Thanksgivings. We’ve never done. We’ve been married 11 years going on 12, very good, very patient, very patient woman. And we have never done a traditional normal Thanksgiving yet. We pick a theme. We, we go with dishes all around the theme, including the Turkey. Okay. And we kind of just, we, we run with it, probably the one that got the most fanfare. We did breakfast for Thanksgiving one year. So the tur, the Turkey was, was in a maple syrup type of concoction.

Wilson:
Oh no. Couldn’t

Kevin Mayer:
With breakfast, seasonings, bacon type seasonings. And the, then onto the smoker, it went wrapped in bacon. So the entire Turkey got wrapped in bacon. And then every half hour I would go out there with a bowl of Maples syrup and I would cover the entire Turkey and Maples syrup. And so we went through, I had to do that two or three times during the smoking process, cuz it takes so long. We probably went through four or five pounds of bacon. That was all covered in maple syrup. We, we were done. It was a lot, it was a lot. And so that one was a good one. And then I would be Remi if I didn’t at least point out probably the one that started it all. We did a tour Duncan.

Wilson:
Oh, oh right. You have to explain, you really did. One

Kevin Mayer:
Did call and I did a Tourin one year, you know, I always growing up, you always see it. If you watch football, you know what a tur duckin is, you know who John Madden is. Right. Turin. And, and so I’m always like, man, this is what I wanna do. Ally’s a great sport. So she’s like, yeah, great. We’ll do with Turin this year. So tur duckin is a Turkey, which is stuffed with a chicken, which is stuffed with a duck. So the Duck’s inside the chicken, the chicken’s inside the Turkey. And you smoke the entire thing. You wrap it up, you smoke it. Wow. You know, season it. But what they don’t tell you. And so I’ll say this as cautionary tale to anyone who wants to do this. All right. Secrets, but don’t yeah. Here’s the secret. What they don’t tell you. And if you wanna get involved, all three of the bones have all three of the, have to be deed where you start this process,

Wilson:
What,

Kevin Mayer:
And they don’t come to bone. So you either have to have an incredibly patient and willing wife or you yourself have to be willing to Deone all of these before than Pull this off.

Wilson:
I feel my enthusiasm diminishing.

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah, everyone does. But the real hitch was so we’re, we’re doing this I’m working call had the day off before Thanksgiving. So she volunteered to do that. The Debo, she calls me like 10:00 AM. We have a problem. The duck is frozen. We didn’t it out the freezer in time. Oh. And so, so, okay. So I had to take an early lunch, go to Alberton’s or wherever, find another duck a non frozen duck, which I know asked zip it home. And got it there. She Callie put this whole thing together. She tied it all up. You put it on the trigger, this Turkey smokes, you know, we did it on basically a smoke setting for most of it. So it’s just drawing in smokes for like 12 hours. I mean, it it’s Anant amount of time for a burden and right. We’re doing this whole thing and, but it comes out beautifully when we cut into it. It just, it, it all apart. Right. I mean, you barely have to cut it. Oh, okay. And then you’ve got this mixture of, of Turkey, duck, and chicken which is interesting. And you find out or at least we did that. Not a lot of people like duck,

Kevin Mayer:
Duck. Some people founded appalling. We had a couple people that refused to eat that year. And that’s fine too. You know, we we open up the house for all the family that wants to come at Thanksgiving. We always have it at our house and we might anyone on my side, anyone on my wife’s side if you’re family and you wanna come for Thanksgiving, you know, we’ve had some non-family members, too, anybody that needs a place to be, we usually have more than enough food. So we kinda open up the house to whoever wants to roll in and do these weird things. Yeah. And we’ve done Mexican Thanksgiving. We’ve done Polish Thanksgiving. We’ve done German Thanksgiving. We’ve done Iris Thanksgiving.

Wilson:
Nice. Yes.

Kevin Mayer:
I wanted to do it has a name and I can’t think of it now, but I wanted this year to stuff, an octopus in the Turkey.

Wilson:
What,

Kevin Mayer:
And I can’t think of what it’s called. We had a few too many objections to that Turkey. I’m good with that. If that’s what we’re gonna call it, it’s totally good there. But the idea becomes, you know, you see the tentacles coming outta the Turkey and it’s and then, then you also, the idea was I also wanted to put crab legs on the bottom of the Turkey, right. So you’ve got crab legs and then the, and the octopus and I had won

Wilson:
Children’s scream and terror

Kevin Mayer:
Pretty much. I wish I could think of what it was called. Cause it has a name. I mean, it was actually a thing. People make this, so there’s not just some wild creation I’ve dreamt up. People do it and I, I thought, yeah, that’s cool. But there’s a trick around the octopus. Like maybe you have to boil it first for food safety reasons. Mm. There were some, there were some obstacles we couldn’t pull together in time. OK. So yeah, anyway, that’s, that’s that’s Thanksgiving, Casa day.

Wilson:
Wow. It seems like you know, a, an intense undertaking, but full of surprises.

Kevin Mayer:
It’s it’s all those things. And always there is the tradition of you open and drink the first beer when the Turkey goes on the smoker. So that, that also is a mayor, family tradition

Wilson:
At Thanksgiving, a worthy tradition carried on by our ancestors.

Kevin Mayer:
Exactly. That’s right. Yeah. Little tip of the cap to my German.

Wilson:
Ancestry’s you said the B so tell me about the tower of

Kevin Mayer:
Bacon’s. Oh, so we’ve tell me what you mean. Did you see something where I,

Wilson:
I saw something that you called it the tower of bacon and I looked like you had woven together, like a bacon basket,

Kevin Mayer:
A bacon weave. Oh yeah. The bacon weave. So you yeah, you, you take uncooked bacon and you kinda weave it together, like a basket lay it flat and just gonna weave it together. And then what I did with mine, you could put whatever you want in it. Right. So what I did is put a layer of ground beef over that.

Wilson:
Okay.

Kevin Mayer:
Uncooked still, this whole thing’s gonna be uncooked until we get UN smoker. All right. And then I went eggs, cheese, jalapeno kinda made a breakfast like a breakfast wrap almost, but without, you know, without tortillas or anything, the bacon,

Wilson:
If tortillas were made a bacon, it would be a breakfast

Kevin Mayer:
Once in a while. It takes a lot of bacon. So, but that, yeah, bacon, we’ve done a few times on the trigger. It’s not as what I wanna say here. It’s a little trickier to do cause trying to get the inside cooked and the bacon crisps up a lot of times before the inside, like when I did my Turkey and I said, I had to get like three different layers of bacon. We had to wrap the Turkey like three different times because the bacon cooks so much faster, even on a low setting. So it’s it’s a little trickier but always worth it. And we’ll take bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers. Mm.

Kevin Mayer:
So you just, you take a, that’s probably the one I do the most. You take a, just jalapeno hollow out the inside, get all the seeds out. You fill that with cream cheese and then a little bit of whatever kind of shreded cheese you like on top. And then wrap it in bacon and put those on the, for a couple three hours was pretty good. Sunday morning football snack before the Seahawks come on.

Wilson:
Nice. Did you okay? Yeah. bacon wrapped. Yeah. Like meatballs. I think you did some crab bacon wrap crab, but you also did bacon wrapped pickles. Did

Kevin Mayer:
I recently? Yeah, we tried the bacon wrapped pickles most recently.

Wilson:
It was,

Kevin Mayer:
I like them. Okay. It was not a hit in my house. Okay. So probably goes on the back burner. Everyone likes the jalapeno poppers much more. So two things, one that means we’ve done those much more. Everybody’s used to ’em and B just back to the drawing board, instead of I wrapped pickle slices. Next time I’m gonna wrap whole pickles. Oh, we’ll go that route. And we’ll, we’ll see how that goes. Maybe it’s a little bit better. That way I’m giving up on the idea because I pickles. So

Wilson:
What a

Kevin Mayer:
Always not always pretty, but

Wilson:
Yeah, kids,

Kevin Mayer:
I probably asked if I too,

Wilson:
About wrapped Oreos

Kevin Mayer:
Crazy. So

Kevin Mayer:
I can’t tell you how good they are and how you believe me. It’s amazing. I had for my birthday, people were, you know, they do the usual Facebook thing. Happy birthday. Here’s this? Here’s that? Here’s this one of the girls I work with Larissa put on my page, happy birthday. And here’s something I’d like you to try next time you feel like you wanna put something on your smoker, whatever I’m like. Yeah. Cool. Okay. My daughter happens to love or, and she likes bacons. I’m thinking, boom, I’ll do, I’ll do this. They won’t go to waste. They’re amazing. And I can’t, it’s the simplest thing ever. All you do is take Oreos wrap ’em in bacon, put ’em on a tray, put ’em on the wait for the bacon to look done. Okay. And you’re done it. Couldn’t be simpler. And I, I was very skeptical. I’m not an Oreo person in general. I, I, it’s not for me, but you wrap it in bacon. And my man, I is solid gold. I could not believe how good they were. It was shocking.

Wilson:
Shocking. I, I am, I am surprised by this review. Cause it seemed like they kinda like a, you know, like, ha ha look at me. I, I, you know, try to eat this sucker. I need, I grabbed an Oreo of bacon. I dare you. But you’re telling me it’s good.

Kevin Mayer:
I’m infallible. I can smoke anything.

Wilson:
Yeah.

Kevin Mayer:
But you know what, you gotta try things. And I was skeptical and I was way off. And they were pretty, pretty popular. I think the kids have asked me to do my again. But it’s, it’s been winter time. And so I focused some of my winter attentions on cheese. You can only really successfully smoke cheese in the winter time.

Wilson:
Why is that? Why is that?

Kevin Mayer:
You have to have, you have to have temperatures below 50 degrees or the cheese will melt.

Wilson:
Oh yeah. Makes sense. So

Kevin Mayer:
You can, you, you can do things to make sure that doesn’t happen. And people get creative and they put coolers down in ice cube water. And, but if you just wanna do it, you know, on the, on the smoker it has to be lower than 50 degrees and you can’t, and this is where it gets tricky. You can’t have your trigger on cuz the lowest setting of smoke is 150 degrees at least minus. So what I have is something called a smoke tube.

Wilson:
Oh

Kevin Mayer:
And, and it’s, and you could, you could get this for any device, like say a Weber, barbecue, hint.

Wilson:
All right.

Kevin Mayer:
They’re about 20 to $30 and it’s like a metal tubing with, with mesh think of like lattice Latice fencing. Yeah. But it’s like mesh all the way through that and all you do fill it with whatever flavor of pellets you’d like,

Wilson:
Okay.

Kevin Mayer:
And then put it in your barbecue Trager, whatever you want to do and light it and light light, the pellets takes two to three minutes to get the pellets really lit or I’ll, I’ll make like a paper towel wick and I’ll put it in there to kind of help it along. Cause keep the fire going. Right.

Wilson:
Right.

Kevin Mayer:
And then that smoke tube will provide you with three to four hours of continuous smoke. But it’s not, it’s not so hot that it’s heating up the cheese. So I’ll put that on one end of my trigger. I’ll put the cheese on the other end of my trigger. And then the smoke pours through the cheese, as it exits out the chimney. Right. And you get this beautiful golden smoke cheese. We’ve probably done 20 pounds of it this year. Wow. So far, I mean we put it in the freezer, so we have it give it to people. That’s why people for Christmas this year, the family members and whatnot just made, we made, you know, garlic pepper, Jack shear Swiss, anything you can think of really some of the softer cheeses are tricky, but Parmesan, anything you can think of like that you had this beautiful, smoked flavor to it. And then you have to plan for it a little bit because after you take it off the smoker, you have to wait for it to kind of get done condensing, pat it dry. And then you have to wrap it in Sheran wrap and put in the fridge for a couple weeks. And that allows for the cheese to get the smoke all the way through it.

Wilson:
Oh, interesting. OK. You gotta like seal it up. Yeah.

Kevin Mayer:
So you have to plan a little bit. You probably won’t, you can probably get it out in a week, but everything I’ve always been told red watched is leave it in the fridge for a couple weeks and make sure that it lets the smoke get all the way through. So you get the best flavors.

Wilson:
Wow. It sounds delicious though. So it’s

Kevin Mayer:
Good. That’s amazing. It’s probably out everything I do. That’s the one we get the most most compliments on.

Wilson:
Wow. That is, that’s a thing of beauty. All right. Yeah. Now, now we’ve taken a tour through the magical world of smoking. You are clearly a master. I appreciate sharing, sharing your knowledge.

Kevin Mayer:
You’re very kind. I just enjoy it. You know, if you enjoy it, it’s it’s easier. It doesn’t is not something I, I, I do for purposes. Right. I’m not doing it solely to feed the family. I, I actually enjoy what I’m doing. And so it it’s enjoyable.

Wilson:
That’s cool, man. That’s so cool. And I look forward so time to us sampling your wears in the near future here,

Kevin Mayer:
Anytime man, you just you know, you know where I’m at, just come find me knock on the door. We’ll we’ll fire something up or gimme a little notice. We’ll we’ll put a smoked feast together for you and the family.

Wilson:
Sweet. All right. Now before I, I wanna be careful your time, but before we go, I, you are, here’s a people are not expecting at the end of this long discussion of the magic of smokey is that when I was going you know, Facebook’s stalking you to look at some of the stuff you’ve smoked and you put up there you remind me that you were a reader of I’m gonna mess this name up, but 10

Kevin Mayer:
Not

Wilson:
Hahan yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kevin Mayer:
Ha is a was he, he recently passed unfortunately, but he’s a Buddhist monk and he’s been he’s a Vietnamese, Buddhist monk was, and he’d been exiled. Oh gosh, probably for 50 years in France and I believe it’s France and writes these amazing books, amazing books. And I’ve read a lot of them. I, I always look for new ones to read. Probably won’t be forthcoming at this point. But once that I haven’t read before he he’s a wonderful person. He was, I believe in Nobel peace prize winner if I remember correctly. Wow.

Kevin Mayer:
And then really truly wonderful books that can people on a day to day basis. It’s not heavy reading, right? Yeah. It’s, it’s, I’ll read 10 minutes at a time and, and that’s, and I’ll read like a short fable or I’ll read a chapter of a book or I’ll read one story and then I’ll just take that with me. And I do that a lot and that’s how I prefer to do things. I don’t often have time to sit down for three hours and a book, but every day I find 20, I can whatever. And that’s probably that’s

Wilson:
Us. You’ve from

Kevin Mayer:
Boy I’d be, I’d be hard pressed to give you a story. I, I take these things in as more of example on how I wanna be. He does a lot on a couple of his books are called like taming the tiger within. And what it is is, you know, you, you can choose to respond how you want other people, their actions are their actions, but how you choose to respond is something you can control. 100% of the time, right. Is easy. Nope. Not easy. But you can always choose to respond in the way you wish to, as long as you’re in control enough to maintain that. I think one of the, one of the, I do remember one that comes to mind. I think he’s talking about a person who comes home and finds that their house has been burned to the ground. And, and the advice is most people will immediately get very mad, obviously sad. And they’ll want to know who did this and they’ll immediately while still mad and while still angry or hurt or sad start demanding to know. And, and they’ll search out who did this? Who’s done this to my house, angry.

Wilson:
I wanna,

Kevin Mayer:
But what he’ll tell you, what he’ll tell you is you wanna start with if your house is burning, you need to put out the fire, right. Instead of going in search of the person who sets your house on fire, what you need to do first is put out the fire and then then go and search. Cause if you, you go and search while the fire’s still burning, you’re not going to be very successful. Right. and it’s not gonna do you, cause your house is still gonna burn to the ground. But if you can get the fire put out first and then go in search, and I’m not sure I might have butchered that a little bit, but

Wilson:
I, I hear where you’re going though. You know, like,

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah, yeah. The idea becomes calm yourself down, then go search of things. Don’t go out and search of people when you’re mad or angry, angry, or upset, or the reactions you’re going to get from people. Aren’t going to be probably what you’re looking for.

Wilson:
Right? Yeah. Is he, you know, you’re reminding me, I don’t I’m totally unschooled in these ways, but I feel like when you’re talking about it, he might be the guy with a quote, something about like, you know, between you know, action and response like that, that, that period, right? Like the, the moment when you can make the difference, right. Is between yeah. When there that’s right.

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. Yeah. And that, and that’s, that’s kinda what I was trying to get at. That’s exactly right. You know, if you respond right away, you’re often gonna respond in anger. If you take five minutes, calm yourself down. And then re and I wish I was as good at it as

Wilson:
He was.

Kevin Mayer:
But if you, you know, you take five minutes and calm down before you react, you’re gonna find I have found that my responses are often a lot more thoughtful. I mean, it’s easy to yell at somebody in the heat of an argument. It’s easy to snap at a kid if they, whatever break their headphones it’s. But if you take five minutes, think about the situation and how you wanna respond to ’em and what you truly want to get outta the situation. I found that my responses are often much more thoughtful.

Wilson:
Yeah. Oh, words to live by man. Right? Like it it’s amazing how much of adult life is like remembering to be an adult. Yeah.

Kevin Mayer:
That’s well said. No, that’s very well said and very true. Cause it’s hard because you think back to your own childhood as your parenting and you know, it’s like, God, my, my dad would’ve here’s I would handled it. And then I, you know, I, I stopped and think to myself while that worked at the time, is that gonna work these days? 35, 40 years later. Right. on kids that have grown up the way they’ve grown up with, with one hand on a remote control, the other hand on a PS4 controller, right?

Wilson:
Yeah.

Kevin Mayer:
And, and how that goes and, and you know, you can’t, you punish a kid now you send ’em to their room and, well, that’s great. My kids love that. Go to your, get on my phone, my iPad, or my switch or whatever it’s And you know, I won’t see you for six hours and that’s fine with me. Yeah. Now the punishment is you sit at the table and tell me about your day. Sometimes it’s like, oh, I don’t wanna tell you about my day. I joke, but I’ve with my daughter before. I’m like, no, no, come out your room. And you tell me about your school. Why I don’t wanna,

Wilson:
That is brilliant. That is brilliant.

Kevin Mayer:
You’re being punished.

Wilson:
You’re gonna have to interface with me for 10 minutes now. How do you like that?

Kevin Mayer:
Well, I mean, that’s, that’s true though. There there’s part of that, you know, and getting at least in my house, I won’t speak for, but yeah, in my house getting kids to put down devices, eat dinner, tell you about their day. Let’s play an instrument, you know, pick up your clarinet, go do basketball, go, let’s go golf something other than the screen time, you know, we joke about it, but it’s, it’s such a different generation that we’re dealing with in terms of raising kids that Manto man. Oh, some of the stuff that you thought would work cuz you or your kid just laughing you now.

Wilson:
Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It’s true. It’s amazing to think about it and to think about how different, the whole thing is. I mean, this is a whole nother show, you know, but you’re making me think about, I stepdaughter drives me up the wall with the way she watches, like just like Netflix or something. Right. But like, she’ll take a show a, a movie and she’ll find the part she likes and then skip back and watch it again and then skip back to the end. And you know, what is, you know, in the age where you have clips of stuff and you can always rewind and you can always rewatch and it’s there, you know, she isn’t going to the movie theater, you know what I mean? Like she’s

Kevin Mayer:
Right. No, that’s right. Its just little things like that. Or, or don’t watch my, my 11 year old has watched the same show on Disney, like three times it’s a series and, and she keeps watching the series,

Wilson:
The old series.

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. So he, each show is like 20 minutes and so plays the theme song and then she’ll watch it. And then it’s 20 and then the next show comes on. There’s the theme song. And it’s like, times you seen this, oh know three or four. And you know, she’s watching this on Netflix. She’s got her phone talking to a friend on her phone. She has an iPad over here and she’s doing something on the iPad and I get it. I mean, I, I get the multitasking thing. I, I truly understand, but my God. And then I come out there and I was like, I’m gonna turn on to Gonzaga game and no I’m watching that. Well, what are you watching? You have three devices going. I just wanna watch Gonzaga and, and sit on the couch and have a couple beers. It’s seven o’clock, you know, here’s your choices. I’m gonna, you can hang out, watch it with me. You can go to bed either one, go to your room. Yeah. Do something. I’m watching the game. And I, I never do that with any other show, but if I wanna watch a sport here and there. Oh

Wilson:
Yeah. Darn it. I’m the concept of live is just blows their mind, you know, like no is happening now. You know? Like I like to watch

Kevin Mayer:
Fights, watch it

Wilson:
Later. Yeah. It’s like, no, I can’t like this, this, you know, this is like stream it later. Dad, listen, it’s happening at this moment. Don’t you understand

Kevin Mayer:
People will ruin it. I, I, people will tell you I’ll get texts. I mean, I’m an avid Seahawks fan. I’m live and breathe with the Seahawks on Sundays. It’s, it’s three hours, three and a half hours of my time. It’s me. And I’m watching the game and I I’m involved and I’m not worried about work or what the kids are doing. I just want like, you know, like a three hour window, everybody knows it. There’s no guesses around my house as to what I’m doing. I tell ’em what time it’s on, you know? And, and that’s it. That’s, that’s all I want that during that timeframe. But you know, there’s been times where it’s like, just, just tape the game, tape it, which tape itself is amazing because nobody’s taped anything since VCRs were around.

Wilson:
Yeah. Right. There is no

Kevin Mayer:
Tape. People tell me that I just tape the game. Nope. I’m not taping the game because inevitably the chaw to get down three or seven or 17, seven, and my phone’s gonna blow up with all these people that wanna tell me about it. Like, oh man, your team sucks. Or, Hey buddy, you watching the game and this is happening and you can’t escape it and you can’t tape or record or whatever else you do stream live sports. Yeah. To watch later, it, it, you can at least not. If you care about watching it without it being spoiled.

Wilson:
I totally agree. I think that’s probably the only thing left.

Kevin Mayer:
It’s the only thing left and that’s, that’s exactly right. I told my wife that all the time, this is the one thing you can’t do that with. You can’t do it with the super bowl or the Gonzaga games. I can’t can’t do it. You have to watch it live or loses its panache.

Wilson:
Yep. No, totally agree. Right. Well, we settled that one. I think we agree that these kids don’t know nothing and

Kevin Mayer:
Kids get off my yard.

Wilson:
Oh, look to it. Tell you I’ve

Kevin Mayer:
On with you 20 years to retirement. These

Wilson:
People stick. These kids need grumpy old men in their lives.

Kevin Mayer:
They do. They do hundred percent. They do. All I need is a porch. Like yeah, maybe a little cooler out there. A smoker. I could just sit out there and smoke meat and tell the kids, get off my

Wilson:
Lawn. Yeah. With a straw hat on or something. Maybe overall. Oh,

Kevin Mayer:
Hundred percent Panama straw hat. Yeah. Maybe on a good day. A nice Cuban cigar. Yeah. I could do some of these things. I just, but you know, by that time my kids will be grown and I’ll be an old man. Anyway. So it won’t be such a far stretch.

Wilson:
Yeah. And then we’ll be like, where are those kids? How come they don’t come by?

Kevin Mayer:
That’s that’s right. Unless they’re dropping off grandkids for me to watch. Yeah, We do that. Yeah.

Wilson:
All right, man. I’m gonna, I I’ll, I’ll let you go. But this has been great. I really enjoyed it.

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. Same. It was great to catch up with your brother. I appreciate it anytime. Wanna do it again? I’m a man who knows things. I, I know things. So you do, if you have other topics, you just holler out.

Wilson:
I, you know what? I let’s not even have a topic. We’ll like pick one next time.

Kevin Mayer:
Just randomly. Maybe next, next show. We just we do shots every five minutes and we see where the conversation takes us.

Wilson:
That’s true. What enlightenment, what enlightenment will be at the end of that show.

Kevin Mayer:
Yeah. Yeah. People will probably tune out on that one, but we don’t do on air. I’d love to do an off with you sometime. Good to catch up.

Wilson:
Absolutely.

Ukrainians are not Russians

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I turned to a Ukrainian friend to ask her what we, the Americans, need to understand about the conflict. Olha’s response came down to this: Ukrainians are not Russians. They have their own history, their own language, their own culture, their own country. But Russian leader Vladimir Putin has predicated his war on a rewritten history, in which the Ukraine is the little brother to Russia, and the people there are just Russians with a dialect.  The stakes can’t be higher for the people of Ukraine, as their lives and very identity stand to be lost. I really appreciated this talk, the personal stories Olha shared of the Orange Revolution in 2004, the quest for independence, and the never-dying belief that Ukraine can be i’s own place, and the Ukrainians, their own people.

Season 2, Episode 2: Ukrainians are not Russians with Ohla Bilobran

Below is a transcript of our conversation. I use an automated transcription service, so refer to the audio to clear up any confusion.

Wilson:
I am here with my friend Ohla and Ohla can you introduce yourself, and tell you, tell us all where you’re from?

Ohla:
Sure. hi Adam. So my name is Olha Bilobran and originally I am from the town of Busk which is, is, which is in Western part of Ukraine.

Wilson:
Great. And how did, how did you come … We met together here in Western Washington. Tell me about how you found yourself out here.

Ohla:
Sure. I came here to get my master’s degree and after, after my studies, I stayed here, got job. And that’s how you and I met.

Wilson:
Right. Got it. Okay. I mean, so obviously there are many events going on in the world today around Ukraine, but I guess let’s start with like, just how do, how you process this. Like we were talking just yesterday when I was asking, if you could you know do the show with me, you know, like, how do you explain this to kids? Like what, what, what are you, what are you thinking right now, I guess where I’m going with this? Like, what, what’s your first take on the situation in Ukraine right now?

Ohla:
Well what’s going on is, it’s absolutely unbelievable. It’s horrible because you know, it, it should have never, ever happened. And just to realize that all these worst predictions, all these nightmares, they just became true and everybody is angry very angry. I, I mean, in in, in my family, in our community because it’s it, it, it’s it’s not the very beginning because the war basically started eight years ago. It has the next stage, and nobody can predict what will happen next.

Wilson:
I am. I totally hear you on the being unbelievable because this is it’s interesting to me how shocking it is given that, as you said, that this started a long time ago and that even this most recent, like this is a, a full scale attack on Ukraine by Russia. And that itself was forecast very explicitly for over a month, I think. But it’s, do you feel like the people of Ukraine or the folks there saw are also shocked or did this see, or is it just sort of us on the outside can’t understand how real the situation was becoming?

Ohla:
No, I think everybody’s shock back at home as well. And I, I know, I know there were predictions. I know there were warnings, but you still cannot you know, I, I think people still have this belief in and hope in common sense in human nature kind, human nature. That’s why it’s difficult to believe. And when trying to understand myself, I was I, I was wondering why you know, despite all these warnings, people were still thinking like, no, that, that cannot happen. And I what I came up with is, you know, when COVID hit, what was the reaction of the world? Everybody is like, it will be here like, well, two months at most, in two months, we are all in the offices, we’ll have our own back our life. We can go two years past. We are still not with it.

Wilson:
Yes. That is an amazingly good example of assuming the best.

Ohla:
Yeah. Is it, is it human nature? Is it how our psychology works, that you are kind of trying to protect yourself? And it’s hard to believe that this nightmare can happen? I, I dunno,

Wilson:
It’s, it’s I think you’re definitely onto something there that it’s we are used to people talking about the bad things that might happen, but when they, you know, especially in this case where it seems very intentional I mean what, well, here’s the thing. Okay. Let’s back up. I like most Americans only have a vague understanding of Ukraine. And I think that most of us like know that it’s somewhere between what we thought was Europe. Right. I think Americans were raised with this idea that Europe stopped somewhere about the middle of Germany. And then there was just Russia. And now we’re, I I’m sure there are folks like myself who are trying to wrap their minds around the politics of Belarus and Ukraine and Romania and those places. So can you give a sense just like for those of us who are, are just trying to understand what’s going on here? What, what is the historical background when we say there’s been an eight year war, well, how did we get to a war that lasted eight years? How did we get to a Ukraine and not just, you know, part of the USSR

Ohla:
Yeah. And that’s that’s something that’s always you know, especially when coming here and let singing to the movies and how everything and everybody from the Soviet union just called any country is just called Russia. Any nation nation is called Russia. And to me, it’s like, I, it always, I produces a reaction in me. It’s like, it’s not Soviet union com was comprised of 15 nations, 15 countries. We are not Russians. It’s, it’s like, it’s all different. You, you cannot like, you know, the Commonwealth of great Britain, you cannot call in like disregard India and or Canada and just call them great written. They are not right. So the same here. And as, as for his, like, to give a bit of historical background, especially given the statements that Putin made a few days ago. So Ukraine is located in Eastern Europe. It it borders on Russia in the east and Northeast on the north, it borders on Bera on the west. You have countries like PO and Romania Slovakia, and in the south, you have Moldova and it’s also washed by the black sea and the sea of Zo. And is the country in Europe.

Wilson:
Hmm.

Ohla:
That’s interesting by territory, if you com, if you try to kind of still wrap up your mind, it is about the size of Texas.

Wilson:
Okay. Wow.

Ohla:

It, it is the biggest country and it’s it has ancient history, the in about nine ninth century the population in, on the entire of Ukraine, like the, the web of different settlements for a long time. Sure. But in the ninth century, Swedish weekends, they VI story. They came by the river into the territory, which is Ukraine. Now they captured K U. That is the capital of Ukraine.

Wilson:
Ah, okay.

Ohla:
Okay. At that time there was living there, SL people. And from that time that the, the territory that the country that was organized there, and now Ukraine, it was called KRA and K was the capital.

Wilson:
Ah, okay. And so, yes,

Ohla:
And, and in 1988 Ukraine was converted to Christianity and it was it occupied territory all the way to the bolt, to the current Bolty countries. So that’s what is bill RA now? Okay. And at that time, Mosco was not founded. So you cannot say that the territory of Ukraine is as they always claim, you know, it’s Russia, it’s not, it, it preexisted what, whatever is rational.

Wilson:
That’s fascinating. That’s fascinating. And

Ohla:
Only because of the, when trips, so to say of Mongols some population started moving north from Kyo and that’s how Moscow was created. And all these histories started being populated.

Wilson:
Okay. So

Ohla:
That, that’s why no Lang did not create Russia.

Wilson:
That’s fascinating. You know, it’s, isn’t it interesting to see,

Ohla:
Sorry, let create Ukraine. Sorry.

Wilson:
Right. Yes. I I’m with you. Isn’t it fascinating how we always kind of weaponize history. Right. I think that’s what we’re, you’re talking about is that that Putin and his regime are spinning the tale of that. This is traditional Russian ground and that the Ukrainians are Russians and they need to be, I, I, I think the actual argument was like, they need to be kept safe. We have to keep the civilian safe. And I give me a sense of like are there a lot of different ethnic religion groups in Ukraine? Is there some sort of like a faction that he’s he’s working on there is there,

Ohla:
Yeah. So before world Wari Ukraine has always been a multinational country. But even more so before world war II, where we had a lot of German Germans, a lot of Jewish people, a lot of Polish people of course, Ukrainians crem, TAs, and even in my hometown at the beginning of 20th century the biggest pop Jewish was the biggest population. Second was Polish and Ukrainians were only third

Wilson:
Really? Oh, wow.

Ohla:
Yes. So Ukraine, again, it’s a separate country. It has its own Ukrainian language. So that’s why don’t, don’t assume that every Ukrainian speaks Russian and start addressing in Russian, they do, there are some Ukrainians who speak Russian. There are some Russians who live in Ukraine, but official language is Ukrainian.

Wilson:
So it is, they have a, their own language. It is a UK. They speak Ukrainian. Okay. Yes, this is good to,

Ohla:
We speak. We speak Ukrainian. And even you know, when I was in college, one of my professors, he attended many international conferences. He was a langu linguist himself. So he said that among langu, among those people who dedicate their life to developing different or researching different languages, there is like a joke going around. So if you want to speak to God, you need to address him in Spanish. If you want to speak to angels, you need to address them in Italian. But if you want to talk to a woman and tell her about your life, you need it to use Ukrainian.

Wilson:
Cause

Ohla:
Ukrainian is such a melodic, such a beautiful based on the sounds language. And also if, to assume that Ukrainian is the same as Russian or like Russians, like to climb, it’s the dialect. It is not, it, it is part of a SL languages family. Sure. We have, we have Ukrainian, we have Russian, we have Polish, we have bill Russians. It’s, it’s the same as to assume that French and Spanish is the same language or one is the dialect of another, because we bill onto the same family or that English and German are the same or dialect of one of another, because they belong to the same language family, but we know very well, those are different.

Wilson:
Right, right. Yes, absolutely. And it is, I think what you’re getting to too is that there is a good under even in the United States, which is famous for being sort of insulated where we are, but they, that there’s differences between ethnic and regional groups and language groups that may seem minor to, I don’t know, to someone from Southeast Asia, the difference between French and Italian and Spanish may seem small, but it’s very important to the people who live there and to their way of life and they’re distinct cultures. But I think that we are struggling to do that with Eastern Europe that we don’t really understand as you know, as Americans it’s, we are not very familiar with those differences. So it’s, it’s perhaps an easier sell for folks like Putin who want to just say, well, it’s, you know, they were part of the, the Soviet state and now they need to be again. And I think that the one conversation going on in the United States right now is like, well, what do we care? It’s so far away, it doesn’t affect us. Why would we get involved with something, especially that Russia has strong feelings about? I mean, what do you, what do you make of that? Go ahead. Yeah.

Ohla:
Russia has, has had strong feelings about Ukraine for century is, but why should Americans care? Because in so Ukraine became independent in 1991 after the collapse of Soviet union besides the government proclaiming that, okay, we, we want to be independent. And in August of 1991 in December, they also held a referendum to kind of solidify this choice where people had questioned basically are confer. Are you confirming the green? That Ukraine should be independent and 90% of the popul and confirmed that, oh, wow. Expressing that will to be independent from Ukraine. And yesterday I pulled up some numbers. So dun bus during that referendum in dun bus 80 almost 84% people said, yes, we want to be in Ukraine, independent from the Soviet union in the, in Ang was the same percentage andreia 57% of population said they want to be independent. They want to be independent from the USSR as part of Ukraine. And so when Ukraine became independent, it inherited third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons. You had Russia, you had us and Ukraine was the third one. Wow. In the whole world. Wow. So that here comes 1994. And on leaders talking, there is a decision made that Ukraine will give up its nuclear power and in return great Britain, us and Russia, as as countries with the world nuclear power will agree to.

Ohla:
And let me read it will commit to respect the independence and sovereign entity and the existing borders of Ukraine.

Wilson:
Wow.

Ohla:
In 1994, that’s why it, so, and this was confirmed with Budapest memorandums. So these three countries signed it to guarantee independence and borders of Ukraine. Right. And I remember till today, my history class in my high school, when our teacher was explaining to us, this is such a huge win because you have most powerful countries, us and Russia protecting us, agreeing to respect our board forever. Russians will never, ever invite us again.

Wilson:
Yeah. That is. And that’s, it’s, that’s a very human story, right? Like, are you lay down your arms? You stop. We don’t want you to be a threat. We don’t, you don’t need all this armament. And then we will never, we won’t cross you. And then exactly a generation later folks have forgotten, or maybe they didn’t forget. And they’re just willfully ignoring that. But now you, that that’s just tragic in re in looking at today’s circumstances. Right. Because there’s no scenario in which Russia would invade a nuclear or armed Ukraine. I mean, I, I can’t imagine that. So, wow. But what happens after that? So that this is the nineties. I mean I remember this as this whole, like reproachment period where the USS, the USS R and the us and great Britain, we were all getting along fairly well. You know, in the nineties, there was this like realignment for the new world order, but that, that has clearly changed. So what, what, what’s your memory of what, how things tipped from being like, look, everyone’s agreed to respect us to now there’s there’s there’s format and, and threats again.

Ohla:
Well, it’s been, I, if I can call it a project in no, it’s been a project for years, but also I, I still need to go back in history to kinda, so people understand where the roots are coming from. So this, this current project it’s been in the works for years, but I think it’s been in the works for centuries. So again, when Ukraine became a part of SSR in in the last century what happened was that in 1933, Stalin created an artificial famine. Ukraine is famous for its soil, black soil. It’s called the breast bread basket of of the world because it, the soil is so can grow so much wheat. And it’s one of the biggest importers of wheat in the world. And right now the prices for wheat is skyrocketing because of the war. Right. So Stalin created this artificial famine were all the wheat was con sophisticated and people starved to death. And with estimations of seven or 10 million people died from famine.

Wilson:
Wow.

Ohla:
In Eastern Ukraine,

Wilson:
Seven or 10 million.

Ohla:
Yes. And Ukraine been fighting for a long time for it to be recognized as the same level as Holocaust is. But of course we have Russia always have vetos everywhere and was not letting that happen. And also playing it down. That that was, you know, those were difficult times, you know, 1933, it was a difficult time for everybody in the world, right. It was for body, but no other nation had seven to 10 million people die from ation,

Wilson:
Insane

Ohla:
With such huge resources, natural resources. So you have as I said, so many people die. What do you do with this empty land? When all these empty houses they brought rations?

Wilson:
Ah, yes.

Ohla:
You’re at the houses, go live, go educate people about all the benefits of communism, how, how wonderful it’s going to be. Then you have world war II. And in 1944 during world war II, Stalin packs, all CRE TAs on the planes and sends them to Kazakhstan. What do you do with empty houses and the empty land in Cree, right. And Russians, And you claim it. You know, I it’s been the territory. It was conquered by Russians in 18th century. I agree with that. But again, the biggest population, the native population was CRE and TAs.

Wilson:
Interesting.

Ohla:
Okay. So that, that’s why now all those people, they now have kids, they know how grandkids course they speak Russian, especially given again that this, the same family grew. You know, nobody like if you speak Russian to me, I will understand you. I can speak Russian as well, but so they can understand Ukrainian. But again, so that’s why you have that’s why you have majority of population in the east who speaks Russian and P population who lives in cream, speaks Russian.

Wilson:
That’s fascinating. I did not know that. And that is, it’s terrible. That, that, isn’t a known part of like what I say I guess in north America that is not part of European history. Right. That’s yep. You know, it’s sounds very comparable to like the Irish potato famine, which was exacerbated by British policies and the Irish had food, but it was being exported while people starved to death. And exactly. We, at least those of us who care to know Irish history, know all about that, but I had not heard of a, a very similar situation. It sounds like in Ukraine. And that would explain why you end up with large Russian speaking populations in like Cree, because you’ve essentially emptied out the, the populous and replaced them. Okay. All right.

Ohla:
And, and then after you know, things were not so smooth in Soviet union, I believe, you know, at the end of eighties, I think premium started coming back and they wanted to reclaim back the land houses and stuff like that. So they, of course now with the Russians there, again, they are arrested, they had deported and things of horrible again, but so that’s, that’s why I’m saying this, the project of destroying Ukrainians of you know, capturing the land it’s been for centuries. And so now going back to more recent history in 2004, when we had the presidential elections, and again, it was direct election and the pro and candidate won and the pro-European candidate was poisoned. As you may recall.

Wilson:
I do remember that. Yes. Yeah.

Ohla:
Ukrainians took it to the streets like whats going on. That’s not what we waled for. That’s I, I participated in that orange revolution as well. So they had to recalculate the results distribution could, did become the president, but Russia didn’t give up here. We have another election in, in a few years. And then the same candidate, Russian candidate does become the president. And when he decides to cut ties with European union and be develop title close the tights with Russia, that’s when Ukrainians took it on the streets again. And that’s one of the things to keep in mind, even despite of all the odds, Russia, Ukrainians are fighters, they will not give up.

Wilson:
That is it’s impressive. I mean, so, you know, if we, we’re talking about like, how do we get here? It sounds like, you know, when you put it in this context, we’ve watched just in our lifetimes, a couple attempts for the, by the Russians to take control of the, the political apparatus, right. To like, we’ll get our candidate elected president in Ukraine, and then we’ll just bring them into the orbit, which I think is what happened to be Russ, I think because they were also more of a Western style democracy, and I think they fell into the Russian orbit, but the Ukrainians have resisted that, like, as you said, you were, tell me about that. Tell me about being part of the orange revolution. I, I did not know you were revolutionary. Oh yeah. This is new information for me.

Ohla:
I, I, I, I am. Yes. and here before orange revolution, I want to make kind of like give you another piece of old history. So during the world war II, you know, Ukraines were, especially in Western Ukraine, they were fighting two Frances. They were fighting Russians, the Soviet union, and they were fighting Germans. They wanted to be Ukraine. Like they were one United Ukraine. Like they were after the world war I

Wilson:
Okay.

Ohla:
Of course, you know, that didn’t happen. But so, I mean, I mean, they, they were not able to create independent Ukraine from the Soviet union, but the fight continued until 1954 or 55. You have, and keep in mind, worldwide two was over in 1945. You have still stalling in power, but Ukrainians keep fighting even after Stallings death in 53. So we are fighters with orange revolution when you know, when we heard that Russian candidate got more points and nobody believed that because you know, everybody, like, it’s not that secret. It’s more secret. You might be in us where you don’t talk whom you want it for. You know, like it’s not custom to talk about things over there. It’s like whom that you support. That’s who people are very open. So the results don’t make sense. And I remember I was, at that time, I worked in CA and you hear the results and it’s like, I cannot believe it.

Ohla:
We don’t want to go to Russia. We don’t want to go. Like you don’t, you don’t have to, you don’t want to recreate, again, those connections. You don’t want to be again, creating some kind of Soviet union. So I remember my coworker and I walked to downtown. It was not far from our work. And it is, it’s unbelievable. It’s like scenes from the movies from world war II, where you have a speaker on the light pole that talks to people, you know, and people started just taking to the streets. Just nobody like was organizing. Nobody was paying us, go, you know, protest, right. People just talk to the streets. You know, we disagree. This is not right. We need to recount the we need to recount the ballots and so on. And people just brought their tents to, to make it like, you know, 24, 7 protest people from all over Ukraine started coming protest.

Ohla:
And, and what you experienced there, it’s, it’s incredible, never, ever in my life. I have felt this unity. You have main square. My done in cave of packed with people. And even beyond my done all like surrounding street eats with tents where people live, you have citizens of tea, you bringing hot food during the whole night. Like my managers, they come to work and they like, I didn’t sleep much. So maybe I’ll go from work, you know, leave earlier. Cause I was making sandwiches and hot coffee, hot tea delivering. Right. And you, and then you had, we had politicians, musicians come and kind of talk to people and organize like some some kind of support with, so people were helping each other, whatever they can, money singing, entertained, just kind like who lift the spirits up. And I remember even at one point I was standing in my dance with my colleagues it’s evening. And we don’t know, what’s go, you know, we don’t know what’s going to happen. And I remember my mom calling me as like, where are you home?

Ohla:
Yeah. Right. And she’s like, for sure, like, yes. And she says well just in case you are not at home yet, just very close walking to home. I want to let you know that on the radio, they said that, you know, they’ve weaponized criminals in prison and they let people from two prisons go to what, to be people in my Don, just, just so you know, I’m like, yeah, worry. I’m at home. You know, I hang up and I’m like to my colleagues and it’s like, Hey, this is what they’re saying. I am scared. I am, I am not hid this. I’m like, you guys think we should start. Like we should go away before they reach. The, and I remember my colleagues, like, no, don’t worry. I, I was standing, I was looking where in case I would run, you know, looking for exits, but, and I, they hear people, you know, start picking up phones. So, so people did get probably similar messages, but nobody left.

Speaker 4:
Well, that’s amazing. That’s amazing.

Ohla:
And like, again, this, this support even, you know, there is some barrier you want to cross it. And from out of nowhere, there shows up immense like, Hey, let me give you a hand. You know, here’s my hand. Cause it’s, it’s, like I said, I have now experienced such unity. And we did, you know, with those peaceful protests, we did achieve our goal where ballots were counted and people you know, got the true, got the true results. And that’s you know, and we also been saying, you know, declare that we got our country Ukraine from U Sr, we got it kind like in a peaceful man, both countries, there were some suppressions, there were live loss. And we were so happy it was done peacefully. And so in 2004 during orange revolution, nobody died. So you, you couldn’t have even imagined that something can happen.

Ohla:
So when in, in 2013, when inov decided, you know, at ties with European union and become closer with Russia and, and people again took it to the streets, took it to my dad. And then in February of 2014, when Russian forces were brought in and they started shooting at people at my, on, nobody could believe it. I woke up and there were a few dead. And I’m like, I, I, I couldn’t believe I’m calling my family here. My friends it’s like, is it for real? How can it happen in Ukraine? How can it happen in this century? Yeah. And so at the time they killed hundred, a hundred people in hundred protestors in Madan. And that was that’s a huge tragedy. But again it’s fascinating when they started shooting people. Of course, some people started running. And so, so you understand there is downtown key, there is Myan. Okay. And Dan, like, that’s

Wilson:
The main square, right? That’s

Ohla:
Yes, yes. And then streets go up kinda like sunrise, you know, go up okay. From Myan and they lead you. Some of them lead you to two most ancient C three in Ukraine. Like one of them is more than thousand years old and stuff. Wow. So people started banging on the doors of those cathedrals monks opened. Okay. And like kind of to protect people and to give them shelter. And at the same time, how do you let people know? You know, there is something going on. Yeah. So they use it and it’s, again, it’s like you are thrown a thousand years ago. So one moon climbs the tower and starts banning on church bells,

Wilson:
Church bells. Wow.

Ohla:
Wow. You wake up people in cave that there is something going on. So, and I have to correct myself. So that was even before those shootings, that’s where the, that were initial attempt to disperse people from protesting. Wow. And it throws me to those times when, you know, TAs were attacking K people in K R in that, you know, that I was just telling you, that’s how there were no cell phones. Right. That’s how people were warning about what’s going on. You would use church bells and, and here we are a thousand years. And, and so people were waking up, you know, started calling and instead of running, like, you know, yes, some people ran away, but the rest is like what? And they had more people coming

Wilson:
Really thats

Ohla:
To support those. Who’ve been treated badly, you know, who been, who been treat

Wilson:
They’re coming. And so to you.

Ohla:
Exactly, exactly. And so now after those a hundred people were killed, you know, people that’s that’s when you heard them probably saw images, people start just digging out the cobblestone from the road, throwing into police, throwing into those snipers and burning. Right.

Wilson:
Gosh, anything they could, you know, rocks in the streets. Yeah. Anything. Yeah.

Ohla:
It’s, I, I couldn’t believe watching from here, my dad, I would walk, spend so much time people use whatever they can to protect themselves, to defend others.

Wilson:
Wow. Yeah. That’s, it’s remarkable. And it, it sounds, you know, it’s like a, a constant refrain as we’ve been talking like over and over again, it’s left to the Ukrainians to try and defend themselves against invaders people coming to get them, or, or interfere with their politics. And yeah. Wow. And that’s 2013, there,

Ohla:
There that, that was 2013. 2014. Yes.

Wilson:
Right. And then that’s when you had sort of, there was an attempt by, right. It was a Yanakovich who is (correct), who was trying to severage with Europe and NATO and direct attention to Russia. And we have another, you know, again, the Ukrainian people kind of unite together and demand some kind of independence. And is that that’s about when the, the Russians moved into Crimea, right? Is that

Ohla:
Exactly so, yes. So like I said, those people in Madan those first 100, they were, we call them heavenly 100. Now they were killed in February. And after that, like I was describing people started, you know, even started fighting more and in the college, they got scared and here ran away to Russia. And that’s when the new president Hanco was in elected. And because he has pro pro Western views that’s why they started saying he is pro and all other rhetoric that they have. And and then that’s when they invited Russia. And no, sorry. That’s when they invited I here in I believe in March, 2014 and Luhan and the Knight God list.

Wilson:
Right. Okay. Well, it’s just I don’t know if we want to jump over the, the whole period there, but that, that started fighting that essentially never ended. Am I right there, like the, exactly. Once, not that it was like what we’re talking about right now at this moment, but they Russians stepped their foot into Crimea and cut it off. And then they have ever, since two varying degrees been supplying and arming and helping the, what we would call set separatists in the, in the east of Ukraine. Now, when I say, quote, unquote separatists, because I, I feel like at one point, right, there were like Russian soldiers doing that fighting without uniforms. I remember that, like, there was like, wait, wait a minute. These aren’t actually Ukrainians. These are Russian. These are Russian military people who just took off the uniform at the border and were, so the idea that I mean, it was a pretty shotty artificial, right?

Wilson:
Like, you know, how, how does this psychological part work? You’re you’re here in the us, what do you make of that? There’s this constant and I, for when I’m impressed by the Russians, cuz there’s this constant fog of what’s true. And it is, it’s psychologically hard for me to be like, well, they say that the sun came up over in the west actually and you have to like think, can that be true? Did it do it, do that? And they have things like, oh, well it’s a, what was the argument? You know, the, the Nazi modification is really fascinating to me cuz you’re pulling on this a, the for Americans, the mirror side of history to us, we fought the Nazis and they’re gone now. And Germany is one of the good guys. But I can understand from the Russian perspective who are not, who had to do a lot more fighting and dying than we did to prevent the, the Nazis from actually like capturing Russia, I can understand like from their perspective, like, oh, well, if Ukraine is going to be friends with Europe, that’s friends with the old invaders, the Nazis.

Wilson:
But so how do, what do you make of this sort of like constant fog of half truths and distortions and rewriting of history? Do you, do you think that’s, how much has that played into where we are today? Like how did we that get us to this like open warfare?

Ohla:
It’s not surprising. That’s that’s the common behavior. And I remember at those times you know, when, when people would say like Ukraine would say like, you cannot believe them, they are lying or like you can never trust them. And other international community was like, you know, like, oh, maybe it’s possible. Maybe we should check it. Right. Right. Some, somehow something changed. And I remember that the president, one of the BTIC countries says like, no, you have to trust us because like Ukraine, multi countries fall, we’ve been dealing with them for centuries. We know them. You have to listen to us. Right.

Wilson:
Yeah. You’ve had had the experience.

Ohla:
Exactly. And so you have to put you, you have to put trust, you know, like it’s and at the same time they say, we call them like green man that occupied creamier, because they were wearing green uniform without any identification later, they launched, they were Russians and the same, the same Eastern Ukraine. And another thing is also, you know, Eastern Ukraine. They didn’t have this military equipment where from like, right. They didn’t. And there was a point in in that fight where Ukrainian forces almost took all, like took the territories back from those separatists. But the separatist got a sudden influx of military weapon, right. To fight, to fight Ukrainians from Russia. Had they not had that? We would have a claimed back the territory.

Wilson:
Sure.

Ohla:
Absolutely. But the fight, the fight was so fierce and it was it’s also part of history now in the nets airport, it was for, for months, people were, Theyre fighting Ukrainians, protecting it. And like they people say it’s not the people, it’s the concrete that dead and couldn’t stand anymore and fall down. Wow. And, and then because of that powerful weapon that was delivered to them, Ukrainians had to retreat and those separatist supported by Russians. They agreed that Ukrainian troops can peacefully go back. They will not fight, but just let them go back. Okay. And guess what happened? Tell they lied. They surrounded them. And they started shooting.

Wilson:
Mm.

Ohla:
The surrounded soldiers who were just retrieving back.

Wilson:
Wow,

Ohla:
You, you, you just, you just cannot trust them. I just cannot trust anything. They say

Wilson:
It’s, it is. I, you know, it kind of takes us back to where we started, where like you, as a human, you want to believe people. You want to think that they’re going to do what they say they’re going to do. But that is in the hands of in the hands of someone who’s very committed or a people who’s very committed to something it’s a weapon because it’s a constant, like you’re constantly taking advantage of people’s. Good assumptions, I guess, is the theme here. Right? You constantly take advantage of their good assumptions. And you’re, I totally hear you on that. Is this I don’t know. I don’t know where we are in the, this situation, but the I’ve been seen this enough times where the us is, is trying to deal with a political situation that becomes a military situation.

Wilson:
And as one of those, as you say, you know, Ukraine is there trying to express its own independence as a, as a culture and a people. And then there are these huge big countries, right? They, there are as the us and the USSR and China and the, the, the, these countries have a totally different calculation, but because they have the resources and the technology they can totally interfere with, or depending on your point of view, tip the balance or help out. But by Russia saying, we’re going to give these folks advanced weaponry and the Ukraine in the military, I presume is not like I definitely not in 2014 was not like on the same page as the Russian military, it was totally changes the equation. So tell me a little bit about, I guess, where going there is like, I don’t know if we should be talking about military stuff now, is this a, is this, do you think this is a war now and it’s about weapons and ammunition and food? Or is it still a political or I guess it’s not like one or the other, but what, how much of this is still like a political fight where Russia’s testing Ukraine resolve or, or do you think it’s just right now your impression it’s just like a military battle?

Ohla:
I, I don’t, I think it’s both, it’s it just in, in the mind of Russians again, and it’s been for centuries that we are the same. We are just a, a younger brother as they call us. And it’s not as language. It just Russian dialect. We are not the same. We are not, we have never been the same. We are different, different country, different thinking, different language. And that’s what they’ve been trying to always do to bring us back and make a part of Russia. And nobody want, there are, there are people like I, like I said, there, there are some who like Putin, who, who want to be, nobody’s keeping you as we have this expression, here is your suitcase. Here is railway station. And here is Russia. Go back and go, right? Why I do crying for Putin, but still living in Ukraine. You love him so much. You want to be a part of Russia. There is a country called Russia. Go there.

Wilson:
Yes. I like that.

Ohla:
Otherwise, yes. Otherwise this is Ukraine. This is, you have to respect the borders. You have to respect the language. You have to respect the history. You have to respect the people.

Wilson:
Right.

Ohla:
That’s always put like, like I said, on the, a biggest scale goal of Russia, especially now putting with his ambitions, he wants it back.

Wilson:
Right.

Ohla:
And it’s, it’s been it’s been the war. It just now became on the biggest scale.

Wilson:
Yeah.

Ohla:
And I also I also want to share the words of one of the Polish presidents, I believe who said back in 2008, when Russia invited Georgia, he said today, it’s Georgia in the morning. It’s Ukraine in the afternoon. It’s both countries and tomorrow it might be us. Right. So again about the whole thinking of Eastern Europe and where things may, may go and what’s been going on there for past few decades.

Wilson:
Oh, it’s, it’s scary to contemplate. What, what is your, what, what would you say the best scenario is right now? What would be the best outcomes to starting today from, from where we are to some sort of you know, like ideal state for Ukraine, what do you think that looks like

Ohla:
Independent Ukraine within its borders that were within the borders that were proclaimed in 1991, when Ukraine proclaimed its independence,

Wilson:
There you go.

Ohla:
Russia leaves leave us alone.

Wilson:
That is, do you foresee Ukraine being able to do that? As it stands now, I guess the way that the situation is set up now, it looks like Russia is going to do all it hand to bring Ukraine under its control and the European nations and the west, you know, including the us. And I think Japan and South Korea are like, well, we oppose that and we will help Ukraine, but help stops at railroad cars. Right. It stops at sending them things or, or money, but we are not going to go in there and, and put our insert ourselves, literally like our lives won’t be on the line. So given that, do you think that’s enough? Or do you feel like it’s enough right now to get you to that independent Ukraine?

Ohla:
I think well, first of all, I we are thankful for all the help we’ve been getting for you know, military help for all the weaponry, for support for, you know, that countries that might unanimous statements. We are really grateful, but it is not enough. It’s not enough. We like, I’ve been telling you, we are fighters. We will be fighting. Even if we lose, it’s no way in hell people will surrender and they will the Russian direction. And they will, there is, I just cannot see that,

Wilson:
Right.

Ohla:
No one will. And we, we do need help. We do need more weapon. We do need sanctions and they need to be now why to way to impose them against footing. What our else are you waiting for? I don’t understand. Right. Nobody understand

Wilson:
What else could he do, right. Yeah.

Ohla:
What else do you need to see? He, yesterday they got Cherno. They got control of Cherno nuclear power. Again. Cherno is on the territory of Ukraine. It’s not some Sr it’s in Ukraine. Why, why do you need it?

Wilson:
Yeah. Why

Ohla:
Would, what is going? What, what, what does he have? What, what, what’s his plan?

Wilson:
That is a very good question. And I do not understand, you know? Yeah. Why would you go in there and seize a disaster site that the SS R I mean, I guess they had a hand in creating that horrible disaster, but it’s a dangerous situation.

Ohla:
Hmm. And then if, if you, you know, like if like Biden is suggesting to cut Russia from fifth, but you have Hungary, you have Germany, you have Italy, you have Cypress though, I’m not surprised because you know of their again, how they’ve been behaving this country, especially Germany and Hungary with their Russian government. It’s don’t, don’t play us. Don’t, don’t play Ukraine. You will pay way bigger, a price later. Right. And, but you are in the whole world.

Wilson:
It’s a, cause

Ohla:
You, you dunno why it can lead. And again, Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons. How can you now with a straight face, talk to Iran, talk to North Korea, talk to anybody. What argument do you have

Wilson:
That

Ohla:
Is encourage them from developing, having countries. How can you even talk to us and tell us, like, don’t do it guys.

Wilson:
It’s a, it is an excellent point. It is an excellent point. Wow.

Ohla:
Well, and again, as the Polish government officials said, it’s Georgia, then it’s Ukraine. Yes. And both countries and PO and who knows? No, nobody knows. I, no, nobody can predict N N none. No, there is no intelligence that can predict what he can do, what he’s thinking about.

Wilson:
Right? Yeah, no, I totally agree. And I, you know, I do not want to like exaggerate historical comparisons here cause it’s always dangerous. But we have seen before in Europe where folks claim that they’re only taking back their ancestral lands or free people who speak the same language as them. And that, that is a a slippery slope is the wrong way to call it. But it accelerates quickly. Right. you know, if he had failed in, if Russia had had more trouble in Georgia, we wouldn’t be having this problem now in Ukraine. And if they don’t have a lot of trouble in Ukraine, I totally agree that then why would they not move beyond there if the, if the price isn’t steep.

Ohla:
And before, before you say next, and I, I want to comment on something you just said you know, people claiming that ancestors land, but it’s like, how far do we go? Right. And I go 1000 back when Ukraine will, like I told you all the way to the BTIC crashes and start climbing those lands. Right? Yeah. Europe has been recrafted so many times if somebody else decides like, okay, like 300 years ago, it was my land, but what about 500? How far do you go? Where do you put, like, how do you decide where the, you, that benchmark, that, that base is,

Wilson:
Right. Absolutely. Humans move around. They always have, and that you can, you know, exactly. Always make claims about somebody was here first, or it really belongs to us. And it is a dangerous game to play, to justify, you know, war to justify violence. It’s. Hmm. But I, I, I know we only had like an hour, but I do want to ask you, like, what do you I don’t know if this is a positive note, but what do you think about growing up in Ukraine? What has that given you and what do you think that like you know, it it’s added to your life and do you think it it’s, what’s the upside, I guess, of having this experience and, and knowing that your people are still in there and, and hanging in, and that you’re doing you, how do I wanna put this? You are an example of the, the surviving spirit, right? Like you, you’re still Ukrainian here. So what does that give you? How do you think about it?

Ohla:
Well, I am, I am very proud to be Ukrainian, to be born there. I want to tell it’s beautiful country country, where there are very hardworking people. And about three years ago I took my family there, my husband and my kids. And they’ve been asking to go back since then. And we were, we are still planning to go there in summer, but yeah, everything right now is up in the air. And on the way to Ukraine, we stopped in Vienna, in Austria. And we spent a few days there. And when we came to Ukraine and spent a few weeks there, then my hu, I asked my husband, cause for him, it was the first time’s like, what do you think? And he said like, wow, I liked it more than Vienna. So it is, it is beautiful, very kind in intelligent, smart people. And we are fighters. We will not give up and, you know, growing there, I Besides pride for my people, it also gave me, you know, love, love to work, love about people and appreciation about everything that everything good that people can contribute to the world. And

Ohla:
No matter what we will prevent, no matter what the outcome we will, we’ll just not give up, but we’ll pay the heavy, heavy rice. And another thing is also and yesterday, when I talked to my friend, the tragedy is the best at dying. You have now, besides, you know, being man, especially being obligated to go serving the arm, me, you have thousands of volunteers signing up and ready to fight. Right. And you know, tons of them are young people. And the question is, the tragedy for me is no matter what the outcome who is left, who is going to create families, have kids and keep it going.

Wilson:
That is a tragedy to, to contemplate a lost and you know, generation, the whole generation is now imperil.

Ohla:
Yes. And I’m not talking about, you know, all the material, physical consequences of war and psychological.

Wilson:
Hmm.

Ohla:
It’s a, and my question is, is also like Russian citizens. What have you been doing now? You started yesterday first protest, but it’s a little bit too late.

Wilson:
Right?

Ohla:
And you are afraid. You are, you know, you are afraid to protest. We were not a, you know, we were like, I was describing you. We were short at, we were killed at, we was still protesting. You are afraid. But what about our kids who are afraid who have been bombarded it, waking up bombs and with tears in their eyes, what do their parents have to say?

Wilson:
It is reality for some people and for the, of us, it’s a concept it’s. Yeah. And if you’re afraid that’s yeah, go ahead. No,

Ohla:
You are afraid there. Then. What about all over the world? There are so many you of you in different countries. What are you doing? Like he cannot get you, there are all your protests. What have you been doing till now? What have you been doing for all these past year, eight years,

Wilson:
Right? Where is it? Well, what do you, I don’t want to like, get us on the total side track, but like, what do you there’s always like a difference between the people and the government. And Putin is clearly an authoritarian leader. But do you, do you have a sense that if Russia had continued down the path of a Western style, a liberal democracy, I think is the actual term for it, as it had a long time ago before Putin, do you think that this would be happening now? Is it, or I just, I don’t know, given like the long, long cultural history here, if it would’ve made a difference, but what do you think?

Ohla:
I, I don’t I don’t, I don’t want to think that would be the case. I, I don’t if, and, and also to talking to some of the, like, I, I cut my ties. As soon as the war began in 2014, I don’t talk to basically any of them here anymore. But before that, it’s surprising how even people, my age, how brainwashed they are.

Wilson:
Mm.

Ohla:
How, you know, there is no Ukraine, there is no language. And it justing for you are a young person you’ve been trying, you live here and you still make these statements again. It’s, it’s, it didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a project for centuries. And it, this project been intensified for past few decades, again.

Wilson:
Yes.

Ohla:
And all these centuries, all these years, the SA the same message. Leave us alone. We don’t want to do, to have anything to do with you. Leave us alone. We are different. We are not the same.

Wilson:
It’s a, well, I, that it has a, it improves, I guess, all we can hope, right. That the trajectory, which has clearly been going in the wrong direction for 20 years, at least turns around that the Ukrainians have done it before. So I hope that there’s some way for them to beat the odds. Again,

Ohla:
I, I do hope, but like I said, we do need help and we need it now. Otherwise, Bryce, for yourself, it’s, you you’ll never know who will be the next or what will happen next.

Wilson:
Well, thank you Olha it was great to talk to you and, and to get some personal knowledge on something that’s so far away for so many of us. So I appreciate you sharing. And yeah.

Ohla:
Thank you, Adam. Thank you for reaching out and thank you for giving me a chance to speak.

A weekend jaunt goes right

Some of the kids were with other family over President’s Day weekend, and my wife and I decided to try to make a break for it on short notice, with our four-year-old in tow. But where to go? Most places we checked were booked, or at least everything but the kind of corporate hotel you find anywhere was booked. No yurts available. No funky old motels. Except … in McMinnville, Oregon. We rolled the dice and took a chance on a place we’d not only never been, but never even thought about going. It worked out so well, I made a video when we got back.

I hadn’t planned on making this video, and so didn’t really get all the shots I needed, just kinda started gathering some clips. But still, it’s fun to be able to share a fun trip.

A New Civil War and the Compass of Power

Adam Wilson Talks to Everyone, Season 2, Episode 1

Is America ;in a new civil war?  Are we headed there? In this episode, I take on the question posed by Politico recently: “We are in a new civil war … about what, exactly?”

I propose the Compass of Power, a theory that holds the center of power in a democracy moves with the people. And Americans have been moving South for decades, tilting the center of national power away from the North, Democrats and liberals.  We talk about the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol, about Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Joe Biden and Georgia voting laws. It all comes down to the differences between how the North and South see the world.  To be Southern these days seems pretty similar to being conservative, and much of what the North has taken for granted is up for renegotiation. Can we do that without a fight?

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Season 2, Episode 1

The New Civil War and the Compass of Power

Politico ran a story the other day titled,

We Are In a New Civil War … About What Exactly?

Subhead:
Grievous conflicts have been about big things — war, slavery, Depression — but this time we just don’t like each other.

Here is a prominent, national news outlet running a column that flatly declares we are in a civil war in America. Because we “just don’t like each other.”

I agree we’ve passed political polarization and stepped into something worse. And — good news — I think I know why. So stick around and listen to old man Wilson lay it down for you.

Let’s set the stage with this Politico article. It was written by no other than founding editor John Harris. Here’s how Harris starts:

For most of my reporting career, to refer to some dispute or another — over a judicial nomination, perhaps, or an uproar over a proposed shopping mall near a battlefield — as “a new Civil War” was to reach for a metaphor.


On the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, we mark the evolution of journalistic cliche: Serious people now invoke “Civil War” not as metaphor but as literal precedent.
He’s right that the talk has gotten around. Or, more precisely, the terms “soft Civil War” and “cold Civil War” entered our political conversation in about 2018 or 19.

They describe a society so deeply divided that political gridlock has begun to spill over into sporadic violence. Moderation is out. There’s no Battle of Bull Run 3, thank you Jesus. But the partisanship is only increasing, not decreasing.

The “civil war” concept has steadily gained traction in the chattering classes. Here’s some headlines from just in the last month:

  • The New Yorker ran an article called “Is a Civil War Ahead?”
  • The Guardian ran “Is the US really heading toward a Civil War?”
  • The New York Times ran a column called “Are We Really Facing a Second Civil War?”
  • Here’s NPR: “Imagine another American Civil War, but this time in every state”
  • Three retired generals wrote a piece for the Washington Post urging the military to take the threat of a coup from within the ranks seriously.

That last point, by the way, was ominously forecast by conservative author David French in his 2020 book, “Divided We Fall.”

But let’s hang with Harris, who raises some excellent points. First, he notes that we have seen more political violence and disruption in America’s past than we do in its present. Fact.

Second, however, he points out that we kinda knew what the problem was when things were heated.
The actual, hot, Civil War was about slavery. The Depression and the New Deal were about expanding government and reining in the capitalists. The riots and demonstrations of the 1960s were (mostly) about segregation and the Vietnam War.

So what, exactly, are we fighting about now?

What was the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020, about — really?

You can say it was about the 2020 election — which Trump lost . But we all know that what we saw on Jan. 6 started long before 2020.

Some part of whatever happened last January is what helped Trump win the presidency in office in 2016. We can agree on that, I think.

Here’s Harris again:

Efforts to explain Trump often rely on complex sociological or economic theories. He was a backlash to globalization and selfish elites. He exploited resentment of trade and the decline in real wages. He was the representative of people who disliked the cultural ascension of women and African-Americans and the diminution of working class white males. And so on.


All semi-plausible. All inadequate in the face of Trump’s zigs on one day and zags the next, and the obvious truth that most of his partisans are attracted to him less for any programmatic reason than for the sheer bombast of his performance — and especially that he offends his opposition.

The more the vitriol has risen the less consensus there is about the origins of anger. To the contrary, there is something closer to an establishment consensus that the search for root cause is folly — the Trump phenomenon defies explanation, and the threat posed by his demagoguery makes speculation about its origins an irrelevant distraction.


There are a lot of explanations for the state of our politics out there. We just listed a few. There are more, and frankly, better ones out there.

Still, it doesn’t feel like any of the mainstream explanations are quite simple enough to be true. Not that something as complex as US Politics can ever be simple, but when you start to feel like you need a new degree just to understand the new and complex reason so-and-so has … It could be that it’s just not the case.

I think of it this way — there are a lot of compounding factors. There are a lot of things that are amplifying the problem. But before you can amplify something, before you can compound it…

You need the original thing. You need the signal that is being amplified.

What is that original thing? If something is breaking apart, you can talk about the forces pulling on it, but it has to give somewhere. There’s a fault line in there, a weak point, where the crack forms.

In politics, a lot people would say it’s what they call America’s original sin: It’s slavery. It’s race.

That, I think, is not quite right. Three points:

  1. The United States absolutely has a long history of racism, and race has always — always — been a factor in our politics. You have to have some compassion for all the Americans who have been harmed by our views on race over the centuries.
  2. Trump reversed racial polarization in our elections. He did. I know it sounds crazy. But the facts are that Trump started winning back non-White voters for Republicans in 2016, and did even better in 2020. He did BETTER with blacks and Latinos in particular AFTER he did all the things in the Whitehouse that drove white liberals crazy.
  3. The same year Americans voted to elect our first Black vice president.

So, if we think of racism as a wound, couldn’t we say it’s healing? Not gone. Not irrelevant. But getting better by a lot of measures, and certainly the one that matters most in politics — power.

I don’t think you can just say “Oh, it’s a bunch of racists who love Trump. That’s what is happening.” And I think we’ve all heard that argument.

I made it myself, once upon a time.

But Trump LOST white voters between 2016 and 2020. He lost men between 2016 and 2020. He lost working class voters.

That’s why he isn’t in the White House right now.

Racism is something but it’s not the THING. The thing we are groping around for. The “root cause” as Harris put it.

Dan Carlin asked the same question this way: where does the heat come from?

If we are in a giant forest fire as a nation, where is the heat coming from, where are the hidden embers that keep re-igniting the blaze?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Are you ready for this?

I’m letting the suspense build.

Okay here it is.

It’s the same thing the last Civil War was about.

It’s about the North and the South.

That’s it. Pretty simple. You understand it already.

Try this — pick a topic that divides us.

Do you want to talk about race relations?

Do you want to talk about economics? How workers are treated, how they are paid, how business is regulated?

Do you want to talk about democracy? Who gets to vote and how?

Do you want to talk about military policy? Foreign policy?

You want to talk about the role of religion in public life?

Every one of those topics, and many more, break along the Mason-Dixon line.

You know, the Civil War was complex, too. But one word, “Slavery,” catches most of it. It’s a system of labor, it was an economic model, it was about who can vote and who can’t. And it was about race.

All tied together. One war. Two sides.

North and South.

Every issue we are fighting today about comes down to the difference between the way the culture that dominates the northern United States sees things,

… and the way the culture that dominates the Southern United States sees things.

Why is this coming to a head now? Didn’t we settle all this back in 1865?

I don’t want to ruin the movie for you, but the north wins the Civil War. And for 100 years after that, the north pretty much gets its way on everything.

What’s really challenging us now is that the North can’t get its way on everything.

Neither can the South. But the South has a shot at having things their way. For the past few decades, the South has had a real shot at getting its hands on the steering wheel of American life.

There are the votes that people cast in elections, and there are the votes they cast with their feet.

Since World War II, Americans have been voting for the South and the West by moving there.

Based on the 2020 Census, Texas will get two more seats in Congress this decade.

Florida and North Carolina will each get one more.

The number of seats in Congress is fixed. So who will lose the seats the South is gaining?
California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania all will lose seats in the House.

New York used to be the most populous state — back in 1960.
After the 2010 Census, it was No. 3.
Now it’s No. 4 — fourth! Behind who?
Florida!
Let’s just sit with that for a second. There are more people in the state with the Everglades than there are in the state with the Empire State Building.
The top three states in the country are California, Texas and Florida.
Those also happen to be three of the most racially and ethnically diverse states in America. But Texas and Florida are deep, deep red. They are conservative places. They are Republican places.
Why?
Again, it’s pretty simple.
They are SOUTHERN places. Today, right now, Southernism, Republicanism and Conservatism have all merged. What it means to be any one is just about the same as what it means to be the other two.
Likewise, to be liberal — especially to be “progressive” — to be a Democrat and to be a northernern are all defined by the same things.
In a democracy, the power comes from the people. And the people are moving south. That is creating a seismic shift in American politics. Because people don’t usually bring their politics with them. They adapt to their political environment.
Think about it — has surging population made Idaho liberal? Turned Washington state red?
No.
For the most part, when a place grows in population, it’s political culture remains constant but that place gains overall influence.
I call my little theory the Compass of Power.
Think of it this way — I’m in Washington state, and the only city in this state the world recognizes is Seattle. Seattle is at the center of a big urban crescent that contains the lion’s share of the people in Washington.

The compass of power in Washington points to Seattle. It’s culture is defined by Seattle, for better or worse. It’s politics are driven by the concerns of Seattle.

Over the past 20 years, the Seattle area has grown like gangbusters.

Accordingly, Washington politics have gone from being tightly contested between Republicans and Democrats, to lopsidedly liberal — Seattle LIberal.

At the national level, even when we Democrats think the Republicans are old and tired and hemmed in by demographic change, they keep winning. It seems all but a given that they will win back the House this year. And probably the Senate.

OK, let’s step back. By now, I’m sure some of you are arguing with me.

What about the terrible gerrymandering by Republicans! Voter suppression!

Or, not everyone in the North is a liberal! There are lots of Republicans in Maine and Wisconsin!

There are Democrats in Texas! I know some (see previous episode oft this podcast)

Demcrats won Georgia!

Also — Trump is from New York City!

What’s wrong with you, Wilson?

LIsten, I am talking big picture here. And I would love, LOVE, to get into the details.

I could go on — and on and on — about how the West Coast ended up voting blue, but interior western states in the North — like Montana and Idaho ended up Republican.

We could discuss the urbanization of the South, and how that will play out for politics.

Because, believe me folks, I have done my research!

But this podcast episode is about answering the question in that headline: We Are In a New Civil War … About What Exactly?

So, I propose the answer is, we are in a cold civil war about the compass of power.

It is a contest to determine whether the North or the South will be in charge of the United States.

To make the case for the Compass of Power, let’s dig into just some of the complexities. And that starts with realizing that the “north” and the “south” are not clearly defined lands with unified governing philosophies.

There is a dominant culture and elite in the North that is defined by the culture you will find in New England, the upper Midwest — that big “blue wall.”

And there is a dominant culture in the South that runs places like Alabama and South Carolina. But I would posit neither one of those cultures was center stage on Jan. 6.

Instead, we should answer the riddle of Jan. 6 with a look at two of the smaller regional cultures in the North and the South.

Former President Donald J. Trump is from New York City.

Here’s the thing kids: as we begin, so we continue. True in all things in life. Including culture.

New York City was founded by the Dutch. It was called New Amsterdam.

Now the Dutch were not out to colonize the New World. Not the way the English were. They didn’t want to populate the land and conquer the territory, start tobacco farms, have a million Dutch babies. Nothing quite like that.

What they wanted to do was trade. They wanted to make money. They wanted fur, they were willing to trade some steel. You know — make a profit.

So the attitude of New Amersterdam was different from the Massachusetts or Virginia colonies. In New Amsterdam, you could be Dutch or French or a member of a Tribe. You could say what you wanted, think what you wanted, dress however.

The Dutch were not there to dictate morality to you.

They were there to make money off you. They wanted profit. And it seemed to them that being tolerant of folks allowed you to meet more potential business partners.

This sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I mean New York City to this day is world-renowned for its diversity and tolerance. It’s a place where freedom of speech is highly, highly valued.

Just about every book published in the United States is published by New York City firms. All the major television networks are based there (except CNN).

In that way, New York City is liberal.

But it’s not liberal in a moralizing, Puritan way. They don’t enforce cultural rules quite like that. That culture, the culture of the folks who founded Massachusetts, is much more widespread in the U.S. than the culture of New Amsterdam. The Yankees, in fact, came to control most of what is New York State.

But not New York City. NYC is a very special place in America. And it’s a very loud place.

The City gave us artists like DJ Herc and Afrika Bambatta, the godfathers of rap, and the whole musical genre of rap.

They gave us Broadway and the Rockettes.

It gave us our national treasure, Mel Brooks. I love Mel Brooks!

Some of the City’s politicians become nationally-recognized liberals, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the AOC.

It’s also given us plenty of loud-mouthed, dynamic conservatives.

What about Fiorello LaGuardia, a Republican? How about America’s mayor, Rudy Guliani? How about Bill O’Reilly? All made in New York, New York.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a national Republican figure, and very much out from central cultural casting in New York.

So, while it might be less common to run into a Republican New Yorker, they are by no means unheard of. And in his way, Trump is the most New York guy you could think of.

As former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan once joked,

“A lot of people ask me, ‘Guy from Wisconsin, what’s it like to work on a daily basis with an abrasive New Yorker with a loud mouth?’ But you know, once you get to know him, Chuck Schumer is not all that bad.”

Being a successful, bombastic television star like Trump, however, doesn’t necessarily give you voters. It doesn’t give you a little militia with which to storm the Capitol.

To understand who follows Trump, we need to understand another American culture. If New York is a junior partner to the Yankees in the Northern cultural coalition, then the Applachians are the junior partner to the planters in the Southern cultural coalition.

On Census forms, these are the “Scotch-Irish.” The name distinguishes them from the Irish Catholics that arrived later in American history.

The kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland were in near-constant state of warfare for hundreds of years up to about the time England started its colonies along the coast of North America and in the Caribbean.

Remember, in the old days you couldn’t load up your troops on a train in London and take them North to the border with Scotland for the battle.

You tried to get the fighting people from the area where the fighting was. The borders between England and Scotland, and between English settlements in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were basically war zones. And the people who lived there developed A Warrior’s culture.

They valued personal courage and toughness Above All Else, and certainly above the genteel manners of the aristocracy.

Scotland and England joined to form the United Kingdom in 1707 — long after the Puritans got to Massachusetts in 1621.

Once they had peace on the home Island, the British ruling class looked at those Borderlands and said, “Hey, the old DMZ is actually Prime real estate!”

To keep things simple for our purposes, just understand that the powers that be in England taxed the borderlanders right off of their land. They just raised the taxes until the people who owned the land couldn’t pay and then they took the land and told them to find someplace else to live.

Where could they go? America. This huge wave of settlers from northern England, Southern Scotland and Northern Ireland start arriving in the colonies right on the eve of the American Revolutionary War.

When they get to the colonies they are not warmly received. They quickly become — and they are to this day –the redheaded stepchild of American culture.

They don’t stay too long in the cities like New York, Boston or Philadelphia and instead head for the frontier area, particularly what is today south central Pennsylvania

From there they spread down the spine of the Appalachian Mountains. They fought with everyone. The native tribes. The local settlers. The government officials. Themselves.

The level of violence in these communities was extreme. We’re coming back to that.

They invented bourbon. The New Yorkers tried to enrich themselves by taxing whiskey, and the Appalachians started the Whiskey Rebellion. 150 years later, the feds started chasing their moonshine, so they invented NASCAR.

They came up with BlueGrass. They play that old time Mountain music that Grandma and Grandpa used to play.

Some call this the Appalachian culture. And I like that term better than “Scotch-Irish” because, just like it doesn’t matter what your background is, if you grow up in New York, you are a New Yorker, if you grow up in Kentucky, you are going to be a Kentuckian in your worldview. It’s a culture, not an ethnicity.

But they went a lot farther than just Appalachia. This culture, like most American cultures, spread far, far west. It dominates states like Kentucky and Tennessee, but it is huge in places like Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri.

(All places, by the way, where the Democratic Party used to win and now loses.)

And to outsiders, their politics seem incomprehensible. Most of us, especially liberal northerners see politics in terms of what policy you favor. Not Appalachians.

Historian David Hackett Fischer wrote a remarkable study of 4 foundational American cultures called “Albion’s Seed.”

Writing in 1989, here’s what he had to say about leaders in Appalachian culture:

The politics of the backcountry consisted mainly of charismatic leaders and personal followings, cememented by strong and forceful acts … The rhetoric that these leaders used sometimes sounded democratic, but it was easily misunderstood by those who were not part of this folk culture. The Jacksonian movement was a case in point. To easterners, Andrew Jackson looked and sounded like a Democrat. But in his own culture, his rhetoric had a very different function. Historian Thomas Abernethy observes that Andrew Jackson never championed the cause of the people; he merely invited the people to champion him.

Remember that — leaders in this culture don’t gain influence with policy proposals. They do it with personality and “forceful acts.” And it may sound to outsiders like they are talking about being champions for the people, but to insiders they are inviting people to champion them.

Any of this sound familiar? I hope so.

Now let’s talk about violence. Like any group of people who are exposed to prolonged periods of violence, the Applachians had developed endemic violence in their own communities. Violence between husbands and wives, between parents and children, between rival families, and on and on.

Here’s a historical scene for us to consider: It’s pre-American Revolution, December, 1763. We’re in Pennsylvania, a state founded by William Penn, who was a Quaker and intended his colony to be a model Quaker community. The Quakers were pacifists. They liked to live and let live, and generally stay on good terms with their neighbors, which included non-English immigrants and local tribes.

But Scotch-Irish have arrived and moved to the west. The Quakers do not find them to be very compatible with their non-violent ways. In fact, there are immediately skirmishes with local tribes that turn violent.

Some of the Applachians suspect peaceful members of the Susquehannock Tribe are helping other Native Americans who have been pillaging local white settlements and scalping people.

Here is a description of what followed from Colin Woodward’s amazing book, “American Nations.” It looks at American history as a series of conflicts between rival cultures, in this case between the Appalachins and the Quakers, whose territory Woodward refers to as “the Midlands.”

Again, fair warning, this is violent stuff. Our sensitive listeners may want to jump ahead a bit.

“In December 1763, a Scots Irish band from in and around Paxton Pennsylvania attacked and burned a peaceful Christianized Indian settlement on Penn family land, killing six individuals on the spot and butchering 14 more at the Lancaster jail, where midlanders had brought them for protection. Among the dead were two, 3-year-old children who had been scalped and an old man who’d been hacked up with an axe in the jail yard. After the killings these so-called “Paxton Boys” rallied together an armed force of 1,500 Scots-Irish neighbors and marched on Philadelphia, intending to murder more peaceful Native Americans who had fled there for their safety on the invitation of Governor John Penn, the late Founder’s grandson.

“The result was a tense military showdown between Borderlanders and Midlanders with control of what was then British North America’s Premier City hanging in the balance. When the Paxton Boys arrived outside Philadelphia on a rainy day in February 1764, a thousand midlanders rallied to defend the State House. The city militia deployed a row of artillery pieces on the parade ground of the garrison, each loaded with grapeshot. As the Borderlander Army surrounded the city, 200 Quakers actually set aside their principles and took up arms.

“On the city outskirts, the Paxton Boys dressed in moccasins and blanket coats, [quote] “uttering hideous cries and imitation of the Indian war-whoop, knocked down Peaceable citizens, and pretended to scalp them,”[end quote] according to an eyewitness.
With German citizens generally remaining neutral and the Scots-Irish underclass in Philadelphia sympathetic with the invaders, the Midlands stood on the brink of occupation.

“In the end Benjamin Franklin saved the day, leading a negotiating team that promised to address the Borderlanders’ grievances if they agreed to go home. A party of them was allowed to inspect the Indian refugees in the city but was unable to identify a single enemy combatant among them. When they later submitted their demands to Penn, foremost among them was to be given proper representation in the provincial assembly. Philadelphians were horrified, the governor dallied, and the city was “daily threatened with the return of a more formidable Force.” Quakers turned to London for help and kept a standing military force posted in the city for the first time in Midlands history. Only the end of hostilities with Indians farther west allowed the situation to normalize.”

Note, dear listeners a few points:

  • Violence on a level that most other cultures would consider barbaric
  • Suspicions over facts — the innocent were slaughtered
  • And underneath that, a legitimate grievance about being cut out of democratic power
  • A grievance that the violence does nothing to solve

These are all repeating, unfortunate, themes in Appalachian culture. And I hope by now they are starting to rhyme in your head with headlines today, more than 250 years later.

Culture isn’t just what we think of when we think of New York City … musicians, dancers and playwrights. It’s not just rich people on 5th Avenue and strolling through Central Park.

It’s how we see the world collectively, including our community attitudes about violence. It includes our attitudes about what is appropriate for the government to do, what is appropriate for citizens to do.

The Dutch, for example, never intended their colony on Manhattan island to be self-governing. The government was called “the West India Company.” (All rights reserved. Seriously.)

The people who had a say were often successful business men. And to this day, if you want a say in how things are done in New York City, you have to be prepared to fight for it in some pretty tough crowds.

Ocasio-Cortez, for example, beat Joe Crowley, a fellow Democrat who served his district for 20 years and was well liked in D.C. But if you are in elected office in NYC, you have to watch your back.

The Applachians certainly have some rough-and-tumble internal politics, but the one thing they despise more than anything is being dominated by outsiders.

For centuries, they have resisted any sort of outside imposition on their ways.

Although we may think of them as being vaguely “southern,” it’s important to remember that they have never wanted to answer to anyone. In the case of the Civil War, Kentucky was actually neutral, the Switzerland of the Civil War.

Tennessee was supposedly a Confederate state, but throughout the war it was riven with insurrections and battles between Unionist holdouts in the mountains and troops loyal to the confederacy.

And West Virginia left Virginia because of the Civil War. The Applachians there really resented being controlled by the planters along the coast, and the first chance they got, they broke off and formed their own state — slave fee, and loyal to the Union.

Just a month or so ago, the whole Northern coalition was upset with Senator Joe Manchin.

Remember that? He was not going along with President Biden’s big social program bill, and the Democrats had to have him on board. Finally he said he was a definite “no.”

Liberal people were livid. Said he wasn’t even a Democrat. Even Joe Biden was mad, which is saying something.

What do you think Manchin said? What would someone from Appalachia say?

He said, and I quote:
“I knew what they could and could not do. They just never realized it, because they figured: ‘Surely to God, we can move one person. Surely we can badger and beat one person up. Surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough.’
“Well guess what: I’m from West Virginia. I’m not from where they’re from and they can just beat the living crap out of people and think they’ll be submissive, period.”

So, he’s a no.

And tell me listeners, isn’t that exactly what we would expect?

In my opinion, and based on the theory of politics I am laying out for you here, it is very true to type. It is what you get when you try to push a politician from the Applachain culture into doing your bidding. You get the finger.

So, the Applachians are a part of the Northern coalition, but an uneasy partner.

More often these days, we find them on the conservative side of politics, part of the Southern coalition. The Appalachian culture, after all, runs strongest along the mountains, taking up the east of the Carolinas and the north of Alabama and Georgia. It runs west to the top of Texas and into New Mexico.

The absolute archetype of their political culture today is Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Not only does he represent Kentucky, he is also from an old-school Scotch-Irish family.

And he just drives Democrats mad because he only wants to win. And he says so. He says, I’m not going to let the president fill a Supreme Court seat because he’s a Democrat and I’m a Republican. And then he denies President Obama a nomination that at any other time would have been allowed.

It may infuriate the rest of us, but it makes him a hero to his people.

Senators McConnell and Manchin agreed on something — they condemned the Jan. 6, 2020 storming of the Capitol. They may play politics hard, but they don’t like the rabble running amok and smashing their windows.

Who does?

I hope by now I have set the stage for the answer to that, dear listeners.

What we have is:

  1. A loud-mouthed, big-personality figure from New York City who loves adulation.
  2. A whole American culture that responds more to personality than to policy, and that wants more than anything to stick it to the elites. And…
  3. A win followed by a loss. Trump won in 2016. He lost the election in 2020.

In my view, that answers the Trump part of the question — Donald Trump is no Applachian chieftain, but he learned to play one on TV.

There is good reason to think that the Trump who became president is not the Trump who became a media star beginning in the 80s. As Esra Klein noted in his book on polarization, Trump once criticized the Republicans for sounding too mean on immigration.

That doesn’t sound like the Trump we knew as president.

It seems more likely that Trump discovered there was an audience out there for him in politics. A whole swath of people who loved him more the tougher, angrier and more defensive he sounded.

Remember how he seemed to encourage roughing up protesters at his rallies? He knew his audience loved that.

I’m not saying that Trump sat around and thought, “If I act tough and damn the elites, I should get a good swath of the Appalachian culture on my side. With that, I could win a few of the swing states and put myself in the Whitehouse.”

No. Trump, I am sure, did zero historical research. But he FELT the connection when he played the role. He HEARD the roar of the crowd, and he knew he was onto something big. And the more he played to it, the more loyal the crowd became.

So, when Trump refuses to concede the 2020 election, a lot of people believe him. It’s in large part thanks to social media and disinformation and all the rest. It’s the direct connection he forged with his most devoted followers, which had no connection to the facts at play.

But it’s also because once you play the role of the chieftain, you have to win. No Losing allowed.

And if you say you really won, but you were done dirty, who comes to set things right? The kind of people who go to political rallies dressed for some kind of battle.

I don’t have the time to run the analysis of who was at the Capitol riot, where they were from, regions, all that. But to me, there’s only one group of Americans who show up to a political rally ready to literally fight. With helmets and gas masks and zip ties.

And what happens when the beloved leader of a group like that tells them, “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

They do not vigorously file petitions!

They don’t write sternly-worded emails!

They smash. Some. shit. Right then.

Again, I know there are a lot of complexities here. And I am not saying that everyone who grew up in an Appalachian area is some kind of violent extremist who can’t think for themselves.

This is a self-selected sample of the electorate. These are the people who are so amped up they are going to show up for the kind of party Trump was throwing on Jan. 6.

He tweeted, quote, “Be there. Will be wild!”

The sort of folk who wanted it wild came. And it was that. But we are talking about a very small subset of people. It was no revolution.

Frankly, I don’t think the Jan. 6 riot was a coordinated military operation to seize control of the federal government. I do think it was what it looked like — a riot in which most people had no real plans, but a few where acting out violent fantasies.

It was a big deal. People died. More than 100 members of the Capitol police force were injured, and the broader security apparatus in DC proved unable to ensure public safety or even official control of America’s most important public building.

And the President of the United States instigated the whole affair.

A year later, a lot of people on the left believe that democracy itself is under attack.

One CNN headline read, “January 6 may be only a preview of a deeper democratic rupture,”

Former President Jimmy Carter, from Georgia, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times titled, “I fear for our democracy.”

Again, I don’t think the actual participants in the Jan. 6 melee are likely to overthrow us. They ranged wildly in terms of forethought and intent.– the dude with the bison horns, the old guy hanging out in Pelosi’s office.

There’s Stewart Rhodes, who has been charged with “seditious conspiracy” as the leader of the “Oath Keepers.” He’s worked in Arizona and Nevada, trained as a paratrooper, was injured, and later graduated from Yale Law School. He was disbarred in Montana.

His people are the ones who are accused of leading the charge to bust down the Capitol doors. They are also accused of having firearms ready nearby. Seems pretty calculated.

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton spoke at the Jan. 6 rally. Like Kevin McCarthy, he is in a legal battle over his communications from that day.

Next to leaders like them, you have people like Thomas Paul Conover — from the Appalachian part of Texas, North Texas. Conover entered the Capitol and got a picture of himself drinking a Coors Light next to a painting.

He is not accused of being violent or damaging anything. But he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

By this point, Conover is facing up to six months in prison. I wonder if he disagrees with Tucker Carlson, one of Fox News’ top-rated hosts.

Here’s what Carlson had to say about the anniversary:
“But actually if you take three steps back as historical events go, if we are being honest now, January 6 barely rates as a footnote.”
“Really not a lot happened that day if you think about it.”
Put me in the “ a lot did happen” camp. No, not the death of democracy or the overthrow of government. But something unprecedented.

President Biden observed the anniversary in the Capitol. He said,

Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart.

Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened. But it happened here in 2021.

What else do you see? A mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol. American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears. Fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers.

A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them.

OK, now Biden is setting up his attack on the “Big Lie” perpetuated by Trump. That is the notion that somehow Trump actually won the election, but widespread voter fraud and conspiracies undid his victory.

As Biden said, none of this has stood up in court. None of it has been found in vote counts, recounts and audits. It’s not true, and yet Trump’s supporters believe it.

It’s all fantasy.

And again, we could talk about Fox News and the echo chamber and all that. I recognize that.

I feel like I have to stop a lot and acknowledge the complexities because my analysis is so simple.

But I really do feel, folks, that we have focused too much on the complexities. So much so that we can’t even see the simple explanation right in front of our faces.

They were waving Confederate flags because they are the heirs to the Confederates.

That’s it.

The people there on Jan. 6, whether they were trying to hunt down and hang Vice President Pence or just posing for photos with their beer, had some sort of kinship with the Southern vision of America, not the Northern vision of America.

The Confederate flag, the rebel flag, as some call it, speaks to something they feel about who they are and what their country is.

Trust me, we could spend hours unpacking the symbolism the flag at the riot. One had the Confederate battle flag as a background, an AR-15 in the foreground, with the motto “come and take it.”

But let’s change the camera angle here.

Biden says Jan. 6, 2020, was a huge deal. On that day, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy also thought it was a huge deal.

He went on record condemning the violence. He said Trump bore some responsibility for it.

The chair of the House committee investigating the riot, Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, wrote to McCarthy recently, saying:

“It appears that you may also have discussed with President Trump the potential he would face a censure resolution, impeachment or removal under the 25th Amendment. It also appears that you may have identified other possible options, including President Trump’s immediate resignation from office.”

But McCarthy is not going to talk to that committee. He said he would not. And he says the investigation is not legitimate.

What happened? What turned McCarthy around?

Here’s my thought. McCarthy is from California. He’s an experienced politician. based on his experience and his background, he looked around at that riot he thought it was outrageous. He told the president so.

But as time has gone on and he has talked to his people he realizes that maybe what happened on January 6th wasn’t so outrageous from their perspective. Maybe it’s pretty close to being culturally acceptable.

What used to be completely wrong and bad because it was against the rules in US politics maybe now is just a little untoward. Not completely wrong.

Because the Compass of Power is tipping away from the old set of cultural rules.

Now Tucker Carlson, Kevin McCarthy and a lot of others are realizing there’s not going to be a political price to pay for January 6th.

If they hang tight and everything keeps going the way it seems like it’s going, they’re going to be working their way back into power in the next elections.

A year from now, in 2023, it could very likely be Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. And you can bet that the House committee isn’t going to be sending him uncomfortable questions anymore. Maybe he turns it around and now Democrats are getting nasty questions from his committee.

It’s the Democrats who are worried, because they can sense that the acceptable norms are changing.

That is why President Biden went to Georgia to talk about voting rights.

As the compass of power tips South, the Democrats have to win in the South if they want to stay in power. Biden won the election because Against All Odds he won in Georgia.

And what are the powers that be in Georgia doing about it? Well, they refused to alter the actual vote counts, despite Trump pressuring them to do so. So that is good.

But after Biden won, and so did both Democratic candidates for the US Senate, Georgia elites turned to their standard playbook.

Georgia’s elite are doing exactly what you would expect them to do in the context of its culture and history.

They looked at the 2020 election, saw that the people voted in a way they didn’t like and they’ve decided they’re going to change the rules about who gets to vote.

Just to illustrate the importance of geography here, let me point out that all of these rules are completely baffling to me. Because I live on the West Coast.

In Washington state, for example, we do all our voting by mail. The ballots are sent to registered voters three weeks before the election, and they have to be mailed or dropped in a ballot box before or on Election Day.

That’s it.

But you look at the sort of election “reforms” we’re talking about across the South and the Dry West, it’s finagling with absentee ballots and voting poll locations, and drop box locations and hours, and it’s all super complicated.

For example, if you do have people standing in line waiting to vote, I can understand why you wouldn’t want Senator Fibber McGee handing out drinks and snacks to folks.

“Here’s some water — remember to vote McGee!”

On the other hand, if you are a member of the ruling class, and the poor people have voted in ways you find objectionable, then maybe you cut back on how many polling places they have. Now the lines are really long.

Maybe four hours long.

Then maybe the “League of folks who want to vote” organizes themselves and hands out water, so nobody passes out or gives up and leaves.

If you didn’t like the whole idea of poor people voting in the first place, then maybe you “protect the integrity of the voting process,” by banning water bottles in line.

See how it gets complex?

The whole dynamic is so concerning to the Democrats that not only did the president go to Georgia to protest this month, so did the vice president. And Vice President Kamala Harris said something interesting.

She said there is “a danger of becoming accustomed to these laws, a danger of adjusting to these laws as though they are normal.”

“There is nothing normal about a law that makes it illegal to pass out water or food to people standing in long voting lines.”

Look, I am also opposed to making it difficult for people to vote. I believe that if you are an adult American, you should be able to vote — with very, very few exceptions.

But Harris, like McCarthy, is from California. And I think what she is saying is “it’s not normal where I come from” to respond to election losses by making it harder to vote.

Can we really, honestly make the case it’s not normal in Georgia?

There is some Appalachian territory in Georgia. But for the most part, it’s what we call the “Deep South.”

What is the “deep” South? Well, I think we all know the difference between the stereotypical hillbilly, with a beard and a shack and a jug of whiskey …

And a planter in a white suit, with plantation house, a mint julep and slaves.

There is a major difference between a frontier culture that is hostile to all outsiders and a culture that seizes land and keeps a whole population enslaved to do the work.

Biden is right when he calls what is going on in Georgia “Jim Crow 2.0”

Heck, it’s more like Jim Crow version 4.5.

Because Jim Crow laws themselves, put in place at the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th Century, were just a new way to maintain an old order. An order that goes back 400 years.

The culture of the Deep South goes back to folks who wanted to be English Aristocrats but we’re cut out of the aristocracy in England. All the land was taken up. So these people moved out to the Caribbean, and from the Caribbean 2 South Carolina, from South Carolina all the way east Texas.

The most important feature of this culture in the context we are talking about is that they always believed there was an entitled ruling class of people who deserve to be in charge. There was a vast undeserving class underneath them right down to people who literally had no rights and were considered property.

Side note: observers have always remarked on the level of violence in Appalachian culture, but we should realize that the culture of the Planters was riddled with violence that was just less visible because it mostly occurred out of public view, between the owners of the land and the people they enslaved.

The goal has always been to maintain an oligarchy, which is just a fancy way of saying they wanted to keep the big shots in charge of everything.

As late as 1974, South Carolina General Assembly seats were assigned just as they are today for the U.S. Congress, with counties like states.

Each county got a certain number of state representatives based on it’s population, but never less than one (just as the least populated states still have one at-large congressional representative).

And every county got one state senator, just like each state is represented by two federal senators. The criticism of this plan was that it gave some people — like rural land owners more representation in the legislature than urban people.

Which is exactly the complaint about the US Senate leveled by northerners today.

Listen, I want to be clear that I believe the Voting Rights Act lifted up the voices of people who had been denied their basic rights as Americans.

I think of voting as a right. Not as a priviledge.

But I don’t live in Georgia. I don’t vote in Georgia. The question is can the people of Georgia come to an agreement on who can vote and where?

There’s a contest going on there right now between the folks who have traditional views about reserving voting for the select, and those who want to see as many people vote as possible.

And yes — most Black people in Georgia are going to be on the liberal side of this because they have been on the wrong end of those restrictions for centuries.

Biden doesn’t want to leave it to Georgia, because the people in charge there are going the Southern way. The laws have already been passed. Not only there but in 18 other states as well.

States like Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas and Arizona.

Biden, the Democrats, and northerners in general have one option left. That is to pass federal law overriding those states.

To do that, though, you need a majority in the Senate and the House. They have it in the House. But even after winning both Senate seats in Georgia, the Democrats are only up to a 50-50 split in the Senate.

That takes us back to the previously mentioned criticism of the Senate.

And, to quote Biden, (NOT ONE REpublian)

Not one Republican is going to vote for Voting Rights Act 2.0 because they don’t think they are going to pay a political price for opposing it.

They feel like they are going to win elections by doing just what they are doing now — which is opposing everything Democrats ask for.

And to be fair, they also feel like it’s pretty judgy of us Northerners to take what they see as “election security” and hold it next to Jim Crow 1.2.

McConnell said, “A sitting President of the United States who pledged to lower the temperature and unite America now invokes the brutal racial hatred of Jim Crow segregation to smear states whose new voting laws are more accessible than in his home state of Delaware.

“10 days of early voting and excuse-only absentees in Delaware is just fine, but 17 days of early voting and no-excuse absentees in Georgia is racist Jim Crow?”

“The Senate Democratic Leader pretends it is a civil rights crisis that Georgia has enshrined more early voting and more absentee balloting than his state of New York has ever allowed.

“This is misinformation. A Big Lie.”

Well, let’s face it. The North has always been better at pointing out the South’s faults than living up to it’s own ideals.

So, where does this all leave us? Let’s go back to the beginning, one last time.

We are answering the question put forth by Politico editor John Harris:

We Are In a New Civil War … About What Exactly?

And my answer comes in reverse. First, what’s it about?

It’s about the Compass of Power. It’s about tipping that 50-50 split in the Senate. It’s about the fact that the North is losing people, the South is growing and soon will be the dominant region of the United States.

As the population shifts, all things American are up for redefinition.

It will redefine what we eat — I bet you already eat a lot more barbeque and pulled pork than you used to! I know I do.

But it will also redefine what “voting rights” are.

It will redefine what kind of violence is acceptable.

It will redefine what employee rights, environmental protections, and health care mean.

And it won’t do that, I don’t think, in a way northerners, Democrats or liberals are going to like.

But should we just agree with the assertion that we are in a new civil war?

I am willing to accept the notion that we are in a “cold Civil War.” And so are most Americans, At least according to one poll by Business Insider.

I think it fits because, like the actual Cold War between the US and Russia, no one even wants to contemplate how horrible open warfare would be.

But no one is quite willing to compromise or collaborate with the other side, either.

I say “no one” meaning, those who challenge the status quo do not fare well. See also — Liz Cheney.

So, you have two sides who tolerate huge expenses — deadlocked federal government, political tension, even sporadic violence up to a point.

But they won’t tolerate — Saints preserve us — going beyond intense harassment. The Cuban Missile crisis is instructive here.

There is merit to the argument that even talking about a civil war makes one more likely. However, not talking about a situation as bad as we have seems irresponsible, as well.

Does it get better? Maybe.

Maybe one side wins without too much fuss.

Does it get worse? Maybe.

Let me ask you this —

If it comes to either things getting worse or you compromising on your values …

What does your heart tell you?

Childbirth rights … and wrongs

Adam Wilson Talks to Everyone, Episode 9 Jessica Wilson

Contrary to what you may have heard, women are not poorly designed for childbirth. Jessica Wilson talks about why we fear mothers will die in childbirth in the United States, starting with her own terrible experience having her first child. We talk about the cascade of interventions, America’s dismal statistics of maternal mortality, and what we know about childbirth in the old days — before doctors were around to get involved. We talk hospital birth vs home birth, and not unrelated, about fear for moms versus confidence in them. 

Listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. Below is a transcript of this episode. I use an electronic transcription service, so check the audio to clear up any confusion.

Adam Wilson (00:00):
Wilson here, we’re celebrating the end of the podcast. 2021 season with a Christmas episode. We’re going to talk about babies, especially having babies. Childbirth. ‘Tis the season folks. We’re going to talk about having babies with someone who is blindingly brilliant, intensely passionate about this subject, deeply informed by personal experience and by a lot of research. It’s the one, the only Jessica Wilson. Hooray! She’s also a phenomenal and phenomenally patient mother. I think I can give you a flavor of what we’re going to talk about here by giving you some facts. Jessica and I were walking down memory lane and after we recorded, she said she wanted to check and make sure her facts are still solid. So she checked again and it should come as no surprise that she had her facts straight like a laser. In fact, the situation with maternal death rates in our nation has gotten worse since Jessica and I had our last kids.


There are only two countries in the world that have increasing maternal death rates, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the first world. You’re talking about deaths of mothers per 100,000 live births. The US is at 17.4 for the year of 2018. That’s 17.4 for the U S compared to say 6.5 in the UK, or say 1.8 in Norway. We’re comparable to Oman, where the rate is 19. You’d literally have better chances having a child in Kazakhstan where the maternity mortality rate is 10, as you will hear, this is at least partly related to how and where we have our babies. Jessica was right. American black women with a college degree are 60% more likely to die in childbirth than black women without a college degree. Listen on to hear how that fits in. Meanwhile, Ireland did not lose a single mother in 2018 or 2019. A small country. Yes, but again, zero mothers dying in childbirth. Hooray! That’s what we want, right? Okay. You got thoughts? Questions. Get in touch with me through my website, Adam E H wilson.com. Please give me a review on whatever podcast app you’re listening to. Tell your family, tell your friends, spread the word and away we go.


Music (02:41):
[Inaudible]

Adam Wilson (02:42):
I am here with the lovely and brilliant Jessica Wilson. But the rules are, you have to introduce yourself. So who are you?

Jessica Wilson (03:00):
I’m Jessica Wilson. Okay. You have to tell me what the question is.

Adam Wilson (03:02):
The question is, who are you?

Jessica Wilson (03:04):
There’s many layers to that.

Adam Wilson (03:07):
Right? Let’s move on. Where are you from? Okay. I ask everybody where they’re from.

Jessica Wilson (03:12):
I, although I was born in Southern California, that is not an accurate description of where I’m from. I was raised about 65 miles outside of Chicago in a very small town fairly close to the Wisconsin border. My parents were both from the city of Chicago and particularly my father’s line has been in Chicago for a very long time. In fact, I think it’s not an exaggeration to say that they helped build Chicago. There’s many buildings that we can point to and say that, you know, the men in our family helped work on that. And yes, my parents felt like, you know, there was a lot of problems in Chicago, a lot of social issues going on. So they felt like having a more bucolic assistance for their children would be better. However, they didn’t really,lean in to any research for the particular area that they picked.

And they actually landed us in a place with arguably more social problems than the city of Chicago. The area where I grew up was absolutely solidly rust belt. The manufacturing jobs had dried up more or less in the late seventies. And by the time we moved there in the late eighties, the only people left were those without the means to move on. And so I grew up in a place where there were very few children. There weren’t, they actually had closed the elementary school in the town that I grew up in, in bused us to the town over. So I wrote on the bus for over an hour each way, every day. And there was a lot of alcoholism, a lot of drug use. It wasn’t maybe what you might consider to be an idyllic small town existence.

Adam Wilson (05:22):
Well, I guess not.

Jessica Wilson (05:25):
Yes, so, that’s where I’m from. That’s where I grew up with

Adam Wilson (05:28):
This is where see a good marriage has lots of commonality and you and I are similar in that. My parents grew up in Spokane and I was born in Spokane, I guess the difference is I was born,where they were from, but then they too were, you know, that was the time right in the, when the baby boomers were going out to make their fortune, they decided to go to small town America. And so I grew up away from Spokane, but we kept traveling there all the time when I was a little kid. So like all my young memories are Spokane, but I grew up in fabulous Genesee Idaho. The difference there, of course, being that Genesee to my knowledge was not riddled with job loss. Yeah.

Jessica Wilson (06:05):
I can tell you right now having visited Genesee that it is nowhere near what the experience of the town that I grew up in.

Adam Wilson (06:16):
Let’s see. I don’t know. Yeah. That’s my, I guess my parents did more research.

Jessica Wilson (06:20):
Yes. They had more of an understanding. I too spent a quite a bit of time. I basically almost every weekend in Chicago. Yeah. So I had a lot of exposure to search Chicago, so it’s not like we just moved there and then I never went to anywhere or gained any culture because absolutely. We spent quite a bit of time there. So there you go.

Adam Wilson (06:41):
Listen. But that’s enough about where we’re from. We’re not here to talk about where we’re from. We’re here to talk about where babies come from. Cause this is something that you and I have experienced it. And it’s something that I thought it would be great to talk to you because you have you have some deep cuts on how babies get born in the United States. And I was not aware of when we first got married. So

Jessica Wilson (07:06):
I remember having a conversation with you about this before we even dated or anything when we were still just coworkers and I was talking to you and another gentleman, very nice guy that we worked with about it. It was, it was Todd and I was clearly blowing both of your minds and yes. And so then eventually I just, you know, when that happens, which is not infrequently when I’m having conversations with people eventually I realized like, okay, I just need to like end this conversation because I’m dropping too much knowledge.

Adam Wilson (07:45):
Yes. I remember that Todd and I were both like, what is going on? We were just talking, I don’t know what we were talking about, but soon we were discussing the various intricacies of the medical establishment

Jessica Wilson (07:58):
Yes. And why there is such a high C-section rate.

Adam Wilson (08:01):
Oh was it the C-section rate?

Jessica Wilson (08:03):
It was talking about C-sections.

Adam Wilson (08:05):
Yeah, man. So anyway, this it’s, we’re coming up on Christmas. This is like a Christmas episode, a season of rebirth.

This was special, special kind of way. All right. So anyway you and I have a blended family of yours, two of mine and one of ours. So we’ve been around the horn. This is five times around the horn. And I guess I will just say that my experience with the, my, my two older boys was that we, you know, it was like the traditional, you go to the hospital and there’s like nurses and doctors and you have a baby. Right. And there’s like lots of attention, but you have a more dramatic story, which leads you to your in-depth knowledge, which is that when Felix was born, it was like a colossal medical, medical intervention. Right?

Jessica Wilson (09:04):
Yeah. So a couple things about that when I was pregnant with Felix, I of course like anything else I do. I wanted to educate myself very thoroughly on the experience because, you know, it was new to me. It was my first and in the process of that education. I really came to understand that there were some big problems with the industry around giving birth in the industry, around babies and everything, you know, that whole package from pregnancy to birth, to, you know, having a baby, that there was some problems there. And I had committed myself at that point that I very much wanted to have a natural childbirth. And so I had contacted a nurse midwife in the place that I lived in Northern Illinois a big city up there. And one thing to understand is that Illinois, although changes have happened since I have left there is very much culturally perhaps in some ways behind Washington when it comes to an understanding of the best, best care practices around giving birth.

Jessica Wilson (10:29):
And so, for example, there’s no a certified professional midwives — They’re illegal. — They were, I think that they just recently, like this past year passed legislation to make them legal. I’m not sure what that looks like. Cause I haven’t looked at that legislation, but I assume that it’s probably more restrictive than Washington. Point being. The nurse midwife is not authorized to practice on her own. She has to have a doctor directly supervising her everything is conducted through the hospital. So while I did have a nurse midwife attending me and attending my birth, which was in the hospital with my oldest it was definitely a very medical experience. And so I got high blood pressure when I, toward the end of that pregnancy. And it’s sort of a mystery why this continues to happen, but also not a mystery because I’m you know, I’m a tightly wound person. And I assume that you know, especially

Adam Wilson (11:35):
When it comes to areas of childbirth.

Jessica Wilson (11:37):
Yes. And so I’m sure that, you know, coupled with the fact that, you know, I had just recently quit smoking, right. I had smoked all the way up until I found out I was pregnant. But you know, my cardiovascular system wasn’t in stellar shape. So the cascade of interventions came down.

Adam Wilson (11:56):
There we go, the cascade of intervention.

Jessica Wilson (12:00):
So this refers to when you, when they identify you as needing one particular intervention, often that leads to many, many other interventions happening. So what this means is because I had high blood pressure, they determined that I needed to be induced and I needed to be induced early before my due date. I was able to kick that can down the road a little bit, but they didn’t really let me kick the can down very far. So the day after Christmas I showed up at the hospital and they began the induction process. And I had, you know, expressed to them that I wanted to be able to get up and walk around. I wanted to, you know, have sort of this more natural experience. But you know, once I was there and once they had hooked me up to the machines, it became very clear that it was not convenient for me to walk around. That they wouldn’t, you know, that, that wasn’t going to be a part of my experience.

It wasn’t going fast enough for them. So they came in and they decided they needed to break my water again, invention intervention, number two which then actually introduces a whole host of other things because then you’re on a definite time clock. Right. And after that happened which I, I really didn’t want to happen. I wanted to be able to have a chance to, you know, let my body do its thing. And I was very aware that that made me, you know, that put me on a time frame. And pretty soon after that the Pitocin kicked in and the contractions were absolutely more than I could handle. They were overwhelming and extremely painful, which anybody who’s been induced can attest to.

Adam Wilson (13:49):
And part of the, when they induce it’s like hyperdrive, right?

Jessica Wilson (13:53):
It’s hyper drive and, you know, there’s different ways that they do it and, and different things that they might use to do that. But I believe that they just went ahead after they broke my water and cranked up the Pitocin as high as it could go. And it, I could not breathe through the contractions. I started to hyperventilate. So I asked for an epidural intervention number three, right. They came in to do that. Yes, yes. And it turned out to be quite serious for me because they didn’t do something quite correctly. And it introduced some air into, or as it was explained to me, likely what happened is that air was introduced into my spinal fluid and a bunch of it went up into my brain, which then mimicked the effects of a stroke. So I felt like I having a stroke the people in the room felt like I was having a stroke all panic and chaos ensued.

Adam Wilson (14:58):
Right. Then it’s like really one of those like made for TV birth scenes where everyone’s freaking out,

Jessica Wilson (15:04):
Everyone was freaking out. My oldest child’s father was actually wheeled out of the room because you know, he was in like some sort of panic attack from it. And fortunately my father was there. So my father was able to come into the room and be with me. And that was great. So my dad was there with me. They kind of figured out what was going on. They figured out that it was the epidural at that point. I started getting other complications from the epidural, including my feet. I got a really high sudden fever went up to about 104. So which then led them to believe that somehow I may have had a, an infection, which was not true. It was just a fever induced from the epidural, which can happen. All of that aside, I was able to, you know, give birth naturally.

But because I had the fever and because, you know, I assumed my oldest was a little stunned from everything that was going on they took him over and they were like, oh, he’s not breathing quite right. And so then they started performing a bunch of very invasive,things to him, including innovating him or trying to, trying to put a tube down his throat just to stimulate his breathing. Uand I started to panic and say, I want my baby put my baby on my chest. This is not necessary. And then somebody came over and gave me something which then knocked me out.

Adam Wilson (16:36):
And they just like, they, they just tranqed you, They’re like mom is acting up.

Jessica Wilson (16:41):
And when I woke up, my baby had been taken to the ICU and I didn’t even know it was 12 hours later. That’s crazy. I also of course, wanted to,ubreastfeed and I had found out that they had started giving him formula there. They had given him a spinal tap to determine if he had had an infection. Of course, all that came back clean because there was no infection to begin.

Adam Wilson (17:06):
Right. Because the symptoms were wrought by the earlier, like the one intervention creates symptoms of some other problem that you then go after with more interventions. And

Jessica Wilson (17:18):
Yes. So yes, he had been formula fed and had been given a pacifier and everything, which I had specifically asked them not to do, but I was knocked out. So, you know, what else were they going to do, I guess? And so he had to stay there for several days after I was released just to monitor him again for what turned out to be nothing. But I religiously went there every two hours all the way through the day and the night. So I didn’t basically sleep at all for three days while he was there, just to make sure that I was there to nurse him because I was absolutely determined that they weren’t going to like get him hooked to a bottle. Right. And it was very, very tricky and hard. And it was very hard when I brought him home because you know, he had gotten used to a bottle. But ultimately I was able to establish a successful nursing relationship with him, which then led me to become a leader.

Adam Wilson (18:20):
Yeah. So, I mean, it’s a, I’m very sorry. That’s a terrible, terrible experience, but I think that is a good blow by blow to understand like how you came to being like, I’m going to like, learn all about this.

Jessica Wilson (18:33):
Cause I, I had already been pretty well-educated right. I already knew what the cascade of interventions was. I already knew that I didn’t want like, a traditional OB GYN attending me. I already knew basically what the risks were of all this stuff. I didn’t want an epidural. Right? But I ended up needing one because you know, the pain that I was in was fantastic. So yes, absolutely. And so I was like, okay, there’s obviously even deeper layers to this that I didn’t previously understand. And I need to first understand like how I got high blood pressure, but also understand what’s happening here in the medical system that made this, you know, what I considered to be quite, it was extremely traumatic to me. And I know that it was traumatic to my oldest, you know? It’s hard to say what specific parts of his personality might have been, you know, sort of formed by that early experience of extreme separation and anxiety and everything.

Adam Wilson (19:35):
Right? Yeah. That was a terrible way to start. I mean, obviously everyone was the thing I guess, is like everyone assumes birth is like, I have always assumed that birth is like a super dangerous events you need, like all the people around that are skilled professionals, you need the obstetrician, you need the, the nurses, you need the machines and the scales and the x-rays and the medicine. And just like all this stuff. Like it’s like, yeah, like it’s a huge hosp, it’s like a traumatic, I guess it’s like, it’s almost like we treat it, like it’s like a car wreck or something, right. Like total intervention needed. So I guess the first thing to go do there from like, okay, there’s like a terrible sequence of events and bad experience for mom and baby to like, but isn’t it, you know, what people believe is that wasn’t quote unquote natural childbirth, like when bef pre doctors’ pre modern industry, like, you know, when we were all like working in the fields and living in huts, wasn’t it like a terrible traumatic event that everybody died in?

Jessica Wilson (20:40):
Well I will take us then from the scene of me in my early twenties hospital. Exactly. Imagine the mists of time are coming in right now at this point in the podcast. And that will take you back way back. Let’s say 600,000 years. That’s a long time to our very early human ancestors folks that lived in hunter gatherer tribes. They lived in small tribes that were self-governed they were fluid with the other tribes in the area, meaning that people would often come and go between the groups that recognized each other often, you know, they’d have similar languages and everything. Right. but there weren’t many humans at that time. In fact I think in the world maybe 600,000 years ago, they think maybe roughly 300,000 maybe 500,000 people in the entire world. And that was true all the way up until the

Adam Wilson (21:50):
There was like a Detroit in the world.

Jessica Wilson

Yes. And so there was vast expanses of land. People were sparse and that was true basically all the way up until the agricultural revolution. So there was about that number of people, a stable number of people all the way up until that point when population exploded at that time. So I guess what I want to say here is that our modern physiology, the way our brains are more or less constructed and certainly the way that our bodies are constructed is supremely adapted to that time and space, right? Our psychological connections with one another, our need for relationship our intense curiosity, our brilliance, all of these wonderful, wonderful things about human beings are just phenomenal, evolutionary adaptations to that time and space because our modernity and frankly, even agriculture is, but a blip in the amount of time that people have been around.
Jessica Wilson (23:02):
Right. So, so, right. So what my point here is that our physiology is adapted to that. It doesn’t make sense. So again, I want to go back to like, there’s a very low population, right? There’s not a lot of people, it would not make evolutionary sense for women who wouldn’t have come to sexual maturity until about the age of 18 because a low body fat percentage meant that their mentees would have been suppressed until around 18 or so. So again, agriculture introduced you know what, for again relative human time would be early onset, you know, at the age of like 11 or 12, right. Women wouldn’t have had Menzies until about 18. So it wouldn’t have made sense to take 18 years to reach sexual maturity in sort of this you know, again, very sparsely populated environment.
Jessica Wilson (24:05):
If childbirth was just going to kill her, that is absurd. That is an absurd notion. I, you know, I do, and again, it’s, it’s really about the frame and the understanding in which we hold it, right. If we hold the frame up to what the world population is like during agriculture or the fact that, you know, girls could start having babies in their teens and as there was a sort of an over abundance of people, anyway, of course it makes sense that, you know, women could die and it wouldn’t really be that big of a deal. But at that time it would have absolutely been a big deal. And I will say again, that women are not meant to die in childbirth. That was never a part of the evolutionary plan. Right. and you know, they go into this great depth you know, there’s been all this research done into like, well, women’s hips are so narrow that they can’t allow the baby to pass through and, you know, babies are born premature and this and that. And I say, that’s just a bunch of hokum.
Adam Wilson (25:10):
Well, it is. I remember we listened to some scientists talking about that, but yeah, the old theory that like, well, because we walk upright, we have to have babies earlier because of the narrow hips to do upright walking, unlike our primate friends. But it turns out it’s all about like the amount of nutrition the baby needs, right. Brain is ready to go,
Jessica Wilson (25:34):
That in babies are born at that point because our number one, most important thing that we do is bond with one, another babies need to come into the group. They come ready. They’re, they’re innocent, innocent, isn’t the right word, but they’re very vulnerable like that because it is absolutely imperative that they get a very firm understanding that the group is there to care for them. That is what psychologically is normative, and we can get into why it’s very, very damaging for babies not to have that experience because again,
Adam Wilson (26:09):
All babies need cuddles. We
Jessica Wilson (26:10):
Agree all babies need cuddles, but that actually wasn’t the parenting advice for much of the industrial revolution time. But perhaps we can table that conversation talking about the mechanics of birth and the so humans evolutionarily are also, what’s interesting about that argument is that it basically says like every other animal is supremely adapted to be able to give birth and nurse their young, except for humans who are stupid. Right. And who are just going to die. And so it’s really, it’s a myth that was created around the reality of women dying, right. They were trying to make sense of like, why are so many women dying doing this? It must be that we have some sort of mal adaptation. What they failed to understand is actually
Adam Wilson (27:05):
The mal adaptation is the society in which we find ourselves that the social structures and the environment like the human environment rather than our physiology, which is absolutely supremely wonderful and adapted to be able to give birth without killing any that’s true. And I will admit the, see, we were just having this conversation like a few days ago, because I mean, it’s still, there’s still like a very, there was a lot of deaths throughout human existence, including, you know, whenever throughout or inevitably we die because it’s a dangerous world
Jessica Wilson (27:42):
And we’re mortal. We are
Adam Wilson (27:44):
Mortal. We have bodies that carry on. Then we did have this discussion about like, well, I thought that the birth, even the mortality rate, not just not from birth, but just like kids died more frequently pre you know, pre-modernity because of they’re exposed to things and there wasn’t the medical care and there would just be like more, they were more vulnerable if you will. And then we looked it up and they did do a study where they found that, like they found some folks that were still partly hunter gatherers and sons that had moved over and become like, you know I don’t think Agricultural’s the right term, but they had like moved into farming and they had regular access to food. And what you find every time that happens to humans is that they have way more babies. One woman goes from having like three or four kids to having like 10 kids in her life.
Adam Wilson (28:36):
And the mortality rate for the modern living kids is actually higher, but more survive. You have, you know, instead of having like, this is not right, but you know, like one out of four kids dying, you know, is not what would happen. Like maybe one out of 10 kids would die pre modernity, and then you would have maybe three out of 10 die. I’m making up these numbers people, but three out of 10 when every woman’s having a 10 is still seven per woman instead of four per woman, which means that the population just because of,
Jessica Wilson (29:09):
And we used to go up that coupled with the early onset of mentees. All of that means that women are going to have a longer time fertile and more frequent babies, which actually helps to contribute to more maternal mortality. Women were not meant to have babies really any closer than five, five to seven years apart would have been the norm biologically. And that’s about the time that a woman’s body needs to be able to completely heal itself and prepare itself for the next pregnancy, like are truly healthy pregnancy. And having babies closer together increases maternal mortality. And the world health organization actually has a big campaign like now, nowadays they campaign to try and help women particularly in developing nations, understand that the longer they wait in between children, the more likely they and their children are to survive. You’re less likely to have birth defects or you know, placental abruption, or any of these things that might contribute to maternal mortality or infant mortality.
Adam Wilson (30:23):
Right. So, okay, we’ve beaten this one down, but we’ve established that. So like we know that there, there was higher maternal mortality and infant mortality when you have more kids closer together and
Jessica Wilson (30:41):
The cultural revolution increased world population dramatically, it all, at the same time, it increased mortality dramatically. So this is where we get the whole myth that people died in their thirties. Because so many babies were dying. So many women were dying giving birth. And so many people were dying in general because they were suddenly being put into cities and in close contact with one another and close contact with livestock that dramatically increased the instances of viruses and bacteria and so forth that, you know, people’s again, think about it. We are extremely well-suited to the evolutionary conditions in which our ancestors found themselves these sorts of conditions where we’re sort of living on top of one another are not normative. And that’s part of where we find our high mortality from disease.
Adam Wilson (31:38):
Okay. All right. That’s enough of that. We’re not talking about the agricultural revolution. We are talking about babies
Jessica Wilson (31:50):
And so women aren’t meant to die during
Adam Wilson (31:52):
Birth. They aren’t meant to die and let’s bring it up to like the modern era. We’ve come back from our little visit to the Cape man.
Jessica Wilson (32:04):
And well, that’s pejorative.
Adam Wilson (32:07):
Yes. We, they didn’t all live
Jessica Wilson (32:10):
In caves. Yes.
Adam Wilson (32:12):
This, we are coming back. They, they did not care about those things like that. But my point I wanted to get to was like, so how do we move from? So there’s high mortality and it’s very dangerous to have women in the Mo to have women giving birth so frequently, but didn’t why wasn’t it an improvement to move them to the hospital. I made it, why isn’t it good then if, if all these things are true and there is a higher risk to the baby and to the mother given the way we have kids, we had kids a hundred years ago why isn’t moving to the hospital, like a great thing.
Jessica Wilson (32:52):
So here’s something interesting as that just thinking about it from a perspective of the United States pre 1939, the vast majority of children were born at home. The vast majority
Adam Wilson (33:09):
Grandma’s time.
Jessica Wilson (33:11):
Well, for some of us, some of us would be great grandparents or perhaps even great, great point being most babies were born at home. There’s a couple of things to say about this. The first is that there was a concerted campaign to make women feel as though giving birth in the ho in the hospital was a much more clean sanitary beneficial, high class experience than giving birth at home. And in some ways it was queen Victoria that popularized the notion of giving anesthesia during childbirth. It was thought to be, you know, I mean, think about it. You childbirth. Does indeed more so than perhaps any other experience we have outside of our, our death, put us in touch with our animal selves. It puts us in touch, very viscerally with that. We are animals, right. That human beings with all of our brains and everything else, we are animals.
Jessica Wilson (34:25):
And so it’s kind of this very Victorian notion that you can overcome your animality. You can that there’s an amazing, you know that technology can help separate you from this experience of your mortal body. These are the the medical system. Right, right. And so with the advent of anesthesia, which dramatically separates you from this experience of your animal self there was this push to get women into hospitals. It was also, you know, it’s very profitable and it continues to be very profitable. In fact, I would argue that you know, again, I haven’t really looked at this recently, but when I was looking at it, it’s absolutely one of the most profitable thing that hospitals have going for it childbirth either vaginal or our Suzanne area. So it’s very profitable for hospitals. It’s a pretty clean procedure overall, right? Like there’s the have a formula for it. Women have been told that they have a right to anesthesia epidurals and everything else, and that I’m not getting it is not feminist, right. That they have a feminist right. To these things.
Adam Wilson (35:49):
Well, but isn’t it like horrifically painful and awful. And then, you know, this is the argument, like why not make it better? That was painful, the screechy.
Jessica Wilson (35:58):
So again, I want to come back to that human beings above all else are extremely social. We don’t exist outside of a social context. I don’t want to denigrate the experiences of women giving birth in our social context, because it is scary. It’s scary to give birth in our social context. And when you are in a state of fear, when you’re in a state of feeling like you’re in this place you know, in this liminal realm between life and death, you’re going to want to put yourself into a place where you feel the safest. And so for many women, that experience has to be medicated because there is no way that they’re ever going to feel safe enough or supported enough in the experience of birth outside of that, because that’s the only context mainstream only mainstream contexts that people are handed. Right. that is the societal support that we give women is like, you can go to the hospital and you can have these trained professionals do these amazing things for you. That’s where you’re safe. Right?
Adam Wilson (37:18):
Yeah. And that’s like, how it’s depicted now from the time, like, when you were growing up as a kid you were going and the idea which like, is, you know, like not usually dealt with that much. I feel like, like, we don’t really talk about like babies being born that much, but when they are, I mean, all the books
Jessica Wilson (37:37):
And all the shows as a big crisis. Well, yeah,
Adam Wilson (37:40):
It’s like a big like, oh my gosh, we’ve got to go. There’s an emergency. You know, and then for kids, it showed us, like mom goes away to some special place the hospital where the doctors take care of her and then she comes back and there’s a baby and it’s not. And like, I guess I’m just getting to the idea, like, this is like part of how we have babies. And it seemed very strange to me when you brought it up, that people might want to have a baby at home because, you know, it seems like, like you said, like a very visceral experience, like a scary experience, like a messy experience. And why would you want all that, like pain and fear and mess and possible danger, like in your home versus in like the, the, the SWAT center for,
Jessica Wilson (38:26):
Yeah. Yeah. And so I just, I want to come back to like that you know, what you’ve described as a part of our culturation process and a part of how, you know, girls, as they become women come to understand their own generative power, their own femininity, their own eventual experience of giving life. This is the, this is what we hand to girls and women as like, this is your template. It’s scary. You might die. Your baby might die. This is the only thing that you know, is going to kind of keep you from harm that isn’t accurate. But I don’t want to, again, I’m not trying to denigrate anybody’s experience here because it is a, it is a valid and accurate experience because they have been inculturated into this, right. You have to be really motivated and willing to step outside of it and sort of look at it with a different perspective in order to see it in its totality.
Jessica Wilson (39:28):
Which is what I, I was very motivated. I was very motivated to do that. And it led me to there’s a woman named C Sheila Kissinger, who is a well respected British anthropologist who has done extensive work, looking at birth all across the world specifically in what we would consider to be a hunter gatherer tribes. And what comes across very clearly in that cross-cultural context around this is that birth is not scary. It’s not a scary experience. It’s not when, when she showed them depictions of the way we in Western cultures depicted, like in movies and stuff, they laughed, they thought it was hilarious. And they were a little concerned. They’re like, what, what is this? Even, I don’t understand, like, this is hilarious to me. Because this is just so far outside of our understanding for it, right?
Jessica Wilson (40:35):
So the reason that somebody might want to give birth at home. And I think that you know, increasingly are making that choice here in the United States and never stopped making that choice. I want to be clear that women never stop making that choice in many of the very industrialized European nations that have far better maternal mortality rates have far better infant mortality rates like Holland Denmark, Sweden in particular Holland where something like 90% of their births are still at home. Wow. Only 10% of them have to go into the hospital and 5% of those on dialysis area. So they’re not any physiologically different than we are. They just have a totally different model when it comes to birth. And so you, you, somebody would want to give birth at home because a, they understand that the model this paradigm that we’ve been handed in the United States is not biologically normative. It was not normative for our ancestors, even our grandmothers or great-grandmothers. And here’s the icing on the cake for me, because I’m very much you know, as esoteric as I am, I’m also very much a data person. The outcomes in hospitals for women and babies are far worse than the outcomes at home.
Adam Wilson (42:04):
It is amazing. That
Jessica Wilson (42:07):
Is very striking. And, you know, people who want to defend hospitals say, oh, well, it’s because people who go into the hospital have these complicated cases and this and that. And certainly there’s some of that that’s going to be true, right? People are going to self-select who are healthier, who might be more upper-class and this and that into the home setting. But then how do you explain places like Holland, or how do you explain these other countries? And again, they might say, oh, well, this, because they have a better standard of living and this and that. And but if you, even when you look through the data and they’ve done many, many studies on this and sort of match people for socioeconomic status and everything, you cannot get away from the fact that hospital attended birth is more dangerous.
Adam Wilson (42:52):
Well, then it’s just amazing. And I can see that we should have had like seven episodes on this because there’s so much to them and you have a lot to say all pretty amazing. And I think it’s all something people should hear because like, it’s just so it’s such a reverse image of what we expect to be true. It’s a reverse image. Like it’s actually safer to do it at home. It’s actually more normal to do at home, but, and I feel bad because like, I don’t, I don’t like the way that comes across as being [inaudible] or being elitist or hipstery or whatever it is when people talk about home birth, or it’s the same thing about talking about like locally grown, organic food or something, you know, like it just comes across as like, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s like, sounds weird and like just super out there, but it’s actually the norm for us as people and it should be more accessible. And I think he wants told me that like you know, it’s not an elitist thing in the sense that like, I think even in like the deep south, like African-American women had more success staying at home with their family and having babies than being taken to those hospitals.
Jessica Wilson (43:59):
Yeah. So are the maternal mortality rate for our African-American women in the United States should make us ashamed. People should be ashamed of this. And I don’t understand why it isn’t, well, I can’t understand actually why it’s not talked about more because of our deep cultural prejudices against African-American women and our feeling, you know, like it, it goes back to the times of chattel, slavery and everything. But it should be a blemish on our image of our technological expertise when it comes to medicine and this and that African-American women die at greater rates in the United States than in, in many developing nations.
Adam Wilson (44:50):
Yeah, that’s crazy.
Jessica Wilson (44:52):
We have one of the worst more, especially when you control out the other racial and ethnic groups, even when added in we have one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the entire world.
Adam Wilson (45:08):
No, just no sat down now,
Jessica Wilson (45:14):
But I don’t, again, it’s like, we don’t, we don’t want to see this. We don’t want to acknowledge this. We don’t want to say, how can we make this better? And when Africa, so they have in the African-American communities coming out of the times of chattel slavery they had this tradition of what were called granny midwives. And they were lay midwives as we would turn them these days or midwives without formal college training in gynecology and obstetrics. But they had been trained in the most important way possible, which is attending actual women giving actual birth,
Adam Wilson (45:50):
Right? Yes.
Jessica Wilson (45:52):
And, and a lot of them had, you know, informal apprenticeships. But they had trained a whole network of lay midwives that would come and be with women during labor performing a role similar to what we might consider doulas these days. And when given access to the, these lay midwives, these granny midwives, women in those communities had better maternal mortality outcomes than they do in 2021.
Adam Wilson (46:26):
It’s astounded. And listen, I, yes, I should have left more time for this because actually we have to go get,
Jessica Wilson (46:33):
We have to get
Adam Wilson (46:37):
[Inaudible] and I well that’s okay. You
Jessica Wilson (46:41):
Can be on any
Adam Wilson (46:42):
Time you can be on any while you are brilliant. And I think that you should have a platform to talk about this stuff because it’s very important, but what I wanted to say is it, so after your terrible experience, having Felix and you got totally into like, what’s a better experience and you had kid number two, dear Gigi at home, and then you convinced me, and it took some convincing that we could have our little boy at home. And we went down that path, which was, it still fills me with nervousness even to this day. And they talked to me about having tubs and things like that. And it’s not an absurd thing around here in the Pacific Northwest to have a midwife or a doula, or to have a birth at home. Like it’s not the norm, but it’s not
Jessica Wilson (47:26):
There’s far more cultural acceptance of it here. And you know, midwives are licensed here in Washington. And then in fact there’s one of the highest home birth rates in the entire United States here in the Pacific Northwest Washington and Oregon.
Adam Wilson (47:40):
Right. So it was not like a big ASP is what I’m saying, but we didn’t get that. Like, even though we were totally educated and we went down the path and the path was possibly as good as it can be in the United States to have a non-hospital natural birth, we were forwarded nonetheless.
Jessica Wilson (47:58):
Yes, by again, my high blood pressure.
Adam Wilson (48:01):
It was really fascinating to see this because when you talk to folks who are in like the, into midwifery or, or these other things, like they really are encouraging, they want you, they believe in everything. You’ve talked about, like the value of having A home birth, but it’s also like regulated. And once your blood pressure went up, it was like, you know, like the gates were closing like, oh, I don’t think that you’re going to be able to do it. Like, you know, like they basically like dismiss you. And they were like, sorry, Jessica, find somebody else because we don’t deal with people with
Jessica Wilson (48:35):
Yeah. And ultimately it was a choice that I made where I felt like, you know, given everything that was going on, that it would be better for me just to go in and do it in the hospital. And as it turned out, because I had so much education and because of my strong convictions around this, I was able to basically order them around. And you know, they couldn’t tell me what was going on. They weren’t going to tear me down. I walked that whole hospital up and down. I said, no, you can’t pit me at AKA pit me for those not in the no means, no, you can’t give me the Pitocin yet. I said, you’ve got to try some other things first, which they did. But eventually I think one of the nurses got tired of me and they’re like, no, we’re going to pet you now.
Jessica Wilson (49:23):
And she just like put it in, like cranked it up to 10 or whatever. And I was pretty aware that she had done that because I went from like, not having any feelings or, you know, you know, maybe mild contractions to suddenly. I was like, wow, it feels like I’m transitioning. You know, again, having that feeling of kind of having to like, you know, I was hyperventilating and all that, but I knew what was going on and I was able to breathe through it. And so from that time to the time I gave birth was actually less than an hour.
Adam Wilson (49:54):
And he was a
Jessica Wilson (49:54):
Beautiful, healthy little guy. And the doctor that came in which wasn’t the original doctor that worked with the midwife that I was seeing who was, you know in, down with all the natural birth stuff, he came in, he had never, never attended a woman who didn’t give birth on her back. I was
Adam Wilson (50:12):
The first thing we could talk about like always
Jessica Wilson (50:13):
The first woman. And this is a very busy hospital in Tacoma, which is a big city. I was the first woman who was like, no. And he tried to get, he, he tried to order me and I was like, I’m sorry, who’s the one in labor here? No. And so the nurses were all like looking around at each other, like they were, you know, sort of a gas that I was like saying, absolutely not, no, you can’t tell me, you can’t tell me to do this. And so then as our little boy I was coming out, he decided this doctor decided that, you know, he was just going to go ahead and grab him. And again, I had to very firmly say, do not pull the baby out. Like, what are you even doing? Babies come out. They don’t need a doctor to grab them. And again, this you know, later the nurses told me, like they never had, he had like, had anybody, anybody that he had just like, let the baby come out and catch the baby. He was just accustomed to, and again, I assume that’s because these women had been anesthetized and couldn’t feel what was happening because any woman who could feel that would immediately tell that person to stop whatever it is you’re doing. Just stop that, right. Because it’s a very definite sensation. And, you know, that’s a, no-no, don’t do that
Adam Wilson (51:35):
Dangerous for the baby
Jessica Wilson (51:37):
And dangerous for the woman. That’s how women ended up, end up. So torn up and, you know, ripped up and everything else is because they’re being treated roughly the baby comes out. There was no question that our baby was coming out. There was no question. So there you go. So I gave him quite the education in that moment.
Adam Wilson (51:55):
Yes. It was well so much. You should have your own podcast here, all about these issues. There’s not one. Now there should be,
Jessica Wilson (52:07):
There’s lots of great, great people out there talking about these issues some of which you know, have very definite like political viewpoints and stuff, because of course this whole thing can be wrapped in many different layers of, you know, political and religious overtones and everything else. But perhaps I could be the first, you know, non political. Yeah.
Adam Wilson (52:28):
Let’s just say that we you know, thank you to all the nurses and doctors who want to help out they’re slamming people.
Jessica Wilson (52:35):
No, no, not at all. In fact, it’s amazing, you know, the things that are available to us in 20 20, 21 are just absolutely amazing. And I am totally glad I would, I am glad that the 5% of people who need to Syrian in sections to save their lives or their baby’s lives have access to sterile, clean ones with, you know, very talented people who know how to do it. I’m just saying that it needs to be applied judiciously and it needs to be applied without a profit motive,
Adam Wilson (53:13):
Again, so much to impact. But also what to say, we, we love all the mothers and the fathers and the babies. They’re all great. You have to say that this is all about humanity and Christmas, the joy of new people coming into the world, right.
Jessica Wilson (53:27):
More people should be encouraged to have babies. And perhaps if it was less of a scary experience and more of a pleasant wine, more people would be encouraged to do that. Also social support.
Adam Wilson (53:41):
I said, I know you listeners think that I’m constantly trying to get in, but she is she’s on fire. And again, we can do this again. Okay. Yes.
Jessica Wilson (53:50):
And have to be back, or we can talk about the social support side of things. Oh man.
Adam Wilson (53:56):
Maybe
Jessica Wilson (53:56):
I didn’t, you did in your readings or something. We can talk more about pre agricultural society. It’s one of my,
Adam Wilson (54:04):
Yeah. I, I know. But if, wait, okay. We have like a couple minutes left and you have to, this is always the final question. What about where you grew up shakes? How you feel this subject here? What about growing up on the outside of Chicago looking and made you feel like you were going to smite the birth industry?
Jessica Wilson (54:23):
You know, a couple of things. I think that it was growing up on the Prairie. I grew up on the Prairie was in rough shape. The place I grew up suffered from a lot of chemical contamination, which in fact has claimed the lives of many people that I went to school with third cancer. And the river that ran through the town, I grew up in the Kish Waukee at one point was so poisoned that it was basically dead. They, there was a hogs celebrity facility up the road that was just dumping all of their waste and blood into the river. And I remember that and that coupled with there not being many children had me spend a lot of time out there on the Prairie commuting with the river communing with the grass being in that space, which is a very sort of empty open space.
Jessica Wilson (55:24):
And I think that not having those other kids around me and not having you know, my, my time may have been filled with cultural activities or something had I grown up in Chicago, right. It allowed me to think very creatively and think in a way that was outside and different from what other people may have told me to take. Right. And so growing up in that space, which, you know, one might consider lonely or desolate or poisoned instead gave me a perspective that I don’t have, like what I think can come from my own sense of what’s going on. I can trust myself, I can trust my intuition. I can trust the earth. I can trust these things. And I don’t have to rely on anybody telling me what I need to think.
Adam Wilson (56:21):
Well, you are brilliant. And I love your independent thinking. You are just, everyone needs to hear you. You have your deer. And we can also have a whole nother episode about the importance of boredom, because let me tell you how much time, how much of our lives is taken up, being harassed by small children, asking to be entertained when you know the key is to get out there and be totally bored in a small town. I totally relate to that. Okay. That’s where we got to go get this other kid. You’re a great,
Jessica Wilson (56:52):
Yes. Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas to all of you out there. I hope this Christmas, this podcast encourages you to think about how you are Supremely adapted to living here now. And you don’t need to worry about anything that people are trying to sell you to be even better. Goodbye. Merry Christmas.
Music (57:39):
[Inaudible].

Hey Assholes, it’s August.

Listen, I know there are market forces at work initiating the removal of the camp chairs and tiki torches. But that doesn’t give you the right to move us all into late October. It’s still August, you assholes.

A quick celestial reminder. Summer ends on Sept. 22, when we are halfway between the longest and shortest days of the year. It’s called an equinox. In your giant store it’s always 72 degrees and fluorescent, so I realize this means nothing to you. But trust me, I have seen the latest sunset and it’s still fucking August. As in barebeques and beach balls and mojitos.

It’s still August.

And yet I notice your cardboard Frankenstein monsters and five-pound bags of Tootsie rolls and pink fairy princess costumes and plastic pumpkins and it’s not Halloween, you bastards. That’s October 31, and if you are checking the math, you are skipping two months there. Important ones, too.

I realize that August has no marketable holidays, which when you think about it is a gross oversight by Congress. But the first weekend in September has Labor Day. I can’t prove it at the moment, but I believe this was intended to recognize the essential workers who sell us things at stores on every holiday. Why degrade their one day of recognition by forcing them to sell us purple and orange stockings? Who benefits? Only you.

Also, Labor Day signifies the traditional end to summer vacation and the beginning of the school year. But you skipped ahead. You had back-to-school specials right after the Fourth of July, at a time when the only kids who going back to school were the poor saps the district suggested could use “continued learning.” Your rows of camo backpacks and yellow boxes Crayola of markers sent shivers down the spines of other kids who had been begging for s’mores supplies. I know because I was with a few of those kids.

No, for you pushy pricks, summer was back in April. Have you thought about what you are doing to us? You’re like a waiter asking what we’ll have for desert before bringing out dinner. Can’t we just sniff the carnitas of life before you shove flan under our nose? Is it too much to ask to be able to buy plastic pool toys all the way through the hottest month of the year? It’s August.

Since you have forced the discussion, let’s talk about Halloween. Culturally speaking, this is an Irish holiday falling just before the hallowed Roman Catholic holiday, All Saints Day. I say “hallowed” because it’s also know as All Hallows Day, a moment to remember all the pious women and men who dedicated their lives to serving others and their God. Before things got especially pious, one had to worry about the especially spooky. The eve of All Hallows Day was … put it together. You take the Irish, move them to America, they don’t carve turnips, they carve pumpkins, they knock on doors. Bada-boom.

I’m not even going to argue with you about turning holidays into cheap crap from China. I mean, we lost that war long ago. And at least Halloween got to be called “creepy” and “satanic” for a lot longer than Pride Month, am I right? The price of being accepted around here, I will allow, is having your culture sold as t-shirts (rainbow for Pride, black and orange for Halloween, pink and purple for Easter, and so forth). You aren’t mainstream if you aren’t on the display racks in the front.

I would like to ask you, on behalf of humanity, for the opportunity to observe the changing of the seasons at the time the seasons are actually changing. Just to pick a random example, take Christmas. I’m not even going to get into what this holiday about. Could be about the birth of Jesus Christ. Could be about the Roman cult around Sol Invictus. Could be about Santa Claus and Coke. I’m setting that aside. See me? I’m picking that who steaming shit pile and placing it over there. Also, that awful Halloween-Christmas-tree hybrid, which is an abomination. It goes with the steaming shit pile.

What everyone can agree on, my friend, is this stuff happens in the dark of winter. Not to badger you with more astronomy, but it’s kinda important to our species, so just remember that this is the time in our hemisphere when days go from being shorter and shorter to longer and longer. So, that’s the key factor here.

And yet you, you godless savages, I know what you are going to do. You’ve already made orders. Fucking shipping logistics have been worked up. About a week before Halloween, in the middle of October, you’re going to spring Christmas on us.

You assholes.

You can’t tell us that to purchase holiday merch is to observe the holiday, you can’t convince us all we aren’t doing Halloween right unless we buy your 18-foot tall inflatable Jack Skelington, and then keep us from buying said merch at the actual time of the holiday. That’s just cruel. We’re going to be excited to go get some high fructose corn syrup bombs, maybe a sexy pirate costume, a cinematic bloodfest, and you motherfuckers are going to yank it all out from underneath us. We’re going to faithfully visit the store, and it’s going to be full of snow globes and wreaths and shit. What a mind fuck.

So here’s the deal — fuck you. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to celebrate the shit out of something you don’t stock on the shelves. Maybe I’m going to be the damned king of Thanksgiving. That’s right, you bastards. You thought you merged it with Christmas, like it was a half-football, half-shopping pre-December fluffing of the American shopper. But maybe now I’m going to Thanksgiving it up. Hard core. I don’t give a fuck about what those people did back in the day. Pilgrims, Native Americans, cranberries. Doesn’t matter. What matters is some seasonal celebration. I will make myself a funky hat. I will put buckles on my shoes, my belt, my fucking funky hat and maybe my sleeves., too I will buckle up for fun.

And then, I’m going get myself a turkey. Ha! I know. The one thing you had on me was selling me a turkey for the only time of the year when anyone eats a whole damn turkey. But I’ll go kill one instead. How about that? Then what are you going to do? Sell me some handi-wipes for my bloody hands? Too late. I’ll lick them off.

But first, mojitos. Because, you ass holes, it’s still August.

Fuck this.

Maybe I should give to those I see

Never before 2020 can I recall handing cash to poor people waiting at street lights. I believed, and I’m pretty sure I was told, it’s better to give to the organizations that can help them find housing, food and employment.

I see weathered men with the handwritten cardboard signs that say, “Anything helps,” or “Need $ for shoes.” I think, you probably have shoes. You made it to this median, to stand next to a traffic light near a popular freeway on ramp. And now the shoes are in the backpack next to you. These days, though, I start to shift around in the drivers seat to reach my wallet, power down the window and hand over a few dollars. Because who the hell am I to know? The truth is there’s a person who is very clearly telling me they could use some money, and I am literally sitting on cash as I look at them.

Don’t get me wrong. We all should support the charities and nonprofit organizations that support the homeless and near-homeless. They get people in need what they need — warm food, warm beds, warm showers. My sister works for a food bank, and she will tell you writing a check to your local food bank helps people. Food banks can get more food for the dollar than you can, and they can more efficiently deliver it to the people — adults and children alike — who need it.

The person who got me to literally open my wallet, in addition to opening my checkbook, was Pope Francis, in comments that took a few years to sink in with me.

 “There are many arguments to justify oneself when you do not give alms. ‘But what, I give money and then he spends it on a glass of wine?’ If a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that is fine. Instead, ask yourself what you do secretly. What ‘happiness’ do you seek in private? Or, on the contrary to him, you are more fortunate, with a house, a wife, children, which leads you to say, ‘Take care of him yourselves’. Help is always right.”

Pope Francis

I took it as a reminder that we shouldn’t anoint ourselves social worker, judge and financial advisor to beggars. They are people. A person asked something of you, and God considers your response to that fellow human, not your analysis of the causes of poverty.

It got me to thinking about who is in my mind when I do give. First, I’m not that generous overall. Something to work on. But on top of not being especially generous, I used to give only to organizations, not to individuals. Then I realized when I made donations online to do-gooders, maybe subconsciously I imagined I was giving it to a more trustworthy person. A person like me, with a house and a degree and pants that fit.

What I definitely was not doing was giving to the poor people I saw with my eyes in real life. I was not responding to the signs written in black Sharpie, or the words repeatedly directed to me on sidewalks and in parking lots: “Do you have a few bucks you could spare?”

What I would say is, “Sorry, man.” And yes, it’s almost always a man asking — not actually always, but nearly. But maybe what I meant was, “I don’t give money to people with missing teeth, or unwashed hair, or three coats on.”

So, I’m trying to change that. I’m trying to do something that’s hard for me, which is to physically part with my hard-earned cash. To give that money I got for doing my professional job to a stranger who will do whatever he damn well pleases with it. Because that’s what is being asked of me.

Just to be clear, I am not holding myself out as some kind of expert on donation, or even as significant donor to any cause. As my wife frequently remarks, I can pinch pennies until they scream. So you do what you like, fair reader. I’m not the judge. I’m just sharing a way of thinking about giving that has been meaningful to me. I think I’m not supposed to begrudgingly make my donation via the mail or Internet to an abstract good cause just so I can ignore the panhandler and still feel like I’m a contributing member of society.

It’s been dawning on me that I am probably supposed to be listening to the fellow humans who come up to me and ask me for a favor. I don’t have to do as they ask. I’m allowed to consider and choose. But I should actually consider. I should listen to the real voices reaching my ears, the signs my eyes behold out in the sun and rain.

I didn’t know it until I wrote this post and looked up the Pope’s full comments, but Francis also reminded people to use their eyes — to look into the eyes of the poor. Here’s the rest of his comment.

“Certainly, it is not a good thing just to throw a few coins at the poor. The gesture is important, helping those who ask, looking them in the eyes and touching their hands. Tossing the money without looking in the eyes, that is not the gesture of a Christian. Teaching in charity is not about offloading one’s own sense of guilt, but it is touching, looking at our inner poverty that the Lord understands and saves. Because we all have inner poverty”.

Pope Francis

There’s a Robot in My House

Behold, my mechanical servant. He rolls with a pleasant humming sound, but not with a plan in mind — there’s no mind in that can. He’s got program on board that jogs his disc body 20 degrees left when encountering an obstacle. We were told by the manufacturer the disc needed a name. Son No. 2 said, “Sven.” Now the robot has pronouns (he/his/him).

The three year old (Son No. 4) likes to wake him up in the morning. He summons Sven with the remote control, pressing the button with crushing force. Sven beeps, whirs his brushes and emerges from the darkness under the couch, on patrol for breakfast crumbs. Son No. 4 believes he eats these, and they do end up in his “tummy.” Daughter No. 1 is skeptical. Son No. 3 wants to paint a face on him. Son No. 1 says, “How long before he makes us his slaves?”

Domestic robots were a nerd’s fantasy. Then they were the rich person’s luxury. Now, when we are working and schooling from home, this one is affordable. It’s awkwardly animate. It, Sven, gets stuck under the one chair, heaving it’s disc over and over without making it across a leg. Then we have to rescue it. If it gets lost for too long, it sends a distress signal to my wife’s phone. One more moving object to track in a house with a few of them already.

But Sven does get the job done. He sweeps up the debris twice a day so we don’t have to. He goes right to the edge of the stairs to get that stuff. His disc teeters on the cliff, an inch from toppling to the doom of his plastic housing. Then he backs away, obeying the sensors and the program, and heads off again, 20 degrees to the left.

Modern living, friends.

Why Portland Protesters Will Never Tire

The Battle of Portland rages still. Having worn down federal agents and local police, leftist protesters spent a recent weekend in gas-choked melees with a motley, right-wing “Back the Blue” rally. 

The remarkable endurance of these protests is subject to debate. The May 25 death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer sparked a historic outcry against police brutality and racism. Three months later, marches under the Black Lives Matter banner have faded away elsewhere, but protesters — mostly white — are still in Portland’s streets. Why? 

My take: Portland, uniquely, is home to a far-left branch of a warrior culture that exists mostly in conservative areas of the United States.

Well documented by historians of cultural geography, this group originated in the war-ravaged borderlands of England, Scotland and Ireland. Displaced by aristocratic landlords in the 1700s, they bypassed America’s coastal settlements to settle in the Appalachian Mountains, far from government regulation or taxation. They moved south and west, dominating areas like Kentucky, with some following the sunset through Missouri and across the plains.  

Wherever they settled, they brought their aggressive ethos. Overrepresented in the US Marine Corps, they have supported every war the United States has ever fought. The group has been credited with producing hard-charging American presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson and Lyndon B. Johnson.

In Oregon, Puritan-type New Englanders first arrived by ship and quickly took over the government. But they were outnumbered 15-to-1 by individualistic Appalachians who came along a certain famous wagon trail. In Portland, especially, the result has been a unique blend of Yankee politics and bare-knuckle tactics.

Today, hard-to-trace groups like Antifa and the Youth Liberation Front are active in recent protests. But based on my reading of history, there’s only one cultural group that — instead of clever signs and uplifting songs — brings skateboard helmets and baseball bats to a protest. 

Conservative heirs to Appalachian culture recognize these protesters like a Hatfield knows a McCoy. In May, would-be militia members with long rifles and body armor took to the streets of Spokane, Klamath Falls, Oregon, and Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. They were ready to stop what they believed was a pending Antifa invasion from Portland.

Turns out President Trump did the invading. In July, federal officers dressed in camouflage and without badges appeared and reportedly threw protesters into unmarked SUVs. Protesters shifted their attention to the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse. They used leaf blowers against tear gas and chanted “Stay together! Stay tight! We do this every night!”

Portland leaders, including some in the Black community, questioned what was being accomplished through continuous street combat.

“The focus has been moved from where it is supposed to be and made to be a spectacle, a debacle,” said the president of the Portland NAACP, the Rev. E.D. Mondainé.

Ferocious portesting is dangerous. A leftist videographer was beaten by a group of men on suspicion of being a police informant. Another man was pulled from his pickup, kicked in the head, and left unconscious on the street.

Ferociousness is overwhelming.  Federal officers made a “phased withdrawal” from Portland. Protesters turned to police union headquarters — first attempting to break down the doors, then running a hose into a window, then attempting to burn it. Next came the “Back the Blue” confrontation, complete with bats, fireworks and pepper spray but no intervention by law enforcement, local or federal.

Dakota Means, a former Marine of mixed race, was knocked out when a pro-police protester shot him in the head with a paintball gun. But the day ended with the Back-the-Blue crowd retreating and Means standing his ground.  

“They’re not welcome in the city. I’m gonna make sure they are run out,” he said.

When will it all end? Based on the history of Appalachian culture, I would say they won’t stop fighting. The best you can hope for is that they find someone else to fight.