Supreme Court Possibly to Overrule Roe v. Wade?

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a case in front of the Supreme Court concerning a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Since Roe, all the court’s abortion decisions have upheld Roe‘s central framework — that women have a constitutional right to an abortion in the first two trimesters. However, the Mississippi law is counter to the core of Roe, setting the stage for the Supreme Court to modify Roe, or do away with it altogether.

If you want to hear the oral arguments, the Supreme Court’s official audio transcript is here.

You can’t always tell from oral arguments what Supreme Court Justices are thinking, much less where they will land in a final decision, but it’s nice to hear the questions they ask. You learn much more about the Justices actually watching them do their job at oral arguments than you get from the Senate confirmation hearings that are essentially an opportunity for Senators to grandstand and audition to be President.

I have no idea what the Supreme Court will do.

Happy Birthday to Winston Churchill

Churchill at age 21 (1895)

Today in 1874, Winston Churchill was born in  at his family’s ancestral home, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Considered by some historians to be the greatest man to occupy 10 Downing Street, he was the larger than life man who guided Great Britain through WWII. After Dunkirk, he gave one of his most famous speeches. He was a skilled craftsman with the English language. Here’s the soaring conculsion:

I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Little known fact: His mother was an American.

President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation: Union and Fraternal Peace

In 1863, just a few weeks after the bloody Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln issued what some view as the beginning of a national day of Thanksgiving. At the time, hundreds of thousands had died in the bitter Civil War, and the nation was as divided as it has ever been. At the time, Lincoln requested the “…Holy Spirit to subdue the anger what has produced and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion, to change the hearts of the insurgents, to guide the counsels of the Government with wisdom….”

This idea rings true especially in today’s time as we feel can feel divided and frustrated. Reading back through President Lincoln’s proclamation, perhaps we work anew each day to find that sense of “union and fraternal peace”.

Thanksgiving Week Art Thread

The Hunters’ Supper – Frederic Remington

Happy Thanksgiving Week, campers. I hope you enjoy the time off. I have always liked Frederic Remington’s works. Since it’s Thanksgiving week, I thought this painting of the hunters cooking was somewhat appropriate.

Feel free to use the comments to talk about any other art (any medium) that you relate to Thanksgiving.

We lost my father on Monday

Home again: Here’s my brother and me with Dad the day he returned from Vietnam in 1968. I’m the goofy, skinny kid with glasses and braces.

Some of you are aware of what has kept me away from the blog in recent months, and especially the last few weeks.

For those who are not: My father — Capt. Donald Warthen, USN, ret. — died late Monday afternoon, after a long period of declining health. He was at home with most of the family. He had been under hospice care for five days. His funeral will be next Tuesday, that being the first date we could coordinate between the funeral home and the Fort Jackson cemetery.

Now, we are no longer thinking of those hard, last days. We’re thinking of all those years we knew him before. We’re remembering and honoring, among so many things, his years in the Service, which is how he and we have always referred to the United States Navy. I wrote a brief note about that time on Facebook on Veterans Day. I concentrated on his time in Vietnam, because I had so many pictures about that, and because on that day everyone tends to focus on combat service. Here’s that post.

Capt. Donald Warthen, USN, ret.

That note just scratched the surface of his time as a naval officer. And as I say, that’s just one aspect of what we remember. Sailors are at sea for much of the childhoods of their offspring, but when he was ashore he was with us, devoting all the time he could to us. We have many, many fond memories of all the things we did together, many having to do with sports, because my Dad was an athlete — he went to Presbyterian College on a tennis scholarship, but it could just as well have been basketball or some other sport.

I’ll be putting together the obituary, which should be available over the weekend. But the most beautiful thing written about him so far was an essay by my youngest daughter. She never knew him as a naval officer, or as the young athlete — although when she was little, he was the age I am now, and could shoot that age on a golf course (something you’ll never see me do, I assure you). She just knew him as her Popi, who doted on her and all my children, and spent so much time with them when I was working all those long hours at the newspaper. I’m not sharing what she wrote here, because it’s personal and for the family. But I assure you it was better than anything you’ll read from me.

Everyone who has ever met my Dad — and he remembered every one of them, far better than I remember the people I encountered decades ago — had his or her own impression of him, based on the aspect that they encountered.

Monday night, with most of my children — except the youngest, who lives in the Caribbean — gathered at the house, I dug out a dim, old document I had just encountered going through his papers over the weekend, and read aloud from it. It was the narrative part of a Navy fitness report, written in 1970 by someone who had just known him a few weeks — the captain of the USS Kawishiwi, an oiler based at Pearl Harbor. My Dad was his executive officer.

My father was a good officer, a skilled shiphandler and all-around seaman. But more than that he was a good man, and a kind and caring man. I’m glad this captain was able to see all of that:

Neither of the Two Political Parties Suit You? Here’s Why.

Boston Public Library

By: Bryan Caskey

So often we are told that the country is clearly divided into two groups: the Republicans and the Democrats, or it’s liberals and conservatives. And then there’s a small group in the middle that can’t seem to make up their minds – the undecideds. And each election cycle, the two groups try to win over these undecideds. Sounds simple and straightforward, right? Well, life is more complicated than all that, as it turns out.

Pew Research did a large survey and just released the results. They identified nine separate ideological groups.

Here’s an overview of Pew’s nine categories (to see where you fit, you can take Pew’s quiz here):

Faith and Flag Conservatives (10% of the public)

Committed Conservatives (7%)

Populist Right (11%)

Ambivalent Right (12%)

Stressed Sideliners (15%)

Outsider Left (10%)

Democratic Mainstays (16%)

Establishment Liberals (13%)

Progressive Left (6%)

You can read the NPR article that breaks down each group and describes it further. Anyway, thought this would be interesting to talk about. The picture at the top doesn’t have anything to do with the Pew Research survey. It’s just a picture I took last week of the main reading room in the Boston Public Library, and I really like the picture.

Carville indulges in redundancy

It’s the wokeness, stupid!

James Carville should be more careful with words. Quoting from a Maureen Dowd column:

There’s some truth in what James Carville told Judy Woodruff: “What went wrong is this stupid wokeness. Don’t just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island, look at Buffalo, look at Minneapolis, even look at Seattle, Wash. I mean, this defund the police lunacy, this take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools.”

What he says is entirely true (not just “some”), but “wokeness” doesn’t need to be modified with “stupid,” seeing as it is already that. You don’t say “woke” if you’re talking about wisdom. Of course, Carville has a known affinity for the word, “stupid.”

I prefer what Abigail Spanberger said, quoted immediately after that in the same column:

There’s also some truth in what Representative Abigail Spanberger, a moderate Virginia Democrat in a tough re-election battle, told The Times’s Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns about the president: “Nobody elected him to be F.D.R., they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos.”…

Again, she is completely right, not just “some,” Maureen.

Of course, I generally agree with Rep. Spanberger. I agree less often with Carville, but when he’s right, he’s right. Even if he indulges in the use of unnecessary words…

Rep. Spanberger, stumping for that guy who lost.

No one is ‘entitled’ to endanger the people around him

Again, I’m just going to share a tweet, and perhaps enlarge upon it a bit:

I’m just reacting to a headline, of course. The writer of the column is very much taking this guy, whoever he is (and yes, I can see he’s in a football uniform, but that’s all I know), to task. But she is wrong to throw the guy a bone by saying he is entitled to do the first thing.

No, he isn’t. He lives in a society. A society doesn’t work unless we accept, at the minimum, the obligation not to harm the people around us. That’s pretty much minimal. All the other things involved in making a complex modern civilization work — the laws, the system of government, the roads, a monetary system, and so forth — come after that.

Where were YOU people last night? The Braves WON!

I was feeling a bit disoriented by the news I was being fed this morning, so I posted this:

I mean, what’s wrong with people? Where were they last night?

Say what? Where WERE you people last night?

How will you Columbians vote tomorrow?

Who will succeed this guy, shown on the night of his 2010 victory?

No, not Colombians. I mean you people who live in that big town across the river from me.

I just thought I’d ask, before the election happens.

First, Columbians — and many of you are my friends, if I may use that word — please tell me you are going to vote. And too few do, in these elections. Far, far too few. And then, if you don’t mind, tell us whom you support, and why.

I’d tell you who I’d pick, but honestly, I don’t feel qualified to say. First, I haven’t kept up with city issues the way I did at the paper, when we kicked around those and other local matters every day in our morning meeting. And of course, I haven’t interviewed the candidates — even in the truncated form in which I once did it here on the blog.

My easiest-to-imagine leaning is toward Sam Johnson for mayor. But I’m aware that that’s because of — if I may use the word — he and his team are sort of in my friend circle. While I had trouble choosing between him and the late Steve Morrison during the election of 2010 — Morrison would have been an excellent mayor — I’ve been supportive of Steve Benjamin since then. And Sam and Michael Wukela have been very much his guys (Michael is doing communications for Sam, as I did for James three years ago). I like all those guys. Not that we are always on the same side.

Of course, being buds with people may be one of the most common reasons some would back a candidate. It’s not good enough for me, though. I need to know more. I need to have put in the time.

I also like Tameika Isaac Devine, although I don’t know her quite as well. I’ve been pretty pleased since she was elected — a remarkable election in that she proved for the first time that a black woman didn’t have to be gerrymandered into an easy district to get elected in Columbia. Also, I’m very impressed that while Sam has Mayor Benjamin’s support (as you’d expect), Tameika is backed by Howard Duvall. And there’s no one whose informed views of municipal issues I respect more than Howard’s.

So I’m sort of cheering for Sam, but I could see myself cheering for Tameika as well. If I were a Columbia resident, or still editorial page editor with the responsibility of endorsing, I’d have informed myself well enough to confidently propose a choice between them.

But I haven’t.

Meanwhile, I doubt any sort of closer examination of Daniel Rickenmann would cause me to choose him. Maybe it would, but my gut says no. I’ve seen anecdotal evidence that quite a few white business types in town are for him, however. As for Moe, well, no thanks.

As Bryan likes to say, your mileage may vary. Which brings me to my point: Never mind what I think. I’ve admitted I just don’t know. What do y’all think? And why?

“The Entire Biden Presidency Will Be Decided in the Next Couple of Days”

By: Bryan Caskey

According to CBS, that’s a quote from President Biden today, speaking to Democrats on the hill. Personally, I think that’s a bit of hyperbole. It’s not like we have a parliamentary system where a political catastrophe triggers an entirely new election. In the system we have, any failure is just a data point for voters to consider when the next election comes along.

So, notwithstanding the President’s statement, I think there will be plenty of time for him to do other things. What else is everyone seeing for the rest of the Biden administration? What goals should the Biden administration have?

The best use of rhythmic alliteration in a pop song, ever

Usually, I would wait until I could come up with “Top Five Uses of Alliteration,” in keeping with the immemorial custom of the blog.

But that might take me a month, or at least an hour (if I wanted a lame list, just to have a list).

So I just thought I’d say it. This is the best use of alliteration to achieve a rhythmic effect in the history of popular music:

“Little old lady got mutilated late last night…”

Yeah, it’s gruesome, perhaps even off-putting. But wow, does it pop as a way to warn people to look out for the Werewolves of London.

Today, walking around the neighborhood and listening to Pandora on my new phone — I initially started to listen to headlines on NPR, but like most news these days, it was all stupid — and since it was a new phone and all, I listened to a station I hadn’t heard for awhile, probably years and years: My “Handbags & Gladrags Radio” station.

I didn’t know what to expect, beyond related Rod Stewart tunes. I think when I created it I had been watching “The Office” (the real one, not the American one), and I always loved that they made an instrumental rendition of the song their theme. I wasn’t trying to make a Rod Stewart station, it was the song itself. I wanted to see what Pandora would tell me was like it, because I expected it would be pretty good.

And it was. Yeah, it’s a little on the mellow ’70s side. You can smell the dope (in the air, and sense the use of ‘ludes in the vicinity. But it’s more of the smart, edgy side of the mellow ’70s. Not Bread or Seals and Crofts or something mind-numbing like that. Stuff you can really get into, mind and body.

That, of course, led to the late, lamented Mr. Zevon. Which I appreciated.

The line before that one has a nice rhythm to it, too — although it’s not as evocative or provocative, it does a nice job of setting up the great one: “You better not let him in.” It creates anticipation, even excitement, because you know: Here it comes!…

And there it is! And now you know that whether you “hear him howling around your kitchen door” or not, don’t go walking through Soho alone after dark.

So… if we were building a Top Five List, what else should be included? It’s got to use alliteration to achieve a really impressive rhythmic effect, the way Warren did, racing through “Little old lady got mutilated” so that the words tumble over each other, and slowing down on the last three as though Warren hesitated to say the last word, probably because it didn’t have an L in it: “late last… night.”

I don’t mean exactly like that. It should be as different and distinctive as this is. (At least, it was distinctive, until other songs ripped it off). It just needs to achieve as impressive an effect.

Anyway, now that I asked y’all to do the rest of the work, just to observe the forms, here’s a quick Top Five Best Songs I Heard Just Now on that Station:”

  1. Werewolves of London, of course. I’m not sure whether this is my favorite Zevon song or not, but it’s definitely in the Top Three. “Lawyers, Guns and Money” is probably first, with “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” offering it some stiff competition. All on that same amazing album.
  2. Maggie May. Have I ever told you how large this song looms in my legend? About hearing it that day when I came to interview for the job at The State in 1987? It’s a good one, one of the moments in my life when I felt I was in a well-directed movie, and the person in charge of the needle drops had a really nice touch? If not, remind me to tell you.
  3. Your Song, by Elton John. This puts me on the sand of Barber’s Point on Oahu in 1970-71, not so much sunbathing (although getting burned) as resting up, letting the cramps in my side go away before I paddled my board back out. You ever surf (or are you like Charlie)? If you haven’t, you can’t imagine the way it punishes your lats. Anyway, someone else sitting nearby had brought a radio, and this was playing.
  4. Mandolin Wind. Not sure whether this or “Handbags” is my favorite Rod Stewart song. As does the wonderful “Werewolves,” “Maggie May” is probably third.
  5. Can’t Find My Way Home. In which Blind Faith inspires a semi-religious experience. Which is what they did throughout their oh-so-brief time as a Supergroup.

Other songs I heard were good, too, but those are the top five. If you’re on Pandora, I highly recommend creating such a station. This is far, far from being the only kind of music I like, but it is A kind of music I like…

How are y’all doing with the supply chain these days?

Kind of moody and overly dramatic, don’t you think? But it was the only horizontal image I could find that I figured I’d be allowed to use.

This is an update to my July post on the supply chain problem. Then, I was celebrating the fact that my shoes I had waited for for months had finally come.

Now, this issue is fresh in my mind because I’m waiting for my new iPhone. It’s supposed to arrive today.

My “old” phone is an iPhone 8 that I got on my birthday in 2018, during the campaign. In fact, I think James and Mandy were the first people I spoke to on it, sitting in the parking lot in front of the Verizon store. I remember thinking there was something wrong with it because I wasn’t hearing as clearly as usual. That’s because I didn’t have the center of the phone over my ear, because I was used to the narrower iPhone 5. It was fine.

But not any more. Among other problems, the camera has been acting up. Sometimes, when I touch the virtual shutter release button, the camera app shuts down, and no image is recorded. Which is bad. We grandfathers have to have a fully functioning camera at all times. And I also frequently use the camera for work.

But HARK — the UPS man was just here, and the phone has arrived!

So I’ll get back to you later, beyond making my point: Which is that when I went to Verizon on Oct. 12, they told me I’d have to wait until possibly Oct. 29.

Oh, sure, if I’d wanted to spend almost two Gs on an iPhone 13 — for which they had displays all over the store — I’d have probably been OK. But since I’m a sensible guy who thinks the most insane thing Apple has ever done was get rid of the home button, I was getting an SE 2020. So I had to wait.

But apparently the chain wasn’t quite as stressed as they thought, since it just arrived.

So y’all go away and let me play with my new toy. In the meantime, how’s the supply chain acting for y’all now, beyond driving up prices and such?…

Enough with the threats, OK? I’ve got enough going on…

If this blog disappears, it will be because TSOHOST got fed up waiting for me to pay them, and shut it down.

Which will be amazing, since:

Despite all that, on Columbus Day (the real one, not the Monday), I received the first of not one, not two, but six emails telling me that an invoice for £10.99 was due on “14/10/2021.” Perhaps I should have written back to inform those folks that there are only 12 months in the year, but I wasn’t in the mood for facetiousness. I’ve been very busy dealing with a lot of stuff in recent days.

The last few messages were threatening. In an understated, British sort of way. No active statements such as “We will shut you down.” No, they said “suspension is imminent,” as though they were observing that the weather looked dodgy.

I logged into their site this morning and sent a “ticket response” to the earlier message from the guy who had acknowledged that I had cancelled, asking him to inform his colleagues and get them off my back. We’ll see if that produces action.

Barring that…

If they somehow succeed in carrying out the threat, well, goodbye. Otherwise, I’ll be seeing you later…

Colin Powell was a very impressive guy, period

Colin Powell was a very impressive guy, a hero and role model for us all.

He was a man who radiated leadership and strong character. Four-star general. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Secretary of State. He was someone many wanted to see run for president, except that he didn’t want to. (Which makes him preferable in my book than all those people who run for the job every four years when no one asked them. And I don’t hold it against him that he declined. He had given enough to his country, and gave more later.)

So I’m a bit bothered by the way his death was covered by many:

  • Reuters — Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state, a top military officer and a national security adviser, died on Monday at age 84 due to complications from COVID-19. He was fully vaccinated, his family said.
  • CBS — Colin Powell, first Black secretary of state, dies at 84 from COVID-19 amid cancer battle
  • CNN — Colin Powell, first Black US secretary of state, dies of Covid-19 complications amid cancer battle
  • USAToday — Colin Powell, first Black secretary of state, dies from COVID-19 complications
  • LATimes — Colin Powell, America’s first Black secretary of State, dies at 84

And here are some headlines that were on the right track, more or less:

  • New York Times — Colin Powell, Who Shaped U.S. National Security, Dies at 84
  • BBC: Colin Powell: Former US secretary of state dies of Covid complications
  • The Washington Post — Colin L. Powell, former secretary of state and military leader, dies at 84

You can probably see where I’m going with this. Colin Powell wasn’t impressive “for a black guy.” He wasn’t great because he was black.

He was impressive for anyone. I suppose some people think there’s nothing special about earning the rank of four-star general. Such people are wrong. It’s a huge accomplishment, and worth a salute from everyone, especially us civilians. But then he went beyond that. And every job he did was a testament to standout characteristics that had nothing to do with the amount of melanin in his skin.

Was the fact that he was black and held these posts interesting, and even a testament not only to his abilities but to the country he served? You bet. As he said during confirmation as secretary of state:

“I think it shows to the world what is possible in this country. It shows to the world that: Follow our model, and over a period of time from our beginning, if you believe in the values that espouse, you can see things as miraculous as me sitting before you to receive your approval.”

Don’t leave it out. Include it in the history book. For that matter, include it in the obit. Celebrate it. (And don’t forget to mention that the man who did these things was a son of immigrants, yet another reason for all of us to take pride in his accomplishments.) But don’t make it the first thing you have to say about him, please.

Because he was much more impressive than that.

Freedom as another word

It’s hugely important, but is freedom THE word that sums it all up?

Editor’s note: Y’all, this was supposed to post last night and somehow it did not. Don’t know what happened. So here it is. I’m not going to read through it yeah again to make sure there are no “today” that should be “the other day.” Just, you know, here it is…

Yeah, I know that headline is not the lyric. But while I wanted to suggest it, I didn’t want to say exactly what Kristofferson did: that freedom is “just another word.” The thing is, it’s not just another word. It’s a pretty important word — one of the most important ones we have in our culture.

But in terms of the way we use it, I’m not sure it’s always the right word. And that’s what I want to talk about.

It’s something I think about a lot, mostly when I hear someone try to sum up what America’s all about — particularly when describing what our soldiers have fought for in this conflict or that one — and they just say that one word, and I wonder, “Is that really the right word in this instance?”

But I’m bringing it up today because of a podcast I listened to while walking a couple of days back. Actually, I read about it first, and it read like it would be a good examination of my point. I read:

Maggie Nelson is a poet, critic and cultural theorist whose work includes the award-winning 2016 book “The Argonauts.” Her newest work, “On Freedom,” pierces right into the heart of America’s founding idea: What if there’s no such thing as freedom, at least not freedom as a state of enduring liberation?

And more than that: What if we don’t want to be free? Perhaps that’s the great lie in the American dream: We’re taught to want freedom, but many of us recoil from its touch….

Nelson describes herself as a “disobedient thinker,” someone who enjoys looking at “the difficulty of difficult things,” and this conversation bears that out. We talk about when and whether freedom is hard to bear, the difference between a state of liberation and the daily practice of freedom, the hard conversations sexual liberation demands, what it means to live in koans, my problems with “The Giving Tree,” Nelson’s disagreements with the left, the difficulty of maintaining your own experience of art in an age when the entire internet wants to tell you how to feel about everything, and more.

OK, those are not exactly the things that I was thinking, but it sounded like a conversation that might go where I wanted it to.

It didn’t. In fact, some of it got pretty silly. Sometimes the conversation sounded sort of like possibly my favorite scene from “Love and Death”:

SONJA: Perception is irrational. It implies imminence. But judgment of any system of phenomena exists in any rational, metaphysical or epistemological contradiction to an abstracted empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself.

BORIS: Yeah, I’ve said that many times….

And now that I go back and read the description again after listening, I realize I should have seen that.

So let me start my own conversation about what American mean when they say “freedom,” and whether it’s the right word.

But first, three words from the French Revolution: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Of course, freedom comes first, but it is implied that at the very least, these are equally worthy goals for a civilization. But are they?

If you’re on the right in America — or at least the more libertarian neighborhoods of the right — you will insist vehemently that liberté is what it’s all about, and the one main thing we need. Freedom, baby.

If you’re on the more woke, Bernie and AOC portions of the left, then the main thing is égalité, and we need to spend all our political energies fighting to overcome the billionayuhs and make everybody equal in every way, whether they want to be or not.

But when I look around and think about what we most need in our society, that quality that’s most painfully absent from our country, I tend to focus on the third word. We need to get along, more than anything else. Brotherhood is what we should and must pursue, or this whole experiment is over. What sort of label should be slapped on that kind of thinking? Communitarian, I suppose. Or Catholic, maybe, taking it beyond the here and now. That’s what the pope would say, and in fact did say last year in Fratelli Tutti.

But that’s not to dismiss the importance of liberty in the sense of having a liberal form of government, or the critical principle of equality before the law. But here’s the thing: We have those things in generous plenty. Our nation’s history is basically a story of ensuring and broadening the guarantees of such things. What we’re hurting for is something our system doesn’t even legally mandate, fraternité.

But that’s not my point here today. That is in fact my second digression, counting the one about the podcast. My third, if you count “Me and Bobby McGee.” If I didn’t have all the room in the world — say, if this were print — I’d be showing more discipline. Eventually. My columns in the paper would initially be written more or less this way, but when I got serious about getting the paper out, I’d ditch everything above, and the published column would start right about here, after the warming-up exercises….

In this country, in this culture, freedom is a very important concept, to be sure. It’s something our way of life can’t do without.

Unfortunately, the word is often used to excuse an abandonment of adult responsibility that might make a child in the Terrible Twos blush. It’s used to defend hating government — which means hating the system that enables us to live together as a civilization, to dwell together in the hundreds of millions without randomly killing each other. It means hating the thing that makes rights — freedoms — possible. (Here we could have a big philosophical argument — and we may — over whether the Bill of Rights were necessary. Some opposed them on the grounds that rights are natural, God-given, and that to spell them out would be to limit them. I don’t think so. And if you think such things exist in a state of nature, you need to study the record of our species more closely. In fact, have any of you read Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari? I’m still reading it, but when I’m done I’m going to write a post or two about it. There’s some nonsense in it — some of it insulting, if you’re, you know, a Homo sapiens — but a lot of interesting stuff as well.)

Often, another word meant to appeal to our sense of the importance of freedom — choice — is used in our politics to defend ideas that would be a tough sell on their own. Hence abortion is sold as “choice.” So is the execrable practice of diverting public money away from public education. So yeah, go ahead and call me “anti-choice,” since you’re going to do that anyway. I certainly am against “choice” when you’re using it to mean, “I get to do any damned thing I choose to do, and I have no responsibility to anyone else concerned whatsoever.” But since I suspect relatively few of you would agree with me on both those points, I’ll just move on…

But not without saying that “freedom” gets used in exactly the same way — such as to defend otherwise indefensible things such as banning mandates on masks or vaccines. Yeah, it’s stupid and horrible, but it’s about freedom, so…

Beyond that, though, is freedom what we’re all about, in the sense of being a one-word answer that completely does the job? I don’t think it does. It expresses a lot of what we’re about, but it sort of cries out for elaboration, if you’re going to truly understand the country and what makes it what Madeleine Albright and I would call the indispensable nation, or — to use a term many of my friends hate — if you’re to explain what makes us exceptional. We can argue all day about that word, too. But my point is, when people pick a word to express that exceptionalism, they tend to fall back on “freedom.” Which I don’t think gets the job done. (And of course, a lot of you who are offended by “exceptionalism” think people who believe in it are idiots who want to oversimplify anyway, but that’s another side argument.)

Let’s look at our history, starting with the Revolution. Of course, as long as I’m being picky about words, in my mind, “revolution” has always been a bit of a misnomer. Compared to real revolutions like the French or the Russian, it’s pretty tame stuff. It wasn’t about the peasants rising up to overthrow the brutal overlords (or however those folks saw their elites). Basically, the guys who were already running these colonies wanted to be left alone to run them, and didn’t like the way London — the Crown or Parliament or whomever you want to blame the most — was interfering.

If you want to go by the best-known oversimplification of the time, it was more about representation than freedom. (And no, my libertarian friends, it wasn’t “no taxation.” It was “No taxation without representation.”) You can say they wanted to be free of the king. But if I recall correctly (and I confess that in college I studied the period right after the Revolution far more closely than that just before), they had very much liked being British subjects, but they felt like they were starting to lose some of the benefits of that status. Hence the fight for independence.

Let’s move to 1861. In the great scheme of things, that was certainly about freedom. But interestingly, most of the soldiers were fighting not for freedom for themselves, but for the freedom of other people who weren’t even allowed to take up arms until late in the process. Also, I’m not sure how many of those fighting — or supporting the fighting on the homefront — would have said that’s what they were fighting for. But certainly “freedom” played a huge role in the memes of the day, and with more justice than during other periods of our history.

In later conflicts, we saw that pattern repeated. Often, Americans fought and bled and died for freedom — but as often as not (in fact, probably more often than not) it was for other people’s freedom. Which is one of the most exceptional things about us.

Take WWII. When the Japanese attacked, were they trying to take over the United States and repeal not only the Bill of Rights, but the Constitution? Or were they just trying to grab as much of the western Pacific Rim and its resources as they could, and correctly saw us as an obstacle to that? And the Germans were certainly taking the freedoms of Europeans, but at what point was there ever a real possibility of their marching into Washington or New York? Had Hitler won the war, I think the U.S. would have existed in a less free world, and that would have put huge strains on our own system. (Like the Cold War, only much worse.) But was it really about our freedom?

This brings us to Afghanistan. If you’re an Afghan woman, you bet it was about freedom, and you can rely on someone like me to use that reason a lot in explaining why we needed to be there. And I’m not trying to mislead you: I’m a big believer in using our strength to help oppressed people everywhere, when possible and practicable. You may have noticed that.

But is that why we were there? No. The Taliban had allowed their country to be used as a safe base for, well, the Base, and that presented a shockingly demonstrated physical threat to the United States — the kind of threat to which an oppressive country would likely have responded more or less as strongly as a “free” one.

Mind you, I’m not saying “freedom” is a bad word for what we’re about. I’m just saying we’re about so much more.

It’s kind of like “democracy.” People use that much the way they use “freedom.” But if I thought “democracy” summed up what our system is all about, I’d be slightly alarmed. I’m not a fan of direct democracy. I think having a system in which we all voted online on yes or no questions regarding major policy issues would be utterly insane. What we have is something more accurately described as “representative democracy” (to bring up that concept that seemed so important at the time of our revolution) or, in a Madisonian sense, a republic. And thank God for that.

This bothers those who smell “elitism” when they hear things like that. Well, their noses aren’t working right. I don’t believe for a moment that people who are elected to make decisions are by definition wiser, or in any other way better, than those who elect them (although I certainly respect them more than people who say they “hate politicians”). It’s about the process more than the people. If you just grab people at random off the street, and send them to Washington to study issues and engage in debate with people of various views, you will get better laws than if you simply ask those people on the street to state their uninformed, gut preference on a complex issue (which is why I’ve always hated “man-in-the-street” interviews — they make me embarrassed for the human race).

This is why I am so dismayed by Trumpism, and the extreme partisanship that was ruining our politics before Trumpism. When you go out of your way to elect people who are so aggressively idiotic that they will not engage in debate in good faith, the system cannot possibly work, no matter how “free” we say we are. (I’m stopping myself here from returning to another tangent, about the “freedom” to refuse vaccines and not wear masks, thereby killing thousands of your neighbors and destroying our economy. If you use “freedom” that way, you are definitely on the wrong track.)

Bottom line, I’m an American, and I cherish my freedom. It is worth fighting for and dying for, and I am profoundly grateful for everyone who has ever done that. Which anyone who has followed what I write knows. The least the rest of us can do is speak up in favor of it.

But does the word by itself sum up what I love about my country? No. You have to use other words as well, carefully and thoughtfully. And you have to insist that when people say “freedom,” they use it correctly and respectfully. Or else you’re missing what our country is about.

Speaking of words, I’m going to stop at 2,464…

Friday Open Thread: Money and Baseball

Game action at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn between the Dodgers and Pirates on May 30, 1955

By Bryan Caskey

I figured I would give everyone a new thread to chew on since it’s been awhile since the last one. Here’s some of the top headlines around the state and country.

  1. U.S. inflation: Inflation accelerated last month and remained at its highest rate in over a decade, with price increases from pandemic-related labor and materials shortages rippling through the economy. I know Brad doesn’t do much on financial news. However, this is important. Any person shopping for groceries or filling up a car’s gas tank is already feeling the pinch of inflation.
  2. Dawn Staley: The University of South Carolina agreed to pay Ms. Staley $22.4M over the next seven years. She’s certainly earned it, and this makes her the highest paid women’s college basketball coach in the land. She will keep USC women’s basketball as a force for years to come. If you haven’t had a chance to go see them play, you’re missing out.
  3. The Border: President Biden has announced he’s going to reimplement President Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy if Mexico agrees. I guess we’ll have to see what the Mexican government wants to do.
  4. Catch-22 in Congress. Yesterday, Senator Sinema has announced that she isn’t voting for the reconciliation bill until the House passes the infrastructure bill that has already passed the Senate. This is sort of a problem, since some House Democrats have said they aren’t voting for the infrastructure bill until the reconciliation bill is passed by the Senate. Sounds like someone is going to have to back down, or the Catch-22 scenario happens and no money gets spent at all.
  5. Baseball: Dodgers and Braves play for the NL pennant, while the Astros and Red Sox are both on the hunt for the AL pennant. I think it will be Red Sox and Dodgers, but I’d love to see the underdog Braves pull another rabbit out of their hat. The photo above is from the Dodgers back when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers, playing at Ebbets Field.

Why were so many of those TV people single?

Brian Keith’s character had no wife, although he had Mr. French to help with the kids.

I don’t mean the actors; I mean the characters they played.

Robert Ariail raised the question in a comment back on that post about the picture of all those CBS stars:

One more comment since you brought up Ernest T. It took me a while to realize this , but do you know why everyone in the Andy Griffith show was so happy? No one was married.

Excepting Otis , the town drunk and Clara( was that her name?) Bee’s friend who was a terrible gossip and we never even saw her husband.

Just sayin’…

Well, that got me going to where I thought I should turn my response into a separate post. So here goes…

The Ernest T. reference he mentions was this, which I posted in response to a video from Bill.

As a former Ernest T. impersonator, let me point out, Ernest T. wanted to be married. He wanted it more than anything. That was the whole point of sprucing himself up to go to Mrs. Wiley’s mixers. And it was his main motivation in other episodes. It’s even why he wanted a you-nee-form

That aside, you’re completely right — not so much that people were HAPPY because they weren’t married, but that they simply weren’t married. (I don’t think Clara was married, either, was she?)

And this went way, way beyond “The Andy Griffith Show.”

I remember that dawning on me at some point in the ’60s. It was noticeable. In the world in which I grew up, grownups were married. My parents, and the parents of pretty much everyone I knew, were married. Some of them may not have been on their first marriage, but they were married, generally speaking. It was like it was a rule. (At this point, someone will rush to point out that “that’s because you had a privileged upbringing!” Well, no. Kids today know a lot more grownups who aren’t married, and yes, it’s a phenomenon that goes up as you move down the economic scale. But I think it you look at demographics from the 50s and 60s, you’ll see it was far more the norm.)

And I think it was simply a matter of giving the writers of shows more to work with. An unmarried person is in a position for his (and as you’ll see, we’re talking mostly men) life to go in more different directions. The viewer can wonder, “Will Miss Ellie Walker be the one for Andy?” But no, along comes the nurse, Peggy, and of course later on, Helen Crump. And others briefly in between. It gave the writers more possibilities for plots.

Everybody on Gilligan’s Island was single except the Howells, and who cared about them? From the perspective of Boomers, they were absurdly old. You had Brian Keith on “Family Affair,” and the show that was actually called, “Bachelor Father,” and “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.” And of course, it was “My Three Sons,” not “Our Three Sons.”

Yep, they were mostly men — if they were parents, and leading characters. Probably because the plight of the single mom was seen as sad — and of course even today, it’s more of a predictor of economic distress. If you wait to the 70s, you get “One Day at a Time,” which was sometimes funny, but even the title suggests a certain state of hardship. It took awhile to get to Murphy Brown. (Sure there were some earlier examples such as “The Ann Sothern Show,” and Lucille Ball’s efforts after Desi. But Ann Sothern was kinda before my time, and I have little memory of those later Lucy shows.)

Of course, all of the Clampetts — Jed, Granny, Ellie Mae and Jethro — were single, as was Miss Jane. Which was very important to the plots. From that same comedic universe, no one on “Petticoat Junction” was married, either. Not even Uncle Joe, who’s a movin’ kinda slow. Although with Kate Bradley, we did have a lead who was a single mom.)

Never mind comedy. Think about the leads of “The Rifleman,” or “Bonanza,” or any of the Warner Bros. Westerns. All single, near as I can recall (I’m not really familiar with some of those Warner Bros. shows). And that’s just one genre.

Speaking of Miss Ellie… Of course, there were  shows about married people. Elinor Donahue was the official older daughter on “Father Knows Best” and other shows like it. But I ask you, which was funnier: “The Donna Reed Show,” or “The Beverly Hillbillies?”

I rest my case. It was all about giving the writers more potential plots to work with…

Would Ellie be the one? As it turned out, no…