How on Earth is this ploy supposed to work?

In “Office Space,” there’s a scene in which the three computer engineers, having sort of backed their way into a serious crime, are talking about laundering their ill-gotten money. But they don’t know how. They are reduced to looking up “money-laundering” in a dictionary. And Michael Bolton complains,

How is it that all these stupid, Neanderthal, Mafia guys can be so good at crime and smart guys like us can suck so badly at it?

I’ve often thought something like that, only I don’t think those guys are stupid. I think maybe I am. I couldn’t begin to follow a scam I once heard described on “The Sopranos.” I forget the deal. Maybe it was selling phone cards to Mexican migrants. Whatever it was, I could not see at all how anybody made money from it.

And I really, truly can’t figure out how something like the scam text above, which I got tonight, is supposed to work. It seems to me to be predicated on the recipient getting all worried, thinking:

OhmyGod! My transaction for $292.55 got rejected! Now I’m not going to get that thing I just tried to buy for $292.55!

Suppose someone does think that. What’s going to keep him from then thinking…

Wait. WHAT thing I bought for $292.55? I didn’t buy anything for $292.55!


And when did I ever do business of any kind with Wells Fargo? No, excuse me, with “W3lls Fargo?” And if I did, what kind of business can’t spell its own name?

And then:

Apparently, I’m supposed to reach out in a panic to the sender of the message. But they didn’t tell me how to do that. Where’s the link they want me to click, so they can steal my identity or whatever?

Maybe this deal is so brilliant that I can’t suss it out. Or maybe this is legit, and the sender was so anxious to help the recipient that he forgot how to spell “Wells,” forgot to provide the contact, and sent it to the wrong person.

But I don’t think so. I suspect there’s a bot out there that’s missing a few lines of code…


I didn’t break Duolingo? If not, it wasn’t for lack of trying…

I was afraid for a moment I had worn the app out. I had been pounding away at my lessons, day after day, for weeks, doing all I could to learn Dutch.

Then suddenly one day — early April, I think — the icon for the app went from this:

To this:

Screenshot of my iPad screen on April 6.

Had I broken it? It seemed to be the most obvious answer, given my relentless activity. But it turns out just to be something Duolingo does to attract attention from time to time. And it appears to work.

The icon soon returned to normal, and I continued my efforts, sometimes doing as many as 20 lessons a day.

Why? Because one of my granddaughters is doing a summer ballet intensive in Amsterdam. Her mother will be there with her for the start of the program, but then my wife and I will be there for her for the rest of it, and accompany her back to the States. That’s where we’ll be based in the latter half of our upcoming trip.

But we’re doing more than that. As a celebration of our upcoming 50th anniversary, we’re flying first to London, and we’ll stay there a couple of days. We haven’t been to town in some time (since the beginning of 2011), and one must go occasionally.

Then, we’ll have a couple of days in Canterbury, to see what the Anglicans have done with the place since Becket’s day. Then on to Dover, and then we’ll look over our shoulders at the white cliffs while we cross to Calais. That’s what the Germans expected the Allies to do in 1944, but we faked them out and went to Normandy. I’d like to go there and visit the beaches, but it will be in the wrong direction. After Calais, we’ll go to Dunkirk, Lille, Ghent and on to Amsterdam.

We’ll mostly stay there until we fly back, but will take the odd day trip to places like Bruges and Nijmegen. While in Nijmegen, I hope to catch an Uber or something into Germany, just so I can say I’ve been there, too.

You see, I’ve never been to Europe before. Ever. There’s been no occasion to do so in my 70 years. I’ve done South America, the Caribbean, Asia, Hawaii. And as y’all know, I’ve been to England and Ireland. But never crossed the channel to the continent.

My wife’s been. She and her friend Mary backpacked across the continent for a month or so just before she met me in August 1973. They had a great time. But she hasn’t been since then, and she is taking preparations for this invasion very seriously. I mentioned 1944. Well, my wife is very organized — there has to be somebody like that in every organization, and she is definitely the one in this outfit. Ike would have approved of the way she has sought to effectively deploy our finite resources upon each objective at the right time, with maximum effectiveness.

And while I have been able to make strong contributions to the planning (contributions that consist of saying, “I wanna see this! I wanna see that!”), most of my effort has gone into learning Dutch — as much as I can, anyway, in these short months of preparation. Yeah, I know most people in Nederland speak English. But I figure I’m bound to run into someone, somewhere — perhaps out in the country — who does not, and I want to be ready. My wife will handle the French — she’s been there and she studied it before that, and she’s brushing up. I’m learning Dutch, from scratch.

Fortunately, Engels is moeilijk, maar Nederlands is gemakkelijk. Or so Duolingo keeps telling me. But it’s a bit of a slog nonetheless. Becoming fluent in Spanish was as easy as falling off a log when I was 9 years old. I think I read once that that’s pretty much the end of the period of life when learning a second language is as easy as learning the first one. My brother was only 3, and I’m not sure he noticed there was a difference between the two tongues.

My Spanish (most of which I’ve forgotten, anyway, to my sorrow) is of no help here. Of course, English is a help with this one. I certainly know right away what is meant by such Dutch words as “park,” “fruit,” “week,” “weekend,” and such — although they’re pronounced quite differently. The tiny bits of German I remember from high school are sort of a mixed bag. Sure, much of the language obviously comes from common roots, but that frequently tricks me into using the German version instead, and getting the word wrong.

The hardest is the article “een” — meaning “a” or “an” — and for many weeks I had trouble stopping myself from saying “ein” instead. Also, when an S comes before a T or a P, I want to pronounce it “SH,” which I think is the way it’s done in German — at least, I got it from somewhere (we have a one or two German speakers here; maybe y’all can tell me whether I remember that right), and I think it was German. But if the readers on Duolingo have it right, that’s not the way it’s done in Dutch.

Of course, Dutch people are as likely to speak German as English, and are likely to understand. But I want to get it right.

And I’ve made a good bit of progress. One sign of that is that recently, I’ve cut back on using the button that slows down what is being said to me, as I’ve gotten impatient, and often get the faster sentence the first time. To me, that means more than having a tremendous vocabulary. It means I’m starting to grok the language (or at least, the simple bits I’ve been taught) holistically. And to me, being an intuitive sort, that is pleasing.

I don’t expect to carry on any deep conversations. But maybe I can order food (something that is a huge minefield for me with my allergies), handle simple transactions, and the like.

Besides, it’s fun to learn something new. Anyway, I’ll keep tackling the lessons for the next few days, and hope for the best. And enjoy the cooler weather. Today, the high in Amsterdam is 68 and the low is 56. In London, it won’t get above 62. I’m looking forward to that.

If it gets hot, I’ll just sit down and order een glas bier. And of course, if I forget and say, ein Glas Bier, they’ll probably bring it to me anyway.

Which reminds me. I won’t be interested in Dutch cheese or Dutch chocolate. They’re poison to me. But I do want to sample the beers, and I don’t know squat about them, beyond Heineken and Amstel. And I don’t want to order those, because then they might think I’m a tourist or something.

So if you have any advice on that front, now would be the time to share…

Welcome, Keir Starmer. And it all happened so quickly!

Well, it’s over. The campaign started on May 22, when the now-outgoing P.M. called a snap election.

And now, the Tories have suffered their worst defeat in their 200-year history. They are a sorry spectacle, so let’s be kind and look away from them.

The good news is that Labour’s overwhelming victory means Keir Starmer is the new Prime Minister, officially invited by the king to form a new government (see image above).

The British people wanted a change, and they got it. Right away. Will it make a difference? I hope so. I’ve been hearing so many sad stories lately about the state of Albion.

Last time I was there, the Tories were in charge. Next week, I will be in London, and am curious and hopeful as to whether I’ll see a difference. Oh, not in terms of infrastructure or a cure for the nation’s fiscal problems. I’m looking more for a different mood, a happier one.

And it all happened so quickly. Fourteen years after this sorry string of Conservative prime ministers (one brief, flickering failure after another) began, in a handful of weeks we have something new.

The world has yet to take the measure of Mr. Starmer, but I’m hopeful so far. For all these years, Labour had been held back by the disastrous, repellent Jeremy Corbyn. Now we have someone very different, and I’m picking up vibes of my main man Tony Blair. Is New Labour back? I hope so. We’ll see.

And again, it all happened so quickly.

I think we can agree that this seems to work better than our own painful system. This current election has been going on since when? I suppose since that moment in 2015 when Donald Trump came down that escalator. And instead of laughing at him and moving on, the nation has been engaged for nine years in an incredibly absurd and debilitating argument over whether he, or some normal, qualified person should be the most powerful person in the world.

Of course, quick and decisive elections aren’t always everything. Look at what just happened to poor Emanuel Macron. But at least he gets to keep his job, for now. It’s debatable whether he or Rishi Sunak is the lucky one, though. At least Sunak gets to move on.

But they are both more blessed than we in that our ordeal continues. At least I’m about to take a break from it. And on this break, I will also visit France. But I don’t expect to notice many changes there, one way or the other. I’ve never been there before…

Stopping a moment to talk about the ‘debate’…

I’ve been extremely busy Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday on an important matter that’s not only a work thing, but a personal thing — my deep concern about the situation at Alvin S. Glenn. Here’s a release about what’s happening tonight. Very little of my time was spent on the release, of course. Mostly it was reading documents catching me up on the case, and harassing various media to let them know what was happening tonight.

I’ll be glad to elaborate further on the matter, but right now I’m caught up with communicating with media about the jail, but I think I have a few minutes to address what the rest of the world has been yammering about for days.

Everywhere I’ve gone the last few days — my walks (I’m going to get in my 10,000 whatever else I’m doing, even if I don’t sleep), Mass on Sunday, what have you — everyone has wanted to talk with me about it. I was no more interested in talking about it than I was before the “debate.” An alternate scripture reading from Friday kind of sums up my attitude toward these silly spectacles over the last few election cycles:

Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace,
along with those who call on the Lord with purity of heart.
Avoid foolish and ignorant debates,
for you know that they breed quarrels…

I read that and thought, yeah, that’s what I keep saying. Avoid stupid and ignorant debates (has there been any other kind in recent years?) indeed.

I’ve covered and organized and participated in these things we call debates over the decades. I covered the GOP presidential debate in early 1980 in Des Moines. I’ve been a panelist asking the questions several times. Once, when my newspaper was sponsoring a U.S. Senate debate — in 1982, I think — I found myself outside of the venue explaining to anti-abortion protesters why they couldn’t come in and disrupt the event. The woman leading them was a friend — we were both in the folk choir at our church — and she was in my face and screaming at me. Something I remember more vividly than the debate itself.

For years, I generally ignored the purists who insisted these media events were not “debates” at all. I felt they served a purpose. Over time I increasingly had my doubts about their value in national elections. The superficiality was painful. The evidence leading me to doubt has been piling up for a long time. Remember Lloyd Bentsen’s zinger, directed at Dan Quayle in 1988? And do you remember anything else from that event? Increasingly, debate prep was about memorizing zingers and avoiding gaffes. No more boning up on details about Quemoy and Matsu.

I still think there can be some value in letting people hear from candidates for lesser offices, involving folks they may never have seen or thought about before. I was disappointed as a voter recently when a debate held between Russell Ott and Dick Harpootlian was not televised live. Never mind “live;” I couldn’t find a full video of it anywhere after. Maybe it was out there, but not terribly accessible. But no matter. The right candidate won anyway.

A decade ago, despite the mounting evidence, I was still enthusiastic about debates. The enthusiasm was fueled by the novelty of social media. I loved tweeting about 30 or more times during a debate, and the energetic discussions this would engender. It was fun. But that’s about it. Not much of substance. It was entertaining to chortle at stupid things people said at the podium. But not what you’d call enlightening. And the novelty wore off.

As last week’s event approached, my enthusiasm was deader than usual. There was nothing to be gained from the event, either by my candidate or by the country. Trump, of course, would say stupid, offensive, embarrassing stuff from start to finish, and it wouldn’t cost him a single vote — his supporters love that stuff. The only person who could “lose” would be the one man — the infinitely better man — who stands between him and his planned dictatorship. Of course, he wouldn’t lose on substance — on any matter of character or understanding of policy. But he would lose if he slipped — committed a gaffe — even slightly. And God forbid he should “look old” on camera, because the country is full of people who think that’s important in his contest against a deranged 78-year-old.

So I wasn’t looking forward to it, and when I had initial trouble keeping it on my screen via a couple of sites (I don’t have cable; I have to stream), I was pleased to stop trying and do pretty much anything else. But I saw enough to agree that Joe had a bad night. He didn’t look good or sound good. In other words, my assessment agreed with those of people across the spectrum who said that — the chortling Republicans, the horrified Democrats, and others. I agreed also with the president himself. He had a bad night.

And none of that bore in any way on the question of which of these men should be elected — which is the only question that matters. I’m not going to go off on a long digression on the reasons why one of these men will be elected, but that’s the case — unless one or both of them succumb to the grim logic of actuarial tables sometime between now and Election Day. So that question is what matters. And all that matters.

Let’s consider one slice of the set of people currently in the “Biden must bow out” camp: I have zero patience with the editorial board of The New York Times. These are the sophomoric hammerheads who, in 2020, despised Joe — the only Democrat who could win — so much that they wanted to endorse anybody else for the nomination. Trouble was, their weak collective mind was incapable of assembling a consensus on exactly which of the zero-chance challengers to choose. So they picked two of them, thus disqualifying themselves from being considered seriously regarding such matters for the forseeable future.

So where do I stand? Well, for a concise description of my position, I refer you to President Obama:

That’s pretty much what Joe himself has been saying. To quote from a fundraising text I received, which summarizes what he’s been saying elsewhere in recent days:

Hey folks, it’s Joe. On Thursday, I spent 90 minutes debating on a stage with a guy who has all the morals of an alley cat.

I know I’m not a young man. I don’t walk as easily as I used to. I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to.

I also know how to tell the truth. I know right from wrong. I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done.

And I know — like millions of Americans know — when you get knocked down, you get back up.

I would not be running again if I didn’t believe with all my heart and soul that I can do this job. Because quite frankly the stakes are too high…

Yep. I agree with all that. And I can identify. I’m only 70, but when I’m on video, I come across like Methusaleh’s uncle. See this video from this past Friday, in which I’m introducing a speaker from the Relic Room. I’m the stooped old guy at the very beginning.

Anyway, that’s about it. This has taken more time than I had to spend. I’ve been handling calls and texts from reporters and attorneys while writing it. I’ve got to go. When I come back, it will be to write about something else — there are a number of topics I’d like to address before I leave the country next week (that’s actually one of the things I hope to write about, if things calm down)…

News that has broken today, June 26, 2024

So… where’s the astronaut? See item 4. This is from the

I just got tired of saying, “Open Thread.” But to be true to the headline, I’ll try to stick to things that either happened, or I read or heard about, today:

  1. SCOTUS rules for Biden administration in a social media dispute with red states — I didn’t realize this was actually before our nation’s highest court. I had heard about the nonsense, though, on the podcast Hard Fork, I think. As I recall, somebody saw oppression, or something, in the fact that some social media outlets have rules against disinformation, and some people with the government had notifed the sites about disinformation that they might want to look at. That was the big conspiracy. The court gave the claim the heave-ho. Good.
  2. Assange Agrees to Plead Guilty in Exchange for Release — OK, so this broke earlier, but I was reminded today after he got home to Australia. Lucky Australia. As much as I might dislike seeing this guy leave custody, I’m happy that he admitted that what he did was a crime (watch; he’ll say he didn’t), and that he’s left Britain. Because I’m going there soon, and I’d just rather not even hear about him. But justice required that he plead that way, because to quote Doonesbury, well, see the image below… I actually have that book, somewhere.
  3. Bolivian Military Tries to Storm President’s Palace in Apparent Coup Attempt — Well, I suppose they should be applauded, because that Morales has got to go. No, wait. Morales has been out for five years. I didn’t realize. I’ve really got to do a better job of keeping up with Latin America, especially the Andean countries, since I used to live in one…
  4. China Becomes First Country to Retrieve Rocks From the Moon’s Far Side — Hey, way to go, China. Boldly picking up rocks where no man has picked up rocks before. Speaking of men, show us a picture of the guy you sent there to pick them up…
  5. Jamaal Bowman’s Loss — Fitting. The one bad thing about it is that his loss brings the Squad back into the public spotlight, if only momentarily. It’s been awhile. I didn’t even know any dudes had been admitted…
  6. France’s Far Right at the Gates of Power — This was The Daily today. Very interesting, although listening to a breakdown of current politics in France… or Britain… or the United States, for that matter… can be kind of creepy these days. Y’all keeping up with that? I’m trying to. I don’t want another Morales situation on my hands. Oh, yeah — I’ll be in France soon, too. More about that later…
  7. Jason Guerry to face Russell Ott — You probably didn’t pay any more attention to this than I’ve been paying to Bolivia, but I sort of kept an eye on this runoff because I’m hopeful for Russell, and because my neighbor across the street was a big supporter of Guerry’s oppponent, Chris Smith. Can’t say I know much about Guerry beyond the fact that he’s married to the Lexington County Register of Deeds. And wait — I just realized, he’s the son of former Lexington County Councilman Art Guerry. Anyway, maybe we’ll hear more from him now that he’s not overshadowed by the more interesting Ott-Harpootlian contest. Not that local media exactly set the world on fire covering that




Well, I did it

One of the various newspapers to which I subscribe had a story this morning about people who have done an extraordinary job of sticking to ambitious resolutions. I can’t find that story now, but who cares about those slackers? At the moment, I’m more impressed at what I did.

In early May, I reported to you that, having dropped down to 167.9 pounds, I was at least theoretically eligible to wrestle Shute. That was nothing.

I’ve now dropped below 160, which was my goal all along. I thought it was kind of crazy when I first told my wife I was going to do that, late last year, and she probably thought so, too. I was in the low- mid-180s then, and sick and tired of all my pants being too tight, and having to buy new ones. At Christmas, I was wearing new pants with a 36-inch waist. Which was unprecedented.

Now, I’m back in my old 34s, and most of them are a bit loose. The looseness is OK — it’s way better than being tight, and I figure at some point I’ll relax discipline and put back on a few pounds. Almost anywhere between 160 and 170 seems like a comfortable, healthy weight. And entirely doable.

Speaking of relaxing discipline, I now know I can do that without disastrous results. I first got down to 159.9 on June 5, and was a bit lower on D-Day. But then, we spent last week down in the Tampa Bay area, and since I was traveling, I allowed myself to eat pretty much what I wanted. And with my routine disrupted, I only managed to achieve my usual daily goal of 10,000-plus steps once.

But I still only gained back a pound or so. I weighed in at 161.5 yesterday. But today… and here’s the good part… I was back down below 160. The photo above of my scale was taken this morning.

For anyone who cares, here’s how I did it:

  • Smaller portions, on smaller plates.
  • No going back for seconds.
  • No snacks of any kind at any time.
  • Walking at least 10,000 steps a day. Last month, my average was 12,000.

So, in other words, it wasn’t that hard. And I’m glad to see the new weight isn’t all that hard to maintain. I had been wondering.

I know it’s harder for other people. I was always a skinny guy, and when I was young, I lost noticeable weight any time I skipped a meal. The hard thing was gaining.

That has changed in recent years, and I found the way I felt last year kind of a drag. So I did something, something I had never tried to do before. And I’m pleased with how it turned out…

DeMarco: The Night I Was Jewish

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

My experience with injustice has, fortunately, never been personal. I’m a white, married, straight man who attends a Protestant church, so no one has ever denied me a seat at any table because of who I was. I was born in New York, but when I was 7 years old, my family moved to Charleston, where I entered second grade. It didn’t take me long to understand that not everyone was accepted as readily or treated as well as I was. Racism was easy for even a child to spot. When I was taken shopping at Belk, I saw a cross-section of the community that was missing in my neighborhood, school, and church.

I’m not sure when I first became aware of anti-Semitism. I would guess I learned about it in middle school when we studied the Holocaust. I had the advantage of attending a private school during the 1970s that had a substantial population of Jewish students. I was impressed by the discipline of some of my Jewish friends, who after a full day of regular school then attended Hebrew school. One Orthodox classmate once showed up late for an extracurricular meeting on a Saturday morning. “Sorry, I’m late,” he said sheepishly, “But I had to walk.” (Orthodox Jews are not permitted to drive or ride in cars on the Sabbath). I do remember occasionally hearing my classmates make comments disparaging Jews, but these were few and far between. I think it’s fair to say that my Jewish friends felt safe and respected at our school, although not necessarily celebrated. I graduated from high school feeling that Jews my age would have essentially the same opportunities I had.

In December of 1982, during my second year in college, that belief was challenged. I attended a debutante ball at a South Carolina country club with the woman who would eventually become my wife. I didn’t know most of the other guests, so I made many introductions. When curious partygoers asked from whence I came, I proudly told them “Brooklyn.” Some of the members of the club left our conversations worried that this loud kid from Brooklyn with the big nose and olive skin might be Jewish (I’m actually Sicilian). Jews, of course, were prohibited from being members.

The next day, my future mother-in-law told me that questions about my origin had gotten back to her. She had assured all those worried that a Jew might have polluted the WASP-y ballroom atmosphere that, no, I wasn’t Jewish. However, since then, I generally respond to the question “Where are you from?” (which in the South means “Where were you born?”) with a dodge. I tell people I was raised in Charleston, which is better received from those who might harbor misgivings about Yankees or Jews.

Jews (and, of course, blacks) were not welcome at many Southern private clubs until recently. For example, Forest Lake Country Club in Columbia, which was founded in 1923 and counts Governor Henry McMaster as one of its members, did not admit its first black member until 2017.

I’ve been revisiting my debutante experience as anti-Semitism has resurfaced around the war in Gaza. My naïve sense prior to October 7th was that the anti-Semitism that I encountered in 1982 had gradually atrophied to the point where it would continue to decline and die. But sadly, anti-Semitism seems impervious – it’s like the fungal spores that can lie dormant in the earth for years only to spring to life as a carpet of mushrooms in favorable conditions.

My one night as a Jew has helped me form my current opinion of the conflict in Gaza. First, Israel must continue to exist. Second, Palestinians must also have their own state and the right of self-determination.

I fully support the rights of those who protest peacefully in support of the Palestinians and against the war which is killing so many civilians. Before the war there was already growing opposition to the Netanyahu government. Netanyahu’s provocative policies such as settlement expansion, the killing of Palestinian demonstrators, and restrictions on Palestinian trade and freedom of movement were staunchly opposed by many in Israel and the United States.

But what hasn’t come across in any protests I have seen is any sense of shame or regret for Hamas’ brutality on October 7th, not to mention years of suicide bombings, indiscriminate rocket fire, or their grotesque tactic of using their own people as human shields.

Despite our hope for peace and justice for the Palestinians, most Americans rightly find it impossible to be sympathetic toward Hamas. The attack on October 7th will surely be one of the most evil acts of my lifetime. The barbarity of invading homes, of meticulously killing entire families, and of raping and mutilating the victims, is some of the most base behavior of which humans are capable. No one should cheer for this.

The key to many successful protest movements is their ability to find and elevate principled, sacrificial leaders. The Bible provides examples in Moses and Jesus. More recent examples include Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. Neither Netanyahu nor the Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar, fit this mold. The current conflict cannot be resolved until both the Palestinians and the Israelis elect new and better leaders. That is a rallying cry that would unite campus protesters from both sides and point toward a solution.

A version of this column appeared in the May 16th, 2024, edition of the Post and Courier-Pee Dee.

How lieutenants and sergeants saved the day at Omaha

If you’re a newspaper editor, you know that if you don’t say something about major historical events on their anniversaries, you will catch hell from some readers. And good for those readers; ignorance of history is one of the many things wrong with our country.

I don’t have to worry about that these days, but I hate to let June 6 pass without an acknowledgement. Some would call that day in 1944 the pivotal point in the past century. To some extent, that’s just Western-centrism. The Russians were keeping the Germans pretty busy on the other end of the continent. In fact, many of the “Germans” on those bluffs defending Normandy were from Ost battalions — conscripts from Eastern Europe forced into their conquerer’s service. But even Stalin had impatiently waited and nagged us to open our Second Front, because he expecte it to make a monumental difference. And it did.

But even if you set aside the huge strategic significance, it was an impressive feat. To put 175,000 men on the beach in one day (at least that was the plan, I’ve seen different numbers as to how many did land, but the lowest I’ve seen is 133,000). I’m no great scholar of military history, but I don’t think there’s anything in the annals to match it. Anyway, there was plenty of hard fighting ahead after that day, but the Germans were basically on the retreat from then on.

So I certainly wanted to say something. But it seemed corny to put up yet another clip from Band of Brothers, as much as I love that show.

Then I saw a tweet from Richard M. Nixon (one of my favorite feeds on what’s left of Twitter), and was moved to answer it, so I thought I’d share it here:

What Ike was talking about was the fact that all that planning that he and so many others labored over for two years was essential to winning Normandy. But the effort would have failed on that first day — at least on the one beach, which would have had a terrible effect on the overall operation — if not for the fact that American junior officers and non-coms could think, and act, for themselves.

Once the action starts, you can ball up the plan and toss it. Because not only does the enemy get a say in what happens from that point, but you have an uncountable number of other unpredictable factors that change the situation radically from moment to moment. You have to deal with those, not the events you had anticipated.

At Omaha, especially on Easy Red Sector, the defenses were just too strong for the plan. All those guns, presighted upon every square inch of sand. By midmorning, the landing was a shambles, our men were either lying dead at the water’s edge or cowering and confused behind any bit of cover they could find.

Out on the cruiser USS Augusta, Gen. Omar Bradley watched and listened in horror as the reports came in: “disaster,” he heard, along with “terrible casualties” and “chaos.” He began to consider, privately, withdrawal. But that would have been impractical, and perhaps impossible. “I agonized over the withdrawal decision, praying that our men could hang on,” he would later say.

The guys on the beach were stuck there, with death and confusion all around them. They knew their only way out was forward, and the lower-ranking leaders started giving commands based not on any plan, but on what they were facing. And their men got up and followed. A few at a time at first, they got off the beach and triumphed.

You can draw all the lessons you’d like about American initiative and ingenuity, and there would be a lot to that. American infantry troops are trained to think, and improvise as necessary. Not all armies train that way. And obviously, flexibility and initiative are not words you think of to describe Ost defenders standing at their guns with German sergeants pointing pistols at their heads to ensure they stayed at those posts and kept firing.

So “Nixon” was right in his tweet. And so was his old boss Dwight Eisenhower, all those years before…

I just liked the cartoon…

This made me smile this morning, so I thought I’d share it:

What’s the Tweet for? I dunno. It’s an ad for a site that has something to do with medical information and AI. I clicked on the link, but wasn’t interested.

I just liked the cartoon…

I’ve ditched the registration requirement. See if that helps.

I’ve been hearing from a lot of you the last few days that you’re having trouble commenting.

Well, that might be because I turned on something in the settings of the blog that said, “Users must be registered and logged in to comment.” I happened to find it while trying to solve a separate problem identified by an alert reader — the whole comment function was being turned off on many posts. And I think I fixed that.

Having found the registration thing, I tried it because I wanted to see what would happen. What happened was that almost everybody had a problem commenting at all. So I just turned it off. Let me know what happens now.

As to what happens to comments going forward… well, perhaps this is a good time to say I’m right at the point where something is going to change soon, and it will not be accidental. I’ve written a lot over the years, and earlier this year, on the fact that I’m dissatisfied with the quality of discussion on this blog. It’s nowhere near as interesting, and certainly not as constructively engaging, as it was in the past. Maybe it’s me and maybe it’s you, but I think a lot of it is the nation’s Rabbit Hole problem — our whole society has largely forgotten how to engage in civil discourse with people with whom they disagree.

But a lot of it is on me, because I don’t post as much — or at all, some weeks. That’s mainly because I find it hard to find the time. But maybe I’d try a lot harder to find it if the discussions that resulted were more worthwhile, as they once were — and occasionally still are. Which is cause and which is effect? Did the chicken or the egg come first? I dunno. I’m allergic to both chicken and egg, so…

Anyway, I hope I have solved the immediate problem…

Sorry if you’re were frustrated….

What struck me was the reported quiet in the courtroom


Waht is there to say about Trump’s conviction on all charges in his New York hush-money?

There is so much that can be discussed, and at some point, I suppose we’ll discuss them, although I don’t have time to explore any of them thoroughly right now. Such things as:

  • Will he serve time? I hear the interviews with various “expert observers,” and it’s intriguing. On the one hand, it seems unlikely, because it is a first offense — or rather, first conviction — on a nonviolent charge. On the other hand there is a bunch of stuff that might is some cases cause the judge to sentence him to maximum time: His stupendous lack of remorse, all the times he had to be cited for contempt during the trial, the relative quickness with which the 12 jurors decided he was guilty on all charges (which speaks to the striking weight of the evidence against him), and so forth.
  • Should he serve time? An entirely different question. Given the utterly unique situation of who the convicted man is and the fact that he will be handed the Republican Party’s nomination for president four days after his sentencing, it’s very difficult to say. You also get into the murky area of whether the court should consider such things. Frankly, I don’t even know whether I want him to serve time (yet another question we could ask ourselves). My fondest wish is that all his supporters would wake up sane one morning and our long national nightmare would be over. Then we could just send him home and forget him. Failing that, I don’t know what is best for the country.
  • The stupendous lack of any sense of leadership responsibility on the part of Republican officeholders. A leader who actually believes in this nation of laws and not of men would be rushing to explain to Trump voters aping the nonsense their man is pumping out — cursing our legal system and all who sail in it — how profoundly wrong they are. But so much for my fantasies. I set my sights lower when I read this piece in The State this morning, headlined “Trump guilty verdict sparks SC politicians to blame Biden administration.” Rather than contradicting the absurd things Trump said, they are saying these things themselves. My reaction on Twitter was “No, I don’t expect much from these guys. But a more optimistic person would at least expect members of Congress to have a grasp of the difference between federal and state….” If my meaning is not clear, I call your attention to the fact that — as anyone who has paid the slightest attention knows — this was a state trial on charges relating to the violation of state laws. These comments are about as off as commenting on a baseball game by saying you wish the home team had scored more “touchdowns.”

But as I said, I don’t have time at the moment to dig into any of those things sufficiently. I just want to comment briefly on one small thing you may or may not have noticed.

In the early hours of all this, right after the verdict came down, I heard the same interesting thing from a couple of places. Coverage was still in the very early stages, and respectable organizations that report via audio — NPR and NYT audio — were doing brief interviews with reporters who had been in the courtroom when the word “guilty” was pronounced 34 times in quick succession.

And what I was struck by was this: the quietness of it. The reporting of justice being carried out in an orderly manner — a feeling imparted of this development being almost routine, despite its unprecedented (the most overused word of the past eight years) nature.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find transcripts of either of those reports I heard, and I haven’t found the full actual original audio I heard on NPR — although this link touches briefly on the “inside the courtroom” report I’d heard.

Here’s a link to the NYT Audio story, in case you have access. I just listened to it again, and heard again the reporter describing the subdued scene. No outcry, no shouting, no hoopla. Trump “was pretty much placid.” He looked at the jury, but said nothing for once. Then the jury left. They walked right by the convicted man, and his eyes went to the desk in front of him. Then things turned to “practicalities” — the scheduling of his sentencing, discussion of the routine procedures that will precede that, with a review of Trump’s personal history and a psychological evaluation, and so forth.

Just the American system of justice doing its job with regard to this criminal, as it routinely processes so many others. And his criminality had been been established by this court with impressive certainty, due to the strength of the mountain of evidence.

And that, of course, should be that. And would have been in this country, any time before 2016, when a huge part of the American electorate completely lost its perspective. Before that, the whole country would have, at this point, turned its back on this ugly chapter.

But those folks are still utterly resistant to facts, and Trump, being extremely anxious to feed that failing, went straight out and started heaping all the outrageous calumny he could upon the entire American legal system. He knew that many millions out there — ordinary folks who, unlike the ordinary folks who served as jurors, had not sat and examined the evidence without distraction or wishful thinking — would swallow every word of it.

Still, for a few minutes before the shrieking started back up, things were normal. The system was doing its job — as it has whenever Trump has been taken to court, for sexual assault, for financial misdeeds mounting into the hundreds of millions, for defaming a victim, and now for 34 felony counts. With more to come.

And I found what I heard about that brief moment encouraging. It was our system still working, in spite of how messed up our politics may be.

Well, I voted today — for Russell Ott. How about you?

Early voting for the 2024 state primaries has begun, so I trooped over to the West Columbia Community Center to cast my vote. (I’m going to be out of town on the actual election day, June 11.)

And when I say “cast my vote,” I mean exactly that. “Vote,” singular. I voted for Russell Ott for state Senate, and no one else.

That’s partly because I live in Lexington County, and he was on the Democratic primary ballot, and in this area, you mostly only have Republicans running, and thereby offering choices. There was one other choice being offered on the ballot I took — I could have chosen between the two guys vying to lost to Joe Wilson in the fall.

I wasn’t going to do that. I had never heard of either of them before I saw them on the sample ballot, just a few minutes before I headed to the polling place. And as I’ve said many times, I don’t vote for people I know nothing about.

But I was glad to vote for Russell in his contest against Dick Harpootlian.

I’m not as optimistic as I’d like to be about the outcome on June 11, but my worrying could be a mistake. I just don’t know. The thing is, while I know Russell — and Dick — I don’t know this odd new district they’re running in.

You may recall that Dick had given the impression that he wasn’t seeking reelection from his current district, so the Republicans just drew him into the same district with my senator, Nikki Setzler. Then, weird things happened. Dick changed his mind, and Nikki decided to retire. So Dick ran in this new district, which somehow included not only his urban Columbia address, but Russell’s out in St. Matthews.

It would be city mouse versus country mouse — the lawyer versus the farmer — and in this case, knowing and observing them, I preferred country mouse.

And I think if every voter here in Lexington County knew both of them as I do, most of tthem would prefer Russell. He’s the one who’s more like Nikki, who has been elected and re-elected around here enough times to become the Senate’s longest-serving member.

But here’s the thing: They were used to choosing Nikki in November, and Nikki was too smart ever to mention his political party on his yard signs. Russell’s trying to get to the November ballot through a strongly contested Democratic primary.

And I don’t see a whole lot of my neighbors choosing the Democratic ballot when they go to vote. I asked a poll worker whether they had given out many of those today. They had not.

Which is why Dick, who has largely been a pragmatic guy in the Senate, is running this time like a zampolit, an enforcer of party ideology. You’d think he was running in AOC’s district or something. But I think that’s because he assumes Richland Country Democrats will dominate the contest, and that they want to hear that kind of stuff. Maybe he’s right. And maybe he’s wrong. I can’t tell.

We’ll see. But we’ll have to wait until June 11, at least. I’ll just keep hoping it will be Russell. I think he’s the better man for this district, and for South Carolina.

How about you? Have you voted? Do you plan to? Maybe not. While they handed out very few Democratic ballots at my polling place today, it didn’t look like there were all that many takers on the GOP side, either. People just don’t vote in these things. And that’s a shame…

This is what was on offer over on the Republican side.

Could Trump beat President Camacho? Could anybody?

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Camacho, doing his thing…

Did you see this headline? “Trump Leads in 5 Key States.”

Polls continue to plumb the depths of American idiocy. Which makes me wonder about something. I’m offering this as a serious question, really…

Given the current state of the electorate, would Trump be leading anywhere in the country against President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Camacho? You know, the guy from “Idiocracy“…

It’s worth asking ourselves. My own answer is no, I don’t think he could. Mr. Camacho outdoes Trump on pretty much every quality it takes to win votes in an idiocracy, and the thing is, Camacho has actual muscles in reality, instead of them being an absurdly imagined fantasy like in the flag you see below. I’ve seen those flags at flea markets in recent years. I suppose people buy them to laugh at. That’s the only thing you could do when you regard that fat old man slumbering in the courtroom, and then look at the flag…

But arguments can be made for Trump in this contest. His hair is much weirder, but Camacho’s is fairly wild. And in Camacho’s defense, he is actually firing that automatic weapon, we are to believe. Trump is more an enabler — he wants to free up Putin to machine-gun people. On the other hand, Trump is less articulate, which is a winning quality with the constituency in question. But Camacho…

We could go on.

Like so many things in our current Identity-obsessed culture, the race would likely come down to a matter of race. There are people who would never support Trump who might support Camacho because he’s black. On the other hand, many Trump supporters would rather vote for — excuse my language — a Democrat before they’d support a black man. Not all of them are that way, of course, but a good many are. Remember those people marching in Charlottesville? That incident is what made Joe Biden — remember Joe Biden, that boringly sane man? — decide to run for president before 2020.

Of course, some Trump supporters have been training themselves to accept black people, as long as they kowtow with sufficient humility to all that is evil. They look at Tim Scott, and they tell themselves, “You know, there are some good ones.”

But I’m getting off on an Identity tangent here. I suppose that makes me “modern.”

Back to the original question: Could Trump beat President Camacho? Could anyone? In other words, to what level have we sunk, overall, in every category — intellectual, cultural, and so forth?

If you haven’t seen one of these, you probably haven’t been to a flea market lately.

OK, I give up. How do I exile Yahoo from Chrome PERMANENTLY?

… which is not what I wanted to KNOW!…

Yahoo search engine is to me what Mexicans are to a Trump supporter. I want to deport it, and make sure it NEVER sneaks back in.

But whenever I try to find out how to do that, all I can find is simple instructions telling me how to switch the Chrome default browser back to Google, and then remove Yahoo from the options.

What am I, an idiot? (And despite that opening, I won’t let you get abusive in comments.) I freaking know how to do that! I’ve done it maybe 15 times now in recent months. And yeah, it always works — at first. But within days, the usurper is back on Google’s throne, and in its own castle — Chrome! That’s like a random Mexican guy crossing the Rio and making himself POTUS (which would not be good, but of course, better than having Trump).

I keep searching, with different wording in the search field. They keep giving me the same instructions I’ve encountered and so many times before.

Do y’all have any good advice to share?

(Yes, I’ll get to your comments and post something new soon, but right now I’m ticked off about this.)

I’ve kept ONE resolution, so Shute’s in trouble

I’ve bored you many times with my long-standing ambition to lose enough weight to wrestle Shute.

You know, the shtick about how I was a high school wrestler, and there’s only one really great high school wrestling movie, and it’s “Vision Quest,” yadda-yadda…

Well, this is sort of about that, but more about the fact that at least I’ve kept ONE of this year’s resolutions. Or rather, I’m more than halfway to achieving it, with less than half the year having passed. Here’s the resolution:

Lose weight. This still feels new to me, although as you know, I have tried before. It still feels new because I was a skinny kid, and continued the tradition for several decades after I grew up. When I was little, I was also almost always the shortest kid in the class. I got over that in high school, reaching my present moderate height of 5’11” and a fraction. Which was satisfactory (although an even 6 feet would have been more so). But talk about skinny… In my junior year, I was this height, but in the 115 class on the wrestling team. The following year, I was in the 132. Now I weigh in the vicinity (sometimes more, sometimes less) of 13 stone. In the 180s, that is. In the past, I’ve tried and failed to get down to 168. This time I’m going for 160. (That way, maybe I’ll get to 168.)

I’m proud to report that this morning, I broke the 168 barrier. See the image of the bathroom scale at right. Like Louden in the clip above, I, too, had to ditch my shorts — as I do every morning for weigh-in — but I found it unnecessary to blow all the air out of my lungs. So here we are. Ya ready, Shute?

It’s not 160, but I’m headed there. Which is pretty good for someone who weighed in the low 180s at the start of this thing.

And basically, I really just did it in the last month. I sorta kinda was losing weight there for the first few. I had managed to get too small for the 36-waist pants I’d bought at the end of 2023. I got a couple of pairs of 35s (which aren’t that easy to find), and they were sort of working, but then I kicked the project into gear…

It wasn’t that hard. I just went from simply avoiding seconds to fairly serious portion control on first helpings, plus zero snacks. And… while I kept up my 11,000 steps a day routine, I added ankle weights. That risks adding leg muscle and therefore weight, but it really ramps up the loss of fat. And waist reduction.

So now, the 35s are too big, and I’m back to the size I’ve worn for most of my adult life — 34. Just in time, too: All of my shorts are 34s, and it’s that time of year.

Since I had posted my resolutions, I figured I had a right to brag. A little. We’ll talk about those other resolutions another time.

How are y’all doing on your goals?

A nice takedown of enthusiastic stupidity

Today I saw part of an old Jon Stewart video that had a couple of sharp bits, and it reminded me there was something I wanted to share with you a week or so ago…

It’s the video above, commenting on the idiotic spectacle of the breathless coverage of the first Trump criminal trial — before it started.

This is another one of those things that is a major flaw in today’s news media — particularly TV, which is what brought the term “media” into being. (Before, it was just “the press” — if you conveniently ignored radio.”)

This kind of nonsense is TV’s stock in trade. Not that the press isn’t frequently guilty of much the same. It just looks stupider, and more obvious, on TV.

Things have been like this since… the late ’90s, by my memory. In this instance, Stewart compares the breathless — and I mean gasping — coverage of nothing (occasionally elevated by “pretty much nothing”) to an “event” of that decade. I mean the O.J. Simpson Bronco episode. Stewart says the video image of Trump’s motorcade driving to the courthouse was no O.J. chase. (I forget exactly how he said it and don’t want to watch the whole thing again — this is why I should post these things right when I see them.) Well, the O.J. chase was no “chase,” and was in fact nothing even remotely interesting, beyond the fact that a celebrity was involved. If you care about that sort of thing. Which a shockingly large number of people do, alas.

I remember, in real time, the people who stood watching the stunningly meaningless O.J. scene with their mouths hanging open. My mouth was hanging open too, observing them, the watchers.

At this point I could go off on a long tirade about how this was caused by 24/7 cable “news.” TV news, like traditional press, used to cover news. But there’s not enough news to fill 24 hours. So ya gotta love a slow car chase, right?

But the breathlessness of it all owes something to another TV form — the “reality” genre. I wouldn’t mind people having talent shows, although I probably wouldn’t watch. What I mind is all the garbage between the performances — the dramatic, and yes, breathless, with the participants and those who love them, droning on about how this competition is the most important thing that has ever happened to this person, or ever will happen. In fact, NOTHING has ever been so critical, in the history of the world!

Or do I have it backwards? Does this style of “news coverage” get its breathlessness from reality TV, or was reality TV simply aping the approach of the “news coverage?” I dunno. I suppose they feed off each other.

In any case, it was a good, funny piece about a serious problem in the way we communicate today.

Congratulations also to Joe Biden, Israel, and yes, Iran

EDITOR’S NOTE: I started writing this on Saturday, April 20, right after posting the item before it — hence the play off that headline. It was just supposed to be a reflection on three things I’d read — or rather two things I’d read, and one I’d heard– that day. That was awhile back (I’ve been busy), but I still want to share those things, so here goes…

The parties mentioned in the headline figured out a way to keep the entire region from erupting into total war — with nukes, maybe.

Things looked really dark a week earlier, when those missiles and drones were on the way to Israel.

(Of course, in that region, the relative calm between Israel and Iran could also turn very dark at any time. But we’ve had nine days since I started this post without that happening, and that’s more than I would have bet on before the parties involved handled the situation more deftly than I expected.)

Israel had bloodied Iran with that attack in Damascus. Iran certainly deserved the bloodying, and it was refreshing in a way to see Israel go after the strong people who are behind the monsters of Hamas, rather than trying to get at Hamas itself through that organization’s favorite shield — the innocents of Gaza.

But of course, it may not have been the best thing to do, because naturally Iran felt obliged to retaliate. And since such incisive strokes as the Damascus attack are evidently beyond its capabilities, it went with the worst kind of escalation — hundreds of drones and missiles went flying at Israel.

Amazingly, Israel fended off virtually all of them, averting thousands of casualties among its civilian population. (It did this thanks in large part to help from allies.) But, by the logic of the region, it then had to strike back at Iran for this unprecedented direct attack. The allies who had helped prevent disaster strongly urged Israel to “take the win” and do nothing further. The world (at least, those small parts of it that pay attention) held its collective breath.

And Israel, amazingly, just “attacked” Iran in a way that did little more than kick up dust — but made its point by hitting spots right next to strategic targets. Basically, it said, “See what we could have done?”

Far more amazingly, Iran was cool about it — essentially acting like it didn’t happen.

That’s a stunning success for all parties involved — and for the rest of the world.

Anyway, I thought I’d share three things I read and heard (a podcast) on Saturday. Some folks who understood what had happened commented, and after that (as far as what I’ve seen), little has been said. I’ve tried to use those “share as gift” links, so let me know if you’re not a subscriber and the link works for you:

Thomas Friedman on Iran, Israel and Preventing a ‘Forever War’ — This is the “Matter of Opinion” podcast from Friday the 19th. The shocking ending — Israel and Iran both restraining themselves — hadn’t happened yet when this was recorded, but it’s a very good discussion between people who know what they’re talking about, and it sets out the stakes very well.

The unspoken story of why Israel didn’t clobber Iran — This is David Ignatius’ column from AFTER the Israeli response. It began, “One rule for containing a crisis is to keep your mouth shut, and the United States, Israel and Iran were all doing a pretty good job at that Friday after Israeli strikes near the Iranian city of Isfahan. Maybe the silence was the real message — a desire on all sides to prevent escalation by word or deed.”

Biden’s ‘bear hug’ with Israel pays off with a minimal strike on Iran — By Max Boot. An excerpt: “We saw the payoff from Biden’s ‘bear hug’ of Israel when Israel launched a pinprick retaliation early Friday for Iran’s massive attack last Saturday night on Israel. The risk of a regional conflagration had risen dramatically when Iran, responding to an earlier Israeli attack that flattened the Iranian consulate in Damascus and killed three Iranian generals, launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel.”

This was a major diplomatic accomplishment, averting a disaster of global proportions. This had all been going in a phenomenally bad direction, and then it stopped.

I wanted to make sure to point it out, even after all these days, because you probably haven’t heard much about it since it happened. There aren’t all that many American journalists who understand these matters, so I wanted to raise the profile of these who do. Media have been filled with other things since then. Reporters write about what they think they understand, and after all, Taylor Swift just put out a surprise double album. And don’t forget the NFL draft!…






Congratulations, America. About time…

That (the headline) is what I said on Twitter in response to this NYT headline:

House Approves $95 Billion Aid Bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan

In other words, Congress did its job. Which it has so often failed to do in recent years — particularly this past year or so.

Speaker Johnson did the right thing. Does this mean he will be thrown out by the few in the looniest corner of the dysfunctional majority? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I like that he’s going the job, though.

Whether Ukraine survives its mauling by Vladimir Putin is a billion times more important than who is speaker of the House. Johnson’s speakership has value to the extent that he realizes that, and acts accordingly.

So I congratulate him, and I thank him, and I do likewise for all those Democrats — and sane Republicans — who voted with him to make it happen.

And I congratulate America for having a Congress that, at least this time, acted like that….

My Broken United Methodist Heart

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

I was driving towards Johnsonville from Marion on a recent Sunday to make a home visit and had to make a detour because of a wreck on the Highway 378 bridge. The glory of the early spring afternoon mitigated the inconvenience and took me to parts of the Pee Dee I had never travelled. As I passed Good Hope United Methodist Church in Hemingway, an irregularity in the large marble sign in front caught my eye. I circled back and parked to investigate. The word “United” had been covered over with duct tape. (See image below.)

This, sadly, was not the work of a prankster. It was an indication of the schism that is dividing the United Methodist Church (UMC). Like many denominations, we have struggled with the role of the LGBTQ community in the church. After years of discussion by our leadership and in local congregations, the break has finally come. Those churches who are unwilling to see LGBTQ people as full human beings, able to be ordained and to marry each other, are leaving. Many are joining a new conservative denomination, the Global Methodist Church. Others will remain independent or join older denominations with similar views about homosexuality. But whatever road they choose, they have given up on the United Methodist experiment that began in 1968.

I passed two other small, formerly United Methodist Churches on my detour back to Johnsonville, Ebenezer and Old Johnsonville, both of which are disaffiliating from the UMC. They had both removed the “United” from their premises, the former by pulling metal letters out of its brick sign, the latter by painting over the offending adjective.

Disaffiliating pastors and members commonly cite the half-dozen biblical verses that pertain to homosexuality as their reason for leaving. But we in the UMC have for decades routinely ignored biblical teachings about the role of women, adultery, and slavery, among other topics. Our Southern Baptist brethren interpret the Bible such that it excludes women from the pulpit. We in the UMC treat women as equals and allow them full access to roles as ministers and bishops. Disregard of verses such as those that condemn adulterers to death (e.g., Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22) and verses that condone slavery (e.g., Exodus 21:20-21) is standard practice in the UMC.

The Bible is a big, complicated book which is often contradictory. Every denomination and all Christians must use their best judgment when interpreting scripture. It is therefore disheartening and surprising that so many churches would use such scant scriptural logic to split the church. But an astounding number have. Nationwide, the UMC is losing about 25% of its churches (roughly 7,500 out of 30,000). Most heartbreaking to me is the trapping of good friends of mine in unwelcoming churches. I’ve been shocked by the good people I know who have voted to leave, including a friend I greatly admire.

She is a beautiful human being, one of those people who treats everyone with genuine respect no matter who they are. I have seen her work with the very poorest and the very richest, and with people of all races, religions, and sexual orientations. She treats them all with the dignity they deserve.

I knew she had worked with many LGBTQ patients with full acceptance, so I asked her if she would be willing to talk with me about her decision to leave. She agreed, as I knew she would.

It was a quiet, deep conversation between a Christian brother and sister struggling to discern God’s will. She told me that she was deeply ambivalent about the decision, and that it had moved her to tears. She has gay members of her extended family that she loves. Her congregation includes a family with adult gay siblings. The vote to leave the church was unanimous except for the siblings and their mother. She knew that she would likely never see them again in church, which was upsetting to her.

When I asked her why she voted to leave, she expressed some fears. She mentioned a fear of extremists in the UMC leadership moving the church in a direction that was counter to her understanding of the Bible. She raised the possibility of a cross-dressing or transgender minister as something she could not tolerate.

She mentioned her teenage son and conversations they had had about LGBTQ people. He was accepting of his gay friends and relatives. My friend said without hesitation that if her son turned out to be gay, she would be unconditionally supportive of him. “I know that’s true,” I responded. She is such an open, loving mother that a gay child would be blessed to have her as a parent. “But,” I said, “now you have guaranteed that you will not be able to show that love to a gay member of your church.” We were silent for a few moments. I thanked her, and our conversation ended.

There will be some shuffling of congregations over the next few years as Methodists sort through how they want to express their values. In my church, which remains a United Methodist Church, we have seen some new faces that have come from disaffiliating churches. Perhaps we will lose some of our more conservative members.

My friend will likely stay in her disaffiliating church because of all the ties she has to it, even if it doesn’t represent who she is in her life outside the church. In her work, she lives out the parable of the Good Samaritan. But she has voted to be part of a congregation that, if you are gay, passes by on the other side.

A version of this column appeared in the April 18th edition of the Post and Courier-Pee Dee.

How about doing something GOOD that’s ‘unprecedented?’ For a change…

That would be nice. That would be a wonderful change from what we’ve seen ever since 2016, both nationally and here at home.

I’ve never seen anything like this happen in South Carolina. I saw it happen on the national level, though. Once. And once was enough. That was when Mitch McConnell violated his responsibility as leader of the U.S. Senate by refusing to let Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination even be considered in committee, much less come up for a vote.

That’s not exactly what happened here, but in a way, what the Legislature did yesterday was worse, just on a smaller scale. I say that because James Smith did get considered. Not only was he considered, but he was duly found qualified by the screening panel. (How could the panel have possibly reached any other conclusion?)

The only other candidate found qualified dropped out back in January. And yet this judgeship somehow didn’t come up for a vote until we were past the middle of April. And when it came up, lawmakers did the “unprecedented” thing: They refused to vote, and sent it back to the screening panel to try again. Here’s the AP story:

I’m thinking the AP version is more likely to be accessible to all. But here’s the P&C story that the image above refers to, the one with “unprecedented” in the hed.

That story had this passage in it:

State Rep. Micah Caskey, a West Columbia Republican who is chairman of the judicial vetting panel, voted to find Smith qualified on the panel but voted to spike his election during the joint assembly. He said that the role of the vetting panel is to check a candidate’s qualifications while the Legislature can consider a broader set of factors.

“More information was revealed with respect to various positions and statements he’s taken in the past,” Caskey said of the opposition to Smith, who was in attendance for the vote…

As y’all know, Micah is my representative. I supported him for that seat rather than run myself. And I have continued to support him. I’m meeting with him tomorrow. I’ll let you know if he has a good explanation for yesterday, or if anything else newsworthy is said.

What follows is aimed not only at him, but at everyone who participated in this sorry business.

But the only new “information” I have read about would be this:

Anti-abortion groups had pressured Republicans to reject Smith, who supported abortion rights during his political career….

In other words, something completely irrelevant. As I mentioned in my last post, I have utter contempt for people who judge others based on a single issue, that one or any other. Especially when, as in the immediate case, it has pretty much nothing to do with the matter at hand. (That was different in the Garland case, since SCOTUS had made abortion its business back in 1973. But what happened to Garland was still inexcusable, and will blacken Mitch McConnell’s name forever, especially since he remains proud of it.)

This is the kind of behavior you see from people who don’t think about abortion either way, not on any level that matters. They just use it as a litmus test to determine which “side” someone is on (in their feeble minds) so they can know whether to love or hate that person absolutely. Which is sickening. And people on both sides do it to some extent. That’s what Dick Harpootlian is counting on in his contest against Russell Ott.

Some other points:

  • Making all of this even more contemptible is the fact that they could have simply voted James up or down. That’s what honorable people — or people who don’t want to waste everyone’s time — would do in this situation. But they didn’t. Presumably, the cowards must not have thought they had the votes. They figured it was easier just to cop out, and throw it back to Micah’s screening committee.
  • Here’s where the alter cocker talks about how things were “in the old days,” but I assure you what I say is true. This would never have happened (and to my knowledge never did happen) before very, very recently. For instance, it wouldn’t have happened at any point during the 20 years James was in the House himself. People in both parties respected him too much. Of course, some of those people who would never have done this before did it yesterday. That’s because they’re now different people. The whole country is different.
  • Following up on that previous bullet, we now live in a country in which Republican lawmakers will do any contemptible thing — even abandon Ukraine to the bloodthirsty predations of Vladimir Putin — to pacify the loudest, most ourrageous lunatics in their ranks, people they would have laughed at a few years ago. That’s what we have sunk to.

I had coffee with James downtown this morning, keeping an appointment we set several days ago. He, like me, is very disappointed. Personally, I had looked forward to saying “your honor” when I saw him. For his part, I’m sure it’s painful to be treated this way by an insitution in which he served so honorably and respectably for two decades.

But James will be fine. Folks, in case you wonder, he didn’t need this job. He’s a partner in one of the biggest, most successful law firms in the state. Beyond that, he also enjoys serving on the PatriotPoint Development Authority Board. His grandfather served on USS Laffey, one of the ships in that museum, in World War II. He was on his way down there after our meeting this morning.

He ran for that judgeship because it was another chance to serve. James likes to serve his country and his state, perhaps more than anyone else I know. He has definitely proved his devotion to country. The P&C story noted that he is “a decorated combat veteran from the Afghanistan War.” That ain’t the half of it. As I wrote in 2006:

Rep. James Smith of Columbia was a JAG officer in the National Guard with the rank of captain, but he didn’t think that was doing enough. So a couple of years back, he started agitating for a transfer to the infantry. His entreaties were rebuffed. He bucked it up to Washington before someone told him fine, you can do that — as long as you give up your commission and start over as an enlisted man…

So that’s what he did. He went through basic training with kids half his age, and after OCS (that is, the Guard version of OCS) and advanced infantry combat training, went to Afghanistan and distinguished himself in combat. He was named to the Palmetto Military Academy Hall of Fame for that. You know why?

Because it was unprecedented.