A sorta, kinda Virtual Front Page on a mushy news day


This is one of those in-between kinds of days in which there’s no really overriding news. So you get the weird phenomenon of all of these news entities having completely different lede stories. Which might not be interesting to you, but is to me.

Here they are, in no particular order — since they’re all ledes, right?…

  1. Russian Energy Giant Finds Kremlin Links Cut Both Ways (NYT) — Which is all about EU going after Gazprom. This is after the EU went after Google. But I think that’s kinda different, don’t you?
  2. Google Unveils Wireless Service Called ‘Project Fi’ (WSJ) — Of all these stories, I may be the most interested in this one. But as an editor, I don’t consider it the most important, and would lede with it. And when I read that it won’t work with iPhones, I lose personal interest as well…
  3. S.C. agency changes policies after lawsuit by transgender teen (The State) — Lemme explain this to you: It seems that she… I mean, it seems that he… well, I lack the vocabulary. I tell you what, though: Cases such as this are a good argument for bringing back the inclusive “he.” They still do it in Spanish, after all…
  4. Senate OKs Human-Trafficking Bill, Paving Way For Attorney General Vote (NPR) — Actually, it’s a little hard to tell from the NPR site what they consider to be the lede, but I think this is it. On second thought, I doubt that they even think about it at NPR.
  5. Italy ‘at war’ with migrant smugglers (BBC) — This ongoing story, of course, gets bigger play over across the pond.
  6. Pentagon races to move inmates at Guantanamo (WashPost) — I think “from” probably says it better than “at” — but it wouldn’t have fit in this three-deck hed.

How’s that for a Smörgåsbord?

67 thoughts on “A sorta, kinda Virtual Front Page on a mushy news day

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    Good Lord, Brad! You should know by now that transgender persons are addressed by the gender they identify with–the DMV case involved a transgender girl. It’s not that hard. This isn’t some weirdo liberal thing that ordinary decent people don’t have to know. It’s the same as the AP Style Book, at least as my brother the editor told me: you address people as they wish to be addressed. The Lady Gamecocks are “the Lady Gamecocks” even if it sounds bizarre and Mad Men sexist, to boot, because that is what they wish to be called.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        There are two in the English language, but there are people who identify as gender fluid. Why the need to label?

    1. Doug Ross

      Things like music and making fun of people’s gender issues were SO much better in the 60’s. It was such a time of enlightenment. Didn’t have to think about gays getting married and bringing down society….because there weren’t any gays back then. Even Liberace was straight in the 60’s.

      Watch a couple episodes of the excellent series “Transparent” on Amazon, Brad, and you may develop a different perspective.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        I do wish Transparent hadn’t had to be so California vulgar, though.

        There’s film where an Englishman likes to cross-dress, and he and his wife come to an understanding. I thought it starred Jim Broadbent, but Wikipedia isn’t helping me find the title.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          If it’s on Amazon, I’ll miss it. Now that I’ve added HBO NOW to Netflix and our minimal-tier cable package, I’m already spending far more that I can afford on entertainment.

          Yes, I’m enjoying a free introductory month with the HBO, but I’m trying to watch several series I’ve never had the chance to see, and it’s highly likely I won’t be able to resist the tempation to extend that for a month…

          And speaking of vulgar…

          Is it corporate policy at HBO to take any script that is submitted and add a couple of hundred F-bombs to it? I ask this because the incidence of that and equally offensive terms and images (especially gore) is just way out of proportion to any depiction of reality. And this facet is driven home with particular force when you try to binge-watch a bunch of series at the same time. (Never before was it possible to look at such a cross-section of HBO programming over the years in such a compressed time period.)

          I was a newspaper editor for 35 years, people, and salty language was very much a part of the culture. But we used it for emphasis, to stress the extent to which a certain statement went beyond ordinary utterances — and as a substitute for violence, to which one is occasionally inspired while on deadline in a universe that seems constructed especially to devise ingenious ways of obstructing you from getting the f___ing paper out.

          See how I used it there to express depth of emotion?

          But no normal person in a normal line of work — with the possible exception of some sailors in the U.S. Navy who seem to suffer from something like aphasia, rendering them incapable of thinking of words that are not some variant of f___ — curses the way HBO characters do. At least, they don’t do so naturally. Only people who are affecting to be tougher and crustier than they really are ever talk that way. Which suggest that all HBO characters are insecure in the same way. As are HBO writers, directors and producers.

          This happens in the context of otherwise very fine, nuanced productions. Things that would be perfectly fine for me to watch in my home regardless of who is in the next room, if not for the gratuitous sex, violence and profanity.

          The nudity — the gorgeous young female nudity — in “Game of Thrones” is much joked about. SNL did a skit several years ago in which the joke was that the show was written by preteen boys. But the language can seem similarly pointless, unnecessary to advancing the story.

          Was it really, truly necessary (to cite an episode I was watching last night) for Peter Dinklage’s character to use the “C” word in a casual discussion of the religion of Westeros — as in “Why are all the gods such vicious c___s?” Really? Blasphemy’s one thing, but really?

          I tried watching “Deadwood,” and had to laugh when one of the characters described Calamity Jane as having a foul mouth. Really? How could you tell? In what way did she stand out amid all the other characters, male and female, on the show?

          Sometimes, it’s not excessive. For instance, while some of the actual veterans said the language in “Band of Brothers” was too strong, I thought that was fairly realistic, and suspected that those old guys had forgotten how they spoke when they were young, and found themselves now embarrassed before their great-grandchildren.

          But a lot of other shows really miss the mark, and go way beyond realism…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            One can go too far in the opposite direction, of course, and film and TV in the past did so. It was ridiculous for Kirk Douglas to say, in “In Harm’s Way,” “we’ve got ourselves another war. A gut bustin’, mother-lovin’ Navy war.”

            But how about a happy medium?

          2. Kathryn Fenner

            Deadwood turned me off initially b/c of the ubiquitous f-bombs, but then we gave it another chance. You stop noticing them after a while, and it’s a great series.

            One advantage to Amazon Prime, of course, is free shipping, which I take copious advantage of. I got so tired of having to drive to several stores to find stuff in stock, when Amazon has it. I get 15% off my subscribe-and-save shipments, to boot. It more than pays for itself.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              But you know, at least half the time when I order something from Amazon, the shipping is free anyway.

              If they made me pay for shipping more often, I might be able to rationalize the expenditure. I could clearly see the savings. As it is, I can’t, because I know it would really be paying out for more entertainment, which frankly, I don’t need. I’ve got so many books backed up I need to read…

  2. Karen Pearson

    If you insist on an all inclusive gender usage, I suggest that it be “she” for as long as it was “he.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You’re right. And no one I looked at was playing that prominently; I didn’t even see it. Guess I should have looked at USA Today, as much as that runs against my grain.

      There’s also this this morning:

      China’s top nuclear experts have increased their estimates of North Korea’s nuclear weapons production well beyond most previous U.S. figures, suggesting Pyongyang can make enough warheads to threaten regional security for the U.S. and its allies.

      The latest Chinese estimates, relayed in a closed-door meeting with U.S. nuclear specialists, showed that North Korea may already have 20 warheads, as well as the capability of producing enough weapons-grade uranium to double its arsenal by next year, according to people briefed on the matter.

      A well-stocked nuclear armory in North Korea ramps up security fears in Japan and South Korea, neighboring U.S. allies that could seek their own nuclear weapons in defense. Washington has mutual defense treaties with Seoul and Tokyo, which mean an attack on South Korea or Japan is regarded as an attack on the U.S…

      One of the things that I wonder about is, what’s China’s motivation in sharing this?

      Also, we have this now, which may warrant a separate post…

    1. Mark Stewart

      Can we just call them people? What is with the growing list of letters? There just only 21 letters left to use as specific identifiers under this “call me special” projecting. What is a Q person anyway?

      Anyway, I find it all a bit confusing; transgendered isn’t a sexual orientation, it’s a state of being. They can be either gay, lesbian or bisexual in their attractions I guess. So it’s more logical to say men, women and transgendered people. The other three self-identifiers are really just TMI – why do we in civic life and social society have to sort people by what kind of relationship attracts them?

      I want everyone to have the same rights; I just don’t get why we have to specially accommodate certain types of attractions. Everyone is different and everyone is the same. And this self-categorizing is getting a bit out of hand.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        “What is a Q person anyway?”

        Q? He’s the guy that develops all the cool gadgets for James Bond. He’s the one sitting in the car, here.

      2. Kathryn Fenner

        I think identifying categories is something a lot of humans relate to. We like knowing we are INFJ, or Irish-American, or a Gamecock, or …. If you are someone who is not comfortable with your cis-gender, but not quite comfortable with being trans either, I can see where you’d like some sort of place to be. experts believe that sexual orientation falls on a continuum. Why shouldn’t gender do so as well?
        Colors fall on a spectrum, yet we like knowing there’s ROYGBIV. Oliver Sacks wrote a piece for the New Yorker about his search for the elusive “indigo”–which is apparently not as clearly defined as ROYGBV, but was added as a category for some reason I cannot recall. I also read an article recently about how experts think historically, people like the ancient Greeks couldn’t see blue, because they didn’t have a word for it. Jungle tribes have a very large number of words for green, and can differentiate shades we can’t. There was an illustration of this.
        I have read of many people who felt much better once they had a label for the symptoms they were experiencing, and have found that to be true for me. Why wouldn’t that also be true for a sense of dis-ease one feels about who one is in terms of gender orientation?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I enjoy Myers-Briggs. But then I see it as a sort of fun parlor game — although it DID help me better understand why some of my co-workers were such a pain in the a___, and why I was the same to them even when I was being the very picture of sweet reasonableness.

          And I think genealogy is interesting — again, as a sort of intellectual exercise, the challenge of finding family connections, etc. — while not attaching all that much importance to the nationalities of my forebears.

          To this day, I don’t know whether “Warthen” is Welsh or, as one genealogist once argued with some good backup, Flemish. And does it matter?

          I prefer to think of myself the way someone described Zaphod Beeblebrox — just this guy, you know. And a really cool frood, of course…

          And I think I should treat others the same way — as just these people, you know? Not according to their categories, however large those categories may loom in their own minds…

        2. Mark Stewart

          As much as my brain says, nope there are just two sexes in the world, I can see that some people’s brains don’t quite align with their bodies. Just like some bodies do not fully develop and result in hermaphrodites.

          So I get this gender concern. But are we agreed that we don’t need to talk about peoples’ sexual orientation – especially just because they themselves want to go o about it?

          Which still leads me to the conclusion that this human rights commission was just a dumb idea of Council’s in the first place. Aren’t the elected representatives of City Council a de facto human rights commission for the city? Isn’t that what we elect them to do? Otherwise, such a thing is just a stumpy appendage to government – meant as pap for some small but vocal sub-constituency. And those are never a good thing; least of all for the group they purport to represent.

          Not that the opposition isn’t sounding pretty seedy and un-Christian here…

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            I don’t think many of the blue ribbon panels and task forces and commissions are given much credence once they report, and I have been on three of them. We managed to get our reports heard b/c we trickled them in, rather than presenting one nice package that was easier to shelve, or to pick one thing from.
            I don;t know why there needed to be a commission, when the legal department could have drafted the ordinance–and would have needed to bless whatever came through anyway. Perhaps having Ms. Johnson as a consultant to that process, rather than a separate commission.
            I don’t care to know about people’s sex lives, either, but since we have so normalized heterosexual relationships that few notice how much this has happened, a corrective action that accepts any relationship between consenting adults seems warranted.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I didn’t understand this part of that sentence: “since we have so normalized heterosexual relationships that few notice how much this has happened”.

              What do you mean by that? I’m not arguing with you; I just got lost in the sentence…

              I think I’m struggling to find the antecedent of “this.” How much what has happened?

            2. Barry

              I don’t care who you sleep with. I sure don’t want to know if you prefer to have sex with someone of the same sex. I don’t care as long as I don’t have to hear about it or think about it.

              And if you are born a boy, you are a boy.

              All the hormones and surgeries in the world won’t change it.

    2. Doug Ross

      It seems like few people like to mention the elephant in the room that is the general bigotry in the black community against gays. Are black churches preaching tolerance and acceptance or are they proclaiming hellfire and damnation for gays? Seems like they’d have a little more compassion for the oppressed.

      1. Doug Ross

        And I say that because the pastor referenced in the Free Times article is Eric Davis of the Word of God Church. Word of God? Which God? The straight God?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Not to be confused with the Eric Davis you and I know from Rotary (and I know from my church), who was also the Richland County GOP chair awhile back…

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Actually, Doug, the fact that black pastors tend to adhere to traditional views of morality isn’t an “elephant in the room.” It’s pretty widely and openly acknowledged. Black Christians tend to be very conservative culturally.

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      That (the Free Times story) actually bears upon a complicated situation that includes some aspects that have nothing to do with Cameron or Christine or anyone’s sexuality.

      I was pondering writing about it — not what you’re addressing, but the other aspects — awhile back, but didn’t for three reasons:
      a. I never felt like I had all the facts.
      b. It bore upon the Community Relations Council, of which I am a member, thereby making it awkward for me to write about it.
      c. City Council dropped it from its agenda, and I figured I might as well wait until it came up again.

      The issue had to do with the creation of a position at City Hall — a line-item, permanent position as opposed to this consulting arrangement — that would oversee a human rights commission or human affairs commission. And the wording of the resolution or ordinance creating it seemed in some ways to tread on Community Relations turf. Which is to say, dealing with a lot of issues besides sexuality.

      This created some consternation among advocates for CRC, which has been redefining itself and working hard to provide a valuable service to the community, helping us have difficult conversations (over things such as strong mayor, the penny sales tax, concerns in the community over Ferguson — holding forums and doing other things to increase mutual understanding on issues that might be divisive).

      All of this was supposed to come to a head at a council meeting, but then the proposal was withdrawn. I figured it would come up again later. I didn’t expect it to pop up in this manner, framed this way.

      I spoke with Cameron about this back at the time — in fact, he was the one who brought it to my attention at the time. He did not frame it the way it’s framed in this story. He talked about the commission idea, and how that might bear upon CRC — which makes sense, since I’m a CRC member.

      So, a blind men and the elephant thing…

  3. Mark Stewart

    Metts: Somehow it seems like elected officeholder criminal prosecutions should be handled as federal cases. Or at least prosecuted in some far corner of the state away from that person’s office if a county or local officeholder.

    The laundry list of Metts’ misdeeds was clearly far longer than the one count that they charged him with. Wasn’t that already his gimme? Are the prosecutors not looking down the road at how the public is going to perceive the fairness of the system if you have a sheriff plead guilty to a serious, corrosive crime and then turn around and let him walk with no time served? I’m not saying it shouldn’t be minimum security or protective custody or whatever it is that keeps him away from the general prison population, or even that it be more along the lines of months and not years served. But how is it that a sheriff can infect an entire county with the plague of corruption and then have the local justice system not punish him for his misdeeds? Is he blackmailing the prosecution or something?

    But the worst was to read about his attorney saying he is too feeble and sickly to go to prison – this about the guy who was sheriff for four decades. That dog don’t hunt…

    1. Doug Ross

      The fact that his lawyers claim he is taking 20 prescriptions per day for medical issues is troubling. Who takes 20 prescriptions per day AND works as the head of a sheriff’s department? What maladies is he suffering from? The picture of him with his lawyers outside the courthouse showed him in a pretty chipper mood.

      1. Brad Warthen

        I take about five on a typical day, plus a couple of other things that USED to be prescription but are now over the counter, if my allergies are acting up.

        Then, if I start having asthma trouble (rare), I take a couple more.

        And I’m in pretty good shape. Give me a physical exam, and I’ll be healthier than average by most measurements…

        People with chronic conditions take drugs to stay healthy.

        1. Doug Ross

          20? 20 is triple what you take. Seven is relatively understandable. But 20? Considering all the side effects of medications, how would any doctor be able to coordinate the effects of 20 prescription?

          I’m trying to think of 20 prescriptions that might fit a middle aged, overweight guy.

          Blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes control, acid reflux, allergies, Ambien, a couple anti-depressants – what else?

          1. Doug Ross

            And before anyone says it’s none of my business, his lawyers made the information public in order to justify keeping Metts out of jail.

          2. Kathryn Fenner

            Blood thinner, gout, Flomax, (trying to remember all the scripts my dad takes. He’s 84, but quite well enough to run a sheriff’s office), arthritis?
            I’m finding it hard to get to 20, but….if he takes multiple meds for 4-5 conditions, plus occasional others? dunno. It does seem high.

            1. Barry

              20 doesn’t seem high to me.

              I doubt he takes 20 every day. Some of those could be occasionally.

          3. Brad Warthen Post author

            I think my Dad takes something close to that number. And until he was slowed down by back trouble lately, he was really active — golf, etc.

          4. Doug Ross

            Ok, here’s what The State article lists as his conditions requiring medication:

            “Metts’ medical problems include diabetes, neuropathy, coronary artery disease, hypertension, degenerative joint disease, Bell’s Palsy, skin cancer, depression and anxiety, the petition says.”

            I’m guessing maybe the last two are a result of his legal troubles…

            But, assuming he gets off with no prison time, he can’t just go around town, right? No golf, no restaurants, no movies, no boating on Lake Murray, no USC or Clemson football games, no hunting… at least for the length of time he would have been in prison. Right? If he’s too sick to be in prison, he should only be allowed to go from his home to church, to doctor’s appointments, or to his lawyers’ offices. Anything short of that punishment would confirm what most people already believe about there being two different justice systems.

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              That’s nine ailments–does he take more than two scripts for some of them? Wow.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                I take at least three things every day for allergies alone — and that’s when I’m doing fine. When the pollen’s bad or my equilibrium is thrown off by something else, I add something. If that doesn’t work, I have to drop the Big One — a course of prednisone….

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      His endocrinologist says he’s a brittle diabetic–difficult to manage. If prison would mean a death sentence or even maiming, due to poorly managed diabetes, that seems awfully harsh for what he’s guilty of.

      1. Doug Ross

        And yet up until his arrest, he was capable of performing the duties of his job?

        I don’t doubt he has done medical issues. Just think they are being exaggerated to help him stay out of jail.

        Is diabetes treatment used to keep other criminals out of jail? Or just white sheriffs?

          1. Doug Ross

            The State article mentions this claim from Metts’ attorneys:

            ““It costs approximately $34,000 per year to house an average prisoner, but over $68,000 per year to house a prisoner age 50 and older,” it says.

            These numbers should be considered before putting ANYONE in jail who has not committed a crime of violence, not just ex-sheriffs.

            1. Mark Stewart

              Well, let’s see: I bet the county still pays his pension and his health insurance.

              So where is the cost here? The county pays one way or the other.

              Instead of incarcerating him, they could offer up termination of all benefits earned or accrued.

              Bet he would take a couple of years in prison instead of that…

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              I’m with you, Doug. Prison should exist to protect society from violent offenders. Some sort of restitution program is generally preferable in other situations.

              That is to say, offenders should have to keep working and PAY money, rather than costing taxpayers money…

            3. Brad Warthen Post author

              Rather than getting all indignant at the idea of this offender escaping incarceration, we should ask why ANYONE charged with similar offenses should be imprisoned…

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          I gather the argument is that prison docs are not as competent to treat as his doc is, an argument that seems very credible. For one thing, prison populations tend toward much lower ages.

          1. Doug Ross

            If he gets prison time, it will probably be in a facility that is closer to a country club style than Oz.

            I know it’s the duty of his lawyers to make him out to be at death’s door but that is a strategy that has been tried many times before, especially for old Mafia Don’s.

            Losing his pension/benefits and house confinement to help him “recuperate” would be a reasonable penalty.. . especially since he was able to avoid going to trial on many more charges with his plea deal.

  4. Kathryn Fenner

    My brief Googling reports that Metts is keeping his pension, and I assume his health bennies. Apparently there is no automatic termination just b/c you plead guilty to misdeeds in office.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Criminal conviction for misdeeds done in office should absolutely open one to a pension loosing situation.

      It would be, if elected office holders didn’t write the rules governing themselves.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I’m torn about that.

        Say you do something that bears a two-year prison sentence. So how long are you supposed to suffer? Two years, and then your debt is paid.

        So you’re supposed to take a guy with a 42-year career, most of which was exemplary — I haven’t heard anybody say that Metts didn’t exhibit a dedication to public service during that period — and ruin the rest of his life, for a two-year (or five-year, or whatever) sentence?

        Are we saying that he didn’t do enough good, dutiful things in that long career to earn that pension — totally aside from the bad thing he did?

        It’s not like he can go start a new career and keep his nose clean and earn another pension. He’s a sick old man. This is it for him…

          1. Mark Stewart

            More than half his career was likely crooked, however. Probably since the video poker barons first came to town. That’s a long time.

            Just because you do good during the day does not absolve one of the misdeeds of the night.

            But yes proportional. Which is why I said open to claw back. Some deeds might warrant losing all benefits (and as a deterrent to others). And some more probably just deserve to get dinged.

            Certainly one should not collect a state pension while one is incarcerated or even on probation for misdeeds of office crimes. That just seems rational, no?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          He’s a guy to whom being sheriff of Lexington County was everything. He’s lost that for what he did. For good. He’ll live out the rest of his life in disgrace.

          So how much punishment is enough?

          I don’t know. A public official who betrays the public trust has done a thing that cannot be tolerated. But how much is enough? Where’s the line at which justice is achieved?

          1. Doug Ross

            We only know the details of the one charge he plead guilty to. That was in exchange for not going to trial on many more charges. It takes a certain level of willful ignorance to assume this one charge was the first and only offense.

  5. Mark Stewart

    There are plenty non violent crimes that deserve punishment. You don’t think white collar crime hurts people almost as badly? Ask Bernie Madoff’s “clients” for just one example of the threat of the pen.

    If you don’t think Metts deserves a prison sentence then you haven’t been paying attention to his actions while sheriff.

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    Hey, speaking of things bearing upon gender that I find confusing…

    Anybody see this in the paper today? The headline says, “WINE WOMEN & SHOES.”

    “Women?” I could have sworn that was a drawing of Dr. Frank N. Furter. Don’t you think? I thought at first that the item had to be about a showing of “Rocky Horror.”


    1. Kathryn Fenner

      I definitely thought it was about Rocky Horror.
      I do not understand the “women and shoes” thing. I know lots of women who buy lots of shoes, almost always trying to find comfortable ones suitable for their outfits. The women I know who wear uncomfortable shoes (I don’t care how much you protest otherwise, there is no way a 6 inch stiletto with a two inch platform is at all comfortable), actually seem to wear the same two or three pairs over and over.
      Part of shoe shopping is that feet stay a more stable size than many women do (although they tend to spread out with age) and for women not in “straight sizes” (under 12-14), are more readily shoppable—unless their feet are also proportionately big.
      The fishbowl of wine definitely seems to be a thing, judging from women I know, and endless Facebook memes. Personally, one prefers an elegant cocktail–a Martini or Gibson, or a nice whiskey.

  7. Mark Stewart

    Justice served. I hope this does serve as a cautionary tale for others in the state’s political infrastructure who might themselves consider trading on their duty and responsibility to our civic order.

    Still, was a cold, lumpy feeling in my gut as I read his sentence. I believe Metts when he says this has broken him as a man. I wish him a peaceful journey back.

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