I actually have a request for an Open Thread today — from Doug. So y’all can blame him if you don’t like it:
- Tom Wolfe dies! — When I went looking for material for this post, this was the first thing I learned and it deeply shocked me. I’m a huge fan. And I’m kind of irritated that the WSJ headline says “‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ Author Tom Wolfe Dies at 88.” I didn’t like Bonfire, or any of his novels, nearly as much as his earlier nonfiction stuff. The Washington Post got it right with “Tom Wolfe, apostle of ‘New Journalism’ who captured extravagance of his times, dies at 88.” He was the best practitioner of an exciting form of journalism, or literature, or whatever you want to call it that came along in my youth and made deep impressions. While I loved Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, my all time favorite was The Right Stuff. It was unusual in that it combined his usual tone of ironic detachment with something that nevertheless communicated what heroic figures those guys were. No one could have told that story the way he did.
- Fired Richland administrator Seals to get more than $1 million settlement — This was what prompted Doug to want an Open Thread. Have at it, Doug — this is rich material. The crazy saga continues. But at least we know how it happened: “Council members voted 5-4 on the settlement payment after a roughly four-hour… special-called meeting Monday.” No, wait; I left out some words: “Council members voted 5-4 on the settlement payment after a roughly four-hour, closed-door, special-called meeting Monday.” So, we don’t know. You know, I started my journalism career in Tennessee, where there were no “executive sessions” of public bodies. It’s still incredible to me that they’re allowed in South Carolina four decades later…
- McMaster getting other governors to nominate Trump for Nobel — Sheesh.
- Killings in Gaza, a New Embassy in Jerusalem and No Sign of Peace — That about sums it up. What I’d like to know is, how is this issue worth all those people dying, no matter where you stand on the issue?
- Carolina Panthers expected to be sold for about $2.2 billion, an NFL record — Some of you sports fans may be interested. I am not.
Or, bring up whatever you’d like…
Just curious, did you “Sheesh” when Obama got his Nobel Peace Prize?
Yeah, pretty much.
But Obama getting the prize was merely ridiculous. The idea of Trump getting it is obscene. At least Obama was a guy who gave a damn about peace, even though he’d done zippo to get the prize.
In any case, the “sheesh” in this case is aimed at the continuing farce of Henry’s tireless kowtowing to Trump. He’s starting to be a caricature of himself…
Loved Tom Wolfe, especially Bonfire. Met him once at a USC shindig. He was mowmowing the flak catchers, for sure. My mother introduced me to his work.
The thing about Bonfire, for me, was that everybody in the book was so unlikable. I mean, the writing was fun and everything, but the people and the situations were all so depressing, so contemptible.
Wolfe had always treated his subjects kind of like ants under a magnifying glass, but in his earlier writing — whether about Ken Kesey, the Pump House gang, or Chuck Yeager — it was FUN to read about them. I enjoyed the reading. Not so much with Sherman McCoy. It’s as though, in writing about fictional characters, Wolfe tossed out the last vestiges of human fellow feeling that he might have had for the real-life people he wrote about in his nonfiction….
4. Killings in Gaza, a New Embassy in Jerusalem and No Sign of Peace — That about sums it up. What I’d like to know is, how is this issue worth all those people dying, no matter where you stand on the issue?
Brad you get so wrapped up in style issues, especially regarding Trump, yet you fail to see how this symbolic issue is so important to the Palestinian people. Clearly this move was a slap in the face to the Palestinians. One of the most mean spirited decisions of the Trump administration.
“One of the most mean spirited decisions of the Trump administration.”
Why does that comment make think of snowflakes? Does it matter really? Those people have been killing each other for the past 2000 years, and they’ll continue for the next 2000 years. We have more control over the lava flows in Hawaii than we do over these people.
I fully, completely get why Jerusalem is important to adherents of all three of the monotheistic, Abrahamic religions, of whom the Palestinians form a small subset. And how, if your clan is from Palestine — meaning that you are called a “Palestinian” — you have an extra, personal sense of investment in that piece of real estate.
I fully, completely get why it ticks off Palestinians that it is Israel’s capital.
I fully, completely get that Trump’s decision is yet another example of his bull-in-a-china-shop approach to public policy, based in his profound ignorance and indifference to the consequences of his actions.
What I don’t get is what I said I don’t get — how any of those things are worth 60 people who were alive on Sunday being dead now. I don’t see how it’s worth it to the Palestinians, to Israel or anyone else.
I’m reminded, on this day that we note the passing of Tom Wolfe, of a phrase that appeared repeatedly in Bonfire of the Vanities: “piece a shit.” If I remember correctly (it’s been a long time since I read it), it was a phrase that the guys in the Bronx prosecutor’s office would use to describe a case that was nothing but senseless tragedy, in which there are no redeeming lessons or heroes or anything remotely positive. It’s just an ungodly, inexcusable, depressing mess.
That’s the way I see what happened in Gaza Monday…
” how any of those things are worth 60 people who were alive on Sunday being dead now. ”
Do you think they value life over there?
And there it is again: The “those people’s lives don’t matter” argument. Which is how we end up with a Trump to begin with. People who think that way vote for a guy like him…
bud, Trump did not initiate the move to establish a new embassy in Jerusalem. It had been approved twice well before Trump was elected and all Trump did was fulfill what had been approved by wide margins in Congress. The first time was in 1995 and again in 2017 with a unanimous vote. Note the word “unanimous”, it indicates even Democrats and Republicans who oppose Trump voted for it.
I don’t care for Trump but fair is fair and to place blame on him to follow through with something that has been waiting to happen for a long time is not the same as Trump being the one to initiate the request and approval for the new embassy. Want to go after him? There is a very long list of legitimate issues to nail his hide to the wall with but not this one.
Congress voted for it over the years to pander to the electorate knowing full well that a President would never implement the embassy move to Jerusalem. Nobody, beyond some hair-brained evangelicals bent on the “End Times” believe this was a good idea. Even that’s obviously suspect.
We’re in looney tunes land here. So Trump waded in with his typical brainless bluster.
Or is Trump pushing through what Congress approved rather than just sit on his thumb and push it off for another 10 years?
Here’s the thing… Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. That’s a fact. We all know that’s a fact. Western leaders even say so from time to time. Obama said it, for one.
But you don’t do anything about it, because you hold out hope for peace, and because you don’t want to see people die over stupid things — the way they did on Monday.
In our society, one of the greatest political insults is to call someone a “hypocrite.” But civilized people engage in hypocrisy. They do it because they know many people are irrational, and they want to avoid getting anyone hurt.
Hypocrisy plays a big role in intelligent diplomacy. Yeah, we know Taiwan is a separate country that deserves to stay independent, but we say it’s part of China because if we don’t the PRC will have a cow, and we don’t want a billion Chinese having a cow.
You know that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and you let Israel know you know that, but you don’t just out of a clear blue sky announce that you’re going to move your embassy there, right the f__k NOW, just to prove to your base what a straight-shooter and non-hypocrite you are. You know why? Because 60 people’s lives are worth more than your reputation for not being “politically correct.” It doesn’t matter that you think there’s something wrong with people who care so much about something like this, they’re lives are still worth more than your self-aggrandizement.
Grownups don’t do things that might precipitate things like this. (And yes, these protests have been going on for some time and were not immediately precipitated by the embassy move. But it’s a little hard to separate them entirely.)
I’m reminded of an argument I’ve had a number of times over the years…
As you know, I’ve been critical of people who, for instance, hold contests to see who can draw the most offensive cartoon about Mohammed, and then, when it leads to violence, cry “freedom of expression!”
Yep, you’re free to do that — in the liberal West. No doubt about it. But that doesn’t mean you should. If fact, if you’re a grownup, you won’t. First, there’s hardly an uglier, more pointless thing one person can do than mock other people’s religions. And you have to be a special kind of jerk to KNOW that depicting a central figure in another person’s religion a certain way is DEEPLY offensive to that person, then go out of your way to depict that figure in precisely that way.
But set aside the fact that decent people don’t do that. You still don’t do it because, even though other people don’t have the right to go on murderous rampages because you have exercised your freedom of expression, you know that they are highly likely to do so anyway. So a mature, sensible person doesn’t do so unless absolutely necessary. And drawing offensive cartoons of Mohammed is never necessary….
Grownups don’t do things like that. Just as they don’t tell their wives that yes, that dress does make her backside look big. Why hurt people?
Anyway, I suppose I’m rambling now… still feeling kind of crappy today, by the way. Kinda want to go take a nap…
“But you don’t do anything about it, because you hold out hope for peace,”
So you’re holding out for peace in the Middle East. How long are you willing to wait?
That question doesn’t make sense. If waiting a century avoids 60 people getting gunned down, I’ll wait a century.
The POINT, which you seem to miss, is that a responsible person avoids taking unnecessary steps that lead to more deaths…
So what were those who were shot doing… just walking around casually and dropped dead from a bullet? You talk like these people were lined up against a wall and mowed down. Don’t want to get hurt, don’t attack someone else. Not a difficult concept to understand.
“You talk like these people were lined up against a wall and mowed down.”
You have a problem with reading comprehension. I’ve said absolutely nothing of the kind. Review my words. The whole thing is an ungodly mess, and our goal should be to pursue policies that don’t cause people to react by doing insane things, whichever side they are on or whatever policies they advocate.
I want what we had my whole life before now: A foreign policy run by grownups who understand the world, and know that policies have consequences…
Uh-huh. But what’s your point, with regard to what we were talking about?
The point is that it’s like two kids fighting, one can hit the other one and nothing is said, as soon as the one being hit hits back then all hell breaks loose.
How is it that you’re blind to the obvious?
Like I said, I don’t care… they’ve been killing each other for centuries, what’s one more day going to matter. It’s what they do…
Why is this Trump’s fault, Congress voted on it and then it sat. Trump did what he was supposed to do, he pushed a Congress passed vote to completion. How is it you think this bad and his fault? Why not blame those who passed the bill?
“Because 60 people’s lives are worth more than your reputation for not being “politically correct.””
How many people would you guess die daily in these battles? Why focus on one, when it’s one of many. It’s like making a story about a person in Chicago gets gunned down, when he’s one of dozens killed everyday.
“How many people would you guess die daily in these battles?”
Far fewer than that. That was a milestone. It was a Kent State times 15.
In any case, what in the world is your point? Are you saying, “Who cares, because their lives are worthless anyway?” It certainly sounds like that…
I know I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. It’s obvious that people who live in the Middle East live for one reason… to kill each other, it’s been that way for thousands of years.
Or to put it another way… “it’s not my problem”.
What you’re saying is “America First.”
Which is why the nation, and the world, are saddled with Trump. That attitude…
“What you’re saying is “America First.””
I’m taking it that you somehow think that’s bad. You call yourself an American yet have us take a backseat. Why shouldn’t we take care of ourselves first, then once we have all of our problems resolved we can help those who need it? Instead of the other way around which is what people like you want. You’d rather build schools in some 3rd world country that hates us than build one in this country. How many schools could be updated in SC alone? No… let’s use the funding to build one in Iraq instead.
I don’t want America to take a back seat.
I want America to be driving the car. Just as every president we’ve had since 1945 has wanted. Until this one.
Tell it to Chuck Schumer and Obama’s emissary to Israel, Shapiro, since both are known to be hair-brained evangelicals. Wonder if they are aware of who they are? Yes, there is always pandering by members of Congress, what a surprise, I am shocked I tell you, shocked!!
Sometimes pandering will come back to bite members of Congress in the butt and this is a prime example. Just like the never ending line-up of Democrats declaring with all certainty that Saddam Hussein had WMDs and Clinton even made it official policy for regime change in Iraq.
Don’t vote yes unless you actually intend to back it up or support it if you are called out on it.
Just like the never ending line-up of Democrats declaring with all certainty that Saddam Hussein had WMDs
Lots of blame to go around. But let’s me be crystal clear. The Democrats were lied to. Just like the American people were lied to. The Democrats should have done a better job seeing through the BS. Some did. Those brave few should be commended.
As for the current situation, yes, everyone who pandered to voters over the embassy issue should be ashamed. But the bulk of the blame on this terrible decision belongs to Trump.
No one was lied to. Oh, and we know Saddam had WMD, because he used them. What happened to it is the mystery. And the US had good reasons to declare regime change in Iraq to be our official policy back in 1998, and those reasons did not go away.
People have selective memories. I do; we all do. It’s human nature…
I hate having this argument over and over. But if people keep saying they were lied to, I’m going to keep pointing out that they were not…
I get it. You don’t like that we went into Iraq. There are perfectly reasonable reasons for you to hold that position. But “Bush lied” isn’t one of them. And clinging to that warps your thinking. It causes you to say things like “Trump isn’t as bad as Bush.” And that’s important because it causes you to fail to appreciate the current crisis…
I didn’t bring it up this time but history must not be revised. We MUST accept the brutal truth about Iraq. By failing to do so the dishonest behavior of our current president is harder to rebut. I really don’t like Trump and the last few days confirm what an awful person he is. We really should be discussing the Chinese phone company issue. That is clearly an impeachable story. Letting Bush off the hook for his lies makes it harder today.
And who was doing the lying when Clinton was in office and even Clinton stated with certainty after he left office that he “knew” Saddam Hussein did have WMDs. The push to get in front of a microphone and declare they “knew” Hussein had WMDs belonged to Democrats during the last 3 – 4 years of Clinton’s administration. Hell, even Hillary did her part to push the narrative. It is on record bud or can’t you see for the blinding hatred you have for Bush? And don’t try to say you don’t hate the man because your record of comments is pretty damn clear to anyone with a modicum of intelligence and ability to read.
I will admit Bush was not the sharpest person to occupy the White House but he was a damn far better and honorable person than Donald Trump and a couple of others I could name.
You can have your version of “crystal clear” if it satisfies your thirst for GWB’s hide nailed on the proverbial “barn wall”. I am entitled to mine and it is 180 degrees opposite of yours.
I am not defending Trump, all he did was complete what was started in 1995 whether anyone likes it or not. Wise choice? Depending on perspective and which side one supports.
The payout to Seals is just another in a long list of stupid behavior by a bunch of self-serving incompetents.
It’s so easy to give away other people’s money — especially when you have zero accountability.
Then we have Norman Jackson and his ties to a very questionable set of expenses for a park in his district. This stuff happens every day in Richland County — it’s a cesspool of corruption. And NOBODY holds them accountable.
Dan Johnson has signs all over the roads — and nothing has been done yet regarding his excessive spending of public dollars.
Doug, it is not just a Columbia/Richland County thing. Locally we have a school district taken over by the state and the district is still paying two superintendents. One is inactive, the other incompetent. IMHO, if the state deems it necessary to take over a school district, the superintendent(s) need to be relived of duty immediately and taken off the payroll.
I am saddened by Wolfe’s death. He was the commencement speaker at my college graduation when I was living the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. I grew out of that stage and was a naval aviator when he wrote The Right Stuff. Clearly, his writings were a great influence on me.
Sounds kind of like your life is a sort of Wolfe book….
Yup, And now, as my wife joins me in retirement as TERI ends, we are going to live a lifestyle influenced by Kerouac – spontaneity and travel. Burning Man is on our bucket list.
By the moving our embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv we have ensured that when the next Arab-Israeli conflict breaks out, we’re going to have to be more active than simply supplying arms, info, expertise, and money to Israel. We will have to actively defend our embassy. We are likely to be very involved in that war.
Within a few days Trump has pulled us out of the Iran deal and moved the USA embassy to Jerusalem. And he basically did so in a very public and humiliating way. Could the man taunt the Islamic world any more recklessly and needlessly? And now North Korea seems to be getting cold feet. Couldn’t we postpone the military exercises as a small gesture? With Brent crude approaching $80/barrel do we really need any more reasons to create unrest that can result in an economic backlash?
I read most of Wolfe’s non-fiction and fiction. The former beats the latter hands down. I felt that on a visceral level: while his non-fiction excited me, his fiction left me feeling undernourished. I remember how expectant I was when I started Bonfire – hoping for the typical Wolfe flash. And how let down I felt as I went through it. It wasn’t bad, it just not all that good. And taken as a whole, A Man in Full was no better. In stretching his non-fiction to novel length his writing ended up thin and, like I say, nutrient poor. At the time Bonfire came out, he was quoted saying that he was aiming to be America’s 20th century Dickens. Sadly, he fell short. I will remember him for his fine extended journalistic work.
I’m with you, completely. Disappointed by Bonfire, I gave A Man in Full a chance. Even more disappointing.
I didn’t even bother with I Am Charlotte Simmons or Back to Blood…
I just came across this study which should be of interest to both bud and Doug. It suggests that luck is, indeed,an important determinant of wealth and success.
I’d like to see follow-up studies to see if their findings hold up.
Thanks Norm, great article. The study confirms what I have always believed, luck is perhaps the most critical element in determining wealth and success. My observations are rather pedestrian but my conclusions are not much different from the point made in the article.
I view wealth/luck as a sort of an asymptotic curve. The greater your wealth the greater proportion of that wealth is the result of luck. At very low levels the luck factor is negative.
All those lucky Powerball winners…
Speaking of which, some people should just never be given money…
As long as that guy didn’t have money, there was a chance that, given enough time, he would grow up some day.
Now, there’s no chance of that happening…
This popped up on my feed today, too. Unfortunately, it’s not real. World News Daily is satirical.
From their website:
World News Daily Report assumes all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any person, living, dead or undead, is purely a miracle.
Well, that stands to reason. I didn’t actually read the story.
I blame Bryan… 🙂
“It suggests that luck is, indeed,an important determinant of wealth and success.”
As someone who has actually spent the past year looking at AI and computer models, I find this “study” amusing. Even the assumption that someone could model wealth outcomes is hilarious. What variable in their model measured the simple human element of effort? Or of perseverance? Or attitude?
Luck is a singular event. A person who builds a career and the wealth that goes with it typically takes advantage of opportunities that are presented and also responds to failure in a different way than people who are less successful. Choices matter. Attitude matters. And again, it is an accumulation of events.
I have a good friend who started working with me 35 years ago at the same job. Our backgrounds were very similar but our paths have gone a very different direction. He never made any decisions that required risk. Now he’s 55 years old and just got his first promotion in 15 years after working in a job he hated all that time using technology that was outdated a decade ago. That wasn’t luck. That was a series of choices – choices based on a lack of interest in making an effort to change his circumstances.
I’d like the experts who created this model to explain why anyone would believe them. What makes them experts? Luck?
The actual study is located here. It’s one of those things that I’ve bookmarked for later reading, but which I know I’ll never come back to. I have read through the methodology, but it gets deeper into statistics than I can handle.
One thing I did notice in the article is this. There only seems to be a distinction of success as measured by great wealth, but no measure of success from a point of view of quality of life, or even from a middle-class economic standard.
From a personal perspective, I can point to choices I’ve made in my life that resulted in costing me the opportunity to create wealth, and I can point to choices I have made that have benefited me. I can also point to instances where luck has played a role–to the point that at times it feels like divine intervention.
But you ARE successful, Norm. A Renaissance man who does good work for kids. And that’s a result of your actions and attitude. I bet you could easily name a dozen times when the breaks didn’t go your way.. and yet here you are.
Thanks for the kind words. Frankly, I’ve lived a bit of a blessed life. There are very few instances that I can point to and say, “If things had gone my way…” There are many more I can point to and say, “This did go my way…”
Maybe that’s what the key to luck is–recognizing it when it’s good, and being blind to it when it’s bad.
And that sounds like a fine note on which to end this discussion…
And if it doesn’t end, we’ll all blame you, Norm. You started it. 🙂
Bud and Doug on this remind me of the Duke brothers perpetually arguing about Nature vs. Nurture (a somewhat related topic) in “Trading Places.” Maybe they can settle it with a bet — for a dollar. I volunteer to be the guy they give the great job to (the good-luck guy). Someone else can be the guy whose life they ruin (the bad-luck guy)…
Of course anecdotal stories are completely worthless. But I’ll play along.
I have a friend who by any standard definition of success is doing quite well. But this financial wealth hides the fact that he is locked in a bubble of misery. He constantly harps on the tiniest of slights including small things such as having to remove his shoes at the airport security, poor service at fast food restaurants, or long lines at the DMV. He will never acknowledge, even in the most perfunctory way, that perhaps his success is partially the result of a bit of good fortune or assistance from someone else. Rather, this individual boasts constantly of his own “superior” character qualities. This bitterness is reflected in his loathing at government at all levels that suggest his financial wealth is insufficient because government “steals” much of what he has “earned”. It is rather sad to see how this person cannot be happy for others who may have accomplished much but have not achieved the same level of financial “success”. Instead these people are to be scorned and belittled as lazy or lack the courage to take risks.
You see it is easy to craft a story to fit a preconceived narrative. But the story may not reveal any useful truth.
Refer you to NYT article “Falling for Hamas’s Split Screen Fallacy” for another look at the Gaza events and the real possibility that many of the dead are fighters. Also, a Daily Beast article by Neri Zilber “How Gaza Became Hell On Earth” is a very interesting summary of the last decade of this struggle.
That a U.S. President would heat up this pot by announcing in grandiose style that we recognize Jerusalem as the capital and that we will move our embassy from Tel Aviv (a more safe place) to Jerusalem is incomprehensible. ….Until we remember who our President is.
Has anyone else seen the new Childish Gambino video “This is America”? It got 100 million views on YouTube the week after he debuted it on Saturday Night Live. I’ve watched it a couple times and still can’t figure out what the message is. The “music” is odd and the lyrics are mostly unintelligible (I had to turn on subtitles). Apparently it’s supposed to represent what being black in America is all about with all sorts of hidden meanings. I didn’t get it.
I keep coming back to it every day, just to see what else is happening in the background. There are lots of folks offering explications. This video does a good job of making an honest effort to shed some light. Some things are easy–the Jim Crow pose and the gunning down of the choir for example. The care with which the guns are handled after use is disturbing. Other scenes have me baffled. The white horse, the person falling off the balcony, and the 1980s era cars tell me something’s there, but I don’t know what.
I’m afraid I may be too white to ever fully understand it.
Thanks for bringing this up, Doug.
What’s a Childish Gambino? A member of a crime family who just won’t grow up?
A resident of the parallel universe that you don’t know about.
Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino won’t explain what the symbolism means. That’s a little too cute for me… He seems more interested in the attention than the message. One (bad) interpretation could be that he is scolding African Americans for black on black crime. Is that what Glover wants?
I watched it. I get it.
It’s about reparations.
And it’s also about a whole lot of other images and ideas from the black experience in America, spanning centuries. You have the references to “contraband” all the way through apparently random gun violence, and life going on around it.
The care of the guns just refers to the way we cherish them in America. We have another shooting, and elected leaders sort of close ranks in making sure nothing changes and the holy gun is protected.
He also runs through various caricatures of the Dangerous Black Male that white society has traditionally feared — the sexualized dancing, the violence, the drugs. His mugging facial expressions, some of his dance moves, the whites of his frightened eyes being the first thing you see in the darkness when he’s being chased at the end — all those things make cultural references to the black man as a ridiculous figure of entertainment for whites. So you have this jarring, sudden, back-and-forth going on between a minstrel show stereotype and the dangerous stereotype.
And the old cars remind me of the days of Hollywood’s blaxploitation fad, although they may be a little more recent than that.
The kids are in school uniforms, which seems a reference to the way people think one way of addressing social ills is to put kids in such uniforms. Yet the chaos goes on around them.
It’s interesting. I like that the music has a Caribbean feel to it (at least to my ears). After all, the black experience in America largely came first through the West Indies. South Carolina, the most pro-slavery state in the Union, was initially settled by people who had practiced a particularly brutal form of chattel slavery in Barbados.
And on and on.
Doug thinks I’m clueless. I’m not. The old guy who’s out of it is just a character I play on TV. Or on social media, anyway…
I’m going to make this a separate post, so please comment there instead of here…