Your Virtual Front Page for Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The cover of the 1960 Boy Scout Handbook, when no one doubted that we could grow to be trustworthy, loyal, brave, clean, reverent and the rest.

Waving goodbye: The cover of the 1960 Boy Scout Handbook, when no one doubted that we could grow to be trustworthy, loyal, brave, clean, reverent and the rest. I certainly didn’t doubt it.

The weirdness of living in Anno Domini 2020 continues:

  1. Trump grants clemency to ex-governor Rod Blagojevich and financier Michael Milken — You want to know how this plays out? Like this: When Trump pardons Roger Stone, he’ll say: “Hey, I’m fair. I granted clemency to a Democrat.”
  2. Wuhan hospital director dies of coronavirus as infections mount — It truly does not inspire confidence when the victims include people who are not elderly or already sick or somehow cut off from medical health, but people who had full access to presumably the best health care available in the country.
  3. Boy Scouts of America Files For Bankruptcy As It Faces Hundreds Of Sex-Abuse Claims — Just in case you thought our culture hadn’t sunk low enough. Et tu, Boy Scouts? Meanwhile, over on The Guardian‘s main page is this headline: “I laugh maniacally when I orgasm – and my boyfriend can no longer reach climax.” We are some more kinda messed up. As I suggested earlier, it increasingly looks like something happened to shift me into the wrong universe. Maybe it was in 2016, maybe earlier…
  4. NextEra purchase of Santee Cooper could shift risks, liabilities to taxpayers — OK, folks, I am going to say this one more time: As long as we own Santee Cooper, we have the chance to control it and have it do what we want. As soon as it’s privately owned, we will have lost that.
  5. Why there are fewer male vegans — OK, I’m gonna mansplain this for those who find it mysterious: Because meat. Cue the Tim the Toolman noises.

42 thoughts on “Your Virtual Front Page for Tuesday, February 18, 2020

  1. Barry

    But Blagojevich was just “misunderstood” when he extorted a children’s hospital CEO for campaign contributions………..

    I just observed a brainwashed Fox News Trump fan on Facebook saying that Blagojevich was framed and was innocent. Of course the question of why Trump would allow an innocent man to sit in jail for the 3 years of his presidency so far is a question she won’t (And can’t) answer.

  2. Barry

    Taxpayers could still face risk if Santee Cooper goes bankrupt. Plus,

    “Santee Cooper customers would be on the hook for those lawsuit settlements and verdicts anyway if Santee Cooper isn’t sold. “

    I just don’t see a reason why the state should be in the business of owning power companies. It’s really dumb. BUT, if that’s a good idea, let’s put in a bid for Duke Power and see if they will sell. Let’s get into all sorts of private businesses- for the good of citizens of course.

  3. Bryan Caskey

    I’m the den leader for my son’s Wolf Den at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, and I’ll be the Cubmaster next fall. We were discussing this very thing at Troop and Pack committee meetings for awhile. For quite some time, it’s been a question of “when” not “if” the filing occurred.

    Abuse occurred, mostly in the distant past. Since then, BSA has taken significant steps to identify and prevent abuse from occurring. Scouting will continue. This filing will assist the national organization pay legitimate claims in an orderly process.

    Locally, Scouting is thriving. Troop 10 (Eastminster Presbyterian) is extremely healthy, and the Indian Waters Council (our area) is also growing in total numbers of scouts. Our scouting program focuses on outdoor skills, learning about citizenship in our community, country, and the world. We help boys learn practical skills that will help them throughout life, and as an Eagle Scout, I can attest to the base of knowledge and leadership that Scouting provides.

    Last year, we organized a visit to meet a WWII Battle of the Bulge veteran, who shared his stories and let us see some of his amazing personal items which included his military decorations, photographs, and a very special letter he wrote his wife on V-E Day. (We actually could hold the envelope marked May 8, 1945 and could see the postmark on it.) However, the boys were most acutely interested when he talked about how he was trained to blow up German tanks. (I mean, that’s a merit badge skill we should all have, right?)

    This year, in addition to camp-outs, pinewood derby races, and service projects, we have organized a day for a federal judge to give the boys a tour of the federal courthouse and meet the US Marshals who work there. This will help the boys earn their “Hometown Heroes” badge.

    Our Troop and local Council are separate entities from the national BSA that filed. We will weather this storm.

    1. Mr. Smith

      Trained to blow up tanks?
      That’s so cool, right?

      I knew someone who actually took out at least one tank.
      An American tank.

      But he didn’t spend his senior years talking to boy scouts about it.
      Instead, he spent his last days mourning those who roasted to death in that tank.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          One of his more interesting findings was that civilians subjected to something like the Blitz in London in 1940 are less likely to suffer PTSD (or whatever it was called at a given time) than are troops who spend time on the front lines, in close proximity to the enemy.

          That would seem counterintuitive to some: Wouldn’t a helpless civilian who couldn’t fight back be more traumatized than a trained soldier?

          No, according to Grossman. It’s the very fact that civilians can’t do anything about the bombing that takes them off the hook in terms of psychological cost. The fact that the soldier is expected to kill places greater stress on him.

          There are a number of factors that help mitigate that cost. Distance, for one — it’s easier for a bomber crewman or artilleryman to justify killing to himself. It’s also made easier by sharing the burden — each member of a two-man machine-gun team (or the aforementioned bomber crewman or artilleryman) feels less responsibility than the rifleman who kills alone.

          Another huge factor in helping soldiers recover from the trauma caused by having killed is having the larger society assure him that it’s alright, that he needed to do it and his actions are appreciated.

          This is one reason so many Vietnam veterans suffered after the war — they didn’t get that support at home. (Another reason is that it was our first war in which soldiers had been conditioned to shoot to kill without thinking about it first. This was to address the fact that in WWII and earlier conflicts, most soldiers never fired their weapons with lethal intent at the enemy. The new training made American forces far more lethal in combat, and far more prone to trauma after.)

          Of course, it seems to me that one thing that might help an elderly veteran deal with the psychic scars of war is having a bunch of kids think what he did was cool. It wouldn’t work with the more introspective sort, but it might help some…

          1. Mr. Smith

            “Another huge factor in helping soldiers recover from the trauma caused by having killed is having the larger society assure him that it’s alright, that he needed to do it and his actions are appreciated.”

            Not always that cut and dry.

            I respect former soldiers who’re conflicted over what war made them do more than I do those who aren’t.

            As for the civilian aspect you mention: I’m not sure the distinction is as clear you describe it. Trauma takes many forms. I know one civilian who experienced an American bombing campaign and suffered mental illness for the rest of her life as a consequence.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I agree, Mr. Smith. Life is complicated. People are complicated.

              Individuals respond differently. Grossman was mainly dealing in statistical generalities, as I recall. Different people’s mileage may vary.

              Although he did have some fascinating anecdotes. One of the most impressive: During the Civil War — long before the new, more lethal training — soldiers in combat would often load their rifles, and then load them again without firing. It LOOKED like they were fighting, but they never shot at the enemy. It helped them deal with the social pressure to fight (which is another thing that makes it easier for soldiers to do their lethal duty), without actually trying to kill anybody. (One thing about that book; it makes you think more highly of people.)

              But here’s the tidbit that got me: After the battle of Gettysburg, 27,574 muskets were recovered from the battlefield, dropped by dead or wounded or fleeing troops. Of those, 90 percent were loaded — which is in itself counterintuitive; you’d think the last thing a soldier would do before dropping his weapon would be to fire it at whatever was threatening him.

              Here’s the real kicker — 12,000 of them (about half) were loaded more than once, and six thousand had from three to ten rounds rammed into the barrel. One had been loaded 23 times without being fired.

              Of course, before we celebrate that the human race is too kindhearted to kill, there are exceptions. About two or three percent of men aren’t bothered by killing, as long as it’s done for what they see as a good reason.

              Some of those are bad guys, or what Grossman would call “wolves.” Others are people who feel a responsibility to protect the great herd of sheep — most of us — from the wolves, and don’t feel bad about killing the wolves to do it. Those he calls “sheepdogs.” They tend to gravitate toward more elite military units, if they have the skills…

          2. Realist

            I suggest everyone who has an opinion about killing on any level and the societal reaction to killing should read this offering in the link below. It is a great read and makes common sense out of the differences in members of the human race when it comes to life and death.

            It realistically addresses the fact that there are wolves who have no hesitation to inflict harm on anyone at any time and the fact that the majority of the human race are in denial about what the wolves living among us are capable of doing on a physical level.

            Read and draw your own conclusion, it is something to contemplate and decide which one you really are.


            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Yes, that’s Dave Grossman, the guy who wrote On Killing.

              He invented that term, “killology,” in an effort to make a science of understanding the psychological effects of violence…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              “Worship?” That seems a bit strong… I just don’t have the aversion to it that some of my friends here seem to have…

              So often, that’s where communication breaks down. For instance, some folks seem to think I always want us to go to war, and assume that’s the case any time I talk about engaging the world.

              The thing is, I want us to engage fully in diplomatic, economic, cultural and humanitarian ways. But when military action is also called for, I don’t rule it out. It’s a tool in the toolbox, to be used under certain limited conditions…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                America’s problem today is that too many on the left and the right don’t want us engaged in ANY way. And that’s a point of view I utterly reject.

                And when I say that, I’m not necessarily thinking militarily. For instance, when I think about the very worst things Trump has done since 2016, one of the very first things he did is usually at or near the top of the list — pulling out of the TPP.

                Which is something Bernie would have done as well.

                Of course, by the end of being battered between those two populist isolationists, Hillary Clinton was saying she was against it, too.

                But at least she knew better… On some level, I was hoping she’d get into office and say, “Whoops! Didn’t mean it! I’m for TPP after all!”

            2. bud

              My dad was the same way. He served in WW2 but despised all the military worship that so many people like Brad engage in. Some people seem incapable of learning the lessons of Vietnam. Sadly those people have a disproportionate amount of political influence. It’s high time we take that clout away from them. We can’t continue making catastrophic mistakes like Iraq over and over again. That is reason enough to reject old school cold warriors like Biden. Although Bernie has many flaws he might be the guy to win this particular issue. Otherwise the military industrial complex may yet destroy us.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Bernie’s definitely your guy if you want a complete departure from the policies that have kept us out of World War III. Because he would trash everything.

                He simply doesn’t think about foreign policy, except when he has praised the Soviet Union, the Sandinistas, the Castros’ Cuba, and so forth.

                And before I go, quick points:
                1. military worship — it’s not worship. I just don’t hate the military, and that bothers some people. As I said above, military force is just one tool in the foreign policy toolbox. I refuse to throw that tool away, much to some folks’ dismay.
                2. the lessons of Vietnam — what would those be, and when has there been a situation in which these “lessons” are applicable?
                3. Sadly those people have a disproportionate amount of political influence. — Sadly, no, we don’t. Increasingly, we are outnumbered by people who have zero interest in, and no understanding of, the world and our role in it.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    No, it’s the only one we argue about.

                    And we argue about it because other folks are so absolutist about it. For instance, take Bernie’s attitude in that piece you linked us to: “What’s driven Sanders’s equivocations toward some of these regimes is his virulent opposition to U.S. foreign military interventions…”

                    A “virulent opposition” is not the position of a moderate man.

                    Always saying no to military intervention is like those people who always vote no to tax increases, and yes to tax cuts — regardless of the circumstances.

                    I want context-relevant decisions, and I want everything to be on the table.

                    And if we’re all convinced that, say, humanitarian aid should be on the table, then we’re not going to argue about that. But there’s a high probability that we’ll have a big argument over, say, sending in the military to keep warlords from appropriating all the humanitarian aid. So we’ll probably spend more time talking about that. And a lot of people will say, “That Brad just wants to talk about the military all the time!”


                1. Mr. Smith

                  Yeah, I caught what you did there; you selectively edited that line about virulent opposition to military interventions.

                  Let’s include the rest of the line:
                  “… his virulent opposition to U.S. foreign military interventions, as well as other operations aimed at regime change. In his Fulton speech, he inveighed against U.S. backing for coups in Iran in 1953 and Chile in 1973, along with the war in Iraq. “Far too often,” he said, “American intervention and the use of American military power has produced unintended consequences which have caused incalculable harm.”
                  — — which points to what the piece is about more broadly, namely that Sanders’s foreign policy positions aren’t as much outside the American norm as you want to make them out to be.

                  Again, what’s evident here isn’t any real extremism on Sander’s part, it’s your obsession with demonstrations of military power.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    I’m not following you at all.

                    Virulent opposition is virulent opposition. The rest of that lengthy quote doesn’t change the meaning.

                    I’ve run across this many different times over the years blogging. I will quote the part of something that is relevant to the point I’m making — something I’m linking to or which someone else has already provided the link to — and people accuse me of being unfair because I didn’t use THEIR favorite parts of the quote.

                    It’s right there. No one’s hiding anything. Pick the part you like.

                    But I’m telling you this guy has a reflexive opposition that is not healthy. He’s like a guy who will always vote “no” if it’s a Tuesday…

    2. bud

      However, the boys were most acutely interested when he talked about how he was trained to blow up German tanks. (I mean, that’s a merit badge skill we should all have, right?)

      No. We. Should. Not. (yes I know you’re being a bit facetious) It’s high time we started reducing the orgy of war glorification in this country. Here are a few suggestions:

      1. No more new war memorials. Not on the national mall. Not at the state house. There are plenty of people who made huge contributions in the pursuit of peaceful endeavors that heal not kill. Why not build huge memorials to those heroes.

      2. Eliminate fighter jet flyovers at major sporting events, military parades and other ostentatious displays of military hardware.

      3. Replace the war glorification national anthem with something that celebrates the beauty and majesty of this great country. Maybe “America the Beautiful”.

      4. Combine Veterans Day and Memorial Day into one holiday. Replace one with a celebration of first responders and other heroes who work to make us safe and healthy.

      5. Above all lets stop pretending we are under threat from foreign invaders and focus our resources towards eliminating poverty, expanding human rights, health care, the environment and education. A 50% cut in military spending would be a pragmatic first step.

      The war and violence culture is far too pervasive in this country. Time to reign it in.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, I’m probably going to use my vote to cancel you out on all those things, bud…

        Speaking of “America the Beautiful”…

        I was listening to a fascinating podcast the other day (and I need to get back to it; I didn’t reach the end), about how this country came to start calling itself “America.” It was at the time of the Spanish-American War — and bud, if you want to badmouth wars, you might want to start with that one. That was when this country was actually trying to do what antiwar protesters would erroneously accuse it of trying to do in Vietnam — build an empire.

        Anyway, one factoid stuck in my mind from the protest. Before 1898, no patriotic song ever referred to “America.” In fact, I think it said they (including the national anthem) mostly didn’t name the country at all.

        But AFTER that, we got all these songs like “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.”

        An interesting point that had never, ever occurred to me before…

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Another way to answer bud’s plans to demilitarize us…

        Kipling’s “Tommy“…

        Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
        But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
        The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
        O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

  4. Barry

    Robb Lawson came forward in 2016, naming Weaver, a well-known civic figure in Gainesville, as his abuser. Lawson said he was raped by Weaver in 1985, four years after Weaver had admitted to abusing two boys under his supervision as Troop 26 scoutmaster. He would later confess to sexually abusing at least “five or six boys” during his time in Scouts. “Seems like they’re just trying to turn the page without facing up to what really happened,”

    Lawson said of the BSA’s bankruptcy decision. Georgia has made it especially difficult for survivors of abuse to receive financial retribution. While 29 states were passing laws extending the statute of limitations for survivors, lobbyists in Georgia successfully fought legislation that would have made it easier for victims to seek financial remedies from institutions such as the BSA and Catholic Church.

  5. Larry Slaughter

    1) Staff recruiting–the supply of crooks available to staff the administration of Individual #1 is running short. I admit to knowing that Blagojevich was a contestant on The Apprentice while his appeal was pending. In retrospect, wow.
    3) I’d vote for the yellow dog vs. Individual #1, but sorry Brad, Joe is not inspiring confidence or enthusiasm. We need to let the media dig up all the trash on these guys to determine the best candidate. Like it or not, Joe will have to defend Hunter’s resume through the election. Looks like Bloomberg would have defend a misogynistic history. I think I’ve heard the least trash about Mayor Pete and Sen. Amy. They’re on my short list.
    4) That’s a shame. Bryan’s enthusiasm for the local scouts and all the current projects–impressive. Sincerely. But do you doubt that at some point, someone will come forward with an account of sexual abuse by some local Scout volunteer? I don’t know the answer to this. Is there some solution to aiding victims of the horrible history of organizations/churches/governments without bankrupting the current good works? Hope so.
    5) No. Just no. Don’t sell. Barry’s argument ignores why these government co-ops came to exist. And without government, these grand projects would not have come to be. But his thought of the utility and possibly the state being on the hook for lawsuit awards do give me pause. That’s a good point.
    6) I’m generally a vegetarian but feel the need to apologize for it when someone notices.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      How can someone named “Slaughter” be a vegetarian? Sorry, couldn’t resist. 🙂

      My wife is almost a vegetarian, but I keep pulling our menu in the other direction. I’m sort of doing the paleo thing again, so the more meat the better. Also, my digestive system has never done all that well with protein-rich plants. You know, beans. Also, I’m slightly allergic to legumes, so it’s not good for me to consume them in large quantities. And paleo mostly bans legumes.

      I was in caveman heaven recently at breakfast. Normally, I fill about half my plate with fruit. But one recent morning at the buffet, I ended up getting four kinds of meat. Didn’t mean to. I’ll usually get a sausage patty and some slices of bacon. I did that, only noticing after that some of the “bacon” was actually ham — I guess the kitchen had run out of one and put some of the other in the chafing dish. (It was kind of like getting “bacon” in Ireland.)

      Then, I lifted the top on another chafing dish, and it was my favorite, which the club only occasionally puts out — corned beef hash! Which I allow myself to eat when it’s placed before me, even though the little cubes of potato aren’t paleo.

      I enjoyed every bit of it, except the ham. It was country ham. I’ve never been able to handle anything that salty…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      As for this: “but sorry Brad, Joe is not inspiring confidence or enthusiasm.”…

      My confidence in Joe to do what I want — restore decency to the office of president — is complete.

      As for enthusiasm. I take a sort of 18th-century view of enthusiasm. I don’t want a candidate with that. Those who have it — Sanders, Warren, Trump — turn me off completely.

      I want someone who will say, “I’ll do a good job of running the executive branch,” and who has a resume that tells me he or she could probably do that.

      It’s all I want…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I find myself wondering how people keep going without meat, since we evolved as meat-eaters. Eating enough plant protein to replace that just seems to me like it would convert your whole digestive system into one, huge gas bubble.

      Of course, I also find it hard to believe my grandson keeps going at such high energy levels, since he’s such a picky eater.

      My own life experience has made me impatient with picky eaters, even when I love them.

      And I put vegans and vegetarians in that category.

      With all my allergies, I’ve had to eat anything that wouldn’t kill me. The idea of further limiting my diet for ideological reasons has always been off-putting to me.

      So why is Brad trying to go paleo? Because I have reason to believe I feel better and am healthier if I avoid certain things. And it’s not that hard on me. The only things I really, really like that I have to give up are peanuts (and worse, peanut butter) and beer….

      1. James Cross

        Actually we evolved to be omnivores. And the paleo diet does not take into account the different environments, seasons, and time periods that our ancient ancestors had to deal with.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          You can’t be an omnivore without meat!

          Of course, to add to your list of things that would lead to a varied diet, a hunter-gatherer might go long periods of time without managing to kill anything.

          That’s when those roots and berries come in handy…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            A fascinating anecdote from Stephen Ambrose’s book about Lewis and Clark…

            At some point in their trip across the continent, they ran into an Indian tribe that was in a bad way. They were starving. The men of the expedition went hunting with some of them, and ended up shooting a deer. The members of the starving tribe ran past the shooter, leaped upon the fallen animal, and frantically starting tearing it apart and eating its organs raw.

            Which struck me as really weird when I read it; I would assume the natives would be much more skilled at hunting the local game than interlopers.

            It was only years later, when I had read 1491 and Guns, Germs and Steel that it struck me that this might have been one of those tribe devastated by white men’s diseases (which ran far ahead of the white men themselves, killing most of the inhabitants of this hemisphere long before whites even came face-to-face with them), to the point that their small society had lost touch with useful lore and skills…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I wrote that anecdote from Ambrose’s book from memory. Tried to find the incident on Google Books, but was unsuccessful.

              So I might have been fuzzy on the details, FYI…

  6. bud

    The winner of tonight’s Dem debate: Donald Trump. Ranking of the candidates (without any outside bias). This was a disaster for the Democrats. Sooooo much to talk about with Trump but nary a word about the orange menace. Not what we need.

    1. Buttigieg (Honestly, this was a 5 way tie)
    2. Sanders
    3. Biden
    4. Warren
    5. Klobuchar
    6. Bloomberg (just awful performance)

    1. Barry

      Yep, the focus was totally off.

      Why one of them couldn’t refuse to take the jabs and focus on Trump I will never understand. I’ve seen more self discipline out of a 3 day old infant.

      The Democratic nominee automatically has my vote. But they will need more than my vote to win.

  7. Larry Slaughter

    I agreed with you except the 5 way tie. Buttigieg was the clear winner. And he should be Brad’s winner–he came across as the most decent one on the stage. A distant 7th was the make-up staffs: Looked like Joe was trying to out-orange Individual #1, Amy was shellacked and what was up with Pete’s 5 o’clock shadow.

  8. Realist

    Sanders shortened AOC’s timeline for the planets impending destruction due to climate change. At least she offered a few more years before it is too late for humans to survive. No wonder our so many of our children are so fearful and harbor a sense of hopelessness for the future. The dire predictions by adults who are influential is enough to give anyone who is prone to depression and other emotional and mental maladies more reason to fall deeper into the pit with little hope of escape or survival.

    Then I read an interesting article this morning and thought it might be worth sharing. See link below. It gives one pause to stop and ask the question, what happened to the inhabitants of the area when what was once plush started to turn into a desert? Did they simply give up hope or do something to adapt to the new reality? Did they sacrifice to gods to appease them so their land wouldn’t change into what it is today?

    I have no use or respect for anyone in a position of authority or influence to use their platform to scare the living hell out of our younger generations with predictions of absolute doom for the future if we don’t turn the world upside down immediately. They don’t really offer any sensible solutions to the realities of climate change, they only offer the downside but then they turn around and insist that everyone receives a participation trophy for simply showing up. They preach that we should encourage and provide emotional support for our children on one hand and then turn around and basically slap the hell out of them with their Armageddon rhetoric knowing what they are proposing is not possible to achieve in 9 – 12 years without societies across the planet return to “horse and buggy” days.

    I am a total believer in climate change but not a believer that we as a human race cannot adapt to what is inevitable either now or the future, immediate or long term.

    1. Bob Amundson

      “[S]care the living hell out of our younger generations with predictions of absolute doom for the future.” I bet you remember Bay of Pigs and adults warning what are now the “Baby Boomers” (including me) that nuclear war was imminent. Remember “duck and cover” drills? Then President Kennedy was assassinated, mass murder became news (Charles Whitman and Richard Speck), followed by the assassination of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Cities burned after King’s death.

      I agree with your problem statement. I wish everyone understood that extreme poverty and death due to war have fallen dramatically in my 66 years.


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