Hey, how about that game, huh?

I had thought the first thing you do when defeated is lower your colors, but these were still flying Sunday morning.

Yep, it’s true. I actually watched the Gamecocks beat up on the Volunteers Saturday night. Or at least, the second half.

We were in Gatlinburg staying with my brother-in-law and his wife at the resort development where they stay. A good time was had by all, although we’re glad to be back after some of my experiences driving in the mountains. More about that later.

We were coming back to the cabin Saturday night after walking up and down the main drag in town — actually, given the terrain, I have the impression it’s pretty much Gatlinburg’s only drag — and passing by the car you see above, which my brother-in-law and I had first seen in front of a neighboring cabin when we had hiked to the top of the mountain that morning. (Or nearly to the top. We stopped just yards from the actual top, where the management of the resort didn’t want people to go. So we didn’t plant a flag or anything, and gladly accepted a ride back down to the valley in a golf cart with one of the resort’s employees.)

As we passed by the car with the UT flags, I remarked with surprise that the owner wasn’t in Knoxville at the game, since he or she had driven all the way from Florida. This illustrates the level of attention I usually play to football, since the game was in Columbia. (Which leaves me still puzzled as to why the flags were on the car, but as you know, I will probably never understand the nuances of football fanaticism.)

My brother-in-law suggested it was probably halftime, so we could still catch the second half on the huge TV in cabin. That sounded way better than doing any more driving through the mountains at night (again, more about that later), although I had to say “Don’t you think it’s pretty much over by now?” I understood that it was still halftime, but I meant “over” in a won-lost sense, and in favor of the Big Orange.

But I was assured that anything can happen, and boy can it. When we got back and learned what the score was at halftime, we were all shocked, but pleasantly so. So I got a beer and settled down to watching the event happening back in relatively warm Columbia. I’ll confess I was a bit surprised to see the home folks dressed as though for a blizzard. The cheerleaders were in sweatsuits! Nice sweatsuits, but still… I didn’t know cheerleaders did that. I was glad the young ladies were warm, but mildly scandalized, I admit, at what I had assumed to be the immemorial custom of the game. At that moment, it was 50 degrees in Columbia, and 35 where we were — and getting rapidly colder.

But never mind the weather…

As surprising as the halftime score was, that was nothing to what we saw in the second half. I had braced myself to see the Vols make up their deficit as I watched, thereby re-establishing basic physical laws of the universe. And the way the Vols marched to one easy touchdown in the third quarter looked to be the beginning of that. But the opposite happened. And happened. And kept happening. The Cocks’ next TD made scoring look even easier. As did the three that followed. I found myself wondering, Who were those impostors in Gamecock uniforms? But no, these were the actual guys, showing what they could really do.

Watching the impossible happen, relentlessly, was a very pleasant way to spend the rest of a cold evening in the mountains.

How was it for y’all?

Near the top of our cold-but sweaty climb, Cooper was still full of cheerful energy. But we caught a ride back down.

That’s nice for y’all, but it’s not like that here in SC

The good news about the general rout of certifiable Trumpistas has floated in steadily from across the country. Shortly after the good news came in Saturday night that Republicans had definitely not captured the U.S. Senate, no matter what happens next in Georgia, I read a piece in The New York Times headlined “Voters Reject Election Deniers Running to Take Over Elections.

The national repudiation of this coalition reached its apex on Saturday, when Cisco Aguilar, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state in Nevada, defeated Jim Marchant, according to The Associated Press. Mr. Marchant, the Republican nominee, had helped organize a national right-wing slate of candidates under the name “America First.”

With Mr. Marchant’s loss to Mr. Aguilar, all but one of those “America First” candidates were defeated. Only Diego Morales, a Republican in deep-red Indiana, was successful, while candidates in Michigan, Arizona and New Mexico were defeated.

Their losses halted a plan by some allies of former President Donald J. Trump and other influential donors to take over the election apparatus in critical states before the 2024 presidential election.

Which was truly good news, because that had been a serious danger. You here a lot about GOP efforts to limit voter access, but the greater threat was their effort to take over the election apparatus so that it really didn’t matter who voted, or how.

And while Republicans are still likely to take the U.S. House — barely — which would follow the usual trend the country has long seen in midterms, the fact that Democrats had more than held onto the Senate was very encouraging. And in places such as the state where Fetterman thumped Oz, the crushing of Trumpist hopes went deeper, the more you looked:

Of all the places where Mr. Trump proved toxic, Pennsylvania may be where he did the most impressive damage — a state that will be key to any winning Republican presidential contender in 2024. The Trumpian fiasco there shows what happens when candidates make the race all about themselves, embracing MAGA and being out of step with the electorate.

In the high-stakes fight for control of the Senate, Pennsylvania was a hot spot, widely considered the Democrats’ best opportunity to flip a Republican-held seat and, by extension, a must-hold for the G.O.P. Dr. Oz’s high-profile flop was a particularly painful one for Mr. Trump’s party. But there’s more: The Democrats scored a huge win in the governor’s race as well, where Josh Shapiro had the good fortune of running against Doug Mastriano, a Trump-endorsed MAGA extremist so unsettling you have to wonder if he is secretly related to Marjorie Taylor Greene. The Democrats also triumphed in House races, holding onto vulnerable seats, including the hotly contested 8th and 17th Districts. And while a couple of tight races have yet to be called, party leaders are thrilled about already netting 11 seats and being this close to possibly flipping the state House, putting Democrats in control of the chamber for the first time in more than a decade. All of this was a step up for them from 2020, when voters went for Joe Biden over Donald Trump but picked Republicans in some other statewide races.

So that’s good to hear. And the news from such places is indeed encouraging. We may not be anywhere near the Republican Party returning to actual sanity — it has a long way to go before again becoming the party of Ike, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Howard Baker, Richard Lugar and John McCain — in the meantime we can be soothed knowing that things are in the hands of Democrats. I’m not a Democrat, of course, but you take what you can get when the house is on fire — but while some of them a sometimes a bit loony, none of them are Trumpistas.

That is, it’s soothing to look at certain other places. Not South Carolina.

We just elected a completely unqualified woman to run our public schools. She’s there because she won the Republican primary — that’s all it takes in S.C. — and she won the primary by convincing everyone that she was the scarier, far more extreme choice.

Henry McMaster — the man who has built the latter part of his career on having been the first statewide elected official in the country to endorse Donald J. — romped to victory on his way to setting the state record for longevity in the governor’s office. Mind you, this happened because he had an utterly unappealing Democratic opponent. But that’s because no serious Democrats ran. They didn’t run because this is South Carolina, and they assumed McMaster would win again. Which is pretty sad.

No other statewide officeholder — all Republicans of course — had serious opposition. At least, not according to the ballot I faced.

Of course, if you’re talking simple partisan politics, this had been the pattern before Trump. I mean, we knew young Judd Larkins didn’t have a chance against Joe Wilson, but that district has been drawn to reliably elect Republicans since well before the GOP became the state’s majority party. In my first election as governmental affairs editor at The State, Jim Leventis was winning in every county in the 2nd District but one on election night, but then Lexington County’s votes were fully counted, and Floyd Spence held on.

So yeah, it’s an old pattern. But now, Republicans in this state, starting with Henry, have tied Donald Trump, and therefore all the crazy that he represents, to their necks. And in other parts of the country, that’s a bad sign for people seeking office.

But not here.

Top Five Places I’d Like To Go — Lists 1 and 2

And no, I don’t want to see gladiators — although I did enjoy the Muay Thai in Bangkok.

On the previous post, Bud mentioned that he’d recently returned from a tour of 14 states plus Canada, which he was visiting for the first time. He said he still had “many bucket list places to visit,” and that this was a start.

I started to reply, but it got long, so I decided to turn it into a separate post.

I’m not sure I have a “bucket list.” Frankly, I’ve never really liked the term, as it has seemed a tad morbid to me. But I do love travel, and I would like to go to Canada sometime, just to say I did.

And now I’ve been to Boston, which I had always wanted to do. And I got to see my three fave things there — Fenway Park, the Constitution, and Quincy, John Adams’ hometown — Adams being my favorite Founder. And the Fenway Park visit was perfect, since we got to watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees, and sat out in right field while Jackie Bradley Jr. was still with the Sox and playing that position. Of course, that means in the other halves of the innings we were right behind Aaron Judd during his big home-run year, which was cool, but that was less of a thrill.

I’m not sure of anything else I’m burning to see for the first time here in our own country. I’ve seen most of the best bits at least once. That’s the thing about me and travel — I enjoy it, but I did so much of it when I was a kid. And most of that was here in the states, although the longest I ever lived in any one place was in South America. But with all that moving around I never got to either Europe or Asia growing up. I’ve addressed that since with trips to England, Ireland and Thailand, but I’ve still never set foot on the European mainland.

So I’ve got some places I’d like to hit internationally, some of which I’ve never been to.

But you know what? I think another reason I don’t think in terms of “bucket lists” is that I’m a guy who’d like to spend what time is available on things I’ve already experienced and would like to see again. Part of it is just that I like what I know I like, so I read favorite books and watch favorite movies over and over. But it’s also because I still haven’t experienced enough of those places, and want new experiences there. I mean, you can say “I’ve been to England” all you want — and we spent a couple of weeks there awhile back. But that wasn’t enough time to fully explore even the places where we went, not to mention the vast majority of the country, which we’ve never seen.

So I guess I have two Top Five Lists. The first is sort of the re-run list:

  1. London — We were there for a week, but just scratched the surface. Just last night, we rewatched “Notting Hill,” and my wife said she’d like to go to there, and I realized that when we were in town, we missed it even though we strolled through Hyde Park, right next door. And we rode by Hampstead Heath, but never got out and walked through it! And I’m just getting started…
  2. Ireland — A gazillion places we didn’t go in 2019. We barely touched the surface of Dublin, Waterford and Limerick. And then there are all the places we haven’t seen. I’d like to spend months just hanging out in County Kerry.
  3. Tokyo — All we saw was the airport — for several-hour layovers each way. And while it’s nice to be able to say I watched sumo on the telly in the first-class lounge (a one-time treat our travel agent had arranged), I’d kind of like to see the city.
  4. Various places in Ecuador — I’d like to show my wife where we lived in Guayaquil from 1962-65, and my old school, then hit a couple of beach towns — Salinas being my favorite, but I’d like to stay at the Humboldt Hotel in Playas again. And it would be awesome to visit the Galapagos, a place where I’ve never been. Although it’s not like we could just “swing by” there — it’s not exactly on the way
  5. New Orleans — I loved living there, but most of the main personal landmarks — my school, our home, in fact the whole dilapidated Navy base we lived on there in Algiers — are gone, completely. But cross the river, and so much of the coolest city I’ve ever lived in is still there, and I’d love to take my wife there.

The closest thing that almost made that list, but not quite, is Hawaii. But my wife and I were there for a couple of days in 2015, and saw my old house and school and other cool things like Waikiki, the Windward Side and Pali Lookout. But there’s so much more I’d still like to go back and see after all these years — I left there in 1971.

Then there’s the Places-I’ve-Never-Been List:

  1. Rome — You know, the center of the Western World. I was hugely into the Roman Empire when I was a kid, particularly during those two years of Latin. And now I’m Catholic, so I’m actually a “Roman.” My wife’s been there, and she could show me around. I can’t have pasta and I can’t have cheese, in fact my allergies are one reason I generally prefer to stay in English-speaking countries, but I’d risk it to go to Rome. And I can have vino, right?
  2. Spain — I wanted to go to England because it’s the mother country, and so much of my country’s culture comes from there. But living in South America as a kid, I got a sense of Spain kind of being a mother country as well. And wow, talk about a fascinating history. I’d want to hit all kinds of places — Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia, Pamplona, the other regions as well, particularly along the coast.
  3. Havana — Speaking of Spanish influence. I want to go to Havana before things have opened up so much that it gets too modern and touristy. Of all the Hispanic sites I can think of in the world, it probably attracts me the most.
  4. Greece — Athens certainly, but even more I’d like to make like Odysseus and get lost in those islands. Just chill, do beach stuff. You ever see that Lina Wertmüller film, “Swept Away… by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August?” Like that.
  5. Normandy — This is a military-history geek thing. I’d like to see where the landings happened, where the Allies landed 175,000 men in a day in the face of fierce Nazi resistance. I’d like to visit Carentan and Sainte-Mère-Église, and pay my respects at the cemeteries. I’d like to see those legendary, surprising hedgerows.

Note I’m limiting it to a Top Five, in respect for the Nick Hornby convention. There are other places I’d like to go, as well — Scotland, for instance. They’re generally in Europe, and I’m not going to apologize for being not only Eurocentric, but even Anglocentric. Other places are charming and fascinating, but the cultural influences that have acted upon me my whole life — the books I’ve read and such — have particularly inflamed my curiosity about this and that place in the Western World. We don’t live long enough to experience all the cultures of the world to an extent that is deeply meaningful. We don’t even live long enough to fully explore and grok our own, but I like to take stabs at it, in the attempt of better understanding my environment. The two places that related to that culture most vividly would probably be New York and London, and that’s why I’ve been to those places whenever I’ve had the chance. And it’s a big reason why I want to go to Rome.

I’m sure I’d hit quite a few other, more “exotic,” areas if I were drawing up a Top 100 list, or even a Top Twenty.

But this is what comes to me in response to what Bud said. How about you? Where do you want to go?

Oh, but wait — when we go to London, can we bop down to Portsmouth and see HMS Victory?

Sorry, Bud! I’m glad you had a great time in Boston!

Uh-oh, I spoke too soon. That one boat is looking rather lubberly. Are we out of green paint?

The other day I asked Bud how his Boston trip went, and to my embarrassment, he responded:

I sent you an email with photos. I guess you didn’t see it (or it got lost). Great trip but we needed more time.

Well, I can certainly identify with the “needed more time” part, and… I’m sorry about the email thing. I get way behind on it sometimes, but I think I’ve achieved a record at this point. I’m close to 8,000 unread at the moment.

I’m not going to get through all that today, but I did immediately go search for Bud’s missive, and found two emails, each with two photos. He sent them on Oct. 28, so no wonder I hadn’t seen them! I haven’t cleaned out my personal email account since… hang on… um, Sept. 13. No, to quote fellow Knight Ridder survivor Dave Barry, “I am not making this up.” I’m really that much of a slacker. (With my personal email, anyway. I keep up with my work one.)

Boston Bud

But I really enjoyed Bud’s pics, and I thought I’d share a couple with you. It was good to see Bud again, and I’m sure everyone in that bar knew his name. (When I was there, I rode by the place, but no one yelled out “Brad!” as we passed, or even “Norm!,” so I didn’t stop.)

And I was very pleased to see “Old Ironsides.” She must have a new first lieutenant now, the old one having been broken down to foremast jack for having let the larboard side get into a disgraceful condition when I was there. When I shared my trip with y’all, I was careful to show you only the starboard side, lest I reflect shame upon the Service. Port side looked like it hadn’t been painted in a lifetime.

But she’s looking fresh and presentable now, with everything shipshape and Bristol-fashion, so I’m proud to share her with you.

May we all visit Beantown again soon, and have all the time we wish!

The Night that Nothing Interesting Happened

‘Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?’

‘To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.’

‘The dog did nothing in the night-time.’

‘That was the curious incident,’ remarked Sherlock Holmes.

I capitalized the words in my headline because it seemed like “The Night that Nothing Interesting Happened” could be the title of a Conan Doyle story.

But no one would have read it.

The large headlines this morning in South Carolina newspapers — and on their browser sites — were a bit weird. Because the “big news” they trumpeted wasn’t news to anyone — was it? McMaster wins? Ellen Weaver wins? Did some reader somewhere expect something else?

When I looked for election news this morning, I was trying to find out, for instance, whether the local-option sales tax thing here in Lexington County had passed. I didn’t think it would, and it didn’t, but I wanted to see for sure. (As I mentioned before, I had voted for it, but I didn’t think a majority would).

But as I said yesterday of this election, nothing interesting was happening. In fact, if I look back all the way to when I first voted in 1972, this may have been the least interesting general Election Day I’ve seen.

Oh, something interesting — horrifying, really — is happening to our republic on the grand scale. As one example, when our representative democracy was healthy (which it was for most of my life), we would never have been sitting around wondering whether such a phenomenal, spectacular idiot like Herschel Walker was about to become a U.S. senator. He’s probably not, by the way, although he’s in a runoff. Yet close to half of the voters in Georgia chose him, and all over the country, similar (but not as spectacular) idiots won. You know, election deniers and such. But since 2016, we’ve grown used to that, haven’t we?

Anyway, suspense was entirely missing, here in South Carolina. But here are a few things worth mentioning briefly, here and elsewhere:

Governor — What we knew would happen, happened. Henry will be governor for four more years, which I’m sure makes him happy. He had always wanted to be governor, and now (I think; I haven’t looked it up), he will be governor for longer than anyone in state history. Of course, I voted a write-in. I never wrote the post about the many reasons I wouldn’t vote for his opponent, although I may do so later, just as an illustration of how the Democrats (and the Republicans, although I’m definitely not holding my breath there) need to do better next time.

Superintendent of Education — Another thing we knew would happen in our degraded democracy. A completely unqualified woman who is hostile to public schools and other things that make sense will now be in charge of public schools in our state. So hang on.

Congress — Well, we still don’t know what happened here, do we? Maybe something “interesting,” to put it politely, will happen here, but it hasn’t happened yet. So we’ll see.

Spanberger — I was very pleased to see Abigail Spanberger, the moderate Democrat in Virginia’s 7th U.S. House district, win. I had been concerned for her, but she made it. I’ve never met her, but as I’ve said before, America needs a lot more like her…

Fetterman — It was good to see him win, although in a healthy country, there’d have been little suspense.

SC House District — I was sorry to see Heather Bauer beat Kirkman Finlay, but not because I have any personal animus toward Ms. Bauer — I’ve never met her — or am carrying any brief at all for Kirkman. I’m sorry because of the lesson far too many Democrats will take away from it, which will be bad for them and bad for the country, which is already divided enough. The thing is, Ms. Bauer ran on nothing — nothing — but abortion. Went on and on about it, as one voter in the district (who usually votes Democratic) was complaining to me the other day. Yay, abortion, all day and night. Many Dems will seize upon this as extremely significant, as their path back to dominance. They will ignore that this is a Democratic-leaning swing district in Shandon, of all places, and that it’s a bit remarkable that Kirkman had held onto it this long.

US 2nd Congressional District — As the gerrymanderers predetermined long ago, and have reaffirmed many times since, Joe Wilson easily beat young Judd Larkins. Which we all knew would happen. I need to give him a call and see how he’s doing and thank him for running anyway. Maybe he’ll run for something else. Something other than Congress, preferably.

Signs — That reminds me, I guess I need to take down my Judd Larkins sign. Which in turn reminds me of the signs I saw over in my mother’s neighborhood this morning (see below). I guess they were really disappointed this morning — or maybe not. Of course, Clyburn won, as he was destined to do. The weird thing is, this was in Wilson’s district, so they could have had a Larkins sign up, and didn’t — which is a shame. Anyway, the thing that struck me about these signs when I first saw them, before the vote, was that it was the first Cunningham sign I had seen in anybody’s yard around here. Of course, I haven’t been out walking much lately, and that’s when I usually notice signs…

That’s about all I can think of to mention. I may add some other things later, but right now I need to run to a doctor appointment. See you later….

Did you get out and vote today? How did it go?

Well, didja, ya buncha procrastinators?

A bit harsh? Well you know how it is with converts. We get a bit carried away. All those years I have criticized and blasted early voting, and loudly sung communitarian joys of standing in line with my neighbors to do our collective duty… and then I vote early a couple of times, and I’ve just got no patience with the rest of you. Slackers…

But, let me piously add, it’s never too late… at least, not until 7 p.m.

So did you vote? And if so, how did it go?

My son’s car broke down today, so after he left work and dropped it at the mechanic’s, I gave him a ride to our polling place. Of course, when I walked in I had to make a general announcement that I was not trying to vote twice.

Anyway, it had been a modestly brisk day, for an election that offers little to get excited about here in South Carolina. As of 2:39 p.m., 537 people had voted at my precinct, Quail Hollow.

Later, I dropped by another precinct where I knew a friend of mine was working (talk about doing your duty!), and she boasted that they’d had 513. This was at 3:15,

They did have a queue while I was there, which I had not seen at Quail Hollow, so there’s that. They were trying. But still. That sort of pace might well be fine out in the country, although it would never do in town. Harrumph.

Anyway, how’d it go for you?

Experience the stories of South Carolinians who fought in Vietnam

Occasionally, I have given y’all a heads-up about programs happening at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum — an ADCO client.

Well, the museum has something very special coming up on Friday, Veterans Day. It’s been in the works for years, enduring many setbacks, from COVID to the flooding of the space where it is located.

My own father, like many South Carolina veterans, played a small role, being interviewed for hours back in 2017 by Fritz Hamer, then the curator of history at the museum. We lent a few of his artifacts and souvenirs from those days.

Fritz Hamer interviewing my Dad in 2017 about his Vietnam experiences.

It’s called “A War With No Front Lines: South Carolina and the Vietnam War, 1965-1973.” The exhibit fills the 2,500-square-foot brick-lined, vaulted part of the museum that was once the water cistern for the Columbia Mills building when it opened in 1894 as the world’s first electric textile mill.

You can read more about it here, on the special website for this exhibit. Also, here’s a press release I wrote about the opening. On the “news” page of the site, you can read previous releases about recent events that have been building up to this opening, such as lectures by Vietnam veterans, and the huge, impressive diorama of Firebase Ripcord that’s stationed at the museum’s entrance. A lecture will be featured at noon Friday comparing the experiences of Vietnam veterans to those of servicemen who fought in previous wars.

And it’s all free on Friday and Saturday this week. It’s a good opportunity to check out the whole Relic Room, if you never have, but especially this new exhibit.

My father is gone now, but so many of these veterans are still with us, and it’s long past time for their service and sacrifices to be honored, and their stories told. I’m very glad the museum is doing this. It’s still coming together as I write this, but what I’ve seen looks good. I hope you check it out…

A tribute wall to South Carolinians killed in action.

Yep, this is something that’s dividing America, all right…

As y’all know, I’m always picking and poking at the ridiculous releases and fund-raising pleas I get from Democrats.

Democrats shouldn’t get their feelings hurt, though. I just don’t get many such emails from Republicans. I got on a lot of Dems’ mailing lists back in 2018.

However, I’ve started getting some texts from the GOP, and they are really something. (And no, I don’t know where they got my cell number.)

Take this one I received from Sen. Tim Scott the other day. Scott comes across as kind of a nice guy — and maybe he is a nice guy; I don’t know. He’s the highest-ranking guy in S.C. politics whom I’ve never met.

But nice or not, he either has a severe cognitive problem, or wants everyone to think he does. Of course, he starts out by letting me know he doesn’t know me any better than I know him, since he calls me “Donald,” and that was my Dad, not me. But whatever; let’s move on…

Then, for a second, I think maybe I’m hearing the voice of that “nice guy” I mentioned. He’s worried that “divisive voices are fraying the fabric of America…” Maybe he’s really concerned about how divided the country has become — which would certainly mean he’s now regretting having stood up at a national party convention to support the most divisive president in our history, a man whose whole political strategy is to feed off our resentments of each other.

But my hope — such as it is — comes crashing down as he follows that up immediately with the usual divisive garbage: “To all the liberals who think they speak for people like me… Folks here are worried about gas prices, not political correctness….”

Well, OK, certainly he’s going to follow that up with something showing he sees the beam in his own party’s eye… but nope. He doesn’t.

So no, Tim. You’re not going to “unite us all again.” Obviously, you aren’t even going to try.

But at least you’re correctly identifying, and brilliantly illustrating, the problem. Our country is full of people who, like you, are dividing us by saying it’s all the other side’s fault. I’m sure I can find dramatic examples of it in those pleas I keep getting from Democrats — willful blindness, mixed in among all the hammer-dropping.

Anyway, senator, let me know when you’re actually interested in healing the division. You can give me a heads-up via text…

Stop trying to predict elections. Just stop it. Right now.

I’m speaking to journalists here.

I thought I’d make that clear because a few days ago, in reaction to a headline that said, “Why early-voting data is an awful election predictor,” I tweeted, “Which is fine, because no one needs such a thing. No one needs to ‘predict’ elections. Discuss the relative merits of the candidates, let the voters vote, then report what HAPPENED…”

When someone who has commented on this blog off and on for years responded, “…A lot of us, for some reason, think that who wins this election may be kind of important,” I had to add, “You do understand that I’m speaking to journalists here, right?”

Well, maybe he didn’t, and maybe that’s my fault. So here, I’m making it clear up front.

You want to know what’s going to happen tomorrow (or rather, in the process that ends tomorrow, since so many of us vote early now)?

Well, I can’t tell you. I can tell you that generally, the party of the president of the United States loses ground in the elections that occur in years when the president isn’t running. Although not always. And even that generality should probably be set aside, since the careful balance between two rational, roughly centrist parties came to an end in 2016. One of the parties basically doesn’t exist any more, and the other is in some disarray.

That’s as far as I’ll go with predictions.

Now, let’s talk about how stupid it is to try to predict these things that are widely and erroneously called “midterm elections.” (Not one position being considered is in the middle of a term. They’re all at the ends of their terms, which is why we’re having elections. The person for whom this is “midterm” is the current POTUS, and in case you haven’t noticed, he isn’t running.)

These prediction stories you see are pretty much always written from a national perspective — as is most of the news you read, since papers that covered — I mean really covered — state and local elections are gone or moribund, and nothing has taken their places. By “national perspective,” I mean they are trying to predict which of those two parties will hold a majority in each of the two chambers of Congress when the elections are over.

Which is insane. That cannot be reliably predicted. Some elections can be reliably predicted. I can predict that Joe Wilson will win re-election. (I would, of course, be thrilled to be proven wrong on that.) I can with even greater confidence predict that Jim Clyburn will be re-elected. But that’s because voters’ choices have been removed from the equation, through the process of gerrymandering.

What you cannot do is reliably, dependably predict what will happen with control of Congress. First of all, you’ll notice I keep saying “elections,” not “election.” There is not one person in America who is voting for one party or the other to have control of Congress. Oh, they might think they are, and tell you they are, thanks to the fact that so many Americans have been trained (largely by what remains of the media) to think that way, in ones-and-zeroes partisan terms.

But they aren’t, because they can’t. Not one person in America can vote for more than one member of the House of Representatives, or more than two (and usually, just one at a time) senator. The rest of the equation — the extremely, mind-blowingly complex equation — depends on what millions of other people do. Each contest for each seat depends on thousands, if not millions, of such separate decisions. And the end result, in terms of which party has control? That depends on an exponentially greater number of separate decisions.

Not only that, but I remain unconvinced that most people can coherently explain, even to themselves, exactly what caused them to vote as they did. It’s complicated. Despite all the progress the ones-and-zeroes folks have had in training people to vote like robots, it remains complicated.

But enough about voters and what they do. Back to the journalists.

Y’all have all heard grandpa tell stories about how he covered elections, back when the country was young and men were men, yadda-yadda. I’m not going to do that in this post. But I am going to complain about the “coverage” we do see in elections.

Practically every story written, every question asked by a journalist of a source, seems in large part to be an attempt to answer the question, “Who is going to win?’ I can practically see those words stamped onto the foreheads of the reporters.

What do the polls say? How much money have you raised? How many more times will that TV ad be aired by Election Day? How are you connecting with this or that demographic group? How strong is your campaign organization? Can you avoid uttering “gaffes” in the upcoming “debate,” and when you almost inevitably fail in that task, can you recover from them?

Folks, the reason we have a First Amendment is so that we will have a free press to, among other things, help voters decide which candidates will represent them. To do that, your job is to report on what each candidate offers to voters, and how well he or she is likely to perform if elected. You start with two things: the candidates’ observable records, and what the candidates say about themselves and the kinds of officeholders they intend to be.

Your goal should NOT be to tell the voters who WILL win. You should give them information that will help them, the voters, make that decision. If you try to tell them who WILL win, the most likely result is that you will convince some supporters of the other candidate not to vote. (Which to many of you might sound like a GOOD thing, because it means your stupid predictions are slightly more likely to come true — but it isn’t.)

Oh, and if you’re an opinion writer, your goal is to present rational arguments as to who SHOULD win. It is not to predict who will win. So, you know, I should not be seeing “opinion” headlines like some of the ones below…

Top Five Best MLB Uniforms

I’m not much of a fashion guy, but I got a little out of sorts the other night — before the game really got to rolling — when both the Astros and the Phillies came out wearing their most distractingly ugly uniforms.

Of course, the Astros have nothing but ugly unis, but on this night — and the night before — they were wearing the nastiest-looking ones in their arsenal. You know, the ones dominated by the color of those rags their obnoxious fans wave all the time in Houston.

But this night, even the Phillies — who normally wear perfectly fine, non-distracting threads — had somehow traveled back to 1973 and brought back a strange combination of the oddest shade of blue mixed with some variation on maroon. Which wasn’t all that bad by itself, but when they got anywhere near the Astros, I expected spontaneous combustion or something. I’ll show you what I mean:

Yeah, I know. You people who have access to baseball on TV (which I don’t, except when Fox deigns to show me something over the broadcast airwaves, as they do each year during the Series), and make an effort to follow the Phillies (which I haven’t done since my wife’s cousin Tim and his pitcher Steve Carlton were with them), see these blue things all the time. Just as I have occasionally seen these nightmarish things that the Red Sox occasionally put on.

Anyway, once the game got rolling I sort of forgot about it, and after awhile the Phillies even looked sort of OK. The Astros did not, of course, but they never do.

And I thought it would be good for the country if I would offer a Top Five List, as guidance. Of course, you’ll note two things about my taste: First, it’s very traditional. This is one of the things that brings out my conservative sensibilities, with a vengeance. Second, I lean toward certain colors, especially dark blue (or as I would say, proper blue), and deep, dark reds. Preferably against a white background, so they stand out well.

If I were doing a list of Worst uniforms, you’d see I can’t stand anything that looks like it’s from the 1970s. Back during that decade of sartorial horrors, I pretty much just wore jeans and tee shirts. There weren’t a lot of tolerable alternatives. Even teams with good uniforms now wore ugly ones then. For instance.

Oh, one other thing. I’m basically just looking at the best uniforms worn by each team. I’m not considering all their different looks and averaging them out or anything. Too much work.

Here’s the list:

No. 5 — Phillies

No. 4 — Cardinals

No. 3 — Yankees

No. 2 — Braves

No. 1 — Red Sox

I’m not offering comment on each team, just the pictures. Because it’s about the look.

And I’ll admit that the Braves and the Red Sox are my two favorite teams, and really their unis are sort of a tie in my mind. They’re a lot alike, of course. If I hadn’t gone to that game in Boston this summer, which got me paying more attention to them in recent months, the Braves might have been No. 1.

And the Phillies just barely make the list at a time when I’m cheering for them, when in truth, a number of other teams have uniforms just as good.

Makes me look kind of shallow, doesn’t it? That my fave teams would be the ones with the best uniforms? Or vice versa — that I’d like the uniforms just because of the team?

I think it’s just a coincidence…

 

Forgot to brag yesterday

Yesterday, I actually managed not to embarrass myself completely on the Slate news quiz — and then got all busy and forgot to brag about it.

Not that 373 is normally anything to strut about (I’d rather it be something like this), but I did beat the average and the staff ringer, and that’s at least worth a self-pat on the back, right?

I think so. Even though I missed something I should never have missed — the name of the Astros pitcher with the credit for the no-hitter I had, in misery, watched just the night before. My only excuse is, when you take a guy out in the sixth inning, and then use a small army of relievers after him, anybody can lose track of the starter’s name. Or at least, I can.

(Here’s a question: Should a guy get credit for a no-hitter when he doesn’t pitch the whole game? Yeah, I know we’re a long way from the days when my grandfather would pitch a double-header, but still — isn’t this kind of no-hitter more of a team effort than an individual achievement?)

Of course, I balanced that out by knowing something I should never, normally, have known — the name (or at least, the pseudonym) of the rapper who had been shot and killed.

Anyway, let us know how you do…

 

Nothing like a good ballgame to lighten things up

Third-baseman Alec Bohm hits the second of the Phillies’ five homers. Click for video…

It’s not just having voted and gotten all that behind me that makes me more cheerful today.

There’s baseball. Good baseball, breaking the way I want it to go. Almost as good as going to Fenway Park and watching the Red Sox pound the Yankees.

Of course, the better game was Game 1, Friday night. I even had a blasphemous thought, in the last moments of the game, when a single ill-fated swing of the bat still could have given it to the Astros… I thought, “This is a great game, even if the Phillies lose.” And it would have been. Fortunately, they won it, 6-5, after having come back from 5-0.

Then there was Game 2, which doesn’t bear talking about, so let’s move on.

Then we moved to the East Coast, which is where the game is best played (even though they still didn’t move the time up to a more reasonable hour). And there was a delay of a day due to rain.

But Game 3 was worth waiting to see. Sure, it was kind of lacking in suspense, but that was fine. I’d like to see a similar game tonight. Then, we can have a close, suspenseful Game 5, with the Phillies winning the way they did in Game 1, and we can all celebrate, and not have to go back to Houston and be subjected to all that loud orange waving around.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading about the game this morning in The Boston Globe. I think I’ve mentioned how much I like that paper now since I started subscribing while I was up there, partly because their sports department actually seems to still understand that baseball is our national pastime.

The Globe, and other accounts I glanced at, focused on the same thing I did in my only two tweets during the game. First, I was shaking my head in admiration for the Phillies’ starter when I wrote:

Then, it occurred to me to follow that up with something on his counterpart:

Which was also impressive, in its own way. He tied a World Series record allowing those five homers in only 4⅓ innings.

I hope to see the Astros distinguish themselves similarly tonight. But much more than that, I want to see the Phillies win…

I voted. You should, too. You’ll feel better after you’re done…

Voting was fine. There were even some nice flowers in front of the community center. Another voter seems to be digging them in the background…

Sorry to be such a downer yesterday about the whole democracy thing. I was sounding a bit like Marvin the Paranoid Android with that headline.

I feel much better now that I’ve actually voted. I hope you will, too — or already do, assuming you’ve already done it.

I voted as I said I would. On governor, I voted again for James and Mandy, just because that was the only governor/lieutenant governor team I could think of that I could vote for. It didn’t quite work, though. I typed “JAMES SMITH/MANDY POWERS N,” and it wouldn’t let me type any more. I thought I’d mention it here as a statement of my intentions, in case we get into a challenging-the-count situation.

For the U.S. Senate, I voted for my wife. I didn’t consult with her in advance. I told her about it later as we were walking in the neighborhood. It didn’t faze her, being married to me and all. She asked, “Does that mean I get to move to Washington?” I said sure, and I’ll go up to visit and we can go see that great new exhibit I read about at the National Gallery, “Sargent and Spain,” which I see as an extension of that work of his I love that my granddaughters posed in front of when we were in Boston. So we have a plan, in case. It’s good to have a plan.

I guess I’ll go on and vote today. But I won’t enjoy it…

You know how I used to refuse to vote early — because of my love of Election Day and the communitarian experience of getting out there and standing in line with my neighbors, yadda-yadda?

Well, I broke with that in 2020, and it’s a good thing I did. I did it, as much as anything, because of COVID. I was concerned that things were going to be unmanageable on the actual day — huge turnout was expected, and I was picturing all those masked people trying to stay six feet from each other. Also, I was worried that I might get it myself (this was before the vaccines), and be too sick on the day of.

And I had never felt it more important to vote than in that election. I knew I alone couldn’t tip South Carolina to Joe, but I had to make the effort. Every single person who cared about saving our country had to make every effort possible.

And if I hadn’t gone early, I would have — for the first time in my life — missed my chance. My brother-in-law died suddenly at the end of October, and his funeral was on Election Day — in Memphis.

So this year, I’m going to do it again. But not because I see the outcome as vital. In fact, I’ve never in my life seen a general election in which I was so uninterested in voting — or in which my vote would matter so little.

Have you looked at a sample ballot? It’s pretty depressing.

First, we don’t have a candidate for governor for whom I could vote. I don’t want Henry to be governor, and I don’t want Joe Cunningham to be governor (have you looked at his issues page? I have.). And no, I’m not going to vote for the Libertarian. Because, you know, he’s a Libertarian — which is the one and only thing I know about him.

So the one challenge for me is whom to write in. Still pondering that.

Let’s stumble our way through the rest of the ballot

  • Secretary of State. I wouldn’t care about this even if I were excited — positively or negatively — about either of the candidates. This should not be an elective position. It’s not a position that sets policy. The secretary is a clerk.
  • State Treasurer. Same as secretary of state. A little more significant, but not much.
  • Attorney General. No choice is offered. Alan Wilson is unopposed.

You know what? This is ridiculous. Let’s skip to the ones I’m bothering to vote on:

  • State Superintendent of Education. This is about voting against someone — Ellen Weaver, who of course is almost certainly going to win, but it is my duty to stand up and say “nay.” She is not only completely unqualified to run the largest part of our state government, but she will go out of her way to harm our public schools. I’ll vote for Lisa Ellis, since Kathy Maness was done in by the extremists.
  • Commissioner of Agriculture. Yeah, it’s another position that should be appointed rather than elected, but I think Hugh Weathers does a good job, so I’ll vote for him. Of course, he would win whether I did or not. But it’s kind of nice to occasionally get a chance to vote for someone you like, and see him win. It doesn’t salvage the rest of this experience, though.
  • U.S. House District 2. As I’ve said before, I’m happy to vote for Judd Larkins. He won’t win, but I’m happy to say he should. Is he a perfect candidate? No. A candidate for congress should have a lot experience in public life, and Judd has none. But he’s a better candidate than the one who’s going to win.
  • The three referendums on my ballot. I will vote “yes” on all of them — not enthusiastically, but as long as I’m forced to engage in government by plebiscite, here are reasons to support the statewide proposals on reserve funds. And my rule is, if Lexington County actually, miraculously dares to try to raise a tax, I’m going to say yes, because it must really, truly be desperately needed…

That’s about it. If I had to pick one reason why I’m going to vote, it would be to stand up for Judd in the congressional race.

But there should be a lot of reasons for me to embrace. And there aren’t. Which is a very sorry situation. Our democracy is in serious trouble. We’ve discussed the reasons before, and we can get into them again at another time. I need to go on and vote. It’s my duty…

I was so happy to vote in 2020. Perhaps I will experience that again. But not today.

There’s no being cute in baseball!

I’m kind of down at the moment because I’m not out trick-or-treating with my grandchildren. I’ve got some bug that’s been going through the family, and I’m not up to all the walking.

Even though I look forward to it each year.

Anyway, my wife is dealing with the mobs of goblins passing through our neighborhood, and I’m going to go down and help her — probably with a mask on — in a minute. First, I thought I’d share something Bryan Caskey shared a couple of days ago. These are, collectively, the best costumes I’ve seen this year…

There’s no being that cute in baseball!

Of course, my grandchildren are cuter, but now that they’re getting older, I’ll spare them the embarrassment of proving it.

You have to click on the picture in the tweet to get the full Jimmy Dugan effect. Oh, never mind! Here it is again…

It would be great to see some coverage of 2nd District

“Well this has, without a doubt, been the friendliest debate I’ve ever experienced,” said moderator Avery Wilks just before closing arguments in the 2nd Congressional District debate Monday night. “We didn’t use a single rebuttal to address a personal insult, so I appreciate that from both candidates.”

Avery got that right. Of course, it was to be expected. Most of the country thinks of Joe Wilson as the “You lie!” guy, but that was very much out of character for him (at least, before he learned to pull in money from it). Sure, he’s a steady fountain of the kind of mindless partisanship that was already destroying our country before the unbelievable happened in 2016: “Republicans good; Democrats bad,” on and on.

Judd Larkins has none of those negative characteristics — neither the insults nor the partisanship. He’s a guy who wants to make a positive difference in the lives of the people of the 2nd District, and he doesn’t care about the party affiliation of the people he’d have to work with to get it done.

Which is why I have that sign for him in my yard, with all my neighbors’ Republican signs running down the opposite side of the street.

Of course, I missed a lot of the first half of the debate, but the parts I saw reflect Avery’s characterization. You can judge for yourself by watching it. Click on the picture at the top of the post, and it will take you to the video on YouTube.

Judd was polite and deferential — as he always is — and Joe was polite and mild-mannered, although at times a bit condescending to the young man so hopelessly running against him. As for his partisan stuff — there’s no visible malice in him when he says those things. He sees those as things people naturally say. Blaming Biden or Obama for all the world’s troubles is, to him, like saying “hello” to the people he meets. He lives in a community where it is expected, thanks to line-drawers in the Republican Legislature.

But those statements offer a stark contrast between the campaigns. We were cash-hungry in our campaign in 2018, what with me doing the work of five or six people (according to our campaign manager — I wouldn’t know what the norm is). But while I talked to the press and wrote the releases and the brochures and (during one awful, brief period) the fund-raising emails and about 90 percent of the social media (and would have written the speeches if James hadn’t preferred loose talking points, bless him), I was at least on hand to pump out a few tweets during debates.

Judd didn’t have anything like that. I watched for it during the debate. Joe Wilson, of course, did. And the nonsense was on full display:

I answered a couple of them. To that one, I said, “Which is exactly what he would have said had, God help us, Trump won, in which case the U.S. would have skedaddled out of Afghanistan much earlier, and much more recklessly…” I didn’t bother with the offensive nonsense about immigration. It would have required being as superficial as Joe’s campaign to stay within the 280 limit.

And I couldn’t hold back again when they put out this prize-winner: ““It’s shameless what the democrats have done with defunding the police. It’s putting the American people at risk”

My response: “What, precisely, have congressional Democrats done that could credibly be described as ‘defunding the police?’ And which Democrats in actual elected, national leadership positions would even WANT to? Nothing, and none. But does that matter to Joe? Of course not…”

I should have said, “does that matter to Joe’s campaign,” since he was personally busy on stage at the time, but I was irritated. Which is why social media are a poor way to engage in political argument.

Anyway, I’m not commenting much on this dispiriting election, but I’m writing again about this one foregone conclusion of a “contest” because you’re not reading about it elsewhere.

Avery, to his great credit, was there as moderator, but neither his newspaper (the Post & Courier) nor his former newspaper (The State) covered the event. Of course, I didn’t write about it until two days later, so maybe something is still coming. But it seems doubtful, since neither has taken an interest so far. Search for Judd’s name under Google’s “news” category, and you’ll see what I mean.

And I certainly understand. It was hard for an editor to devote resources to noncompetitive “contests” even back when “major metropolitan” newspapers were vital and fully staffed. Now, I’d be shocked to see it. (Yeah, there’s some coverage of the hopeless election for governor, but editors are much less likely to see that as optional.)

If you do that search, though you’ll see that again the Lexington County Chronicle stepped up and covered it, so good for them. I can’t say much for that ones-and-zeroes headline, but at least they made the effort.

I sent a couple of congratulatory messages after the debate. One was to Avery, about the good job he and the high school students did. (And let me also congratulate Lexington One for putting on the event, and providing the video.) The next day, I congratulated Judd as well. He said two things in response:

  • Thanks! Some of the Dems wanted more blood, but I think we won over the folks we needed to. Just gotta get it in (front) of more folks.
  • Lack of coverage last night really hurt. We executed our plan perfectly. Just gotta get more eyes to see it.

Of course, as I indicated above, I couldn’t agree more on the second thing. On the first, I hope he continues to ignore the people who want “more blood.” People like that, across the spectrum — the “fight fire with fire” people — are tearing our country apart. Stepping outside of his comfort zone to provide more gladiatorial spectacle won’t win the election for him. I want to see him get through this, and go on to the rest of his life — in or out of politics — knowing he did what he could the right way.

DeMarco: Worried About QAnon? Don’t Be.

The Op-Ed Page

Yeah, THAT guy: The so-called “QAnon shaman.”

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

In the early fall of 2012, I was part of group organizing free community health screenings. Out of the blue, a physician who was a stranger to me called and asked if he could volunteer for our weekly outings. I was glad for the help, and over the next year or so, he and I supervised several screenings together.

After a screening in the months before the 2012 general election, he came into my office looking concerned. He asked if I had seen a YouTube video made by a man claiming to have had cocaine-fueled sex in a limousine with President Obama. He knew that I was planning on voting for Obama and asked plaintively, “What are we going to do? This is going to ruin his chances for re-election.”

When I watched the video (which is still online and currently has fewer than 7,000 views) I was unmoved. Despite my reassurances, my colleague was convinced that the video would derail Obama’s campaign. This was my first brush with the conspiracy mindset. Here was a man both intelligent enough to practice medicine and generous enough to give away his time who lacked a needed skepticism. I found out later that he was a loner who was estranged from his family. He died of a preventable cancer, perhaps another manifestation of his inability to properly weigh information.

I’ve also had a younger co-worker who was a true conspiracy theorist. He sported a bumper sticker that said “9/11 was an inside job” and published multiple books, the titles of which I will not list to spare him the embarrassment – he has taken another job and has grown out of his conspiracy phase. He was socially adept, polite but formal with me and an enjoyable conversationalist for the staff in his generation. He kept his banter light; I never once heard him voice any of the ideas about which he wrote so fluently.

Which brings me to QAnon, the absurd theory that (and this next phrase pains me to write) Hilary Clinton is the leader of a Satan-worshipping cabal of pedophiles that has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, including government, Hollywood, and the media. QAnon has gotten more press than it deserves, in part due to Jake Angeli, the “QAnon shaman,” who became the face of the January 6th attack. He was one of the handful of rioters who penetrated the Senate chamber and left a note on Vice-President Pence’s desk that read “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

The most current polling on QAnon from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) produced this eye-popping New York Times headline: “41 million Americans are QAnon believers, survey finds.” I am going to venture that this is a vast overestimate of the true sway of QAnon. The PRRI polls of approximately 20,000 Americans showed that 16% “completely agree” or “mostly agree” with QAnon’s pedophilia claim (16% of the US adult population (258 million) equals 41 million).

However, looking at the numbers more closely, only 5% completely agree (about 13 million). Many fewer participate actively in QAnon activities and fewer still participated in the January 6th attack. My guess is that if most of the 5% who “completely agree” were asked on penalty of perjury if they truly believe the conspiracy theory they would say “no.” And if the answer was “yes,” when asked to produce any credible evidence, they would fail.

QAnon’s success can be attributed to its being allowed to fester for several years without much public notice on a racist and misogynistic website called 8-chan. Now that January 6th has subjected it to scrutiny, it will shrivel. All of Q’s major predictions have failed to come to pass and the shaman and his fellow rioters are in jail.

About the only people in power who are courting QAnon are folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene and, of course, Donald Trump, who recently introduced a Q-associated anthem as background music for one his rallies and posted an image of himself wearing a Q lapel pin. The fact that he must overtly court Q supporters can only be interpreted as a sign of Trump’s waning popularity.

The best approach to Q is not to engage. Don’t bicker with Q followers on social media and please don’t lose any sleep over the movement. Yes, a very few supporters have been violent. But most adherents are harmless. Based on my limited experience with conspiracy theorists, it is possible for them to harbor fantastic beliefs while being good at their jobs, funny, and kind.

It is undeniably taxing to engage a conspiracy theorist who is trying to prove he is right. I would recommend listening carefully and asking curious questions for as long as you can stand. You will probably walk away shaking your head. But what a conspiracy theorist most needs is to get out of his echo chamber. If you provide an alternative perspective offered in a respectful way that can be heard, you may help him back toward reality.

A version of this column appeared in the Oct. 5 edition of the Florence Morning News.

HERE (not where I told you) is link for 2nd District debate

As Rick Perry would say, “Oops.”

I told you the other day that the Post & Courier would be streaming the debate tonight at 7 p.m. between Judd Larkins and the guy’s he’s challenging, Joe Wilson.

I’d heard that, although I can’t swear where. Anyway, I was wrong. I checked with some folks at the P&C (to get the link) — the people who would know if they were doing such a thing — and they knew nothing about it.

I can’t tell who, precisely, is streaming it — probably Judd’s campaign itself. But they have the link on Facebook. Click on the image above, or right here. I hope you can get it. Somebody ought to watch.

I mean, aren’t we still pretending that we have elections for these high offices, instead of anointing people for life?

Speaking of stupid, I’m even dumber than I look

Remember, folks, when I write about stupidity, you should listen — I really know what I’m talking about.

As bad as my score was on the Slate quiz — lower than the picked staffer’s very low score, and way lower than the average — I knew even less than the number indicates.

I got six right, as you can see above. But three of them were just blind, lucky guesses. And a fourth was a sort of educated guess. I could see a certainly likelihood that the answer I tried was right, and I got lucky again. But I had not idea on the other three.

So I basically knew the answers on two out of 12.

And having the staff guy perform poorly — but not quite as badly as I did — is little consolation. Those people at Slate have all been in a slump lately…