Author Archives: Brad Warthen

Could Trump beat President Camacho? Could anybody?

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Camacho, doing his thing…

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

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

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

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

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

We could go on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

… which is not what I wanted to KNOW!…

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

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

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

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

Do y’all have any good advice to share?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are y’all doing on your goals?

A nice takedown of enthusiastic stupidity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations, America. About time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Broken United Methodist Heart

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That story had this passage in it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some other points:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because it was unprecedented.

I just put up my Russell Ott for state Senate yard sign

The main spur was when a sign — actually, two of them — appeared in the yard of a neighbor. That one was for Chris Smith, who’s one of three Republicans also seeking the Senate seat from which Nikki Setzler is retiring.

None of those three has given me any reason to want him as my senator. More about them later. As I’ve said before, for me as a voter, this is about Democrats Russell Ott and Dick Harpootlian. This remains to me the most interesting SC legislative contest of 2024. It would seem so even if I didn’t happen to live in the district.

And between the two, I’m planning to vote for Russell on June 11.

Why? Well, several reasons, but let’s start with this one: Have you ever had a conversation with one, or preferably both, of those guys? Dick is clever and endlessly entertaining, and a gold mine if you’re a journalist. You’ve gotta like a guy who says things like “I don’t want to buy the black vote. I just want to rent it for a day.” Now that’s some good copy. I wasn’t there when Dick said that, way back in 1986, but I can picture the smirk on his face when he said it. If you know him, you’ve probably seen that look.

I’ve never seen anything like that on Russell. You know why? Because he’s a really nice guy. More than that, he’s a respectful guy. He listens to you. He cares about what you think, and respects it even when — maybe especially when — you disagree with him. Does that make him sound like some weathervane who’s just looking for the crowd’s approval? Hardly. He thinks for himself. But when he arrives at a conclusion that’s going to outrage Democratic voters — such as, say, on abortion — he’s just as thoughtfully considerate.

I bragged on him for that back in 2021. You might want to go back and read that, particularly the statement that inspired the post. When you read it, note the tone. You don’t see many people who speak of that issue the way he did. Most, on both sides, are in the “I’m right, and you can go to hell!” camp. Not Russell. He models the way a representative should relate to people no matter what the issue is — and even on the most explosive and divisive issue in the country.

Meanwhile, Dick Harpootlian sees that statement as something to use as a bludgeon against Russell. Note this tweet from Dick last week:

You’ve likely seen the way Dick’s been pounding Russell about the head and shoulders for failing to be what Dick sees as a proper, orthodox, toe-the-line Democrat. Well, that Tweet was presented within that context. Dick obviously sees it that statement from Russell as conclusively damning.

And perhaps you’ll recognize it as the very statement that impressed me so favorably in 2021.

Now watch. Someone from the ones-and-zeroes camp will say, “Well, of course Brad’s putting up his sign! Ott’s against abortion!”

The person who says that doesn’t know me, and doesn’t pay attention. I have little patience with single-issue voting. Not my style. I mean, look back at the other folks whose yard signs I’ve put up in the last few years. Or look at the bumper stickers I still haven’t taken off my truck (see the selfie below from the day I voted in the 2024 presidenial primary).  Those are not what most people call pro-life candidates. And each of them had an opponent who at least claimed to be pro-life. But look at which ones I chose to support.

Russell is used to taking heat on positions he takes, such as when he led the charge last year to legalize online betting on horse races, an issue he mentioned to me this morning when he dropped the sign off at the house.

But he doesn’t lash out at the people who disagree with them. Not that I’ve seen. And I like that, and I’m happy to support him for it…

 

 

 

Let me know if you can read these two good Dionne pieces

OK, I’m going to conduct an experiment here. Please help me out.

The last couple of weeks, E.J. Dionne has had two really excellent columns. There’s nothing unusual about that. But there’s something new — or something that I hadn’t previously noticed — about them. Here’s the first:

Did you see that at the end of the tweet — “my column free access?” I’m asking y’all to try to link and read the column, and let me know if you’re able to do so without being a subscriber. Then, leave your thoughts on the column.

I loved the piece, because E.J. is getting to the heart of my great appreciation of Joe Biden. Because I am both liberal and conservative myself, I see Joe as the only hope left to the country. We had plenty of such people to choose from in the decades after 1945. And we needed them. We need them more than ever now. But now there’s just Joe.

But E.J.’s piece also shames me a bit. I say the same things he’s saying here all the time, but I tend to present them as truth without the careful documentation and explanation. This is possibly because I grow weary of repeatedly explaining how I arrive at conclusions that have taken seven decades of thought and observation to reach. And people shrug it off, because they think it’s just the ranting of an alter cocker.

But I guess it’s also because I don’t get paid anymore to put in the time to dig up all the evidence supporting conclusions I reached long ago. So I don’t. Too much time spent doing what little I do to make a modest living. And doing it around those naps that are the residue of my stroke in 2000. I can do all the things I used to do, but I have less time in which to do them.

In any case, I’m very appreciative to E.J. for taking the time to explain it to his readers, especially since I know he’s busier than I am.

Now, the other column, which features the same “free access:”

First, again, please let me know if you can read it. Beyond that…

Another good piece. There are, of course, many things that, considered alone, tell us “all we need to know about him.” You could compile a lengthy list of things that, considered singly, should cause any voter to run the opposite way. But this should be, if not the top item, at least very close to it.

Anyway, I wanted to share these columns because they’re important, and I’m thinking E.J. gets these points across batter than I do.

Beyond that, though, I really want to know whether those links work for nonsubscribers.

This is one of the things that concerns me most about blogging these days. To me, almost everything worth discussing these days is from things I subscribe to. This was fine 10 or 15 years ago, before everybody got so serious about pay walls. Now, it’s a huge problem — I bring up something, and I want everyone to read it so we can have a discussion with everyone fully informed, but most people can’t open it. Because normal people don’t subscribe to four or five newspapers.

So when I get a chance to share, I seize it. But please let me know if it worked for you…

Submitting myself once again to that great time thief, Gmail

No, I won’t read this or thousands of others. But it still takes time to glance over them and delete en masse…

I’m getting close to cleaning out my personal email once again. By “close,” I mean I succeeded in going through everything that comes in under the “Primary” tab on my Gmail IN box. Right now, I’m working on the 2,500 that still remained today under “Promotions” (which is much easier, since I delete almost everything — I’ve gotten it down under 2,000 in just a few minutes). I haven’t yet looked at the 238 I have under “Social” (doesn’t sound like much, but I have to look at quite a few of those individually).

But I’m taking a moment now to share with you something I read in The New York Times this morning. It’s a column from Ezra Klein, whose podcasts I enjoy so much. Here’s the special link that’s supposed to allow me to share it. I don’t know whether that means I can share it here, or just with one person. Please try it and let me know if it works.

The headline is “Happy 20th Anniversary, Gmail. I’m Sorry I’m Leaving You.” Basically, Ezra has a much worse Gmail problem than I do, so he’s given up, and trying alternatives. Here’s part of his explanation as to why:

A few months ago, I euthanized that Gmail account. I have more than a million unread messages in my inbox. Most of what’s there is junk. But not all of it. I was missing too much that I needed to see. Search could not save me. I didn’t know what I was looking for. Google’s algorithms had begun failing me. What they thought was a priority and what I thought was a priority diverged. I set up an auto-responder telling anyone and everyone who emailed me that the address was dead….

On one level, that makes me feel so much better. “More than a million?” Now, I won’t feel such shame when I let mine get up around the 20,000 range, which I occasionally do. That is technically manageable. All I have to do is neglect work, reading, and of course blogging, for at least several days. Then I have a clean IN box, and everything starts piling up again as I resume my life.

I’m not ready to do what Ezra has done, however much I understand why he did it. He says he’s moved to an email provider called “Hey.” My eyes lit up at that, because he said “Hey assumes that only the people you want email from should be able to email you.” Sounds nice, but then he went on to describe numerous drawbacks to Hey.

But I applaud his courage in striking out in search of an alternative. And I think he should not beat up on himself this way:

I do not blame anyone but myself for this. This is not something the corporations did to me. This is something I did to myself….

Lighten up, Ezra. You’re a busy man. You have a life. Actual humans (not the algorithms that send you most of those emails) are depending on you to do things in Meat World.

And if this were 1980 or 1814 or 44 BC or any other time — when you were only expected to answer an occasional letter from an actual acquaintance — you’d have no cause to issue such a mea culpa.

I’m sure the robots will have a time machine ready for us soon. Just kick back and wait…

The Bluebirds of Ultra-violence

Sorry to bum y’all out again about the joys of spring, but…

You remember my post the other day about the green bird at our feeder? Down in the comments, I shared a beautiful bluebird photo from Jim Greene up in Virginia, who has a much better camera than my iPhone.

Well, in an email over the weekend, Jim shared some less-lovely images from bluebirddom.

Above, you see a couple of males engaged in combat. Down below, you see something more unusual — a fight between two females.

The good news is that Jim says there appeared to be no injuries. More of a harmless bluebirds-will-be-bluebirds matter. But it’s not always that way. A couple of weeks back, my wife was shocked to see images on a South Carolina birding Facebook page of a fight to the death between two males. It kind of darkened her perception of a beloved species.

Have they always been like this? Jim said he’d never seen bluebirds acting this way, despite his years of nature photography — and now he has documentation of both males and females mixing it up! Is this evidence of a recent breakdown in bluebird culture?

What could have caused this increase of bitter polarization among the members of this handsome species? Social media? Probably. Yeah, let’s go with that. Remember, you read it here first…

DeMarco: Want to learn what Biden and Trump are really about? Watch their speeches.

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

By some estimates, there are still about a quarter of Americans who haven’t settled on a presidential candidate. I had a recent conversation with one of them. He’s a smart, middle-aged, college-educated man who is somewhat more conservative than me. But he has unplugged from politics for his mental health. When our conversation turned to the election, he parroted the conservative media narrative about Biden being senile.

I admitted to him that I to had been stunned by Special Counsel Hur’s report describing Biden as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” I spend some time with conservative media, which for months had been peddling inaccurate descriptions of Biden as a doddering senior ready for the nursing home. But then I watched the entire State of the Union address and was reassured.

So I asked my friend to watch 15 minutes of the SOTU. I knew he wouldn’t agree with some of Biden’s policies, and conceded that he is not as animated as Trump. But I expected he would come away from the viewing confident that Biden was not cognitively impaired. As a general internist, I have seen hundreds of patients with dementia of all varieties in my career, and it would be impossible for someone with dementia to have given that speech or handled the heckling as he did.

I also encouraged him to give Trump 15 minutes of equal time. After I watched Biden’s SOTU, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen more than snippets of either man for months. So I watched Trump’s Super Tuesday victory rally in Rome, Georgia, from two days after the SOTU.

Our enhanced ability to watch people speak for themselves is one of the major advances of modern politics. I enjoy political theatre and try to see as many competitors as I can in person (whether I will vote for them or not) when they come within striking distance. In 2016, I saw Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Carson, Kasich, and Clinton (Bill, who was stumping for Hillary) when they came to Florence. I’d recommend everyone visit the Gallivants Ferry Stump, the longest running stump meeting in the country. There’s no substitute to being in the same location as the candidates. Sometimes you learn as much about them by the crowds they attract as by the speeches they make.

But if you can’t attend in person, you have the next best option – YouTube. With that ability, why not transfer some of the time you are spending being told about the candidates to time listening directly to them? I hadn’t listened to Trump at length but a handful of times since I saw him in person in 2016. That speech is still ringing in my ears. The moment he shouted, “And who’s going to pay for it?!” and the crowd shouted “Mexico!!” was the most frightening example of demagoguery I’ve ever witnessed.

Trump has always been bombastic and vulgar, but watching the Rome speech right after the SOTU highlighted the contrast with normal political speechmaking. Although Biden made many references to “my predecessor,” his allusions to Trump were based on differences in their positions and accomplishments. Right out of the gate in his Rome speech, Trump launched a fusillade of personal attacks. He dismissed Biden’s speech as “The worst president in history making the worst State of the Union in history.” He imitated Biden’s stutter; he mocked his cough.

Although I felt my friend could watch any 15-minute segment of the SOTU and come away with an accurate assessment of Biden, I asked him to watch the last 15 minutes of the Rome rally. If not for the American flags in the background, it would be easy to image Trump’s concluding monologue being delivered from the canvas of a WWE ring.

As foreboding music played in the background, Trump presented the U.S. as a sulfurous wasteland. He intoned “We are a nation in decline, we are a failing nation… we are a nation where free speech is no longer allowed and where crime is rampant like never ever before… and now Russia and China are holding summits to carve up the world… we are a nation that is hostile to liberty, freedom, faith and even to God… we are a nation whose economy is collapsing into a cesspool of ruin… where fentanyl… is easier to get than groceries to feed our beautiful families… we have become a horrible and unfair nation.”

Biden’s SOTU is anchored in reality. I’m not sure what nation Trump is describing, but it’s not America. The surreal and disconnected nature of Trump’s speech can’t be adequately conveyed by my words. It must be seen to be believed. Spend fifteen minutes with each man before you make a decision.

A version of this column appeared in the March 21st edition of the Post and Courier-Pee Dee.

Paul DeMarco at the Gallivants Ferry Stump Meeting in 2006.

Dave’s not here, man…

I get multiple texts every day — not to mention all the emails — asking me for money for electoral candidates.

Usually, they’re Democrats — because of all the lists they must have put me on when I was with James Smith’s campaign. But not all.

Today, I’ve heard from folks raising money for Joe Biden (and I just gave him $25 a couple of weeks ago — surely he hasn’t spent it already!), Dick Harpootlian and some guy named Dave. That last one cracked me up:

I had no idea who this Dave was. Actually, he addresses my wife in the message, but there’s no point in asking whether she knows him, because I know how that happens. If I call you from my number, it might say my wife’s name instead of mine, because hers is first on the account. But actually, I’m being too logical. Sometimes texts come to my phone, but address me by the names of my kids and grandkids. There’s no logic to it.

Anyway, I didn’t figure out who “Dave” was until I looked back at previous messages from this same number. Apparently, he’s the Republican running against Bob Casey in Pennsylvania.

But he just says “Dave,” like that’s supposed to mean something to me.

Well, you see how I answered him. I was hoping that, if a human ever sees it, he or she (but most likely some A.I. “it,” will think, maybe just for a second, Hey, maybe we should throw “McCormick” in there next time. 

Probably not. But just in case, I sent a link to explain the gag. Because I figure whoever it was wouldn’t know that routine…

But this was nice. What was it?

Just so y’all won’t think I’m a total curmudgeon about springtime, or that I hate nature or whatever, I thought I’d share this.

This inexplicable (to me) green bird visited our deck feeder this morning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in my yard. I’m used to the dull greys and browns of wrens and the like, occasionally relieved by a cardinal or bluejay.

But green?

Can anybody identify it?

I thought it was pretty nice. Regrettably, as I was texting it to my wife, who was out of the house, I missed a better shot when two dull grey-and-brown birds landed next to this one on the feeder. It really made the green pop out more. But I couldn’t get my phone into position to shoot it before the green one flew away.

But despite the limitations of my iPhone shooting through a window at several yards distance, I think you can tell that this is an unusual bird…

An even darker sign of Spring

Excuse me for being such a bummer at this beautiful time of year. Perhaps as you read, you can listen to a bit of “Le Sacre du Printemps” as a way of keeping your own head in a nice place.

But of course for me, one of the most allergic people you know, this season is less than pleasant. Not always, but a lot of the time. Especially the last few days. I go out to enjoy one of my walks, and then I pay for it all day and night. So I’m sticking more to the elliptical here in my office for getting my steps in.

People complain about their “seasonal allergies.” I have allergies all the time, and take several drugs every day to keep them in check. But of course there are times when the allergies are worse, and not in check, even with extra drugs. This is one of them.

So, when I went out for a walk over the weekend, I knew I was letting myself in for some unpleasantness. But I wasn’t quite prepared for the sight above, which I encountered a couple of blocks from my house.

This is not an unusual sight in my neighborhood. Copperheads abound, and a lot of them seem to like to slither on the paved road, regardless of traffic. I’ve found at least a couple of them in this condition alongside my own yard in recent years.

But that’s usually in the summer. Remember when my wife and I encountered a live copperhead traveling down the street back in 2020, as bold as though he owned it? That was… well, it was late summer, but still summer (Sept. 13).

So it’s particularly creepy to find this rather mature pit viper on March 23. Even creepier, it occurs to me that maybe not all of them are this stupid. Before I got home from the walk that day I tweeted this:

Maybe they’re all that stupid, but I doubt it. So stop and smell the beautiful flowers, if you’re not allergic to them. But watch where you’re putting your feet…

I shot these back on March 5, which also seemed early to me — but more pleasant that the snake.

Open Thread for Friday, March 22, 2024

Some of the Ghost Army’s inflatable tanks.

Various things:

  1. Trump Media Merger Is Approved, Providing Fresh Source of Cash — So does this mean he will be able to pay that find that no bonding company will back him on? Let’s hope so. Meanwhile, can you imagine investing money in a Trump social medium? That means you’re betting on the continuing collapse of this country…
  2. Justice Department, states accuse Apple of holding a smartphone monopoly — I see different figures, but it appears that between 50 and 60 percent of smartphones in this country are iPhones. (This story says the government alleges that “iPhone dominates more than 70 percent of the high-end smartphone market.”) To me, that number seems a little low. Everybody in my family uses them. How about y’all? Do you use something else, and why?
  3. Two major newspaper chains dropped The Associated Press — This is a serious shocker. “Major” is too weak a word. We’re talking Gannett and McClatchy. Does this mean no more AP content in The State? Apparently so, but that just seems too incredible. Dropping the AP is like dropping use of the English language. It’s just that much of a building block. Of course, I admit I haven’t really kept track lately of how much The State is using it these days…
  4. The Philippines’ top defense secretary talks about tensions in the South China Sea — So the Philippines’ leadership is worried about the Chinese? Then I have a question: When is the U.S. base at Subic Base going to reopen? With our strategic shift to the Pacific, it’s completely insane that that is still closed. Bob Amundson, do you have any thoughts on that? Bryan maybe?
  5. After decades of secrecy, the ‘Ghost Army’ is honored for saving U.S. lives in WWII — Y’all know how into history I am. But as I frequently say, I’m am constantly stunned by how little I know about it — even about recent topics that have particularly fascinated me. Just as the Second World War. I saw this headline and thought, Oh, that’s something about Operation Fortitude — but to whom will they give the medals? Well, the Ghost Army was involved with Fortitude, but it was an actual force of fakers who physically moved across Europe fooling the Germans time and again. And seven were still alive to receive the Medal of Honor. I had no idea. Maybe all of y’all knew about this small force, but I did not.

 

 

What has the Deep State ever done for us, eh?

I liked this little coincidence today.

First, while I was working out on the elliptical right after getting up, I watched the above video for about the hundredth time, and once again thoroughly enjoyed it.

Then, going through my email just now, I found one from The New York Times, with the subject line “Opinion Today: How the deep state works for you.”

That linked to this item, which began:

It Turns Out the ‘Deep State’
Is Actually Kind of Awesome

As America closes in on a major election, mistrust is brewing around the mysterious government entity that’s now denounced in scary-sounding terms — “the deep state” and “the swamp.” What do those words even mean? Who exactly do they describe?

We went on a road trip to find out. As we met the Americans who are being dismissed as public enemies, we discovered that they are … us. They like Taylor Swift. They dance bachata. They go to bed at night watching “Star Trek” reruns. They go to work and do their jobs: saving us from Armageddon.

Sure, our tax dollars pay them, but as you’ll see in the video above, what a return on our investment we get!…

I haven’t watched the accompanying video, because I don’t need to. I already know what this piece is trying to communicate to me. These are things I’ve known all my life, which is why I’ve watched in horror as the absurdly childish hostility to government has spread like a plague through our society, and is now threatening to end our republic.

Some people seem to need to have these things explained. And this writer is trying hard to explain it as simply as possible, with such pop-culture silliness as “They like Taylor Swift.” Personally, I think this next paragraph says it a bit better:

When we hear “deep state,” instead of recoiling, we should rally. We should think about the workers otherwise known as our public servants, the everyday superheroes who wake up ready to dedicate their careers and their lives to serving us. These are the Americans we employ. Even though their work is often invisible, it makes our lives better….

This reminds me of a regular feature that I inherited when I arrived at The State in 1987. As governmental affairs editor, aside from daily political and government coverage, I had the duty of filling a full page every week in the Sunday viewpoint section. One of the features we ran there each Sunday was something we internally called “Bureaucrat of the Week.” Nobody liked writing this feature — it took them away from keeping up with their own beats — and we spread the pain across the newsroom, beyond that team that actually worked directly for me. The reporter on the schedule for that week would have to go out and find a state employee — preferably one with a job different from others recently featured — who was willing to be profiled in this way.

I liked the idea behind it — let people know what these unsung folks are doing for you. But I thought it was unnecessary. Sure, we’d had several years of Ronald Reagan fanning the embers of anti-government sentiment, but the flames weren’t all that high yet, and I still assumed most grownups understood that their taxes paid for people to do things that were pretty essential to living in a tolerable civilization.

I later realized I was wrong in giving the average voter out there that much credit. That was a good feature. We should have done a lot more of that sort of thing. A few years later, a lot of us realized that, which is where things like “public journalism” came from. That generated a lot of seminar discussions, but not a lot of effective work — probably because even the advocates of the movement didn’t really understand the problem.

The problem was that it was the nature of news people to report what’s wrong. You had to tell people about the airliner that crashed. You didn’t have to tell people about the thousands that did not crash. Apply that principle to covering government, and every day, newspapers were giving people the very strong impression that everybody in government was embezzling, or lying about his resume, or doing something else nasty. Journalists knew better, because every day they dealt with the thousands of honest people in government who were dedicated to public service. Trouble is, they weren’ making news.

And we would never have the resources to cover them the way we covered the scoundrels. (No news organization that ever existed had the people and time to cover all the planes that land safely.) And we also knew people wouldn’t read it if we did. And somehow the less-thoughtful readers — never got the obvious point that we were telling them about the crooks because their behavior was a shocking departure from the norm. So we have the mess we have today.

But I digress. I just thought I’d share the fun video from Monty Python pointing to the absurdity of the kinds of people who go about ranting about things like, well, the “Deep State”…

Regarding the privacy of public people…

I’ve been wondering what to think about all the hullabaloo over the Princess of Wales and her picture. You know what I mean:

Why haven’t we seen Kate? Is she dying? Has her beauty been marred by her illness? Why did the Palace release a doctored picture? Why did Kate say she was the one who doctored it? Was she covering up for somebody? Who really did it and why? Why haven’t we seen the unedited version? When was the original taken? Couldn’t she just lay this all to rest by making a public appearance? Yadda-yadda…

And in her case, I find myself wondering why people don’t just chill. Of course, maybe they will chill now, with the release of that video. But why didn’t they do so earlier?

I mean, what is the legitimate public interest in her health status and how she’s looking at the moment? She’s not a public official. She’s not ever going to be the monarch, although she’s married to someone who will, and is the mother of someone who will, assuming the monarchy lasts that long. And even if she were going to be the monarch someday, what does that mean, in terms of modern expectations of transparency? The main duty of a modern British monarch is to make sure that he or she has no effect on public policy. Any member of Parliament has a greater effect upon the lives of average British subjects. And even if she were going to be the  monarch someday, she’s not the monarch now.

So how does anyone feel they have the right to intrude on her health problems, assuming she’s still having them. What’s at stake to the public?

On the other hand (and this is why I’m still pondering it), the whole reason folks are interested is that this young woman married the heir apparent and has born his children, thereby willingly adopting a huge public role, however we might argue about where the limits of that public interest should lie.

So there’s that question. Another has come up, in my reading of The Boston Globe.

The governor of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, took a four-day trip out of state last month. During that trip, her executive powers constitutionally shifted to the Massachusetts secretary of state.

Despite transparency promises when she ran for the office, she has resolutely refused to share any information about that trip. From the Globe yesterday:

The first-term Democrat told reporters Monday that she intends to share information publicly about her “work-related travel.” But she suggested that even basic details about personal trips, like the one she took in mid-February, will not be disclosed — breaking from her predecessors and further narrowing the scope of what information Healey says she’s willing to make public, and when.

“My personal life is my personal life,” Healey said at the State House on Monday. “I’m going to work to make sure that privacy is maintained for my family.”

At least superficially, this seems creepily familiar to us South Carolinians — but at least she didn’t tell her staff to tell folks she was hiking the Appalachian Trail. And of course there was no wildly oversharing public confession when she returned, for which the people of Massachusetts should be grateful.

So… should she be allowed to make a distinction between private and public when reporting her whereabouts? I’m inclined to say yes, if she draws the line in the right place. Which means, since you don’t know whether she’s done that or not, you have to decide whether you trust her, based on everything else you’ve seen and heard from her.

Of course, you only have a reason to do that if you’re a Massachusetts voter. It’s none of our business down here. Maura Healey has zero obligation to me. But I do find the issue intriguing, in the abstract, from afar…

Open Thread for the Ides of March, 2024 Anno Domini

OK, I’m cheating on this one. As I’m finishing this, it’s now Saturday, but I assembled all the pieces, including the picture, on Friday, and I didn’t want to change the headline, so as I finish it, I’m backdating it to last night:

  1. The Recent Glitch Threatening Voyager 1 — I’m leading with this because of the cosmic significance. Voyager is possibly the most amazing achievement of the space age — a vehicle that was supposed to cruise through part of the solar system for four or five years, but is now in interstellar space and still going, almost half a century later. Alas, it’s developed a problem. The “elderly spacecraft” has apparently developed dementia, and is just sending back babbling nonsense. Hey, I’m sure I’d do the same if somebody made me work nonstop for that long. We should let it rest for awhile. It’s done its job, and won’t reach another solar system for 40,000 years.
  2. Pee-cycling could help to solve Cape Cod’s wastewater problem — Just bringing things down to Earth. I thought it was interesting. And since it’s on NPR, you can read it, or listen to it, for free.
  3. See-Through Baseball Pants Have Fans, and Brands, Pointing Fingers — Last year, it was all the stupid new rules, like the pitching clock (shudder). Now this. Stop messing with baseball. As for unis, go back to the flannel outfits the guys wore back in Black Sox days. Those were cool — although not for the wearer, I suppose… In any case, these are ridiculous.
  4. Joe Biden’s Superfans Think the Rest of America Has Lost Its Mind — And we’re right. About time media paid some attention to the slice of America that has some sense.
  5. The Ides of March — Yeah, I know. I mention this nearly every year. But hey, it was a huge event in history, and this is the — oh, wait. I thought this would be an anniversary ending in a zero, because it happened in 44 B.C. and it’s now 2024. But it doesn’t work that way when you go back to B.C. So never mind that. But I was thinking about what happened — 60 or so senators ganging up to attack Caesar. And I was thinking how we’re lucky to live in a time when that doesn’t happen. But then I realized that today, if you’re a political leader, you have millions of people sniping at you via social media. So, progress. But is it better? Well, at least we don’t have violent mobs taking over our seat of government. No, wait…

Notice how there’s no actual breaking news? Well, there wasn’t. I may write a separate post about that. The only breaking national news Friday was about Fani Willis, and that wasn’t news, it was gossip — or rather, a court ruling that gossip won’t interfere with a prosecution. We have days like that from time to time.

Back when I was the editor in charge of the front page (at the two papers before I came here), that presented a problem. I had to put out a front page everyday, even with nothing happening. Now, I can just decide to do an Open Thread instead of a Virtual Front Page…