Author Archives: Brad Warthen

Open Thread for Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Two weeks ago today, my family surprised me with an impromptu 70th birthday party at Riverfront Park. In my hand is a card containing the tickets to the awesome show mentioned below…

Yeah, I’ve been quiet lately. I’ve been sick for days. Had a negative COVID test, so I guess it’s something else. Still not over it, but I have been following the news…

  1. Biden Plans to Go to Israel as U.S. Pushes Aid Deal for Gaza — My hope and prayers go with him. It’s a horrible situation that promises to keep being horrible. My prayer is that he and his team can do or say something that will make it less horrible. I’m encouraged by both elements in that headline — Joe going there, and the push for humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, I’ve very worried about the signs of a larger conflict — such as incidents out of Lebanon and Jordan involving Hezbollah.
  2. Judge imposes limited gag order on Trump in election case — Not much to say about this, other than to wonder, “Why ‘limited’?”
  3. Republicans near vote on nominee Jim Jordan as House speaker — This reminds me. This morning, Nancy Mace tweeted, “Let’s give the American people what they want: Jim Jordan as Speaker.” My response was, “I’m assuming this is a joke of some kind, but I don’t get it…”
  4. The South Carolina gerrymandering case — I was sort of startled to see a picture of Dick Harpootlian pointing to some projected maps of South Carolina — at the top of an email from The New York Times. That had completely slipped by me several days earlier. I suppose it was played prominently by SC media — here’s a story from The State — but I had missed it. Anyway, there’s no decision yet, but the U.S. Supreme Court is sounding unsympathetic to a lower court’s view that the redistricting plan was “an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.” I hope I don’t miss it when a decision comes…
  5. And now some happy news — I was determined to shake off this cold or whatever on Saturday, because of things I didn’t want to miss. First, I enjoyed participating with members of my family in the Walk for Life early that morning, and then rested all afternoon before going to see Steve Martin and Martin Short at the Township. My kids had given us the tickets for my 70th birthday earlier this month. No, this isn’t news you can use, since the show was just for that night. But when I see somebody do a great job, I want to say something: This wasn’t just a trip down memory lane. These two guys — who could easily have phoned it in for the fans — put on a fantastic show, from start to finish. Both put as much comedic energy into this as back in the days when they unleashed “King Tut” and Ed Grimley upon the world. And they’re both older than I am. I was amazed, and pleased. Oh, and there was a bonus — the Steep Canyon Rangers were there!

Sorry. Nothing to say about Taylor Swift…

Here’s hoping that Jeffrey Collins and the AP don’t mind my posting this. That’s where the NYT got it…

DeMarco: Why I Live in a Small Town

The Op-Ed Page

The Main Street of Marion, S.C., via Google Maps Street View.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Jason Aldean’s song, “Try That in a Small Town” has become yet another cultural battleground. Rather than talk rationally about what makes small-town living satisfying or depressing, each side has set up a caricature for the purpose of slamming it. I’ve read a number of commentaries, most by writers who have either never lived in small towns or have left them with nothing but harsh memories.

Here’s what I know about small towns: I’m glad I live in one. I came to Marion (population approximately 6,300, about 20 miles east of Florence) because I was obliged to; the state paid my medical tuition for three years of service in a health workforce shortage area. But I stayed because I wished to.

Jason Aldean via Wikipedia.

I realize this gives me a uniquely optimistic vantage of my small town. I came as a new doctor into a community that needed one. I was welcomed when I arrived, and have, for the most part, felt welcome here.

I think we can agree that small towns and big cities have their own particular attractions. If you want an easy commute, come to Marion, where mine is traffic-free and downright therapeutic, offering back roads where deer, ducks, herons, and bald eagles are not uncommon. If, on the other hand, you frequently crave late-night home delivery of premium-grade sushi, Marion will disappoint.

Most of the furor over the song derives from its ability to slide easily into each side’s narrative. For liberals, the song is a Lost Cause anthem. The fact that Aldean is a conservative who has not made a secret of his support for Donald Trump has fueled that assessment.

For conservatives, CMT’s pulling of the video is a perfect example of “wokeness” and cancel culture. The left, they would argue, is running out of actual examples of racism, so they invent them.

What some dislike, including myself, is the misplaced bravado in the song, the Hestonian “out of my cold, dead hands” vibe. But I think we need to give Aldean the same poetic license that we give hip-hop artists, who often purposely provoke with their lyrics (and then are rightly criticized). My other criticism would be that while the video shows people of all colors behaving badly, there are no black or brown people in the scenes showing the richness of small-town life.

Aldean is expressing an attitude more than a threat. He’s not planning to murder you if you cause trouble in his town, as some pearl-clutching liberals would have you believe. He’s pointing to a legitimate difference between small towns, not only in the South but in any region of the country, and larger cities.

Paul sent this view of Main Street, taken from almost the same vantage point as the one above.

Aldean’s song is built upon this truth: the structure of a small town makes it impervious to riots and mass violence. Almost everyone who lives in Marion has some connection to Main Street. We shop there regularly and know or are related to the business owners and employees, both black and white (Marion’s population is 70% African-American). We’ve watched them struggle and mostly survive the pandemic. It would be inconceivable for Marion’s citizens to burn down Main Street in protest of anything. Our connections to one another would douse our anger. It’s hard to throw a rock through a window when you know who is on the other side

Aldean’s song asks us to imagine what might have been accomplished if the George Floyd protests had been completely peaceful. BLM’s strength as a voice for the black community would have been immeasurably enhanced. In the aftermath of a year of well-organized, nonviolent marches against racial injustice, those who supported the January 6th Capitol riot would have had no cover. But instead, they have been able to successfully point to the lives lost and the billions in damage caused in the BLM protests as a defense, arguing that violence is an inevitable and necessary part of advocating for societal change.

The South will be forever stained by our history of racial hatred. Small towns in the South, were, and can still be, oppressive and racist. But my sense is that in 2023, the racial barriers that remain in this country do not vary significantly by zip code.

Small towns are, in some ways, better than they have ever been. Although many are poorer than they once were, they have never been more inclusive. My neighborhood, once completely white, is browning. I now have a retired black woman as my neighbor who has become a good friend for my wife and me. Many small towns are redefining their identities after the offshoring of their major manufacturing plants. I would counsel any young person, particularly an entrepreneur, to consider small town life. The internet has done much to ameliorate the isolation of rural places, and has given rural-based businesses a way forward.

So y’all come and visit. If, like me, you end up staying, you will be glad you did.

A version of this column appeared in the Sept. 1h edition of The Post and Courier, Pee Dee.

A Lyric Just in Time

I had a fun little exchange on Twitter with a friend a couple of weeks back, when he posted this quote:

Hey, it’s always fun when people start quoting Elvis Costello. For me, anyway.

So I listened to the song several times, and got to thinking about how that one line is more than just fun:

He stands to be insulted and he pays for the privilege

You know how I frequently make the point that it’s harder and harder to get the kind of people who ought to run for elective office to run anymore? Reading those books from the late 19th century lately has driven home the point so much more painfully. Why do we almost never see the likes of Teddy Roosevelt or James Garfield — or, to reach higher, Abraham Lincoln — step forward any more? Or for that matter, the extraordinary men who served under them, in key positions — John Hay, Elihu Root, Henry Cabot Lodge?

Well, I know why — because of 24/7 TV “news,” and more recently and intensely, social media. Things that climb all over you and mobs that can’t wait to cancel you for the most trivial things. Consequently, instead of people who set brilliant careers aside to give back to the country by sitting down with other serious people and working out the country’s real problems, you get people who don’t give a damn about any of that. They don’t want to work out problems with anybody. They just want to posture for their respective bases.

And to gain the “privilege” of doing this, they spend every moment between elections raising the money to pay for it.

I even felt a moment of gratitude today when I heard the House GOP had gone behind closed doors to nominate a new speaker. No strutting or posturing for the mob. And they came out with Scalise, which I think is better, or at least not as horrible, as the alternative. Which isn’t much to celebrate, of course.

Anyway, Elvis said it better than I have:

He stands to be insulted and he pays for the privilege…

I’ll close with the video:

Open Thread for Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Trying to get back into the swing here, while we’re all riveted by Israel’s situation:

  1. IsraelA unity government is formed, which is a good thing, and a continuation of the positive developments I wrote about last night. Meanwhile, photos and videos are emerging documenting the Hamas invaders’ atrocities — in case you needed such confirmation.
  2. Ukraine — Oh, and just so you know: The other war hasn’t gone away. Zelensky made a surprise visit to NATO headquarters today, as top defense officials representing members of the military alliance gathered to consider how many more weapons — and for how much longer — the West can give Ukraine in its war against Russia. I’m glad he went. And so far the news is good: Britain and Germany announced large packages of additional military assistance to Ukraine hours before the two days of meetings began.
  3. Speaker — The House GOP caucus backs Scalise. So we’ll see. A relatively positive development in an idiotic situation. But I just keep thinking, can you believe we’re still screwing around with this nonsense with what’s going on in the world.
  4. Tim ScottGeorge Will has a column saying Scott should drop out in favor of Nikki, who’s been gaining ground, and it’s a great point. It is desperately important to give anti-Trump Republicans someone to rally around. But now Scott is stepping up to say other things that need to be said, such as “I will always condemn antisemitism, appeasement and weakness on the radical left, but I will also call out weakness or confusion among conservatives as well.” So good for him. But this field needs sorting out, so that Trump can be stopped.
  5. Crypto — Speaking of nonsense… In case you’re following the… what’s that guy’s name?… Sam Bankman-Fried foolishness, I was drawn to this headline this morning: “Crypto was never more than a solution in search of a problem.” Yeah, that’s one way of putting it. In retweeting that, I said, “Crypto was the siren that called to people who didn’t understand what money was…” My impression is, if you could fall for this, you might also go for magic beans…
  6. Braves — But if you’d like a moment’s break from all the madness, watch the third game of the Eastern National League Division Series tonight. Did you see the Monday night game? Now that’s what I call some baseball — although when it’s all over, someone needs to give Harper some base-running lessons. I definitely want the Braves to win this, but under other circumstances (say, when they’re up against the Astros), I’m likely to cheer for the Phillies as well.


I stand with Israel

Why haven’t I posted in several days? Well, I’ve had a bunch of ideas, but they were all pretty lightweight, compared to what was happening in Israel. Pretty much everything we talk about in the political sphere seems pretty trivial… compared, again, to what’s happening in Israel.

So I’ve been reading, and listening. (As you know, I listen to a lot of podcasts and other items in audio form these days, mostly via NPR One and NYT Audio.) And I’ve been trying to decide what to say.

But with something this huge, there’s an awful lot to sort out. Only two things seem to be clear:

First, I know that from the moment the headline of this post is published, many friends on the left (not all, but many) will leap to correct me. They will shake their fingers and their heads at my simplistic failure to perceive the terrible injustices visited upon the Palestinian people. They don’t understand that I have heard, and I have perceived, and I have cared, and I have sympathized — over and over and over since the 1970s, and really since the Six-Day War, which happened when I was 13. Before that, you would have been on point to say that I really wasn’t aware. I remember thinking in 1967, “What is this ‘Mideast’ I keep hearing about?”

If you’ll allow me this small digression, probably the most eloquent evocation of the Palestinian cause I’ve ever encountered was in John le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl. If you haven’t read that, you should — or at least see the 1984 film, or the 2018 TV series, both of which are excellent. The novel came out in 1983. I was pretty deeply impressed at the way le Carre’s Israeli intelligence officers recruited a young woman who had hung around the edges of the Palestinian movement to be their agent, to infiltrate a terrorist bomber’s cell. They wanted her passion for the cause. They wanted her to be believable to supremely suspicious people. They fed her indignation toward Israel. Of course, in the end she laid her life on the line to accomplish the Mossad mission, because she wasn’t too far gone to understand that no cause could justify what this bomber was doing.

Which brings me back to the first clear point I wanted to make: No grievance, no bitterness, no cause in the world justifies what Hamas did on Saturday morning.

The second point that is clear: Israel, so long distracted by its own stupid internal squabbles, must act to make its country and its people safer. It won’t be easy. They’re up against an enemy that will do anything and everything possible (if you don’t believe it, see what they did on Saturday) to make Israel come out of this in an even worse situation that it is in now — starting with executing the innocent men, women, children and babies they took as hostages.

The Washington Post summarized the situation, and the difficulty of it, fairly well in an editorial I read this morning:

That is much easier said than done, of course. Israel has a right to defend itself, which, in this context, also means a right to take the fight to Hamas in Gaza, as the United States had a right to go after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Support, solidarity and sympathy for Israel and its people, and condemnation of Hamas, expressed by everyone from President Biden to the European Union to the United Arab Emirates to Bono, U2’s frontman and international humanitarian activist, could be the Jewish state’s greatest assets. The Israel Defense Forces, embarrassed at being taken by surprise, has an opportunity not only to regain the military advantage but also — in limiting collateral damage — to demonstrate the moral difference between a terrorist group such as Hamas and a professional army…

Yes, that’s what we have here — a fight between a state of great military might that must deal with an enemy that is geographically intertwined with its own population, and do it while limiting collateral damage. Those last three words are in no way a handicap to the enemy, of course. As in so many attacks over these decades, on Saturday the innocent were the targets, and in no way collateral.

And that fact is as clarifying as anything. Israel must make it stunningly clear that Hamas has not gained from what it has done, and will see doing it again as madness. And yet still be the good guys. Which is very tough in the best of circumstances, against such an enemy.

If there is an upside to all this, it is that Israel’s internal turmoil seems to be on hold. Many members of the IDF and security services had increasingly and rightly signaled a diminishing willingness to serve a country that followed a leader who was determined to undermine liberal democracy. But they’ve come unquestioningly to their duty at this moment. This should shame the leader, and others, who have tried to pull the country down from within.

But that’s for later, as are the inevitable questions about how Israeli security failed to prevent this attack. There’s a bigger, and more urgent, matter before everyone now.

I’m going to stop now, and in the coming days I’ll probably post about more trivial things. So I’ll come back to my initial, simple point, which I expressed in a retweet of something Beth Bernstein tweeted:

The latest in a long series of idiotic things to happen in the United States House of Representatives

I don’t have a lot to say about Kevin McCarthy losing his position as speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Or at least, nothing coherent. How can one say anything coherent about any event that features the following?

  • According to Florida Man, a.k.a. Matt Gaetz — you remember him — McCarthy had to go because he joined with Democrats to keep the government running. So what did Gaetz do about it? He joined with Democrats to bring down McCarthy. Have I got this right? I hope to learn that I don’t… (I already said this on Twitter, and Bryan said, “That’s about the size of it. However, it seems his plan did not have a ‘Step Two’.”)
  • Note the part of that last bullet, where I said “joined with Democrats to keep the government running.” Which is sort of what the overwhelming majority of both parties would tell you was not only a good thing, but kind of the lowest-bar description of what McCarthy’s job was.
  • I listened to a long explanation on the NYT’s Daily (or maybe it was the NYT’s Headlines podcast; I heard them both back to back) of why the Democrats didn’t decide to save McCarthy’s job. My attention may have wandered, because I don’t remember hearing the most obvious one: He told the Yahoo Caucus they could go ahead and try to impeach Joe Biden, although we have yet to hear any sort of basis for such a proceeding.
  • Continuing on that last item… If you’ll recall — or at least, this is what I heard people saying at the time — McCarthy didn’t launch an impeachment investigation because he’s crazy (although he may very well be, since he actually wanted this job, badly.) He did it to mollify the Yahoo Caucus ahead of the budget talks. It was, as I understood it, a way of dangling a slimy new toy in front of them to distract them while he made like Mommy and Daddy and worked with other grownups to keep the government running.
  • Wait, still on that impeachment thing… So, now that McCarthy is out, and the government has for the moment been saved from shutting down, the silly impeachment game has been shut down, and all its participants urged to go find something useful to do with their time — right? Wrong. At least, I haven’t heard that. But this has never happened before, so I suppose anything can happen at this point, as long as it’s not something that makes sense.
  • Nancy Mace was one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy. Did she do it because she’s one of the eight biggest yahoos in that body? Or did she do it because she’s secretly a Democrat? No on both, I think. The only explanation I’ve seen of her behavior was unclear, and seemingly based on some personal beef.
  • One more thing, and then I’m going to take a nap: That unforgivable deal of McCarthy’s to keep the government operating only lasts until the middle of next month. Meanwhile, I don’t think Patrick “Give me McLiberty or give me McDeath” McHenry can do anything about making a new deal. So…

That’s all for now…

Now, Sherrod is siccing President Bartlet on me!

No doubt this will happen next: He’ll call me into the Oval Office, and I’ll look like this. But with hair…

This is a follow-up, perhaps a sort of caveat, to my previous post. It shows you what happens when you start caring, even a little bit, about congressional contests in other places.

Some time ago, still enjoying the new experience of making (tiny) contributions to political campaigns (which followed close on my new practice of posting signs in my yard — another thing I couldn’t do as a newspaperman), I carelessly contributed five dollars to Mark Kelly.

Call it a foreshadowing of my abandonment of the long-held principle of not caring about, much less meddling in, other people’s business. Although I wasn’t there yet. This was different. It was the special election to replace my hero John McCain, and Kelly was both a retired Navy captain (like McCain, and like my Dad) and an astronaut. I couldn’t give to my other hero John Glenn, so this was the next best thing. Godspeed, Mark Kelly, and all that.

Why five dollars? Because that’s all he asked for. Of course, I knew this was a come-on from his fund-raisers, and it would lead to lots of pleas for much more money, but I did it anyway.

And he won. No doubt my half a sawbuck played a big role in the victory.

And of course, the pleas came. And as usual, I ignored them. But then one day, he (or rather, ActBlue, his fundraiser) came up with a neat gimmick. They asked me to give $5 again, and simultaneously give another fiver to Sherrod Brown in Ohio. I had a vaguely positive impression of Brown, and I thought it was a mildly interesting pitch, and I guess I was feeling flush that day, so I did it.

The result was predictable, but Sherrod (I hear from him so often, we’re on a first-name basis) turned out to be the most extremely persistent political panhandler I’d ever encountered, putting Capt. Kelly in the shade, and then some.

Of course I got the usual emails, but his main oeuvre is the phone text. I frequently get three texts a day from him. I’ve never seen anything like it. And yes, I know I could turn off the flow, but I find it an interesting phenomenon to observe. Not that I intend to give him any more money.

I keep expecting him (or ActBlue) to realize that and move me off the list, but instead, he’s stepped it up, bringing out the big guns. And I mean big.

Now — apparently having learned that I’m a sort of South Carolina Toby Ziegler — he has sicced President Bartlet himself on me! In the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten two texts like this:

Hi, Brad, it’s Martin Sheen. You might not know this about me, but I was born & raised in Dayton, Ohio, and am the seventh of 10 kids born to two immigrant parents in search of the American dream.

I deeply admire Sherrod Brown because he has always fought for Ohio families like mine – he makes me proud to be a Buckeye.

But Sherrod is facing his toughest reelection yet against multiple self-funding GOP challengers who are ready to spend millions of dollars attacking him. He needs our help to win. So please, will you join me & chip in $15 or more today so that Sherrod can keep fighting for us in the Senate?

Thank you,

Martin Sheen

He even threw in a little video:

What am I gonna do now? Has he finally found the button that will cause me to cough up a tiny bit more cash?

It serves me right, for meddling in other people’s campaigns. I’ve been rewatching “The Wire” in recent days, and I know what Bunk would tell me: “There you go, giving a flip when it ain’t your turn to give a flip.”

That’s the cleaned-up version of the original, of course….

P.S. — Why a P.S.? Because there seems to be no button on this post for leaving a comment. I’ll figure that out later. Now, I just want to say COOL YOUR JETS, SHERROD! First, I get an email from him saying he’s “statistically tied” and “This can’t wait, Brad…” Then I get a text from him that says Urgent, in boldface, twice. WITH THE ELECTION A YEAR AWAY! These were both today, Oct. 31. Oh, and my phone dinged while I was typing this. Mark Kelly, this time…

OK, these people should no longer hold office

EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote the first 600 words or so of this a week ago, and ever since then, I’ve been totally absorbed with other things — first, a project I needed to complete for ADCO, and then, a very fun trip my wife and I took to Asheville. We got back late yesterday. Of course, it’s still timely, so I thought I’d add an ending to it and post.

I know some of y’all think I’m a really stubborn, arrogant guy who never changes his mind. Not so.

Here’s an example, from yesterday:

Y’all may be familiar with my views on worrying about who holds what congressional seat in a district somewhere else in the country. I don’t approve of it. I think I initially decided this in connection with the fact that folks where I lived — either when I lived here, or in Tennessee or Kansas — would run off at the mouth about how they hated, say, Ted Kennedy. I decided that it was none of their business whom the people of Massachusetts chose to elect to represent them in the Senate.

And you can’t say that without also believing that it was none of other people’s business whether South Carolinians wanted to keep re-electing Strom Thurmond. The whole point of representative democracy is that people in each state — who may have different sets of values — get to elect whomever they want.

Therefore I’ve always harrumphed at people trying elect the people they want in other people’s states and/or districts.

And I still see it that way. But I had just really had it with the yahoos in question. Y’all know how much I despise these stupid, repeated fights over the budget in which nihilists who hate our country threaten to shut down the government, or actually do it, simply because they can. And the Garland thing was so deeply offensive to anyone who values this country or believes in the most basic demands of civility. And while I haven’t taken the roll and compared all the names, it’s basically the same sort of people.

But however much it irritates me, I don’t change policies for personal reasons. I came to this fork in that road (and took it, as Yogi would say) because this country can’t continue to function with these people in these positions. We’re just sinking lower and lower, and our liberal democracy is ceasing to function to such an extent, that these people who live to destroy can’t be in these positions any more.

They just can’t. This is not about party (and usually in the past, people were concerned about who won contests elsewhere because they wanted their party to control Congress). And it’s not about ideology, in any conventional sense. Traditionally, ideology’s role in politics was to drive debates between people who all wanted the good of the country, but disagreed over how that might be obtained.

But in the last few years — mainly since the Republican Party ceased to be the Republican Party in 2016 (it had been creeping that way for several years, but 2016 was the final explosion) — we’ve seen the emergence of a new sort of creature, slouching towards Washington. At this point, one of my more cynical friends will offer a list of people from history who ran for office because they were out for themselves. Certainly. And we still see such people. Currently, this Menendez guy is charged with being one.

But this is different. I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the cheap Trumpist hustlers of the House are people who are in office because they represent any sort of consensus of views in the places where they come from. I mean, I know that Westerners aren’t nearly as refined as us East Coast types (ahem), but I don’t think Lauren Boebert is in any way a fair representative of…

SECOND EDITOR’S NOTE: The rest is what I added this evening, in order to finish this.

… Colorado. I mean, that’s where John Denver hung out, and he was a pretty normal and pleasant guy, for the most part. Just an ol’ country boy.

And why do people who are not normal or representative get elected? Well, when you’re talking about the House — and we are here — the problem, as I’ve said again and again, is gerrymandering. Both parties have worked hard to draw themselves as many safe districts as possible since 1990, and the Republicans have been way more crafty at it than Democrats (although not everywhere, but I’ve never lived in New York).

Crafty, but not very smart on an individual basis. In 1990, you were dealing with fairly normal, garden-variety Republicans. It was before Newt Gingrich, before Club for Growth types such as Mark Sanford, before the Tea Party, and before You Know Who.

But over the next few decades, those “safe” seats elected “Republicans,” alright, but not the kind that Robert A. Taft would recognize. And the center-right folks found themselves getting knocked out of office in their own primaries by extreme yahoos who didn’t have to appeal to a majority of people in the district — just to a majority of the small minority that turned out for party primaries. And sometimes, the yahoos themselves got tossed out by more extreme yahoos.

And so we got to where we are now.

Now I’m not saying we need to round these people up on buses and drive them out of the country, as poetic as that might be.

I prefer to start reversing the process. Serious redistricting reform, combined with something like ranked-choice voting, and (my fave) the universal primary — in which everyone seeking an office runs in one primary, regardless of party, and the top two go on to the general.

That wouldn’t fix things immediately, but it would be the most lasting solution.

However we do it, though, these folks have got to go. I’m not particular as to where they go, as long as they’re no longer running our country. Send them to a resort, if you want…

FINAL EDITOR’S NOTE: Yeah, I saw Congress reached a deal to keep the government operating… for 45 days. Call me crazy, but I really, truly believe we’re going to need it to keep going somewhat longer…

McCarthy is SO proud he led the House to keep the country going for a few more days. Are you proud, too?

Asa Hutchinson in Columbia today

This afternoon, the Post & Courier held one of its Pints & Politics events at J’s Corner Restaurant & Bar (where Jaco’s used to be). It was sponsored by AARP.

It was the first one of these I’ve attended. I went because the guest was Asa Hutchinson, and I’d been wanting to hear him speak since reading a favorable column about him in The Boston Globe, after he had met with that editorial board recently. The headline was “New Hampshire, please consider Asa Hutchinson.”

I don’t live in New Hampshire, but I’ve considered him now, based on little beyond that column and hearing him this evening. So I’m just getting started, but I will say that he is now my favorite Republican candidate for president. Which, of course, isn’t saying much, but if Chris Christie wants to recapture the top spot on my Top Five Least Awful Republican Candidates list, he’s going to have to do a lot better.

Of course, you know Joe Biden’s my guy, and nobody else comes close. But Hutchinson is the least objectionable Republican, and that’s important to me. I keep dreaming of having another No Lose election like 2008, when I would have been happy to see either McCain or Obama in office. (I can dream, can’t I?) That involves, and the very least, having someone unobjectionable run against Joe.

And I must say I kind of actually like Hutchinson. I have a few objections to him, but the thing is, he seems to be a real Republican, a normal human being who isn’t out to destroy America. He talks about his admiration for Nixon and Reagan — neither of whom is a fave of mine, but I’d give a lot to have either of them before You Know Who, or any of his many imitators.

So I’ll be watching. In the meantime, I shot a few random minutes of video near the start of his conversation with Schuyler Kropf and Caitlin Byrd, and you see it above. Caitlin asked him for his “stump speech,” but they either got off-track on that, or he has the shortest stump speech I’ve ever heard.

Beyond that, a few points from the few notes I took:

  • When I mentioned that I had objections, that mostly came from when Caitlin asked him to rattle off in 30 seconds what he would do first if elected. He immediately mentioned some please-the-base stuff, starting with immigration. Of course, maybe she should have allowed him more than 30 seconds, so he could branch out more. Whatever, that was the low point.
  • One of the best things was that while he wasn’t shouting “I’m a Never Trumper!,” it’s fairly clear he comes pretty close, saying things like “Is that who we want to lead our country into the future?” He sees his mission as making the case that we need to go in another direction. As for the multiple indictments, he was very mildly critical of the case against Trump in Georgia, but that’s mainly because, as a former U.S. attorney himself, he thought Georgia should have sat back and let the federal indictments run their course.
  • Another fave moment for me — possibly because I’m still plodding through, but enjoying, Theodore Rex (I just moments ago finished reading about the Perdicaris affair in 1904, which “The Wind and the Lion” was very roughly based on) — was when Caitlin asked him to name his favorite president who was not named Reagan. He picked TR without having to think too hard. So bully for him!
  • Asked about Mitt Romney’s retirement and his copout comment about stepping aside for the “next generation,” Hutchinson — who is three years older than I am — had pretty much the same reaction I did. I didn’t get the whole quote, but he has the same impression of the GOP’s “next generation” that I do. He specifically mentioned Matt Gaetz, so….
  • I could have used a lot more talk about world affairs, beyond his discussion of drug trafficking from south of the border (based on his having headed the DEA — yeah, this is a guy with actual experience in federal government) and some generally positive statements about Ukraine. That is, that he’s for “standing with freedom against oppression.”
  • When Schuyler asked him what non-religious book he had on his bedside table, he said on this trip he’d been reading Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech. Not exactly a book, I guess, but much better reading than anything certain other people have ever tackled.
  • Being in South Carolina, he said some nice things about Nikki Haley. A bit too nice, I thought, when he praised her international experience.
  • On the other hand, I liked what he said about Henry. As you may know, Hutchinson got his bachelor’s degree from Bob Jones University. (Asked why, he said his pastor back in Arkansas had recommended it.) Then, he had intended to get his Juris Doctor from USC Law School, but ended up at the University of Arkansas School of Law. He speculates that had he stayed here, he would be governor of South Carolina, not Henry. I mean, he was just joking around, but it struck me as a fairly pleasant idea.
  • And while I don’t want to completely destroy his already-slim chances, he even sounded a bit like a Democrat a couple of times, for what it’s worth. For instance, he said some folks want to raise the age for receiving Social Security, but he thinks “how about the construction worker,” whose strength is not likely to hold up until 70? Bottom line is, he sounded overall like a center-right pol, from in the non-crazy days when the two parties weren’t all that far apart. In other words, he’s a Republican. And with Mitt Romney, John McCain and Lamar Alexander out of the picture (and Lindsey Graham now living on the far side of Alice’s Looking Glass), that makes him rare.

That’s it for now. I’ll be watching this guy as things progress.

Top Five Gripes About Apple

Years ago, I had no liking for Apple Inc.

I didn’t hate it or anything. I just wasn’t interested. I was a PC guy, and had been since 1991, and therefore had little reason to interact with the opposition. (I had a Mac in the office that I had to use to access the newspaper’s photo archives, because the photo department worked in that universe, but I didn’t like using it at all.)

But then, in (I think) the spring of 2011, I replaced my Blackberry with an iPhone. And I loved it. About a year later, I got an iPad — and if anything, I loved it more.

I still don’t have much use for Macs. They’re very solidly made — PCs feel structurally chintzy by comparison — but some very key functions that I perform without conscious thought on a PC (and have for more than 30 years) don’t work the same way, which slows me down. Also, some of the keys are in a slightly different place, leading to lots of errors. And the errors are hard to quickly fix, because the backspace key is positioned slightly differently.

Never mind that. I love my iPhone and my iPad, and have since the start. What I truly hate is the way Apple keeps changing them, apparently in the grossly mistaken belief that it is improving them.

And sometimes you do get actual improvements — greater speed and storage capacity, a better camera, sharper resolution, etc.

But other times Apple goes out of its way to take away good things, things that make life easier. And I hate that.

Here are the five worst, in terms of lost function on these products. Now, I’ll acknowledge that some of these losses were not inflicted by Apple. Maybe — and with No. 4 on the list, that seems a strong possibility — somebody else did it. And if y’all holler out, “That’s not Apple’s fault, ya eejit! You need to make this or that adjustment in the settings!,” I will be grateful. Here they are:

  1. Taking away the Home button. This was definitely and purely Apple’s fault, and it is by far the greatest sin on my list. And I have not been able to find a good reason for it. Oh, I’ve read about the business of removing a (theoretical, since I’ve never run across it with my four iPhones) mechanical vulnerability. But I suspect it was really about aesthetics, and that really ticks me off. If I want a bigger screen, I’ll use my iPad — which, incidentally, has a home button. Anyway, this is why I use an SE2, and if I replace it, I’ll get an SE3.
  2. Taking away the headphone jack. OK, we just dropped way down in importance. While I consider removing the home button a major offense, this one’s more of a misdemeanor — if that. Usually, it’s OK. Except when the only earbuds I can find is the old kind, and the tiny adaptor has gone missing. Or I don’t have earbuds, and want to use the free ones provided by the airline. Or — and here’s the semi-biggie — I badly need to recharge, but I want to use my earbuds at the same time. That’s one’s kind of moot, now that all sound from my phone goes to my hearing aids via Bluetooth. But it was a problem, and I suppose still is for people with normal hearing. And no, I would not consider investing in Airpods. Without a cord, they’re too easy to lose.
  3. Taking away the “find on page” function. OK, this one has really been ticking me off, because this was a huge part of the way I used my iPhone and iPad. I call up, say, a Wikipedia page that’s a couple of thousand words long, and I use the search function to go straight to what I’m trying to find out. But now, for a couple of months, I’ve had to wait until I’m at my PC to do this. At this point, I would cry out in rage, except, well… NEVER MIND… I finally found out, by searching Google one more time, that they just moved that function from the “share” button to the three dots in the corner. I still think that after this change, they should have prevented my phone from working until I had read a clear notice telling me this, but I’m satisfied. Let’s move on…
  4. Stopping me from tweeting straight from various apps. OK, I strongly suspect the real culprit here is Elon Musk. But since this is only a problem on my Apple devices, it made the list. And when you read as many different publications as I do each day, and tweet frequently, it’s a pain. After writing the tweet on the publication’s app, I get a notice that it has failed to post, and have to go to the Twitter app, call up “drafts,” and tweet it from there. And this, to me, sounds like a Musk thing.
  5. Constantly changing the freaking hardware. Have you heard about this?

Of course it we had an Apple Store in this town (a gripe that didn’t quite fit on this list), I could have taken my phone to the Genius Bar first, and wouldn’t have written this post. Because before posting, I made one more effort to find a workaround for some of these things, and I found one for restoring the home button. Sort of. And without my rage over that one, I wouldn’t have started on this tirade.

But here’s the thing — why should I have to find tricky workarounds for things that worked beautifully, simply, obviously and intuitively?

OK, enough. Bottom line, Apple makes some pretty great products. In fact, I almost had to go with only four things instead of five, because I had trouble thinking of the fifth. And in truth, this is not really a Top Five Gripes. It’s more like Five Gripes. But the feature is called “Top Five Lists,” and you wouldn’t want me to mess with the Hornby rules, would you?





All hail the Flashback quiz! Again!

As I said previously

I only have one beef about it… they’re supposed to be sending me emails to let me know when it comes out, and this week they didn’t. I had to think of it, and go hunt it down.

And then, I slew it!

I confess I have not thoroughly slain it every week since I discovered it. A couple of times there have been two events that I knew happened in something B.C., and I failed to get them in the right order. And this time, I might easily have gotten confused about which of these came first — Althea Gibson winning the U.S. Open, and Ike visiting India — but I didn’t. So there.

I was particularly glad to find it because Slate has made its weekly quiz less accessible. Today I couldn’t even find it. Other days they wanted me to pay for Slate, which I’m not going to do. I pay for too many things already.

Speaking of paying — I hope you try this, because I want to find out whether you have to access to do so. I don’t know what is allowed to nonsubscribers. I hope you can, and that you have fun with it.

Now that I’ve thoroughly boasted and bragged and otherwise enjoyed this one, I’ll sit in dread for the other weekly NYT quiz, which comes out on Fridays, and pretty much always defeats me…

Hey, UAW and Big Three — how about us consumers?

Yep, these are USED. Note that I blocked out the dealer’s name, because it would be unfair to suggest this dealer is the problem. These are quite typical.

You know — the hundreds of millions of people who will be affected by what y’all come up with…

I’m being a little facetious here, but it’s in service of a larger point. So bear with me. Let’s start with the news. And in keeping with my new resolution to link, as often as possible, to things you don’t have to subscription to read or hear, I’ll refer you to NPR:

With less than 24 hours left before current strikes expire, the United Auto Workers’ union and the Detroit Big 3 automakers have not yet reached a deal.

The companies say it’s still possible to work out a viable compromise before 11:59 p.m. on Thursday. The union, meanwhile, has started laying out its strike plan – an unusual one, at that….

Follow the link for the rest.

I’ve been watching this in recent days, while I’ve also been doing something else. My youngest daughter has just moved home from Dominica, and started a new job a week ago. She’s been driving to work in our 1998 Volvo, which, let’s say, is not in what you’d call tip-top condition. So she’s been trying to buy a decent, reliable used vehicle that she can afford. And I’ve been trying — so far unsuccessfully — to help her, which is what made me think to post this about these labor negotiations:

OK, I was kidding there — a little. I’m not asking that the interests of the companies and the workers — be subordinated to Brad’s interests. Anyway, no matter what they do, I expect decent used cars will continue to cost more than I paid the last time I bought a new car. (After all, I’ve only bought used ones since 1986.)

But I was thinking that there’s ONE way for the union and the companies to get everything they want — to jack up prices even further, and by a LOT. And I was thinking there are a LOT more consumers who would be paying for that than there are auto workers or corporate executives combined.

Consider this just another blow struck for thinking about issues in something other than binary, one-and-zeroes terms.

As for the two parties we’re all focusing on… For my part, I’d like to see both sides get what they want, to the extent possible. This country needs a thriving auto industry, and the workers deserve a square deal.

What we don’t need, in my view, is CEO’s making $29 million a year. Nor do we need workers to continue to be paid, for decades, to show up at a plant that’s been shut down, and sit around playing checkers. This is called a “jobs bank,” and after wisely giving them up to keep the industry in business the UAW has recently talked about wanting this arrangement back.

Maybe somewhere in there, y’all can find a way to get what you both actually deserve, and maybe give the rest of us a break, too. Or at least not make the price situation worse.

Anyway, good luck with your confrontation, folks. Here’s hoping that after all the rhetoric and posturing — and probably suffering before it’s all over — you work out something fair to all…

Open Thread for Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The thing that happened in Portugal…

Just a few quick ones here:

  1. An inside account of devastation and survival in the Libya floods — Talk about the last thing you expect in a place like that. It has to feel, to survivors, like the end of the world.
  2. Tim Scott’s girlfriend — An interesting topic, interestingly presented. Sorry that you have to subscribe to The Washington Post to read it, but if it makes you feel better, the story — while interesting — doesn’t tell you much about her. I just mention it to say, it’s fine with me for Sen. Scott to be private about private matters. Any beefs I have with him have to do with other things.
  3. Earth ‘well outside safe operating space for humanity’, scientists find — Just a heads-up. If you’re friends with Ford Prefect, you might want to go find him and get him to activate his Electronic Thumb.
  4. Cascades of red wine flood a city’s streets in Portugal after huge tanks rupture — I don’t enjoy wine as much as I used to, but if there’s ever going to be a flood like this of beer in Bavaria, I want to know ahead of time.
  5. Romney to Retire, Calling for a ‘New Generation’ — Ah, but here’s the problem: Where’s this new generation coming from? In his party, the “new generation” is Matt Gaetz, George Santos and Marjorie Taylor Greene. So basically, the country needs Romney over on his side, and Joe Biden on the other, to stick around as long as possible, until a few more grownups emerge to run things.
  6. Is math real? And other existential questions — You might want to give this a listen. It’s pretty interesting. And since it’s NPR, it’s free — unlike those NYT podcasts I keep talking about.
  7. The dumbest day in Congress in 2023 was building for a while — In case you can’t tell, this is about something Speaker McCarthy did in Washington yesterday. Bottom line is, don’t expect rational behavior from a guy whose tenure depends upon placating lunatics.  That’s from the Globe; I just liked the headline. Here’s something you might find it easier to read, although it’s more vanilla.

Yeah, I know — not very satisfying. I just wanted to give y’all something. I’ll try to be more thoughtful tomorrow…


I’d mention 9/11 today, but I don’t want to show my age

Hey, remember when this old movie came out? It was the same year the Iraq War started — and yet it was in COLOR!

Yes, you are meant to laugh at that headline. I certainly did, at the thing that made me write it.

I’m not used to laughing right out loud while walking down a quiet street, but this time I did.

Speaking again of NYT podcasts, I’m also fond of Ezra Klein’s programs, and had fallen behind on them. So while walking in the neighborhood a couple of days ago, I listened to this one from Aug. 15: “This Conservative Thinks America’s Institutions ‘Earned’ the G.O.P.’s Distrust.”

It was pretty good, and most of it wasn’t funny. But part of it was.

Remember my recent post about the accelerating acceleration of our sense of time as we grow older? I was trying at that time to remember some examples of the absurd (to me, and what other perspective do I have?) things I hear young people say. I wish I’d had this one to mention.

Ezra was out, and his substitute was Jane Coaston, who is currently the host of a podcast I used to listen to, “The Argument.” And she did fine, until she got to the point of saying something about recent current events.

What she said began with, “I’m old enough to recall the events that led up to the Iraq War…”

I didn’t just laugh out loud when that came through my hearing aids (which Bluetooth allows me to use like earbuds), it was a kind of sharp, piercing sound that carries. I stopped immediately, and glanced about to see if I had any neighbors standing stock-still out in their yards, staring at the demented hyena.

Fortunately, I did not.

When I was listening, I didn’t realize who the substitute interviewer was. When I looked back at the transcript just now to see, I thought I would check out Jane Coaston’s LInkedIn page, and while I don’t know her age, she received her bachelor’s degree in the same year that my newspaper career ended after 35 years. (For the sake of you young folks, that was about four years after I started this blog.)

So the difference in time perception is perfectly understandable. And as I say, she did a fine job overall. But she would have done better not to have expressed the reference to her memory quite that way. Usually people use that rhetorical construction when they mean, “I remember back this far, so you should trust my experience and wisdom.” But what she communicated was, This kid is so young she thinks that was a long time ago…

Anyway, if anyone wants to offer memories of 9/11 today, you could do it here. But beware — if you have personal memories of it, that might make you even older than Jane, and folks may start offering to help you cross the street….

Yes, this is what governors should do

I’ve mentioned before, I think, that one of a number of reasons I enjoy reading The Boston Globe is that it tells stories about serious people dealing with real issues in ways I don’t find morally and intellectually offensive and painful to read.

I saw that in the lede story in the paper a couple of days back, headlined, “Healey tells Biden administration Mass. has ‘desperate need’ for faster work authorizations for migrants.” That was the online headline. As you can see above the print version was shorter — print headlines require greater discipline. There are no space constraints to speak of on a web page.

An excerpt:

Governor Maura Healey on Thursday implored the Biden administration to quickly grant work permits to the thousands of migrants who have overwhelmed the state’s shelter system in recent months.

“The significant influx of new arrivals . . . shows no sign of abating,” Healey wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Massachusetts, she added, faces a “desperate need” for federal funding, changes to federal immigration policy, and, most urgent of all, faster processing of work authorizations for migrants who are legally present in the state’s shelters but not allowed to work.

The firmly worded letter followed an August meeting between Healey and Mayorkas about the state’s escalating migration crisis, which has led the governor to declare a state of emergency and to deploy the National Guard in recent weeks…

Of course. Speed up the work permits. It’s absurd to hold desperate people indefinitely and not let them do what they came here to do: work. Especially when your state needs the workers, as the governor went on to explain in the press release about all this:

“Massachusetts has stepped up to address what has been a federal crisis of inaction many years in the making. Communities, service providers, and our National Guard are going above and beyond to ensure that families arriving in Massachusetts have a safe place to sleep and their basic needs met,” said Governor Healey. “We are grateful to Secretary Mayorkas and his team for meeting with us to hear about the emergency we are facing and the help we need from our federal government. This letter memorializes our requests for additional federal funding and changes to the work authorization process that would support families, reduce the burden on our shelter system, and help us address our state’s workforce needs.”

“Massachusetts is facing twin crises that aren’t unique to our state – we have rapidly rising numbers of migrant families arriving here who want to work but can’t get their work authorizations, and we are facing severe workforce shortages in all industries,” said Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. “We have the opportunity to not only address both of these issues, but also to grow our economy and strengthen our communities in the long run. We are hopeful that the federal government will take these requests into serious consideration.”…

Now, I don’t know this Governor Healey at all. Maybe the next 10 things she does and says will be idiotic. But she certainly makes sense on this, in this particular instance. And I’m not used to it. I see too much of governors doing things such as this. Or this.

Immigration is a federal matter. And when the feds aren’t doing the job right, and you’re a governor whose state is being affected, get on them about it, and tell them what you need.

But get on them for the right things. Speeding up the process of letting these folks work is a good place to start.

You don’t wish the migrants hadn’t come, and shake your fist at the heavens — or worse, endanger the lives of people determined to come to America and make a better life. And you don’t ignore the problem. You look for practical ways to address the challenges, and they are indeed many…

A great extended quote from ‘Matter of Opinion’

Y’all may remember that years ago — like, pre-COVID — I happily shared with y’all the fact that I had finally figured out something painfully obvious: that the best time to listen to podcasts, which I had been meaning to do, was during my long walks each day.

Anyway, at the time, I mentioned that one of my favorites up to that point was “The Argument,” a New York Times podcast. In fact, I linked to a specific episode from those days. That program was very good when it featured David Leonhardt, Ross Douthat and Michelle Goldberg. Then those people started falling away from it, and the topics started to be things that didn’t interest me, and I got out of the habit.

I’m only recently discovered an adequate substitute for it. It’s called “Matter of Opinion,” with Michelle Cottle, Ross Douthat, Carlos Lozada and Lydia Polgreen. It has only one former Argument participant — Douthat — but it very much has the same kind of thoughtfulness and intellectual heft that The Argument once had. And it has one other essential ingredient: civility. Here are people who are about as wide apart as you can get on issue after issue, and yet they not only discuss these differences in a civil manner, but they enjoy each other’s company. It’s rather like another NYT feature in that regard: “The Conversation,” featuring Gail Collins and Bret Stephens.

In other words, it offers the kind of vibe I am determined to have on this blog.

Anyway, the most recent one was headlined, “The Woke Burnout Is Real — and Politics Is Catching Up.” I frankly did not fully understand the phrase “woke burnout” at first, partly because it didn’t start with any sort of formal statement of the topic. Who was burned out? The right? The left? And why? (I very much hoped it would be for good reasons.) But I think what is meant is what is said in the subhed, “It’s time to start asking if the culture wars actually matter to voters.”

Then, when I looked at it on my PC — seeking the transcript — I found this intro:

Classrooms have been a key battleground in the so-called woke wars for years now. But could the debate over how schools teach history, race, gender and sexuality be coming to an end?

That explained it.

And part of it was wonderful. Especially when Carlos Lozada said that:

… for the last couple of days I’ve had this deep dread and despair weighing on me, knowing we were going to talk about this. The discussions over woke, and anti-woke, and culture wars are soul sucking to me. I think it’s good to have specific debates over affirmative action in college admissions, the problems with boys, the way we teach history. I mean, that’s terrific. And we’ve had that on this podcast, and we should continue to have it. But when we talk about the culture war, that’s not about debating issues. The culture war is about joining a side. It is about picking a team. And the problem with picking a team in the culture wars is that you inevitably end up with lunatics on your team. And the craziest ones are often the captains of the team. And they may want to go much further than you might want to go.

Carlos Lozada

But you’re on the team, and you don’t want the other side to win. So you end up supporting what the team is defending. So you end up fighting vociferously over things you may not know a lot about. You end up policing language and dogma with the zeal of the convert.

And you end up speaking not just for yourself, but for this amorphous community that never necessarily granted you the rights to speak for it. There’s so many great writers and thinkers who get baited into this, and then they have difficulty writing about anything else because they’re no longer making an argument or exploring an issue. They are defending turf.

The irony of the culture war is that the purpose of the war is not to win it. It is to continue to wage it. You are never going to hear a culture war activist saying, you know what? The cause is won. The fight is over. Let’s close up shop. I don’t need any more funding. It’s like a business lobbyist saying, our profits are pretty healthy. I don’t need more loopholes in the tax code. That’s not a thing that happens in a culture war. The fight is never over. The stakes are always rising. There’s a new front, a new trench you have to dig, a new hill you have to die on.

And it becomes a reason for being. It becomes your emotional, and your financial, and your intellectual sustenance. And that’s why I limit the amount of time I write about this or think about this because it is incredibly frustrating to me…

I heard all that as I was arriving back at my house from a walk, so I didn’t hear the rest of the podcast. I need to go back and do so, but there are so many things in the world I keep saying that I need to go back and do that I may not.

But before this fades from my memory, I wanted to share with you what Lozada said. Almost every line of it is a view I deeply hold, and it goes to the heart of why I say so many things I say on this blog. In fact, these ideas are pretty central to why the blog exists. So I wanted to make sure I shared them with you, before I move on to the next subject…

This situation is wrong, and dangerous for the world

You might have expected a picture of Elon Musk, but here’s another guy…

A few months ago, when everyone was having a cow over Elon Musk buying Twitter — and that’s what we call it, Twitter — I didn’t say a lot. I figured as long as it kept functioning, that was good, and we would see.

Also, I didn’t want to write anything about Elon Musk, in part because I think he enjoys having people write about him.

But in recent days, prompted by a gradual awakening I see out there among major media, I’ve been reading and hearing more about Starlink… and about other things. I had just mentioned that again, in an Open Thread on Thursday, when I saw more on the same subject, and tweeted this:

This is no longer about some social medium I enjoy but we can all live without, or absurdly expensive electric cars, or even (more seriously) our nation’s increasing dependence upon Space X. This is about national security. It is about whether Vladimir Putin will succeed in crushing a neighboring country into nonexistence, or be stopped by the collective efforts of NATO, the United States, and the brave people of Ukraine.

And that cannot be allowed to hang on the flighty moods of one demonstrably unstable man, who likes to buddy up to Putin, and is entangled with the oppressive Chinese regime.

But what, you ask, are we to do? The guy OWNS most of the satellites in space, so our hands are tied, right? No. Sometimes a nation realizes that there are more important considerations than private ownership of … land, railroads, oil, coal mines, satellites, or whatever.

I point to the trust-busting steps taken by Theodore Roosevelt and others in response to the ill effects of J.P. Morgan and others (such as Mr. E. H. Harriman of the Union Pacific Railroad) owning too many things of critical national importance.

I don’t want to kick off another big ideological argument about wealth between the social democrats and the Ayn Randians. I’m a pragmatist. I’m a guy who has no problem with the “billionayuhs” Bernie likes to rant about. In a free country, some people will always have more money than other people.

Aside from that, J.P. Morgan did a lot for this country, and the world. In the First World War, he kept the Allies afloat until this country could shake off its usual habitual isolationism.

But sometimes, a trust just needs bustin’. Seriously, folks — Teddy Roosevelt got along fine with J.P. Morgan much of the time. T.R. was no Marxist. He was a rich guy, who was comfortable with other rich guys. But when a different course was needed for the sake of the nation, he went that way.

This world isn’t about following absolute, ideological precepts. (Or, as I like to say, ones and zeroes.) It’s about looking at a situation, and deciding what would make it better. And this situation isn’t about an immature man wanting to call Twitter something other than what it is. Lives are at stake. Something needs to be done.

Yeah, I was wondering about Lindsey…

When Trump and 18 others were indicted in Atlanta, I immediately wondered, “Where’s Lindsey Graham’s name?”

After all, remember all that fuss about him being subpoenaed to testify over there, and before that, his calls to Brad Raffensberger? I mean, after Trump himself, I sort of expected him to be the next guy on prosecutors’ list. Or maybe third, after Rudy.

Well, now we get some of the story:

ATLANTA — An Atlanta-area special grand jury that spent months investigating alleged 2020 election interference in Georgia by Donald Trump and his allies agreed that the former president should be indicted in the case and also recommended charging one of Trump’s closest associates, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), and 37 other people — a far larger group than a prosecutor ultimately charged.

The recommendations were contained in a 26-page final report presented in January to Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) and made public by a judge Friday….

The document offered some rare insight into parts of an investigation typically marked by secrecy — not just on those who were indicted but also those who weren’t. But the report, which is not legally binding, does not include the evidence or reasoning behind the grand jury’s thinking, though testimony transcripts and evidence are likely to emerge as part of the criminal proceedings against those who were ultimately charged in the case….

I wonder why they didn’t press charges against Lindsey…

Here are 9 things I prefer to watch. How about you?

This image was under the headline. It’s not nice to call people ‘things.’ Anyway, there are only 5…

By now, you know from all the unending coverage that this is an election year, and a biggie.

Except that it isn’t. The election everyone is so worked up about is next year — in fact, at the end of next year, And the result will depend — to the extent that it is influenced by reality in any way — will depend on what’s happening then, now what’s happening now.

So, when The Washington Post wanted me to read something headlined, “9 things to watch as the 2024 presidential campaign heats up,” I responded this way:

Here are my 9:

1. My grandchildren

2. The seasons changing

3. The AL playoffs

4. The NL playoffs

5. The World Series

6. The last 3 next year, too

7. Detective shows on Britbox

8. My diet and workout routine

9. Pretty much anything but football.

I didn’t have room to elaborate, because that used all 280 characters that Twitter allows.

If I’d had more room, I would have of course mentioned my kids and all the other people with whom I choose to spend most of my time. They’re all way more interesting, and enjoyable, than, say, Vivek Ramaswamy. And I’d have explained that I don’t just watch English murder mysteries. I also enjoy Scottish, Welsh, Swedish, German and French detective shows. And I would have mentioned books, but you don’t “watch” books; you read them. And I’d have put quotes around “diet and workout routine,” to be more honest about it. But there just wasn’t room.

Anyway, what are your favorite things to watch rather than campaigns for next year’s presidential election?


Going by my family tree, I must be getting old…

Why did I write that post about time moving so much faster as we age? Well, I’ve been thinking lately about writing more often about that phenomenon. I mean about aging, not time. So that was an initial installment, I guess.

You can ignore them, if you prefer. I write posts such as this one mostly for my kids and grandkids, assuming the posts are still available if and when they wonder about these things. (Which may be a lot to assume.)

One thing that has put this stuff more on my mind lately is that a couple of weeks before I wrote that, I realized I had now outlived three of my four grandparents.

I had been anticipating this one. That’s because a couple of years back, I passed my maternal grandfather. That one sort of snuck up on me. I had long been used to the knowledge that I had outlived my maternal grandmother. She died when she was only 61. I was 15 at the time, so it was a lot of years before I realized how shockingly early that was.

At that point, I was shaken by the loss, but I also tended to think, Well, grandparents are really old, right? So I guess we have to accept that this might happen.

Then, in September 2021, it hit me that just a few days before, I had passed my Mom’s father as well. Both had died earlier than you would have expected, after medical incidents that one might normally expect to have gone much better than they did — especially today. Their deaths were far from inevitable, under the conditions. They did not “die of old age.”

To ease the formality… I called them “Nana” and “Pop,” and I was still a kid when we lost them. Their names were Nathalie Smith Pace and Walker Heyward Collins.

After I realized I had passed Pop, I checked the family tree and saw the date was not far off when I would pass my paternal grandfather, Gerald Harvey Warthen. He died on July 10, 1958, a couple of months short of his 70th birthday, when I was 4. (Yes, those grandparents were a good bit older than the other set. My Dad was the youngest of five.)

And now, I will reach the threescore-and-ten mark in less than… four weeks. So, another milestone.

I should point out that Granddad Warthen should have lived longer, too. He had lung cancer, which is not surprising when you see how many pictures we have of him with a cigarette, a cigar or a pipe. I was an accomplice in this. I remember him taking me on walks to a nearby shop and buying me candy cigarettes when he bought his real ones. I very much enjoyed them, but I would have much more enjoyed having my grandfather around while I was growing up.

My paternal Grandma, Mary Shiland Bradley, lived to the age of 95. That’s a high bar to reach for, and beyond most people’s expectations. Of course, my Dad lived to just short of turning 93, and my Mom is 92, and much healthier than Dad had been for several years at that age.

No sense making predictions, though. I could check out before I finish this post. If you’re reading it, though, I guess I didn’t.

But I am trying, in fits and starts, to make better use of each day. That’s a struggle for me, as it was when I was in my 20s. I am known to my intimates as being bad at quite a few things, and one of them is time management…