Category Archives: Blogosphere

DeMarco: Mike Johnson: a brilliant new speaker – for the 20th century

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Scene: A distant galaxy, year 2834, in the Tardis.

Dr. Who: What’s on the schedule today?

Ruby (the doctor’s companion): Looks like we have the day off. Not an alien in sight.

Who: Smashing! I’ve really wanted to brush up on my American history. The 1920’s seemed like an eventful time-jazz music, speakeasies, flappers, the Depression. I came across this name I had never heard of (flipping pages on a touch screen). Let’s see here… yes, there he is, Michael Johnson. Came out of nowhere it seems. Only six years’ experience and pop! – he’s the speaker of the House. Seems perfect for the job for someone of that era though. Rock-ribbed conservative Christian, literally interprets the Bible, believes in Noah’s Ark and the world being about 10,000 years old. A man for his time! Ha, but there’s a typo in his bio. It says he was elected in 2023. They must mean 1923 (pauses to adjust the Tardis’ time-travel settings). OK, course set for Michael Johnson as speaker of the House. Here we go!

Ruby (shouting over the roaring of the Tardis): Actually, Doctor, there is no mistake!! Johnson was elected in 2023!!!

Who: (also shouting): Sorry, I can’t hear you!!

(The Tardis makes a rough landing. Unbeknownst to the Doctor, Ruby is knocked unconscious).

Who: Blimey! That was more of a shake than I expected. Let’s see what other history we can glean before we start exploring. Righto, I see here that the Scopes Monkey Trial will happen in just a couple years. Well, that’s advantageous for Mike. He’s a constitutional lawyer whom I’m sure can argue a cracking case against evolution. He’s got a strong voice and a great stage presence. Ruby, don’t the creationists win at trial?

(Ruby awakens but is too groggy to respond. The Doctor is oblivious.)

Who: (continues reading) But there’s no mention of Mike at the Scopes trial… Hmm… I guess they needed a more experienced lawyer… (swiping)… so they picked Williams Jennings Bryan. Too bad for Mike.

Who: Ooh, I wonder if Mike ran for President in 1924. With that winning smile and such a nice head of hair. Surely he would have grasped for the brass ring. (Swipes touch screen) What! Calvin Coolidge?! Silent Cal? Surely Mike would have been more exciting. And he hated welfare just as much as Coolidge did.

Ruby (finally fully regaining consciousness): Where are we?

Who: 1923, weren’t you paying attention?

Ruby (now clear-headed): Doctor, we’re in 2023.

Who: Ruby, you are one sandwich short of a picnic! I mean a man like Mike Johnson makes perfect sense for 1923, when creationism and evolution were seen as competitors in the marketplace of ideas. But a hundred years does a lot to disabuse people of the notion that humans kept pet dinosaurs. And look at his ideas on sexual orientation. Back in 1923 every state had a sodomy law. Views like Mike’s prevailed and most gay people lived closeted and afraid. You expect me to believe that Mike Johnson was elected speaker of the United States House of Representatives, second in the line of presidential succession after the vice-president… in the year 2023! Not a snowball’s chance! It’s a foul-up in the blasted Tardis!

Ruby: Doctor, It’s not the Tardis.

Who: And then there’s his wife. Also ideal for early 20th-century America. What a role model for women who had just won the right to vote! Look at her – she’s running her own business. But, as would be expected in 1923, biblically submissive to her husband. What a power couple for the Roaring Twenties. She’s so much more magnetic than Mrs. Coolidge. Wow, they really missed an opportunity by not running in 1924.

Ruby (coming over to the doctor’s computer station and manipulating the touch screen fiercely): Doctor! There is nothing wrong with the Tardis!

Who: (reviewing what Ruby is showing him, stunned): Crikey… We are in 2023. It’s been 100 years since the Scopes trial, there’s now incontrovertible evidence that the earth is billions of years old, it’s been over 50 years since Stonewall, and gay marriage is legal. Isn’t that right Ruby? Gay marriage has been legalized by this time in the US?

Ruby: Yes sir, Obergefell was decided in 2015. (Swiping a touchscreen). Here’s some more about him. He made no secret that his interpretation of the Bible was at the base of his political views. He wrote columns in his local paper about it. Here’s one from 2003 in which he responded to the U.S. Supreme Court’s striking down of a Texas sodomy law. He said it was a “devastating blow to fundamental American values and millennia of moral teaching.”

Who: But surely he and his wife’s views moderated once he was elected Speaker…

Ruby: Well, his wife’s counseling service did take down their website in which they call homosexuality “sinful and offensive to God.”

Who: Well that’s something…

Ruby: But when asked what his views were a couple days after being elected, he said if you want to know what he thinks “About any issue under the sun… Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.”

Who: Any issue? Climate change? Nuclear arms? The next pandemic? I am gobsmacked. But I have to know. Does America become a theocracy? Set a course to November 2024 (TO BE CONTINUED).

A version of this column appeared in the November 15th edition of the Post and Courier-Pee Dee.

“Bigger on the inside…”

Open Thread for Friday, November 17, 2023

It would be cool if a great WRITER won it sometime…

I struggled a bit coming up with a full list for that last Open Thread. But yesterday morning, I had enough topics before I’d even gotten through The Washington Post. Unfortunately, I had zero time for blogging.

Some things that have come up are worth separate posts, and I hope I get to them soon. In the meantime, here are some quicker takes:

  1. Haley walks back declaration that all social media users must be verified — I don’t so much have a comment on what she said specifically in this case (she had said all people should be required to verify their identities to use social media platforms), although she’s right to be concerned about the problems with anonymity. But I post this because I think it’s interesting — and I suppose, a promising development, because it shows how she’s matured — that Nikki is worried these days about people acting irresponsibly on social media. Remember how she was on Facebook her first term as governor? And unfortunately, she wasn’t anonymous.
  2. Kevin Hart to receive Mark Twain Prize in March at Kennedy Center — OK, great. He’s a very funny guy. But I look at him and others who’ve won it over the years — Jonathan Winters, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart, Steve Martin, Will Ferrell, Bill Murray, Billy Crystal, to name a few — and I think the same thing: We’ve got some brilliant comedians here, but while Twain was our greatest humorist, wasn’t he an even greater writer? And by “writer,” I don’t mean someone who writes for a comedy show (like Tina Fey, another hilarious winner), but a writer. Ernest Hemingway didn’t say, “Mark Twain was a great comic;” he said, “all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.” And he was right.
  3. After release of ethics report, Santos says he won’t seek reelection — Yeah, but he didn’t resign, which is what he needs to do. America has endured this farce long enough.
  4. Canada’s most prominent Indigenous icon might not be Indigenous — To translate from the Identity Politics phraseology, the news is that apparently, Buffy Sainte-Marie ain’t Pocahontas, either. I guess the kid who wrote the headline didn’t know who she was, and assumes readers wouldn’t, either. Which is kind of silly, but never mind. This is a shocker. Elizabeth Warren was one thing; this is another entirely.
  5. Do you prefer self-checkout? — I’m just curious. I saw this story in the NYT about the English grocery chain that’s replacing most of its self-checkout machines with actual humans, and it started with the statement, “When it comes to grocery shopping, there seem to be two kinds of people in this world: those who prefer self-checkout, and those who prefer interaction with a human.” Which are y’all?
  6. Tough choice, eh? — That’s just a setup for this very apt comparison I saw on Twitter:


Open Thread for Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Well, not REALLY for today. This is more stuff I’ve been saving up for the past week or so. But I’ll throw in some news, too…

  1. Israeli Military Pushes Into Gaza Hospital — Which gives the world, including me, a moment of horrible suspense. This is a critical moment in Israel’s battle against an enemy that deliberately hides among the most vulnerable of innocents. How it goes, and how the world perceives it, is central to the larger question of whether Israel can continue to exist in a world that operates more on knee-jerk reaction than at any time in history.
  2. House votes to avoid shutdown — Speaker Johnson did it, of course, with overwhelming Democratic support. In case you wonder about the S.C. delegation, my own congressman Joe Wilson voted with Jim Clyburn to keep our country going. All of the other Republicans — Jeff Duncan, Russell Fry, Nancy Mace, Ralph Norman, and William Timmons — voted the other way. Meanwhile, if you want to read something scary that I saw the other day: “Is SC’s Nancy Mace on Trump’s VP short list?
  3. SC plans massive move of state employees from downtown Columbia — Well, that’s intriguing. It’s speculated to cost “$334 million more over 20 years.” Thoughts? I don’t know enough about the condition of the current buildings to have an opinion, although I suppose it’s a good idea to replace the one on the extreme end of this range: “The current buildings range from 32 years old to 195 years old.” Of course, much of this is motivated by the Legislature’s recent decision to split DHEC into two major agencies.
  4. Biden meets with China’s Xi — I like that they’re meeting in the neutral third nation of California. And no, I don’t think Joe’s main goal is to get the pandas back. There’s a lot of more heavy stuff than that…
  5. Didja know it was Hedy Lamarr’s birthday last week? — Bing made a point of telling me — you know, one of those things that pop up occasionally when you’re using Windows? I took interest because aside from being a babe, she was wicked smaht. I’m posting it six days late so I help you tell the difference between Hedy and Hedley…

Hedy — wicked smaht.

Hedley — not so smaht. Hey, give the governor a harrumph!







A conversation I had with a friend this morning

It’s the kind of exchange I think is valuable, so here it is…

You know what? The embed codes are messing up and overlapping each other. I’ll just give you plain text for the rest…

Steve: You’re right that a binary needs 2 to tango but also I’m not willing to bothsides this because there’s a peculiar madness on one side that is more responsible for our polarization than any other factor. I’m so devoted to that point of view that I wrote a book abt it.

Me: The right has gone stark, raving mad. But tragically, the left is weakened by its own embrace of some of the symptoms. Neither side is an appetizing “team” to join. And media have trained everyone to think in binary terms, by covering politics like sports. So we’re lost…

Me again: That probably seemed incoherent. Too many related thoughts, not enough room for the transitions…

Steve: It makes sense. But my conclusion is that madness supersedes weakenedness. The Right no longer is doing politics recognizably at all, they’ve gone so far there aren’t 2 sides anymore for anyone serious abt politics and that’s why we have to overcome the binary framing.

Me: You know that book I keep telling you I want to write, but (unlike you) never do? If I ever write it, I have an idea for another. It’s about politics, and my tentative title is “Consensus.” It’s what we desperately need to work toward, at all times….

Steve: A longtime struggler toward consensus, though, I have to say that you can’t achieve consensus or engage in dialogue with people who don’t accept that consensus and dialogue are legitimate. Our more fundamental problem is that too many people don’t believe in politics at all.

Me: Absolutely. That’s what I meant by “we’re lost.” And one of many reasons is that people don’t understand basic things about our system, which is intended to be deliberative. They think it’s about winning 50%+1, and cramming their will down the throats of the “bad people”…

Both of us could have gone on, but had things to do — especially Steve, who as I mentioned in passing, actually writes books instead of just talking about it, and has busy day jobs as well. He’s a  professor of public theology and director of The Bernardin Center at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

You see what I did there? Under the guise of finally posting something on the blog (without having to write it from scratch) I snuck in another “ones and zeroes” post. Fair warning: I’m likely to do it again at any time.

The part of the exchange that deals with consensus is another step down the same train of thought that led to this post awhile back

The system they came up with would work if we would accept that it’s designed to be deliberative, and not just about shouting at each other.

Anybody get any valuable messages via LinkedIn?

I tried asking this on LinkedIn, and I was just about to post it when I decided to check one point, and in trying to get to that information, I lost what I’d written.

So I’ll ask it here, to the best of my memory…

Have you ever gotten a direct message — or pretty much, any message — via LinkedIn that was relevant to you? I mean, one from someone you know, or need to know, about something that you have any sort of interest in?

Pretty much all I get is “cold-call” attempts to sell me some unsought service or other, sent to me by strangers. Usually the strangers are attractive young women, but they’re not like the random, unknown attractive young women who reach out to me via Twitter. These have their clothes on and everything — businesslike clothes —  which commands a bit more respect.

And I’d like to help them. I have enormous sympathy for people forced to engage in such painful, thankless labor. Also, they’re often from troubled places in the word. I got a couple recently from a lovely young lady in Ukraine, and y’all know I’m all about helping Ukraine. But I just wasn’t in the market for whatever she was trying to sell. I forget what it was. That was the bit of information I was seeking when I lost my message earlier, so I’m not going to go hunting for it now. It was some kind of business thingamabob, I’m assuming.

And since she was a stranger, I had no way of knowing whether she was legit. She said she was in Kyiv, but how was I to know? She could have been with the Russians, too. (Her first name, or the one she was using, was “Svetlana.”)

Anyway, that’s essentially what I was trying to ask, and I particularly wanted to hear from actual LinkedIn users. Maybe some of y’all are among those.

I’ll ask an additional question beyond that one, and I think I’ve asked this one before: Do you ever find LinkedIn useful? I doubt you have, unless it’s helped you get a job, or helped you hire someone else for a job.

To me, its one useful function is to be a sort of online complement to your C.V. And it’s only useful for that if the user keeps the page updated, which too few do…

A new ‘ray of hope’ on the House speaker front…

Y’all may have been bitterly disappointed that the “ray of hope” I offered you on the House speaker mess has still not led to a speaker of any kind, much less the kind we need — the kind who still possesses all his (or her) marbles. Or at least, one who had some marbles at some point in the past.

Why is this failing to happen? Because the yahoos who completely unnecessarily created this crisis are still bat-excrement crazy.

But now, one of our own is riding to the rescue:

Sure you might read that and say, Aw, Bryan’s just being a wise guy again!

But consider: He posted that at 10:22 this morning, and hasn’t retracted it yet! Give him a few more minutes, and his combined availability and viability will have lasted longer than that of any previous candidate.

And yes, he’s viable. Y’all know he’s a legit, Old School kind of conservative, only one with a sense of humor. And he’s also legit in the sense that you don’t have to be a member of the House to be speaker.

Also, he’s got this rare-but-wonderful qualification: You can tell he doesn’t really want the job. That makes him ideal in my book. I don’t think we’ve seen an opportunity like that since James Garfield in 1880.

Garfield went to the 1880 Republican convention to nominate someone else. And when the ballots dragged on, and people started nominating him as an alternative, he fought it for all he was worth. That, of course, made him such an appealing candidate that the delegates ended up nominating him unanimously.

OK, so Bryan’s not that perfect, since he’s willing. But let’s forgive him that, and see if we can get some momentum going for him. (It might take a bit of effort. After several hours, he’s only received three “likes” on his offer. Ahem…)

Because, you know, we’re long past holding our breaths for “perfect.” Sanity would be a tremendous blessing at this point.

And I think Bryan can settle down and deliver on that, if we give him a chance.

I mean really — what are our alternatives right now?

Blog posts gotta have pictures, so here’s one of the 1880 Republican Convention. Photographic proof that it the old party actually WAS once grand. Or at least functional. Wikipedia says that’s Garfield standing on the podium, about to speak…

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.


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…


Open Thread for Thursday, September 7, 2023

Several things from recent days:

  1. Elon Musk’s Shadow Rule — Remember how I told you that 4,500 of the 8,000 satellites orbiting the Earth at this moment belong to Elon Musk? And that the web access his Starlink network makes possible saved Ukraine’s bacon early on in the present war? Only, the Ukrainians stay nervous because Elon is way ambivalent about wanting to keep helping? Well, if you can possibly read, or listen to, this story, you need to. (I’m never sure how many things, if any, nonsubscribers are allowed to read.) It’s a more extended piece, by Ronan Farrow, that provides a kind of scary picture of this guy that so many people on this planet are now depending on.
  2. Ukrainians Embrace Cluster Munitions, but Are They Helping? — And while we’re at it, how about those depleted uranium shells, which are so effective at penetrating those tanks the Russians keep throwing at them? Oh, the answer to that question in the headline is, that they’re no magic wand, “but some Ukrainian troops say they are making a difference in fighting Russian forces.”
  3. Mysterious ‘skin-like’ golden orb found on ocean floor off Alaska coast — This was weird. To me, it looks human-made — like a broken Christmas tree decoration. But scientists seem to think it’s natural. See the picture above. And here’s a video.
  4. American conservatives are not more Catholic than the pope — I just shared this because that headline made me tweet, “Isn’t it bizarre that we live in a world so messed up that someone would feel the need to say that?” Unfortunately, we do.
  5. The sexually explicit welcome-to-NC State package — This was interesting to me because you know how right-wing groups are always complaining that the “liberal media” are suppressing news that would support the right’s perception of things? This may be a case of that, sort of. I got this in an email from such a group, and went looking for actual news stories about it, all I found was some local TV news coverage. I don’t know for sure what happened. I only know we didn’t get packages like that when I started college. But you could go into the drug store at Cornell Arms and buy products that said, “Our Cocks are Always Game.”
  6. What about that Burning Man thing? — My daughter wanted to go to Burning Man, but it didn’t work out. Her good friend of many years did go, and has told her the coverage of all the problems was ridiculous; she had no trouble leaving. I’m glad to hear it. But what I want to ask y’all is, have any of y’all been to anything like this? And why? I’m pretty sure that from the moment I arrived at something like this, even if everything went as planned, I’d feel trapped, and want to go home. A big mass of people? Outside? I don’t think so.

It’s Twitter, so let’s just call it that

OK, I’ve had it with the stupid phrase. Some examples:

Thank you for that last one. I appreciate the explanation. I understand. The AP says write it this way, so all journalists do. If you search for the exact phrase “formerly known as Twitter” on Google, you get 123,000 hits. (Actually, that’s what you get under the subheading “News,” which is the way I usually search. If you switch to “All,” you get 6,190,000.)

What is this, the 1980s, when we had to endure “the artist formerly known as Prince” over and over and over on MTV? Until Logo. Hollow circle above downward arrow crossed with a curlicued horn-shaped symbol and then a short bar  finally decided to be sensible and went back to “Prince,” which I actually did not expect him to do, but appreciated.

I don’t expect Elon Musk to come to his senses, either. Maybe he will, even though he seems to be even less grounded than Prince. I just listened to an audio version of Ronan Farrow’s piece about him in The New Yorker. Yikes.

So let’s just call it what it is — Twitter. Or, since it’s officially been stripped of its name, maybe just twitter. That way, we can use it in Scrabble. No more proper name. Just people calling a thing what it is.

“X” does have one slight advantage over the Prince symbol. At least you can say it. That was the challenge facing those veejays back in the ”80s — they had to say it, and the new “name” couldn’t be said. But although you can say it, “X” is not a name. It’s the negation of a name. Brand X. The thing illiterates scrawl when they can’t write their, you know, names.

Why do people have to write “formerly known as Twitter” after “X?” Because “X” is meaningless, and does not communicate what you are attempting to identify to a reader. You have to explain it. It would be nice to do it more honestly. Just call it “Twitter,” or “twitter,” or if you feel somehow obligated to obey Musk, write “X (Twitter).”

Or how about “Twitter, which one guy on the planet calls X?”

People who use it every day have to call it something. We are a verbalizing species.

So let’s call it what we know it to be: Twitter.

Open Thread for Tuesday, August 29, 2023

What the…?

A few things I’ve run across…

  1. The universe poses a question — Have you heard about the question mark in space? Since it’s oriented so as to be readable on our planet, I sort of expect it won’t be long before a “WTF” appears to the left of it. News of how messed up we are has apparently spread across the galaxy. In case you can’t read the NYT version I linked to, try the NPR version.
  2. Record 14-foot monster alligator caught in Mississippi — In case you thought you were wrestling with some messy problems… This sucker weighed 802.5 pounds. Lately, we’ve been reading a good bit about “Proud Boys.” Well, I suppose you could say this is a picture of some proud boys of the generic kind…
  3. Sorry to hear the news about Tough Guy Bob Barker — I held back from posting the first thing that occurred to me when I got the news — his famous scene in “Happy Gilmore.” But then after that, The Washington Post did a whole story just about that — which I very much enjoyed. It told how Bob insisted on doing his own stunts, because his neighbor Chuck Norris had been coaching him. Much later, he supposedly told Rob Schneider, “I moved to Hollywood to be an actor, and the only person who ever let me do it was Adam Sandler!” Well, he took his shot, and scored. Watch the full fight scene here.
  4. Idalia expected to dump half-foot of rain on us — Yeah, like we needed that. And oh yes, it’s now a hurricane. I need to find us some good news…
  5. Watch ‘Breaking Away’ for free! — And here it is! This is to make up for all the things I link to that require subscriptions. I just discovered that YouTube is showing it for free! If you’ve never seen it, go watch it right now — subito! (As the protagonist would say — I think.) I already gave Scott Hogan a heads-up via twitter. He was our campaign manager back in 2018, and he’s from Bloomington, making him the only actual Cutter I know.
  6. Joe moves to cut some drug prices — Even better news. You go, Joe! I need to tell my wife he’s going after Eliquis, which she’s had to take since her mini-strokes, and the price on it is absurd. The link above is to The Guardian, which is free to read. Let’s see if they managed to write about it without a tone of disbelief at the problems we have over here paying for basic medical care…


Hey, this is Civility Month. Who could tell, huh?

Check out those dates. We’ve been discussing this for awhile, eh?

Hey, did ya know this was National Civility Month? Here it is almost over, and I didn’t know until this morning. Here’s what it’s about:

People being civil to other people is what makes the world a whole lot better and is the key focus of National Civility Month, which is held in August each year. This holiday was founded to help the world remember to treat others the way we wish to be treated ourselves — with kindness, empathy, and respect. This month follows a common theme like other similar awareness months centered around civility, including National Win With Civility Month, International Civility Awareness Month, and more.

It appears to have escaped the attention of some of my readers as well. I just looked at the latest 10 comments awaiting moderation, and only approved one of them. I think maybe that’s a record. Just not one worth celebrating.

Of course, it “helped” that four of them were from our old friend SDII, using his latest pseudonym (I think — I’m not going to take the trouble to try to trace it back). He knows I’m not going to approve his comments, so they’ve gotten increasingly gross and obscene. Which doesn’t matter, since I trash them as soon as I see them, but he’s been unusually active lately.

The rest were from folks I’ve recently tried for about the thousandth time to engage regarding what this month was supposed to be about, explaining why I had not approved previous comments of theirs. Their responses essentially amounted to a middle finger raised high, so I guess I only succeeded in irritating them.

I’ll stop doing that, going forward. From this moment on, I’m just going to approve comments that add to the blog without dissing others here. Beyond that, things that don’t create a drip, drip, drip of negativity that makes the comments section a drag for others to read.

And what sorts of comments meet that standard? Well, here are some people I’ve never had reason to disapprove (Or rather, almost never. Occasionally, they’ve been dragged into scuffles with other folks, and I’ve just trashed the whole conversation.) The first few who come to mind, in alphabetical order:

  1. Phillip Bush
  2. Bryan Caskey
  3. Dave Crockett
  4. James Edward Cross
  5. Paul DeMarco
  6. Ralph Hightower
  7. Sally Huguley
  8. Norm Ivey
  9. Mark Stewart
  10. Clark Surratt
  11. Lynn Teague

OK, now: I hope those 12 won’t mind being named. If anyone does, I’ll remove you from the list. And no one who isn’t on the list should resent it. I was just choosing among people who’ve made civil contributions in the recent past, and have done so regularly over the years, and have used their full names.

For instance, I was delighted to hear from “Scout” recently. It had been awhile, and I hope she resumes regular participation. But I didn’t include her, since she uses a pseudonym. Of course, there are quite a few people who identify themselves fully and accurately, but haven’t commented lately. I’m afraid some of those were run off by the finger-flipping folk. People get tired of reading that stuff, very quickly.

Why provide a list at all? Well, I thought it better to celebrate the good than pick on those who fall short. Also, the finger-flippers who insist on believing that the standard is “you have to agree with that stupid jerk Brad” will be able to see that’s not true. Actually, I’m almost certain (after all this time) that they won’t see it, but they will have the opportunity.

Note that I provided a link to one comment from each of those folks. There’s nothing particularly special about those comments — it’s not a “greatest hits” list. I just looked for something reasonably, thoughtful (some agreeing with me or someone else, others not) and particularly ones that added something that wouldn’t have been here otherwise. And I did it very quickly.

And now, on to other things.

DeMarco: Pop Quiz! For Whom Did They Vote?

Hawkeye and Trapper John would have had trouble with that riddle, too. So would Hot Lips, for that matter…

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Guess how the two friends I’m about to describe voted in the 2020 presidential election.

The first is an older white male. One of his vehicles is a 1999 Ford F-150 pick-up whose radio is tuned to a country station. His gun safe contains a 12-gauge shotgun, a 20-gauge shotgun, and a pistol. He attends church almost every week and believes Jesus Christ is his Savior. He has the Fox News app on his phone. He favors robust border security. He thinks it unfair for transgender women to compete in collegiate and professional sports against cis-gender women.

The second is also an older white male, roughly the same age as the first. He drives a Ford Escape in which he generally listens to podcasts like NPRs “Fresh Air.” He has the Washington Post app on his phone. He believes in reasonable gun regulation, including registration of firearms with state governments. He comes from a family of immigrants – his grandfather emigrated from Sicily after World War I. He supports diversity, equity, and inclusion in all phases of society.

If you guessed the first voted for Trump and the second voted for Biden, you would be… wrong. Those two paragraphs both describe me. I drive the Escape most days but have the pick-up, a gift from my father-in-law, for hauling. Like most of America, I have nuanced views on guns, immigration, the transgender community, and the role of faith. I listen to many different types of music and get my news from multiple sites.

As to whom I voted for – it’s Biden. Trump is an inveterate liar and a danger to the country.

But the subject of this column is not Trump or Biden. It’s our tendency to pigeonhole. Let’s try another example in the form of a decades-old riddle I first heard in medical school: A father and son have a car accident and are both badly hurt. They are both taken to separate hospitals where they are immediately prepped for surgery. When the boy is wheeled into the OR, the surgeon looks down at him and says, “I can’t operate on him. This is my son.” How is this possible?

The answer is that the surgeon is the boy’s mother. Don’t worry if you missed it. I did too when I first heard it almost forty years ago. Over the past couple months, I have been retelling it to groups of young people to see if their answers are any more astute than mine was. I have queried a group of nurses, a group of medical students, and a group of teenagers, perhaps fifty young people in all. All the groups were primarily female and the vast majority were stumped. I was surprised that our collective mental image of a surgeon is still so strongly masculine, even among young women, some of whom are destined to become surgeons themselves.

Eventually, I hope, no one will be fooled by this riddle, as the idea of a female surgeon will be top of mind. Indeed, the way that women are outpacing men in many academic fields, including medicine, we may eventually reach the point where we can tell the riddle in reverse about a mother and a son.

But when it comes to politics, rather than harmful stereotypes being slowly eroded, our media environment depends on shoring them up and exaggerating them in a relentless drive for clicks. Each side reduces the other to a humiliating caricature, shown in the worst possible light. Because social media’s hyperpartisan atmosphere vastly overstates the extremism of both the right and the left, our worldview becomes more and more skewed.

This is why I write. I know better than anyone that there are more knowledgeable and more skilled columnists out there. But because so few of them speak to the middle ground, I feel obligated to plant a flag there. My big advantage is that I write for free, so I have no incentive to overstate to stoke anger.

I’ll end with the words of Martin Buber, who unsurprisingly, is rarely invoked in today’s political commentary. Buber was a Jewish philosopher who framed relationships as “I-Thou,” in which a person opens himself fully to another to achieve a connection, or “I-It,” in which a person encounters another as an object or instrument to be used and discarded. Almost without exception, when we meet people different from ourselves, we adopt an I-It posture.

Buber encourages us to instead choose the I-Thou posture, which he believed could occur instantaneously, in any circumstance, even between strangers. One easy place to practice is the grocery store. As you wait in line, imagine the cashier as a complete human being, who has a home, family, hopes and anxieties just like you. Try it with as many people as you can, especially those with whom you disagree.

This can be hard with a vicious somebody on social media. A couple of remedies are available. First, spend less time on social media. Second, wish your antagonist well and move on. There are too many thoughtful, interesting people out there to waste your time with someone who treats you like an “It” rather than a “Thou.”

A version of this column appeared in the August 8th edition of the Florence Morning News.

Open Thread for Friday, August 18, 2023

Just a few quick ones, since I have actual work to do today:

  1. Troop Deaths and Injuries in Ukraine War Near 500,000, U.S. Officials Say. Horrific. Yes, folks, this is a real war going on. Further, it’s not just the Russians suffering horrendous casualties. And there’s no end in sight…
  2. Awkward Americans see themselves in Ron DeSantis — I thought that was an interesting way of approaching this guy’s problem. I sense that the Post is onto something here. He strikes me as a guy you really wouldn’t want at your party. But then, it seems I’ve read about him having a very engaging wife. How did that happen?
  3. American democracy is cracking. These forces help explain why. — I appreciate the Post attempting this analysis, but it falls short. Two quick comments: First, I’m glad they realize that a major cause of the problem is gerrymandering, but they take too long to get to it. Second, there’s a lot of drivel here about problems with our form of government. But don’t blame Hamilton, Madison, et al. The problem lies in the electorate: Our population has become incapable of functioning under any system you might name. Worse, the least sane voters are to a great extent driving elections. Why? Because of my first observation.
  4. Former Richland councilwoman used taxpayer money for groceries, commission says. My reaction to this? I tweeted, “Well, there’s a shock…” That’s because we’re talking about Gwen Kennedy here. Here’s a post where I wrote about her awhile back. I’m sorry that the videos on that post are no longer working (I think I made the mistake of entrusting them to a feature The State had set up, and it no longer exists). But you can get the idea fully by reading. Oh, and you’ll see that the P&C missed the full picture saying she “served on the council from 2008 to 2012 and 2016 to 2020.” My post tells you about when she “served” in the ’90s, and took a trip to Hawaii on the public’s dime, bringing back nothing of value to the people of Richland County.
  5. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. tests longshot 2024 campaign in SC, Joe Biden’s savior state — This was in Charleston. Better there than here. He can test the Lowcountry’s famed affinity for eccentricity…

Earworm of the Day: Never mind. I thought I had a new one, but the thing that was stuck was just a different part of “Reflections of My Life,” which I wrote about Tuesday, under the heading, “Something I thought I knew, but I was wrong.”

Earworm of the Day 2: But wait! I thought about that so much that suddenly it turned into a whole other song, and I realized why I had thought “Reflections of My Life” was a Bee Gees tune! It was “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?” Which is a Bee Gees song! Seriously, the two tunes kind of bled together in a way I can’t explain, because I don’t understand music well enough — and I don’t want to bother Phillip again with my stupid questions, the way I do too often. Anyway, I thought about it enough that that got stuck, and it is now today’s official earworm. But I’m hearing more the Al Green version, because we can’t get enough of the Rev. Al. I can’t anyway…

Open Thread for Tuesday, August 15, 2023

I took this back in 2019, when I still worked downtown, and would walk here when weather was too hot or too wet.

Here’s another one. We’ve had some interesting news lately:

  1. Trump Indicted in Georgia. Here we go again, eh? Bunch of things I could say about this. Here’s one: You know how people keep saying how amazing it is for this unprecedented thing — a former president to be indicted — to keep happening? To me, it kind of feels like… normalcy returning. Instead of having this lunatic running around, flouting every convention with no consequences, we’re seeing… the system working, and saying, no, you can’t do this stuff. These are criminal charges he’s facing. Now, if only the half of the electorate that believes he’s a persecuted hero would wake up and recognize reality, America would be sane again. Or at least well on its way. Apparently, Lindsey Graham hasn’t recovered yet — but he had a longer way to go than most people. (Which reminds me: First thing I did when this broke was to peruse the list of those charged, looking for Lindsey’s name — because, you know. Let the record show that it was not there.) To people who knew you couldn’t do this stuff, it may seem like this took forever, but this is kinda the way the law works, when you’re dealing with something this huge. You have to build a case. It just seems like a long time because in the age of Twitter, we expect everything to happen now.
  2. Conservative Case Emerges to Disqualify Trump for Role on Jan. 6. I read this several days ago before the Georgia indictment, and forgot to post about it, but now I’m reminded. The lede: “Two prominent conservative law professors have concluded that Donald J. Trump is ineligible to be president under a provision of the Constitution that bars people who have engaged in an insurrection from holding government office. The professors are active members of the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group, and proponents of originalism, the method of interpretation that seeks to determine the Constitution’s original meaning.” It has to do with Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. The professors are William Baude of the University of Chicago and Michael Stokes Paulsen of the University of St. Thomas.
  3. Punishing men who can no longer remember their crimes. This is another from those emails I get from the NYT. You probably knew that we incarcerate more of our population than almost any country in the world (573 out of every 100,000 Americans). We’re also an aging society. Put those together, and you get increasing numbers of prisoners who are over 90, in diapers, and suffering from dementia. I think of memory units, where dementia is treated, as a feature of high-end retirement communities. We have them in prisons, too. Why are we locking people up this long?
  4. The malls are all closing! The malls are all closing! Sure, it’s been coming on for a long time and we’ve talked about it before, but up to now these former shopping meccas seemed merely moribund. Now, in just a few days, we’ve had Belk and Barnes & Noble shutting down at Richland Mall (but fortunately, B&N will reopen elsewhere), and now a church is buying Dutch Square. My main concern there is “What will happen to the multiplex?” Maybe I read the story too fast, but if it told me that, I missed it.
  5. Interest rate hike just a sticking plaster for Russia’s war-fuelled economic woes. This is from The Guardian, and let me confess I didn’t read it. I just loved the headline. Y’all know what an Anglophile I am, and I really got a kick out of seeing this paper actually use “sticking plaster” to evoke the “Band-Aid” metaphor.
  6. Kansas newspaper says it investigated local police chief prior to newsroom raid. A newspaper does its job, the cops come raid the place. Maybe not everything is back to normal in America quite yet. Because, this kind of thing doesn’t happen in normal America.

Earworm of the Day. This one’s kind of ordinary, and not a bit surprising: “Thank You,” by Led Zeppelin. No further comment. See below.

Something I thought I knew, but I was wrong. A new feature, which I think I will probably find to replicate on other days. As with the earworm, this one also has to do with pop music. Today, my Pandora started playing “Reflections of My Life,” which I would have bet you money was a Bee Gees song. I saw the name “Marmalade” on the screen and thought, Oh, this Marmalade, whoever that is, is doing a Bee Gees cover. Then, as I listened, I realized, Uh… this is the original. I checked with Wikipedia, and realized, Yup, this is a Marmalade song. Whoever they are. Felt dumb.

Open Thread for Monday, August 14, 2023

Murdered candidate Fernando Villavicencio, from his campaign website.

I meant to post one of these over the weekend, so some of these ideas are a couple of days old. But here you go…

  1. The devastation of Lahaina — This broke after my last Open Thread, and I just thought I’d set up a place where we could discuss it. My mind is quite blown — we’ve gotten sadly accustomed to such news coming out of California, and the Canadian wilderness. But this is Maui. It’s not even the Big Island, with its frequent volcanic eruptions. I’m still sort of overwhelmed by this situation, and it keeps getting worse as we learn more…
  2. The descent of Ecuador into deadly political violence — This is another shock that involves a place that was once my home, and which I fear I would not recognize today. I refer to the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, a former investigative journalist who was outspoken against government corruption in his country. He was shot and killed last week. You know, we had a lot of political instability in Ecuador when I lived there, but it was gentler. When a junta wanted to take over while I was there in 1963, they waited for the duly elected president to get drunk again (they didn’t have to wait long), put him on a plane, and he woke up in Panama. (Or that’s the way we heard it from people who would know.) Today, it’s a country increasingly torn by violence, with the homicide rate rising by 500 percent in recent years. And now this…
  3. Can it be that anyone thinks what is posted on the internet is private? — An email from the NYT today raised the question, which I can’t believe anyone still has in 2023, “Is the internet private? Teens, and the rest of us, aren’t sure.” Wow. It was taking off on an item in the paper headlined, “Teens Don’t Really Understand That the World Can See What They Do Online, but I Do.” Well, the things that kids don’t understand would fill… another Worldwide Web. But it seems kids who have grown up with the internet would understand the utter lack of security online better than their elders. I’ll just repeat my standard advice for anyone, of any age, who is still deluded: If you want something to be private, never, ever put it in writing (or pictures) on a medium that immediately publishes it to the entire planet. If you walk naked down a public street, would you expect not to be seen by anyone? This is like that.
  4. David Brooks joins the Grownup Party — Yeah, I know, here’s something else you can’t read without a subscription. Sorry, but that’s where most of the interesting stuff is. Anyway, this column is about tracing “the decline of the American psyche” to “a set of cultural changes that started directly after World War II and built over the next few decades,” regarding “the emergence of what came to be known as the therapeutic culture.” It’s a good piece, but I can’t really explain what it’s about fully without quoting it practically in full, which might upset the NYT. But on a far more superficial level, I’ll just celebrate the headline: “Hey, America, Grow Up!If you aren’t familiar with my Grownup Party, here’s the manifesto, from 2008. You can read that for free…
  5. State Sen. John Scott of Richland County dies. He was 69 — That is, he was slightly younger (like, by a couple of weeks) than I am. The story doesn’t list the cause of death. This is someone I’ve known for many a year (when I see headlines referring to “Sen. Scott,” I tend to assume this is who they mean, since I’ve never met Tim), and I’ve had critical things to say about him. After all, he ran with Marguerite Willis against James and Mandy in the 2018 primary (unsuccessfully). But I see him as a guy who tried hard for his constituents, and I generally got along well with him, and I’m really sorry to hear of his loved ones’ loss.
  6. A Woman Was Attacked by a Snake That Fell From the Sky. Then a Hawk Dived In. — That headline is (again) from the NYT, where I read it, but the link is to a CBS story that I hope you can read. When I saw it, my first reaction was “OK, enough with the high-concept movie pitches…” My favorite part of the story was one sentence of startling understatement: “Wendell Jones, her husband, eventually noticed that his wife was screaming, running in a zigzag pattern and flailing her arms.” Observant fellow. What actually happened? It seems a hawk had grabbed a snake and dropped it — and it landed on this lady, and wrapped itself around her arm, and started striking at her face, and leaving apparent venom on her glasses. The hawk, really ticked off that his dinner had been “stolen,” swooped down and launched his own attack, cutting her arm up before he managed to tear the snake loose and fly away with it. And you think you have bad days… Anyway, I’m glad she survived.
  7. I hope Josh doesn’t go out to flyover land and get lost again — I delete a lot of political fund-raising emails, but I held onto this one, because it was from Bradley Whitford. You know, Josh Lyman. (So, it’s not just that I feel an affinity for other people named Bradley W.) Of course, he invoked “The West Wing,” then talked about how in real life he’s a member of the striking SAG-AFTRA, and stepped from there to the need to “elect pro-union representatives at every level of government.” Which, he said, was why he was “asking you to join me in supporting one of the union movement’s strongest allies: Sen. Sherrod Brown.” Well, OK then. But if he goes to Ohio to campaign for Sherrod, I hope he doesn’t get lost the way he, Toby and Donna did that time in Indiana. Anyway, to you people who send out these emails: I think you should be ashamed, thinking Americans will back a candidate just because a celebrity does. But on the other hand, I will read the ones from top officials in the Bartlet administration. I also like the notes I get from Carole King…

The time they got lost in flyover land…

Open Thread for Wednesday, August 9, 2023

The other presidential bookend to what Joe did yesterday…

A few things I’ve focused on in the last day or two:

  1. Biden creates Grand Canyon National Monument — That link is to the speech he gave at the site, because the news stories tend to concentrate on the trivial, such as the electoral ramifications. To me, it’s about things of enduring value. It reminds me I need to get back to reading Theodore Rex, which I mostly set aside at the beach last week. I had stopped just after Teddy visited the Grand Canyon for the first time, and said, “”I don’t exactly know what words to use in describing it. It is beautiful and terrible and unearthly. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve upon it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it — keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you.”
  2. Elon Musk’s Starlink — Here’s one of those cases when it’s truly tragic that not everyone subscribes to The New York Times — because if you don’t, I fear that you can’t hear this installment of The Daily, “Elon Musk’s Quest to Own the Stars.” It’s something you need to know about, and the podcast explains why very clearly. Maybe you already knew, but I didn’t. I learned that 4,500 of the 8,000 satellites orbiting the Earth at this moment belong to Musk. The worldwide satellite access network they serve is interesting enough. But you also learn what a critical role it has played in the Ukraine war, and could play in the future of Taiwan — if Taiwan wasn’t leery of Musk’s business arrangements with China. If you can find a way to get access to the podcast, do so.
  3. Why Mark Sanford walked out during Trump’s SC speech — That was the headline on the Post and Courier email drawing me to the story (as I noted a day or two ago, those heds are usually better than the ones in the paper). My response was, “Why was he there in the first place?” Well, we know, don’t we? Because that’s what Republicans do these days — they go to events where Trump might speak. Which is tragic. By the way, walking out isn’t that dramatic a gesture when you’re Mark Sanford. Read about how plain he made his disdain for party gatherings back in 2004, when the GOP was still a normal political party.
  4. Want employees to return to the office? Then give each one an office. — My response to this headline was simply “Duh.” I later came back and elaborated by suggesting that the only alternative would be to make like Lumberg and say, ““Um, Peter… I’m gonna need you to go back to cubicle hell… yeah…” Of course, an office wouldn’t be enough to get me back. I’ve had offices. I didn’t like any of them as much as my home office.
  5. Happy Nixon Resignation Day! — The night before Aug. 9, 1974, was possibly the highlight of my time as a copy boy at The Commercial Appeal. That was the night Nixon announced his resignation, which would take effect the next day. The managing editor (pictured here) wrote “Nixon Resigns” on a scrap of paper and send me to the composing room (on the next floor) to get the guys up there to set it in type, then put the type on a camera and shoot a picture, and blow it up to whatever size it took for it to spread all the way across the six columns of the front page. Then it would be converted into a metal “cut” like a photo, and placed at the top of the page atop all the lead type below it. Yeah, something you could do with a couple of keystrokes on your computer today. Anyway, this special assignment made me feel like a big shot. I was just a kid…

As I mentioned, news coverage focused on the political trivia, rather than the thing of lasting value.