Category Archives: Blogosphere

Open Thread for Wednesday, January 18, 2023

This is what a Leopard 2 looks like. This one was just a prototype, but it was the only image I could find in the public domain.

First time I’ve done one of these lately — since September, I think. And excuse the typo — I actually gave a date as 2023 in my headline there, and of course that’s obviously some weird date off in the future, from some sci fi story or something.

Anyway — it’s even longer since I’ve done a Virtual Front Page, but these topics won’t work for that, since some of the items are opinion pieces. Oh, well, here you go…

  1. Heavy tanks — and a push from the U.S. — are key to Ukraine’s success — This is an editorial from The Washington Post. It’s pretty persuasive. You might also George Will’s column, which is chock full o’ historical perspective. Ukraine needs them to hold off the increasingly desperate attacks coming from Putin. And this sure beats the U.S. sending troops, for a number of compelling reasons. All we have to do is persuade Germany to let the Ukrainians have those Leopard 2 tanks they’ve been holding back. Yes, we all appreciate Germany being a more peaceful country. It beats what we saw in the two generations before 1945. But meine Freunde, you don’t have to fight. You just have to make it possible for the Ukrainians to defend themselves. This is about as different as you can get from sending Panzers full of Nazis to pound all those Untermenschen to the East…
  2. Microsoft to Lay Off 10,000 Workers as It Looks to Trim Costs — Yikes. First the buggy whip industry, then newspapers, and now this. American ingenuity (see Max Boot, below) needs to come up with the Next Thing in a hurry. This is not good news, especially since it’s part of a series of such announcements coming from Big Tech.
  3. What if Diversity Trainings Are Doing More Harm Than Good? — A provocative title on an op-ed piece. I dunno. Did North Vietnam’s reeducation camps work? Is there solid research available on that? I know that the Captain had awful trouble persuading Luke to “get his mind right.” In my own personal experience, I always had trouble seeing the need for it. I would think, You say the company should have a workforce that looks like the community it seeks to serve, and we all need to work together better? I’m with you. Now let’s get back to work… Of course, I reacted that way to anything that took me away from the work — even recreational outings.
  4. World’s oldest known person, French nun Lucile Randon, dies at 118 — Wow, that’s impressive. And in the picture with that link, she looked amazingly good for her age just a year ago. God bless her. Of course, I’m reaching an age at which I can’t help thinking, so where does this put me in the running for the title?
  5. China records 1st population fall in decades as births drop — Which is very bad news for a country that wants to dominate the world. Good luck with that now, what an inadequate number of kids trying to support all those pensioners. As the big brains of Beijing realized too late (in 2016), this is where draconian One Child policies get you.
  6. U.S. politics is awful — but our science and technology offer hope for the future — This is a good column from Max Boot. He’s had a bunch of good ones lately, which reminds my I should go back and mention him on the list of columnists I’ve been enjoying. Anyway, I hope people read all the way to the end, where he says, “We need to maintain our lead by spending more on research and offering more opportunities for foreign-born talent.” You bet.

By the way, on that last part about reading “all the way to the end”… yeah, I know a lot of, probably most of, my readers can’t do that, not having subscriptions. I don’t know what to do about that. I can either bring up thoughtful ideas from the outlets that actually publish such things, or we can sit around yelling at each other on a grossly superficial level about the latest outrages on social media — which is free.

I’m planning to write about that in a subsequent post. If I have trouble finding the time to do so, please remind me…

An image from the James Webb Space Telescope, grabbed from a NASA site.

 

Stroke Guys of the World, Unite!

What are yinz lookin’ at?

Paul DeMarco didn’t specifically mention John Fetterman in his piece posted earlier, but he alluded to him when he mentioned what happened in Pennsylvania last month.

And that reminded me of a selfie I snapped a couple of weeks ago. I had just stepped into the bathroom, and happened to glance in the mirror, and… something looked familiar.

No, I’m not saying you can’t tell us apart or something. I just mean I saw something in the mirror that reminded me of John Fetterman. Yeah, to some extent the effect had to do certain sartorial choices. I wouldn’t have been reminded of him back when I went around looking like this. Oh, and if you want to see the senator-elect in a hoodie, there are plenty of such images.

But there was more to it. I now feel more of a commonality with this guy than I did back when he first emerged on the national scene, going around with his eccentric chin spinach saying strange things such as “yinz.”

But then, when people started picking on him because of a minor cognitive symptom following his stroke — when he was obviously still an intelligent and discerning man — I got all defensive on his behalf. How dare they?

Y’all know how opposed I am to Identity Politics, but don’t go picking on my special group — guys who have minor bits of damage after a stroke (in my case, the “nap attacks” I think I’ve mentioned before), but are pretty danged hale and hearty otherwise, dagnabbit!

Yeah, I know I’ve kind of mentioned all this before, but that recent glimpse in the mirror got me going again. And mentioning it now, after the election, I can also take a moment to celebrate the fact that Fetterman is going to the Senate, instead of that yahoo carpetbagger from TV — the guy Paul did mention by name.

Stroke Guys Unite!

DeMarco: Trump is Done

The Op-Ed Page

At first, Trump brought attention and renewed dignity to working people who felt exploited by business, media, and tech elites.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Our long national nightmare is over. Donald Trump has overplayed his hand and (boy it sounds good to say this) is headed to the dustbin of history.

In 2016, Trump benefitted from the trifecta of a crowded Republican primary field, a weak challenger, and an angry electorate. I was in the audience when Trump came to the Florence Center in February of that year (not as a supporter but to see the show). I’ve been to many political rallies, including a national convention, and I’ve seen whipped-up crowds, but this was different. It was a quasi-religious fervor. The catharsis came when Trump shouted, “We’re going to build a wall” to ecstatic cheers. Then, gleefully, he asked “And who is going to pay for it!?” The crowd roared “Mexico!”

At the time, I discounted Trump. I was sure my fellow countrymen and women would see through what he was doing, playing to our fears, inflaming us with hyperbole, lies and innuendo. I was wrong. After he won, I thought back to two men sitting next to me at the rally. They had come straight from work and were still dressed in boots and Carhartt jeans. At one point, Trump said, “This country is going to hell.” The man sitting next to me said quietly to his friend, “In a hand basket.”

Whatever you think of Trump, he connected with those two construction workers in a way that no other politician in my lifetime has. Trump’s strength was that he brought attention and renewed dignity to working people who felt exploited by business, media, and tech elites. If you live where I do and have watched plant after plant close and your once thriving Main Street shrivel, it’s not hard to understand Trump’s appeal to folks Alan Jackson called “the little man.” No other candidate from either party could match Trump’s appeal to working-class voters, especially rural ones, whose jobs disappeared and wages were flat while economists told them how good it all was for the global economy. Trump acknowledged their loss and their pain and promised to advocate for them in Washington.

In 2016, most people who voted for Trump did not know what they were getting. They knew how they felt-angry, nostalgic, like the America they knew was slipping away. Not all their energy was generous – as demonstrated by the “Mexico” chant, but I will leave that for another column. For today, we can recognize that in 2020, the connection he forged with them in his first campaign outweighed the turbulence of his presidency, and they stuck with him the second time around.

Thankfully, for enough Americans, election denial is a bridge too far. Since the founding of the republic, we have demonstrated that we will accept colossal flaws in our candidates as long as they pledge to advance our policy positions. We will always argue about the size and role of government, the minimum wage, the regulation of guns, the best way to fund Social Security and Medicare, and the price of gas. But we know there needs to be an America in which we can argue. The tie that binds our fractious democracy together is our willingness to accept election results.

Trump strikes at the heart of this with his lies about election fraud. The midterms should have been a red tsunami. Joe Biden’s historically low approval ratings amidst the worst inflation in 40 years presaged disaster for the Democrats. Instead of reemploying his successful worker-centered strategy of 2016, Trump snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by harping incessantly about his loss in 2020.

The defeat of Blake Masters, a Trump-backed Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Arizona, will be remembered as the beginning of the end for Trump. Masters was poised to win a crucial Senate seat until he made election denial a pillar of his campaign. One of his television ads begins with a casually dressed Masters walking alone down a road in the Arizona desert. His first words are “I think Trump won in 2020.” A few seconds later, “The media – they’d tell any lie in order to hurt President Trump.”
That ad was a crucial test of how far Americans are willing to walk with Trump. An attack on the Capitol did not seem to be a deal-breaker for many Republicans. Would they overlook election denial as well? Fortunately not. Masters turned a winnable election into a five-point loss to the Democrat, former astronaut Mark Kelly.

Trump’s backing in a tight race is now the kiss of death – just ask Kari Lake (losing Arizona gubernatorial candidate), Mehmet Oz (losing Senate candidate in Pennsylvania), Adam Laxalt (losing Senate candidate in Nevada), Tudor Dixon (losing Michigan gubernatorial candidate), and most recently, Hershel Walker. Trump endorsed all of these candidates, and his super PAC spent heavily in their races.

Trump will not go quietly, but he will go. Ron DeSantis is the rising star in the Republican Party, as he should be after his blowout win over Charlie Crist. I’m no fan of DeSantis. I disagree with many of his policy positions and don’t like his governing style, exemplified by his duplicity in tricking almost fifty asylum seekers to board planes for Martha’s Vineyard to “own the libs.” But crucially, he won without resorting to election denialism. I am confident he will respect our electoral process and not defile it further if he loses. For that reason alone, Republicans should abandon Trump and embrace DeSantis. America will be more secure once Trump leaves the stage.

A version of this column appeared in the Nov. 30 edition of the Florence Morning News.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boston Bud

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

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

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

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

DeMarco: Worried About QAnon? Don’t Be.

The Op-Ed Page

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

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did ‘rich’ mean to you as a kid?

I don’t think I’d ever dive into a vault full of coins. Paper, maybe…

Yeah, I think it’s a silly question, too, but I saw it on Twitter, and saw an interesting response or two from folks I know, and decided to respond myself… and thought y’all might want to get in on it.

It came from this feed I had never seen before. I only saw it because people I follow responded:


Here’s what Sen. Katrina Shealy said to that:

I never thought about it. We were not rich but we were comfortable and we had friends and family that had more and those who had less. I never noticed, until I I read all these responses.

A few minutes before that, our friend Lynn Teague had written:


As y’all know, I’m generally not that interested in money. (A sure way to lose me is to steer a thread toward a discussion of the economy.) Unlike someone whose Twitter handle is DelyanneTheMoneyCoach, when the subject comes up I usually run the other way. But I responded this way:


Elaborating on that diving-boards-and-pools theme, I suppose I should throw in the Clampett’s cee-ment pond.

Another model for me was the Howells on Gilligan’s Island. Which reminds me of something else, so I might come back to them in a later post.

In other words, the models were silly, and the things that distinguished them as “rich” were even sillier. Nothing basic, like a washer and dryer. (Maybe that’s what drove her to be “the Money Coach.”)

When I was a kid, I saw us as living sort of outside that whole money universe, since my Dad was in the Navy and therefore outside the private-sector rat race thing. We usually had a washer and dryer in our homes, but I owned my own house before my parents bought one. We were just always moving around too much. My folks bought their house after he retired.

Not that I never think about money, as an adult. I think about it way more than I want to. That’s why my fantasy about being rich is simple: I’d like to have enough money that I would never again have to think about money. I’d hire what in Regency Period terms (all those historical novels I read, you know) would be called a “man of business” to deal with all that. All bills would go to him, and he’d take care of them. I’d also engage the services of someone clever to watch him, and then maybe a third person to watch her. And I’d instruct them all not to bother me with it.

I think that would be way better than a pool full of ginger ale…

I couldn’t find an image with ginger ale. But I’m sure I read a comic that mentioned it…

DeMarco: Trump 2024? Ask Your Grandchildren.

The Op-Ed Page

Sure, we all know I voted for Biden, but I thought I’d show a HANDSOME grandpa voting.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Scene: It’s the autumn of 2032. Jessie, an 8th-grader excited about her government project, stops by her grandparents’ house.

Jessie (big smile, kisses him on the cheek): Hi Grandpa! I’m doing a project about the 2024 presidential election. Would you help me?

Grandpa: Sure, honey. What would you like to know?

Jessie: OK, first, who did you vote for in 2024?

Grandpa (smiling broadly): Donald J. Trump!! I voted for him three times! Best president in the history of America!

Jessie (crestfallen): But Grandpa, he was a liar!

Grandpa (scoffing): Who told you that! What are they teaching you in that school?!

Jessie: No one from school had to tell me that. Literally everyone knows he lied about 2020. His own attorney general said so. There’s never been any credible evidence he won.

Grandpa: That’s why he said the media was the enemy of the people. Don’t believe everything you read, sweetheart.

Jessie (excited): Oh, I didn’t realize. So tell me the real scoop, Grandpa. What really happened? Where can I go to find the real truth?

Grandpa: Well, I can’t point you to a single place. I just know there were lots of irregularities and inconsistencies.

Jessie (disappointed): Oh… everything I’ve been able to find says he lost. No conspiracy was ever uncovered, he lost over 60 court cases challenging the result, and none of the recounts showed any fraud.

Grandpa: All I know is that he was winning when I went to bed and losing when I woke up the next morning. Who knows what the Democrats could have done while I was sleeping?

Jessie: Election experts expected that to happen. More Trump voters voted in person and more Biden voters voted by mail. It took longer to count the mail-in ballots

Grandpa: Well, there was something fishy about that election.

Jessie: But Grandpa, how could you have voted for him in the first place? The way he talks about women! You wouldn’t have stood him talking about Mama that way.

Grandpa: That was just locker-room talk.

Jessie: Is that the way you talked about Mama in your high school locker room?

Grandpa (embarrassed): Well, no…

Jessie: I just don’t understand, Grandpa. He acts so ugly. I’ve heard you say you want a Christian in the White House, and I do too. I know how much you love the church and the special things you do for people.

Grandpa: Trump is a Christian! He got Roe v. Wade overturned.

Jessie: Being a Christian and being opposed to abortion are two different things. This Sunday when Reverend Jessup talked about the fruits of the spirit – let’s see if I can name them all – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness – and there’s one more…

Grandpa: Self-control.

Jessie: Right, self-control. You and grandma have all of those, but Trump doesn’t have any. There were so many better choices in 2024. Why not Nikki Haley or Tim Scott? They’re both from South Carolina. Or what about Mike Pence? I was sure you were going to say you voted for him. He’s so much more like you than Trump.

Grandpa: Jesse, you’re young, you don’t understand. The president isn’t our minister. He’s got to be tough to protect America.

Jessie: I get that he’s not our minister, but in 2016 and 2024 there were candidates whose policies were just as conservative as Trump but so much more decent.

Grandpa: But they didn’t fight like Trump.

Jessie (red-faced): So you didn’t want a minister, you wanted an MMA fighter! Grandpa, the rioters he sent up to the Capitol on January 6th almost prevented an orderly transfer of power. That’s the bedrock of our democracy. Trump acted like a spoiled brat, not the president. And then he lied and lied and lied about it. Is that the way you wanted me to act when I lost the election for class president?

Grandpa (voice rising as Jessie turns away): Jessie, honey, we’re not talking about middle school. We’ve got to keep the left from ruining the country!

Jessie (slow turning back to face him, quietly): Grandpa, what if I am the left? I haven’t made up my mind on a lot of issues, but I’m OK with gay marriage and I’m comfortable talking about both the great and the terrible parts of American history. I respect your view that abortion is always wrong, but I’m not sure that I’m willing to support making it a crime.

Grandpa: You know I’m not going to change my mind about those things.

Jessie: I’m not asking you to. Just remember, most of the people who disagree with you are a lot like me. You don’t need to elect someone like Trump to protect the country from us.

Grandpa: I’ll never apologize for voting for him.

Jessie: I know. Just vote for someone less dangerous this time. Have you decided who you are supporting this year?

Grandpa (smiling): After what you just put me through, you think I’m going to tell YOU!?

Jessie (laughing); Chicken!!

Open Thread for Tuesday, September 27, 2022

It’s about time for one of these:

  1. Joe Cunningham really doesn’t want me to vote for him — I need to write a separate, full post about this, but I wanted to mention his latest before it falls off my radar: Now, he wants judges in S.C. to be directly, popularly elected. You know, you can say all kinds of sharply critical things about our system of judicial selection, but I can’t imagine anything more likely to make it worse than this. It’s one of those few things about the way we run this state that makes me look at other states and be thankful that at least we don’t do that. “Popular” judges, being motivated to make only popular decisions. Wow.
  2. Recruitment officer wounded in latest attack on a Russian draft office — This is awful on so many levels — that Putin is calling these people up for his indefensible war, that this officer who was just doing his unsavory job was shot, that the guy who shot him couldn’t think of any better way to express his outrage (so someone gets shot, and the shooter has ruined his own life), and that the shooter’s friend got drafted despite not being one of the experienced troops that Putin had said this draft was limited to. No winners here. But you know what’s worse? That same day in another part of Russia, a gunman shot up a school, killing 17 people, 11 of them children. Remember when the Russians just wanted to get their hands on American blue jeans? That was fine; blue jeans are great. Now they’re importing the very worst things our culture has to offer…
  3. The dollar is surging. The pound is falling. — Wow, we should have postponed our 2010-11 trip to England until now. Anyway, the dual link is to NPR talking about what a rising dollar means, and The Washington Post discussing the pound. I’m sorry that this is happening right after the passing of the queen. Now folks who don’t understand how things work are going to blame King Charles III, and the guy’s just getting started. Of course, we know this is really the responsibility of the new PM and her team.
  4. USC postpones football game because of hurricane — Excellent idea! I hope every other football team in the country gets inspired and does the same thing — whether they see a hurricane coming or not. I mean, you never know with these things — they’re even hitting Canada now! My recommendation is to postpone all football until, say, 2042. And keep watching that weather! If it still looks menacing, put them off a bit longer…
  5. Thousands evacuate as Hurricane Ian barrels toward Florida — I hope they all get out safely, because one way or the other, it’s coming…
  6. NASA smashes into an asteroid — I think this is awesome, and I look forward to finding out whether it worked — in terms of altering the rock’s course slightly. It’s good to see us doing cool things in space. Now, back to the moon!

We lost the queen at a bad time. Some brief thoughts…

Of course, it was a bad time for Britain, as you’ve probably read or heard a thousand times in recent days. But even before this sad occasion, there were pieces being written in reputable journals, such as this one in The Atlantic, foretelling woe for Albion. That was published in January, and it began:

The grim reality for Britain as it faces up to 2022 is that no other major power on Earth stands quite as close to its own dissolution…

So bad timing for Britain, and bad for me, too, as a blogger. My own 91-year-old mum was in the hospital having surgery — the placement of a pacemaker — that very day. She had just gotten out of the ER, and my brother and I had just seen her in post-op, when we got the news about the queen. (My mother is at home now and fine, thank God.)

Needless to say, I didn’t have time that day for blogging, or paying work, or much else. And things have been busy since.

But I had thoughts, and ripped them out over Twitter that day, when I had a sec, and thereafter. Which in a way was fine, because I really didn’t have any sort of coherent, strung-together essay popping up at that moment. Just a few quick thoughts. Here are some of them. I won’t embed the tweets, since y’all don’t seem to like that, but here are the thoughts:

I’ll add a couple more…

My headline is quite intentional. I say “we” and not “Britain,” because we’ve all lost someone of great importance to our world, someone who helped keep civilization anchored, someone who lived an unimpeachable life in view of the whole planet, and never did anything to embarrass or shame the human race, much less the British portion of it. (No matter how much I may like some of them, I have a hard time thinking of any American leader of whom I can say that.) She was a beacon of civilized restraint in a world increasingly condemning itself to drown in stupidity and snark. And she did it for 70 years! I really wish she could have beaten the Sun King’s record. And after that, I’d have cheered for her to beat Methuselah’s.

Y’all know, of course, that I’m an Anglophile. But I can still think of plenty of things to criticize the country for, from the dim times before Alfred the Great to the present time. But I don’t lay any of it at Elizabeth’s feet. At least, not this Elizabeth. And that is really, truly extraordinary. I doubt I’ll ever see anything like it again (and of course, I expect some of you will quickly share your Ten Worst Things About QEII lists. But those will say more about you than about her).

To sum it up, I will embed one of the tweets, so y’all can see the headline to which I was responding:

Your Virtual Front Page for Tuesday, September 6, 2022

First one of these in a while, eh?

  1. ‘Nothing Has Really Changed’: In Moscow, the Fighting Is a World Away. Really? Must be nice. Over here, it seems kinda close. That headline led the NYT for a bit this morning. Now there’s a new one: “Russia Is Buying North Korean Artillery, According to U.S. Intelligence.” More of an actual news story. So apparently, though it’s far away, the killing continues.
  2. She’s so much taller than the Queen! Which seems disrespectful or something. If they’re going to pick a woman again to be PM, why can’t they find one Her Majesty’s size? (It just makes her look smaller than a tall man would.) They probably did, but she turned down the job. Pundits aren’t optimistic for this one’s chances, either. One column I saw out there this morning was headlined, “Liz Truss, an unpopular leader for a troubled Britain.” So hey, good luck, Liz! And mind how you go. If you want a touch-on-the-basics graphic about her, here’s one from the Beeb.
  3. Shooting on Charleston’s King St. injures 6; 2 arrested, including a minor. This is a couple of days old, but it seems the biggest thing out of South Carolina. Here’s an update.
  4. Football’s back. I just thought I’d put out a warning, for the unwary among you. I’ve seen several signs. My mom was watching a game when I went over to see her last night. Bryan is posting cryptic messages about something called a “triple option.” It’s unmistakable. So batten the hatches, and don’t try to go downtown on certain Saturdays. Of course, those of you who are actually happy about all this already knew this was happening…
  5. But the Globe leads with baseball, bless them. I’m really digging The Boston Globe. I’ll probably write a separate post on this, but I’ve really been impressed with the paper since I started subscribing over the summer. Today, while other news outlets are slobbering over football, the first three stories in sports — this one and this one and this one — are about baseball, then on the next screen are a couple or three items about the Pats, then another baseball story! As my wife’s first cousin Tim McCarver used to say, oh, baby, I love it!
  6. American tourist fined for eating ice-cream on steps of Rome fountain. I just included this one so I could say something about “Three Cones in a Fountain,” but I couldn’t think of anything good…

Stick with the same headline, people!

Twitter is preparing to add an edit feature, and I think that’s great. Sure, there’s potential for abuse, but I think the precautions they’re taking are good ones, and I think it should be tried.

No more posting a Tweet, seeing the error the instant it appears, and then having to delete it and start over. Good.

Oh, and here are the precautions:

Twitter said it will add a label to edited tweets that will allow users to click in and see the history of the tweet and its changes.

The feature has other limitations. Tweets can only be edited during the first 30 minutes after they are posted, and they will be labeled with an icon to let others know the tweet has been changed….

Sounds good.

Now, I want another innovation — except Twitter can’t do this for me. It’s something I need the editors putting out the content to do. If they will. Which they probably won’t, from what I’ve seen.

Usually, I catch this before it happens. But yesterday, I failed, and didn’t notice until I saw this morning that someone had liked the tweet.

Remember the Tolkien post? It was inspired by a couple of stories I’d read earlier in the day, primarily by this one from The Washington Post, headlined, “‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ is beautiful, banal boredom.”

The headline of my post, “Maybe it would help to have a POINT to the story,” was in reaction to that headline. So much so that when I posted the link to my post to Twitter, I decided to do so in a retweet of the WashPost‘s tweet — so people could see what it was in reaction to.

And here’s how the frickin’ thing appeared:

Which really ticks me off. Sure, if the reader clicks on the link of the Post‘s original tweet, they get to see the original headline. But is that clear communication? It is not.

But that doesn’t bother me as much as this, which happens more often…

I’m reading one of my newspaper apps — the Post, the NYT, whatever. And I see a headline on the main, or “Top Stories,” page, and immediately think of a good response to that, and then call up the story — and it has an entirely different headline! Something boring, that doesn’t inspire a good tweet. And if you try to tweet it, that blah headline is the one that goes the Twitter.

Sometimes, I don’t notice this until I’ve read the stupid story, and clicked to tweet it, and am actually writing my reaction. At which point I see the problem, and ditch the whole enterprise.

I hate this. And it’s not in the interest of the original publisher of the content — since I’m trying to bring further attention to that content!

So please, don’t write multiple heds. Just come up with one good one, and stick with it.

Thanks…

Open Thread on Technology for Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The Singularity hasn’t arrived, but we’re all pretty obsessed with the Matrix, as it currently exists…

Editor’s note: I wrote this on Tuesday, but didn’t post it because I thought it wasn’t very good. But today — Friday — I decided not to waste that time I spent typing it. So here it is, with only slight editing. But I didn’t take the time to edit all the places where it said “today,” which at the time meant Tuesday.

I have to be careful here. After all, there are already those who see me as an old guy (the insolent puppies). I don’t want to give them any additional reason to see me as Uncle Ben in “Spider-Man,” looking in the physical, dead-tree newspaper for a job (which shows you how long ago 2002 was), and seeing a help-wanted ad for a computer analyst, moans, “My Lord, even the computers need analysts these days!”

All my adult life, I was always on the leading edge of technology — when newspapers went from typewriters to mainframe, and then from mainframe to PCs, I was one of the people who learned it first and taught the others. I paginated the editorial pages before the rest of the newspaper followed. When I got canned in 2009, I was the only person at the paper actively blogging and regularly interacting with readers online.

But lately I’ve been noticing something a bit unsettling. Gradually, the news I read is less about what people do, and more about what their technology does. I’m not saying the singularity is imminent — artificial intelligence is still too stupid — but we’re moving in that direction, in terms of what we pay attention to. Maybe it’s because we’ve spent too much time observing stupid people, and no longer notice the intellectual limitations in the tech.

Anyway, these were all in The Washington Post today:

  • You’re charging wrong: 5 ways to make gadget batteries last longer — Hey, I love my iPhone and my iPad, and am on decent terms with my PC. But I’ll respect them all more — especially the iPhone — when the batteries are better. Or at least, more reasonable. Here’s what reasonable would look like: When I take off my phone and am not using it — which means when I’m sleeping — it should be charging, and without damaging the battery. And please, don’t do this thing where you take all fricking night to charge. Ever since that started, I’ll wake up in the night and reach over to unplug it, because it’s been a couple of hours and should be charged — but it’s nowhere near done, because it’s aiming to finish around 5 a.m. I’ve tried turning off this “convenient” feature in the past, but failed. So it charges all night, but gradually. But what if I needed to grab it and go in the middle of the night?
  • How a photo of a woman yelling in a guy’s ear became a viral meme — That sounds stupid, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Not as stupid, say, as ‘haul videos” were, but pretty dumb. Apparently, it’s news because as a meme, it is somehow evocative of other memes, and has meaning to someone who spends all his or her time thinking about memes instead of, say, great literature. It’s an actual international sensation, apparently.
  • Strangers rallied worldwide to help this Maryland mom find where she parked her car — In this case, the amazing part isn’t about the technology. The amazing thing is the way this lady managed to lose the car she had hurriedly parked on the way to take a child to the doctor. Which is reasonable to anyone who has had to spend a little time remembering exactly where in the lot, or the garage, the car was parked. That I get. What blows my mind is that she didn’t even know in which nearby parking garage she had parked it. Which means she arrived at the doctor so flustered that she didn’t know how she’d gotten there, even roughly. So after unsuccessfully searching, she posted something about it on social media, and went home, defeated. And people around the world jumped in to solve the mystery, and two days later, someone found it. Which is cool, and even nice. But how did this happen to begin with?
  • Down and out and extremely online? No problem: Just enter a new ‘era.’ — You’ll have to read a few grafs of the story even to understand what it’s about. But when you do, you may react as I did, wondering how anyone could become this lost in narcissism. (Which is really something, coming from a guy who blogs.) And then, you’ll wonder about something even more perplexing: Who would actually watch such a thing? Compared to this, haul videos actually made sense.
  • Former security chief claims Twitter buried ‘egregious deficiencies’ — I put this last, but this morning, this was actually the lede story on the app. So Elon Musk isn’t the only one complaining. But then, he’s looking for something in Twitter other than what I see, and enjoy. I use it all the time, and it works great. I post something, and it shows up, and people interact with it. Yeah, lying to regulators is a bad thing and all, but if you want to go after a social medium that really sucks, take on Facebook. Or Instagram. Or Snapchat. Twitter remains my fave.

This saturation in tech news today reminded me of another story about something I want to complain about, from last week:

How to send text messages from the comfort of your computer — The only reason I read this was because I use an iPhone for my phone, and a PC for my computer. Which means I’m up the creek, unlike people who use all Apple products — their texts are shared smoothly on all their platforms. So I started reading, thinking that maybe, just maybe, I won’t have to shell out a fortune to get a Mac when my Dell gives out. And I read on even though the subhed warned me what was coming: “The process ranges from ‘surprisingly simple’ to ‘ugh’ depending on your mix of devices.” Of course, they save the “iPhone + Windows” scenario for the end, at which point they say that it’s technically possible, but…

So I kind of wasted my time there…

DeMarco: A New Confederate Statue?

The Op-Ed Page

Florence County Museum.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Casting a likeness in bronze and setting it on public property establishes a long-term relationship between a community and the person being honored. Some communities, spurred by an awakened consciousness of the messages Confederate statues send, have chosen to remove them. Others have added markers to provide a broader historical context than the monument alone provides.

But few are placing new statues to honor Confederates. Enter Florence County Council, which has decided by a 5-4 vote that 2022 was finally the time for Florence to do so. “This guy (William Wallace Harllee) formed the reason the town is here,” Council member and statue supporter Kent Caudle told The Post and Courier. “I don’t think that has anything to do with racism.”

Placing a statue because it acknowledges a historical person or event is not rationale enough. Those who argue that statues teach us history misunderstand their purpose. There is not enough bronze in the world to properly convey a complete picture of Florence’s 150 years of history. Learning that history requires reading, walking the streets, visiting the museum, and talking with those whose families have lived there for generations.

Statues accomplish a different objective. The best statues are about our values and our future. They capture someone whose life embodies important and timeless principles, ones that can continue to guide us. The worst statues point only backwards, evincing nostalgia for a romanticized version of the past.

Weighing a person’s life is an uncomfortable but critical part of the process. The key is to determine the person’s primary legacy. Lincoln had disabling bouts of depression and, although he always opposed slavery, whether he truly believed blacks were the equals of whites is a question historians still debate. But summing up Lincoln’s life, these are just footnotes. He was the Great Emancipator and Commander-in-Chief in the war that preserved the Union.

The County Council should apply a similar rubric to their decision to place a statue of Harllee at the Florence County Museum. Here is how I would encapsulate his life: He was a lawyer, businessman, military officer, and legislator from the Pee Dee who was lieutenant governor from 1860-1862, during the time South Carolina seceded from the Union. The fact that Florence is named after his daughter is a footnote in his story.

It seems strange that the County Council would want to honor this man, even stranger that it would override the museum board’s unanimous vote rejecting displaying the statue on museum property.

Perhaps if Gen. Harllee had a strong connection to Florence or had been an important part of the city’s development, it might make more sense. Gen. Harllee did found the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad in 1852, which was first railroad to locate a depot near what would become Florence. However, Harllee resigned from the company in 1855. Florence was not established until 1872, and Harllee did not live there until 1889. Florence Harllee’s obituary from 1925 states that the railroad construction superintendent, Colonel Fleming, gave the depot the name Florence during its construction circa 1853.

The statue, which is titled “This Place Will Be Called In Your Name, Florence” and shows a larger-than-life Harllee standing beside a railroad track with his left hand on Florence’s shoulder, is deceiving. It invites us to believe we are seeing Gen. Harllee sharing with his daughter a vision of the great metropolis into which her namesake city will grow. However, it appears that Gen. Harllee had no such vision; it was someone else who suggested the name.

The lives of Gen. Harllee and Florence are well documented in the museum as well as online. The sculpture, in the vein of other Lost Cause memorials, attempts to rewrite and idealize the city’s history. Some cities are named after giants. Florence is named after the daughter of a secessionist who oversaw South Carolina’s decision to go to war for the right to continue to enslave. This is a history to be overcome, not to be celebrated.

I do not intend to besmirch the name of the daughter, Florence. She was a devout woman who was proud of her city. She lived more than three decades in Florence, and served the community as a teacher. At one point, Florence was her town’s librarian.

It’s doubtful that Florence would have enjoyed all the fuss we are currently making. According to an article in the Florence News Journal in 2015, she was “quiet and unassuming.” In 1923, when she was seventy-four, she was invited to an elaborate celebration marking the opening of a bridge spanning the Great Pee Dee River to connect Florence and Marion counties. Seats for her and several other family members were reserved, and she was to be publicly recognized. The article reports that Florence said “The very idea of being willing to make a spectacle of ourselves!” and wrote back to the planning committee to politely decline their invitation.

Harllee’s ancestors and other admirers had every right to commission this sculpture. But it is a private homage and up to them to find private property on which to display it (although I would urge them not to display it at all). No public funds should be spent on it nor should it be displayed on public property, because it doesn’t do what public sculpture must do: ignite a sense of shared purpose, reminding us of those in our past whose values can propel us into the future.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at [email protected]. A version of this article appeared in the Florence Morning News on 8/17/22.

Postscript: On 8/18, the members of the Florence County Council voted unanimously to reverse their decision after receiving a letter on 8/15 from the Harllee Memorial Statue Committee asking them to do so. The letter stated “It was never the intent of the Harllee Memorial Sculpture Committee to cause any division in this great and prosperous community where we live, work, play, learn and enjoy life.” The Florence branch of the NAACP deserves the credit for mobilizing the community. The council had already received the letter by the time my column was published, so it likely played no role in their decision. I’m just glad they came to their senses so quickly.

DeMarco: Randy, Please Write Back

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

After my June column, “Losing well is critical to democracy,” in which I praised Tom Rice for his grace in defeat and compared his response to Donald Trump’s incessant lying about his loss, I received an email from someone whom I will call “Randy” who is a Trump supporter. Randy told me he grew up in Florence and now lived out west. He was back home visiting and saw the column. He is a volunteer poll worker and has witnessed “serious problems with conducting fair elections” although the only example he cited was an error that involved 40 votes in a local election.

Given that Steven Wukela won the Florence mayoral Democratic primary by a single vote in 2008, I agree with Randy that election integrity is paramount: votes must be properly counted and only eligible voters should vote.

I was curious about his poll-working experience and wanted to know more. Did he believe that the 2020 election had been stolen? How did he think it had occurred?

But the most interesting statement in his email was “Trump gets his power from loyal voters like me. He is nothing without the huge support he enjoys from voters. Whenever you insult him, you actually insult voters like me which cost Tom Rice his job from fellow Trumpers!”

I found this very helpful. For someone like me who knows and respects many people who voted for Trump but sees Trump himself as reckless and solipsistic, I wanted to engage with Randy and find out why he is such a devoted follower.

I was also encouraged that he ended his missive with this benediction: “I enjoyed reading your column but could not disagree with you more.”

Randy’s sentiment, that he could both enjoy my column but totally disagree was refreshing and is largely missing from current political discourse. My intuition is that there are many Americans like Randy, who can disagree enjoyably and leave an argument respecting their opponent.

I quickly composed an answer. The first draft was civil but contained the accusation that due to his fealty to Trump “he had a ‘chip-on-the- shoulder’ attitude” and that he was “primed to be insulted.”

When I reread it, I realized that I was making the error that so many of us make – I assumed I understood his motives, that I could read his mind. It’s always better to allow people to tell you why they feel the way they feel. Of course, they may or may not reveal their true motivations, but it is worth hearing them out.

So I edited my draft. Here is what I sent:

“Randy, I really appreciate your responding to my column. Thank you for your service as a poll worker and the insights in your email. I would be happy to entertain evidence that there was significant fraud in 2020. I agree that elections are not perfect. But the fact that 40 voters voted twice in (your home state) is a far cry from what would be needed to overturn a presidential election… After almost two years and 60 court cases in which no evidence of fraud was found, I think your position that significant fraud existed is weak. Your position is also opposed by attorney general Bill Barr, countless election officials including the Republican Secretary of State who certified the result in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger (who recently beat the Trump-backed candidate in his primary reelection campaign), and the U.S. Congress. Again, I would be open to hearing the evidence and being swayed by it.

I’m interested in your statement ‘Whenever you insult him, you actually insult voters like me.’ I’m not out to insult Trump and certainly not people like you who support him. I’m stating what I believe to be a fact, that he knows he lost the election and is purposely pushing a lie about fraud because it is effective with many of his supporters. He has a unique and strong bond with you and many others. I would benefit from your telling me more about why he means so much to you.

I truly value your willingness to engage with me civilly. If you would, please write back. Thanks and best wishes, Paul”

I sent that over a week ago and as of this writing have not received a response. But for me the possibility that he might respond is energizing. So much of what I read and listen to makes me grit my teeth in despair. I sit between the two warring sides as they lob innuendo- and contempt-laden grenades at one another. It’s depressing and deeply boring. There are many of us in this no-man’s land. If what was said on Twitter was what most of us truly felt about our political opponents, fistfights should be breaking out daily in every grocery store in the country.

Truth is, only a small fraction of us participate in our media dialogues and fewer still enjoy it. Most of us would rather have honest discussions that include various points of view. I hope Randy writes back, or if not that someone else who disagrees with me will.

This column appeared in the Florence Morning News on 7/20/22. Still no response from Randy, but I plan on sending him the blog post. Maybe we can engage him that way.

DeMarco: McKissick Puts Party Over Country

The Op-Ed Page

Drew McKissick

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

I appreciate Drew McKissick, the Chair of the South Carolina Republican Party, responding to my Florence Morning News column of May 25thDemocrats, Let’s Elect Tom Rice” with one in the June 3rd edition entitled “Democrats, stay out of GOP primary.”

I’ve been writing monthly columns for not quite a year now. After they are published I email them out to a small group of friends under the heading “Civil Discourse.” Here’s my first chance to practice what I preach with a prominent Republican.

Before we get to what is contained in McKissick’s response, let’s discuss what’s not there: no insinuation that I’m evil, crazy, deluded, or that I hate America and want to destroy it. He provides reasonable arguments why his position is better than mine. The tone is a little snarky here and there, but in my book, McKissick gets an “A” for the form of his rebuttal.

Now to the substance, which I wholeheartedly dispute. The core of his argument is “Why should a lifelong and current Democrat have the opportunity to meddle in another party’s candidate selection process and encourage others to do so as well? In short, he shouldn’t.”

First of all, I would never describe myself as a “lifelong Democrat.” I have always been suspicious of political parties (as were some of the Founding Fathers) and more today than ever. Since I doubt parties will disappear, my solution is to encourage more of them. Third parties have had a rough go in American politics, but I am following Andrew Yang’s latest attempt, the Freedom Party, with some interest.

Second, he assumes that party affiliation is like binary computer coding, 0 = Republican, 1 = Democrat. In his view, voters are either with you or against you and should be completely impervious to the ideas of the other party. While that may work in the virtual world, in the real world, few people agree completely with either party’s platform. Most of us have some beliefs that align with each party and vote based on which of those beliefs are most important to us at the time of the election. A gun owner who believes assault weapons should be banned might support Biden; a pro-choice voter who wants stricter border controls might support Trump.

McKissick assumes that because I generally vote for Democrats I must wish his party ill. He is mistaken. I want both parties to be strong. I reject the extremism of both sides, as do most of my fellow countrymen and women. That McKissick can’t fathom the idea that I might want what’s best for his party is revealing.

It is, of course, true that some voters play politics as a team sport. These voters choose a candidate simply because of the “R” or “D” behind the name. But there are many independent-minded voters who reject that way of thinking.

My goal is to highlight to my Republican friends that Trump is dangerous and anti-democratic. His advocacy of overturning an election involving 155 million votes by subterfuge and violence is the closest America has ever come to authoritarian rule. Trump is exactly the kind of demagogue of whom our Founding Fathers were afraid. In George Washington’s Farewell Address, he warned against the rise of “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men” who “subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards” democracy itself.

Another disturbing part of McKissick’s argument is that he is so willing to reject my participation in the primary. What makes someone a Republican? Fealty to Trump? Devotion to the platform? How does he know that any of the voters on June 14th meet his litmus test? Republicans have struggled for decades to expand the tent. They have no luxury to pick and choose.

His desire to have a closed primary has some historical precedent. Up until 1948, the Democratic party, then the party of white conservatives, had an all-white primary. After the US Supreme Court struck down segregated primaries in 1944, the South Carolina Legislature revolted. Rather than accept the ruling, it abolished all state statutes related to the party in an effort to claim it was a “private club,” a gambit that was also rejected by the courts. McKissick seems interested in a return to those days when only certain people were allowed to vote in a primary.

McKissick is paid to be a partisan. Therefore, he advocates for party over country. I don’t get a paycheck from either political party. My highest obligation as a citizen is to vote, one I never shirk. This election I am heeding Washington’s admonition, also from his Farewell Address, that political parties “gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.”

Tom Rice understands history and the threat Trump and his ilk pose. He recognizes that sometimes parties can be antithetical to democracy and was not afraid to vote for his country over his party. We must keep men and women like him in Congress.

McKissick is a savvy professional political operative. But he lets his guard down in his concluding remark “So, to our liberal friends we say, “Keep out.”

Telling people they are forbidden to do something they have every right to do only increases the chance they will do it. So thank you, Mr. McKissick. Your southern inhospitality may be the thing that gets Tom Rice elected.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, SC. Reach him at [email protected].

Open Thread for Thursday, June 2, 2022

A screenshot from WSJ video…

Some news, and a few odds and ends:

  1. The latest horrible, senseless shooting — Because it keeps happening, over and over and over. This one bought his “AR-15-style weapon about an hour before the attack.”
  2. Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl — Unfortunately, I think she got a bit knackered with all the celebrating today, and I’m glad she’s going to take a break tomorrow. After all, she’s 96. And while I thought “Charles III” was an interesting “what-if” drama, I’m in no hurry to get to the real thing. I don’t think many of us are…
  3. Are the Movies Liberal? — An interesting, although not awesome, piece by a critic at the NYT. The subhed is, “Everyone knows Hollywood is progressive. But look at the films it churns out. They tell another story.” Well, yeah. Because as the piece says, movies are for everybody, and so they generally offer something for everybody, in order to keep the bucks rolling in. The piece makes some interesting points — and some that are off-kilter — but it’s an interesting read, even though it falls short of having all the answers.
  4. Top Democrats challenging McMaster say Republicans setting the wrong course for SC — Well, yeah, but what are you gonna do about it? I means in terms of actually getting elected so you can do anything about it? I have to say I’m not terribly impressed, and probably won’t sacrifice my chance to have an actual say in who represents me in June by asking for a Democratic ballot. I did so in 2018 because James offered me somebody I could actually feel positive about voting for — and of course I went on to do far more than just vote. I don’t see anyone offering me that this year.
  5. Russia Now Controls a Fifth of Ukraine — That’s depressing, even though 100 days ago, we would have expected it to be all of Ukraine by now. I just hope the country can continue to hang on, and that we continue to do what we should to help.

DeMarco: Democrats, Let’s Elect Tom Rice

The Op-Ed Page

Tom Rice

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Tom Rice and I have different political philosophies. On many controversial issues, we disagree. Yet, I have never felt more strongly about voting for a candidate than I do about voting for him.

This election cycle, rather than focusing on individual races, my goal is to do my part to repair American democracy. After being rammed broadside by Donald Trump and his acolytes, our ship of state is listing. What can I, as a single voter, do to repair the breach?

My answer is to elect Tom Rice. In South Carolina, voters can participate in whichever primary election they choose. I generally, although not always, vote in the Democratic primary since the traditional goals of the party, such as expanding access to health care and education, protecting the planet, and supporting the advancement of previously marginalized people, align with my values as a citizen and a Christian.

This election, there is no greater good than to stymie Trump-endorsed candidates. This is not because they have the same policy positions as Trump. The conservative agenda that Trump advocated during his presidency must be part of the American debate. Many of Trump’s policies, such as lower taxes, less regulation, gun rights, restricting abortion and immigration, and renegotiating trade deals, can be robustly defended. But Donald Trump the man is a threat to our country. He came within a whisker of upending our nearly 250-year-old tradition of orderly transfers of power. If Mike Pence had capitulated to his demands and failed to certify the electoral votes on January 6th, we would have faced a constitutional crisis unlike any this country has seen.

Rice’s strongest opponent, Russell Fry, a state legislator from Horry County, is a Trump lackey. He dutifully recites the lie that Trump won the 2020 election and if a similar circumstance were to arise in 2024, he would undoubtedly choose to overturn a fair election in order to seat his party’s candidate.

While many politicians on both sides lack spine, the invertebrate nature of Republican officeholders and candidates since Trump was elected has been noteworthy. Even more extraordinary, rather than being celebrated for upholding the Constitution, Rice and others who voted to impeach Donald Trump are being drummed out of the party.

I have been politically active for more than 40 years. Until recently, I had confidence that the vast majority of our elected leaders, regardless of party, had an unwavering commitment to democracy. It was a given that the will of the people would be respected, that presidential candidates who had lost even the closest of elections, as Al Gore did in 2000, would, once their legal challenges had concluded, encourage their countrymen and women to put aside their divisions and come together behind the victor. After the Supreme Court had rendered its decision in Bush v. Gore, Gore said “partisan rancor must now be put aside…for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”

That centuries-old understanding of presidential decorum changed with Trump. After his legal challenges had been exhausted, Trump encouraged his supporters to rally on January 6th, hoping the crowd would do for him what the courts would not. He waited in silence for three hours as a mob attempted violently to overturn the election. When he finally sent out a video asking them to disperse, he said, “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it… We love you. You’re very special.” Trump’s behavior that day was mendacious, despicable, and impeachable. Tom Rice recognized that.

If you are a Democrat, you may worry about not participating in your usual primary. However, this June 14, the pickings are slim on the Democratic side. No Democrat opted to challenge Rice. In the statewide races on the ballot that day, Democrats fielded candidates for only three of six positions: governor, state superintendent of education, and U.S. Senate. Odds are that none of the Democratic primary victors will win in November. Please check your local city and county races (you may have to call your voter registration office about these). Fortunately for me, there are no local Democrats that I support up for re-election. But even if there were, there is nothing more important to me than voting for Rice. Almost certainly Rice will make a runoff, most likely against Fry. Having voted in the Republican primary, I will be eligible to vote in the runoff. Remember, if you vote in the Democratic primary, you cannot vote in a Republican runoff.

It’s easy to take votes that are both popular and good for the country. But the true measure of officeholders is what they do when forced to choose between the two. Rice, Pence and a few of their Republican colleagues showed courage in the aftermath of the January 6 attack, for which we should all be grateful. Republicans, Democrats, and independents, I urge you to re-elect Tom Rice.

A version of this column appeared in the Florence Morning News on 5/25/22. I have no affiliation with the Rice campaign and had no communication with it before the column was published.

Non-news Open Thread for Thursday, May 26, 2022

Too awesome to watch?

Some things that aren’t actually in the news right now, or at least not on the front page, although some are admittedly related:

  1. ‘Ted Lasso’ and ‘Fleabag’ and all the shows that are too awesome to watch (so I won’t) — Since this was in America, the Jesuit magazine, I thought maybe it would have a moral. Like, I don’t know, why I should watch these shows, or why I shouldn’t watch these shows. But it didn’t. It was just kind of a fun read about an aspect of what it’s like living in the Golden Age of Television. And I identified with part of it, which was the idea that this Jesuit brother can’t let himself watch these shows because they’re too good. He ends up caring about the characters to the point he can’t stand to watch bad things happen to them. I can identify with that.
  2. Charles Whitman had a tumor; is that what did it? — The Buffalo shooting, of course, was about racism, which made sense in that context. The Texas school shooting didn’t appear to be about racism, so it became about how pathetic America can’t bring itself to deal with the 400 million guns out there. Also painfully true. But I saw the Texas guy also shot his grandmother, which made me think of Charles Whitman, who killed his wife and mother before he climbed that tower in 1966. And I thought I remembered the autopsy showed he had a brain tumor. And yes, Wikipedia mentioned that, but also said no one knows whether that made him do what he did. But what if it did, and we knew it? What if that was the explanation for all these mass shootings? Because, you know, racism exists, and too many guns exist, but somehow most of us don’t want to go out and kill a bunch of people. If we found out they did it because of tumors, we could just screen everybody for the tumors, and maybe cure them. Wouldn’t that be great?
  3. When Preachers Are Predators — OK, this one is sort of about something in the news, even more so than the one before, but it’s not from the news pages; it’s opinion. Anyway, I’m just passing it on because Frank Bruni was onto something right here: “Men of God behave in ungodly ways. That’s not because they’re uniquely or especially evil. It’s because they’re men. Religious institutions countenance — and cover up — sin and even crime. That doesn’t mean they have any monopoly on hypocrisy. It means they’re institutions.” Yep. It’s not that there’s something inherently horrible about being Baptist, as opposed to being something else.
  4. Don’t know much about history — Yeah, I majored in history — my second major, anyway. And I still enjoy reading about it. But the main thing it keeps teaching me is that I don’t know squat about history. Even the bits I’ve studied to death — say, the Second World War, which ended only eight years before I was born — constantly shock me with the things I don’t know about them, things I should have known. And then if I move away from those bits, I swim in an ocean of things I didn’t know. Recently, I started watching a documentary series on Prime about The First World War. I’m on the fourth episode, and I just had no idea. None at all. For instance, about the extent to which it really was a world war, and not just a bunch of white guys in trenches in France. (I’d seen “The African Queen,” but that was about it.) For instance, you know about the Siege of Tsingtao — you know, where the Japanese went up against the Germans, and beat them? In China? Huge deal. I had never heard of it. I don’t think I’d even heard of Tsingtao (where about 10 million people live), but you know how they’re always changing the names of Chinese places. Anyway… is history like that for you?
  5. Did you know they wouldn’t let Nicholas Kristof run for governor? — Another thing I didn’t know, and should have. I saw a piece by him today and the explanatory blurb said, “Mr. Kristof is a former Times Opinion columnist. He was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor of Oregon this year.” And I thought, “was?” Turns out they disqualified him because of something about residency. Too bad. He’d have been a good governor, I think. Just as he was a very, very good columnist. So it was good to see a piece by him in the NYT.
  6. Plants grow in lunar soil brought to Earth by Apollo astronauts — OK, this was, like, 12 days ago, and at the time tweeted it out with the message, “How I use my various newspaper apps: I plow doggedly through the tangled forest of shrieking madness and malevolent stupidity, and occasionally I find something interesting — such as this item….” But I include it here, because it sort of fits the theme of this post… It also could have been headlined, “World’s Smallest Farm…”

I’ll stop now. I just thought I should post something, and these are things I’d been thinking about…

Charles Whitman on his front porch, sometime before he climbed the tower.