Category Archives: Open Thread

Open Thread for Friday, March 22, 2024

Some of the Ghost Army’s inflatable tanks.

Various things:

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



Open Thread for the Ides of March, 2024 Anno Domini

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

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

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

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

Open Thread for Monday, March 3, 2024

At some point, I need to change the name of this feature. It doesn’t really work. Someone here long suggested that I post an “open thread,” I think so that people could just talk about whatever. But it seemed goofy to post, what — a blank space? So I started offering little variety packs of topics.

Anyway, here’s your variety pack:

  1. Prepositions are permissible, now — will English language be ok? — This is the best story I heard or read today. The NPR story featured a Columbia University linguist who cheered the decision by Merriam-Webster that it’s now OK to end sentences with prepositions. I agree, especially in the case of such awkward constructions as the legendary, even if apocryphal, Churchill quote.
  2. Supreme Court rules Trump can remain on Colorado’s ballot — This was unanimous, which was helpful. But I understand the justices quibbled over the scope of the decision, with a minority saying the majority went too far. Perhaps they did, but I haven’t studied it closely enough to have an opinion yet on that. I’m just glad it was unanimous. Things would have gotten uglier than they already are if there had been a different result.
  3. White House uses Kamala Harris to run Gaza options up the pole — That’s my headline, not one I pulled from any news outlet. This is fascinating. The Biden administration has used the veep to publicly air some (somewhat) stepped-up efforts to push for a ceasefire. She did it in a speech over the weekend, then she met with Benny Gantz, Israeli war cabinet member and rival of Netanyahu. This is an interesting way of working around Bibi in a way that explores his political vulnerability, while at the same time letting Kamala look like she has some foreign policy gravitas. And if it all flops, hey, it was just the veep, not POTUS. I like it. Sort of like 3D chess…
  4. The Spy War: How the C.I.A. Secretly Helps Ukraine Fight Putin — I first heard this on NYT Audio over the weekend, and it was fascinating. I learned a great deal about the close ties we’ve formed with Ukrainian intelligence over the past decade or so — since long before Putin invaded. It started because the folks at Langley found that the Ukrainians were great at gathering intel we needed on the Russians, on topics such as the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and Russians efforts to get Trump elected in 2016. As a spy novel fan, I ate it up, but it also made me really uneasy — but obviously a decision was made somewhere to give these reporters access, right? Still, I hope that joint underground Ukrainian-American intelligence base was moved right after the NYT was allowed to tour it. Its location was described in some detail.

I guess that’s enough for now. I usually give you more than four, but I’ve got a headache, so… y’all come up with something. After all, it’s an “Open Thread”…

Open Thread for Wednesday, January 31, 2024

It’s been awhile since one of these. Let’s dig in…

  1. House GOP advances impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — This happened a bit after midnight last night, on a completely partisan vote, of course. I heard an account of it on a podcast from the NYT while I was out walking earlier today. I kept expecting the voice to say, “And the GOP committee members followed that up by attempting to cram themselves into a Smart car, to the even greater delight of the crowd…”
  2. Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce and a MAGA Meltdown — And if you think that last item was weird, check this out. Did you know that “around four years ago, the Pentagon psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting?” Her mission? Get Joe Biden re-elected. And do you realize that Taylor Swift (net worth, about $1.1 billion) is only hanging with this Kelce guy (net worth, about $30 million) because she wants his money? Did you know the NFL is “rigged” to spread Democratic propaganda?  If you don’t know these things, you’re just not keeping up with your MAGA conspiracy theories. Try harder.
  3. Is the Future of Medicine Hidden in Ancient DNA? — Sorry to throw another NYT at you if you’re a nonsubscriber, but this was the subject of today’s “The Daily” podcast, and it was very cool. It seems science has gotten so good at reading DNA in prehistoric bones that we can now track what people died of, and the respective evolutions of both microbes and human immunity. Which could have great medical implications going forward. I hope you can hear this, because this is way more interesting than the DNA stuff I’ve been writing about…
  4. Mark Zuckerberg among tech CEOs grilled for failing to protect kids — Speaking of the negative effects of social media… I assume you’ve also seen this awful story closer to home. I don’t know how much the courts can help with the problem, but we need to find ways to stop these things from happening.
  5. Members hope to save 35-year-old Capital City Club — I had no idea my old club — I was a member for more than two decades, as y’all probably know — had fallen on such hard times. I left during COVID. Others must have done the same. I’m sorry to see it. It was a great club, established for good reasons.

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!







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…

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.

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…


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.

Open Thread for Monday, August 7, 2023

Kind of slim pickings today, but I’ll go with what I’ve got…

  1. Waterslide of Doom — This is my way of noting that I was at the beach all last week. My daughter urged me to drive by and see the scariest waterslide in the world, which is pictured above. No, it’s not operational — they’re in the midst of tearing it down — but it’s still pretty scary just to look at. Mind you, I find them all a little scary; I don’t love heights. But not Napoleon — he loves them! I offer the clipping at the bottom of this thread in honor of his biopic that’s about to come out.
  2. DeSantis Bluntly Acknowledges Trump’s 2020 Defeat: ‘Of Course He Lost’ — This is worth noting because of the horrible, sad fact that it is news for one of his GOP opponents to state this simple, obvious fact so clearly. This is how far the party has fallen nationally.
  3. Once the outsider, Trump looks an establishment’s pick — That headline is a little hard to follow, but it’s not actually in a newspaper. It’s the hed on a promotional email I got from the Post and Courier, which pulled my attention to this story. This is about how far the party has fallen here in our state.
  4. Donald Trump gloats about USA’s Women’s World Cup elimination — What? Another one about The Creature? No, it’s just something I saw that made me think, two of the saddest things about our country are our exaggeration of the importance of sports, and the fact that politics in America is now about signaling your membership in a tribe. So those two things had to come together, right? How pathetic that people now divide themselves into mutually exclusive cliques by whether they worship or despise a soccer team…
  5. Uninformative headline of the day — You’ll note that after years of polite silence, I recently started complaining about the new sort of headline that refuses to tell you the most essential information contained in the story — which is what headlines are supposed to do. (Why? To make you click.) Today’s winner is, “Here’s when a copperhead in SC is more likely to bite you, new research shows.” You may excuse this because maybe the info it touts is complicated, but it isn’t. It’s in the lede: “The hotter it gets, the more likely a copperhead or other venomous snake is likely to bite you, new research shows.” This is today’s winner in this category because what you are being denied is information that might, at least theoretically, save your life.

Today’s Earworm — OK, I don’t actually have one today, but I had one several days back, and didn’t post an Open Thread that day. It was “Son of a Preacher Man.” That was stuck for some time. Here’s a video of Dusty singing it on Ed Sullivan, in case you want to hear it in addition to reading about it. Now, a confession: I had to look it up to remember who sang it. I blame that on the fact that it sounds way more like a Bobbie Gentry song.

Open Thread for Friday, July 28, 2023

Meant to do this earlier, but got sidetracked. Oh, well. Nobody reads blogs on Friday afternoons, anyway. Here you go:

  1. New Charges in Documents Case Add to Trump’s Legal Peril — Here’s where one of my readers “there you go again, obsessing about Trump.” Personally, I don’t recall the last time I said anything about his indictments and so forth. Usually, I ignore it — how is it news that this guy’s a crook? But at this point, I sort of feel like I have to take note of the avalanche, you know? And of course, there’s likely more to come. Which of course raises the next question…
  2. GOP support for Trump softens as the former president’s legal troubles mount — Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it. This seems pretty thin to me. Of course, in the relatively sane world in which we lived before 2016, this is what you would expect to happen (back then, he would have fallen off the radar at the time of the Access Hollywood revelations, way before these “legal troubles). Today, I’d have to see more than what’s in this story to convince me the sanity effect is kicking back in in the GOP.
  3. Harvard “legacy” tradition should end — That’s what Jennifer Rubin said, but I say it, too. But to me, this is not because of the affirmative action policy that was struck down. The legacy policy never, ever made sense, and that was long before anyone ever thought about affirmative action. I see no point to legacies, beyond courting the money of the kids’ affluent parents — which short-sighted and even shameful. This is supposed to be the nation’s best university, and it should be admitting the nation’s best students (and of course, finding a way to help them pay for it). Of course, a lot of the best students would be the children of former best students. But plenty would not. Ditching the “who’s your daddy?” consideration would be fair, it would be good for Harvard, and I suppose it would be good for the nation’s intellectual gene pool, because the smartest would have a fairer chance to get into the best school.
  4. The war in Ukraine is spurring a revolution in drone warfare using AI — This is a good story in the Post, and I know a lot of you can’t read it. But basically, it says, “Drones empowered with artificial intelligence hold huge promise for Ukraine’s military but could also benefit nefarious non-state actors like terrorists and drug cartels.” And this is very true. It gives an advantage to Kyiv, but does the same for a lot of bad guys out there. Which is something that has worried me for some time. There are tradeoffs with everything, I guess…
  5. Tim Scott’s amendment passes key vote. But he didn’t vote on it. This is where he was. — This one isn’t about Tim Scott. It’s about the headline itself. This is a particularly egregious case of abandoning the basic journalistic value that you tell a reader all you can cram into a headline. That has been replaced by heds that tell you little, and entice you into clicking. How would the Old School, inform-the-reader-style hed have been different? Well, instead of “This is where he was,” it would have said “He was in Iowa.” It’s not only shorter, but it tells readers the main thing they want to know. Which means, of course, that they wouldn’t click. This is how the world has changed. Well, one of the ways…
  6. The IT Crowd is coming to Britbox — I get WAY too many promotional emails from all the streaming services to which I subscribe, but this one excited me today. I had been watching this over and over on Netflix for years, and while that might not be the healthiest, best practice for someone who knows he needs to work on his time management, I always got a kick out of it. But then suddenly it quit working. Netflix had dropped it. And I couldn’t get it to play anymore, even when I turned the Netflix app off and turned it back on again. So I’m looking forward to Thursday. You say you’ve never seen The IT Crowd? Well, you should remedy that. Personally, I’d consider the subscription fee to be worth it, just to see this one series.

Open Thread for Monday, July 24, 2023

Some of us were quite pleased on Feb. 29, 2020. Let’s do it again — but earlier!

Yet another one of these. Here you go…

  1. Protests Intensify Across Israel After Measure to Weaken Judiciary Passes — This is a huge deal, and a profoundly serious crisis. An NYT headline before the vote said, “Israel’s Identity Hangs in Balance Ahead of Key Vote on New Law,” in response to which I tweeted that Yes, it does. Our ally is on the ragged verge of throwing away its status as the only liberal democracy in a region that desperately needs such a bastion. The region needs it, the United States needs it, and the world needs it. And Bibi is trying to destroy it. That was before the vote. AFTER, we see a nation hurling toward irrelevance at best. If you can read it, I recommend Tom Friedman’s column on the subject, “Only Biden Can Save Israel Now.” Of course, I would add Israel itself to that equation.
  2. Thoughts on SC being the first Democratic presidential primary? — Although it happened a while back, it occurs to me we haven’t talked about this (have we?). Anyway, I was reminded of the subject by an E.J. Dionne column today, which was about how those people up in New Hampshire are still in an uproar about South Carolina getting to hold the first primary — instead of, you know. Tough. I think it’s great. South Carolina Democrats are my favorite Dems, and they should get the spotlight — and the influence. You will say, Aw you just like it because the last time around, black voters in South Carolina saved Joe Biden, and then saved the country by making him president. And you’re almost right. I am very proud that my dear neighbors stepped forward to do that (and I helped). But I don’t just like it for that reason. I think it’s good for the country as well.
  3. Welcome to the grievance-packed world of electric vehicle charging — It tells of the mad, dog-eat-dog scramble for a very limited resource: public charging spots. This being from The Boston Globe, it says, “EV drivers are hogging chargers… Think post-snowstorm parking in Southie — only the green version.” Anyway, this points to the biggest reason I wouldn’t buy an electric car — yet. I mean, aside from the cost. If I had money to spend on a new car, I might get a hybrid. But I wouldn’t go the full electric Monty until it’s as easy, and quick, as gassing up. We don’t have the infrastructure now, unless you’re at home. I dunno. Do you have an electric? What’s it like for you?
  4. He was an undocumented immigrant. He became ‘your excellency.’ — I hope you can read this, but if you can’t, I’ll just tell you: It’s about Evelio Menjivar-Ayala, the new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Washington, who finally made it on his third try to get into the United States when he was 19. He got here, and did what most of these folks do — he worked hard at any job he could get, regardless of the way he would be exploited because of his illegal status. Eventually, he got an education and entered the priesthood, and is now a shepherd to nearly 700,000 Catholics in the District and parts of Maryland. An inspiring story. And if you can’t read it in the post, there’s a short bio about him among the other auxiliary bishops on the diocesan website.
  5. Finally, a plea for technical advice — Y’all who are not twitter addicts probably won’t care, and therefore won’t know, but if you do, maybe you can help me, or at least tell me whom to blame: What I want to know is, Why can I no longer tweet directly from the NYT and Washington Post apps on my iPad, which I’ve been doing for ages, but can’t now? Is this the fault of an Apple update (I wish they’d stop “improving” things), or the work of Elon Musk? What happens is, I click on the “share” thing in the newspaper app, choose Twitter, write the tweet, and when I try to send, it fails. But then I go to Twitter, and find what I wrote in the drafts, and send it from there. Not the hardest thing in the world, but it takes about an extra minute for each tweet. And it doesn’t have to. I asked about this on Twitter, and I got a like, but no help…

Open Thread for Friday, July 21, 2023

Click on the image to see actual video of Walter Johnson.

It’s just one Open Thread after another around here. No major developments, just some things that grabbed my attention:

  1. Report: Graham likely to face GOP challenger amid conservative grumblings — So… basically, he just hasn’t acted crazy and unprincipled ENOUGH for them. Lindsey should take this opportunity to retire. But he won’t. And this challenger will fall like the others. You know how he’ll do it? By turning up the crazy.
  2. Why can’t Canada just put the fires out? — A dumb question, I suppose, but most of us don’t know much about fighting forest fires. And I’ll bet a lot of people are asking this. And since this is presented by NPR, you can get the answers for free.
  3. 100 years ago, Walter Johnson became the first member of the 3,000 strikeout club — This is a personal thing. Just a chance for me to say again that when he was a young boy, my Dad played catch with the Big Train himself. Dad’s cousin, who lived right behind him, had married Johnson’s son, and his uncle was kind enough to give the little guy a heads-up when her father-in-law was visiting. As I said, personal. Increasingly, I write things like this as a way of passing them on to my kids. As a genealogy fanatic, I enjoy it when I find that people in the past have left little anecdotes like this one. Oh, another link to the legendary Senator: I think my Dad’s grandfather, who was in the construction business there in Kensington, Md., built Walter Johnson High School.
  4. Barbie — I don’t have anything to say except it opens today — and as I am typing this, my wife, my youngest daughter and my youngest granddaughter are all at The Nick watching it. From what I’ve read, I expect they’ll enjoy it. I’ll probably wait for it to appear “free” on one of the streaming services I subscribe to. Meanwhile, I might go see “Oppenheimer.” Or “The Flash.”
  5. Tony Bennett, Champion of the Great American Songbook, Is Dead at 96 — I can’t say I was a huge fan, but I always liked and respected the guy. And he was pleasant to listen to. He was great when he was young, and he became a model of persistence and excellent work as he aged.

Open Thread for Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The former Fort Lee has a museum, which is always interesting: the Army Women’s Museum…

Some things that have grabbed my attention today:

  1. Russia strikes Odesa for a second day after withdrawing from the grain deal — Putin is aiming to starve not only the Ukrainian people, but the other people who depend on the grain that Ukraine exports. The effect of these latest actions — which include threatening to attack merchant ships coming to get said grain — has of course been to send wheat prices up sharply. Just in case you’re struggling to figure out who the good guys and bad guys are here.
  2. ‘Active club’ hate groups are growing in the U.S. — and making themselves seen — Our society continues to slide downward. There is just so much aggressive stupidity out there, and now at the paramilitary stage. And thanks to the Internet, these people are able to get together and reinforce their deviance, making themselves feel “normal.”
  3. Army base once named for Lee now named for two black South Carolinians — Which is fine, but I wonder — why South Carolinians, when Fort Lee was in Virginia? These were certainly not the only two non-Confederate soldiers to have distinguished themselves in the Army. Irrelevant digression: It’s too bad there are no Air Force bases named for Confederates (are there?). I’d be advocating to rename one for Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., probably best known for commanding the Tuskegee Airmen. I want to add that “I knew him,” but that would be an exaggeration. My Dad worked for him as part of Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, and I used to walk by his house on the way to catch the bus to school. Also, when I worked at the base golf course, I was once assigned to clean his golf clubs. I guess it’s silly, but I’ve always been kind of proud of having that thin connection to him…
  4. Is It Ever Morally Acceptable to Visit a Confederate Historical Site? — Since we’re on kind of a theme here today. I was grabbed by this question in the headline of an email from the NYT’s “Ethicist” today. The simple answer is that of course it is morally acceptable — and even imperative, given the widespread, appalling ignorance about the past in our society — to visit any and all historical sites, to understand history better, or even a little bit. But that question doesn’t fully explain the dilemma posed in the reader’s question. This particular site is operated by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and they charge admission. So no, I wouldn’t go to there. Want to learn about the Confederacy — and the Union, and everything else have to do with that conflict? Go to Gettysburg. I highly recommend it.
  5. What we know about Travis King, the U.S. soldier who crossed into North Korea — Well, we know he’s not a candidate for promotion. In fact, he seems to be going out of his way to be creative in demonstrating his unsuitability. Apparently, seeing as how we know he had just gotten out of the stockade for having “punched a South Korean national.” But I was drawn to this because of the “what we know about” language in the headline. That made this hed a close relative of the “what you need to know” headline that is all about getting you to click. Headlines used to TELL you something, rather than urging you to click in order to learn something. (An old school hed would have said, “U.S. soldier who crossed into North Korea, was imprisoned for violent behavior,” or something along those lines.) Anyway, in this case as in so many, “what we know” is not much. Of course, you click wanting to know WHY he did it. How can we ever fully know what’s going on in such a person’s head?

I guess that’s enough, except that I’m thinking about adding this next thing as a regular feature, I’ve been having so many of these lately.

Today’s Earworm — A slight departure from my usual recent obsessing about the Zombies and the Moody Blues, today I woke up trying to remember the tune to Heart of Oak, the anthem of the Royal Navy. The words were in my head from having read a reference to it before going to bed. So I went to YouTube, went “yeah, that’s it!” You’ve probably heard the tune many times, generally as background music in historical movies. Anyway, it’s been stuck since then. England expects that every man will now go listen to some sea shanties.