I initially typed, in the headline, “August 25, 2921.” That would have been… revelatory. But then, who would care what we say about it, eight centuries from now?
(And then, since I didn’t get it posted last night, I had to change the day as well.)
Hawaii governor says ‘now is not the time’ for tourists to visit — Every once in a while you see a headline that emphasizes dramatically how different this moment in history is from every other. And that’s what this headline does. Let’s just say Burl and I didn’t hear anything like that back when we were both living on Oahu 50 years ago. Now I’m waiting to hear something similar from Henry McMaster — something that shows he is aware of the difference between now and other times. I expect to be waiting a long, long time…
Stop Politicizing the Misery in Afghanistan — Amen, Frank Bruni. It’s a good piece, and I’d take it a bit farther: We need to stop doing this with every fricking thing in the world, not just Afghanistan. Back in the days when our nation’s politics were functional, and often even rational, I was dismissive of people who complained about “politics” intruding upon this or that. I would say, “Politics” is simply our term for how we, in a free society, discuss and deal with issues that affect us all in the public sphere. The term describes something that is not only not bad, but essential. But that has changed in recent years. For a couple of decades, the mindless competition between the two parties got more and more poisonous. And then came Trump, and everything got exponentially worse, and disconnected from reality. It’s one reason I blog less than I used to — there is less opportunity to discuss anything in a way that leads to any sort of practical consensus on anything. This is worth a separate post, if I can get to it.
Inconclusive review of virus origins prompts calls for more probes: ‘We have to get to the bottom of this’ — No, we don’t. This is an example of what I’m on about with the previous item. Again, this is stupid, Trump-era politics. Supposedly, we’re supposed to respond to it in one of two stupid ways: Either we see it as essential to get to the bottom of how “Ji-na” inflicted the “Kung-Flu” on us, or to somehow demonstrate the opposite, conclusively. Which is not only impossible (I mean the “conclusively” part, in such a complex situation), but in no way essential at this moment in history. We don’t “have to get to the bottom of this” right now. What we “have to” do is beat the virus, and save as many lives as possible. And that’s enough. As for how it started, I can’t see how that’s immediately relevant, unless we’re looking to identify someone to prosecute, or seeking a premise for war. I suppose it’s also good, looking ahead, to have tips on how to avoid such pandemics in the future. But it’s nowhere near the most essential aspect right now.
We got the deck job done on Saturday! Don’t mind the scraps of wood lying about.
Y’all, I started doing this yesterday, but stuff came up and I didn’t finish. Anyway, I’ll change the date in the headline and try again:
Our top story tonight… — Imagine Garrett Morris shouting that. (I really appreciate his News for the Hard of Hearing, now that I’m, you know, that way.) Remember the project I was working on, on my deck, when I cut up my hand? Well, the hand is pretty close to 100 percent now, and we got it done over the weekend! Staining will be completed once it’s weathered a bit.
Sri Lanka Faces An Environmental Disaster As A Ship Full Of Chemicals Starts Sinking — This is terrible, and I’m concerned, but as usual, I’m always befuddled. As usual, I have to go to Google Earth to remind myself where Sri Lanka is. I always go, “Sounds like East Asia, but isn’t it closer to Africa?” Which is kind of right. It’s that chunk that broke off of India. Now that I’ve got that sorted, I can be properly concerned for the folks who live there. And the environment, too, of course. (Yeah, I know: What kind of idiot can’t remember where Sri Lanka is? Yeah. I feel that way about those who don’t know where Ecuador is.)
Earlier today I said that at some point, I’m going to write a post about how tired I’ve been getting lately of reading and hearing the news of the day, and I might just stop at some point, because I’m sick of hearing the same unpleasant stuff over and over.
This is not that post. I don’t have time now to write that post. But as a tiny example of what I’m talking about…
Right after I wrote that, I went for a walk around the neighborhood. And I started out by listening to the last half-hour news summary on NPR. The stories were:
Secstate Blinken in Jordan. OK, I do want a summary about that. But I didn’t need the long digression about how Hamas doesn’t want aid from anybody because they don’t need it because Iran keeps giving them all the money they need as long as they keep firing missiles at Israel and getting them to strike back.
Amazon buys MGM. Mildly interesting, but you notice how all our major economic news lately is about people buying and selling entertainment content? Does this bode well? I enjoy my movies, but maybe we should start shifting back to making useful things…
Where COVID came from. I forget what the upshot was, but I think it was probably like the other gazillion stories I’ve read and heard, which said, “We don’t know.” In fact, I’d be perfectly happy for you to not mention the subject again until you DO know. At least, thank God, we didn’t have to listen to a discussion of the President of the United States saying “Jina” caused the “Kung Flu.”
There was some sort of plot to pay bloggers in France to pass on lies sowing doubt about vaccines. Something was mentioned about Russian involvement. Not that I want the Russians to go back to putting nukes in Cuba and shooting people trying to cross the Berlin Wall, but at least back then they weren’t perpetually insulting everyone’s intelligence.
The Dow was up. OK, nice. But talk about monotonous. One day it goes up. Another day it goes down. It seldom does anything interesting, and if it did, it probably wouldn’t be good.
After that summary, I switched to a Kara Swisher podcast that promised to be interesting, but it wasn’t.
So I switched to Pandora. I do that a lot lately.
So what is this? Ennui? I’m just getting kind of… jaded from this stuff. Was it always this tiresome and repetitive, or is it me?…
How America Is Marking the Anniversary of George Floyd’s Death — A couple of days ago, I was wondering why I was seeing so many opinion pieces talking about George Floyd (such as the one that follows). Then I figured out why. I’ve never had a lot to say about anniversaries of recent news events, but maybe you do. Thoughts?
If Only There Were a Viral Video of Our Jim Crow Education System — I thought this was the best of the George Floyd pieces I saw. It’s by Nicholas Kristof, and I think it’s dead-on, because it brings up an actual policy problem that we can do far more about — if only we will — than we can anything specific to Mr. Floyd’s horrific death. As Kristof writes, the circumstances of that death enable people “to feel indignant and righteous while blaming others. But in some areas, such as an unjust education system, we are part of the problem.” Yup.
Since I’m dictating, not typing, I won’t have too much to say. but I thought I would give y’all a place to comment on the passing parade.
Justice for George Floyd – The jury delivered the best verdict it could have done. Of course, they couldn’t REALLY provide justice to George Floyd. But they did what could be done. Meanwhile, Merrick Garland says the Justice Department will investigate Minneapolis.
Second Amendment sanctuary community – Sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it? But apparently, Greenville County council spent a good bit of time discussing whether to become one of those.
Why Trump Is Still Their Guy – This is another lengthy thinkpiece by Thomas Edsall, well researched as always. But it never arrives at a satisfactory why. Nothing as good as my Rabbit Hole thesis, anyway. (Not really my thesis, but I have embraced it.) Interesting stuff, though. References to such things as “ontological insecurity” and “egocentric victimhood.” You might find it interesting.
Well, I said I wasn’t going to say much, and that took me awhile, so I’ll stop there. I’ll just mention that I went to the orthopedic surgeon today. She agreed that there doesn’t seem to be tender nerve damage. Movement is pretty limited , probably because of swelling. I got a new splint, and I go back next week.
Remember Nikki being so happy a while back to have Sarah Palin’s endorsement? Just thought I’d mention that…
Just a few random things…
SC attorney tells court how he ‘misread the case’ and got Michael Slager 20 years — A couple points to make. Counselor, it wasn’t you. It was your client. You see, he shot a defenseless, fleeing man in the back five times. Tried to shoot him eight times, but missed three times. Killed him, as you would expect would happen. Why would we ever want this guy out? I just can’t believe time in our overloaded criminal justice system is being wasted on this nonsense. It’s an outrage. If I were a Black Lives Matter protester — I’m not, but if I were — I’d look at this and see one thing: Part of the system saying to another part of the system, “Whoa! I know we didn’t mean to give this white cop 20 years! All he did was shoot a black fella!” And the other part of the system deigning to listen to it.
Minnesota Officer Who Shot Daunte Wright Meant to Fire Taser, Chief Says — Oh, come on! This had to happen in Minnesota? Right now? Let’s talk about something else: I used to work with a guy in Wichita. He was an editor on the sports desk. He’d be minding his own business trying to get the paper out, like all of us, and something would go wrong, and he would cry out, with pain, but also with the comic sense of a guy doing standup in the Catskills, “Do I need THIS?!?!?” He did this a lot, usually late in the night when things were quieter, after the daytime people had gone home. And it would crack me up. You had to be there. Anyway, right now I’m hearing America say, “Do I need THIS?!?!?” Only it’s not funny, at all. It’s horrible. Because, to answer the question, we most assuredly do not need this.
SC’s Nikki Haley says she won’t run for president in 2024 if Trump seeks reelection — I see Maayan Schechter wrote this. I need to ask her: How do you get your fingers to type “Nikki Haley,” and soon after type “run for president,” without your fingers having a seizure? I’ve seen quite a few reporters do it, and I always wonder. Anyway, I don’t care whether she runs or not, for at least three reasons: 1) She’s Nikki Haley, and I know Nikki Haley. I have a pretty good grasp of her lack of qualifications. 2) Even if she were qualified, I’d cross her off my list the moment I saw she would decide based on what Donald Trump would do. 3) We have a president. A really good one. A qualified one. Why on Earth would I, or any sane person, be interested in anyone else?
Who knew the era of the Mercury Program was such a bummer? I was there, and didn’t notice.
Been super-busy lately what with Lent, Easter, and basketball — not to mention work — but here are some items I’ve meant to do separate posts about:
America Has a Ruling Class — And that’s a good thing, if I remember correctly from reading this way last week. An excerpt: “There are good reasons to be skeptical of career politicians and entrenched elites. Even when they don’t have all the answers, outsiders can draw attention to unrecognized problems. That skepticism becomes dangerous, though, when it pits an unconventional affect and good intentions against the practical demands of governing. The defining task of politics isn’t to speak truth to power. It’s to use power to achieve shared goals.” Yep. And thank God Joe Biden is now our president. It’s worth a read.
When the Pandemic’s End Means the Return of Anxiety — Yep. I happily — but briefly — hugged some of my grandchildren on Easter. But beyond that, I can do without a return to “normal,” and all that hurrying about, going places, having to eat out (which to me is a burden), go to social events, and such. I haven’t had time to put the post together, but maybe this NYT item can kick off a conversation. Oh, dang. It’s WSJ. Huge firewall. OK, I may have to post about it later, but it’s much on my mind now.
The Right Stuff Grounded After One Season on Disney+ — Hey, I’m surprised it made it this far. I am a fanatic for Wolfe’s book, and for the original movie, which utterly stunned me by so effectively putting on film something that was mostly about Wolfe’s narration style. By contrast, I don’t think anybody affiliated with this depressing TV series — which doesn’t even have Chuck Yeager in it! — ever so much as glanced at the book. Watch this, and you won’t ever get the sense that we were once an amazing country that did amazing things. You’ll just be bummed out. Who knew the Mercury program was such a downer?
The woman being blamed for blocking the Suez Canal — Look, I’ve read the Aubrey-Maturin books, so I know that every British sailor during the Napoleonic Wars knew there was nothing more unlucky than having a woman on board a ship, except maybe leaving port on a Friday. Might as well have a Jonah aboard. Oh, it’s OK to bring along the gunner’s wife maybe, as long as she doesn’t look like Mrs. Horner in The Far Side of the World. And here the Egyptians went and put a woman in command of a ship! (And she even looks kind of like a Mrs. Horner, to me — see below.) What did they expect? How powerful is the bad luck generated by such a mistake? I’ll tell you: This woman commands a completely different ship, and it was hundreds of miles away from the Ever Given at the time, and this bad thing still happened. So now you know why it happened. So, lesson learned.
That last one will probably get me in enough trouble, so I’ll just stop now….
The captain being blamed — even though she wasn’t there.
Still from Suez Canal Authority’s YouTube video of the freed ship under way.
A few things to chew on:
That lubberly ship is free — Nice going there, Egypt. Right now, I’m picturing being the captain of a ship that has already decided to go all the way around the Cape of Good Hope, and now has to decide whether to keep going or turn back. Of course, nowadays, it’s unlikely he’d be the one to decide. Anyway, I doubt anyone will seriously consider my solution for this problem: Stop building ships that carry 200,000 tons of cargo.
Chauvin trial gets underway — Not much to report yet, so again I’m thinking about how fascinating it is that this guy’s name is the one from which we derived the term for an “irrational belief in the superiority or dominance of one’s own group or people, who are seen as strong and virtuous, while others are considered weak or unworthy.” Probably not relevant to the court case, but that’s what the name always makes me think of.
Reagan was shot 40 years ago tomorrow — This was brought to my attention by an interesting piece in the WSJ by the FBI agent who was first on the scene, and led the investigation. This got me to thinking about how all the culture warriors, on both sides, seem to knowwhy that guy in Atlanta shot all those people a couple of weeks back. And yet the guy who shot Reagan was motivated by something no one would ever, ever have guessed: Jodie Foster. Check out the photo below, which ran with the WSJ piece.
But this poor guy thinks movie theaters are poised for a big comeback — No, I don’t think they’re going away entirely. But speaking as a guy who used to love going to the movies (I became the movie reviewer at my first paper purely for the chance to see new releases with the paper paying for the tickets), and has zero interest in taking out a loan to go watch a film while wedged in with a bunch of talkative, fidgeting strangers, I wouldn’t want to be in this guy’s business.
This was just before the Reagan shooting. Hinckley stands out from the crowd because of his expression.
Only five shopping days left until the Ides! Let me throw a few topics out there to keep the plebs and patricians entertained…
The humongous COVID relief bill — Anything else to say about that? Then say it. Let me just throw this in: You know how not one, single Republican voted for it, even the few allegedly moderate ones? (As I’ve said, the role of Republicans in this debate was played by moderate Democrats.) Well, one Republican is already bragging on something the bill does for folks back home. Really.
Merrick Garland confirmed — Very good news. But when I heard the vote was 70-30, my first reaction was that I wanted the names of all who voted “nay,” “so I can make sure they’re all on my Never Forget List.” (One good note: Lindsey Graham voted for him. Occasionally, he still does something that reminds us he’s the guy who believes elections have consequences. But while he’s quietly doing that, he’s cranking out pooge like this. So yeah, he’s still on the list. As his hero would say: Sad.) I’ve always liked this guy, and following this process has made me like him more. I don’t know of any negatives. So, good news. We’re back on the track of having a Justice Department we can respect.
The “ex”-royals — Anyone have anything to say about this? I really don’t, except that I was appalled at all the news stories building up to that interview, and all the ones I’ve seen since. Why do we care? As I said in a Tweet, I’m not being anti-royal here. I’m an anglophile, and the monarchy is part of what makes Britain Britain. But at the same time, I don’t get people’s fascination with the whole celebrity soap-opera thing. People are weird. I didn’t get Diana, either. You know how in “The Queen,” Blair had to badger Her Majesty into responding emotionally to the way the people felt about Diana? One of the few times I disagreed with Tony. She’s not a soap opera star. She’s the sovereign.
What about that Cuomo guy? — I’ve never paid much attention to this guy, which was probably wise on my part. I’m not hearing anything good about him. And I don’t just mean the nursing-home deaths. I mean, who hires a 25-year-old “health adviser?” This guy does, if he likes her looks. Wow. Have you seen the picture included with this story about the gov making his unwelcome moves on a tiny, vulnerable, appalled young woman? He looks like Dracula with his latest victim. What a jerk. By the way, I have a problem with the hed to that Gail Collins column I linked to above: “Sex and the Single Governor.” He married Kerry Kennedy in 1990 and they have three kids. Yeah, they divorced in 2005. But he’s Catholic; she’s Catholic. He’s not “single.”
The Most Popular Shows You’ve Never Seen — This is an interesting piece in the WSJ. I hope you can get past the paywall to read it. The subhed is “Even when TV was a ‘vast wasteland,’ it brought us together.” Basically, it makes a point I’ve made many times here about popular music and other aspects of popular culture in our society: We have a lot more we can choose from, but we share fewer cultural experiences. As this piece says, “TV is a metaphor for what ails, or at least divides, society. With fewer shared experiences—even trivial ones—we find ourselves in smaller social and political groups.” Yep.
So… what did Nikki say again? — Over the weekend, Nikki Haley said of Trump, “We need to acknowledge he let us down.” Um… who was actually counting on him for something? You know what? These politicos who have ambitions far, FAR above their abilities would do better to try speaking to the whole country, not to deluded minorities. OK, I take it back… This is what Republicans who seek to lead should be saying. Instead of kowtowing to the crazies — as those 43 senators did on Saturday, they should be exerting leadership by explaining to the base the many ways it is wrong. And I suppose this gentle, Golly, maybe we were wrong approach is the way to go about it. But it still sounds bizarre…
Bitcoin Trades Above $50,000 for First Time — I don’t even know what that means. I just started subscribing again to The Wall Street Journal, which is leading with this at the moment. I enjoy reading the normal parts of the paper (politics, book reviews, opinion), but the stuff that the paper is historically known for is still unintelligible to me. Those words are nonsensical. So… a Bitcoin costs $50,000? I guess I’ll never buy one. Not that I intended to, anyway. I mean, stories about money bore me to tears, and this isn’t even about real money….
At least 12 dead in 4 states as power outages, record cold strike South — That’s terrible, and I’m not complaining or anything, but why aren’t we getting any of this? Someone ADCO works with in Texas has no power. My wife’s relatives keep posting pictures of iced-over foliage in Memphis, where the snow has fallen repeatedly. And last night, we had a thunderstorm and the temperature went… up to 58. Are we on the same continent?
That’s enough for now. I’m going to go take a walk, since the sun’s shining. Let me know what other topics y’all are seeing….
I don’t have time for it today, but dang it, I’m going to post something. And even though it seems my readers are only interested in arguing over whether schools completely reopen or D.C. becomes a state, I’m bringing up other stuff. Here you go:
We lose Captain Tom — He made it through the Burma campaign in WWII, but this hero of the current global struggle against a deadly threat fell in battle this week. God Bless and keep you, Captain Tom.
The Attention Economy — This is a different way of grabbing ahold of the problem I’ve been writing about lately, having to do with the way the internet has done nasty things to our brains for which evolution had not prepared us. It’s about Michael Goldhaber, who in the ’80s predicted “the complete dominance of the internet, increased shamelessness in politics, terrorists co-opting social media, the rise of reality television, personal websites, oversharing, personal essay, fandoms and online influencer culture — along with the near destruction of our ability to focus….” And other stuff.
We don’t have enough Walmarts now — This may seem unlikely to you, but I assure you it is a problem now. Remember how, a month ago, they announced the one on Bush River would close (as of tomorrow)? Well, this has messed with my life. That was my Walmart, the one closest to me. And now the next closest one is already overcrowded. I think I’ve been to it four times since the announcement of the closing (assuming the one they were closing would be even more poorly stocked than usual — which, by the way, is why I suspect it has been less successful), and on two of those occasions, back to back, they were completely out of shopping carts. I did not need this new hassle. I don’t like having to go out for supplies to start with, and now this…
THEN WHY DID YOU VOTE FOR HER? — Sorry about the shouting. I’m just reacting to this NYT story that tells us of the discomfiture of people who voted for Marjorie Taylor Greene. We are told that “Now the revelation of past social media posts has unsettled some who backed her.” Really? REALLY? Sorry. I’m shouting again… Here’s the thing: Even after all these decades of closely following politics, I continue to be amazed and appalled by people who vote for candidates about whom they know basically nothing. It’s one of the greatest flaws in our system, and it keeps getting worse instead of better. By the way, I didn’t finish reading the whole piece. It quotes Real People at some length, you see, and stories that go on like that tend to depress me.
So I guess I’m going to have to deal with this now — SC is now going to let people over 65 get the COVID vaccine. I’m still not through deal with this with my parents — they get their second shots on the 17th — and now you say I’ve got to go through it all again? Never mind the fact that I’ve never really gotten what you’d call 100 percent assurance that I’m not allergic to it. But I suppose I need to get started… although I have no idea how or where…
Frank Bruni makes me almost interested in the Super Bowl — I’ve come to really enjoy Frank Bruni’s columns over the last year or so. So when he wrote something about the Super Bowl — which, as I understand, is coming up soon — I decided to read it anyway. And something surprising happened: He made me slightly interested in his wish that this person named Tom Brady should win. That’s remarkable, Frank, and I congratulate you.
Senate confirms Austin as first Black defense secretary — No, actually, if you check, the Senate confirmed him as defense secretary, not “black defense secretary.” The white guys will report to him, too. Anyway, bottom line, this is good news. I’m looking forward to hearing similar news about Anthony Blinken. Things are taking shape.
Just a few little somethings to kick-start the year. Another fairly random list, mainly consisting of things that have grabbed my attention in recent days:
Designed to Deceive: Do These People Look Real to You? — I’m deliberately starting with something other than politics. Y’all have got to follow the link and check this out. Over the last 25 or 30 years we’ve all seen some remarkable things done with digital images, but this is truly freaky. Now that I’m in the marketing game, I’m regularly exposed to the “fake people” that various clips services provide for websites and such. But those are real people, models, trying to look like real people and failing at it. These images are completely fake, but they all look like real people you might meet on the street — until the writer of the piece explains what to look at to see the flaws. This is amazing, and ominous…
Soon, we can finally ignore Georgia — Of course, our priority is getting to where we can ignore You Know Who, who is still doing everything he can to make sure we can’t. His latest spectacular instance of impeachable thuggishness was over the weekend, and it of course involved… Georgia. (Which makes you wonder how many other state secretaries of state he’s harassing without The Washington Post knowing about it — managing to steal Georgia would do him little good without stealing the votes of several other states). But after the runoff Tuesday, and the insanely pointless demonstration by Joe Wilson and others that we expect on Wednesday, this should all start fading away. And I can’t wait.
Joe Wilson must go — Of course, there is another dozen or so whose names will be forever blackened on Wednesday when they express their contemptible wish to overthrow our democracy. But Joe Wilson is my congressman, so I’m focused on him. I mean, I voted against him in November and all, but his latest step goes so far beyond the pale of civilized behavior that he must be ostracized by decent people in all he says and does from now on.
Zorro at 100 — An interesting piece, marking the century that has passed since the release of “The Mark of Zorro,” starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr. El Zorro looms large in my personal legend — while other kids went with Mickey Mouse, my first watch was a Zorro watch (also licensed by Disney of course, based on the Guy Williams version). I also had a Zorro sword — a plastic foil or epee or whatever, with a piece of chalk on the end, so I could practice making the “Z.” What I like about this piece is the way it charts how Zorro was the progenitor of the whole superhero thing in American culture, what with his secret identity and all (although it gives proper credit to the Scarlet Pimpernel, which came some years before).
Linda Greenhouse’s Joe Biden Story — There’s nothing remarkable about it. Just an experienced journalist remembering encounters she has had with Joe over the years. We’ve all got stories like that, especially those who, like Ms. Greenhouse, have spent our careers in Washington. But it’s something that illustrates why Joe was the One for 2020 — the one person who had everything it took to bring rationality and decency back to our national government, when we needed it most.
My perfect year — I’ve remembered to take those two pills they put me on after the stroke — the platelet-suppressor and the statin — four days in a row now. Which is a significant improvement. Perfect record all year! Anyway, I thought I’d share some real news…
The Zorro I remember best — Guy Williams, the Disney version…
Did you get anything this cool for Christmas? No, it’s not from the hotel…
It’s almost over. Here are some thoughts or things I’ve run across that I found briefly interesting in recent days, while I was busy doing other stuff:
First, how’s your Christmas going? — I’m hanging in there, with the first six days under my belt now. Been trying to catch up with paying, day-job stuff when I haven’t been busy doing Christmas things. And of course, I’m not going anywhere tomorrow night because a) I’d rather stay safe, and b) I don’t want to — I don’t get the whole going-out thing, especially on holidays.
Socialist view of John le Carre’s work — You know how I prefer reading opinion to news, and don’t much care what the point of view is, as long as a case is made effectively? Anyway, I was glad Google showed me this, from the World Socialist Web Site, because it gave me the perspective on le Carre, George Smiley and the Circus from the point of view of Moscow Centre. Well, not really, since the writer doesn’t seem to consider Stalinism to be real socialism (and you know how picky socialists can be about that sort of thing), but it was interesting. Of course, now that I’ve read it, MI5 has probably put me on a list.
No more Niekro, and no more knuckleballs — Just thought I’d note the passing both of Phil Niekro, and of a particular, esoteric American art form. It caused my wife to ask me what a knuckleball was, and I told her what I knew, and then went and read up on it to see if I had been right (I had been). Did you know that Eddie Cicotte, ace hurler of the Black Sox, may have invented it? I did not…
The dusty old op-ed page still getting folks worked up — The op-ed page is gone in most communities — The State hasn’t had one for years — but the few that are still around stirred up some trouble in 2020. A perspective on the year a little different from the usual “movies of 2020” story…
Dave Barry’s review of the year — You don’t want the year to end without the perspective of Mr. Language Person himself, do you? I don’t. And I need to get back to reading it, because I haven’t finished. My favorite bit so far was about Prince Harry and his bride, who “are sick and tired of being part of the British royal family and want to just be regular normal everyday hard-working folks making millions of dollars solely because one of them was born into, and the other one married into, the British royal family.” The way Dave relates it, Her Majesty made short work of this, sorting them out good and proper. It didn’t really happen that way, and normally I don’t really dig dark humor, but it got a snort out of me, I’ll confess. Even though, from what I hear from South Carolinians who served with him in Afghanistan, Harry is a decent sort.
‘Mary Ann’ dies of COVID — Or rather, of course, Dawn Wells. This is the only actual news from today. Very sad. Something as innocent at “Gilligan’s Island,” and someone from my childhood, running smack into the hard reality of 2020, and being done in by it. Never mind the fact that her character was the nicest one on the show. This isn’t an appropriate time to bring up the whole “Who was hotter, Ginger or Mary Ann?” thing, so I won’t, except to say that Mary Anne was definitely the more appealing.
The most recent picture I had in my files of Don and Carol Fowler. This was at a reunion of Don’s old Reserve unit, the 360th Civil Affairs Brigade.
Yeah, I know it’s been a few days. I’m still learning how to ration time, interest and my physical/mental energy in the wake of my stroke (still dealing with some fatigue), and what with the holidays and day-job work to do, I’ve fallen behind on the blog. But here are some things I’ve thought about posting in the last week or so, and I decided I’d throw them out and see if any of it interests you:
George Shultz on Trust, from a century of perspective— Possibly the best piece I read last week was in the Post, headlined “The 10 most important things I’ve learned about trust over my 100 years.” Saying “Trust is the coin of the realm,” he explained that “When trust was in the room, whatever room that was — the family room, the schoolroom, the locker room, the office room, the government room or the military room — good things happened. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen. Everything else is details.” Absolutely. Long ago (as in, a quarter-century ago), I wrote a column on that subject, which seems quaint now. Things are so much worse today. But the fact remains: We can talk about partisanship, ideology, or Donald Trump, but bottom line, our biggest problem and challenge remains a lack of trust.
Closing religious services — There was another Supreme Court development on this front last week — actually it was about a religious school, but it reminded me of the topic. And I’m wondering a couple of things: First, those of you who, like me, normally attend religious services — how long has it been since you’ve been to one? Second, what observations do you have on the many issues involved — the Constitutional issue, the personal one of how not attending services (or attending them with or without social-distancing protocols) affects your spirituality? Or anything else you want to say about it. For my part, I haven’t physically been to a Mass since March. But we stream Mass every Sunday. And it’s… different.
The passing of Don Fowler — I don’t know how well-known he was to my readers, but for those in the political/media universe, he was a giant. I first met him when I covered the Democratic National Convention in 1988. I remember chasing him down a staircase in Atlanta to get a question answered and thinking as he turned to face me, “This guy’s too busy for me to be bothering him with this.” He was always busy, in Democratic politics on the state and national level (most notably as national chairman during the Clinton administration), and he did his best to lead the party forward productively during an age of sad decline in his home state. Over the years, I interacted with Don through many roles — as party leader, as a consultant, as a former National Guard colonel, as a college professor (on one or two occasions, I took over his class for him when he had pressing business in Washington or somewhere). We often disagreed — after all, he was a party man and I was not — but I always had great respect for him. Don will be missed.
‘Latinx’ hasn’t even caught on among Latinos. It never will. — That’s for sure. I was recently shocked to hear Dr. Fauci use this odd term — obviously created by people who do NOT speak Spanish — on the radio. Out loud, not just in writing. No one who speaks or understands Spanish, or has any kind of respect for the language or the culture it represents, would use such a neologism. Anyway, this opinion piece explains some of the reasons why you will seldom hear a Spanish speaker using it. I thought the headline was a little weird, though. “Even?” Latinos would be the last people I’d expect to use it.
Farewell to Lamar Alexander, one of the vital few — I’m very sorry to see Lamar leave politics, and was glad to see George Will take the time to honor him on the way out. Of course, Lamar is closely linked with my youth and the early stages of my career — the week I spent traveling with him in 1978 was my first experience of covering a statewide political campaign (it was his first successful run for governor of Tennessee). He became my favorite Republican of that era. And I guess, in spite of his disappointing me last year, he’s my favorite of this era as well, although partly because of the lack of competition (with John McCain gone, and Lindsey Graham’s conscience gone). And now Lamar, too, will leave the scene.
Serbian Elevators — Someone used this phrase in a tweet the other day, and I immediately added it to my list of possible band names. Just to keep you posted on the progress of my band, which I’ve been intending to get together since 1971, once I get the details sorted out. You gotta get the details right — like, you know, deciding who will be in the band…
Cunningham for governor? — OK, this is technically something I just saw this morning, but I’ve added it to the list. Anyway, good luck with that. Joe’s a pleasant young man, but seriously — if we couldn’t elect a war hero and respected (across the political spectrum) lawmaker such as James Smith as a Democrat statewide, this seems unlikely. And we tried awfully hard, I assure you. Anyway, that’s my first reaction. Perhaps someone will talk me out of it.
Just a quick one to toss some possible discussions out there:
What are you doing for Thanksgiving? — I’ve been asking this of people I speak to about unrelated things. Mostly, there is some concession to the resurgence of the plague, and the danger the holidays pose — but it varies greatly, from families gathering on screened porches to not gathering at all. Everyone in our fam is dining in their own home pods — except my two single kids who live in town, who will eat with us, but spread out in the house. Then, if weather permits, we might all go have dessert out in my parents’ spacious back yard. We’ll see.
Ex-SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh pleading guilty to fraud charges — To start things off, I’ll cite the reaction of one of the most illustrious members of our little blog community. In reaction to the news that Marsh “is facing prison time and fines worth more than $5M after pleading guilty to defrauding S.C. ratepayers who paid billions for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear power plant,” our own Lynn Teague tweeted two words: “Richly deserved.”
You know what? That’s enough for now, just to get things started. I need to get back to some work, and then go bake a cake…
Fly wins veep debate — I missed the beginning of this, and then missed a good bit more because I wasn’t what you’d call riveted. Congrats to both for being more civil than Trump. A low bar, of course. And is it civil to completely ignore time limits and refuse to shut up, but do it in such boring voice that people fall asleep and don’t notice? Someone should ask Miss Manners.
The likability trap — Maybe this should be a separate post. Anyway, here’s one of the things that keeps me from being a feminist. Feminists believe there’s some “likability” standard that applies only to women. There isn’t. The fact that they keep saying there is makes me not like them. For instance, Donald Trump is the least likable S.O.B. (we can have a separate discussion later about the “B.”) in living history of American politics, which would be enough to keep me from voting for him for anything. We just don’t talk about it much because it’s such a bigger deal that he is both stupid and evil. Joe Biden is one of the most likable people ever to run for president, and it’s a real asset for him. Even though he doesn’t drink beer, you want to have one with him. We don’t know whether Mike Pence drinks beer, but we don’t care because we don’t want to have one with him. Although he’s less unlikable than Trump, we just don’t want to hang with him. Kamala Harris has many assets, but no, being likable isn’t one of them. But she wasn’t particularly unlikable last night, because she didn’t say stuff like “That little girl was me.” So have we got it all straight now? Have I mansplained it enough? Stop making me do this. I don’t, you know, like it.
Trump pulls out of debate over plan to hold it virtually — Maybe he’s scared he can’t talk over everybody in that format. Or maybe he’s just scared, having seen polls after the first debate. Or maybe he suddenly wised up, realizing a COVID patient shouldn’t be debating… naaahhhh.
I’m tired of looking for stuff. You want to talk about something else, bring it up. I’m in enough trouble already with the “likability” thing…
With the election coming up and all, I should do more of these — even on a slow day like today:
Trump’s erratic tweets on economic relief leave strategy unclear — Or, we could headline this one, Trump Yadda-Yadda. I think he must be somewhere around Barstow — the drugs are kicking in. You notice that we’re having a bit of a lull? Which is nice, after the crisis-every-day of last week. This is the lull between Trump’s helicopter ride back to the White House, and the upcoming one back to Walter Reed. But maybe not. I hope not. I want him healthy. I don’t want him having an excuse when he loses. The message of repudiation by America needs to be as clear as possible.
Supremes say SC absentee voters must get witness signature — This is way old, but hey, The State led with it this morning as though it hadn’t happened way back on Monday. And we haven’t talked about it. Maybe we don’t need to. Let’s use this one as a departure point for anything you want to say about absentee voting, which opened with a bang this week.
Stephen Miller gets COVID — I’m going to confess something here, so y’all can give me a hard time about it. Which I deserve. I was walking last night, listening to NPR on my earbuds, when I first heard this news. And for a split-second, I felt my face start to smile. I stopped it immediately, because I think that is inexcusable. I really believe the things Bret Stephens said in his column yesterday, “Wish a President Well Who Doesn’t Wish You Well.” That applies to Miller, too. Maybe if he didn’t look like a movie villain (specifically, a young Jonathan Banks). Or better yet, if he didn’t act like a movie villain. But those excuses are inadequate. I should not have felt that impulse.
Islamic State ‘Beatles’ charged in US over hostages’ deaths — Just to say, this stuff is still out there. Our inward-looking insanity isn’t the only thing in the world. A quick point about this: Is it a weakness, in the sense of a flaw in the system, that it takes liberal democracies this long to get around to processing something like this? These monstrosities took place in 2014.
Eddie Van Halen dies — Wow, now even the kids are dying. Yeah, I know, he was almost as old as I am. But the ’80s were when my kids were kids, so after my time. Anyway, I hate to see it.
Did y’all feel the earthquake? — Twitter tells me that Synithia Williams did. I did not. I was asleep at 8:07 a.m. Sunday. But my wife came and woke me up to tell me about it. She said she heard some rumbling upstairs like a heavy person was walking around, then she heard the wind chimes at our back door. She later seemed a bit concerned that I slept through it. But hey, I used to live in the Andes, so I’m all like, Call that a quake? I was, however, impressed that it would be felt so far away from the epicenter…
Jaime catching up to Lindsey — This is very encouraging, although I won’t feel like it’s real until Jaime gets several points ahead. Actually, I won’t feel like it’s real until Election Day. I’m avoiding getting excited about polls these days. Things are too squishy and vulnerable. I have practical experience in the last election reminding me about most white South Carolinians’ physical disability that prevents them pulling the lever for a Democrat, no matter how good the Democrat or embarrassing the Republican.
In case you want to talk about football — I notice from Bryan’s Twitter feed that football fans are talking about college football being on the verge of being cancelled. Of course, if you’re me, you’ve kind of amazed that anyone was even considering it this year. But, you know, football fans are as inscrutable to me as those white South Carolinians who can’t figure out how to vote for a Democrat (something that would absolutely amazed their grandfathers — so we know it’s not genetic).
Linda Bell won’t back Henry’s foolishness any more — State epidemiologist Linda Bell has had enough of being used as a prop by the governor’s office, and says, “I will not ‘stand next to the governor’ anymore without speaking to what the science tells us is the right thing to do, particularly as his staff intend to portray that as my complicity with his position.”
This may be my thinnest excuse for a picture ever: This post mentions Marian Wright Edelman, and this is the library named for her in Bennettsville. I took it during the campaign. It works, don’t you think?
Russia Is Trying to Steal Virus Vaccine Data, Western Nations Say — Let’s look at the bright side. If it helps them enough that they actually develop a working vaccine, and do it before we do, we can steal it back. But I doubt they will. If they thought they could, they wouldn’t have to steal it. Not that they don’t outdo us sometimes. There’s Sputnik. And the Kalashnikov. And the T-34. Oh, and remember that for the last decade or so, we’ve been having to cadge rides to space from them.
15 women accuse then-Redskins employees of sexual harassment — Hey, these guys just can’t seem to catch a break, can they? I mean, they change the name after refusing to all those years, and before people are done patting them on the back (and before they even think of a new name), there’s this. Not that I’m saying they deserve a break. I’d have to care more about what football teams do before taking a stance like that. I’m just saying they can’t seem to stay out of trouble. And I’m holding myself back from suggesting that hey, maybe this has something to do with the NFL being what it is.
We Interrupt This Gloom to Offer … Hope — I offer this mainly for the headline. It’s a Nicholas Kristof column. Also, it quotes Marian Wright Edelman. She’s from Bennettsville, so you know she’s smart. So, be hopeful…