Category Archives: Blogosphere

Twitter asked me to celebrate my ‘anniversary’ once… Once!

Leslie Knope

Twitter urged me to celebrate my “Twitter anniversary” today. So I guess I started doing that in late May 2009.

Anyway, silly as it was, I complied:

I got one “like” — from Mandy Powers Norrell. Maybe I should ask her to write the speech for me. After all, I wrote a speech for her once.


It was back during the campaign. James never asked me to write a speech for him, although I wrote plenty of other things — releases, social media and the like. He preferred riffing off talking points, so I wrote out some of those a few times.

But Mandy did ask me to write one out, that one time. She was going to speak to a group of medical students, and wanted to urge them to be involved in politics. Right up my alley. And so I wrote her one that released all my communitarian and Mr. Smith-goes-to-Washington impulses. It was a lovely little secular sermon on civic virtues.

And she got a reaction. She said one of the students came up to her after, and asked whether she had ever seen “Parks and Recreation.” She said that she had.

“Well,” said the student, “you sound just like Leslie Knope.”

Which I guess was not what she was going for. Because she never asked for another speech…

Open Thread for Monday, May 15, 2023

Hey, if they’d put the byline up higher, I’d have read the story ere now…

Well, here we go, another week. Here are some things that have grabbed my attention:

  1. Football bonded them. Its violence tore them apart. — Someone brought this story to my attention today saying, “Great work from Babb and Washington Post.” My reaction was that Kent always does good work, as I think I’ve said before. I had seen this story over the weekend, and almost read it. If I’d noticed his byline, I’d have read it. The good news is that all of you can, too. Kent has tweeted out a “Gift link so everyone can read.” Try it and let me know if it works…
  2. India just passed China in population. That’s good news for America. — This is a column by Max Boot. Yes, that does sound encouraging, although of course the future is impossible to know. It’s always possible that Indian politics could take an unpleasant turn. But there I go looking at the dark side…
  3. Effort to dissolve DHEC headed to SC governor. Here’s what’s in the final plan — That’s one a them there newfangled kinds of headline. At least, the last part is. Headlines used to give you news, and the first part of this one does that. But the “here’s what’s in the final plan” part tells you “Click on this and we’ll tell you something.” But you don’t care about that, do you? Anyway, the thing that grabbed me about it was that the story can’t fully tell you what this bill will do, no matter how many times you click on it, because the details aren’t in it — at least, on the health side. As the story says, “the bill doesn’t parse details about how the agency would be structured.” So, it’s about to become law, but we don’t know the details? Huh. As Gilda Cobb-Hunter suggests, this bears watching…
  4. Limiting what novelists can write about won’t help readers — This is a column by Kathleen Parker. My reaction to it was, you want to worry about books being “banned?” Worry about it happening before the books are published, or even written. That’s what this is about. Unfortunately, I don’t see a “gift link” for this one. So if you can’t read it, maybe I’ll post about it separately, with some excerpts…
  5. Cunningham: With Biden trailing Trump, we need a third option for president in 2024 — As usual, Cunningham is full of… nonsense. I can’t think of anything more likely to get Trump elected — if, you know, he is the nominee of the former GOP. My man Joe Lieberman doesn’t think so, but hey, nobody’s perfect. I saw a tweet this morning from someone who said, “Wait is Cunningham really aligning himself with the disastrous no labels crowd? Man that’s incredibly disappointing.” Actually, it’s more the other way for me. “No labels” is a group that, at least in theory, I would see as having good points. But the fact that they’ve hired Cunningham lowers it in my estimation.
  6. Why Some Companies Are Saying ‘Diversity and Belonging’ Instead of ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ — I liked this story because it started with an anecdote about a company that until the 1950s required its (apparently all-white), male workers to wear bowties. Now it’s trying to diversify. That’s fine in my view, as long as all the new folks are also required to wear bowties. Standards are standards, right? They always have been, as you can see below…

I certainly wore bowties regularly back in the ’50s. You’ll note also that I had a sort of hipster haircut…

Open Thread for Friday, Cinco de Mayo, 2023

My experience over the years has taught me that nobody reads blogs on Fridays, especially not late on Fridays. So that makes this the perfect time to try to slip a few things by you:

  1. What to expect at the coronation of King Charles III — and how to watch it. — Um, let me guess — we should expect a guy to put on a fancy hat, right? Oh, and I saw a picture of the Stone of Destiny this morning, and there was no sword stuck in it! Who overlooked that? I don’t mean to commit lèse-majesté or anything, but these kinds of “guides for the breathless” headlines irritate me. The only ones I hate more are the ones that go, “What you need to know about…” This is a close relative. I reassure myself that the reporters who have to write these hate them as much as I do…
  2. Too many tattoos in Five Points? — Yes, absolutely! In fact, I see too many tattoos pretty much everywhere I go. It’s like every street in America has become the red light district near Subic Bay, circa 1971. But that’s not exactly what you were asking, was it?
  3. The Next Fear on A.I.: Hollywood’s Killer Robots Become the Military’s Tools — Hey, A.I. offers enough things to worry about, and I’ve been meaning to right a post about it. But this consideration alone is bad enough. Like, nightmarish.
  4. WHO declares covid-19 is no longer a global health emergency — Hey, great! So what does that mean? By the way, you know what my eldest daughter had last week, for the second time? Yeah, COVID! Meanwhile, this is also being reported today: “Disease experts warn White House of potential for omicron-like wave of illness.” Oh, and before y’all make me out to be some obsessed COVID alarmist — that’s not what’s happening here. I don’t go around wearing masks anymore, except maybe on airliners (and I often forget there, too). I’m just saying this is not 2019 again, or anything stupid like that. Hey, but if we do get to do a year over, how about 1971? I really enjoyed that one..
  5. Man who died in Spartanburg jail was ignored for hours, records show — Folks, if we’re going to keep locking people up — and that’s a very popular thing to do here in South Carolina — we’re going to have to spend some money to make these places safe for humans! This is obscene…
  6. Yevgeny Prigozhin: Wagner Group boss says he will pull fighters out of Bakhmut — This is the oligarch who runs the big mercenary operation that’s been fighting for Putin, and getting a lot of its guys killed, in Ukraine. It’s not that he’s against killing innocent Ukrainians, it’s just that he doesn’t want his guys doing it without ammunition, so he’s ticked at the Russian supply people. (There’s something kind of oxymoronic about the phrase, “Russian supply people,” isn’t there? I mean, what’s the last government in the world you would rely on to keep you supplied when your life depended on it?) Finally, check out his picture: If you were trying to find a guy to play a Russian oligarch who runs a mercenary operation, this is pretty much the face you would cast, right? This is like Dr. Evil’s way scarier twin brother…


What do these ‘reluctant’ Democrats want?

Hey, y’all, I’m back — again. Remember how I told you I’d been on the island of Dominica, and that I would tell you all about it, but didn’t? That’s because I left town again for a few days, to accompany my wife to Memphis for her 50th high school reunion. I try to never miss a chance to go to Memphis. (And yeah, we made it to Pete & Sam’s.)

But before I start sharing travelogues, I thought I’d try to get some basic, everyday posts up. I’ve had several on my mind the last three days, but have been too busy trying to catch up with work (still not there) and emails (about 2,600 waiting, still unread).

So let’s start with this:

If you go to that on Twitter, you’ll see I got some likes, but also some new things to think about from our good friend Phillip Bush. He wrote:

‘Reluctance’ probably isn’t the right word. There’s no single word I can think of for this, but ‘being disheartened that we have no other choice’ probably covers it for many people.

I responded that “disheartened” is hard for me to understand as well. For my part, I’m deeply grateful that Joe is willing to do this. I think he sees, just as I do, that there’s no one else available right now.

But Phillip wasn’t done:

But Joe bears some responsibility for there being “no one else available” on the D side. And, will you still be grateful to Joe when he loses to DeSantis?

I’m not sure how Joe is responsible for the lack of other suitable candidates. That’s a problem that already existed, to which he responded by stepping up himself. (Maybe Phillip can elaborate on that point here.) And I’ll always be grateful to him for stepping forward when his country needed him — whether he succeeds or not.

This leads to my original concern about this “reluctance” I keep hearing about, which I continue to see as irrational and counterproductive.

Irrational because, what is it these people want? Who is it they see out there who could carry the banner better? Who do they think is MORE likely to beat DeSantis, or anyone else? I’m not seeing anybody. And Joe didn’t cause that problem. He stepped forward to offer himself to fill the void.

And it’s counterproductive because if Democrats don’t enthusiastically back Joe — their only option — this nation will plunge back into the steep decline we experienced starting in 2016. And it’s likely to be worse this time around.

So what’s your problem with Joe? His age? Hey, I’d love it if Joe was 20 years younger — he would, too, I’m sure. But that’s not being offered as an option. We’ve got the Joe we’ve got. And I like him…

Living the fantasy…

If only this creature could evolve a LOT more quickly…

No, this isn’t about something starring Stormy Daniels. (That would be the grand jury case I haven’t bothered to comment on this far…)

No, this fantasy is less lurid, but probably more important in the long run. Basically, this post was originally a comment I wrote in reaction to one of bud and Doug’s usual arguments over public vs. private.

Then I started riffing a bit, and it led to something that was really more involved than a comment should be, so I’m raising it to post level.

Here’s what I wrote, in response to this and previous comments:

Well, bud already cited ONE example of something that was done right. I’ll leave it to him to answer your question further. I’m not going to take a couple of years off from life to become someone capable of parsing road contracts and passing judgment on their efficacy.

It’s a silly argument, anyway, talking public vs. private on a function that will only EVER be undertaken by government. The private sector isn’t going to build highways — except as contractors working for the government. That’s the way it is. I’d be fascinated to hear your alternative plan for providing the infrastructure that makes it possible to have an economy in which private businesses can thrive WITHOUT these danged, pesky governments….

It raises some interesting dystopian scenarios. If we ever do get to a scenario in which it economically feasible for a private entity to provide general infrastructure, that private entity will essentially BE the government, at least within that area. You know, like in the Middle Ages, when the local lord of the manor was over everything. The society in which we live is the product of several centuries of Europeans striving to disengage from that sort of system, and try to build a system in which the things upon which we all depend are controlled, at least indirectly, by all citizens.

Not that we haven’t moved that way a number of times as technology has progressed. In the 19th century, it was the railroads. And eventually, government stepped in to control the freewheeling mastery of the environment that the railroad barons wielded. Over time, other technologies have asserted similar societal dominance. (Anyone ever see “The President’s Analyst,” in which — SPOILER ALERT — the power behind everything was the Phone Company?)

Today, we’re engaged in debates about technology that plays a bigger, wider role in our lives than railroads ever did — dominating and reshaping not only how we communicate, but how we think (ones and zeroes). And of course, all that’s in private hands.

So maybe I should take back my comment about it being dystopian fantasy. We’re dealing with the fantasy now…

I was teetering there on the cusp of busting out on a bunch of topics that are as habitual to me as public vs. private are to bud and Doug, things that are all affected profoundly by the things that have been coming out of Silicon Valley:

  • The Rabbit Hole.
  • The way technology has exponentially increased the problem of political polarization in our society. It had been a problem for decades, but in the years since the development of “social” media and broader technology that makes everyone on the planet more powerful (in terms of ability to instantly communicate with every other person on the planet, without editors or fact checkers or any other sort of mediation) than any newspaper publisher in history ever dreamed of being, humans have been trained to think like computers, in binary terms — ones and zeroes. Everything is black and white (words that newspapers now capitalize, by the way). There are no degrees of gray; there are no subtleties or nuances. There is no tolerance of those who disagree.
  • Of course, I include traditional media in this failure to cope with the problem. The new technology, having reshaped brains, distorts political events so that this madness is what the MSM have to cover, and tragically, they fall back on their old, comfortable love of conflict, covering politics like sports. And I don’t mean multilateral sports like golf or marathon running. I mean contests in which there are only two teams, and therefore only two ways of looking at anything. The deepest questions that get asked are: Who’s winning? Who’s losing? Which is profoundly tragic.
  • The inability of Western-style liberal democracies to deal with such polarizing forces, causing elements of the public to turn, over and over, to more oppressive, far less liberal, figures and imagined solutions. (The latest victim being Israel, trailing behind the U.S., of course.)
  • On a much deeper level than any of the above, the inability of Homo Sapiens to effectively cope with the change, since evolution takes millions of years longer than technological development.
  • That last point alone, of course, is one we could worry over for the rest of our lives, and still not get anywhere close to a helpful answer.

Seeing all of it as too much for a comment, I brought it here…

In “The President’s Analyst,” The Phone Company was Behind It All…

Jimmy Carter is going to die. So are we all.

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

In a scene from the television series Doc Martin, a scathingly curmudgeonly English surgeon turned primary care doctor, he is visited by an anxious preadolescent girl and her mother for the daughter’s minor complaint. After being given a cursory exam, the girl asks, “Am I going to die?” Doc Martin stares at her incredulously and retorts in hilariously untherapeutic but unassailably truthful fashion, “Yes, we all die.” The girl begins to cry as Doc Martin moves on to his next patient.

There are essentially three ways to approach Doc Martin’s response: full denial, full acceptance, and a usually unhappy middle ground. As a physician who spends part of his days seeing hospice patients, I have seen all three up close. This has led me to the conclusion that one of the most important decisions we can make in life is how we are going to conceive of our deaths. The meaning of life, said Kafka, is that it ends. So it is profitable that each of us have a reliable concept of where we are going.

When I talk about this subject with medical students, I don’t recommend a particular path (although, if asked, I tell them my Christianity frames my approach to death). Instead, I stress to them that they must find a path, through organized religion or some other framework, that provides them a way of understanding life and death. It is much easier for physicians to engage with patients and families about life-threatening illnesses if we have decided what happens to us when we die.

Over my thirty years of practice, I have seen hundreds of patients die. Each death is a blow, especially the unexpected ones. But when there is time to prepare, death can be beautiful. Such deaths require planning and support. That support is often in the form of hospice. That’s why I am so glad that Jimmy Carter chose to make public his decision to enter hospice care. Although his presidency was turbulent and his leadership uneven, his post-presidency has been remarkable, easily one of the best presidential second acts in American history. His choice of hospice will be his last exemplary act.

Hospice provides patients and families a much-needed embrace. We surround the patient with a team of experts who understand how human beings die. Dying can be hard work, as can watching a loved one succumb. It can be overwhelming without enough help. Having hospice team members to nurture and guide you can be shelter in the storm.

No other medical discipline is more rigorous in their team approach than hospice. Every patient is seen in their home by a nurse at least once a week, often more. Each team has a social worker and a chaplain who visit monthly or more if the patient wishes. The team member that is most appreciated is often the hospice aide who bathes, dresses, and provides other personal care to our patients. Their intimate, loving care of patients as they wash and reposition a frail human body is a balm for both the patient and the caregiver. Hospice volunteers are available to sit with, talk with, and read to patients, providing caregivers a brief respite. The team is led by a physician who provides oversight and visits patients when needed.

Choosing hospice is a recognition that death is near, which for some is a difficult bridge to cross. Those patients and families who approach death with fear and denial may, in so doing, deprive themselves of a rich and sustaining hospice experience. If you visit your primary care provider and think hospice might be appropriate for yourself or your family member, please ask (the criteria is a prognosis of six months or less). Some providers are hesitant to make a referral without a signal from the family.

Sometimes death comes quickly and hospice is not feasible. But in most cases, death can be anticipated and hospice can be called months in advance. This is the setting in which hospice works best. When the team members visit and call week after week, they become members of the family.

One of the ironic things about working in hospice is the disposition of my fellow team members. You might assume that people who work with dying patients all day would be in a permanent state of melancholy. However, the opposite is true. Perhaps there are some cynical hospice workers out there, but I don’t know any. Understanding death, it turns out, is key to enjoying life. At our weekly meeting there are often tears, but there is also laughter as we relate stories of funny things that team members, family members, or patients have said and done.

I grew up thinking that a deathbed was a place for hushed tones and whispering. But my team, my patients, and my families have taught me that the end of life is a profound experience to be savored and which can hold every emotion from intense sadness to side-splitting amusement. One of life’s sweetest moments is hearing a family member tell an amusing story about a dying patient which ends with the gathered doubled over. That kind of laughter is precious, for we know that our loved ones won’t be around to hear that story being told on them again.

So I encourage you, figure out what you believe about death. It will help you live better. And at the end, choose hospice.

A version of this article appeared in the March 8th edition of the Florence Morning News. Dr. DeMarco’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of McLeod Hospice.

DeMarco: Worried About MTG? Don’t Be.

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Those of you who are avid readers of this column (yes, all three of you) may remember my writing a column with a similar headline about QAnon back in October. QAnon has pretty much run its course. MTG will be a little harder to get rid of, but please don’t worry about her.

For many, listening to Marjorie Taylor Greene is exasperating. She is often wrongheaded, facile, bombastic, and defensive. I don’t have enough space to recount all the ways Greene is unsuitable. They are well laid out on her Wikipedia page. Perhaps the most famous are her belief in QAnon and various other conspiracy theories, including that space lasers started California wildfires. She has been a vociferous champion of the lie that Trump won in 2020. Most disturbing was her statement opposing a peaceful transfer of power two days before the attack on the Capitol. She says on video “You can’t allow it to just transfer power ‘peacefully’ like Joe Biden wants, and allow him to become our president. Because he did not win this election. It’s being stolen and the evidence is there.”

She routinely calls journalists and opposing politicians “liars” and has mastered the simplistic, us-versus-them trash talk that has worked so well for Trump. In doing so, she has become the darling of the extreme right. In an inevitable response governed by Newton’s third law of social media, many Democrats are amplifying her as well, hoping to delude voters into thinking that she represents most Republicans.

In trying to understand Greene, I watched multiple interviews including one between her and CNN’s Jim Acosta in April 2022. It is an ambush sidewalk interview. Acosta questions Greene as she walks down a D.C. street about a tweet to Mark Meadows in the aftermath of January 6th. In the tweet, she raises the idea of Trump declaring martial law to avoid leaving office.

She defends herself vigorously. Her willingness to push back against those she and her supporters see as enemies has earned her a loyal following. Going toe-to-toe with a “fake news” reporter, calling him a liar to his face, is the MTG brand. She has a feisty, take-no-prisoners attitude that has replaced well-chosen words and sober deliberation as the currency of our nation’s politics. She feels Acosta has misrepresented the text and at one point says, “Why don’t you be honest for once?” But she doesn’t finish strongly. After some back and forth, she refuses to answer any more questions and walks away saying, “We’re done, we’re done, stop harassing me… leave me alone.”

The exchange left me feeling sad for Greene. She seems like a lonely, angry person whose career will mirror Sarah Palin’s – each has opted for transient political notoriety at profound personal cost. Palin and her husband divorced in 2020 after 31 years of marriage. Greene and her husband divorced in 2022 after 27 years.

So I would urge you, if you disagree with Greene, to recognize that she is unlikely to change and that you already know enough about her to predict most of her policy positions. Recognize that she is a second-term House member, a position with very little power. Yes, she was helpful to Speaker McCarthy but only because the Republican margin in the House is so small. With a larger majority, she would have been irrelevant. Remember that she’s well-liked by voters in Georgia’s 14th district. Her Democratic challenger in 2022 raised more than $15 million (a gigantic sum for a house race), much of it from out-of-state donors, and lost by more than 30 points. It was foolish for people outside the state of Georgia, most of whom knew nothing about her opponent, Marcus Flowers, to give him money. There was not a single clear-eyed person in the state of Georgia who felt that Flowers could win.

So I say to those donors, don’t waste your money until a credible candidate opposes Greene. And I say to all those of you outside of Georgia, don’t waste your mental energy on her. She has turned Teddy Roosevelt’s advice of “Speak softly and carry a big stick” on its head. She shouts “Liar!” at the president during his State of the Union, but she has no clout. Spend your precious mental resources elsewhere.

A version of this column appeared in the February 22nd edition of the Florence Morning News.

DeMarco: What Christians Can Learn from Humanists

The Op-Ed Page

Bart Campolo

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

The first time I heard the term “secular humanism” many decades ago, it was in a negative context. I translated it as “angry atheist” and stored it in my mental junk drawer along with other assorted concepts I wasn’t sure merited further investigation.

Humanism reemerged as something to consider when I came across the story of Bart Campolo. Bart is the son of Tony Campolo, a progressive Baptist preacher and former spiritual advisor to Bill Clinton. Bart entered the family business as a spellbinding evangelist and founder of Mission Year, an urban ministry focused on improving the lives of young people. Through his twenties and thirties his faith eroded and he now rejects anything supernatural. In 2016, he started a podcast called Humanize Me. I’ve listened to dozens of episodes and, despite the trauma of his public deconversion, he remains a charismatic, insightful, and loving human being.

The trouble with humanism, Bart admits, is that it’s hard to gather a community around a belief system grounded in this world and not in the next. He has been able to generate a faithful online following but the idea of a humanist church has not been a galvanizing one. Bart attempted to start an in-person community in Cincinnati called Caravan, which, based on the website, appears defunct. But the four founding principles of Caravan are profound: building loving relationships, making things better for others, cultivating awe and wonder, and worldview humility.

Christians are familiar with the first three precepts but not the last. Most Christian churches, though not all, practice the opposite, what might be called worldview hubris. We are sure we have found the way to heaven and we’re doubly sure it’s the only way.

A couple thoughts about our certainty. First, the math of our proposition doesn’t seem compatible with a loving God. I suspect, when creating the universe, God knew that many of us would not be Christian (currently Christians make up about a third of the world’s population). Would God knowingly create a world in which so many of his children would miss the mark? Many Christians say they believe this, pointing to verses like John 14:6 in which Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” However, few are moved to invest time or money evangelizing the lost. According to the missionary organization The Traveling Team, for every $100,000 that Christians make, we give $1.70 to the unreached.

I respect those who believe Jesus is the only way. If you interpret the scriptures literally, you have a strong case. My view is that the Bible is authoritative but not inerrant. In John 14, Jesus also says “The Father is greater than me” (verse 28) and “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (verse 11). The message I get from the whole of John 14 is that belief in the Father is the critical piece. If you define God as Love, as almost all religious people do, then loving God by loving others is our highest obligation. If love is at the center of Christianity rather than belief in Jesus, we no longer are forced to be exclusive.

Again, I realize this is not the standard interpretation of the Bible preached from most pulpits. Nor am I a theologian. However, decades of Bible study and worship have shown me the hazards of an exclusive Jesus.

First, it instills an oppositional mentality. It’s us (the saved) among them (the lost). It’s virtually impossible not to pity or fell superior to people whom you believe have made a choice that will haunt them for all eternity.

Second, it can make us solipsistic. Why waste time dealing with people who are different from us and are dammed to hell anyway? Most churches are demographically homogenous – far more so than our cities, towns, or workplaces. The temptation to retreat into the cocoon of one’s comfortable church circle is strong.

Third, it makes us afraid. We worry that there is something wrong with “those people” who either worship differently or don’t worship at all. We fear becoming close lest their foreign ways lead us astray.

Last, it makes us incurious. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and peoples of the world’s many other faiths (and no faith) have traditions that can add to our understanding of the world. Many years ago while visiting Tucson, Arizona, I came upon a group of Buddhist monks meticulously crafting a sand mandala. These flat, intricate sand sculptures take groups of monks days or sometimes weeks to construct. Once completed, they are carefully dismantled, symbolizing the impermanence of the material world. The monks’ egoless devotion to their task, which they complete in silence, and their willing acceptance of the mandala’s destruction has no parallel Christian ritual but has been a lifelong inspiration to me.

I had a Jewish patient who taught me a deeper understanding of the concept of shalom. I had a Muslim student who taught me the discipline of Ramadan. We Christians have our own array of deeply meaningful traditions, but we must allow the possibility that we don’t have a lock on the Truth.

The Caravan website reminds us how most of us come to our world view: “(M)ost of our ideas and convictions are inherited from other people and/or conditioned by circumstances beyond our control. In other words, we are well aware that if our lives or brains were different, then our worldview would be different too, and we’d be using different arguments to defend it.”

When we meet someone of a different faith, our choices include conversion, consternation, or curiosity. Choose wisely.

A version of this column appeared in the February 3rd edition of the Florence Morning News.


Open Thread for Friday, February 17, 2023

Some people get jittery. Others get depressed. Both conditions are quite common.

A few quick topics:

  1. Why a Strong Economy Is Making Stock Investors Jittery — Oh, that’s easy. It’s because stock investors are always jittery. They wouldn’t know what to do if they weren’t having a nervous breakdown several times a day. The great weakness of our economic system is that it’s so dependent upon the faulty nervous systems of these people.
  2. 50 years ago, depression ended a campaign. That’s changed, politicians say. — It’s been 50 years, and I still think Eagleton should have stayed on the ticket. Now, John Fetterman is reaching out for help, in a different world. Depression is sort of the common cold of psychological disorders. Hey, I’ve been diagnosed with it, decades ago. And like most people, I saw somebody, got treated and moved on. Why should it be any different for legislators? If only poor Bruce Willis had something so treatable.
  3. The all-volunteer force turns 50 — and faces its worst crisis yet. — Yeah, here I go showing you things from publications to which you probably don’t describe. But I’m sorry, that’s where I get ideas. Here, Max Boot is talking about the problem of having a professional military that most of the population knows nothing about. The solution, of course, is a draft — and not selective service, either, but universal national service. But it ain’t gonna happen because it’s politically impossible. He’s just defining the problem.
  4. Alec Baldwin Didn’t Have to Talk to the Police. Neither Do You. — I’ve seen a number of these pieces recently saying the reason Baldwin faces charges now is that kept blabbing — not only to the authorities, but to the world. I understand the reasoning, but I would really find it hard not to tell investigators everything I knew about a homicide about which I had personal knowledge. What do y’all think?
  5. My wife’s cousin dies at 81 — When my wife and I were first dating, I was at her house one night when she was busy organizing some of her family’s photos (back then, “photos” were things on paper — prints). I asked her how a picture of Major League star catcher Tim McCarver had gotten in there, and learned that he was her first cousin. To me, he was one of the stars of the great team the Cardinals had in the late ’60 — I had seen him play in spring training. She and I would later seem him play during his one year with the Red Sox. In the last part of his career, I became a Phillies fan watching him catch for Steve Carlton — who had been a rookie with the Cards when Tim was a big star. I enjoyed hearing his voice all those years he was even more famous as a broadcaster, but to me he’ll always be a ballplayer. I loved having him as my familial link to the bigs, and I’m sorry he’s gone.

Tim on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1967, in the second of his four decades playing in the bigs.

Top Five Worst Social Media Platforms

I’ve posted about this before, haven’t I? I would have sworn I had, but in the last few days I’ve hunted for it a couple of times, without success. Maybe I did in in a comment, and the search function isn’t picking it up.

Oh, well. It needs doing, so I’ll do it again.

But first, the reason why this is on my mind again at the moment….

Are you on LinkedIn? I am, although I just noticed my profile is in serious need of updating (hey, I just now changed so it no longer shows my most recent job as “Communications Director, James Smith for South Carolina”). Actually, I’m using the word “need” loosely there, because after more than a decade dealing with LinkedIn, I have yet to identify its vital function in my life.

Anyway, a couple of days ago, I got an email from LinkedIn urging me to “Congratulate Bunny Richardson for 28 years at BMW Manufacturing Co.”

Well, that’s not a thing I do. Do you send people “work anniversary” congratulations? I don’t. I can’t imagine anyone expecting me to. I don’t recall any time in my life when I expected anyone to send me such congratulations. While I’ve had jobs I loved, I didn’t set up candles on a cake or anything when my anniversary date rolled around.

But if I did do stuff like that, I’d have had no objection to sending Bunny such a message — under normal circumstances. I worked with her for years at The State when I was in the newsroom (so, pre-1994), and she was an assistant managing editor. She was a pretty nice lady for a newspaper editor, and I generally got along with her pretty well.

But these aren’t “normal circumstances,” so I still wouldn’t send her one. That’s because Bunny died of cancer back in 2015. Yep, eight years ago, God rest her.

This of course is another reminder that I need to stick something in my will, or somewhere, that provides the login info to all social media, this blog, email and accounts with various businesses so that someone can deal with them when I’m gone — post some sort of announcement, at least.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. That incident reminds me that I do not like LinkedIn — a rather dry and unenjoyable medium that people in the business world all think they have to be on, rather in the way journalists and political professionals actually do need to be on Twitter.

It brings me to this Top Five list of Worst Social Media Platforms. Although that’s a tad misleading. They’re not necessarily the worst in the world. More like “Worst Major Social Media Platforms That I’ve Actually Used.” And this is not a ranked list. I dislike each for different reasons, which make them hard to compare to each other. The numbers are there just to make it more obvious that there are five. Anyway, here’s the list…

  1. FACEBOOK — Actually, were this a ranked list, this would probably still be at the top. That’s because it’s the biggest, and the one I have to deal with the most — it’s inescapable. And therefore my feelings about it are stronger. But this is, I’ll admit, mitigated by the fact that there are some things I like about it — it’s great for easily sharing pictures with family and friends, and it’s quite valuable for finding living people when you’re building a family tree.  Otherwise, I don’t like it, and here are the Top Five reasons why: 1. The posts don’t appear in temporal order — what I should see first is the most recent posts from my “friends,” and that does not happen. One consequence of this is that I see something on the platform, and want to go back to it later (to blog about it; to show it to someone, whatever), and can’t find the blasted thing. 2. They keep messing with it; every time I think I’ve got the platform figured out, they move things around — most inconvenient. 3. It’s a lousy place to put links to my blog (which was why I initially got really involved with it — to promote blog posts), because unlike Twitter it’s a terrible place for political discussions — it’s a different, broader kind of audience (I finally stopped putting blog links there; non-political friends and family weren’t there for that, and weren’t sure how to react). 4. It’s destroying the country, because everybody’s on it, and unthoughtful people accept what other unthoughtful people post as “facts,” and so Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. 5. On my phone and iPad apps, you can’t grab a URL to link to something on FB — they want you to “share” it only within their ‘verse (you can link to it from a browser, but I’m not always on my laptop).
  2. LINKEDIN — OK, I’ll be briefer from now on. I first got on LinkedIn when I started working with ADCO, on the basis of being told this was essential in the business world. It isn’t. I think I’m still waiting for it to be useful, even once.
  3. INSTAGRAM — I hate to include this one, because my grandchildren love it. But that leads to one of two things I don’t like about it: I find it hard to find the things my grandchildren post, partly because of the design of the platform, and partly because they have this one way of posting things that apparently makes them disappear, like the posts on Snapchat. The other reason is bigger: You can’t right-click (when on the laptop, of course) and “save image.” To a blogger like me that makes this platform next to useless.
  4. SNAPCHAT — For the reason stated above. If I take the time to write something, good or bad, the last thing I want is for it to go away. The most wonderful thing about the Web, and especially about blogs, is that you never have to include in a post the most horrible, stupid, wasteful part of news stories in the dead-tree era — background. Back in the day, many news stories, those regarding developments in ongoing, complicated stories, were often 80 percent background — just robot copy you’d already published dozens of times. Why? Because otherwise, the reader had no context for the new part. With the Web, what you wrote before is still available to the reader, and all you have to do is link to it (and oh, how I love hypertext links).
  5. TIKTOK — No, I’m not talking national security issues. It’s not because it’s the social media version of a Chinese spy balloon. It’s because of the way it has promoted and standardized the most execrable esthetic and journalistic trend of our day — vertical (portrait-mode) videos. They’ve made it so popular that recently YouTube has started aping this disgusting nonsense, in a feature called “Shorts” (a misnomer if ever I’ve seen one, since they should be called “Talls”). If I were to tell you all the reasons this is awful, my TikTok paragraph would be longer than the rest of this long post. But I’ll mention the worst — a vertical image, usually concentrating on a single human being like a full-length mirror — completely shuts out all context, making it impossible to see what its happening a foot to the left or right of that image, or even where the action is occurring. At the same time, it gives you more of that person than is necessary for conveying any useful information — and more often than not, shows empty space from the top of the person’s head to the ceiling. That’s all I’ll say about this particular foolishness. I’m forcing myself to stop now…

And just so you don’t think I’m nothing but negative, there are social media I love. I love Twitter — and sincerely hope that Elon Musk, who doesn’t get it, fails in his intense efforts to destroy it. I also enjoy Pinterest, up to a point. I like looking at the pictures. I just wish they’d dial back the recommendation algorithm a bit. Just because I like one Marilyn Monroe picture doesn’t mean I want to see nothing but Marilyn Monroe pictures.

Also, I love YouTube. But I also hate its destructive power, which in some ways comes back to the Facebook problem. And again, that’s because of the recommendation algorithm. Hear about it from a guy who helped develop it, Guillaume Chaslot

Anybody having trouble with the blog?


I mean, trouble other than the usual “dealing with that idiot Brad Warthen” stuff.

I’m talking about weird technical problems.

Starting a couple of days back, right after I posted Paul DeMarco’s piece about his trip to Sicily, Paul told me via text that it wasn’t showing up, and in fact, the most recent post showing at the top of the home page was this highly forgettable one, from way back on Jan. 16.

I know that I don’t post with anything near my old frequency, but there had been nine posts after that one. Ten now, counting this one.

Anyway, when Paul told me that, I immediately checked, and everything was fine!

But that was on Chrome. Before reporting back to Paul that he was imagining things, I tried looking at the blog on Firefox, Edge and Safari. No dice. The most recent post was the one from Jan. 16. Which, let’s face it, was not a great post.

And I found later that my wife couldn’t even get the recent stuff on Chrome on her iPad.

I’ve been scrambling — whenever I’ve had a moment for the blog — ever since. Night before last, I spent 52 minutes on hold with my hosting service, and never got to speak to anybody. No luck with their “chat” service, either.

I’m about to try them again. But in the meantime, things have changed. This morning, everything’s fine on my Firefox browser — as well as Chrome, of course. But Paul said this morning he couldn’t get the recent stuff on Chrome. I urged him to try clearing out his cache. He did, and it worked! I can’t swear that would work for everybody.

Meanwhile, this morning I discovered another problem. I got an email from Ken complaining about his comments not appearing. So I was like, “What comments?” Because there weren’t any when I logged in this morning. But before I finished answering him by email, I looked again — and there they were, with some from other folks.


And yeah, what’s weirder is me telling you about all this stuff when, if you have a problem, you probably can’t see this post.

But if you can, please let me know whether you have HAD any problems, and please describe them. I’m still trying to work this out…

DeMarco: From Palermo to Buc-ees

The Op-Ed Page

The lady who squeezed the pomegranates.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

I haven’t traveled widely, but the two times I have travelled internationally as an adult, I have been aware of what a privilege it is. Approximately 40% of Americans have never left the country, and 10% have never been outside their home state.

Looking back at America from across an ocean or a border grants an important, perhaps even essential, perspective. Sometimes the American way gains standing from a faraway vantage. In February 2020, just before COVID, I spent two weeks working in a hospital in Tanzania with a half-dozen students from USC School of Medicine. The hospital, one of the largest in Tanzania, was decades behind those in the U.S. The wards were open (approximately thirty to a room), and the ICU was miniscule and outdated. The radiology department had installed its first CT scanner just a couple years before. Of the deaths that occurred during our time there, several could have been prevented in the U.S. Returning to McLeod Hospital, the local Florence facility where I do part of my practice, I was grateful for the technology and expertise that I had heretofore taken for granted.

The cheese-maker.

My most recent trip, in November 2022, was to Sicily, the land of my ancestors. Returning home was a more ambivalent experience. Our small, expertly-led tour group spent 10 days travelling the length of the island and sampling its bounty. We met a family of fishers and ate tuna they had caught in their restaurant, we met a family of olive famers and watched as one poured freshly pressed oil into small bottles for us to take home, and we met a family that made sausage, pasta and cheese. We saw the patriarch make ricotta in the morning and then ate it for lunch. When I returned, my first meal in the U.S. was at Buc-ees. It was culinary whiplash.

Please don’t misunderstand. There is fast food in Sicily. I bet my brother, who travelled with me, that we would not see a McDonald’s in Sicily, and lost. There are families in America who produce food with the same sense of tradition and passion as those I saw in Italy. We have a farmers’ market in Marion where a woman, whose ancestors have been here since the town was founded in the mid-nineteenth century, sells glorious cookies and pound cakes from recipes honed through the generations. And it is of course true that many people in both countries would eat better if they could afford it.

That said, the food cultures of the two countries are different. It shows in our waistlines. Italy’s adult obesity rate is about 12%. America’s has topped 40%. Speed and work are valued in different ways by the two nations. Eating as part of multitasking is deeply ingrained here. We take out. We eat food in our cars or at our desks. Family members in the same house don’t always eat together.

In Sicily, food is more often an event. Some businesses still close in the middle of the day so that pranzo (lunch) can be savored and followed by a nap. Fresh ingredients are more available and sought after. In Sicily we shopped in two sprawling outdoor markets, one in Palermo and the second in Catania. Both brimmed with riotous displays of fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. In the Ballaro market in Palermo, I watched in awe as a woman at least in her 60s deftly and powerfully squeezed pomegranates with a manual press. With effortless squeeze after squeeze, rivers of juice flowed into the cups of her delighted customers (of which I was one). The juice of the grape is also coveted in Italy. We met a vintner whose vineyard is on the slopes of Mt. Etna. He described how just a few dozen kilometers of distance or altitude between vineyards can produce markedly different wines.

The culinary spirit I’m trying to describe was best exhibited as we dined at the restaurant Tritalo Mediterraneo in Palermo. We ate there twice, sitting outside, and laughed as we tried to communicate across the language barrier. On our second visit, we were welcomed like returning family. When I asked for the check, the owner instead brought out a bottle of Punagro (an orange liqueur) with four glasses and poured each of us a complimentary drink. That gift typified Sicilians approach to the table – as a place of refuge and rejuvenation, where time slows, and from which no sane person would hurry away.

It’s easy to believe that America has the best of everything. It is not wrong to think of our country as the shining city on a hill, as Reagan put it. But there are many different ways of living. The American way, sad to say, is not always the best. It was humbling, but necessary, for me to be reminded of that.

A version of this column appeared in the 1/11/23 issue of the Florence Morning News.

Paul, on the far right, with family members.

Open Thread for Wednesday, January 18, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Stroke Guys of the World, Unite!

What are yinz lookin’ at?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stroke Guys Unite!

DeMarco: Trump is Done

The Op-Ed Page

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

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boston Bud

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

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

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

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

DeMarco: Worried About QAnon? Don’t Be.

The Op-Ed Page

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

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did ‘rich’ mean to you as a kid?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DeMarco: Trump 2024? Ask Your Grandchildren.

The Op-Ed Page

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

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grandpa: That was just locker-room talk.

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

Grandpa (embarrassed): Well, no…

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

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

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

Grandpa: Self-control.

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

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

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

Grandpa: But they didn’t fight like Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessie (laughing); Chicken!!

Open Thread for Tuesday, September 27, 2022

It’s about time for one of these:

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