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

Too awesome to watch?

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

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

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

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

Sometimes, things just get better, don’t they?

We are living in a mad time, when it seems we can’t fix anything. Our country is so divided, and our politics even more. Congress has been completely dysfunctional for so long that younger people — such as those who have no memory of the things that got done during the Johnson administration — think it was always this way.

So whether you’re looking at global climate change, or race relations, or the national debt, or even something as immediate and narrow-gauge (but alarming as all get-out, if you are so blessed as to have a baby in your house) as the baby formula shortage, it just doesn’t seem like anything will ever, ever get better.

And yet, if we turn from that and just watch Nature, we see the most amazing things happen — with no effort at all on our part.

For instance — on Saturday, the rain came down hard for awhile. After that, the hanging flower pots on our deck didn’t look too great. See the picture above. They had been beautiful, and my wife — who had put them there — took delight in them. And then they looked like something practically destroyed.

Then the next day, wow. See the picture below. No, this wasn’t a surprise. We figured they would make a comeback. But I thought I would still tell about it here, because I think that too often, we assume too much, and don’t appreciate enough.

I’m reminded of one of my very favorite Bible passages:

25
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
26
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
27
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
28
Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.
29
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.
30
If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

Yep. Solomon was a smart guy, but he couldn’t have done anything like this…

In EASTERN Pennsylvania, we said ‘youse’

Maybe yinz would like to hear about the tattoos…

I got a fund-raising email from that John Fetterman guy. All I know about him is that he’s quirky. Today, in one of her periodic, wide-ranging chats with Bret Stephens, Gail Collins said “Fetterman is overly colorful for my taste, constantly showing up in shorts for public events and bragging about his tattoos.”

Based on this email I got from Fetterman, she’s right:

Omg, Brad.

Now that I’m *officially* the Democratic nominee in Pennsylvania’s Senate race, I wanted to send yinz a quick note to introduce myself + then ask you to split a $10 donation between my campaign and the Democratic National Committee. 🙏

When people first meet me, they usually notice two things: My height (I’m 6’9”!) and my tattoos. On my left arm, I have “15104”.

That’s the ZIP code for Braddock, Pennsylvania — my home and the community where I was honored to serve as Mayor for 13 years…

See that? Gail was right. It only took him 59 words to get to his tattoos. I guess he does that to try to distract people from staring at his silly chin spinach.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about his assumption that I (as a person he wrongly thinks will send him money) will understand what “yinz” means.

Wondering whether it was one of those new, invented things like “LatinX,” I looked it up. Turns out that, according to Wikipedia, “Yinz (see History and usage below for other spellings) is a second-person plural pronoun used mainly in Western Pennsylvania English, most prominently in Pittsburgh, but it is also found throughout the cultural region known as Appalachia, located within the geographical region of the Appalachians….”

Huh. Odd. In Eastern Pennsylvania, we said “youse.” Which was understandable, in the sense that the meaning could be easily inferred. When I was in the second-grade there (OK, technically I was across the river from Philly and therefore in New Jersey, but they also did this in Philly), I learned that the one of the best ways to keep from getting into more than one fight a day was to say “youse” or “youse guys” whenever a normal, reasonable person would say “y’all.”

So I guess I now know how Pennsylvanians from up in the hills talk. So I’m now smarter. But I’m still not going to give him any money…

Roy Rogers and Wonder Woman! You can’t beat that…

OK, I was kinda ragging on Google Adsense the other day for the “older women” ad they put on my blog, but here’s one I actually like.

Not enough to click on it, mind you — that’s against the rules. I just like it as a visual enhancement of the blog.

My childhood hero Roy Rogers, with the best Wonder Woman! (No offense to Gal Gadot, but this one was pretty special.)

Can’t say I appreciate the slight suggestion that there’s something salacious going on (“opens up about his life”), this being Roy and all. I mean, he’s just being polite posing for a picture. The photographer probably said, “Pretend she’s Trigger!” and Roy obliged.

Of course, she’s not Trigger, but I don’t hold that against her. Not her fault at all. She’s doing her best, and her best is pretty good…

Och, na! a’m mair than hauf scots noo!

You say I’m 53 percent WHAT?!?

I got that from this “English to Scottish translator” I just found. See, back when I was mostly English and Welsh, the headline might have said, “Oh, no! I’m more than half Scottish now!”

But I suppose I must change the way I say things.

You know how Ancestry — using the very same sample of my DNA, mind you — keeps changing my ethnicity, and with each change, I get more and more Scottish?

It’s gone like this:

  • When I first had my DNA tested (in 2016, I think): 45 percent Western European; 20+ percent from England, Wales and Scotland; 20+ percent Irish.
  • Late 2019: England, 65 percent Wales and Northwestern Europe; 29 percent Ireland & Scotland
  • September 2020: 40 percent Scotland; 24 percent Ireland; 17 percent England & Northwestern Europe
  • September 2021: 48 percent Scotland; 17 percent England & Northwestern Europe; 13 percent Ireland; 11 percent Wales

And now… drumroll… here’s what they say:

Aye, more than half. Mathematically speaking, accordingly to these folks, I am now mostly Scottish. I can’t feel it though. I still prefer wearing pants. I don’t know or care how Rangers F. C. are doing. Still less do I feel like busting somebody’s head because he supports Celtic. I have never liked the movie “Braveheart.” I don’t even want to hear a description of haggis, much less eat it.

And if I can think of any more stupid ethnic stereotypes that describe the way I don’t feel — like, being tight with money or some such — I’ll come back and add them.

More to the point, while I know I have some ancestors who were from north of Hadrian’s Wall — the Moffatts, the Presslys, a few others here and there — they don’t make up anywhere close to half the 8,998 people on my tree.

But I’m now coming to accept that within a couple more years, Ancestry will be telling me I’m 100 percent Scottish, no doubt about it. I suppose I should try to get used to it. Maybe I should give “Braveheart” another try. I’ve gotta start getting my mind right…

O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as Ancestry sees us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion.

I thought Photoshop would be handier than flying to the Highlands to have a new portrait taken.

Hey, you promised me OLDER women!

AdSense won’t let me click on its ads, but at least I can occasionally make fun of them. I think.

Yesterday, they put the one you see above in the top position on my blog. I don’t know why. You probably didn’t see it (at least, I hope not), but for some reason the algorithm thought Brad Warthen wanted to.

I don’t have any guilty secrets that this reveals, or I probably wouldn’t post this. I haven’t been searching for anything remotely likely to lead to such associations. Here are some of my recent Google search terms:

  • no-knock warrant raid
  • npe
  • Ramesh Ponnuru
  • where is wordle on nyt app
  • hugh weathers

Over on Amazon, I’ve looked for:

  • Wrangler Authentics Men’s Classic Relaxed Fit Cargo Short
  • The Lincoln Highway: A Novel
  • Sun Joe SJH901E 18-Inch Electric Telescoping Pole Hedge Trimmer
  • Hourleey Garden Hose Washer Rubber, Heavy Duty Red Rubber Washer Fit All Standard 3/4 Inch Garden Hose Fittings, 50 Packs

Sexy stuff, huh?

OK, wait. This morning — after I saw the ad — Pinterest showed me this pic of Norma Jeane posing for a pinup painting (between pins of “Far Side” comics and Mickey Mantle), and the cutline used the name “Earl Moran,” and that made me curious enough to search for that name, which showed me this bevy of softcore images. And hey, all of those women, if still alive, are older than I am.

But that was after Google showed me the ad.

Personally, I feel cheated: If you think I’ve got some kinda thing for “older women,” why don’t you show me something like this, or this? You know, hubba-hubba stuff…

Don’t try to palm off some young babe on me. Give the customer what he wants — or what you, for inexplicable reasons, think he wants…

Anyway, this post is for my “AI is artificial, but not intelligent” file…

… but again, I’m dumber than average. Dang!

The Slate news quiz is fixed!

You may not have noticed this because it’s fixed in a reverse of the usual pattern. Instead of being rigged in favor of an insider, it’s somehow manipulated to make the general public win! Which is just perverse and counterintuitive. That’s why it took me a while to suss it out. Fiendish, ain’t it?

Again, I beat the ringer — the site’s “Future Tense Editor,” whatever that means — but was stomped by Joe Six-Pack out there.

Make of that what you will. And let us know how you do on the quiz…

Open Thread for Thursday, May 19, 2022

Joe, hanging out with Scandinavian friends.

Haven’t had one of these lately, so here goes:

  1. Nato needed now more than ever – Biden — This is from the BBC. Unlike U.S. media, they pay attention to stuff like this. Which is helpful. Anyway, Joe said of Finland and Sweden, “They meet every Nato requirement and then some.”
  2. SC COVID-19 cases spike for 7th week straight — Just thought I’d mention that, since folks don’t seem to be paying that much attention to it. Everywhere I turn, people keep getting it — in my family, among people I contact for work, and so forth. And yet you don’t hear that much about it, and you go places and hardly anyone is wearing masks. Which is weird.
  3. Columbia Starbucks workers on strike, days after first SC store unionizes
    Boy, they didn’t wait around long, did they? This was at the Millwood store. I’ve never been there; have you? Nevertheless, I’m sure they have good coffee. Now if we can just get the one on Gervais Street back. That was my fave. I’m digressing again, aren’t I? Maybe I should drink some more coffee.
  4. U.S. Stocks Continue Their Recent Declines — Looks like it might be time soon to think about buying some stocks…
  5. Sick of Massacres? Get Rid of the Guns. — That’s the headline of a Gail Collins column in the NYT. That Gail; she’s such a wacky kid. Where does she get these ideas?…
  6. ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli has been released from prison — Talk about some bad news, huh? Worse, he wasn’t put away because of the really bad thing he did. This was sort of an Al Capone case. They got him on securities fraud, rather than for raising the price of a life-saving drug from $13.50 a pill to $750. And is our world any better now? No. The pill is still over $700. Oh, but he’s learned his lesson, right? He posted on FB, “Getting out of real prison is easier than getting out of Twitter prison.”

Pic the Bro posted on Facebook to mark getting out of prison. You can tell he’s reformed, right?

 

Doesn’t everyone do this? And if there are people who don’t, what is wrong with them?

This Tweet raised a number of questions:

My initial response was simply to reply, “I don’t know what this has to do with ‘parents,’ unless it was written by a child. Doesn’t everyone do this? And why isn’t IMDB mentioned?”

But seriously, people, when all of us are sitting there with smartphones, who doesn’t do this?

I don’t mean with Steve Buscemi. If you have to look him up, you should just quit partaking in popular culture altogether. I mean somebody a little harder, like Zoë Wanamaker. I see her all the time, of course (such as, recently, in “Britannia”), but I was thrown because she appeared in an episode from the first series of “Prime Suspect” in 1991, and I hadn’t seen her when she was that young. Also, she distracted me by stripping off her blouse to flash her breasts at a cop who was surveilling her.

Of course, some of us do it to a greater extreme than others. Like me. My wife goes, “Who is that? Where did we see her?” But then, she generally returns her attention to the show and follows the action.

Meanwhile, several feet away, I’m on my phone’s IMDB app, researching away. Which, of course, sometimes takes several steps. Sometimes with a TV show, simply calling up the entry for the show won’t tell you who this actor or actress, who may only have appeared in this episode, was (either because the person is buried in a long list, or, too often, is missing entirely from the main page). So I might have to look up the series on Wikipedia, and find the title of the specific episode, and then go back to IMDB and search for that episode by name, and that leads to success. I then call up a representative photo of that person, and show it to my wife, and tell her where she has seen him or her before.

And my wife says, “Yes,” and goes back to the show.

This presents a bit of a problem. Because even with my new hearing aids, I’m very dependent on subtitles to help me follow the dialogue. So after a couple of minutes of looking at my phone, I’m a bit lost as to what’s going on.

So I ask my wife. And tolerant as she is, this sometimes makes her a bit impatient with me. But she doesn’t call me a “parent.” She just, you know, thinks I’m a bit of a compulsive idiot.

But I can’t help it. In a world in which the computer — phone, tablet, laptop, what have you — is always right there, and always connected to the Web, I have to do this.

Before the Internet, I was sorta kinda able to focus on what was going on. The biggest problem back then was the dictionary. Always right there on the desk. Fortunately, I didn’t use it much, because I’m a fairly literate guy, and if I had to look the word up to be sure I was using it correctly, that was an indication that I probably shouldn’t be using it in the newspaper.

But I did look sometimes, and that meant I’d be lost for awhile. On the way to the word in question, I’d run across other words that would trip me and tie me down and force me to study them and the other words they led to, and it just went on and on from there. Eventually I’d get back to work, but it took awhile.

And the Web is millions of times worse, of course.

But it’s not because I’m a “parent.” It’s because I’m the most easily fascinated person on the planet. It’s like my superpower, although not very empowering…

Helen Mirren and Zoë Wanamaker in “Prime Suspect” in 1991.

Anyone else ever have nightmares about the old Cooper River Bridge?

I did, when I was a toddler. Or at least, when I was a pre-schooler.

Now when I say “nightmare,” I don’t mean the kind that makes you wake up screaming in a sweat. When I was a kid, that kind of dream was usually about a witch inspired by the one in “The Wizard of Oz” — only scarier. I’ll tell you about one of those another time.

But the bridge dreams were creepy, and unsettling, and undermined my basic confidence, as a child, in living in a world governed by sensible laws such as gravity.

And I had a bit of a flashback when I saw this Tweet today, from a photog at the Post & Courier:

Notice how narrow it was? Notice how it kept rising in a way that could be really disturbing to a little kid riding in a car driven by an otherwise trustworthy adult?

It kept rising, and rising, leaving the Earth far behind, abandoned…

Anyway, I would have these dreams in which I’d be riding in a car climbing up like that, rising and rising and rising, and then… it wasn’t a bridge anymore. No girders, no solid pavement. It had become a ribbon, no more than an inch wide, and so thin and flexible that it waved about in the thin air as it rose higher and higher…

And that was it. The dream would then fade away (possibly due to imagined oxygen deprivation). Or maybe I would wake up — I don’t remember now. Just not the same way as with the witch dreams. In any case, whether I was awake or asleep at the end, the dream had transported my mind to a very weird place.

I last lived in Charleston when I was about 2. I think these dreams were a couple of years later, and I wasn’t sure where they came from. But I connected them in my mind with “that bridge” my mother would occasionally mention, talking about the great lengths she would go to to avoid having to cross it when we lived down there. And I would think, “that’s the bridge in the dream…

I wasn’t sure, though. Not until sometime after we moved back to South Carolina in 1987, and one day I had to drive down to Charleston, and for whatever reason had to cross the Cooper, and… it sort of blew my mind. Suddenly, in the strength of my 30s, I was back in that childhood dream, only it was real life. And it felt sort of like the bridge was going to dematerialize under me — because that’s what that bridge did.

I only crossed it a couple of times after that, until the Arthur Ravenel went into operation in 2005.

That one’s nothing. It’s so wide, you don’t even realize you’re up in the air. Acrophobia or no, I can drive back and forth on that one as much as you like.

And I’m glad the old one’s gone…

Why is this snake all crinkly?

This guy was in our backyard yesterday. Actually, my wife says he’s out there a lot. It is a considerable understatement to say that she spends a lot more time outdoors than I do, so she would know.

Of course, he might be a she. I have zero idea on that. Fortunately, it’s the official style of this blog to use the inclusive “he” for reptiles. I’m still allowed to do that, right? I don’t want to tick off any feminist snakes or anything.

Beyond that, I’m pretty sure he’s harmless. Sure enough not to kill him, anyway. Of course, how reliable is the opinion of someone who can’t tell the difference between male and female?

If y’all know what it is, tell me. In advance, though, I’m not going to trust the expertise of any of y’all who told me that copperhead was nonvenomous awhile back.

Actually, I might do what I did then, and send it to Rudy Mancke. But not so much to ask him the species. What I want to ask him is, Why is this snake all crinkly? I mean, why is his body all compressed in a sort of sawtooth pattern? Kind of weird-looking. Is he just tense because I’m standing next to him (although he looked like this from a distance)? Is he about to shed his skin or something? Is this some variation on coiling — is he contemplating springing forward dramatically? Or does he not feel well?

I dunno. I dunno much about Nature, as I said in my second post about the copperhead. I really need to learn more. We all do…

Yes, we do have a ‘scorn problem’…

Thought I’d share this op-ed piece I found in the NYT this morning.

It’s pretty much dead-on in describing the problem, as I frequently try to point out here on the blog. I also try to address the problem by providing a civil forum for discussion — a project that is, at best, a work in progress. Ahem…

Anyway, the headline is “America Has a Scorn Problem.” Here’s an excerpt:

A Scientific American report on political polarization noted that Americans increasingly hold “a basic abhorrence for their opponents — an ‘othering’ in which a group conceives of its rivals as wholly alien in every way.” It continues, “This toxic form of polarization has fundamentally altered political discourse, public civility and even the way politicians govern.” A 2019 study by Pew said, “55 percent of Republicans say Democrats are ‘more immoral’ when compared with other Americans; 47 percent of Democrats say the same about Republicans.”

We find one another repugnant — not just wrong but bad. Our rhetoric casts the arguments of others as profound moral failings….

Please read it, and discuss. With a minimum of scorn, if you can manage that… (Oops; was I being a little scornful there myself? I hope not, because I’m very concerned, and discouraged, about the problem…)

The lady writes from a religious, clerical perspective (starting with a parable from the Gospel of Luke). I do that sometimes myself. Although I don’t think you have to be a believer to act like a grownup in dealing with other people. For that matter, I’d really like to see some of our “Christian” brethren learn to get along better, with each other as well as others.

Anyway, seems to me she’s with Jesus on this point. And I’m with both of them. At least, I try to be…

Changes for the coming primary

Yes, there’s a primary in June.

And our friend Lynn has been out there working hard to try to help us participate in it more fully, as citizens should do.

So I thought I’d share this release she sent out today:

MDW SC Update: Big Changes for June Primaries

The State Election Commission (SEC) has announced Act 165 changes in place for June primaries at https://www.scvotes.gov/early-voting-now-effect-june-primariesChanges have not been made consistently throughout the SEC website, so this page should be considered accurate when there are conflicts within www.scvotes.gov or with county websites. Everyone is doubtless scrambling to make changes.

The major changes in in-person voters affecting voters now:

  • Excused absentee in-person voting is no longer authorized in SC law.
  • No-excuse in-person voting will begin on Tuesday, May 31 and continue through  Friday, June 10. Early voting locations will be closed Saturday and Sunday, June 4-5.
  • Early voting locations will include county election offices. Additional locations will be posted by all counties to www.scvotes.govby May 24.
  • Early voting for June Runoffs will be held Wednesday, June 22 through Friday, June 24, at the same hours and locations as the primaries.

Excused absentee voting by mail will be open to all voters with disabilities, those 65 or over, members of the Armed Forces and their families residing with them, and voters admitted to the hospital on an emergency basis within four days of election day.

Others who may vote by mail are those who are unable to vote in person during both the two-week early in-person voting period and election day due to employment, caretaking responsibilities, incarceration, or other absence from the county of primary residence.

SEC indicates that new witness requirements for mail absentee ballots will not go into effect until the General Election in November. (Ballot materials are doubtless already at the printers.)

In November, and even now, we encourage voters who can do so to use the in-person early voting option, which presents far fewer opportunities for technical defects in applications or ballots, or just slow USPS, to lead to an inability to vote or a ballot that isn’t counted. (Legislators declined to require notice-and-cure so that voters could correct technical defects.)

Please read the SCVotes announcement at https://www.scvotes.gov/early-voting-now-effect-june-primariesfor more details.

Anyone with questions about other provisions of the new legislation should consult the final version of Act 165 at https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess124_2021-2022/bills/108.htm.

Also, stay tuned for SEC announcements regarding public input into regulations to be developed under the new law. The new law requires regulations that will dictate consistency between county election offices and also regulate our organizations involved in voter services. It is a very important provision of South Carolina law that regulations must be developed with public input!

Lynn Shuler Teague
VP for Issues and Action, LWVSC

I agree, but do such signs make for good neighbors?

Here’s an interesting twist on the whole business of posting political signs, a practice that you know I have embraced since 2018.

I hope the Post doesn’t mind my using the image above — after all, I’m using it to encourage people to go read the whole story, which is headlined, “Battling yard signs on a quiet corner in Alexandria.”

Anyway, obviously, I agree with the sign on the right. As you know, if I’m about anything, it’s about expressing oneself at op-ed or greater length, not via bumper stickers. And the collection of blunt, emotion-invoking blurbs in the sign on the left is definitely in bumper-sticker mode.

But it’s still not enough to make sure viewers understand what the homeowner is saying, is it?

Hence this passage from the story:

They started to wonder what that second sign, available on Etsy for $31.95, was supposed to say. Was it a direct rebuke of the idea that all were welcome in their community? Was it an attack on the messaging of the Democratic Party, which often uses such phrases as rallying cries? Or was it just trying to be funny?

Either way, many neighbors said, the dueling yard signs made public a sort of tension that is rarely articulated in an area proud of its understated brand of liberalism….

Speaking of that bit about “liberalism”… The contrast between the sign on the left and the one on the right helps illustrate a point I frequently make in passing on the blog, and which is frequently misunderstood. The sign on the left illustrates a “woke” approach — a “ones and zeroes” way of looking at the world, making emotional arguments that set up a dynamic in which one can conveniently condemn anyone who fails to agree 100 percent. The other is more of a “liberal” approach, inviting a dialogue that could, if one is optimistic (and liberalism is optimistic), lead to people on opposite sides of an issue understanding each other and maybe even finding some things to agree upon.

Unfortunately, in this case, there was no such dialogue:

The 33-year-old man, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his privacy, said he moved into his townhouse on Oronoco Street in January and noticed the “Black Lives Matter” sign in an adjacent front yard. He worried it spoke for his property, too, and wanted to separate himself from the words that he felt oversimplified issues that should be discussed with nuance.

So naturally, he googled “political yard signs” and looked for a placard for his side of the yard. He found one on Etsy that perfectly expressed his beliefs, soon placing the “Simplistic Platitudes” poster on his side of the grass. He said he tried to position it as far away from his neighbor’s as possible — out of respect.

A few weeks later, the third sign appeared countering his reply, and the man realized his sign might have bothered his neighbor. But he said they never talked about it, nor did he ever try to engage them on the cultural issues he thought were better addressed in person.

“We didn’t talk a whole lot before the signs,” he said. “But I admit, I don’t think the signs were a positive step there.”…

Yeah, probably not. That’s too bad. Fortunately, the neighbor says, “we are on pleasant terms with our neighbors.”

So maybe there’s still time for talking to each other…

Well, then… I don’t wanna be king.

What’s the main thing you do at a medieval feast? Or a Viking feast, for that matter?

You hoist a joint of meat up to your mouth with one hand and chomp down on it with great relish. That’s the main point of the feast. Oh, there are other activities, such as drinking ale or mead from a horn so that you have to drink it all before you put it down, or pulling serving wenches down upon your lap and laughing “haw, haw, haw!”

All of which, of course, is often frowned upon today, often with good reason. But I’m here to stick up for the savage-eating-of meat-thing, which more and more people try to discourage us from doing.

And now meddling scientists have gotten in on the act:

(CNN)Meat-heavy banquets have long been thought to be a common feature of early medieval life for England’s kings and nobles, who are often depicted feasting on legs of animal flesh and knocking back goblets of ale in the great halls of their realm.

However, a new study that examined the dietary signatures contained in bones of more than 2,000 skeletons has cast doubt on this assumption, finding that most Anglo-Saxons ate a diet rich in cereals and vegetables and low in animal protein — no matter what their social status.

Archaeologists were able to glean this information by analyzing the presence of different isotopes, or variants, of the elements carbon and nitrogen in bone collagen. Bones preserve an isotopic record of the different types of food an individual consumed over time. The study mainly looked at ribs, which represent a period of 10 years before a person’s death….

This is discouraging. I mean, what’s the point of being a king if you can’t display appalling table manners while enjoying a joint?

If this is true, then when I get a time machine, I may go to some other period instead. There’s always ancient Rome, but I don’t want to have to eat while lying down…

Yeah, I ‘won,’ but I’m still below average

Unable to resist the impulse to constantly humiliate myself, I take the Slate News Quiz most Fridays. Since it’s timed, which I hate, it only takes a moment.

And sometimes, when I do slightly better than usual, I share the result with y’all.

Today is one of those days. As you see, I defeated the “senior editor” who was this week’s star contestant.

But I still lagged behind the average reader. Of course, I suspect that a lot of them are hiding behind their anonymity and cheating. I just don’t know how.

This test is ridiculous, though. Seriously — I’m supposed to know which of four weird names starting with Z is that of the racehorse that “is the early favorite to win this year’s Kentucky Derby?”

I wish they’d stick to actual, relevant news that serious people could be expected to know. Of course, even then, I’d often miss because of the time pressure. I’m not a quick-draw artist. I have to think about things.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering how senior you have to be to be a “senior” editor at Slate, the answer is “about 29, apparently.” Whenever I see the title “senior something” next to a picture of a kid, I look that kid up. She graduated from college in 2015, so she’s probably about 29, but I can’t know for sure, can I?

We old guys are pathetic, aren’t we?…

Yep, I’m supporting Micah Caskey

Here’s the sign Micah put in my yard, and I’m fine with it. But I wish he’d picked a spot where my lawn looked better.

Ken misunderstood something earlier. He said the presence of the Micah Caskey ad you see at right was “apparently an endorsement.” No, no, no. That’s just an ad.

An endorsement would be, well… something like that sign I have for him in my yard, shown above. I didn’t put it there. But I did ask Micah recently when he was going to have signs available, and then one day earlier this week, this one appeared. And I’m fine with it. In putting it up, he was just doing what I would have done myself.

Not the same as the endorsements I used to do in the paper, but close enough, given my present circumstances. In the old days, I wouldn’t have endorsed him without talking to his opponent — or at least trying to (some people — like Hillary Clinton in 2008 — decline to come in).

This time — well, I’ve yet to see a lot from Micah’s opponent one way or the other. I had looked at her Facebook page, and as I was writing this, I finally looked again and saw a link to her campaign Facebook page, which led me to her actual campaign site. I don’t know why my usual approach — Googling “Melanie Shull for House” — didn’t work. Maybe she hasn’t had a lot of traffic. Anyway, I don’t know the lady; I haven’t met her. I just haven’t seen any reasons to support her over Micah. And I have seen some reasons not to. But I’m still looking, and listening.

My support for Micah goes back a ways. I’m not talking about the fact that Micah’s grandfather and great-grandfather were good friends with my mother and her family in Bennettsville long before I was born. Although that’s true enough.

I just mean — well, the stuff I’ve told y’all in the past. If you’ll recall, I briefly considered running for this seat myself when Kenny Bingham left it. But in doing my due diligence first, I met Micah, and decided not only that I really liked him and agreed with him on a bunch of things (in fact, on most things we talked about), but that he was a way stronger candidate than I would have been. I also liked his strongest primary opponent Tem Miles, although I preferred Micah.

Since then, I’ve had a lot of interactions with Micah, and have been pleased — mostly by the intelligent, straightforward way he approaches whatever subject we talk about, and his evident desire to serve all the people of South Carolina, not just this or that ideological clique. Do I agree with him on everything? Nope. And as the Republican Party has gotten crazier, and he has tried to keep his seat in spite of it, there have been more things I disagree with him on — such as the guns legislation last year. I went into that with him, and with y’all, in some detail at the time.

Ken mentioned some other things today. As did Doug. Well, I might disagree with Micah on some, but not all, of those things, too…

Interestingly, when I was at this point in writing this post last night, I got a phone call from a number that called itself CASKEY4STATEHOU. It was a sort of cross between a poll and an appeal for support. I think. The connection was very poor — which might be the fault of my hearing aids, or something — and I asked the guy to hang up and call back. But I didn’t hear from him again.

One of the few clear parts of the conversation was when he asked me whether I’d consider putting a sign for Micah in my yard, and I said, to put it the way John Cleese would, We’ve already got one.”

Anyway, after that call, I called Micah and we talked a bit. We spoke a little about the medical cannabis thing. I heard nothing one way or the other on that to make up my mind.

We talked more about this contested primary race he’s in. He didn’t have a lot of info about his opponent to share, although he did send me a video that he said was of her speaking at a “Moms for Liberty” event. In the video, she alludes to her reasoning for running. She doesn’t really have anything bad to say about Micah, beyond an assertion that he is not sufficiently “for the people.” Which I take to mean he fails to be ideologically pure, although it’s not entirely clear.

She is clearer about her strong opposition to Satan and his doings in the world. I’m with her on opposing that guy, but I fail to see what that has to do with this election. I think you have to be fully on board with her views of the world, and her own definition of what it means to be “Christian,” to get it. I believe she’s very sincere about her beliefs, but they are not the same as my own, so there’s a gap there.

To give you a sampling of her views, the latest post on her campaign Facebook page declares:

I will fight to halt the creeping and insidious integration of Critical Race Theory into SC’s education system. No child should be taught that they are defined by their skin color or ethnicity.

I completely agree with the second sentence of that. I could probably write a book on the first sentence. I haven’t really gotten into it here on the blog because I would pretty much have to write a book to explain what I think, as opposed to the ones-and-zeroes debate over CRT that is consuming so much oxygen these days. It’s gotten to be about enough fun to talk about as abortion.

On her campaign website, she says:

Melanie will be a voice for the silent majority suffering at the hands of cancel culture, government overreach, and progressive policies which threaten our freedom, our values, and our families.

That’s from her “issues” page. Anyway, I’m planning with an undivided mind to leave Micah’s sign up, and I plan to vote for him in June. And no, I don’t plan to give him his money back for the ad, either….

Of Micah, I say what I have for the several years since I met him. He’s a smart guy, and a fine American. He’s a good representative, one of the best. Some of y’all don’t like some of the stands he’s taken, but I actually admire him for some others. Here’s one where I was particularly proud to have him as my rep. And, of course, I’ve always appreciated his having served his country in combat as a Marine officer. To me, he’s very much a representative “for the people” — for all of us.

And now, you’re seeing him face something that the few reasonable Republicans left in our country are wise to fear — someone running to the right of them in a primary. (Cue another discussion of how gerrymandering is ruining our republic.) Here’s hoping he gets re-elected anyway. Because he’s a good guy, and a good rep.

Here, by the way, is Micah’s website. The ad also links to it.

Here’s that video he sent me of his opponent, in which I think (the audio is poor) she says she is at Maurice’s BBQ joint speaking to Moms for Liberty. By the way, if you saw this post last night and didn’t see it later, that’s because I realized just before going to bed that the video, which I mentioned above, hadn’t posted. So I switched it back to draft mode, then this morning added the video, and did some editing of the sort of free-association prose that was here originally…

Centrifugal bumble-puppy, and other games

My grandfather’s team, circa 1910. That’s him squatting at the far right of the seated row. Notice that in those days, they didn’t even bother to go out and buy matching uniforms. They just came and played ball.

Over the weekend, I was out running errands after a long day of working in the yard, and I decided it would be a good day for us to have a takeout dinner. So once that plan was approved by headquarters, I called La Fogata and placed the order. I was told it would take 20 minutes.

I was easily within five minutes of the restaurant, so I drove in the other direction, looking for a way to kill time. I decided to visit the park behind North Side Middle School, and see what was going on there — I figured that this time of year, there’d be some action on one or more of the ballfields.

I was right. I drove through the parking lot, and had to pick my way slowly and carefully because of all the boys, who were generally within a couple of years of 12 I’d guess, and parents who were apparently returning to their cars after a game that had just ended.

And then I noticed something: Their progress back to their cars, and my progress through them, were both impeded by the gear they were hauling. And by the elaborate gear for hauling that gear.

The most cumbersome were the wheeled contraptions that held bags, coolers, bats and such. They looked like people preparing to sell things from a barrow. Those were the most noticeable, but everyone had an unusual amount of gear. The lightest were elaborate, specialized backpacks many of the players were wearing. The packs seemed full, and each had two bats sticking up from the pack, one on each side.

Back in the day, when I played ball, you brought yourself and your mitt to the game, and that was it. (Unless, of course, you were the catcher.) The coach would have a duffel bag full of bats and balls, and sometimes conscientious players (who were perhaps eager for more playing time) would help the coach by carrying that bag from coach’s car to the dugout.

But now, every player or player’s parent I saw was hauling at least as much as the coach would once have, and often more. I don’t even know what some of that stuff they were carrying and pulling was. But there was a very great deal of it.

Of course, all this brought to mind one of the books I’ve been rereading lately instead of the books I was supposed to read this year: Huxley’s Brave New World. If you’ll recall, in this super hyped-up extrapolation of Western consumer culture, all the games — like centrifugal bumple-puppy, and electromagnetic golf — require elaborate, expensive, easily-broken equipment to play. Everyone is conditioned from birth to want to play these games at every opportunity. Not to keep themselves in shape or exercise sportsmanship, but to keep them buying the stuff.

And I got to thinking about the various social influences that must have been at work over recent decades to convince these kids, and parents, that they had to have all this stuff to play baseball. Huxley had sleep-conditioning to bring about this effect. I don’t know what happened with these folks.

We used to have this wonderful, simple, pastoral game called baseball. Originally, there weren’t even gloves. Just a ball and a stick for everyone to share. And even after the gloves came along, for a long time players would leave them out in the field while batting rather than carry them back and forth to the dugout.

No more. Now there’s all this junk, and all this hauling back and forth. And don’t even get me started on the designated hitter…

Two generations later — about 1969. That’s me in the back, standing next to the coach on the far left. By this time the uniforms matched, but we mostly only brought those and our gloves.

DeMarco: Lindsey Graham, the weathervane of the New Republican Party

The man who was: 26 March 2013

The Op-Ed Page

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

In September 2009, I attended a town hall meeting in the gymnasium of Francis Marion University featuring Lindsey Graham. It was about six weeks after the confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Graham was the only Republican senator on the Judiciary Committee to vote for her and one of nine Republicans to vote in favor in the full Senate. When he took questions from the audience, an older man sitting behind me in the bleachers stood and grimly asked, “Why did you vote for that judge,” and here he paused to derisively enunciate each syllable, “SOH-TOH-MAAY-ORR”

Rather than try to placate his disappointed supporter, Graham forcefully rebutted him. “Elections have consequences,” he shot back. “If you don’t want liberal judges on the court, then elect a Republican president. I don’t agree with Justice Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy, but my job as a senator is to determine whether she is qualified. She is qualified, so I voted for her.”

Of the many conversations I have heard and participated in with my elected representatives, this exchange stands out as one of the best. Graham had a chance to dodge or pander; instead he was truthful and forthright.

Back then Graham was keeping company with another maverick senator, John McCain, and although they are both more conservative than I, I admired their respect for their office and their roles as guardians of our democracy.

I was also heartened by Graham’s eviscerations of Donald Trump during his short-lived presidential campaign in 2015. Back when he was speaking his mind he said things like, “You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell,” and “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.” He also tweeted “I also cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump because I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative nor has he displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as Commander in Chief.” That statement strikes me as remarkable for two reasons. First, for its eerie prescience in light of the January 6th attack. Second, for Graham’s complete abandonment of his own good advice: after Trump’s election, he became one of the president’s closest allies.

Many commentators have rightly criticized Graham for his lack of integrity. But, if you agree with the premise that we get the leaders we deserve, then Graham is not the only one at fault. Elections, as Graham once frequently reminded us, do have consequences. We could have elected Graham as president. A Graham-Clinton match-up in 2016 would have been an interesting and difficult choice for me. But our enthusiasms and our votes buoyed other candidates in the 2016 Republican primary. Graham never polled above 1% and dropped out in December 2015. I saw most of the remaining front-runners as they came through Florence in early 2016 including Kasich, Carson, Rubio, Cruz and Trump. Trump’s crowd almost filled Florence Center, holding as many supporters as all his rivals combined and more.

Graham got the message: he could no longer speak his mind about Trump and remain a senator. The Republican Party had moved far enough from him, especially from his conciliatory and bipartisan approach on immigration, that he risked a successful challenge by a conservative Trump supporter in the 2020 primary if he didn’t move with the party.

If you are a Democrat, you should take this as a lesson. In 2016, Democrats flirted with an extremely progressive candidate in Bernie Sanders, a man who described himself as a democratic socialist. The farther to the edge your standard bearers are, the harder it is for idiosyncratic politicians like Graham to remain true to themselves.

Do we want our parties to be cults of personality in which the thing that trumps (ironic that that’s the right word here) all is one’s allegiance to the party leader? How have we come to the place that acquiescing to Trump’s lie that he won the 2020 election is the current Republican litmus test?

The wholesale transformation of the Republican party is summed up in Graham’s suppression of his better instincts by voting against the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson. It’s worth noting that just last year, Graham voted to confirm Jackson as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit. That was an under-the-radar vote that he knew few of his base would notice. But with the voters watching, he renounced the principle that had guided him for more than two decades and voted against her.

If you are a Republican, understand how I offer this assessment. My hope is for both parties to be strong. My desire is that Republicans will right the ship and recognize their mistake in supporting a president who is actively threatening the fabric of our democracy (which, I fear, is more delicate than I learned in school).

Our country is more secure and more likely to thrive when the two parties allow representatives to vote their consciences. Demanding ideological purity creates parties for which compromise is impossible and intransigence is perversely celebrated. Since absolute victory is rare in policy debates, stymieing the opposition has become the accepted substitute for legislating. Democrats are not immune. Both parties have succumbed to such a rigid dichotomy on the issue of abortion that pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans, once fairly common in Congress, are virtually extinct.

We cannot be party robots. Our future lies with men and women like Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney who put country over party. The Graham of old demonstrated similar laudable conviction. His recent choice to elevate his party over country has indelibly stained his legacy.

Paul DeMarco is a physician who resides in Marion, S.C. Reach him at pvdemarco@bellsouth.net. A version of this column appeared in the April 27th, 2022, edition of the Florence Morning News.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Something about this made me think of this old clip, from May 15, 2007. It’s John McCain at an event in the Vista, calling Lindsey “that little jerk,” which was the way he frequently referred to friends and allies. But it’s the question that made me think of it: Where, indeed, is that little jerk? What happened to him?

The Roe decision leak

Since everywhere I turn, people are going on and on about this (I had to do a good bit of clicking to find stories that weren’t about this on my NPR phone app today) — even though it hasn’t actually happened yet — I’ll offer a few random thoughts about it:

First, why the leak? What exactly happened, and why? My first thought, of course, was that a pro-Roe clerk leaked it for any one of a number of reasons — to cast an aura of illegitimacy upon the decision by having it revealed unconventionally; to damage the court overall by tossing a grenade into the system of trust and discretion that has always been observed by those who work there; to try to exert direct and indirect pressure on justices to amend the decision by causing such a splash; and so forth. Or for that matter, someone on the other side thought, “This is going to be so huge that we should let people get used to the idea first.” But there doesn’t have to be a political angle. Someone might have simply been unable to keep a huge secret. Some people are like that. In any case, I hope Roberts can get to the bottom of it and make it amply clear such a thing is not ever to happen again. And of course, this is to be the end of the career of the perpetrator.

Democrats need to calm down. As you know, one of a number of reasons why I’m not a Democrat is this issue. It’s not simply that we disagree; it’s that they tend to be so rigid and adamant on the subject. The fury at any opposition to their position is over-the-top. And predictably, Democrats are saying a lot of foolish things, because they’re upset right now. As I have said every election year for the last few decades, the last thing we need this year is to have an election that is all about abortion. It’s also the last thing Democrats need. They need to stop talking like they absolutely don’t want a single person who disagrees with them on this to vote for them. Because if they keep it up, not a single one will (more or less). And Trumpism will be triumphant. I just wish I could get them to understand one thing: As adamant as their own base is, almost every word they utter to please that base alienates others who might have voted for them. If they could see what I see as a strongly pro-Biden Catholic, all this would be obvious. We wouldn’t even be talking about Trumpism, or whatever you want to call the insanity that has gripped the GOP, if it weren’t for the fact that — against all reason — about half of Catholics voted his way, because of the position that Democrats take on abortion. If not for that, and Trump’s willingness to exploit the situation, no Trumpist would ever be in hailing distance of an electoral victory.

What will happen next, legally? This is a subject I generally try to avoid because I believe far too much public conversation tries to make predictions, and we don’t know what’s going to happen. But to touch upon the subject — one of the ways some Dems are reacting is to say other Kulturkampf issues will now go the other side’s way — same-sex marriage and the like. Because, you know, that’s the way they think. Ones and zeroes. It seems more rational to think that issues actually related to the legal underpinnings of abortion would be on the line. Such as the imagined right to privacy that Griswold gave us. But we’ll see.

What will happen next, politically? Well, it’s going to be awful. In every state, and nationally.  (Even though it will become more of a state issue, do you think people on the national level are going to quiet down? They will not.) And it will be ugly, and it will go on and on, and no one will have the energy to expend breath on things we might be able to get people to agree upon, because they’re too busy shouting about the things that divide us the most. Of course, things have been this way for awhile.

I’ll stop now. I’m not even going to go into the substance of the draft decision, because I’m satisfied to wait and see the final decision. But I thought I’d provide a place for y’all to talk about it.