2022: The Year in Obits

That headline may seem odd, but I was just trying to think of something that sort of addressed my topic, but wouldn’t sound as nekulturny as “Top Five Dead People of 2022.” Which would have reflected the post more honestly.

Anyway…

This is a time of year when newspapers and other outlets crank out “Best _____ of the Year” lists. I’m not sure why they still do it. In the dead-tree days, we had a reason: It was the time of year when you had the greatest amount of space (on account of all the Christmas-shopping ads) and the least amount of real news. But I guess the beast still has to be fed. We also did it because at that time when content was badly needed, a lot of people were taking end-of-year vacations, before things got busy in January. And this didn’t require reporting — someone just needed the patience to dig through the year’s pages.

Such non-news stories generally mean little to me. “Best Books of 2022” means nothing to me, because I’ve never been interested in the hot books of the moment. When I read, I’m going to choose from the best (or at least, most engaging to me) of that which has been published since (and frequently before) Gutenberg, knowing that I’ll never live long enough to read everything I’d like to read from the best of the 19th century, not to mention other eras. Why waste time on the latest tattle, or the hottest young novelist?

And as I’ve grown older — and especially since COVID — I’ve gotten the same way about current movies. Why go see the “Avatar” sequel when I didn’t much like the original, and I can stream something like “The Grapes of Wrath” or “His Girl Friday,” or “Is Paris Burning?” far more cheaply and conveniently, and without some popcorn-munching kid kicking the back of my seat? (By the way, those three aren’t my three fave films. They just popped into my head, for different reasons. They are: the film I won’t let myself watch until I finally finish reading Steinbeck’s original, which I have steadily failed to do; my actual fave comedy; and a film I’d always meant to see, but didn’t see until recently, and I was more impressed than I thought I would be.)

But you know what does interest me, aside from Dave Barry’s always-entertaining review of the year? The annual list of who died. I like to be reminded of the passing of people who have left a significant mark on our world — not so much because it tells me something about the past year, but because it provides a fascinating, personal perspective on the entire time in which they lived. It’s an interesting, fresh way of being reminded why the world I live in is the way it is, told through the lives of people who played memorable roles in making it that way. These deaths bring history to life, you might say.

And occasionally I’m surprised by the deaths I have missed. I was particularly surprised to learn that Bette Davis had left our presence in 2022, when she would have been 114. (She actually died at a more reasonable age in 1989.) It took me a moment to realize why The State had placed her picture with this story, and initially the search function was unhelpful. But then I searched on “Davis” instead of “Bette,” and found that someone associated with publishing the “Extra” pages of The State‘s e-edition didn’t recognize that the screen legend was not Miles Davis’ wife, Betty. So it was worse than simply misspelling “Bette” in the cutline.

But we all make mistakes — you’ll probably spot some below — so let’s move on from that before I get embarrassed, too.

Looking back, here are the Top Five People Who Actually Died this year, in my view…

Dang it! I don’t have time to whittle it down that far! With apologies to Nick Hornby, here are the Top 25. Of course, I’m putting them in order, so you can see what would have been my Top Five. But I thought those would all be boringly obvious, and it was more interesting to keep going:

  1. Elizabeth II — I doubt I need to explain this, except to say that I had to think for a moment before putting her ahead of the first pope to abdicate in 700 years. But still, she was such a part of our lives for SO long. She set too many records to get bumped to second place. And Pope Benedict only held on for less than eight years before, you know, quitting. Lilibet wasn’t one to quit. And she was a good queen.
  2. Pope Benedict XVI — Oh, and since stories I read this morning failed to name him, to my frustration, the last pope to quit, without external pressure (unlike Gregory XII), before this one was Celestine V, in 1294. He only lasted five months. I suppose I could write a book about the more recent ex-pontiff, but since I’m just getting started on my list and need to move on, I’ll just say nothing against him, but note that I’m glad our pope is now Francis.
  3. Mikhail Gorbachev — On another day (that is, a day on which Benedict had not just died) I might have put Gorby in second place, and debated whether to put him in first. He had more effect on the world than any Soviet leader since Stalin, only in a good way. Don’t try telling Putin that, though.
  4. Pelé — As you know, I’m constantly trying to throw in a little something for sports fans out there, conscious that most of y’all care more about athletics than I do. But I didn’t have to strain myself on this one. This guy was a superhero, and his superpower was football. (Real football, the kind where you use your feet.) Not having been a big fan of this sport, the first thing I usually think of when Pelé’s name comes up is that scene from “Vision Quest” when Elmo the cook talks about seeing him on TV. That was great…
  5. Jerry Lee Lewis — He wasn’t the King, but he knew the King. There are a lot of things to remember about The Killer — hammering the piano with his feet, marrying his 13-year-old cousin. Great balls of fire. But you know what I always think of? The time when he was arrested trying to break his way into Graceland. He had come to show E who the real king was. Well, he wasn’t the King, but he knew the King, you see.
  6. Sidney Poitier — I wrote about his passing earlier, and thinking back, it hits me that I still haven’t seen “A Raisin in the Sun” or “Lilies of the Field.” But I’ll tell you this: I definitely intend to see them well before I shell out money to see that “Avatar” sequel. In fact, I’d much rather sit and watch “To Sir With Love” another five times, back-to-back, than see that CGI nonsense.
  7. Madeleine Albright — She and Dick Riley were my two favorite members of Clinton’s Cabinet. Hers, of course, was the weightier position. She came along at the time when Democrats were going on about the “peace dividend,” and reminded us that in keeping with the liberal notion of America’s postwar role, we were still “the indispensable nation.” That ticks some of y’all off, I know, but not me. I appreciated it.
  8. Loretta Lynn — I was never a big fan myself, but I’m fully cognizant of her impact on our culture. I also enjoyed the movie. My favorite part was the way Levon Helm (see Ronnie Hawkins, below) absolutely embodied the Coal Miner himself.
  9. Wolfgang Petersen — My favorite Clint Eastwood movie wasn’t directed by Clint Eastwood. It’s Petersen’s “In the Line of Fire.” He also gave us “Air Force One,” and before that, “Das Boot.”
  10. Ray Liotta — One of the people who are here because they were “so young,” not so long ago. And he had a distinctive quality on screen. The first time I saw him was in Jonathan Demme’s action-comedy “Something Wild.” Jeff Daniels was funny, Melanie Griffith was sexy, and Ray Liotta was scary. Of course, he expanded on that in later roles, especially “Goodfellas.”
  11. James Caan — From Sonny in “The Godfather” to the Dad on the “naughty list” in “Elf,” he made his distinctive mark on the Hollywood of his times.
  12. Tony Dow — Yeah, I know Wally was older than the Beave and me, but it’s still a shock for him to be gone.
  13. Dwayne Hickman — Again, youth personified when we knew him. Oh, and for you clueless kids out there — we’re talking Dobie Gillis here. You don’t know who that was? Next, you’ll say you don’t remember Maynard G. Krebs.
  14. Ivan Reitman — Not one of the great filmmakers of his time, but he certainly had an impact, via  Meatballs (1979), Stripes (1981), Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters II (1989), Twins (1988), Kindergarten Cop (1990), and Dave (1993). My fave might be “Dave.”
  15. Hilary Mantel — An unusual character, but an impressive writer. And while I read and enjoyed Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, I can congratulate myself that while she is gone, I still have the experience of reading The Mirror and the Light in my future.
  16. David McCullough — He not only told us, compellingly, the stories of Harry S. Truman, John Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Panama Canal, and the Wright brothers. He also narrated Ken Burns’ “The Civil War.” Dude got a lot done in his 89 years.
  17. Meat Loaf — In drafting a list of notable names, how could I leave out this one?
  18. P.J. O’Rourke — A gifted commenter on our times, even if he was a libertarian. And don’t forget, he also was a frequent panelist on NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!”
  19. Ronnie Hawkins — I don’t put him here because of his own music, about which I know little. I put him here because The Band’s first job of note was backing him up — before they did the same for Dylan. So nice work, Ronnie, because I do love those guys.
  20. Mark Shields — I enjoyed his commentary on PBS, and when he was spoken of upon his death as a decent man and a man of faith, that was no surprise. I attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York for the first time in 2004, when I was there for the Republican National Convention. At one point I looked around me, and saw someone familiar: It was Shields, sitting there alone. I suspect he was much in demand on the Sunday morning network political talk shows, but there he was at Mass. Not a big thing, maybe, but it made a favorable impression on me.
  21. Bill Russell — He may not have been as big as Pelé, but he was a giant in professional basketball (and not just because he was 6’10”). He was “the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won 11 NBA championships during his 13-year career.” Red Auerbach called him “the single most devastating force in the history of the game.”
  22. Ronnie Spector — With the Ronettes, she gave us “Be My Baby.” And you can’t beat that, can you?
  23. Dirck Halstead — Another celebrity journalist. Don’t know him? Well, you’ve seen this picture, haven’t you? And this one? Does this guy look familiar?
  24. Nichelle Nichols — Better known to you as Lt. Uhura. I wasn’t a huge Trek fan, and I can’t say I knew her, but my old friend Burl Burlingame could. So I’m including her, as much as anything, as a way of remembering Burl.
  25. Sonny Barger — The only member of the Hell’s Angels I would have been able to name if you had asked me (you can thank Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson for that). Not that that’s a good thing, but he was a significant figure in the culture — and the nightmares — of the ’60s.

That’s enough for me. Who makes the top of your list?

Call this a quiz? Gimme a break…

Utterly humiliating…

First, I’ll confess that I haven’t been paying much attention to news that, for most of my life, completely absorbed me.

In fact, I found myself deeply shocked on Thursday when I read that Benjamin Netanyahu was taking power again. I mean, I totally missed that there had been an election in Israel, and his party had won. This kind of blew me away. When I told my wife, she couldn’t believe it was news to me. But it was.

I mean, I’m the guy who, late at night in Wichita, used to hold the presses in Wichita awaiting interesting developments in the Philippines (note that these were the days, the mid-80s, when there were really interesting things happening there — Cory Aquino being elected, Imelda’s shoes, etc.). Knowing this, Clark Hoyt in the Washington Bureau would ask me to call him at home and wake him up if anything big happened over there, because he knew I’d be on it, and Wichita had the advantage of being on Central Time.

But now I didn’t know who was running one of the most strategically important countries in the world. Made me feel a bit like Jamie Tartt on Ted Lasso:

Jamie: The second that I found out that George Harrison had died, I realized that I had to stop waiting for life to begin. Start taking chances. Living life to the fullest.
Holly: But George Harrison died 20 years ago.
Jamie: Yeah, but I only just found out.

No, I’m not that clueless about most things in the news, which is why this was such a shock.

However, I am too clueless for The New York Times‘ Great News Quiz of 2022. I suspected this would be the case, and was actually rather pleased when I got any of the questions right (which I did more than 60 percent of the time — but that’s still a failing grade). As for the ones I got wrong, I wonder what’s wrong with people who got them right.

An example, which involves something that I probably would have done badly on even in my days of being hyper-informed. Because I just never have been particularly interested in such a topic (because money), and even if I had in spite of myself, I wouldn’t have memorized the details to this degree:

I mean, are you freaking kidding me? I can see if you had asked me to click on the areas that had seen marked increases in prices, leaving out those that had not. But to know the precise percentages of each, and to put them in the correct order? That’s nuts.

I put two of the five in the right places — the third and the fifth. I put the No. 1 item in second place — which isn’t so bad. I screwed up slightly worse by putting No. 3 in the first position, and by placing what should have been the second in the fourth position. So… not awful, but it looks pretty bad when only two of your five choices are green, meaning they were right.

SPOILER ALERT: Skip this graf if you don’t want the answer sort of given away before you take the quiz… I also messed up — but only slightly — on the question about how long it took the cops to move in during the school shooting in Uvalde. I knew it had been a shockingly long time, and roughly how long that had been, but I was one position off. I know there are people who think in numbers the way I think in words, and the precise number of minutes is perhaps engraved on their brains the way a date such as Dec. 7, 1941, is engraved even upon mine. To someone like me, the important thing was that the cops hung back for more than an hour. I knew that. That’s meaningful. The precise number of minutes is not, to me.

You know how a text such as this strikes me? It’s like a Jim Crow-era “literacy test.” And in this case, the NYT is the local county election official, and I’m the black man who just wants to be allowed to vote. It’s like expecting me to know that George Washington was our first president, so you ask me what kind of wood his false teeth were made from. (OK, so they weren’t really made of wood, but you get the idea.)

And it kinda ticks me off…

Are people REALLY still fighting over ‘Happy Holidays’?

I suppose I’ve been too focused on such things as the actual war — you know, that thing in Ukraine. I didn’t even realize this conflict was still going on, until I saw this headline this morning:

The war on ‘Happy Holidays’ isn’t about Christmas

I reacted to that by tweeting, “People are still feuding over this?” Somehow, I had made it this far through the season without hearing about it. But that must be because I’m getting better at filtering out Kulturkampf nonsense. Anyway, my former neighbor and our sometime (but not in quite a while — ahem!) commenter Jen Fitz responded to my tweet thusly:

One day all the people working so hard to be offended this month will band together and just admit they can’t endure basic human interactions and everyday friendliness. Then they will immediately splinter again, but this time in vicious feuds over the correct way to take offense.

Yup. Anyway, back to what I was saying, if that “war” is still going on, I think maybe it’s now outstripped Afghanistan as “America’s longest.”

When did it start? I dunno. If you trying Googling that, you get an assortment of dates. You also get different accounts about who started it. I tend to think it was started by the simple-minded folks who started getting upset about “Happy Holidays” and launching verbal attacks on Starbucks. But even they were reacting to something, as the History Channel website notes:

Despite the commercialization of Christmas, it was still considered mainly a religious holiday for much of the 20th century. Over the last decade or so, secularists, humanists and atheists became more vocal about the separation of church and state….

When some popular retailers stopped using the word Christmas in their promotional materials and supposedly instructed their employees to avoid saying, “Merry Christmas,” it lit a fire under many Christians.

It also fired-up several cable news hosts such as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, both of whom many believe took charge of the modern-day War on Christmas and made it a grass-roots campaign. As word got out, hordes of Christians signed petitions and boycotted the stores, forcing some to change their stance. Other stores continued to use general terms to refer to December 25….

That’s about when the actual “shooting” started in this “war.”

Libertarians and the Identity Politics crowd, of course, returned fire immediately, and this column, though coolly and civilly presented, reflects the ones-and-zeroes approach of so many on both left and right today, describing the “war” in these terms: “I am declaring my allegiance to one idea of America that opposes another: inclusive vs. exclusive.”

Unlike Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, Kate Cohen seems to be a kind and reasonable person. But she is still way too ready to draw battle lines and leap to choose a side.

My position is different. My position is, there is no war. Never has been. It’s particularly absurd if people who do believe in the war say it started in recent decades, with the adoption of “Happy Holidays.”

Because that was always with us. Or long enough for living, mortal humans to say “always.” The first date I come up with when I Google it is “by the 1860s.” I’m old, but that predates even me. I’m also a bit too young to remember the launch of the song “Happy Holiday,” back in 1942. Of course, Henry Ford would have had an immediate and nasty explanation for why Irving Berlin chose that wording. Folks may associate him with the F-150 today, but he’s probably our nation’s most prominent anti-Semite:

Henry Ford was an avid proponent of the idea that someone — or more precisely, some group — was waging a war on Christmas. “Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone’s Birth,” according to The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem, a widely distributed set of anti-Semitic articles published in the automobile magnate’s newsweekly during the 1920s. “People sometimes ask why 3,000,000 Jews can control the affairs of 100,000,000 Americans. In the same way that ten Jewish students can abolish the mention of Christmas and Easter out of schools containing 3,000 Christian pupils.”…

I was about 4 years old at the time the TV show “Happy Holidays from Bing and Frank” aired. But by that time, I saw and heard the phrase everywhere. I didn’t take any note of the John Birch Society’s screed in 1959 against the “assault on Christmas” carried out by “UN fanatics…” Of course, as far as could see, nobody during my childhood took much notice of that group except MAD magazine, which gave me a somewhat comical impression of the organization.

Anyway, the phrase was everywhere when I was growing up, and I don’t think it had anything to do with the ACLU — although the ACLU would later do what it could to stir up unnecessary fights over creches and the like. The phrase dates to a time before the Culture Wars. And it always made sense. And you didn’t have to be lighting the menorah to see that.

Even Christians — assuming they were knowledgeable about their own faith, and their own culture (which some Christian sects, and especially those individuals whose embrace of “Christianity” extends no further than having a cultural identity to cling to) — had, and have, good reason to say “Happy Holidays.” Particularly if they’re Catholic, or Anglican, or Lutheran or Methodist. But any Christian does. Let’s see… between the semi-secular Thanksgiving and the end of the 12 days of Christmas, in the Western church we have:

  • Advent, beginning four Sundays before Dec. 25. That’s right — despite almost everything you hear out in the commercial-cultural complex this time of year, it is not “Christmas” at the moment. Not yet. It’s Advent — which lasts longer.
  • The Feast of Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8. Although admittedly, this one’s not huge among most of our Protestant friends.
  • The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12. Of course, I don’t suppose many of the folks who complain about “Happy Holidays” celebrate this one. They’re too busy being furious that people who do celebrate it keep trying to get into our country. Even though, since 1945, she has been the patron of all the Americas.
  • Hanukkah, which is going on right now. Not Christian, you say? Well, the three most prominent figures in the Christmas were Jewish, so it seems related to me. Hanukkah sameach, Jesus, Mary and Joseph!
  • The 12 days of Christmas, the first one being on Dec. 25. Of course, we don’t know what time of year Jesus was born, but these are the days when we celebrate the Nativity.
  • The Feast of the Holy Family, on the Sunday between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.
  • The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. Oops, there we go again — being reminded that Yeshua bar Yosef was one of those Hanukkah people.
  • The Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6. Remember, we don’t sing “We Three Kings” before that day.

And according to my math, that means we Christians have multiple, plural holidays during this period that many oversimplify as “the Christmas season.” I may be leaving some holidays out there, but I need to draw this silly subject to a close at some point.

Which I will now do, leaving you with a “Merry Christmas” since that’s the next one up. But I also wish you happiness on all these other holy days. Yeah, folks, that’s the etymological root of “holidays.” We may have added a lot of secular meaning to them, but they are holy days.

So, you know, cut it out with the “war” nonsense…

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.

What will we do on V-E day?

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Today is Dec. 7, which means it’s my father’s birthday, so of course I’m thinking about him. He would have been 94 today.

Others may recall that something else happened on the day my Dad turned 13. The above picture refers to that, of course. Dad helped a friend, who had a paper route, deliver extras about that news. Here he is at around that age. (Or maybe a little younger. I think boys were allowed to switch from knickers to long pants at about 13, but now — despite all the times he reminisced about that coming-of-age moment — I don’t remember exactly, and I can’t check by asking him.)

These dates from the 1940s still loom large, even in the mind of someone like me, who wasn’t born until eight years after the war ended. (OK, I realize there are a lot of people out there who are grossly ignorant of history — even such recent history as this — and the date might mean nothing to them. But it means a lot to me, and not just because of my father.)

This morning, I looked at an appointment card on the kitchen table my dentist’s office gave me the other day. I figured I’d better enter it into my Google calendar before the card gets lost. I found that I HAD entered the appointment on the right date already, but I had the time wrong. So I fixed it. Good thing I looked.

Anyway, that date, for my next cleaning, was June 6. So there I sat on Pearl Harbor day marking something down for D-Day.

I wonder what we’ll be doing on V-E Day?

Shute’s got nothing to worry about at the moment

Louden weighs in.

An unpleasant thing happened the other day.

But first, a bit of background…

Last time I mentioned my usual weight-loss standard — which involves losing down to 168 so I can “wrestle Shute” — I was actually almost there.

That was early 2018. I was spending a lot of time on my elliptical trainer at home, and walking miles downtown every day, and averaging about 15,000 steps a day. I was eating more or less paleo, and feeling pretty good.

That’s not where I am now. A series of events occurred since then. First, later that year, there was the campaign, which left me basically no time for serious walking and forced me to grab whatever I could to eat. And since then, there was the stroke, and the long COVID, and other stuff, punctuated finally by lightning frying the electronics in my elliptical. I still get out and walk, but it’s not regular, and I haven’t been at all thoughtful about what I eat.

And then, the unpleasant thing happened. It was a week ago today. I had an appointment at one of the many medical offices in which I find myself these days. No big thing, just a followup. But as the nurse led me in, we paused for one of those little rituals that are usual in such places. We stopped at the scale.

Now first, so that you know the scale was in some way dysfunctional, she had trouble getting it to come on. I made a lame joke about “Who broke it?” She muttered something about “batteries,” and fiddled with the back of the column that has the display atop it, and it came on. And I stepped on.

And it said I weighed 190. Actually, it said 190 point something, but I’ve managed to block that much of it out. What I can’t forget is that I have made a scale register 190 for the first time in my life. An unhappy landmark.

Now let me quickly say that I was not only fully dressed — shoes, shirt, pants, belt, plus iPhone, wallet, keys — but I had on a jacket, and I think even a hat. So I don’t really weigh 190. Since this happened, I’ve stepped on the scale at home a couple of times when getting into the shower, and I was in the low 180s.

That doesn’t erase the fact that in the past, I always considered 180 an unhealthy mark.

Now I know a lot of you guys will laugh, and say you wish you could get back down to 190. After all, my BMI may say I’m slightly overweight, but I’m still below the average weight for my height, which is 199.7 in this country.

But not me. I was a super-skinny kid, and a skinny young man, and it’s a bit late to expect me to adopt a new self-concept. To give you an idea based on the Vision Quest standard, when I was Louden Swain’s age and still on a high school wrestling team, I was in the 132 class. And the same height I am now. Yeah, I was a real Ichibod, but I was strong and except for the injury that ended my wrestling career, I felt great.

And now, I have made a scale register the weight that Louden started at, before losing down through two weight classes to wrestle Shute. And I don’t feel at all great like this.

So when the New Year comes (there’s not much use trying before that), I’m going to get serious. I’m going paleo again. And I’m getting serious about the walking — I’m even looking around for a replacement elliptical, so the weather can’t stop me.

Warn Shute. It’s the fair thing to do. The poor beggar deserves that much…

This is me when I was Louden’s age. See? I’m really a skinny guy…

Some stats documenting our Raskolnikov Syndrome

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky

Yeah, I’m on about my Raskolnikov Syndrome theory again. But hey, I haven’t mentioned it since April, so…

The theory is that people lose their minds — and often become shockingly violent — when they cut themselves off from other people. Ten years ago, I summarized it in part this way:

I’ve long had this theory that people who do truly horrendous things that Ordinary Decent People can’t fathom do them because they’ve actually entered another state of being that society, because it is society, can’t relate to…

You know, the way Raskolnikov did. Brilliant guy, but as he cut himself off from family and friends and sat in his grubby garret brooding on self-centered theories, he became capable of horrible things. Well, you know what he did. If you don’t, read the book. Everyone should. I suspect it’s what made Mel Brooks say, “My God, I’d love to smash into the casket of Dostoyevsky, grab that bony hand and scream at the remains, ‘Well done, you god-damn genius.’ ”

Anyway, it’s come up again because of this piece I read the other day in The Washington Post., headlined “Americans are choosing to be alone. Here’s why we should reverse that..”  It included some scary numbers, to me:

And now for the scarier news: Our social lives were withering dramatically before covid-19. Between 2014 and 2019, time spent with friends went down (and time spent alone went up) by more than it did during the pandemic.

According to the Census Bureau’s American Time Use Survey, the amount of time the average American spent with friends was stable, at 6½ hours per week, between 2010 and 2013. Then, in 2014, time spent with friends began to decline.

By 2019, the average American was spending only four hours per week with friends (a sharp, 37 percent decline from five years before). Social media, political polarization and new technologies all played a role in the drop. (It is notable that market penetration for smartphones crossed 50 percent in 2014.)

Covid then deepened this trend. During the pandemic, time with friends fell further — in 2021, the average American spent only two hours and 45 minutes a week with close friends (a 58 percent decline relative to 2010-2013)…

On average, Americans did not transfer that lost time to spouses, partners or children. Instead, they chose to be alone….

Take that, and combine it with the Rabbit Hole, and you have a dangerous situation, with a society that is dangerously alienated, and no longer understands what a fact is. And yeah, I’m talking about the 2016 election, and the “stop the steal” cult, but a lot of other stuff as well.

Look around at some of the bad craziness going on, and this helps explain it…

So let it be with all teams that wear orange

I meant to post this over the weekend. Got distracted. Anyway…

I think I’m seeing my way to a new career, and it could be lucrative. I’ll explain…

Consider: Now I’ve watched two Gamecock football teams in a row — the first I’ve seen in quite a few years. I explained the circumstances of watching the first one. I watched the second because the first had gotten me interested — and also because, to my great surprise, it was actually showing on a channel I can get on the HD antenna in my window.

The first one resulted in a miracle — a sustained miracle, lasting through the whole game.

The second featured, if not a miracle, a surprising result. And very pleasing, in the sense that the previous game had been a rout, and this one was all about an exciting finish. And while the Cocks only won by a point, no doubt of some of their fans sensed what a pleasure it was to “crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”

What was different about these games that distinguished them from previous contests? Well, the fact that I was watching, of course.

Keeping me watching ought to be worth something to the fans, right? ‘Nuff said…

For me, the only motive to watch would be if the next team wears orange uniforms. I’m still experiencing some post-traumatic stress from watching the Astros — with their grotesque unis and fans who wave stupid orange rags — beat the Phillies.

It wasn’t quite the same — it wasn’t even baseball — but it gave me some satisfaction to see orange teams lose at some sort of game the last couple of weeks. As I said at the end of the second game.

Will I watch the next game? I dunno. What color will the opponents’ uniforms be?…

Hey, how about that game, huh?

I had thought the first thing you do when defeated is lower your colors, but these were still flying Sunday morning.

Yep, it’s true. I actually watched the Gamecocks beat up on the Volunteers Saturday night. Or at least, the second half.

We were in Gatlinburg staying with my brother-in-law and his wife at the resort development where they stay. A good time was had by all, although we’re glad to be back after some of my experiences driving in the mountains. More about that later.

We were coming back to the cabin Saturday night after walking up and down the main drag in town — actually, given the terrain, I have the impression it’s pretty much Gatlinburg’s only drag — and passing by the car you see above, which my brother-in-law and I had first seen in front of a neighboring cabin when we had hiked to the top of the mountain that morning. (Or nearly to the top. We stopped just yards from the actual top, where the management of the resort didn’t want people to go. So we didn’t plant a flag or anything, and gladly accepted a ride back down to the valley in a golf cart with one of the resort’s employees.)

As we passed by the car with the UT flags, I remarked with surprise that the owner wasn’t in Knoxville at the game, since he or she had driven all the way from Florida. This illustrates the level of attention I usually play to football, since the game was in Columbia. (Which leaves me still puzzled as to why the flags were on the car, but as you know, I will probably never understand the nuances of football fanaticism.)

My brother-in-law suggested it was probably halftime, so we could still catch the second half on the huge TV in cabin. That sounded way better than doing any more driving through the mountains at night (again, more about that later), although I had to say “Don’t you think it’s pretty much over by now?” I understood that it was still halftime, but I meant “over” in a won-lost sense, and in favor of the Big Orange.

But I was assured that anything can happen, and boy can it. When we got back and learned what the score was at halftime, we were all shocked, but pleasantly so. So I got a beer and settled down to watching the event happening back in relatively warm Columbia. I’ll confess I was a bit surprised to see the home folks dressed as though for a blizzard. The cheerleaders were in sweatsuits! Nice sweatsuits, but still… I didn’t know cheerleaders did that. I was glad the young ladies were warm, but mildly scandalized, I admit, at what I had assumed to be the immemorial custom of the game. At that moment, it was 50 degrees in Columbia, and 35 where we were — and getting rapidly colder.

But never mind the weather…

As surprising as the halftime score was, that was nothing to what we saw in the second half. I had braced myself to see the Vols make up their deficit as I watched, thereby re-establishing basic physical laws of the universe. And the way the Vols marched to one easy touchdown in the third quarter looked to be the beginning of that. But the opposite happened. And happened. And kept happening. The Cocks’ next TD made scoring look even easier. As did the three that followed. I found myself wondering, Who were those impostors in Gamecock uniforms? But no, these were the actual guys, showing what they could really do.

Watching the impossible happen, relentlessly, was a very pleasant way to spend the rest of a cold evening in the mountains.

How was it for y’all?

Near the top of our cold-but sweaty climb, Cooper was still full of cheerful energy. But we caught a ride back down.

That’s nice for y’all, but it’s not like that here in SC

The good news about the general rout of certifiable Trumpistas has floated in steadily from across the country. Shortly after the good news came in Saturday night that Republicans had definitely not captured the U.S. Senate, no matter what happens next in Georgia, I read a piece in The New York Times headlined “Voters Reject Election Deniers Running to Take Over Elections.

The national repudiation of this coalition reached its apex on Saturday, when Cisco Aguilar, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state in Nevada, defeated Jim Marchant, according to The Associated Press. Mr. Marchant, the Republican nominee, had helped organize a national right-wing slate of candidates under the name “America First.”

With Mr. Marchant’s loss to Mr. Aguilar, all but one of those “America First” candidates were defeated. Only Diego Morales, a Republican in deep-red Indiana, was successful, while candidates in Michigan, Arizona and New Mexico were defeated.

Their losses halted a plan by some allies of former President Donald J. Trump and other influential donors to take over the election apparatus in critical states before the 2024 presidential election.

Which was truly good news, because that had been a serious danger. You here a lot about GOP efforts to limit voter access, but the greater threat was their effort to take over the election apparatus so that it really didn’t matter who voted, or how.

And while Republicans are still likely to take the U.S. House — barely — which would follow the usual trend the country has long seen in midterms, the fact that Democrats had more than held onto the Senate was very encouraging. And in places such as the state where Fetterman thumped Oz, the crushing of Trumpist hopes went deeper, the more you looked:

Of all the places where Mr. Trump proved toxic, Pennsylvania may be where he did the most impressive damage — a state that will be key to any winning Republican presidential contender in 2024. The Trumpian fiasco there shows what happens when candidates make the race all about themselves, embracing MAGA and being out of step with the electorate.

In the high-stakes fight for control of the Senate, Pennsylvania was a hot spot, widely considered the Democrats’ best opportunity to flip a Republican-held seat and, by extension, a must-hold for the G.O.P. Dr. Oz’s high-profile flop was a particularly painful one for Mr. Trump’s party. But there’s more: The Democrats scored a huge win in the governor’s race as well, where Josh Shapiro had the good fortune of running against Doug Mastriano, a Trump-endorsed MAGA extremist so unsettling you have to wonder if he is secretly related to Marjorie Taylor Greene. The Democrats also triumphed in House races, holding onto vulnerable seats, including the hotly contested 8th and 17th Districts. And while a couple of tight races have yet to be called, party leaders are thrilled about already netting 11 seats and being this close to possibly flipping the state House, putting Democrats in control of the chamber for the first time in more than a decade. All of this was a step up for them from 2020, when voters went for Joe Biden over Donald Trump but picked Republicans in some other statewide races.

So that’s good to hear. And the news from such places is indeed encouraging. We may not be anywhere near the Republican Party returning to actual sanity — it has a long way to go before again becoming the party of Ike, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Howard Baker, Richard Lugar and John McCain — in the meantime we can be soothed knowing that things are in the hands of Democrats. I’m not a Democrat, of course, but you take what you can get when the house is on fire — but while some of them a sometimes a bit loony, none of them are Trumpistas.

That is, it’s soothing to look at certain other places. Not South Carolina.

We just elected a completely unqualified woman to run our public schools. She’s there because she won the Republican primary — that’s all it takes in S.C. — and she won the primary by convincing everyone that she was the scarier, far more extreme choice.

Henry McMaster — the man who has built the latter part of his career on having been the first statewide elected official in the country to endorse Donald J. — romped to victory on his way to setting the state record for longevity in the governor’s office. Mind you, this happened because he had an utterly unappealing Democratic opponent. But that’s because no serious Democrats ran. They didn’t run because this is South Carolina, and they assumed McMaster would win again. Which is pretty sad.

No other statewide officeholder — all Republicans of course — had serious opposition. At least, not according to the ballot I faced.

Of course, if you’re talking simple partisan politics, this had been the pattern before Trump. I mean, we knew young Judd Larkins didn’t have a chance against Joe Wilson, but that district has been drawn to reliably elect Republicans since well before the GOP became the state’s majority party. In my first election as governmental affairs editor at The State, Jim Leventis was winning in every county in the 2nd District but one on election night, but then Lexington County’s votes were fully counted, and Floyd Spence held on.

So yeah, it’s an old pattern. But now, Republicans in this state, starting with Henry, have tied Donald Trump, and therefore all the crazy that he represents, to their necks. And in other parts of the country, that’s a bad sign for people seeking office.

But not here.

Top Five Places I’d Like To Go — Lists 1 and 2

And no, I don’t want to see gladiators — although I did enjoy the Muay Thai in Bangkok.

On the previous post, Bud mentioned that he’d recently returned from a tour of 14 states plus Canada, which he was visiting for the first time. He said he still had “many bucket list places to visit,” and that this was a start.

I started to reply, but it got long, so I decided to turn it into a separate post.

I’m not sure I have a “bucket list.” Frankly, I’ve never really liked the term, as it has seemed a tad morbid to me. But I do love travel, and I would like to go to Canada sometime, just to say I did.

And now I’ve been to Boston, which I had always wanted to do. And I got to see my three fave things there — Fenway Park, the Constitution, and Quincy, John Adams’ hometown — Adams being my favorite Founder. And the Fenway Park visit was perfect, since we got to watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees, and sat out in right field while Jackie Bradley Jr. was still with the Sox and playing that position. Of course, that means in the other halves of the innings we were right behind Aaron Judd during his big home-run year, which was cool, but that was less of a thrill.

I’m not sure of anything else I’m burning to see for the first time here in our own country. I’ve seen most of the best bits at least once. That’s the thing about me and travel — I enjoy it, but I did so much of it when I was a kid. And most of that was here in the states, although the longest I ever lived in any one place was in South America. But with all that moving around I never got to either Europe or Asia growing up. I’ve addressed that since with trips to England, Ireland and Thailand, but I’ve still never set foot on the European mainland.

So I’ve got some places I’d like to hit internationally, some of which I’ve never been to.

But you know what? I think another reason I don’t think in terms of “bucket lists” is that I’m a guy who’d like to spend what time is available on things I’ve already experienced and would like to see again. Part of it is just that I like what I know I like, so I read favorite books and watch favorite movies over and over. But it’s also because I still haven’t experienced enough of those places, and want new experiences there. I mean, you can say “I’ve been to England” all you want — and we spent a couple of weeks there awhile back. But that wasn’t enough time to fully explore even the places where we went, not to mention the vast majority of the country, which we’ve never seen.

So I guess I have two Top Five Lists. The first is sort of the re-run list:

  1. London — We were there for a week, but just scratched the surface. Just last night, we rewatched “Notting Hill,” and my wife said she’d like to go to there, and I realized that when we were in town, we missed it even though we strolled through Hyde Park, right next door. And we rode by Hampstead Heath, but never got out and walked through it! And I’m just getting started…
  2. Ireland — A gazillion places we didn’t go in 2019. We barely touched the surface of Dublin, Waterford and Limerick. And then there are all the places we haven’t seen. I’d like to spend months just hanging out in County Kerry.
  3. Tokyo — All we saw was the airport — for several-hour layovers each way. And while it’s nice to be able to say I watched sumo on the telly in the first-class lounge (a one-time treat our travel agent had arranged), I’d kind of like to see the city.
  4. Various places in Ecuador — I’d like to show my wife where we lived in Guayaquil from 1962-65, and my old school, then hit a couple of beach towns — Salinas being my favorite, but I’d like to stay at the Humboldt Hotel in Playas again. And it would be awesome to visit the Galapagos, a place where I’ve never been. Although it’s not like we could just “swing by” there — it’s not exactly on the way
  5. New Orleans — I loved living there, but most of the main personal landmarks — my school, our home, in fact the whole dilapidated Navy base we lived on there in Algiers — are gone, completely. But cross the river, and so much of the coolest city I’ve ever lived in is still there, and I’d love to take my wife there.

The closest thing that almost made that list, but not quite, is Hawaii. But my wife and I were there for a couple of days in 2015, and saw my old house and school and other cool things like Waikiki, the Windward Side and Pali Lookout. But there’s so much more I’d still like to go back and see after all these years — I left there in 1971.

Then there’s the Places-I’ve-Never-Been List:

  1. Rome — You know, the center of the Western World. I was hugely into the Roman Empire when I was a kid, particularly during those two years of Latin. And now I’m Catholic, so I’m actually a “Roman.” My wife’s been there, and she could show me around. I can’t have pasta and I can’t have cheese, in fact my allergies are one reason I generally prefer to stay in English-speaking countries, but I’d risk it to go to Rome. And I can have vino, right?
  2. Spain — I wanted to go to England because it’s the mother country, and so much of my country’s culture comes from there. But living in South America as a kid, I got a sense of Spain kind of being a mother country as well. And wow, talk about a fascinating history. I’d want to hit all kinds of places — Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia, Pamplona, the other regions as well, particularly along the coast.
  3. Havana — Speaking of Spanish influence. I want to go to Havana before things have opened up so much that it gets too modern and touristy. Of all the Hispanic sites I can think of in the world, it probably attracts me the most.
  4. Greece — Athens certainly, but even more I’d like to make like Odysseus and get lost in those islands. Just chill, do beach stuff. You ever see that Lina Wertmüller film, “Swept Away… by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August?” Like that.
  5. Normandy — This is a military-history geek thing. I’d like to see where the landings happened, where the Allies landed 175,000 men in a day in the face of fierce Nazi resistance. I’d like to visit Carentan and Sainte-Mère-Église, and pay my respects at the cemeteries. I’d like to see those legendary, surprising hedgerows.

Note I’m limiting it to a Top Five, in respect for the Nick Hornby convention. There are other places I’d like to go, as well — Scotland, for instance. They’re generally in Europe, and I’m not going to apologize for being not only Eurocentric, but even Anglocentric. Other places are charming and fascinating, but the cultural influences that have acted upon me my whole life — the books I’ve read and such — have particularly inflamed my curiosity about this and that place in the Western World. We don’t live long enough to experience all the cultures of the world to an extent that is deeply meaningful. We don’t even live long enough to fully explore and grok our own, but I like to take stabs at it, in the attempt of better understanding my environment. The two places that related to that culture most vividly would probably be New York and London, and that’s why I’ve been to those places whenever I’ve had the chance. And it’s a big reason why I want to go to Rome.

I’m sure I’d hit quite a few other, more “exotic,” areas if I were drawing up a Top 100 list, or even a Top Twenty.

But this is what comes to me in response to what Bud said. How about you? Where do you want to go?

Oh, but wait — when we go to London, can we bop down to Portsmouth and see HMS Victory?

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!

The Night that Nothing Interesting Happened

‘Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?’

‘To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.’

‘The dog did nothing in the night-time.’

‘That was the curious incident,’ remarked Sherlock Holmes.

I capitalized the words in my headline because it seemed like “The Night that Nothing Interesting Happened” could be the title of a Conan Doyle story.

But no one would have read it.

The large headlines this morning in South Carolina newspapers — and on their browser sites — were a bit weird. Because the “big news” they trumpeted wasn’t news to anyone — was it? McMaster wins? Ellen Weaver wins? Did some reader somewhere expect something else?

When I looked for election news this morning, I was trying to find out, for instance, whether the local-option sales tax thing here in Lexington County had passed. I didn’t think it would, and it didn’t, but I wanted to see for sure. (As I mentioned before, I had voted for it, but I didn’t think a majority would).

But as I said yesterday of this election, nothing interesting was happening. In fact, if I look back all the way to when I first voted in 1972, this may have been the least interesting general Election Day I’ve seen.

Oh, something interesting — horrifying, really — is happening to our republic on the grand scale. As one example, when our representative democracy was healthy (which it was for most of my life), we would never have been sitting around wondering whether such a phenomenal, spectacular idiot like Herschel Walker was about to become a U.S. senator. He’s probably not, by the way, although he’s in a runoff. Yet close to half of the voters in Georgia chose him, and all over the country, similar (but not as spectacular) idiots won. You know, election deniers and such. But since 2016, we’ve grown used to that, haven’t we?

Anyway, suspense was entirely missing, here in South Carolina. But here are a few things worth mentioning briefly, here and elsewhere:

Governor — What we knew would happen, happened. Henry will be governor for four more years, which I’m sure makes him happy. He had always wanted to be governor, and now (I think; I haven’t looked it up), he will be governor for longer than anyone in state history. Of course, I voted a write-in. I never wrote the post about the many reasons I wouldn’t vote for his opponent, although I may do so later, just as an illustration of how the Democrats (and the Republicans, although I’m definitely not holding my breath there) need to do better next time.

Superintendent of Education — Another thing we knew would happen in our degraded democracy. A completely unqualified woman who is hostile to public schools and other things that make sense will now be in charge of public schools in our state. So hang on.

Congress — Well, we still don’t know what happened here, do we? Maybe something “interesting,” to put it politely, will happen here, but it hasn’t happened yet. So we’ll see.

Spanberger — I was very pleased to see Abigail Spanberger, the moderate Democrat in Virginia’s 7th U.S. House district, win. I had been concerned for her, but she made it. I’ve never met her, but as I’ve said before, America needs a lot more like her…

Fetterman — It was good to see him win, although in a healthy country, there’d have been little suspense.

SC House District — I was sorry to see Heather Bauer beat Kirkman Finlay, but not because I have any personal animus toward Ms. Bauer — I’ve never met her — or am carrying any brief at all for Kirkman. I’m sorry because of the lesson far too many Democrats will take away from it, which will be bad for them and bad for the country, which is already divided enough. The thing is, Ms. Bauer ran on nothing — nothing — but abortion. Went on and on about it, as one voter in the district (who usually votes Democratic) was complaining to me the other day. Yay, abortion, all day and night. Many Dems will seize upon this as extremely significant, as their path back to dominance. They will ignore that this is a Democratic-leaning swing district in Shandon, of all places, and that it’s a bit remarkable that Kirkman had held onto it this long.

US 2nd Congressional District — As the gerrymanderers predetermined long ago, and have reaffirmed many times since, Joe Wilson easily beat young Judd Larkins. Which we all knew would happen. I need to give him a call and see how he’s doing and thank him for running anyway. Maybe he’ll run for something else. Something other than Congress, preferably.

Signs — That reminds me, I guess I need to take down my Judd Larkins sign. Which in turn reminds me of the signs I saw over in my mother’s neighborhood this morning (see below). I guess they were really disappointed this morning — or maybe not. Of course, Clyburn won, as he was destined to do. The weird thing is, this was in Wilson’s district, so they could have had a Larkins sign up, and didn’t — which is a shame. Anyway, the thing that struck me about these signs when I first saw them, before the vote, was that it was the first Cunningham sign I had seen in anybody’s yard around here. Of course, I haven’t been out walking much lately, and that’s when I usually notice signs…

That’s about all I can think of to mention. I may add some other things later, but right now I need to run to a doctor appointment. See you later….

Did you get out and vote today? How did it go?

Well, didja, ya buncha procrastinators?

A bit harsh? Well you know how it is with converts. We get a bit carried away. All those years I have criticized and blasted early voting, and loudly sung communitarian joys of standing in line with my neighbors to do our collective duty… and then I vote early a couple of times, and I’ve just got no patience with the rest of you. Slackers…

But, let me piously add, it’s never too late… at least, not until 7 p.m.

So did you vote? And if so, how did it go?

My son’s car broke down today, so after he left work and dropped it at the mechanic’s, I gave him a ride to our polling place. Of course, when I walked in I had to make a general announcement that I was not trying to vote twice.

Anyway, it had been a modestly brisk day, for an election that offers little to get excited about here in South Carolina. As of 2:39 p.m., 537 people had voted at my precinct, Quail Hollow.

Later, I dropped by another precinct where I knew a friend of mine was working (talk about doing your duty!), and she boasted that they’d had 513. This was at 3:15,

They did have a queue while I was there, which I had not seen at Quail Hollow, so there’s that. They were trying. But still. That sort of pace might well be fine out in the country, although it would never do in town. Harrumph.

Anyway, how’d it go for you?

Experience the stories of South Carolinians who fought in Vietnam

Occasionally, I have given y’all a heads-up about programs happening at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum — an ADCO client.

Well, the museum has something very special coming up on Friday, Veterans Day. It’s been in the works for years, enduring many setbacks, from COVID to the flooding of the space where it is located.

My own father, like many South Carolina veterans, played a small role, being interviewed for hours back in 2017 by Fritz Hamer, then the curator of history at the museum. We lent a few of his artifacts and souvenirs from those days.

Fritz Hamer interviewing my Dad in 2017 about his Vietnam experiences.

It’s called “A War With No Front Lines: South Carolina and the Vietnam War, 1965-1973.” The exhibit fills the 2,500-square-foot brick-lined, vaulted part of the museum that was once the water cistern for the Columbia Mills building when it opened in 1894 as the world’s first electric textile mill.

You can read more about it here, on the special website for this exhibit. Also, here’s a press release I wrote about the opening. On the “news” page of the site, you can read previous releases about recent events that have been building up to this opening, such as lectures by Vietnam veterans, and the huge, impressive diorama of Firebase Ripcord that’s stationed at the museum’s entrance. A lecture will be featured at noon Friday comparing the experiences of Vietnam veterans to those of servicemen who fought in previous wars.

And it’s all free on Friday and Saturday this week. It’s a good opportunity to check out the whole Relic Room, if you never have, but especially this new exhibit.

My father is gone now, but so many of these veterans are still with us, and it’s long past time for their service and sacrifices to be honored, and their stories told. I’m very glad the museum is doing this. It’s still coming together as I write this, but what I’ve seen looks good. I hope you check it out…

A tribute wall to South Carolinians killed in action.

Yep, this is something that’s dividing America, all right…

As y’all know, I’m always picking and poking at the ridiculous releases and fund-raising pleas I get from Democrats.

Democrats shouldn’t get their feelings hurt, though. I just don’t get many such emails from Republicans. I got on a lot of Dems’ mailing lists back in 2018.

However, I’ve started getting some texts from the GOP, and they are really something. (And no, I don’t know where they got my cell number.)

Take this one I received from Sen. Tim Scott the other day. Scott comes across as kind of a nice guy — and maybe he is a nice guy; I don’t know. He’s the highest-ranking guy in S.C. politics whom I’ve never met.

But nice or not, he either has a severe cognitive problem, or wants everyone to think he does. Of course, he starts out by letting me know he doesn’t know me any better than I know him, since he calls me “Donald,” and that was my Dad, not me. But whatever; let’s move on…

Then, for a second, I think maybe I’m hearing the voice of that “nice guy” I mentioned. He’s worried that “divisive voices are fraying the fabric of America…” Maybe he’s really concerned about how divided the country has become — which would certainly mean he’s now regretting having stood up at a national party convention to support the most divisive president in our history, a man whose whole political strategy is to feed off our resentments of each other.

But my hope — such as it is — comes crashing down as he follows that up immediately with the usual divisive garbage: “To all the liberals who think they speak for people like me… Folks here are worried about gas prices, not political correctness….”

Well, OK, certainly he’s going to follow that up with something showing he sees the beam in his own party’s eye… but nope. He doesn’t.

So no, Tim. You’re not going to “unite us all again.” Obviously, you aren’t even going to try.

But at least you’re correctly identifying, and brilliantly illustrating, the problem. Our country is full of people who, like you, are dividing us by saying it’s all the other side’s fault. I’m sure I can find dramatic examples of it in those pleas I keep getting from Democrats — willful blindness, mixed in among all the hammer-dropping.

Anyway, senator, let me know when you’re actually interested in healing the division. You can give me a heads-up via text…

Stop trying to predict elections. Just stop it. Right now.

I’m speaking to journalists here.

I thought I’d make that clear because a few days ago, in reaction to a headline that said, “Why early-voting data is an awful election predictor,” I tweeted, “Which is fine, because no one needs such a thing. No one needs to ‘predict’ elections. Discuss the relative merits of the candidates, let the voters vote, then report what HAPPENED…”

When someone who has commented on this blog off and on for years responded, “…A lot of us, for some reason, think that who wins this election may be kind of important,” I had to add, “You do understand that I’m speaking to journalists here, right?”

Well, maybe he didn’t, and maybe that’s my fault. So here, I’m making it clear up front.

You want to know what’s going to happen tomorrow (or rather, in the process that ends tomorrow, since so many of us vote early now)?

Well, I can’t tell you. I can tell you that generally, the party of the president of the United States loses ground in the elections that occur in years when the president isn’t running. Although not always. And even that generality should probably be set aside, since the careful balance between two rational, roughly centrist parties came to an end in 2016. One of the parties basically doesn’t exist any more, and the other is in some disarray.

That’s as far as I’ll go with predictions.

Now, let’s talk about how stupid it is to try to predict these things that are widely and erroneously called “midterm elections.” (Not one position being considered is in the middle of a term. They’re all at the ends of their terms, which is why we’re having elections. The person for whom this is “midterm” is the current POTUS, and in case you haven’t noticed, he isn’t running.)

These prediction stories you see are pretty much always written from a national perspective — as is most of the news you read, since papers that covered — I mean really covered — state and local elections are gone or moribund, and nothing has taken their places. By “national perspective,” I mean they are trying to predict which of those two parties will hold a majority in each of the two chambers of Congress when the elections are over.

Which is insane. That cannot be reliably predicted. Some elections can be reliably predicted. I can predict that Joe Wilson will win re-election. (I would, of course, be thrilled to be proven wrong on that.) I can with even greater confidence predict that Jim Clyburn will be re-elected. But that’s because voters’ choices have been removed from the equation, through the process of gerrymandering.

What you cannot do is reliably, dependably predict what will happen with control of Congress. First of all, you’ll notice I keep saying “elections,” not “election.” There is not one person in America who is voting for one party or the other to have control of Congress. Oh, they might think they are, and tell you they are, thanks to the fact that so many Americans have been trained (largely by what remains of the media) to think that way, in ones-and-zeroes partisan terms.

But they aren’t, because they can’t. Not one person in America can vote for more than one member of the House of Representatives, or more than two (and usually, just one at a time) senator. The rest of the equation — the extremely, mind-blowingly complex equation — depends on what millions of other people do. Each contest for each seat depends on thousands, if not millions, of such separate decisions. And the end result, in terms of which party has control? That depends on an exponentially greater number of separate decisions.

Not only that, but I remain unconvinced that most people can coherently explain, even to themselves, exactly what caused them to vote as they did. It’s complicated. Despite all the progress the ones-and-zeroes folks have had in training people to vote like robots, it remains complicated.

But enough about voters and what they do. Back to the journalists.

Y’all have all heard grandpa tell stories about how he covered elections, back when the country was young and men were men, yadda-yadda. I’m not going to do that in this post. But I am going to complain about the “coverage” we do see in elections.

Practically every story written, every question asked by a journalist of a source, seems in large part to be an attempt to answer the question, “Who is going to win?’ I can practically see those words stamped onto the foreheads of the reporters.

What do the polls say? How much money have you raised? How many more times will that TV ad be aired by Election Day? How are you connecting with this or that demographic group? How strong is your campaign organization? Can you avoid uttering “gaffes” in the upcoming “debate,” and when you almost inevitably fail in that task, can you recover from them?

Folks, the reason we have a First Amendment is so that we will have a free press to, among other things, help voters decide which candidates will represent them. To do that, your job is to report on what each candidate offers to voters, and how well he or she is likely to perform if elected. You start with two things: the candidates’ observable records, and what the candidates say about themselves and the kinds of officeholders they intend to be.

Your goal should NOT be to tell the voters who WILL win. You should give them information that will help them, the voters, make that decision. If you try to tell them who WILL win, the most likely result is that you will convince some supporters of the other candidate not to vote. (Which to many of you might sound like a GOOD thing, because it means your stupid predictions are slightly more likely to come true — but it isn’t.)

Oh, and if you’re an opinion writer, your goal is to present rational arguments as to who SHOULD win. It is not to predict who will win. So, you know, I should not be seeing “opinion” headlines like some of the ones below…

Top Five Best MLB Uniforms

I’m not much of a fashion guy, but I got a little out of sorts the other night — before the game really got to rolling — when both the Astros and the Phillies came out wearing their most distractingly ugly uniforms.

Of course, the Astros have nothing but ugly unis, but on this night — and the night before — they were wearing the nastiest-looking ones in their arsenal. You know, the ones dominated by the color of those rags their obnoxious fans wave all the time in Houston.

But this night, even the Phillies — who normally wear perfectly fine, non-distracting threads — had somehow traveled back to 1973 and brought back a strange combination of the oddest shade of blue mixed with some variation on maroon. Which wasn’t all that bad by itself, but when they got anywhere near the Astros, I expected spontaneous combustion or something. I’ll show you what I mean:

Yeah, I know. You people who have access to baseball on TV (which I don’t, except when Fox deigns to show me something over the broadcast airwaves, as they do each year during the Series), and make an effort to follow the Phillies (which I haven’t done since my wife’s cousin Tim and his pitcher Steve Carlton were with them), see these blue things all the time. Just as I have occasionally seen these nightmarish things that the Red Sox occasionally put on.

Anyway, once the game got rolling I sort of forgot about it, and after awhile the Phillies even looked sort of OK. The Astros did not, of course, but they never do.

And I thought it would be good for the country if I would offer a Top Five List, as guidance. Of course, you’ll note two things about my taste: First, it’s very traditional. This is one of the things that brings out my conservative sensibilities, with a vengeance. Second, I lean toward certain colors, especially dark blue (or as I would say, proper blue), and deep, dark reds. Preferably against a white background, so they stand out well.

If I were doing a list of Worst uniforms, you’d see I can’t stand anything that looks like it’s from the 1970s. Back during that decade of sartorial horrors, I pretty much just wore jeans and tee shirts. There weren’t a lot of tolerable alternatives. Even teams with good uniforms now wore ugly ones then. For instance.

Oh, one other thing. I’m basically just looking at the best uniforms worn by each team. I’m not considering all their different looks and averaging them out or anything. Too much work.

Here’s the list:

No. 5 — Phillies

No. 4 — Cardinals

No. 3 — Yankees

No. 2 — Braves

No. 1 — Red Sox

I’m not offering comment on each team, just the pictures. Because it’s about the look.

And I’ll admit that the Braves and the Red Sox are my two favorite teams, and really their unis are sort of a tie in my mind. They’re a lot alike, of course. If I hadn’t gone to that game in Boston this summer, which got me paying more attention to them in recent months, the Braves might have been No. 1.

And the Phillies just barely make the list at a time when I’m cheering for them, when in truth, a number of other teams have uniforms just as good.

Makes me look kind of shallow, doesn’t it? That my fave teams would be the ones with the best uniforms? Or vice versa — that I’d like the uniforms just because of the team?

I think it’s just a coincidence…

 

Forgot to brag yesterday

Yesterday, I actually managed not to embarrass myself completely on the Slate news quiz — and then got all busy and forgot to brag about it.

Not that 373 is normally anything to strut about (I’d rather it be something like this), but I did beat the average and the staff ringer, and that’s at least worth a self-pat on the back, right?

I think so. Even though I missed something I should never have missed — the name of the Astros pitcher with the credit for the no-hitter I had, in misery, watched just the night before. My only excuse is, when you take a guy out in the sixth inning, and then use a small army of relievers after him, anybody can lose track of the starter’s name. Or at least, I can.

(Here’s a question: Should a guy get credit for a no-hitter when he doesn’t pitch the whole game? Yeah, I know we’re a long way from the days when my grandfather would pitch a double-header, but still — isn’t this kind of no-hitter more of a team effort than an individual achievement?)

Of course, I balanced that out by knowing something I should never, normally, have known — the name (or at least, the pseudonym) of the rapper who had been shot and killed.

Anyway, let us know how you do…