I hope all you urban types are voting today

I won’t be, because for reasons that continue to elude me, my own long-established subdivision — which is clearly a part of West Columbia — isn’t within the city limits. So I have my bucolic existence out here in the county. Maybe that explains why we don’t have sidewalks. It definitely explains why we pay double for West Columbia water.

But I keep getting reminders that you townies are voting today. Here’s my latest text, at right. I don’t know anything about Tyler, or about his opponent. Tyler must have something going for him, though, because my daughter has a sign for him in her yard — although I haven’t discussed him with her. But I have to say it’s distressing to get something about a nonpartisan election — which are far too rare, and to me, sacrosanct — framed in partisan terms. But I don’t blame Tyler, or his opponent. I’ve seen quite a few campaign communications such as this out of Columbia in recent days and years, and its a very disturbing trend, to me.

But what do I know about Columbia, now that I’m not longer paid to keep up with it?

I’m slightly, but only slightly — since I don’t get to vote on these things — more familiar with the contests on my own side of the river.

By slightly, I know how I would vote in at least one of these races, if someone suddenly told me before the polls close that I’ve somehow been annexed into Cayce. Based on very little recent research (but more than your standard name-recognition voter engages in, alas), I can tell you with confidence that in that situation, I would happily vote for Elise Partin.

Of course, I have long been in Elise’s corner, as you will see if you search for her name on this blog. My support extends to our having endorsed her at the paper, back when she was starting her commendable service as mayor. In fact, I see we endorsed her on the same day we did John McCain in 2008. She hasn’t disappointed me since.

I know little about her challenger Tre Bray, beyond what’s on his website. Oh, I can get a little critical about some things I find there. For instance, he complains that the town has been moving informally toward a “strong mayor” form of government (which I would love, of course, especially with an incumbent as strong as Elise)… and then he goes on to make promise after promise using “we will do this” and “we will do that” language. And y’all know I don’t like campaign promises of any kind, particularly ones stated in such definite language. But hey, who listens to me? Everybody does it. Well, almost everybody. I notice Elise’s site is more about what she and Cayce have done during her stint in office, which carries more weight with me.

And of course, that’s the traditional advantage of incumbency. But going by yard signs, Mr. Bray does have a lot of support. I don’t know what that’s about, so I’m holding myself back from assuming it’s just the revanchist sentiment of Cayce’s old power cliques, which have never fully adjusted to Elise. I just don’t know. Maybe some of y’all know.

Meanwhile in West Columbia, I know… even less. I know Iiked Tem Miles quite a bit years ago when I interviewed him for the seat representing my House district. But I liked Micah Caskey more. Beyond that, I know pretty much zip. Let me vote right now, and I’d back him — because I know a little about him, and it’s positive. But I have to admit that’s based on just a little more than name recognition.

I trust that if you live in West Columbia — or Cayce, or Columbia — you can do better. So please, get out at vote. There’s not much time left, so I’ll stop typing now…

I’m dumb and the rest of the world is dumber

Or rather, the part of rest of the world that is dumb enough to take the Slate news quiz — which as we know is a terrible test, because I seldom do well on it.

I had to be especially dumb to turn there for validation after doing particularly badly on the weekly NYT quiz. Sometimes I do well on that, but usually not.

I had already tried making myself feel better by taking the latest Flashback quiz, also at NYT. I love that one because it tests whether you have a clear sense of the overall flow of history, rather than happening to know random facts of the moment. I was in luck, in that I had two I hadn’t done yet — the one for Oct. 29, and the one for Nov. 4, which had been released early for some reason.

Trouble is, I got one wrong on the 29th, which seldom happens. Getting a perfect score on the one for Saturday didn’t make me feel all that much better, since I’ve grown to expect that, proud so-and-so that I am.

So, weakly, I turned for solace to the Slate quiz, which overall is the worst place to seek it. And unsurprisingly, I did particularly badly.

But you know what? Everybody else did worse.

Maybe at some point, those Slate people will see that their test is seriously lacking. Maybe not. Anyway, g’day, mates…

Do today’s Halloween costumes make you feel inadequate?

The scene in Shandon. Or ONE of the many scenes in Shandon…

How was your Halloween? Mine was nice. Went trick-or-treating with my grandchildren in Shandon, and they had a good time, and the weather was nice. My wife stayed at home and tended the door, which made me feel guilty, of course…

And then I came home and watched the Rangers whip up on the underserving Diamondbacks in Game 4. A perfect cap to the evening. I had worried about having missed the first half of the game, but then I saw that the boys from Texas were ahead 10-1. I’m so proud of them that they don’t need me to actually be watching.

But I was thinking about costumes, and how they’ve changed over time. While walking about with my son and daughter-in-law, I bored them with my thoughts on the matter. So why should y’all escape their fates?

On my way into Shandon, I saw something I hadn’t seen before, and was impressed — a kid, probably 8 or 9 years old, in an astronaut costume. It was obviously store-bought, and quite nice. All plastic, but the look was good. It was an old-school suit, from the days when astronauts were heroes — white, with the (in this case soft, and I hope not airtight) helmet and everything. A real, miniature John Glenn. Or at least Gordon Cooper.

And it hit me that back in the day when all the boys that age might have wanted to dress as an astronaut (I was that kid’s age when Glenn went up), there were no nice-looking prefab astronaut costumes to be had. And such a thing was hard to improvise.

Back then, we usually did improvise, and the results were unimpressive. A pirate was a standard fallback for me (which means I was pleased that one of my granddaughters chose that approach last night). Of course, we weren’t looking to win prizes; we were out for candy. We were a mercenary lot.

You could buy prefab costumes back then, but they were all pretty inadequate. When I was about four or five, I was excited that my mother let me get an official Bugs Bunny costume from a store. When I got it out and put it on, I was deeply disappointed. You know, one of those nylon things that covered the front of your body and tied with a string at the neck. And some rabbit ears for my head. I think the body-length covering said “Bugs Bunny” on it — like the real Bugs would wear a sign with his name on it. I knew I would fool no one. I had practiced my “What’s up, Doc?” in vain.

After that, I made my own. But I was never terribly creative. Kids today are way more creative. The granddaughter who went with “pirate” this time went as her ancestress Elspeth, the confessed witch in 17th-century Scotland. It took some explaining, but what a great concept! Her twin sister went as her own mother. At that time, my attorney daughter was a lobbyist. That took some explaining, too. But that was great — they spent time talking about people who meant something to them. And when one of them turned to “pirate” this time, it was much nicer than any pirate costume I ever put together.

My youngest granddaughter kind of blew everybody away by dressing as Walter White from “Breaking Bad” — complete with a bald cap that she got from a Halloween store (harrumph; we didn’t have such stores in my day). But the rest she did herself, and it was great.

As I say, they’re more creative. But even the kids who are NOT creative had way more options for going out and buying costumes that are worth the effort — like the astronaut kid.

I was reminded this morning of how bad we were back in the day, when “Ron Ziegler” posted a couple of pictures on the @dick_nixon Twitter feed. (I’m a big fan of that feed.) They showed the president greeting trick-or-treaters. And the costumes looked like what I might have devised — pretty lame, although they seem to be having fun:

Of course, Nixon dressed as himself, and it was pretty effective. Very scary. And nice try, bloody kid. Oh, and probably the best of those was the pirate — as I’ve suggested, it can be a good choice.

Anyway, I just wondered whether y’all notice the same things these days: Costumes that make you look back on your childhood and feel inadequate.

If so, perhaps you make up for it by being creative in your household decorations nowadays. Like some of those folks in Shandon…

Yes, those are skeletons riding pink flamingoes.
Here’s a closeup…




Anybody get any valuable messages via LinkedIn?

I tried asking this on LinkedIn, and I was just about to post it when I decided to check one point, and in trying to get to that information, I lost what I’d written.

So I’ll ask it here, to the best of my memory…

Have you ever gotten a direct message — or pretty much, any message — via LinkedIn that was relevant to you? I mean, one from someone you know, or need to know, about something that you have any sort of interest in?

Pretty much all I get is “cold-call” attempts to sell me some unsought service or other, sent to me by strangers. Usually the strangers are attractive young women, but they’re not like the random, unknown attractive young women who reach out to me via Twitter. These have their clothes on and everything — businesslike clothes —  which commands a bit more respect.

And I’d like to help them. I have enormous sympathy for people forced to engage in such painful, thankless labor. Also, they’re often from troubled places in the word. I got a couple recently from a lovely young lady in Ukraine, and y’all know I’m all about helping Ukraine. But I just wasn’t in the market for whatever she was trying to sell. I forget what it was. That was the bit of information I was seeking when I lost my message earlier, so I’m not going to go hunting for it now. It was some kind of business thingamabob, I’m assuming.

And since she was a stranger, I had no way of knowing whether she was legit. She said she was in Kyiv, but how was I to know? She could have been with the Russians, too. (Her first name, or the one she was using, was “Svetlana.”)

Anyway, that’s essentially what I was trying to ask, and I particularly wanted to hear from actual LinkedIn users. Maybe some of y’all are among those.

I’ll ask an additional question beyond that one, and I think I’ve asked this one before: Do you ever find LinkedIn useful? I doubt you have, unless it’s helped you get a job, or helped you hire someone else for a job.

To me, its one useful function is to be a sort of online complement to your C.V. And it’s only useful for that if the user keeps the page updated, which too few do…

Top Five Best Horror Films (or TV Shows)?

The big ‘jump scare’ in the best on the list.

Why a question mark on the headline? After all, aren’t Brad’s Top Five lists final and authoritative?

Well, not this one. Because I am not a horror fan. This may be an oversimplification — because there some films in this genre I do like — but in general, I feel like we have enough stress and disgust and shocks in real life. I feel the same way about scary rides at the fair. I’m not paying somebody good money to make me unhappy.

In some ways this is odd, I suppose, because when I was a kid — starting when I was 9 or 10 — I was a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. When I lived in Ecuador in the fifth and sixth grades, I had an hour ride on the bus either way. My friend Tony and I would sit in the back and tell each other the Poe stories we’d read, to while away the time.

Which reminds me. The creepiest of all Poe’s stories was “The Fall of the House of Usher.” I was very, very disappointed to see that Netflix was presenting a TV series with that title. The very straightforward story — the meat of the narrative takes place over a single evening, as I recall, although what goes before is creepy enough — lends itself in no way to a TV series. The only way you can do that is to hire some writers who are not Poe and have them cram a bunch of excess stuff into it. Worse, it appears to be one of those execrable “updates.” Enough said.

There are so many works in literature — such as my faves of recent years, O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturin series of novels — that call for that kind of treatment, that beg for it. The world would be such a better place if Hollywood would address that need. But no, it’s considered more profitable to ruin Poe.

You might say I’d change my mind if I watched it. That is possible, but extremely unlikely. And not worth wasting time on. I watch a lot of TV (and movies on TV), but I am selective, because I do have a life. If it looks extremely unlikely that I’ll like it, or learn anything from it, I spend the time instead on something that I’m pretty sure will be rewarding — there are enough things out there fitting that description to fill 100 lifetimes.

For that reason, I have never seen, for instance, “The Exorcist,” the anniversary of which is being so overcelebrated at the moment. I paid attention to the marketing at the time — the head-spinning, the floating above the bed, the especially gross vomiting — and moved on to other things.

So my body of experience producing this list is woefully inadequate. But I often find that I enjoy seeing what items y’all will name, and all of you are probably more knowledgeable about this than I am. So, to start a discussion, here goes:

  1. Psycho — You don’t get more classic than this, or more perfect. It might be Hitchcock’s best film, in addition to being the best horror film. Every touch is just right. Anthony Perkins is astounding, but of course the key scene is Janet Leigh naked in the shower. Doesn’t show much, but it’s pretty titillating for 1960. And it’s such a brilliant stroke to pull the viewers (the males anyway, especially the young ones) in with such a stunning woman in the altogether, and utterly shatter it with possibly the greatest “jump scare” in film history. By the way, I was inspired to write this post by a piece in the Post today assessing movies by the number of such “jump scares.” The writers seemed to think more is better. There are only three in this one — that I recall thinking back — and that’s just the right number: the shower scene, Martin Balsam climbing the stairs, and the final reveal about Norman’s mother. More than that would have ruined it.
  2. Dracula (1931) — Yep, I trend toward classics, and this, to me, is the very best of the great ones of the ’30s. It’s not about the blood, folks. It’s about the amazing creation and maintenance of a mood of dread and horror. Think of Dracula’s “brides” gliding across the room. That epitomizes what I’m talking about. That’s the essence.
  3. The Sixth Sense — This one would utterly fail that “jump scares” test I mentioned before. There’s really just one, at the end, and you build to it over the course of the film. And I’m not sure the intellectual realization of what’s been going on qualifies as such a “scare.” Probably not. Although at times it just feels like a Bruce Willis movie, only a bit darker, the kid who sees dead people keeps it in the horror genre throughout. Anyway, the director has been trying so hard for so long to be scary — even changing his middle name to “Night” when he was in college — that I feel like we should throw him a bone here.
  4. Alien — This was a great, ground-breaking sci-fi film, realistically depicting what extended life in space might conceivably be like, if it ever proves to be truly feasible. But in terms of plot, it was basically a haunted house story, and maybe the best ever. Also, it gave us Sigourney Weaver. Top that.
  5. The Walking Dead — This is why I added “TV shows,” parenthetically, to the headline. I felt obliged to include this as an illustration of when I was wrong for refusing to watch it for the longest time. I finally gave in and started, and was hooked — for six seasons. After watching the last episode of the sixth, I decided the writers had run out of ideas, and stopped. But there’s still a lot I love about it in those first seasons. Favorite character? Daryl Dixon, who adapted to post-apocalyptic life more smoothly than anyone. Least favorite character? Andrea, who never missed a chance to do the wrong thing and put her companions in danger. Finally, aside from this being a TV series, I debated most over including it because, is it really a horror movie? That whole genre seems a bit more like dystopian science fiction. But for awhile, I liked it. One reason why: Nobody says “zombie.” (I vaguely recall someone saying it and getting corrected once. Am I remembering that right?)

There are some honorable mentions in my limited repertoire, such as “An American Werewolf In London.” And if I had insisted on keeping the list to movies, the best of the zombie apocalypse genre was “28 Days Later,” which of course starts the same as “The Walking Dead.” And the same as the last great music video, “Party Rock Anthem.”

Some lists included “Young Frankenstein.” That is a great pick for any list — the best Mel Brooks movie by far — and if I included it in the five above, it would probably top the list. I love it. But I’m gonna be pedantic here, and admit it’s not a horror movie. It’s a brilliant comedy that mocks horror movies. That suggests another sort of list, which would include “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” (Or should those two be on a sub-sub-list, “musical horror comedies?” It’s difficult to say.)

Anyway, ideas?

‘Alien’ gave us Sigourney Weaver. Top that.

If you’re going to stock Halloween candy, stock THESE!

Just thought I’d mention this, in case any of y’all are purchasing agents for any retail stores operating in the Columbia area.

To help you plan ahead to next year.

I had a lot of things to do today, but my daughter was going to Walmart. I wanted to go with her, despite the workload, but I simply asked her to please, if they had any left, get me some of the above-pictured product: Brach’s Mellowcreme Pumpkins. And if they did, to get two bags.

This was an urgent request, because we only have three days left before any that are left disappear, to make room for the Christmas candy. I’ve mentioned this problem before.

And I haven’t found any in the last few days.

You’re probably thinking (if you’re still with me), Oh, those are all over the place! I see them everywhere I go…

No, you don’t. You may see bags that look somewhat like that, but those contain candy corn. There are millions of bags of that within a few miles of my house. I don’t know why. Do you like candy corn? Does anybody you know like candy corn? I doubt it. Because way back in August, when all this stuff appears at Walmart, there are plenty of pumpkins, and of course I always think (fool that I am), Oh, Halloween is months away! I’ve got plenty of time! So I maybe buy a bag when I’m there, but I fail to stock up.

Then, about this time of the season, I start getting panicky. And the Walmarts start running out of the good stuff, and only have candy corn. Well, and those bags of stuff called “Autumn Mix” — which are, just eyeballing the bags, maybe 20 percent pumpkin by mass. The rest is candy corn of various colors.

Something else you might be thinking at this point: Those pumpkins look like they’re made from the same stuff as candy corn, so don’t they taste a lot alike? Maybe they do. But more than a half-century ago, I did extensive research on this point. And I decided very early in life that I did not like candy corn. And from the time I was a toddler, people offered me a lot of candy corn, because it was one of the few kinds of mass-produced Halloween candy to which I was not seriously allergic.

Then, when I was a little older, my grandmother sent us a care package — probably when we lived in Ecuador and didn’t have access to such things, but maybe later. And it contained a bag of the pumpkins for me, and they were fantastic! And when I was back in this country, I conducted a great deal more research, sometimes eating like half a bag, or a whole one.

Which is kind of like Cool Hand Luke eating 50 eggs (why 50? Because it seemed like a nice, round number). I mean, it’s practically suicidal. I’m always happy to share my pumpkins with my wife, because I love her and would give her anything, and… because she never eats more than one. Why? Because she is a sane person. I’ve written before that these things possess “a density approaching that of a black hole,” and most of that is sugar, corn syrup and honey. First, they’re practically indigestible. Second, two of them could probably cause a diabetic coma among some people.

So, you know, I could repeat the experiments of my youth, but I’m 70 now, and want to live a little longer. Far as I’m concerned the science is conclusive.

And others must agree. because they buy up the pumpkins and leave the candy corn. And it seems the people who stock the stores never, ever notice this. I guess they’re too busy buying 12-foot skeletons, or whatever.

I keep mentioning Walmart. That’s because, aside from the Walgreen’s in Five Points (which used to be an auto parts store, and before that a Winn-Dixie), I haven’t seen them anywhere this year but at Walmart.

And I was at the Walmart out on Harbison a couple of days ago, and they were out. Hence my request to my daughter, who was going to a different one.

And when she texted me to tell me the closest thing she had found was “the mixture of pumpkins and candy corn” — Autumn Mix — I started brooding, and wrote this in my head while running my other errands.

First the Phillies lose the pennant, and now this.

But… when I got home, and decided to console myself with the last pumpkin or two in the cabinet, I opened it and… there were two bags of pumpkins.

Happy ending! So, you know, never mind. But seriously, why doesn’t everybody stock these, and stock a lot more of them?

Three of these boxes — at the Walmart in Harbison — contain candy corn. The other is Autumn Mix. Typical…

Just a little something upbeat. Enjoy…

Having read my various papers this morning, and finding nothing to write about that would make anyone feel better about anything, I’m going to share something I stumbled across last night, just before heading for bed.

I had opened the YouTube app on the Apple TV, and as always, it was offering me videos it thought I might like. One of them showed a young woman sitting at a piano. She didn’t look familiar, so I hadn’t watched anything featuring her before. The words appearing in the video frame said, “Ladyva’s Epic Boogie Woogie Piano Per…”

“Ladyva?” Did someone try to enter “Lady Gaga” and it got garbled? And when have I ever watched a Lady Gaga video? But what grabbed me was “Boogie Woogie.” But how would YouTube know that the only thing my fingers still retained from when I took guitar lessons as a kid in Ecuador was this one short boogie-woogie riff that my teacher taught me? (I remembered nothing else. He kept trying to teach me chords and I didn’t understand why, and didn’t learn them until years later, but the boogie-woogie stuck. Not that I play it well or anything.)

So I clicked on it, and wow. Just watch it. It should brighten your day.

My wife was already reading in bed, so I took my iPad to her and got her to watch it. And I told her, “If I could do that, I’d never stop doing it all day.” Not just the boogie-woogie. Obviously, this woman could play anything that came into her head, and improvise and just run all over the place with it, and how would that ever get old?

We have one person that I know of in our little community who can do things like that — Phillip Bush. So Phillip, how do you ever stop? Do your fingers cramp up, so you have to rest?

Still, until that happens — what joy!

Oh, one last thing. You see this was an “international” music event. So what nation do suppose Ladyva is from? Nope, not this one, even though this is where that kind of music came from. And not… well, you’re not going to guess, so I’ll just tell you.


Really. Obviously, not all Swiss music features yodeling. Mind you, I didn’t think that, being a worldly, cosmopolitan sophisticate, but some of you might have been thus misled by stereotypes.

Certainly, we all have access to the internet, even up in the Alps. People are exposed to all sorts of music. But where did she hone the skill to play this kind of music like that? Well, obviously, the roadways of Switzerland are loaded with juke joints. Who knew?

Anyway, enjoy…

A new ‘ray of hope’ on the House speaker front…

Y’all may have been bitterly disappointed that the “ray of hope” I offered you on the House speaker mess has still not led to a speaker of any kind, much less the kind we need — the kind who still possesses all his (or her) marbles. Or at least, one who had some marbles at some point in the past.

Why is this failing to happen? Because the yahoos who completely unnecessarily created this crisis are still bat-excrement crazy.

But now, one of our own is riding to the rescue:

Sure you might read that and say, Aw, Bryan’s just being a wise guy again!

But consider: He posted that at 10:22 this morning, and hasn’t retracted it yet! Give him a few more minutes, and his combined availability and viability will have lasted longer than that of any previous candidate.

And yes, he’s viable. Y’all know he’s a legit, Old School kind of conservative, only one with a sense of humor. And he’s also legit in the sense that you don’t have to be a member of the House to be speaker.

Also, he’s got this rare-but-wonderful qualification: You can tell he doesn’t really want the job. That makes him ideal in my book. I don’t think we’ve seen an opportunity like that since James Garfield in 1880.

Garfield went to the 1880 Republican convention to nominate someone else. And when the ballots dragged on, and people started nominating him as an alternative, he fought it for all he was worth. That, of course, made him such an appealing candidate that the delegates ended up nominating him unanimously.

OK, so Bryan’s not that perfect, since he’s willing. But let’s forgive him that, and see if we can get some momentum going for him. (It might take a bit of effort. After several hours, he’s only received three “likes” on his offer. Ahem…)

Because, you know, we’re long past holding our breaths for “perfect.” Sanity would be a tremendous blessing at this point.

And I think Bryan can settle down and deliver on that, if we give him a chance.

I mean really — what are our alternatives right now?

Blog posts gotta have pictures, so here’s one of the 1880 Republican Convention. Photographic proof that it the old party actually WAS once grand. Or at least functional. Wikipedia says that’s Garfield standing on the podium, about to speak…

Baseball needs the Phillies to win tonight!

Wet down your hair and WIN this thing!

Or at least, you know, I do.

As y’all may know, this is the only time of the year that I care about sports, so it’s pretty essential. And who could possibly care about a World Series between… the Texas Rangers (and not the Texas Rangers we used to cheer for in the old Westerns) and… I dunno, some team named for a type of rattlesnake?

Whereas the Phillies — well, they’re like, maybe, my third or fourth favorite team in baseball. When I was a kid I used to cheer for the St. Louis Cardinals, featuring Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Joe Torre, Bob Gibson and Tim McCarver, who — unknown to me at the time — would later be my cousin-in-law. But then, after I married his first cousin, Tim played for the Phillies. So, you know, they’re right up there.

Aside from that, they’ve been around since 1883. They’re a real professional baseball team. If anything in our troubled country is about tradition, it’s baseball. It really brings out my Tory sensibilities. I mean, when you’re talking baseball, I’m practically a Jacobite.

Of course, if you want to get all philosophical, in a fair and just universe, the Phillies wouldn’t be in it, either. In fact, there would be no “it” to be in. It’s obvious that the Braves are the rightful owners of the National League pennant (and the Orioles of the AL’s). I mean, consult the standings. There should BE no playoffs, unless two teams have tied records in the regular season. And nobody was even close to the Braves.

But there are playoffs. And now, since in a degraded America there is no baseball on any station I get on my TV until October, I confess that I’m a bit invested in them.

And the Phillies need to be in the World Series.

Hey, don’t listen to me. Check this piece from The Washington Post this morning: “The Phillies are what makes October baseball great. Can they win Game 7?

Consider some wisdom from that piece:

Here’s the thing: the 84-win Diamondbacks may be a nice team with some nice players. That’s cute. The Phillies? They have stars. They have thump. They make noise…

And therefore, the Phillies must not miss this opportunity:

It’s an opportunity that is important for Major League Baseball. Officials there can’t and won’t and shouldn’t say this, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true: It’s better for baseball if the Phillies win Tuesday. It’s better for baseball if the Phillies are in the World Series.

This is nothing against these Diamondbacks. “That’s a good team across the way,” Schwarber was quick to acknowledge. Corbin Carroll is the presumptive NL rookie of the year. Merrill Kelly, who shook off a shaky two-walk first inning to allow only one run in five frames, forms a nice tandem with Zac Gallen atop the rotation. Marte, who followed his triple off Nola with an RBI single in the seventh, is a dangerous switch hitter with, as Nola said, “lightning-fast hands.” They’re not bad….

This is about these Phillies and this time for their sport. The Phillies have Bryce Harper. The Phillies have Schwarber. Those two alone have combined for 10 bombs this postseason, several of the you’re-kidding-me variety. They did next to nothing Monday night. Their at-bats are must-watch….

For a sport that spends too much time having to prove or justify its popularity — or stave off the overblown narrative that it is “dying,” something that supposedly has been happening most of this century — it would be best served by having the best, most recognizable players playing the games deepest in October. In the National League, that’s unquestionably the Phillies….

I’d quote more, but the Post‘s lawyers are probably pounding on my door as you read this, crying out “Intellectual property! Intellectual property!”

Well, I’ve got your intellectual property right here… and I’m trying to share it with my readers. (Who knows? Maybe they’ll become subscribers.)

They, too, need to know what is at stake. They need to understand that the Phillies must win tonight. For the game. For baseball. For tradition. For America…

Got it?

Maybe this is why I like David Brooks’ work

I’ve said a lot of positive things about David Brooks over the years. I not only agree with the guy a lot, but I tend to wish I had written what he did. I feel like I should have written it. His thoughts just run that much in sync with my own.

I’ve never thought about why, but maybe this is why. Or part of why…

I’ve been enjoying this new app from The New York Times — NYT Audio. It’s particularly great for my walks around the neighborhood, a sort of supplement to NPR One.

Anyway, today’s NYT Audio offered something I haven’t heard before in that format. It was a piece by Brooks, read by himself, headlined “We’re Disconnected and Lonely. David Brooks Has a Solution.”

Early on in the short piece, he says:

My nursery school teacher told my parents, apparently, David doesn’t always play with the other kids. He just observes them, which was great for my life as a journalist, but maybe not great for having strong bonds and intimate connections…

Wow. I really, really identified with that.

Not that I didn’t play with the other children at that age. I did. But there was always that sort of theme in my childhood. Part of it was moving around all the time as a Navy brat. For awhile, I would observe this bunch of kids, and soon I’d move on and observe that bunch of kids, and so forth. And as much as I would enjoy their company, I wasn’t quite… one of them. Not quite.

And yeah, these are characteristics that lend themselves to the profession of journalism. In fact, I’ve noticed that it seems a lot of military brats end up in the trade, and I’ve always thought that characteristic had something to do with it. You know, the habit of observing a community of people rather than feeling fully a part of it.

I’ve also noticed that — it seemed to me (I’ve never tried to quantify it) — it seemed like more journalists were Jewish or Catholic than you would find in the surrounding population. In other words, they were used to looking at things in ways slightly different from the way the majority would. David Brooks isn’t a military brat, but he sorta-kinda fits in both of those other categories.

This tendency to be an observer rather than a participant can be problematic. When you share with other people something you have observed — particularly something outrageous, such as, say, having heard someone else say wildly racist things — they wonder what’s wrong with you that you didn’t react at the time. What did YOU do? they demand. And they have a point. They make me wonder, too.

But I still tend to look at the person asking that rather blankly. Because when confronted with something really wild and strange, I tend to simply observe more intently. I might even think, in frustration, I can’t take notes, however much I want to, without interfering with this phenomenon. Which I wouldn’t want to do, because it would change the nature of what was happening. And not necessarily for the better. Sure, it might make the person act differently, superficially in that moment. But I always want to know what he or she is really thinking.

Way back during my reporting days, I was conscious of that on the job. A lot of reporters feel at home in a press box, or otherwise labeled and sequestered. I never did, because I was conscious of the Observer Effect, which in one thing in physics, but in journalism could be stated as, If the newsmakers are aware that a reporter is present, they will act and speak differently, and the news will change. Sometimes, that can be a salutary thing. But if you really want to know what they’re thinking and doing, it is not.

Anyway, in recent years I have rethought this mode of being, as you have seen. And so has Brooks, and that is the larger point of his little recited essay. It’s not about him. It’s about the fact that just when he started trying to change and engage better with other people, he saw that people in the surrounding, observable world were getting more distant, less engaged and even more hostile toward each other.

Which caused him to resolve:

I’m going to double down on spending as much time as I can, as effectively I can, and seeing another person, in trying to understand their point of view, and trying to make them feel seen, heard, and understood…

The ending is sort of upbeat. On his effort to be more of a full human, “maybe I’ll give myself a B minus.”

Which is better than flunking…

Tiny rays of hope, here and there…

I posted this this morning:

No, it’s not much, is it?

The fact that the one of the worst representatives I can think of in the House — a guy whose name has long been one of the first mentioned in connection with the most insane, destructive developments in that dysfunctional body  — will not be speaker is hardly an indication that things are going well in our country. We are left with the fact that the overwhelmingly majority of the party that controls the House was willing and even eager to elevate him to that post.

But it does mean the worst has not happened — yet. Even though we were careening in that direction this past week. And it offers a tiny gleam of hope that the GOP will get sufficiently fed up with doing things this way that it will turn to some approach that a reasonable human being might take. What would that be? Well, the most obvious thing that would happen in a sane world is that enough of the GOP would work with Democrats to choose a consensus speaker. That would be the best thing for America, and for the hope that our system used to give the world.

A somewhat more likely scenario would be to simply settle on the interim speaker, Patrick McHenry. I don’t know nearly enough about him to know whether he would be a good speaker, but at least we have few indications so far that he would be a horrible one.

Sadly, that’s where we’ve been in this country since 2016 — trying to avoid the horrible. Remember back in the 2008 presidential contest, when the country was offered a choice between “good” and “better.” And I don’t really care which of them you think was the good, and which the better. We’d have done well with either of them.

A great country should have choices all the time — for president, for speaker, for whatever. But it’s been a while for us.

As for Gaza… No, a truck crossing a border to provide humanitarian aid is not in any way an indication that this crisis is anywhere near over. Quite the contrary… Much blood, much horror, much suffering still seem inevitable. But if there is to be a path toward peace and justice, things like this have to happen. So it’s good to see, after all these days in which nothing good has happened on the ground there.

Yep, these are tiny things, but they need to be welcomed, if we want to move in the right direction on anything…

Open Thread for Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Two weeks ago today, my family surprised me with an impromptu 70th birthday party at Riverfront Park. In my hand is a card containing the tickets to the awesome show mentioned below…

Yeah, I’ve been quiet lately. I’ve been sick for days. Had a negative COVID test, so I guess it’s something else. Still not over it, but I have been following the news…

  1. Biden Plans to Go to Israel as U.S. Pushes Aid Deal for Gaza — My hope and prayers go with him. It’s a horrible situation that promises to keep being horrible. My prayer is that he and his team can do or say something that will make it less horrible. I’m encouraged by both elements in that headline — Joe going there, and the push for humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, I’ve very worried about the signs of a larger conflict — such as incidents out of Lebanon and Jordan involving Hezbollah.
  2. Judge imposes limited gag order on Trump in election case — Not much to say about this, other than to wonder, “Why ‘limited’?”
  3. Republicans near vote on nominee Jim Jordan as House speaker — This reminds me. This morning, Nancy Mace tweeted, “Let’s give the American people what they want: Jim Jordan as Speaker.” My response was, “I’m assuming this is a joke of some kind, but I don’t get it…”
  4. The South Carolina gerrymandering case — I was sort of startled to see a picture of Dick Harpootlian pointing to some projected maps of South Carolina — at the top of an email from The New York Times. That had completely slipped by me several days earlier. I suppose it was played prominently by SC media — here’s a story from The State — but I had missed it. Anyway, there’s no decision yet, but the U.S. Supreme Court is sounding unsympathetic to a lower court’s view that the redistricting plan was “an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.” I hope I don’t miss it when a decision comes…
  5. And now some happy news — I was determined to shake off this cold or whatever on Saturday, because of things I didn’t want to miss. First, I enjoyed participating with members of my family in the Walk for Life early that morning, and then rested all afternoon before going to see Steve Martin and Martin Short at the Township. My kids had given us the tickets for my 70th birthday earlier this month. No, this isn’t news you can use, since the show was just for that night. But when I see somebody do a great job, I want to say something: This wasn’t just a trip down memory lane. These two guys — who could easily have phoned it in for the fans — put on a fantastic show, from start to finish. Both put as much comedic energy into this as back in the days when they unleashed “King Tut” and Ed Grimley upon the world. And they’re both older than I am. I was amazed, and pleased. Oh, and there was a bonus — the Steep Canyon Rangers were there!

Sorry. Nothing to say about Taylor Swift…

Here’s hoping that Jeffrey Collins and the AP don’t mind my posting this. That’s where the NYT got it…

DeMarco: Why I Live in a Small Town

The Op-Ed Page

The Main Street of Marion, S.C., via Google Maps Street View.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

Jason Aldean’s song, “Try That in a Small Town” has become yet another cultural battleground. Rather than talk rationally about what makes small-town living satisfying or depressing, each side has set up a caricature for the purpose of slamming it. I’ve read a number of commentaries, most by writers who have either never lived in small towns or have left them with nothing but harsh memories.

Here’s what I know about small towns: I’m glad I live in one. I came to Marion (population approximately 6,300, about 20 miles east of Florence) because I was obliged to; the state paid my medical tuition for three years of service in a health workforce shortage area. But I stayed because I wished to.

Jason Aldean via Wikipedia.

I realize this gives me a uniquely optimistic vantage of my small town. I came as a new doctor into a community that needed one. I was welcomed when I arrived, and have, for the most part, felt welcome here.

I think we can agree that small towns and big cities have their own particular attractions. If you want an easy commute, come to Marion, where mine is traffic-free and downright therapeutic, offering back roads where deer, ducks, herons, and bald eagles are not uncommon. If, on the other hand, you frequently crave late-night home delivery of premium-grade sushi, Marion will disappoint.

Most of the furor over the song derives from its ability to slide easily into each side’s narrative. For liberals, the song is a Lost Cause anthem. The fact that Aldean is a conservative who has not made a secret of his support for Donald Trump has fueled that assessment.

For conservatives, CMT’s pulling of the video is a perfect example of “wokeness” and cancel culture. The left, they would argue, is running out of actual examples of racism, so they invent them.

What some dislike, including myself, is the misplaced bravado in the song, the Hestonian “out of my cold, dead hands” vibe. But I think we need to give Aldean the same poetic license that we give hip-hop artists, who often purposely provoke with their lyrics (and then are rightly criticized). My other criticism would be that while the video shows people of all colors behaving badly, there are no black or brown people in the scenes showing the richness of small-town life.

Aldean is expressing an attitude more than a threat. He’s not planning to murder you if you cause trouble in his town, as some pearl-clutching liberals would have you believe. He’s pointing to a legitimate difference between small towns, not only in the South but in any region of the country, and larger cities.

Paul sent this view of Main Street, taken from almost the same vantage point as the one above.

Aldean’s song is built upon this truth: the structure of a small town makes it impervious to riots and mass violence. Almost everyone who lives in Marion has some connection to Main Street. We shop there regularly and know or are related to the business owners and employees, both black and white (Marion’s population is 70% African-American). We’ve watched them struggle and mostly survive the pandemic. It would be inconceivable for Marion’s citizens to burn down Main Street in protest of anything. Our connections to one another would douse our anger. It’s hard to throw a rock through a window when you know who is on the other side

Aldean’s song asks us to imagine what might have been accomplished if the George Floyd protests had been completely peaceful. BLM’s strength as a voice for the black community would have been immeasurably enhanced. In the aftermath of a year of well-organized, nonviolent marches against racial injustice, those who supported the January 6th Capitol riot would have had no cover. But instead, they have been able to successfully point to the lives lost and the billions in damage caused in the BLM protests as a defense, arguing that violence is an inevitable and necessary part of advocating for societal change.

The South will be forever stained by our history of racial hatred. Small towns in the South, were, and can still be, oppressive and racist. But my sense is that in 2023, the racial barriers that remain in this country do not vary significantly by zip code.

Small towns are, in some ways, better than they have ever been. Although many are poorer than they once were, they have never been more inclusive. My neighborhood, once completely white, is browning. I now have a retired black woman as my neighbor who has become a good friend for my wife and me. Many small towns are redefining their identities after the offshoring of their major manufacturing plants. I would counsel any young person, particularly an entrepreneur, to consider small town life. The internet has done much to ameliorate the isolation of rural places, and has given rural-based businesses a way forward.

So y’all come and visit. If, like me, you end up staying, you will be glad you did.

A version of this column appeared in the Sept. 1h edition of The Post and Courier, Pee Dee.

A Lyric Just in Time

I had a fun little exchange on Twitter with a friend a couple of weeks back, when he posted this quote:

Hey, it’s always fun when people start quoting Elvis Costello. For me, anyway.

So I listened to the song several times, and got to thinking about how that one line is more than just fun:

He stands to be insulted and he pays for the privilege

You know how I frequently make the point that it’s harder and harder to get the kind of people who ought to run for elective office to run anymore? Reading those books from the late 19th century lately has driven home the point so much more painfully. Why do we almost never see the likes of Teddy Roosevelt or James Garfield — or, to reach higher, Abraham Lincoln — step forward any more? Or for that matter, the extraordinary men who served under them, in key positions — John Hay, Elihu Root, Henry Cabot Lodge?

Well, I know why — because of 24/7 TV “news,” and more recently and intensely, social media. Things that climb all over you and mobs that can’t wait to cancel you for the most trivial things. Consequently, instead of people who set brilliant careers aside to give back to the country by sitting down with other serious people and working out the country’s real problems, you get people who don’t give a damn about any of that. They don’t want to work out problems with anybody. They just want to posture for their respective bases.

And to gain the “privilege” of doing this, they spend every moment between elections raising the money to pay for it.

I even felt a moment of gratitude today when I heard the House GOP had gone behind closed doors to nominate a new speaker. No strutting or posturing for the mob. And they came out with Scalise, which I think is better, or at least not as horrible, as the alternative. Which isn’t much to celebrate, of course.

Anyway, Elvis said it better than I have:

He stands to be insulted and he pays for the privilege…

I’ll close with the video:

Open Thread for Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Trying to get back into the swing here, while we’re all riveted by Israel’s situation:

  1. IsraelA unity government is formed, which is a good thing, and a continuation of the positive developments I wrote about last night. Meanwhile, photos and videos are emerging documenting the Hamas invaders’ atrocities — in case you needed such confirmation.
  2. Ukraine — Oh, and just so you know: The other war hasn’t gone away. Zelensky made a surprise visit to NATO headquarters today, as top defense officials representing members of the military alliance gathered to consider how many more weapons — and for how much longer — the West can give Ukraine in its war against Russia. I’m glad he went. And so far the news is good: Britain and Germany announced large packages of additional military assistance to Ukraine hours before the two days of meetings began.
  3. Speaker — The House GOP caucus backs Scalise. So we’ll see. A relatively positive development in an idiotic situation. But I just keep thinking, can you believe we’re still screwing around with this nonsense with what’s going on in the world.
  4. Tim ScottGeorge Will has a column saying Scott should drop out in favor of Nikki, who’s been gaining ground, and it’s a great point. It is desperately important to give anti-Trump Republicans someone to rally around. But now Scott is stepping up to say other things that need to be said, such as “I will always condemn antisemitism, appeasement and weakness on the radical left, but I will also call out weakness or confusion among conservatives as well.” So good for him. But this field needs sorting out, so that Trump can be stopped.
  5. Crypto — Speaking of nonsense… In case you’re following the… what’s that guy’s name?… Sam Bankman-Fried foolishness, I was drawn to this headline this morning: “Crypto was never more than a solution in search of a problem.” Yeah, that’s one way of putting it. In retweeting that, I said, “Crypto was the siren that called to people who didn’t understand what money was…” My impression is, if you could fall for this, you might also go for magic beans…
  6. Braves — But if you’d like a moment’s break from all the madness, watch the third game of the Eastern National League Division Series tonight. Did you see the Monday night game? Now that’s what I call some baseball — although when it’s all over, someone needs to give Harper some base-running lessons. I definitely want the Braves to win this, but under other circumstances (say, when they’re up against the Astros), I’m likely to cheer for the Phillies as well.


I stand with Israel

Why haven’t I posted in several days? Well, I’ve had a bunch of ideas, but they were all pretty lightweight, compared to what was happening in Israel. Pretty much everything we talk about in the political sphere seems pretty trivial… compared, again, to what’s happening in Israel.

So I’ve been reading, and listening. (As you know, I listen to a lot of podcasts and other items in audio form these days, mostly via NPR One and NYT Audio.) And I’ve been trying to decide what to say.

But with something this huge, there’s an awful lot to sort out. Only two things seem to be clear:

First, I know that from the moment the headline of this post is published, many friends on the left (not all, but many) will leap to correct me. They will shake their fingers and their heads at my simplistic failure to perceive the terrible injustices visited upon the Palestinian people. They don’t understand that I have heard, and I have perceived, and I have cared, and I have sympathized — over and over and over since the 1970s, and really since the Six-Day War, which happened when I was 13. Before that, you would have been on point to say that I really wasn’t aware. I remember thinking in 1967, “What is this ‘Mideast’ I keep hearing about?”

If you’ll allow me this small digression, probably the most eloquent evocation of the Palestinian cause I’ve ever encountered was in John le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl. If you haven’t read that, you should — or at least see the 1984 film, or the 2018 TV series, both of which are excellent. The novel came out in 1983. I was pretty deeply impressed at the way le Carre’s Israeli intelligence officers recruited a young woman who had hung around the edges of the Palestinian movement to be their agent, to infiltrate a terrorist bomber’s cell. They wanted her passion for the cause. They wanted her to be believable to supremely suspicious people. They fed her indignation toward Israel. Of course, in the end she laid her life on the line to accomplish the Mossad mission, because she wasn’t too far gone to understand that no cause could justify what this bomber was doing.

Which brings me back to the first clear point I wanted to make: No grievance, no bitterness, no cause in the world justifies what Hamas did on Saturday morning.

The second point that is clear: Israel, so long distracted by its own stupid internal squabbles, must act to make its country and its people safer. It won’t be easy. They’re up against an enemy that will do anything and everything possible (if you don’t believe it, see what they did on Saturday) to make Israel come out of this in an even worse situation that it is in now — starting with executing the innocent men, women, children and babies they took as hostages.

The Washington Post summarized the situation, and the difficulty of it, fairly well in an editorial I read this morning:

That is much easier said than done, of course. Israel has a right to defend itself, which, in this context, also means a right to take the fight to Hamas in Gaza, as the United States had a right to go after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Support, solidarity and sympathy for Israel and its people, and condemnation of Hamas, expressed by everyone from President Biden to the European Union to the United Arab Emirates to Bono, U2’s frontman and international humanitarian activist, could be the Jewish state’s greatest assets. The Israel Defense Forces, embarrassed at being taken by surprise, has an opportunity not only to regain the military advantage but also — in limiting collateral damage — to demonstrate the moral difference between a terrorist group such as Hamas and a professional army…

Yes, that’s what we have here — a fight between a state of great military might that must deal with an enemy that is geographically intertwined with its own population, and do it while limiting collateral damage. Those last three words are in no way a handicap to the enemy, of course. As in so many attacks over these decades, on Saturday the innocent were the targets, and in no way collateral.

And that fact is as clarifying as anything. Israel must make it stunningly clear that Hamas has not gained from what it has done, and will see doing it again as madness. And yet still be the good guys. Which is very tough in the best of circumstances, against such an enemy.

If there is an upside to all this, it is that Israel’s internal turmoil seems to be on hold. Many members of the IDF and security services had increasingly and rightly signaled a diminishing willingness to serve a country that followed a leader who was determined to undermine liberal democracy. But they’ve come unquestioningly to their duty at this moment. This should shame the leader, and others, who have tried to pull the country down from within.

But that’s for later, as are the inevitable questions about how Israeli security failed to prevent this attack. There’s a bigger, and more urgent, matter before everyone now.

I’m going to stop now, and in the coming days I’ll probably post about more trivial things. So I’ll come back to my initial, simple point, which I expressed in a retweet of something Beth Bernstein tweeted:

The latest in a long series of idiotic things to happen in the United States House of Representatives

I don’t have a lot to say about Kevin McCarthy losing his position as speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Or at least, nothing coherent. How can one say anything coherent about any event that features the following?

  • According to Florida Man, a.k.a. Matt Gaetz — you remember him — McCarthy had to go because he joined with Democrats to keep the government running. So what did Gaetz do about it? He joined with Democrats to bring down McCarthy. Have I got this right? I hope to learn that I don’t… (I already said this on Twitter, and Bryan said, “That’s about the size of it. However, it seems his plan did not have a ‘Step Two’.”)
  • Note the part of that last bullet, where I said “joined with Democrats to keep the government running.” Which is sort of what the overwhelming majority of both parties would tell you was not only a good thing, but kind of the lowest-bar description of what McCarthy’s job was.
  • I listened to a long explanation on the NYT’s Daily (or maybe it was the NYT’s Headlines podcast; I heard them both back to back) of why the Democrats didn’t decide to save McCarthy’s job. My attention may have wandered, because I don’t remember hearing the most obvious one: He told the Yahoo Caucus they could go ahead and try to impeach Joe Biden, although we have yet to hear any sort of basis for such a proceeding.
  • Continuing on that last item… If you’ll recall — or at least, this is what I heard people saying at the time — McCarthy didn’t launch an impeachment investigation because he’s crazy (although he may very well be, since he actually wanted this job, badly.) He did it to mollify the Yahoo Caucus ahead of the budget talks. It was, as I understood it, a way of dangling a slimy new toy in front of them to distract them while he made like Mommy and Daddy and worked with other grownups to keep the government running.
  • Wait, still on that impeachment thing… So, now that McCarthy is out, and the government has for the moment been saved from shutting down, the silly impeachment game has been shut down, and all its participants urged to go find something useful to do with their time — right? Wrong. At least, I haven’t heard that. But this has never happened before, so I suppose anything can happen at this point, as long as it’s not something that makes sense.
  • Nancy Mace was one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy. Did she do it because she’s one of the eight biggest yahoos in that body? Or did she do it because she’s secretly a Democrat? No on both, I think. The only explanation I’ve seen of her behavior was unclear, and seemingly based on some personal beef.
  • One more thing, and then I’m going to take a nap: That unforgivable deal of McCarthy’s to keep the government operating only lasts until the middle of next month. Meanwhile, I don’t think Patrick “Give me McLiberty or give me McDeath” McHenry can do anything about making a new deal. So…

That’s all for now…

Now, Sherrod is siccing President Bartlet on me!

No doubt this will happen next: He’ll call me into the Oval Office, and I’ll look like this. But with hair…

This is a follow-up, perhaps a sort of caveat, to my previous post. It shows you what happens when you start caring, even a little bit, about congressional contests in other places.

Some time ago, still enjoying the new experience of making (tiny) contributions to political campaigns (which followed close on my new practice of posting signs in my yard — another thing I couldn’t do as a newspaperman), I carelessly contributed five dollars to Mark Kelly.

Call it a foreshadowing of my abandonment of the long-held principle of not caring about, much less meddling in, other people’s business. Although I wasn’t there yet. This was different. It was the special election to replace my hero John McCain, and Kelly was both a retired Navy captain (like McCain, and like my Dad) and an astronaut. I couldn’t give to my other hero John Glenn, so this was the next best thing. Godspeed, Mark Kelly, and all that.

Why five dollars? Because that’s all he asked for. Of course, I knew this was a come-on from his fund-raisers, and it would lead to lots of pleas for much more money, but I did it anyway.

And he won. No doubt my half a sawbuck played a big role in the victory.

And of course, the pleas came. And as usual, I ignored them. But then one day, he (or rather, ActBlue, his fundraiser) came up with a neat gimmick. They asked me to give $5 again, and simultaneously give another fiver to Sherrod Brown in Ohio. I had a vaguely positive impression of Brown, and I thought it was a mildly interesting pitch, and I guess I was feeling flush that day, so I did it.

The result was predictable, but Sherrod (I hear from him so often, we’re on a first-name basis) turned out to be the most extremely persistent political panhandler I’d ever encountered, putting Capt. Kelly in the shade, and then some.

Of course I got the usual emails, but his main oeuvre is the phone text. I frequently get three texts a day from him. I’ve never seen anything like it. And yes, I know I could turn off the flow, but I find it an interesting phenomenon to observe. Not that I intend to give him any more money.

I keep expecting him (or ActBlue) to realize that and move me off the list, but instead, he’s stepped it up, bringing out the big guns. And I mean big.

Now — apparently having learned that I’m a sort of South Carolina Toby Ziegler — he has sicced President Bartlet himself on me! In the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten two texts like this:

Hi, Brad, it’s Martin Sheen. You might not know this about me, but I was born & raised in Dayton, Ohio, and am the seventh of 10 kids born to two immigrant parents in search of the American dream.

I deeply admire Sherrod Brown because he has always fought for Ohio families like mine – he makes me proud to be a Buckeye.

But Sherrod is facing his toughest reelection yet against multiple self-funding GOP challengers who are ready to spend millions of dollars attacking him. He needs our help to win. So please, will you join me & chip in $15 or more today so that Sherrod can keep fighting for us in the Senate? sherrodbrown.com/martinsheendonate

Thank you,

Martin Sheen

He even threw in a little video:

What am I gonna do now? Has he finally found the button that will cause me to cough up a tiny bit more cash?

It serves me right, for meddling in other people’s campaigns. I’ve been rewatching “The Wire” in recent days, and I know what Bunk would tell me: “There you go, giving a flip when it ain’t your turn to give a flip.”

That’s the cleaned-up version of the original, of course….

P.S. — Why a P.S.? Because there seems to be no button on this post for leaving a comment. I’ll figure that out later. Now, I just want to say COOL YOUR JETS, SHERROD! First, I get an email from him saying he’s “statistically tied” and “This can’t wait, Brad…” Then I get a text from him that says Urgent, in boldface, twice. WITH THE ELECTION A YEAR AWAY! These were both today, Oct. 31. Oh, and my phone dinged while I was typing this. Mark Kelly, this time…

OK, these people should no longer hold office

EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote the first 600 words or so of this a week ago, and ever since then, I’ve been totally absorbed with other things — first, a project I needed to complete for ADCO, and then, a very fun trip my wife and I took to Asheville. We got back late yesterday. Of course, it’s still timely, so I thought I’d add an ending to it and post.

I know some of y’all think I’m a really stubborn, arrogant guy who never changes his mind. Not so.

Here’s an example, from yesterday:

Y’all may be familiar with my views on worrying about who holds what congressional seat in a district somewhere else in the country. I don’t approve of it. I think I initially decided this in connection with the fact that folks where I lived — either when I lived here, or in Tennessee or Kansas — would run off at the mouth about how they hated, say, Ted Kennedy. I decided that it was none of their business whom the people of Massachusetts chose to elect to represent them in the Senate.

And you can’t say that without also believing that it was none of other people’s business whether South Carolinians wanted to keep re-electing Strom Thurmond. The whole point of representative democracy is that people in each state — who may have different sets of values — get to elect whomever they want.

Therefore I’ve always harrumphed at people trying elect the people they want in other people’s states and/or districts.

And I still see it that way. But I had just really had it with the yahoos in question. Y’all know how much I despise these stupid, repeated fights over the budget in which nihilists who hate our country threaten to shut down the government, or actually do it, simply because they can. And the Garland thing was so deeply offensive to anyone who values this country or believes in the most basic demands of civility. And while I haven’t taken the roll and compared all the names, it’s basically the same sort of people.

But however much it irritates me, I don’t change policies for personal reasons. I came to this fork in that road (and took it, as Yogi would say) because this country can’t continue to function with these people in these positions. We’re just sinking lower and lower, and our liberal democracy is ceasing to function to such an extent, that these people who live to destroy can’t be in these positions any more.

They just can’t. This is not about party (and usually in the past, people were concerned about who won contests elsewhere because they wanted their party to control Congress). And it’s not about ideology, in any conventional sense. Traditionally, ideology’s role in politics was to drive debates between people who all wanted the good of the country, but disagreed over how that might be obtained.

But in the last few years — mainly since the Republican Party ceased to be the Republican Party in 2016 (it had been creeping that way for several years, but 2016 was the final explosion) — we’ve seen the emergence of a new sort of creature, slouching towards Washington. At this point, one of my more cynical friends will offer a list of people from history who ran for office because they were out for themselves. Certainly. And we still see such people. Currently, this Menendez guy is charged with being one.

But this is different. I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the cheap Trumpist hustlers of the House are people who are in office because they represent any sort of consensus of views in the places where they come from. I mean, I know that Westerners aren’t nearly as refined as us East Coast types (ahem), but I don’t think Lauren Boebert is in any way a fair representative of…

SECOND EDITOR’S NOTE: The rest is what I added this evening, in order to finish this.

… Colorado. I mean, that’s where John Denver hung out, and he was a pretty normal and pleasant guy, for the most part. Just an ol’ country boy.

And why do people who are not normal or representative get elected? Well, when you’re talking about the House — and we are here — the problem, as I’ve said again and again, is gerrymandering. Both parties have worked hard to draw themselves as many safe districts as possible since 1990, and the Republicans have been way more crafty at it than Democrats (although not everywhere, but I’ve never lived in New York).

Crafty, but not very smart on an individual basis. In 1990, you were dealing with fairly normal, garden-variety Republicans. It was before Newt Gingrich, before Club for Growth types such as Mark Sanford, before the Tea Party, and before You Know Who.

But over the next few decades, those “safe” seats elected “Republicans,” alright, but not the kind that Robert A. Taft would recognize. And the center-right folks found themselves getting knocked out of office in their own primaries by extreme yahoos who didn’t have to appeal to a majority of people in the district — just to a majority of the small minority that turned out for party primaries. And sometimes, the yahoos themselves got tossed out by more extreme yahoos.

And so we got to where we are now.

Now I’m not saying we need to round these people up on buses and drive them out of the country, as poetic as that might be.

I prefer to start reversing the process. Serious redistricting reform, combined with something like ranked-choice voting, and (my fave) the universal primary — in which everyone seeking an office runs in one primary, regardless of party, and the top two go on to the general.

That wouldn’t fix things immediately, but it would be the most lasting solution.

However we do it, though, these folks have got to go. I’m not particular as to where they go, as long as they’re no longer running our country. Send them to a resort, if you want…

FINAL EDITOR’S NOTE: Yeah, I saw Congress reached a deal to keep the government operating… for 45 days. Call me crazy, but I really, truly believe we’re going to need it to keep going somewhat longer…

McCarthy is SO proud he led the House to keep the country going for a few more days. Are you proud, too?

Asa Hutchinson in Columbia today

This afternoon, the Post & Courier held one of its Pints & Politics events at J’s Corner Restaurant & Bar (where Jaco’s used to be). It was sponsored by AARP.

It was the first one of these I’ve attended. I went because the guest was Asa Hutchinson, and I’d been wanting to hear him speak since reading a favorable column about him in The Boston Globe, after he had met with that editorial board recently. The headline was “New Hampshire, please consider Asa Hutchinson.”

I don’t live in New Hampshire, but I’ve considered him now, based on little beyond that column and hearing him this evening. So I’m just getting started, but I will say that he is now my favorite Republican candidate for president. Which, of course, isn’t saying much, but if Chris Christie wants to recapture the top spot on my Top Five Least Awful Republican Candidates list, he’s going to have to do a lot better.

Of course, you know Joe Biden’s my guy, and nobody else comes close. But Hutchinson is the least objectionable Republican, and that’s important to me. I keep dreaming of having another No Lose election like 2008, when I would have been happy to see either McCain or Obama in office. (I can dream, can’t I?) That involves, and the very least, having someone unobjectionable run against Joe.

And I must say I kind of actually like Hutchinson. I have a few objections to him, but the thing is, he seems to be a real Republican, a normal human being who isn’t out to destroy America. He talks about his admiration for Nixon and Reagan — neither of whom is a fave of mine, but I’d give a lot to have either of them before You Know Who, or any of his many imitators.

So I’ll be watching. In the meantime, I shot a few random minutes of video near the start of his conversation with Schuyler Kropf and Caitlin Byrd, and you see it above. Caitlin asked him for his “stump speech,” but they either got off-track on that, or he has the shortest stump speech I’ve ever heard.

Beyond that, a few points from the few notes I took:

  • When I mentioned that I had objections, that mostly came from when Caitlin asked him to rattle off in 30 seconds what he would do first if elected. He immediately mentioned some please-the-base stuff, starting with immigration. Of course, maybe she should have allowed him more than 30 seconds, so he could branch out more. Whatever, that was the low point.
  • One of the best things was that while he wasn’t shouting “I’m a Never Trumper!,” it’s fairly clear he comes pretty close, saying things like “Is that who we want to lead our country into the future?” He sees his mission as making the case that we need to go in another direction. As for the multiple indictments, he was very mildly critical of the case against Trump in Georgia, but that’s mainly because, as a former U.S. attorney himself, he thought Georgia should have sat back and let the federal indictments run their course.
  • Another fave moment for me — possibly because I’m still plodding through, but enjoying, Theodore Rex (I just moments ago finished reading about the Perdicaris affair in 1904, which “The Wind and the Lion” was very roughly based on) — was when Caitlin asked him to name his favorite president who was not named Reagan. He picked TR without having to think too hard. So bully for him!
  • Asked about Mitt Romney’s retirement and his copout comment about stepping aside for the “next generation,” Hutchinson — who is three years older than I am — had pretty much the same reaction I did. I didn’t get the whole quote, but he has the same impression of the GOP’s “next generation” that I do. He specifically mentioned Matt Gaetz, so….
  • I could have used a lot more talk about world affairs, beyond his discussion of drug trafficking from south of the border (based on his having headed the DEA — yeah, this is a guy with actual experience in federal government) and some generally positive statements about Ukraine. That is, that he’s for “standing with freedom against oppression.”
  • When Schuyler asked him what non-religious book he had on his bedside table, he said on this trip he’d been reading Abraham Lincoln’s Cooper Union speech. Not exactly a book, I guess, but much better reading than anything certain other people have ever tackled.
  • Being in South Carolina, he said some nice things about Nikki Haley. A bit too nice, I thought, when he praised her international experience.
  • On the other hand, I liked what he said about Henry. As you may know, Hutchinson got his bachelor’s degree from Bob Jones University. (Asked why, he said his pastor back in Arkansas had recommended it.) Then, he had intended to get his Juris Doctor from USC Law School, but ended up at the University of Arkansas School of Law. He speculates that had he stayed here, he would be governor of South Carolina, not Henry. I mean, he was just joking around, but it struck me as a fairly pleasant idea.
  • And while I don’t want to completely destroy his already-slim chances, he even sounded a bit like a Democrat a couple of times, for what it’s worth. For instance, he said some folks want to raise the age for receiving Social Security, but he thinks “how about the construction worker,” whose strength is not likely to hold up until 70? Bottom line is, he sounded overall like a center-right pol, from in the non-crazy days when the two parties weren’t all that far apart. In other words, he’s a Republican. And with Mitt Romney, John McCain and Lamar Alexander out of the picture (and Lindsey Graham now living on the far side of Alice’s Looking Glass), that makes him rare.

That’s it for now. I’ll be watching this guy as things progress.