Open Thread for Monday, October 16, 2017

What's this? I don't know. The category was "Any other meritorious vegetable," which cracked me up.

What’s this? I don’t know. The category was “Any other meritorious vegetable,” which cracked me up.

Some random topics:

  1. I recommend the pork chop-on-a-stick — Have you been to the Fair yet? What did you eat? I tried the pork chop-on-a-stick, and it was really good, once I removed the stick — about 3/4 thick, nicely grilled and tender. It may have been the most normal Fair food I’ve every tried. Goes well with Fiske Fries…
  2. Scientists detect gravitational waves from new kind of nova, sparking new era in astronomy — This is pretty old news: It happened 130 million years ago. Still, the science boffins are excited.
  3. Iraqi Forces Seize Kirkuk, in Blow to Kurdish Separatists — This is a real mess. For whom should we root? Normally, I abhor separatism. But the Kurds have been worthy allies, and they’ve taken a lot of grief from their neighbors. Should they have their own homeland?
  4. Deserter Bergdahl pleads guilty — And what a long, strange trip it’s been.
  5. Trump stumps for McMaster in Greenville — This hasn’t happened yet as I write, but I put it on here in case y’all want to talk about it.

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Joe Biden on James Smith

Biden at the Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting in 2006.

Biden at the Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting in 2006.

Seeing that Jim Hodges had become the latest Democratic heavyweight to endorse James Smith for governor reminded me that I meant to go back and read the P&C’s story in which Joe Biden explained why he’s backing Smith.

It’s not just because James led the unsuccessful Draft Biden effort in SC before last year’s election.

Here’s hoping the Charleston paper doesn’t mind if I share a good-sized chunk:

Why Biden is backing Smith: “I have met a lot of guys in my career … but this is a guy, I swear to God, that I would trust with anything. This is a guy who I watched, he never puts himself before anybody else.”

“He’s not about tearing the house down. … I look at him and I think this is a guy with the energy, the integrity, the experience that can really have South Carolina get up and start to walk.”

How Smith reminds Biden of his son: He said Smith possesses the sense of duty of his late son, Beau, who passed on taking his father’s Senate seat when Biden become vice president to remain Delaware’s attorney general. Both younger men went on military deployments to the Middle East while in political office.

“They’re kindred spirits. … I know it sounds corny but it comes down to honor, duty and again the guy (Smith) has all tools. He knows the issues. His instincts are right. He thinks you should be able to make a billion dollars if you could, but you ought to take care of people and just give everybody a chance.

“I remember saying to him once that I thought that one of the problems with the elites in both our parties, we don’t have a lot of faith in ordinary people any more. And James started talking about his grandfather and great-grandfather (working class men from poor backgrounds). Ordinary people can do extraordinary things if you give them half a chance. I’m convinced he believes that.”…

Sounds like he knows James. There’s a bunch more, just overflowing with Joe-ness, if you want to go read the whole piece.

I’m still waiting to hear who’s backing Phil Noble. He must be responding to something going on in the party; I’m just not sure what. I didn’t know there was a sizable contingent of Democrats who didn’t like James. I need to learn more…

Open Thread for Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Perdicaris alive, or Raisuli dead!"

“Perdicaris alive, or Raisuli dead!”

A few topics to consider:

  1. Trump threatens to abandon Puerto Rico recovery efforts Really? What a petulant child… In the same vein, how about his threat to NBC?… He is just so embarrassing…
  2. Jeff Duncan worries admitting girls will ‘destroy’ Boy Scouts — Well, I guess they’ll have to change the name, anyway. Meanwhile, the Girl Scouts are steamed. It all seems pretty odd to me. But what do I know? I never made it past Tenderfoot.
  3. Dueling Confederate flag controversies — First, go read Cindi’s column. Then, consider this: I think her points are mostly sound, but it seems to me the Orangeburg guy might have a case to make that his neighbor’s actions are lowering his property value and possibly even putting him in danger. I’d be particularly interested in what you lawyers would think of that.
  4. American woman and famly freed in Pakistan after 5-year hostage ordeal — And why didn’t I know about this before now? I guess because nowadays presidents don’t go around saying things like “Perdicaris alive, or Raisuli dead!” Then we would have heard about it!
  5. Spain asks Catalonia: Did you declare independence or not? — Good question. And from there we should be able to have a good discussion about separatism in general. For my part, I don’t hold with it.
  6. Trump signs order to eliminate Affordable Care Act insurance rules — Hmmm. Maybe it’s just me, but I have this vague memory of Republicans thinking it was really, really bad for Obama to do things administratively that he couldn’t get done through legislation…
  7. Happy real Columbus Day! — Never mind the controversies, which to me are neither here nor there. Just enjoy the cartoon. (And yes, I know that everybody knew the world was round, and that Columbus was wrong about how big it was. It’s just the untrue story is funnier.)…

Help! We’re being buried under an avalanche of populist cliches!

Yow! I just watched this short video at thestate.com. Someone needs to contact the Guinness people, because this has to be the record for the most populist cliches packed into a minute and seven seconds.

Wait, the phone’s ringing… It’s 2010 Nikki Haley, and she wants her Tea Party speech back…

Let’s just hope the rest of the speech, whenever and wherever it was delivered, was way, way better than this. Because you know, she could get elected, and we’d have to hear this stuff for four years. Again…

Templeton

Why should we sell Santee Cooper, especially now?

Santee Cooper

Today’s story in The State told us that lawmakers want the governor to hold up a bit and loop them in on talks about selling Santee Cooper.

What they did not address, at least to my satisfaction, is the larger question: Why sell Santee Cooper?

In the normal course of things, it seems an idea worth exploring: Why should the state operate a utility, now, in the 21st century? We’ve pretty much made it through the rural electrification phase of our development.

But in the context of the current scandal over the nuclear plant fiasco, it makes less sense. To me, anyway.

I mean, isn’t everybody kind of ticked off that Santee Cooper — and SCANA — were out of control on this thing?

Wouldn’t the natural reaction under such circumstances be to think, “Hey, we own Santee Cooper. Since we own it, we can get it under control.” If the current laws and regulations don’t allow for that kind of control — and it appears they don’t — then change the laws and regulations.

But don’t sell it off to some out-of-state conglomerate that won’t give a damn what we want the utility to do and to be.

Isn’t there something kind of irresponsible in state officials wanting to wash their hands of the utility at this particular moment? Isn’t this kind of a backwards reaction?

There’s probably a flaw in my thinking on this that is obvious to everybody but me. Please, somebody explain it to me…

Smith won’t get free ride to nomination after all

After a long period in which it looked like the Democrats might not have anyone running for governor at all, James Smith threw his hat in the other day.

And then, as tends to happen, someone else is jumping in, too:

Charleston businessman Phil Noble becomes the second Democrat to enter the 2018 race for South Carolina governor, joining state Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, in vying for the party’s nomination.

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

Noble is president of South Carolina New Democrats, a group founded by former S.C. Gov. Richard Riley, and a longtime Democratic activist.

South Carolina is “an amazing state with terrific potential, but a broken, dysfunctionally corrupt state government is keeping us from having all the things we ought to have,” Noble told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Noble, who has yet to file with the state Election Commission, will make a formal announcement on Wednesday. Smith announced his candidacy on Thursday….

I was going to refer you to the video interview I did with Phil back when he sought his party’s chairmanship in 2011, but the embed code isn’t working. If I get it up and running, I’ll share it so that y’all will know a bit more about him.

In the meantime… he and James might not be the only ones seeking their party’s nod next year. I’ve heard another name or two murmured out there. But so far, there’s nothing like the active, crowded bunch clamoring for the GOP nomination — despite the fact that the incumbent is Republican…

Only hours left to join the blog team, fight breast cancer!

No, you don't have to dress like this. But you WILL get a T shirt...

No, you don’t have to dress like this. But you WILL get a T shirt…

And when I say “hours,” I mean fewer than 24!

So save me from being a team of one. Come on out and help your community fight breast cancer.

If you don’t want to join my team, join another one. Or, if you can’t walk, just kick in a contribution. In any case, the deadline is noon Wednesday.

Click here to help.

Or, you can click on the button:

CLICK HERE

And this one doesn’t even bother MENTIONING his state

You want to see a more extreme version of what I showed you yesterday, this one from the left rather than the right?

Check this out, and see if you can tell what makes it a more extreme example of what I’m on about:

Dwight Evans for Congress

Brad —

Since Trump’s first day in office, his attacks on women have been relentless. His administration and the GOP have now:

  1. Rolled back Title IX regulations.
  2. Denied access to birth control.
  3. Attempted to criminalize abortion.
  4. Tried to deny healthcare for women and children.

If this isn’t a war on women, I don’t know what is — but it won’t go unchallenged.

For decades, Congressman Evans has been on the front lines fighting for women’s rights and our freedom to make our own choices. But recently, the Trump administration stripped away birth control from millions of women — and Dwight needs our help now more than ever to fight back.

When it comes to a woman’s personal and reproductive health, it shouldn’t be up to politicians, bosses or anyone else. If you agree, sign the petition to demand the Trump administration keep their hands off our birth control today.

Women rely on birth control for countless reasons like endometriosis, controlling (often painful) hormonal conditions, and family planning. This ill-conceived decision to roll back the Affordable Care Act’s mandate will not only make contraception unaffordable for 55 million women across the nation, it takes away a woman’s right to plan for her future.

During October, the month that women are reminded to take special care of our health, the Trump administration managed to find yet another way to sabotage us. It’s completely unacceptable, we will fight this at every turn.

Will you stand with me, Dwight, and women across the country and demand the Trump administration keep their hands off birth control? Sign the petition now.

Thank you for standing up,

Mary Kate

Mary Kate Clement
Finance Director
Dwight Evans for Congress

That’s right. The entire release didn’t bother even to mention the state or district he seeks to represent — or in his case, to continue to represent. It’s Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District, FYI, located in Philadelphia.

(Oh, and in case anyone’s having trouble digging my point — no, I’m not saying he is more extreme, in terms of political views, than that woman yesterday. That would be pretty tough, since she’s all about being as extreme as she can be. No, my point, which should be perfectly obvious, is that he takes the all-politics-is-national madness a step further than she did. She, at least, mentioned Tennessee. In passing. Once…)

His website touts his interest in “a stronger Philadelphia, block by block,” which certainly sounds like he’s embracing Tip O’Neill’s dictum about politics being local. But in reaching out to the rest of the country for money — that is, to a subset of a subset of the rest of the country, carefully whittled and shaped by an algorithm — he demonstrates no interest at all in Philadelphia.

On the website, he wants to talk about “a plan or America’s cities,” “creating good jobs” and “investing in public schools.” Not a word in those main headings about the single issue that he’s reaching out on in this fund-raiser.

And of course, the people he’s trying to reach with this email don’t care a fig (at least, in his estimation of them) about any of those issues. That’s the thing that sort of blow me away about the email. It seems to suppose that Donald Trump was just fine until he weighed in on the part of the ACA that forces employers to offer birth-control coverage.

Never mind the way the guy has disgraced the office of president since Day One. Never mind his taunting North Korea, or withdrawing from the TPP, or pulling the U.S. out of the Paris accord, or his grossly irresponsible and indiscriminate attempts to destroy the ENTIRE Affordable Care Act, as opposed to this one small part of it.

But that, presumably, is all his recipients care about. He is, without apparent shame, trying to exploit the lack of perspective of single-issue voters.

Which makes me wonder, as I wondered with that Marsha Blackburn email, how did I get on this list? If he thinks that’s what I care about, and all I care about, he don’t know me very well, do he?

I say that for a number of reasons, not the least of them being: I couldn’t care less who represents the 2nd Congressional District in Pennsylvania, and wouldn’t lift a finger — much less write a check — to affect the outcome.

Why? Because it’s none of my business. I live in South Carolina.

Dwight Evans

Tip O’Neill would not know this world we live in

Marsha Blackburn saying she's politically incorrect and PROUD OF IT. Yee-haw...

Marsha Blackburn saying she’s politically incorrect and PROUD OF IT. Yee-haw…

Almost from the moment Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local,” the statement has been less and less true.

Now, we can confidently say the opposite: No matter how local a race should be, it’s all about the national. Rather than deciding on local issues, such as who is more likely to get the potholes filled on Main Street, all we hear about is the idiotic talking points of left and right from within the Beltway.

A couple of months back, I got on a list. I’m not sure how, but I did. And I know I did because I started getting a new sort of email — appeals for funding to help poor Joe Arpaio, to elect Judge Roy Moore, to poke the GOP Establishment in the eye, to elect this or that person representing the Bizarro wing of the Republican Party, the atavistic fringe that gave us Trump.

It’s been like seeing a portal suddenly open to an alternative universe where the most unlikely of propositions are treated as truth, and everybody’s got a big chip on the shoulder about it.

I’m not sure who is the link between them all. Occasionally there’s a “personal” note from Ed Rollins, and maybe he’s somehow connected to the others; I don’t know. But there’s definitely a sameness to the messages and rhetoric.

Here’s a typical one that came in today:

Friend,

Have you heard? I announced that I’m running for the U.S. Senate and I’m asking for the support of strong conservatives like you.

The Senate is totally dysfunctional. And I’ve decided to do something about it. Too many Senate Republicans act like Democrats. Or worse. And that’s what needs to change. Will you chip in $25 to help send me to the Senate to make the Republican majority act like one?

I’m a hard core, card carrying Tennessee conservative. I’m politically incorrect, and proud of it.

Become a founding member of the conservative revolution, DONATE $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can afford TODAY!

The left is balking at my candidacy because they know I’m the strong ally President Trump needs in the Senate to pass a true, conservative agenda and deliver on our promises to the American people.

My campaign will be a conservative movement fueled by grassroots supporters like you. The Washington establishment is already mobilizing against me.

The next 48 hours will be critical.  We need a strong show of support from conservatives like you. Will you step up and donate today? Every bit helps and no donation is too small!

Help me stand for millions of honest Americans who work hard and play by the rules. Too much is at stake. America needs a conservative revolution. Send a fighter to shake up the Senate and finally repeal Obamacare!

Thanks for your support.
Marsha

Until I got to the third paragraph in the main text of the message, I had begun to despair of ever learning which state this Ms. Blackburn wished to represent in the Senate. And even that was just implication; she didn’t actually say she would be representing Tennessee. (By the way, when I covered Tennessee politics back in the ’70s and ’80s, Tennessee “conservatives” didn’t carry cards to indication their inclinations. Must be something new.)

Maybe she’s downplaying that because she isn’t planning to represent Tennessee other than technically. Obviously, she seeks to represent instead the adherents of an extremist national movement — an artificial, virtual community that could not have existed before the Web.

To someone thus oriented, geography is incidental. It’s about the… I almost hesitate to call it “ideology,” because that suggests there are ideas involved, which implies thought. This woman’s campaign video is rather a litany of gut impulses and anti-intellectual cliches.

This person isn’t sending me this email because once upon a time (more than 30 years ago) I lived in Tennessee. I’ve never lived in Alabama, and I’m still digging myself out from under Roy Moore emails. And it’s certainly not because of anything I’ve ever done, and absolutely not about anything I’ve ever thought. My concept of an ideal senator from Tennessee is Lamar Alexander, who lies at the absolute opposite end of the Republican spectrum.

No, I’m getting this email because, for some inexplicable reason, I got on a list.

And, the current ideology aside, this offends me as a federalist. As y’all know, I often assert that people who live in other states should elect whomever they want to Congress, and it’s none of my business. I’m been thinking this way since back when South Carolinians used to gripe about Ted Kennedy, and folks in his state griped about Strom Thurmond. My attitude was, if South Carolinians wanted to keep electing Strom until the Judgment Day, that was none of the business of people in Massachusetts. And it was none of our business if Massachusetts wanted to keep voting for Teddy.

(Mind you, I would have liked to have had a viable alternative to Strom — the last such opponent may have been my distant cousin Bradley Morrah, and he wasn’t all that viable — but that was our concern here in South Carolina, and outsiders could butt out.)

This, by the way, is one of reasons I oppose term limits. I think a lot of the support for term limits comes from people who are offended by some of folks other people elect. But other people have the right to vote for whomever they choose.

But I’m digressing now…

For most of the last few decades, this unhealthy interest folks have taken in whom other people elect has taken the form of conventional partisan obsessions. People who care passionately which party controls Congress therefore feel they have a stake in other peoples’ congressional races. Now, this same phenomenon has a new, more virulent, form — it’s become about extreme political subcultures, rather than big-tent parties.

And I’m telling you, folks, it’s not good for the republic…

Don’t leave me hanging, here! Come on and Walk for Life

Last year, the Walk ended up at the Fireflies' ballpark.

The Walk starts and ends at the Fireflies’ ballpark.

Yes, it’s entirely my fault that I waited until the last minute to register the team for Walk for Life, which is happening Saturday.

So late that we’ve only got a day or two left before the cutoff to join the team — to be exact, the deadline is at noon on Wednesday. So that’s, um… just under 49 hours as I type this. (For you non-numbers people, that means it’s just past 11 a.m. on Monday.)

So if you want to help fight breast cancer in the Midlands, this would be an excellent time to step up and join the team. Or join some other team. Or, if you can’t walk, just kick in a contribution.

Click here to do either.

Do you prefer a button to click on? OK, here you go:

CLICK HERE

I realize that at this late date I can’t hope for much, but I still hope at least a couple of you can come out and walk. Or give.

Because the cause is a good one — none better…

How can Democrats save the country from Trump, if they’re running off to the left?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I read a column with an alarming headline this morning in The Washington Post:

Trump is on track to win reelection

More than half of Americans don’t think Donald Trump is fit to serve as president, yet he has a clear path to winning reelection. If Trump isn’t removed from office and doesn’t lead the country into some form of global catastrophe, he could secure a second term simply by maintaining his current level of support with his political base.

We have entered a new era in American politics. The 2016 election exposed how economic, social and cultural issues have splintered the country and increasingly divided voters by age, race, education and geography. This isn’t going to change….

Regarding that “splintering the country” part…

Just before reading that, I had seen this headline:

Shifting attitudes among Democrats have big implications for 2020

Partisan divisions are not new news in American politics, nor is the assertion that one cause of the deepening polarization has been a demonstrable rightward shift among Republicans. But a more recent leftward movement in attitudes among Democrats also is notable and has obvious implications as the party looks toward 2020.

Here is some context. In 2008, not one of the major candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination advocated legalizing same-sex marriage. By 2016, not one of those who sought the nomination opposed such unions, and not just because of the Supreme Court’s rulings. Changing attitudes among all voters, and especially Democratic voters, made support for same-sex marriage an article of faith for anyone seeking to lead the party.

Trade policy is another case study. Over many years, Democrats have been divided on the merits of multilateral free-trade agreements. In 1992, Bill Clinton strongly supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the face of stiff opposition from labor unions and others. He took his case into union halls, and while he didn’t convert his opponents, he prospered politically in the face of that opposition….

And so forth and so on.

So instead of trying to appeal to all of us people in the middle who are so appalled by Trump, and maybe try to win over some mainstream Republicans who feel the same but don’t have the guts to oppose him, the Democrats are careening off to a place where they will appeal only to the more extreme people in their own party.

What madness. What sheer, utter madness…

Join the bradwarthen.com Walk for Life team!

The winningest team in the history of bradwarthen.com: me, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross.

The winningest team in the glorious history of bradwarthen.com: me, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross.

OK, so I waited until the last minute this year. But that should just help you focus on the fact that the Walk for Life to fight breast cancer is only a week away! As in, the morning of Oct. 14.

Come on and join the bradwarthen.com team, and help save some lives!

I’d love to have you come walk with us, but if you can only give money, well, we’ll accept it. We’re easy.

Click here to join/contribute.

James Smith decides to make his stand, run for governor

James 3

Smith in 2015 speaking at a rally calling for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.

Well, this is good news. And here’s the notice he sent out to potential supporters (I didn’t get one, but it was forwarded to me):

All of my life I have felt the call to service. I have been grateful for the privilege to serve my community, my state, and my nation. In that spirit, after 9/11, I resigned my commission as a JAG officer, enlisted in the Infantry, and deployed to Afghanistan to fight for our country and protect our way of life. There, I was privileged to serve with the very best our State and Nation has to offer, alongside real heroes- soldiers who best represent what America stands for.

I came home a different man. With a deeper faith. More thankful for my wife and family. Less caught up in the petty politics at the State Capitol. And believing I could do even more. That I was called to do more.

And that’s why now – after a lot of thought, consultation, discussions with my family, and prayer – I’ve decided to run for Governor.

And here’s why.

I see the potential of our state. I see what we can be. But I also see what’s getting in the way.

I am running for Governor because I feel like I must do all that I can to fight for the people of South Carolina. I am running because I want South Carolina to realize her fullest potential and to do that means no one gets left behind.

I see South Carolina as she can be and ask why not? Why not more than a minimally adequate education? Why not an energy plan that works for all of us and a South Carolina prepared for the jobs of the future? Why not a South Carolina where we invest in our quality of life, support for our families, rebuild our infrastructure, reform our government to be efficient, transparent and accountable, and provide access to quality healthcare?

A South Carolina where those in power serve the people and not themselves.

If you, like me, believe in a South Carolina that works for all of us, I ask you to stand with me. If you, like me, want a better future for the next generation and know that it will take each of us working together, I ask you to join me.

I know there is a long road ahead. We will be up against powerful interests that don’t want change.

Whether in the State House or the highland deserts of Afghanistan, I have fought for you and for the values that we each hold dear and I want to fight for you as your Governor.

South Carolina’s best days can be ahead of us.

Stand with me.

James

Here’s hoping he doesn’t have Democratic opposition. It would be nice if we had one person running for governor who could start listening to those of us in the middle right away, instead of spending a primary season reaching out to the extremes of a party — the way the Republicans are having to do…

Capt. Smith writing home from Afghanistan in 2007.

Capt. Smith writing home from Afghanistan in 2007.

Has GOP found a gun restriction it might like?

Several news outlets, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, are leading with this story:

Top House Republicans said they will consider restricting “bump stocks,” the firearm accessory used to accelerate gunfire in the Las Vegas massacre, opening the door to heightened regulation in response to the tragedy.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) both said Thursday that lawmakers will consider further rules for the devices, which allow legal semiautomatic rifles to fire as rapidly as more heavily restricted automatic weapons.

“Clearly that’s something we need to look into,” Ryan said on MSNBC…

Before reading that this morning, I’d heard Tom Cole, a GOP congressman from Oklahoma saying similar things on the radio.

Image from website of Slide Fire, which sells bump stocks.

Image from website of Slide Fire, which sells bump stocks.

Insert joke about temperatures of 31 degrees Fahrenheit being reported in Hades.

A bipartisan move on limiting some way of making it easier to kill lots of people with firearms might feel like progress.

But will it help? I don’t know. Maybe.

An aside… I’m not entirely sure I understand how these “bump stocks” work. It sounds like they harness the recoil to cause the trigger to repeatedly press itself against the shooter’s finger. I think.

Or maybe it magically turns regular ammunition into “automatic rounds,” eh, Bryan?

Meanwhile, I’m puzzling on something that probably only interests me, being a guy who used to spend my days making news play decisions…

If you regularly read British publications (which I do, as I like to know what’s happening in the rest of the Western hemisphere and U.S. outlets don’t tell me), you know that they take a certain view of U.S. news. They have a morbid fascination with what they see as our utter insanity on guns.

Which is why I’m puzzled that, instead of leading with this remarkable bipartisan movement on guns, both the BBC and The Guardian are leading with reports that the Las Vegas shooter may have planned to escape and may have had help. Which is admittedly a strong news development, but still…

help

But sometimes, Adsense seems to really know me

DNA threeOr at least, it shows it knows what interests me.

I suppose I’m getting these ads now because I’ve recently helped a family member send off her DNA to be analyzed, and referred a friend who was thinking about giving a DNA kit as a gift.

Or maybe it’s just because I’m always boring people here by going on and on about the latest things I’ve learned about my family tree.

You know, it now has more than 5,000 people on it!…

‘Fake news’ proliferates (even — gasp! — here on this blog!)

Douglas

There’s “fake news,” and then there’s fake news. I’ve seen a number of widely different varieties in recent days.

First, a digression: I’ve always had mixed feelings about the value of competition.

Yeah, I suppose it keeps you on your toes, makes you try harder and reach new heights, etc. But in the news business, I’ve always worried about it, because the pressure to get it first can cause you to go with something too soon, and get it wrong.

I worried about that even back when there were only two news cycles in each day — a.m. and p.m. You had all those hours to work on something and get it right before you had to go to press, or, in case of broadcast, go on the air. But knowing that if you didn’t go with it today you had to wait another 24 hours created its own kind of pressure to go with what you had.

The best way to avoid letting that pressure get you into trouble was the old nostrum, “When in doubt, leave it out.” Better to leave a hole in a story, an unanswered question, than give an answer you weren’t completely sure about.

Now, with the Web and social media, there is no “cycle.” Deadline is always right now, and if you delay a minute, you take the risk of getting beat by 59 seconds.

And that produces screw-ups like CBS reporting that Tom Petty was dead early on Monday afternoon, when he didn’t actually die until 8:30 that evening — and it wasn’t officially released until midnight.

(This was particularly problematic for old media that still follow cycles. The State had a piece in Tuesday morning’s paper all about how CBS had messed up by reporting that Petty was dead when he wasn’t — and not a word about the fact that Petty actually was dead. That’s because his death was announced after press time, but hours before readers would have the chance to read the story. Very confusing.)

As “fake news” goes, that was of the honest-mistake variety. We saw an example of the more malevolent kind within that same 24-hour period. It’s the sort that arises from the modern phenomenon of everybody being a publisher — meaning that there are no rules, and no fussy editors saying “When in doubt, leave it out.” And everyone believes what they want to believe, however unlikely, according to their political prejudices.

I’m talking about the way right-wing trolls eagerly identified an innocent man as the Las Vegas shooter, simply because he was someone who fit a narrative that was appealing to them, and he had apparently been married to a woman with the same name as the actual shooter’s girlfriend:

Geary Danley was not the gunman in Las Vegas who killed at least 50 people late Sunday. But for hours on the far-right Internet, would-be sleuths scoured Danley’s Facebook likes, family photographs and marital history to try to “prove” that he was.

Danley, according to an archived version of a Facebook page bearing that name, might have been married to a Marilou Danley. Police were looking for a woman by that name in the hours after the shooting, but later saidthey did not think she was involved. To name someone as a mass murderer based on that evidence would be irresponsible and dangerous. But that’s exactly what a portion of the far-right Internet did overnight.

The briefest look at the viral threads and tweets falsely naming Geary Danley as the attacker makes it easy to guess why a bunch of right-wing trolls latched on to him: His Facebook profile indicated that he might be a liberal….

But even that, as filled with bad faith and malevolence as it was, seems less deliberate than another kind of shameless spreading of “fake news” that is all around us these days, feeding systematically on reader gullibility.

A couple of weeks back, I was watching TV and my wife was in the room looking at her iPad when she told me that The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, was killed doing a stunt on a movie set. (I’m thinking she saw this on a Facebook ad.) I said something like “Wow, I wonder why they let him do something so dangerous.” Then I made an observation about Vic Morrow and the way he died, and forgot about it.

Then, at some point the next day, it occurred to me that I’d seen nothing about the star’s death in any of the papers I had read on my iPad that morning. So I went looking, and saw that it was a hoax.

Then, this week, the same hoax started showing up in the Google Ads right here on my own blog. Click here for the screenshot.

Oh, and have you read about the passing of Michael Douglas? I have, many times. To make the weirdness even richer, when I looked up “Michael Douglas death hoax,” I found a site that fed me… you guessed it… an ad with the misspelled news of “The Rock’s” alleged death (see above).

By the way, you want to be careful Googling Michael Douglas — you might get true stories that tell you way more than you want to know.

Where does this leave us? In a situation in which we could use some old-school, skeptical editors standing between you and the lies. But that’s not going to happen. The technology exists, and it can’t be put back in the tube. Anybody can instantly publish anything for the whole planet to see, without any professional standards being involved whatsoever.

So what we need is more intelligent, skeptical readers. But let’s not hold our breath for that new species to evolve. As last year’s election showed us, and every day since confirms, there are a thousand suckers born every minute…

By the time I read this story in The State telling me reports of Petty's death were false, he was actually dead.

By the time I read this story in The State telling me the report of Petty’s death was erroneous, he was actually dead.

 

It’s my birthday, so… more baseball pictures!

Baseball

I want to thank all those dozens of folks for wishing me joy of my birthday on Facebook.

I like the picture one of my cousins posted to mark the occasion. That’s it below at left. That’s me with my grandfather, Gerald Harvey Warthen, when I was about 4.22195386_482392475480410_9175248831617986939_n

This shot is meaningful to me because my grandfather was a serious baseball player. As a young man in Kensington, Md., that’s what he was all about. He had a job with the Postal Service at one point, just so he could pitch for their baseball team. He was offered a contract by (I think) the Senators’ organization, but ended up working in his father’s construction business instead.

But his legend endured in Kensington. My Dad grew up there being known as “Whitey” Warthen’s kid. That was his baseball name — like Ford and Herzog.

I did not, I regret to say, get to grow up with my grandfather, as he died of lung cancer within a year of the photo being taken.

Above, you see him as a young man with one of the teams he played for. He’s squatting at the right of the photo, with a steely gaze that says to me, “Enough of this stuff! Let’s play ball!”

Looking much less intimidating, you see me below with the only organized team I ever played on, the MacDill AFB senior Little League team. I guess I was about 14. I’m on the left end of the back row, standing next to the white-shirted coach. The only thing I seem to have in common with my grandfather here is that I, too, look like I’m ready to have the picture-taking over with. Or maybe it’s just that I’d removed my glasses for the picture, and couldn’t see anything.

I hadn’t played organized ball before that because we moved almost every summer. This was late to start, and while I’d been a good hitter in sandlots (where the idea was usually to put the ball across the plate and put it in play), I had a terrible time adjusting to people trying to throw the ball past me. I tended to swing late.

So it is that I’m particularly proud of my one highlight of that undistinguished year: I broke up a no-hitter in the fifth inning (of seven). This redheaded pitcher on the opposite nine was just overpowering everybody, but I got an opposite-field (still swinging late) line drive off him for a single. So they took him out of the game. That’s it — my one story of baseball glory.

Needless to say, no Major League team ever offered me a contract…

MacDill senior little league team

My platelets went to Puerto Rico — BEFORE the hurricane

ontheway

Well, this is kind of cool to know. I received this via email over the weekend:

Thank you for being an American Red Cross platelet donor. Your platelets may be a lifesaving gift to patients in need, including cancer and trauma patients, individuals undergoing major surgeries, patients with blood disorders and premature babies.

After first ensuring local needs were met, your donation on 9/12/2017 was sent to Hospital Municipal De Cayey in Cayey, PR and Hospital Menonita de Caguas in Caguas, PR to help patients in need. Your donations are on their way to change lives!

Platelets have a very short life span – only 5 days! It’s critical for us to collect platelets continuously to ensure they’re available for patients when they need them. Your ongoing donations are greatly appreciated.

On behalf of the hospitals and patients we serve, thank you for being a Red Cross platelet donor!

That was actually several days before the hurricane. So, while I’m glad to have helped Puerto Rico, I guess my timing was a little off.

Here’s hoping that they sent my most recent donation, on Sept. 25, to Dominica. They really need help there…