If Adsense is going to take over my blog, they need to pay me more

swollen adsense

OK, this is ridiculous. It just started today, and I’ve had enough of it.

The shallow banner ads that Adsense was putting at the top of my blog — about the size and shape of my random header images — have given way to these gigantic things that take up the whole screen on my laptop, and then some.

In fact, I have to shrink the screen several times to get the top of my page and the first headline in the same image so I can show you what’s happening (see above).

Before I shrink it, the ads look like what you see below: There’s the header, and then there’s not even room for the whole ad to show.

Anyway, this is ridiculous. They’re not paying enough to inconvenience my readers and me to this extent…

adsense 2

Open Thread for Thursday, August 22, 2019

Hardee

We’re overdue for one of these:

  1. Trump now thinks he’s God. Or at least the Chosen One — There are news stories about his embracing the idea of being the Second Coming, but you might enjoy reading Alexandra Petri on the subject instead. Or Gail Collins… Actually, I feel sorry for these satirists. How can you exaggerate this guy for comic effect? They try, but it’s not easy. He’s always determined to outdo any joke anyone can make about him.
  2. … and he is wroth, very sore, at his Chosen People — The way our first Transactional President thinks, he has done things to pander to supporters of Israel, so Jews should be slavishly loyal to him. You know, like the evangelicals. Every day, we learn more about the depths of this man’s ignorance. As one pro-Israel Jew put it, “In reality, what matters most to us are the exact values that the president is spending his term trashing. We care about equality and justice, and we embrace the notion that this is a nation of immigrants and opportunity for all.”
  3. Ransomware Attacks Are Testing Resolve of Cities Across America — I thought I’d throw in a piece about something real happening in the world, since Doug will dismiss my first two items as “just words.” But wait. This is happening in cyberspace, right? So it’s only happening virtually
  4. What Rep. Abigail Spanberger learned after clashing with progressives — She learned they were a bunch of vindictive loonies, basically. Remember my piece about Mikie Sherrill the other day? Well, Rep. Spanberger is a fellow moderate Democrat who also served her country before running for office (in her case, in the CIA). The two women have D.C. apartments on the same floor, and walk to work together. Anyway, I urge you to read about her and the other Democrats who matter, and stop doing Donald Trump’s bidding by focusing on the Squad, who are not representative of the Democratic Party. (If they were, the Dems would not now hold the House.)
  5. Sanders to unveil $16tn climate plan, far more aggressive than rivals’ proposals — Translated from The Guardian‘s own special dialect of headlinese, “$16tn” means 16 trillion dollars. (It took me a moment to suss that out.) But Bernie’s not worried a bit, because he has an economist advising him who tells him we can just keep printing more money.
  6. The road to ignominy is paved by John Hardee — Does this guy get up in the morning thinking, I’m not in enough trouble yet. I should do something else? Meanwhile, Katrina Shealy wants to end the practice of naming roads after living people. Good luck. I’ve been advocating that for almost three decades.

This one’s going on my Amazon wish list

Hope 1

You may have already heard of this book — actually, it appears to be one of a series — but I had not when I happened to see it on a shelf at Barnes & Noble.

In this hot weather, I’ve taken to walking in the nearly deserted — but still-air-conditioned (at what cost, I know not) — Richland Mall during my daily exercise breaks. I allow myself the indulgence of doing a full sweep of B&N during these circuits. On this occasion, I was whizzing through the fiction section, went “What!?!” and had to turn on my heel and go back for another look at what I’d just passed.

Yep, it’s a murder mystery in which the parts of Holmes and Watson are played by Barack Obama and Joe Biden. And as with the Conan Doyle original, they are told from the perspective of Biden:

It’s been several months since the 2016 presidential election, and “Uncle Joe” Biden is puttering around his house, grouting the tile in his master bathroom, feeling lost and adrift in an America that doesn’t make sense anymore.

But when his favorite Amtrak conductor dies in a suspicious accident…

OK, you’ve got me! I’ve gotta read it. It’s going on my Amazon wish list right… now. I might even rip off the cover and frame it.

Sure, it’s a gimmick, like this same author’s previous Fifty Shames of Earl Grey. But the gimmick works — on me, anyway — and I’ve gotta hand it to the huckster who came up with it…

Hope 3

Candidates, please don’t promise to do anything for me.

Here's Bernie, seconds before he promised me my hearing aids...

Here’s Bernie, seconds before he promised me my hearing aids…

My family thought this was hilarious.

It was during the televised debate on the night of July 31. I was together with most of the fam down at the beach.

I had said something dismissive about Bernie Sanders, as I am wont to do. Then, I was busy writing a Tweet about something that had just been said, so my mind wandered from the next thing that was said (a hazard of real-time commentary).

My wife, who was sitting on the side of my bad ear, said, “See what Bernie’s going to do for you?” And I said, “What?” and she said, “Didn’t you hear? He wants Medicare to pay for your hearing aids!” And because she was on my bad side, I said, “He wants to WHAT?”

And everyone thought this was hilarious. They weren’t laughing AT me; they were really… Well, no, they were laughing at me. But fondly…

They all know that I have declined to look into getting hearing aids because a) conventional hearing aids wouldn’t solve the problem I have, and b) I discovered upon going on Medicare that it won’t pay for hearing aids. And personally, if I’m going to have to scrimp and save for something that expensive, I’d prefer it to be something like another trip abroad, like the one we took to Ireland earlier this year.

So now that I know Bernie wants to pay for them, I’ve gotta like Bernie a little better, right?

Wrong. In fact, I find it extremely off-putting, the idea that someone out there is making a campaign promise to do something that benefits me, personally. No, it’s not like Bernie called me on the phone and asked what Brad would most like to see changed in Medicare and then promised to do that in return for my vote, but it sort of feels like it to me.

And I don’t hold with that sort of thing.

In the universe of politics, there are few things that I find more offensive than the idea of voting for someone because you think it would benefit you personally, or “people like you” (another concept I find offensive, which is all tied up with my objections to identity politics, but that’s a whole other subject).

First, I don’t like campaign promises, period. We’ve discussed this. I vote for the person I trust most to do the job, and I’d like to see that person as unencumbered by promises as possible, so that he or she can simply do the right and smart thing with regard to any issue that arises.

But if you’re going to try to sell me on a campaign promise anyway, you’d better come prepared to persuade me that it’s the best course for the country as a whole. Don’t insult me by saying how it would benefit me personally.

Yeah, I know, I’m sounding really self-righteous, priggish even. And I know that there are a lot of people out there who are NOT middle-class white guys who feel a need for the government to redress some wrong that hurts them personally, and/or “people like them.” And I’m not judging them. I can only speak for me.

And to me, it feels just a small step away from the days when candidates handed out free booze on Election Day. There’s just too much quid pro quo to it.

Don’t try to buy my vote. Not with free hearing aids, or lower taxes, or free drinks, or whatever other goodies you have in mind. I won’t take kindly to it.

I first became all high-and-mighty about this in 1976, when I was talking about the upcoming presidential contest with a colleague at the newspaper where I worked then, my first job out of college. I mentioned that I really liked Jimmy Carter, and she said she was going to vote for Gerald Ford. With real interest, I asked why. Not because I was demanding justification for a wrongheaded act. I liked Gerald Ford, and I could think of plenty of legitimate reasons that a person might chose him. I was curious which ones mattered to her.

I was completely unprepared for what she said, which went kind of like this:

Well, my husband and I studied the candidates’ positions on issues, and we sat down and did some math, and we figured out that if Carter were elected, we’d have to pay a thousand dollars more in taxes a year. So we’re both voting for Ford.

Not, I think Carter might raise taxes, and that might have a chilling effect on the economy, or even, I think Carter might raise taxes, and on people across the country who can ill afford it. No, she was talking about a very specific effect that she expected on her pocketbook. And on that basis, she was willing to choose the Leader of the Free World (we used to call the president that back during the Cold War, kids).

I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped, although I don’t think she noticed. I was shocked. I was scandalized. I couldn’t believe that anyone — much less a fellow journalist (people who love money that much generally don’t choose to become journalists, and if they do, they must have been seriously misled by somebody) could possibly sell his or her franchise in such a mercenary manner. I was even more shocked that she would tell someone that, and not show any sign of being ashamed of herself.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Didn’t I know people think like that? No, I didn’t. It had never occurred to me that people could. And even though I’ve seen a thousand times since then that her way of looking at things is WAY more common than mine, I’ve never ceased to be appalled at that point of view.

I would worry that by writing this I might insult a lot of folks out there, but I justify it by telling myself that those pragmatical souls are more likely to scoff at my utterly absurd, stuffy, priggish, and completely unrealistic notion of what politics is all about. They’ll see this post as embarrassing me, not them. And all the people whose opinions they value will agree with them on this point.

Anyway, it’s been preying on my mind that I should say something, because a lot of the Democratic candidates vying to go against Trump have a tendency to make the kinds of promises I don’t like to hear.

Meanwhile, all I hear Joe Biden promising is to save our country from Trumpism. Oh, he might have a few policy positions out there (because some people out there hound him into it), but I’m ignoring them, and that’s easy to do because his main message is the one I want to hear: He wants to restore the presidency, and the country, to something reasonable human beings can respect.

And if any of the other candidates want my vote (something I’m sure they sit up nights worrying about), I just want to let them know that I don’t want to hear any promises that would benefit me, Brad Warthen, in any way, shape of form. My conscience it just too delicate to put up with that, weird as you might think I am for saying it.

Don’t ever say I didn’t tell you that.

Yeah, I realize there may be more votes in a strategy of promising folks stuff than there is in a high-minded strategy of not offending Brad.

But I can only speak for myself…

But I could get excited about voting for THIS woman…

B01Y2058

All of that said, I’ve learned this week about one Democratic woman in particular whom I would be excited to have a chance to vote for. Not because she’s a woman, but because she’s a rational human being. And in today’s political environment, that really stands out.

I urge you to go listen to this episode of The Daily from earlier this week.

Here’s the text intro that accompanies it:

The Freshmen: Mikie Sherrill

An outspoken progressive wing in the House has seized the country’s attention. But the path to power for Democrats may depend on moderates, who have a very different vision for the party. Meet one of them.

I don’t know where they get that “may” in “may depend on moderates.” It does depend on moderates, period. What’s more, the fate of the country depends on them, not the members of the “look at me” crowd who get all the coverage normally.My Approved Portraits

From the Democratic perspective, the moderates are the reason, and the only reason, that the party currently holds power in the House. AOC replaced a Democrat. AOC’s district will continue to be Democratic, but Mikie Sherrill replaced a Republican, and she will only continue to hold her seat if she serves the way both Democrats and Republicans in her district want her to do. And if she and others like her don’t hold onto their seats, not only will the Dems lose their majority, but the country will spin ever faster out into partisan extremes.

Rep. Sherrill may only be a freshman, but she was already an accomplished person before she was elected — unlike some other people who get more attention. She’s a former United States Navy helicopter pilot, and a former federal prosecutor. She’s been places and done things, worthwhile things, things to serve her country.

On the day that Barr was releasing the Mueller report and other Dems were in Washington polishing their reactions, Rep. Sherrill was in her New Jersey district meeting about something her constituents all care about: traffic. A lot of them commute into New York, you see, and the trains are in bad enough shape that a lot of them are forced to drive.

She is almost completely focused on issues that all her constituents care about, regardless of their political affiliation. She concentrates on what unites us rather than dividing us. Which, you know, is what all officeholders should do.

I’m not going to recite all the sensible things she has to say — I want you to go listen to the podcast yourself. And what I want you to listen for is what I heard throughout the episode: The voice of a grownup. Of a grownup saying rational things.

It’s refreshing. I wish I could vote for her. In any case, everyone should hear this voice, and what it says, and realize that there are people like this out there serving their country, and that you don’t have to choose between Trumpism and “democratic socialism.”

Nor can I IMAGINE being ‘excited’ about it…

women1

Maybe it’s because of my involvement with the campaign last year — a great experience that I wouldn’t trade for almost anything — that I keep getting these emails.

There are lots of them.

And they all make assumptions: First, that I am a Democrat. Well, I’m not. James and Mandy knew that. So do the subset of Democrats who are still ticked that they hired me. But the people who send these emails seem to be in the dark.

I try to be frank with them, occasionally filling out one of the “polls” that they invite to participate in. (I enjoy all the opportunities they offer to tell them that I do have a preference in the primaries, that’s it’s Joe Biden, and that no, I don’t have a second choice.)

Nothing I say, however, dims their enthusiasm for sending me emails that assume I’m a yellow dog.

Some of them assume I’m a feminist. Well, I don’t think I am, although as I’ve noted before, a friend once said I was a “difference feminist,” and there could be traces of truth in that, here and there.

But there’s one kind I am definitely not — I’m not someone who is going to be “excited” about voting for a woman. If I vote for a woman, something I’ve done plenty of times before, it’s not going to be some kind of cheap thrill. If I decide that a woman happens to be the better candidate, then I’m not going to feel any emotion about it that’s different from voting for a man if he happens to be the better candidate. (And isn’t that kind of the way you’d want it to be, if you’re a feminist?)

It’s hard for me to imagine it being otherwise. And it seems odd to me that it would be otherwise, for anyone. (And yes, it’s been explained to me that perhaps I lack the necessary personal plumbing to get it. But that still seems to me an odd basis for a political philosophy.)

I felt no emotion when I voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. It was cold calculation. First, she satisfied the qualification of not being Donald Trump, and had the added attraction of being the only person on the planet in position to prevent him from becoming president.

She had some other positives. She represented in some ways the Third Way form of politics that I had liked so much back in the ’90s. And I thought she was the closest thing in the party to a Joe Lieberman on national security.

But excited? No. I was pretty cool about it…

Bolt? No way! And if we did, where on Earth would we GO?

See? The DOG gets it...

See? The DOG gets it…

Our good friend Bryan may be taking a hiatus from the blog, but does that mean we can’t comment on what he posts on social media?

Of course not!

So let’s consider this:

Oh, come on, Bryan! Joe’s had some slip-ups here and there, but that one’s not even worth mentioning.

Seriously, did you have the date of the Parkland shooting memorized? I didn’t. If you had asked me out of the blue to say when it was, without looking it up, I’d have said maybe 2017 (and I’d have been two months off). And if you corrected me and said no, it was 2016 — when Obama and Biden were still in office — I’d have accepted it without question or surprise. It would still seem about right.

As it was, Joe was less than 13 months off. NOT “two years.” It happened in February 2018. Obama and Joe were still in office for most of January 2017. Learn to read a frickin’ calendar, people.

Now, real quick, when was the Sandy Hook massacre? When did that guy shoot up the theater where they were showing a Batman movie? If you can tell me within a year, good for you. But I won’t think less of you if you can’t.

So no, there’s nothing in this incident that makes me or (I hope) anyone else want to “bolt” from supporting Biden.

But let’s go to a bigger question: What if we DID want to “bolt” — where would we go?

It would be nice to have a backup plan, because humans are fallible, and for that matter Joe could get sick or something.

But I don’t have one. Oh sure, some of you will say there are plenty of good options, and in fact better ones than Joe, yadda-yadda. Well, yeah — for you. But not for me, speaking as a quintessential Biden supporter. Which is the kind of person that Bryan’s tweet was about.

I have my reasons for supporting Joe, which we’ve discussed here, and I don’t see anyone else measuring up according to the standards that matter to me — such as experience, understanding of the job, character and ability to win. I don’t see anyone even coming close, among the three or four other Democrats who might be seen as viable at this point. (Viable for the nomination, I mean — I don’t see any of those three or four as promising for the general. There are others who might do well in the general, but I don’t see them getting the nomination.)

And we — Americans I mean, not Democrats — have to get rid of Trump, as an essential first step in marginalizing Trumpism, and restoring our country to what it was from 1790-2016.

Only Joe is in a position to do that.

So stop trying to seize on every little human mistake, and let’s focus on the big things.

Because we need to get this thing done…

#GreenShirtGuy would laugh his mustache off at this

Trump signs

As funny as he found the MAGA-hat-wearing woman with the tight cutoffs, #GreenShirtGuy would probably have a stroke it he saw the image in the upper right-hand corner of the photo above.rambo

I suppose it’s meant to evoke “Rambo,” but this action hero would better be named “Bonespur,” I believe.

The one day it rained during my beach vacation last week, I accompanied some of my daughters and granddaughters to a nearby flea market. It was a revelation. Now I know where Trump fans get their red hats and other merchandise. (By the way, “MAGA” is now passé. The new hats say “KEEP America Great.” This shift is necessary to preserve the risible fantasy that Trump’s election somehow already made the nation “great again.”)

I found the banner to the left of the “Rambo” one particularly puzzling. Since Trump utters more lies — ridiculous, obvious, easily checked, embarrassingly transparent falsehoods — than any previous prominent political figure in American history, how on Earth would re-electing him in 2020 lead to “No More Bull___?” Is that some sort of campaign promise that a second term would be the opposite of the first?

I dunno. Anyway, in case you’re curious, there were a number of stalls stocked with Trump merchandise, but no, there was no other kind of political paraphernalia on sale at the sprawling market.

There may still be some of you out there who don’t know anyone who would vote for Trump. If you’d like to broaden your social circle, this is definitely the place to go…

Politics today can just sap the joy out of life

You know those header images at the top of my blog pages, which generate randomly? This morning I saw the one you see below, featuring Kathryn Fenner — and James Smith, too (and his Dad, Jim) — at a Rotary meeting a long time ago. More than 10 years, I’m thinking.

And that caused me to reflect how long it had been since we’d heard from Kathryn. Two or three years at least, I’m thinking. I need to send a note and see how she’s doing.

But she isn’t the only longtime member of the fellowship who has been missing in recent days. We haven’t heard from Bryan Caskey since July 16.

Today, I got an email from him explaining why:

I read news, see comments, see how people tear each other apart, and I feel resigned to living in a country of perpetual anger, resentment, and it causes me to despair. We’re at such a toxic place that I just want nothing to do with politics, policy, or even talking about it. Mostly, when I do talk about it, it’s just gallows humor to cope. No one really convinces anyone of anything anymore. Maybe we never did. No one ever compromises anymore.Bryan cropped

We used to do that. Americans used to compromise and reach deals that gave each side something they wanted, each giving up something. That’s a relic of the past, as much as Lincoln or Washington, or Jefferson. America used to be a melting pot of people who shared common ideals and beliefs. That’s a relic, too.

Lately, I’ve tried to just focus on building my law practice, coaching baseball, spending time with my kids, and being a good husband. I’m doing pretty well at all those, and I’m happier for it. I used to be so excited to talk about politics, but it’s all so pointless now. Why argue with people who hate my point of view, who I’ll never convince? How is that a productive use of my time?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m tired of trying to figure it out. I think I’ve given up trying to figure it out, actually.

I’m reading a good biography/history book right now called The Long Gray Line, by Rick Atkinson. It’s the true story that follows the lives of a dozen or so boys who enroll in West Point in 1962, and are the class of ’66. They are the boys who are commissioned as 2Lts and deploy to Vietnam as the war peaks. Casualties are high. The war is awful, death is random, and the Army isn’t run the way the West Pointers are taught it would. Disillusionment is the main effect. The “First Captain” is the title given to the senior ranking cadet at West Point. It’s the cadet who is highest in academics, military proficiency, and otherwise is the ideal cadet. The best of the best.

The First Captain usually goes on to great success in the Army. For the class of ’66, the First Captain does his time in Vietnam, and immediately resigns his commission in the Army as soon as his commitment time runs. It’s unprecedented for a First Captain to do that. It sent shockwaves through the Army when he resigned

That’s how I feel, not that I was a First Captain in anything, by any measurement. The boys who went to West Point in 1962 did so for the same reasons that other boys went into the Peace Corps. They wanted to make America better, and they wanted to serve. They wanted to serve in a way that had honor. The country let them down. Our leaders, our people at home, everyone let them down. Everyone’s letting me down today with our awful divisiveness.

In any event, I miss our talks. I can’t bring myself to comment on the blog. It’s so pointless. Hope you’re doing well.

You know, I just don’t blame him a bit. I’m feeling much the same, which is why I so seldom post these days. It’s just all so depressing. Also, I devoted so much intense energy to the campaign last year, and now merely commenting from the sidelines seems particularly pointless.

Besides, no one is ever persuaded of anything. What are we doing sharing our thoughts if we don’t achieve greater understanding of one another as a result?

Hence this ennui…

Kathryn and James

Yes they DO, by their very nature!

warning money

Just got this email from the nice folks at Columbia Regional Business Report.

I know they mean well. They see this as their way of being helpful. But I must disagree, and most vehemently.

But how can they bring themselves to say something so absurd as “Money Matters don’t have to be frightening?”

By its very nature, the phrase “Money Matters” is a grim and urgent warning. It tells us that we are about to be subjected to at least several seconds, if not excruciating minutes, of words having to do with the most painfully soporific subject on the planet… money.

It’s a dead giveaway. There is no way that anything pleasant can follow a headline with “Money Matters” in it. It says, Here I come! You’d better run!

If you’re not quick enough, the initial words (ugly and mysterious words, like “accrual” and “debentures”) will give way to spreadsheets, if you’ll forgive me for mentioning something so unpleasant.

There are people, I am told, who enjoy talking about money. But they are from another planet, one with characteristics in common with the Bizarro World.

In any case, I appreciate the warning. Let’s skedaddle…

Be happy. Be like #GreenShirtGuy

If only we could all be like this guy, we’d all be living in happier times.

He seems like… an earlier version of ourselves. A Regular Guy from pre-2016. He’s never seen or heard this kind of nonsense before, so the stupidity of it all just cracks him up. Or maybe it’s the woman tugging at her cutoffs while she makes her earnest statement. Or the guy next to her who apparently prepared a handmade sign for the occasion, but when the time comes can’t be bothered to put down his supersized sugary drink.

In any case, we need to be as philosophical as Alex Kack

greenshirtguy

Open Thread for Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Parker-Mustian

Yes, I’m back from vacation.

While I was gone, there was of course the Democratic debates, which were tiresome and off-putting. I can’t wait to see this nomination process come to an (successful, I hope) end.

Talk of that was swept away over the weekend by violence in Texas and Ohio, and threatened violence here at home.

To plunge in:

  1. Mass murder in Texas and Ohio — Again, the horror sweeps the nation. And again, our political system will prove itself completely incapable of reducing the risk of such incidents in the future. The utter futility is reflective of the soul-sickness in our country. It’s related to why Trump is president. It’s related to why I can hardly bear to watch these debates. There’s so much foolishness, and so little rational action. American government, and American politics, is stricken with an impotence, accompanied by pointless sound and fury. It didn’t used to be like this — and I know that sets off some of you, who simply don’t recall when the nation actually used to rise up and deal with problems when they confronted us. You’re wrong, but I’ve learned I won’t convince you of that. Anyway… will we ever snap out of this, and what will it take?
  2. Threatened violence, and real racial hatred, here at home — There’s the public conversation, which talks about what this former Cardinal Newman student did and threatened to do, and what the school and law enforcement did and didn’t do about it — a circumscribed conversation, limited in the MSM by the longstanding prohibition against identifying minors. Then there’s the sort of sub rosa conversation, in which everyone knows who he is and who his family is, and lots of talk reflects the reverberations of all that. Setting the gossip aside, let me raise a question that addresses the heart of this: I’ve seen a suggestion that what this boy was doing was simply trying to win a competition among his peers to see who could be the most outrageous. Which is more shocking: The threatened violence, or the fact that our society is so sick that children could conceive of such a competition?

You know what? That’s all I’m going to post for now. Somehow I find myself not as interested in utterly unnecessary, manufactured trade wars with China or whatever. But y’all can bring up whatever you like.

Where I was last week. It was crowded this day, but mostly pleasant the rest of the time.

Where I was last week. It was crowded this day, but mostly pleasant the rest of the time.

Thoughts on the Democratic debate(s)?

July 31 debate

Last night I got a text from a friend and colleague in Columbia, asking “Are you watching the debate? I was looking for your twitter commentary.”

(Yes, some real people actually LIKE it when I riff on social media during these events, and miss it when I don’t do it. So there.)

But I wasn’t on the Twitters because a) I’m on vacation, and any time I spend on a keyboard is dedicated to something I just have to do for work or whatever (this post being a notable exception); b) it was my wife’s birthday, and we were having a family celebration; and c) having watched most of the debate the previous night (and Tweeted a bit), I was thoroughly fed up with this reality-TV mockery of our politics, and had no appetite for any more of it.

I had started Tuesday night willing to have fun with it…

…and ended up just disgusted:

So, even if I hadn’t been busy with more important things, I would not have watched Wednesday night with any, shall we say, gusto.

Anyway, today I’ve read a number of accounts of it, and I don’t think I missed much.

Here’s a summary: Joe did all right. That’s all that matters. He didn’t set the world on fire, but the consensus was that he wasn’t damaged and is unlikely to lose his dominant position in the polls — despite the increasingly desperate efforts of the wannabes to pull him down, extending to some really strategically stupid stuff like tearing down President Obama and his legacy.

For me, the only point in watching other than to make sure Joe’s OK would be to see if anyone emerges as a good backup option if he doesn’t make it. And that has not even come close to happening (based on my watching and reading). And not because my mind is closed. I’d like to have a backup plan. I don’t like not having a backup plan. I makes me uneasy. But I’m not going to lie to myself. I’m not going to pretend that someone else looks good just to ease my own mind.

Y’all know what I want. I look forward to the day that all this slapstick nonsense is over and Joe is the nominee and we can get on with the real business.

Anyway, what did y’all think?

I’m almost as tired of the Mueller saga as Mueller is

The first screen of The Post's homepage was all Mueller...

The first screen of The Post’s homepage was all Mueller…

At one point this morning, I Tweeted this:

But I wasn’t done with the Mueller hearing, or perhaps I should say it wasn’t done with me. There it was, wherever I turned — on social media, on the radio in my truck, even when I tried listening to NPR.org while I was getting some steps in in the middle of the day. (Fortunately, there were podcasts on other subjects.)

All of it was awful — the bits I heard, anyway:

  • I found it tiresome to listen to the Democratic questioners, because they were so eager to establish… what? OK, so they want to make sure that the public, which isn’t going to read a 400-page report, knows all the ways that it shows Donald Trump to be an ethical nightmare. But then what? Are you really convinced that this is going to change things so that impeachment proceedings are a good idea, one that leads to electoral success in 2020? I’m not sure how you could be.
  • It was far, far worse to listen to the Republican questioners. At my age, I’m more than tired of waking up each day and discovering that human beings can sink to depths I previously did not suspect. But hearing these guys adamantly, furiously, relentlessly trying to twist things so that Trump doesn’t come across as a slimeball is just so disheartening, so depressing….
  • Finally, it was pretty awful hearing Mueller himself, who sounded just as weary of it all as he looked when I saw him on that screen with the sound off this morning. The man’s done enough for his country. Let him go to his rest…

I just want to fast-forward through this time in our history. I want to skim ahead to a time when Joe Biden has secured the Democratic nomination (and if the future holds something else, let me skim past the next four years of politics as well). No more enduring absurd “debates” with Joe on stage with a score of people, each of whom knows his or her way to victory lies through tearing Joe down, and not one of whom holds out much hope of doing what I think Joe can do — beat Trump.

Let’s just get on with it. Because the country’s one real chance of putting Trump behind us awaits us in November 2020.

Oh, and if you doubt that Joe is the guy to beat Trump, let me tell you about this one podcast I listened to while walking.

It was brought to my attention by this Tweet from Third Way, which seems to be published by Democrats who have not lost their freaking minds:

So I went and listened to The Daily, and I heard some home truths laid out, including the mathematically obvious one mentioned in the Tweet. None of it was mysterious or anything. It was stuff like this:

  • The persuadable people Democrats have to reach, and flip, to beat Trump are white working-class (and to a lesser extent middle-class) voters in the Midwest, people who voted for Obama in 2008 but for Trump in 2016.
  • Right now Trump is positioned to possibly do slightly better in those areas — places such as the environs of Milwaukee — than he did in 2016.
  • Of course, he remains unpopular as ever, and may lose the national popular vote by even more than he lost to Hillary, but…
  • There’s this thing called the Electoral College (and rail about it all you want, Dems, but the rules of the game are not changing between now and Election Day next year), so all Trump needs to do is squeak by in those places that are neither entirely red nor blue.
  • Democrats are doing better in the Sun Belt than in the past, but not so much better that the Democrat will win there, and most states are Winner Take All in the Electoral College. So… back to the swing states…
  • So… what are you gonna do to reach those persuadable white voters in Flyover Land?

And the whole time I’m listening, I’m thinking the only thing you can possibly do if you have a lick of sense is nominate plain ol’ Joe from Scranton, PA.

And in fact, Michael Barbaro, the host of The Daily, finally has to just ask Nate Cohn — the guy running through the math — outright, So… you mean the Dems need to nominate Biden, right?

Cohn, if I recall correctly, was kind of noncommittal in his answer, but there really is no honest answer but this one: Right….

 

Well, they hired Caslen today, and I’m kind of surprised…

I’m surprised that the trustees went ahead and hired Gen. Caslen today. Some of you will protest that it was obvious that they would, and yes, in a conventional political strategy sense, you don’t precipitate something like this unless you’re sure you’ve got the votes.

You’re right. That’s conventional wisdom, on one level. But I didn’t think they would do it, at least not today, for two reasons:

  • I can’t think of the last time I saw the USC Board of Trustees step out and do something this risky, this controversial. Especially after they backed down so quickly before in response to protests, even though this was the guy they wanted — kind of absurdly quickly, it seemed at the time. It was like, We don’t want ANY trouble… That convinced me that they were super risk-averse on this. Yeah, I know that among the more emotional protesters there’s a belief that “The Man” always does mean, oppressive, insensitive stuff (which is the way they interpret this), but no — not this “Man.” Not normally. Not in my experience.
  • The Faculty Senate vote the other day. Everything else, I could see them brushing aside if this was really what they wanted to do — the student protests, even Darla Moore’s objections. And if it had just been a mild or even moderate expression of concern from the faculty, that too seemed surmountable. But a unanimous vote of no confidence in Caslen? Wow. I thought that was kind of extreme — like really, not ONE member of the body thought he might be OK? But it was unanimous, and now this guy’s starting a job with the entire faculty against him (assuming, of course, that the senate is truly representative). That would give me pause no matter how much I wanted to hire somebody.

But they did it, and I’m surprised. And at the same time, kind of… impressed… after the way they rolled so easily the first time.Caslen mug

What stiffened their spines?

To be clear, I’ve never had a problem with Caslen. I thought the excuse students gave for objecting to him originally was silly, and from what I could tell he was at least as qualified as the other finalists, and probably more so.

And my old boss James likes him, and I trust James’ instincts on this. Molly Spearman was impressed with him, too. And those are two thoughtful, reasonable people. And I tend to give more weight to reasonable people saying reasonable things despite an emotionally fraught situation than I do to a crowd shouting “Shame!” repeatedly.

But I’m still kind of bewildered at what just happened. I’m still mystified at what caused Henry to take the sudden, unprecedented step he took last week. And I’m puzzled that the trustees went along with him.

Maybe they’ve all been saying to each other in private for the last couple of months that they wished they hadn’t given up so easily before. Maybe they’ve been steeling themselves to do this for some time.

But I’m still surprised.

Well, he’s going to be president of our flagship university now, and I wish him all the luck in the world. He’s gonna need it. That, and some stupendous leadership skills….

USC mess: My question is, what’s Henry’s motivation?

Wherever possible, folks stood in the shade....

Wherever possible, folks stood in the shade….

I went down to the demonstration, to get my fair share of heat stroke.

I’m talking about this one, over at USC:

Jennifer was ONE of the speakers, along with Steve Benjamin, Bakari Sellers, and students and faculty members I didn’t know. I’m not sure who all ended up speaking, but this was the official roster in advance:

  • Todd Shaw – Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Zechariah Willoughby – Student
  • Christian Anderson – Associate Professor of Education
  • Steve Benjamin – Former UofSC Student Body President & Mayor of Columbia
  • Jennifer Clyburn Reed – Alumna & Center Director, College of Education
  • Elizabeth Regan – Department Chair, Integrated Information Technology
  • Bakari Sellers – Law School Alumnus & Former SC State Representative
  • Lyric Swinton – Student

And all through it, I kept wondering what I’ve been wondering from the start about all this: What’s Henry McMaster’s motivation? Why stir this pot?

The thing is, what he’s done is get a lot of folks who didn’t care one way or the other about this Caslen guy to get all mad because of the ham-handed way he’s gone about it.

What will happen on Friday? What’s happening behind the scenes between now and Friday? Is all this worth it? And if so, to whom?

Some of the speakers, awaiting their turns...

Some of the speakers, awaiting their turns…

Open Thread for Tuesday, July 16, 2019

"I've called you all hear today to announce..." Oops! wrong photo...

“I’ve called you all hear today to announce…” Oops! wrong photo…

Some things I’ve been meaning to post about the last few days, but have been too busy:

  1. Mark Sanford considers presidential run against Trump — Yikes. Beyond that, this one actually has me speechless. Of all the people out there in the GOP who probably SHOULD run — John Kasich, anyone? — this is what we get. He may run against him, and he may even do it for the right reasons (and not just, you know, for revenge). But he’s still, well, Mark Sanford….
  2. What’s up with ‘Prime Day,’ anyway? — Did any of y’all participate in this attempt to have a Black Friday in July? Did you get a good deal, or do you just feel manipulated and maybe even duped?
  3. Trump’s racist Tweets — Were they racist, or just nativist… or xenophobic? Or is that a distinction without a difference? In any case, they were stupid, crude and beyond the bounds of decent society — in other words, par for the Trump course. What bugs me is that, by attacking AOC et al., he’s distracted from the previous story I really wanted to talk about, which is…
  4. What Is Nancy Pelosi Thinking? — I thought this was a pretty stupid headline on a usually smart podcast — “The Argument” at the NYT. It refers to her coming down on the young folks who call themselves “the Squad.” Well, I’ll tell you what she’s thinking: Shes thinking she likes having a Democratic majority. You know what gave her a Democratic majority? Moderate Democrats beating Republican incumbents in purple districts. AOC didn’t do squat to help in this goal — she beat a Democratic incumbent — and daily she does all she can to endanger those essential moderates in the next election. At any other time, I would say freshmen should be seen and not heard, and not even seen much for that matter. At this moment, it goes double. Anyway, that’s what the speaker’s thinking…
  5. How Nikki went to the UN, and Henry got to be governor — You already pretty much know the story: Trump owed McMaster something fierce, for being the first statewide elected official in the country to endorse his presidential bid. And Henry wanted to be governor. So Trump made Nikki Haley, a person with no known qualifications for the job, the nation’s ambassador to the U.N. Anyway, it’s spelled out in narrative form in that book you keep hearing about.
  6. ‘I don’t care if they have to stay in these facilities for 400 days’ — Jaime Harrison, who’s running against him, brought my attention to this quote from Lindsey Graham about not caring if detainees at the border have to stay locked up. It’s a bit more nuanced than that — he was talking about a subset of men he claims are criminals. But that’s usually Trump’s excuse, too. We know for whom the dog whistle blows. It’s not for people who do nuance.

400 days

I’m losing my photographic memory for trivia!

Huskers

Is that a sign of aging?

Whatever it is, I’m shocked at something I couldn’t remember today.

Someone had said to me that Steph Curry had played basketball at Davidson, which I knew was supposed to impress me, but all it did was cause me to go look up “Steph Curry.” (And it turns out he IS quite impressive).

Because, you know, I don’t do real-life sports. I do frequently enjoy fictional sports (I like the idea of sports more than the reality), so I can tell you all about Roy Hobbs and Bartholomew “Bump” Bailey and Willie “Mays” Hayes and (now that Bryan has me watching “Friday Night Lights”) “Smash” Williams, Tim Riggins and Matt Saracen.

So anyway, defending myself, I boasted that while I don’t know this Curry guy, I can name all the Hickory Huskers from “Hoosiers.”

But then, privately, I tried to do so, and without looking them up, all I came up with was this:

  • Rade
  • Buddy
  • Shooter’s son
  • Ollie
  • Strap
  • Jimmy Chitwood
  • Buddy’s friend who said, “I ain’t no gizzard.”

Best I could do. Which is lame.

Can you flesh out the roster with full names?

You can check yourself against this

team

And look — there’s Merle! I forgot him altogether!…

… and my regards to Her Majesty. Mind how you go…

tumblr_pns5up2Dsh1rnn3e6o3_250

I had a brief contretemps with a Brit today, which as you can imagine — yours truly being such an unabashed Anglophile — made me frightfully uncomfortable.

But all ended well.

I tried to be a wag this morning with regard to Her Majesty’s former ambassador to her ancestors’ former colonies:

But one of our friends across the pond took it amiss:

I immediately sought to mend the rift:

Fortunately, my explanation was accepted:

So all is well, I believe. Fortunately, the English have no problem admitting error, unlike us. “Sorry” is their favorite word. Which is one of the things I love about them, in spite of my recent tour of Ireland, which should have radicalized me against the Sassenach. But it didn’t…

Make no mistake: I wish all the best to Mr. Darroch, and hope Her Majesty will find a good situation for him going forward. He’s the Queen’s good servant, and a friend to this country as well. It’s the truest friend who tells us what we need to hear.

So to all my friends over there, ones I’ve met and those I haven’t: God Save the Queen. And mind how you go…

Open Thread for Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Williamson

It’s shaping up to be a busy news day. And there’s other stuff…

  1. McMaster forces vote on USC president while students are away — An illustration of the “When the mice are away, the cats will play” principle. Really? It’s come to this? The duly constituted authorities are so afraid of the kids in their charge that they can only act when school is not in session? What a weird, screwed-up world we are living in. And an odd calculation on McMaster’s part.
  2. President Trump cannot block his critics on Twitter, federal appeals court rules — This is fascinating, and here are my three reactions: 1) What a snowflake! The most powerful man in the world feels the need to block the people who disagree with him, and does it in a way that people can see it? 2) It’s always fun to see him lose another court battle. 3) I find the ruling disturbing. Trump’s feed is his feed. It is not a government program. It’s where he expresses his stupid self, and he should be able to edit it as he chooses. This seems a weird, contrary application of the First Amendment. It’s like saying newspapers have to run every letter to the editor that they get — which in the old days was physically impossible, but that’s not the point. The point is that editors, under the First Amendment, are empowered to decide what is published under their auspices. We edited in a way radically different from Trump — giving priority to letters that disagreed with us — but it was our choice to make.
  3. The Meaning of Marianne Williamson — In case you caught her act in the debate and are still going, “What the…?,” I pass this Ross Douthat column along. I like that it includes the term, Great Awokening, which cracked me up a bit, and that the blurb or subhed or whatever says, “There’s more in heaven and earth than what’s dreamed of by normal politicians.” Increasingly, we live in a world that rivals the ’60s for weirdness. We need a Tom Wolfe or Joan Didion to chronicle it for us.

Actually, I think I’ll stop with those three. The first two alone are plenty, and would have been separate posts if I weren’t so busy today…

4. Oh, another thing I forgot to mention: Was I supposed to know who this Epstein guy was before the sex scandal stuff? From the coverage, I get the impression I was supposed to know of him. But I didn’t…

5. Which reminds me: Speaking of billionaires or whatever, what’s with this Tom Steyer guy running for president? I’ll ask him the same thing I wondered when De Blasio got into it: Did you think the world was waiting just for you? You’re no Sexy Sadie

6. And speaking of billionaires and running for president, Ross Perot is dead.

OK, I’m done now.

I told you there was a lot going on. I just forgot some of it for a moment.