Today is Alexa’s Christmas and Easter, all in one…

cyber

I just asked Alexa about the weather, and she told me what my glances out the window had caused me to suspect: Those little sunshine icons I saw on my phone yesterday were misleading. Today, it will be damp and cloudy, at least until mid-afternoon.

No big deal.

But then she added, unbidden:

By the way, it’s Cyber Monday. To shop Amazon deals, just ask.

For me, today is the day after the first Sunday of Advent. For Alexa, the universe is shaped differently.

From a first-week-of-Advent perspective, we might ask ourselves, “Why did God make you?” turn to the Baltimore Catechism and be told that “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.”

But Alexa was created by Amazon, and Jeff Bezos made her to sell stuff.

It gives her a whole different perspective on existence.

All of that said, we might ask what meaning “Cyber Monday” has in the universe of 2020. I mean, isn’t every day kind of Cyber Monday? Or Tuesday, or whatever?

As I recall, the idea — as ecommerce first came into its own — was that after the execrable “Black Friday,” the first day that people were back at “work” and sitting at their computers, they spent a scandalous (from the perspective of their employers) amount of time ordering stuff online.

This seemed to fit with what I saw after I started blogging in 2005: People read blogs and commented during what we generally thought of as office hours. Nights and weekends? Forget it — no point in posting anything then.

But we’ve just spent a whole year in which millions worked from home. And in which people avoided stores and bought more and more stuff online every day.

So… what’s special about Cyber Monday now?

Maybe nothing. I went to Amazon on my browser, expecting to see a huge display showing how exciting Cyber Monday allegedly was… and was greeted by the rather boring display of administrative functions you see below. No mention of a special day of any kind.

I had to click again on the Amazon logo in the upper-left corner to see the deals you see above. And I had to scroll down the page to see those. The top of the page was a promo for some made-for-Prime movie called “Uncle Frank.” (I saw a preview for that, and couldn’t tell what it was about, so I’m kind of doubting I’ll watch it.)

So maybe it’s not such a special day after all. But no one told Alexa. Perhaps they didn’t want to spoil her childlike wonder. She’s young, so she’s like a kid this time of year. You say good morning to her, and she’s all “Santa Claus is coming!”

Which would be adorable, were she actually, you know, a child

routine

Open Thread for Wednesday, November 25, 2020

EnoFXcwW4AAARS_

Here’s something to be thankful for.

Just a quick one to toss some possible discussions out there:

  1. What are you doing for Thanksgiving? — I’ve been asking this of people I speak to about unrelated things. Mostly, there is some concession to the resurgence of the plague, and the danger the holidays pose — but it varies greatly, from families gathering on screened porches to not gathering at all. Everyone in our fam is dining in their own home pods — except my two single kids who live in town, who will eat with us, but spread out in the house. Then, if weather permits, we might all go have dessert out in my parents’ spacious back yard. We’ll see.
  2. Biden’s national security team — Talk about something for which to be thankful — tomorrow, and every day for the foreseeable future. This is exactly what I wanted. As the Post’s editorial board put it, this group “ought to encourage anyone who values experience, expertise, integrity and fundamental competence in U.S. government leaders.” Amen. This is such a wonderful change from what we have unfortunately grown used to. For a slightly more fun approach to the same point, I recommend Dana Milbank’s column, headlined “Biden’s win brings new hope for peace deals with Denmark and Canada.”
  3. Ex-SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh pleading guilty to fraud charges — To start things off, I’ll cite the reaction of one of the most illustrious members of our little blog community. In reaction to the news that Marsh “is facing prison time and fines worth more than $5M after pleading guilty to defrauding S.C. ratepayers who paid billions for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear power plant,” our own Lynn Teague tweeted two words: “Richly deserved.”

You know what? That’s enough for now, just to get things started. I need to get back to some work, and then go bake a cake…

A Way I’ll Never Be

treetop

And never was, either.

crop

See him up there?

See him up there? There’s a man in the top of an absurdly tall pine tree about 15 or 20 feet before my front door, with a chainsaw dangling from his belt as though it were no more than a hammer — when he’s not using it. As I type this, I hear the loud buzz of the saw, punctuated by the shaking of the house when the massive logs he’s cutting crash into the ground. (See the little dormer sticking out from the second story in the picture? That’s where I am — my home office, where I do jobs more my speed.)

There are all sorts of jobs I think I could do, or have done. But this is not one of them. I wish I could, because I could save a lot of money if I could do this. But even when I was as young and light and strong as this fellow, I could not have done it. I don’t have a head for heights, to say the least. Climbing on a step ladder tests the limits of my tolerance for altitude. I’ve roofed houses, but I generally stayed away from the edges and tried to forget where I was to a certain extent. And I haven’t done that in a while.

So the tree service is removing this one, and another one they cut down late Saturday. Then, they’ll get to the one we’re most concerned about, the massive one with ominous branches that project out over the deck we’ve spent so much time rebuilding — and which spatters pine sap here and there so we don’t forget to worry about it.

I’m looking forward to watching that. It’s going to involve tying ropes to the branches so they just hang there when cut, to protect the house. It will be like watching the swaying of a new mast in one of my Aubrey/Maturin books. A delicate operation, and a triumph when done.

While the young man was at the top of the first tree Saturday, I had out my own (electric) chain saw, removing a large shrub at the corner of the house. That’s about my speed. I had a talk with the climber before he went up — I’ve seen this done before, and I always wonder: How does your chain saw cut so quickly and easily (and repeatedly) through a whole tree? I asked whether he put on a fresh chain before every tree. Because that’s the only time my saw cuts like that — when the chain is new.

Nope. Of course not. He’s a professional. He sharpens it himself. You ever sharpen a chain saw? It’s tedious, and tricky. And as I saw, he evidently does a good job, so it goes through the tree like the proverbial hot knife.

When I took the picture above a few minutes ago, the topman recognized me from our talk and waved. I waved back, thinking, “Better you than me up there.”

Yeah, my headline is a paraphrase of the title of the Nick Adams story. The one in which Nick isn’t quite right following his Hemingwayan Wound — a traumatic brain injury, as we’d call it today. Because that is definitely not a way I’d ever be — you’ll never get me up there….

lumber

My neighbor gave it up. So now Trump will too, right?

late Trump signs

Well, I have some good news. I went for a midday walk today, and didn’t see any Trump campaign signs in the neighborhood.

You may find that unremarkable. But you don’t know the whole story.

After I came back from Memphis — we’re talking the day or so after the election — I saw them for the first time: Two Trump/Pence signs, both in the same yard but spaced as far apart as possible, perhaps to give the impression that they were in more than one yard. I had seen this before — someone a couple of blocks away had resorted to the same approach, perhaps in an effort to compensate for the fact that there were so very many more Biden signs in Quail Hollow.

No biggie. I had taken down my signs the minute I got home, but not everyone had done so yet. One neighbor with signs for Biden/Harris, Jaime Harrison and Adair Boroughs left them up for another week.

But here’s the thing: I had not seen those two Trump signs before the election. That’s OK, I said. My last walk that way had been two or even three days before the election. Maybe this neighbor had put them up on the very last day, while we were driving to Memphis. It was possible. And then, I thought, making excuses, he had decided to keep them up for a bit, having just erected them.

Maybe.

But then they were there the next day, and the next, and the next. The three signs for Democrats in that other neighbor’s yard came down about a week ago, but these stayed.

Perhaps, I thought with dismay (after all, this is someone in my neighborhood, not some famous loony way off in D.C.), this was in support of the incumbent’s — sorry, but I’m going to have to use that word — unprecedented refusal to concede the election he has so clearly lost.

And they stayed up. They were still there yesterday, Nov. 19.

But today they were gone. Thank Goodness.

Now, no doubt, it’s only a matter of minutes before Trump himself does the grownup thing, right? I said, right?…

Things I’d like to ask the Wizard, if I could…

wizard

I shaved my beard off on All Saints Day. The night before, I’d been trick-or-treating with most of my grandchildren, and they informed me I had missed a big opportunity: I should have dressed as a wizard!

They were right, of course. So before shaving the next day, I did a selfie with a hoodie on. Not just any hoodie. The hoods on many of them don’t have enough material to cover my big head. This one, which is getting kind of ragged now, has a comfortably capacious cowl, which helps approximate a sort of Gandalf effect.

See what I mean?

No, I’m not going to share an “after” picture. I don’t like the way I look without the beard. My visage is less… wise, mysterious, knowing. Less esoteric. Now I’m just this guy, you know?

Looking back at the picture above now, it occurs to me I’d like to have a wizard I could go see, and ask some questions. Not about getting a brain or a heart, and definitely not to get me back to Kansas — I came home in 1987 to get away from Kansas. I have other questions these days. Here are a few:

  • Why did so many people vote for Donald Trump two weeks ago? Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Wizard, I’m as grateful as can be that Joe won. Thanks for casting that spell on South Carolina back on Feb. 29. We’d be in real trouble if you hadn’t. But I just need to know why he didn’t win with 100 percent of the vote. Really, after the last four years, I can’t believe anyone was planning to vote for Trump at the start of 2020, and that’s before COVID. And all year, he kept doing and saying things that, translated, said “DON’T VOTE FOR ME!” There were no excuses this time. No Hillary. No, “I was sure he’d lose, so it was a protest vote.” I’ve spent the last four years trying — really trying — to understand why anyone voted for him in 2016 (and the two things I just mentioned were all I came up with). And every day since then, people have been hit with a tsunami of evidence that this is really, absolutely, not anyone you would ever put in charge of anything. So I really, really don’t know why even one person voted for him this time — much less 70 million. So please, ‘splain it.
  • Oh, and what’s with the utter rejection of reality? How can someone who so obviously exhibits the perspective and self-interest of a two-year-old persuade people that his fantasies are real? Seriously, how can half of Republicans — which is a bunch of people — actually believe assertions that are based in nothing — nothing! — but a disturbed man’s self-delusion?
  • What happened to Lindsey Graham? Oh, I don’t just mean over the last four years — how did he get even worse after the election? Why didn’t he take a vacation or something, which might have given him a chance to get better?
  • Why don’t I know the names of the astronauts who just went to the space station on the new ship? A change of pace there…. I knew the names of the first two guys — Bob and Doug. The only name we hear any more is “Elon Musk.” That’s like knowing the name of Bob Gilruth, but not John Glenn. It’s weird.
  • Is there something in our food, or air, or water that has damaged our brains? Yeah, I’m drifting back toward the first couple of questions. but no, I’m not just talking about people who voted for Trump, even though, yeah, they’re a great example. My next couple of questions provide examples from completely different segments of the population…
  • Why does a sensible woman like Abigail Spanberger have to explain to fellow Democrats that failing to distance themselves from absurd statements such as “defund the police” or labels such as “socialist” hurt them in the election? And how come she’s still sensible while others are not? Does she not eat the tainted food or breathe the tainted air? In any case, thank goodness she was re-elected — barely.
  • Why did those people in Portland keep coming out and protesting day after day, as though it were a job or something, when it was painfully obvious that every day they did it, they were providing Donald Trump with ammunition, helping back up his paranoid talking points? I mean, if you have a point to make, haven’t you made it with the first protest? It’s one thing if you live in a place — such as Hong Kong — where actually being free to protest is in a way the point.. You might do that over and over — until they stop you, as China has done now (thereby proving there was a point to the protests). This is different. It’s not like the initial George Floyd protests, or those in Kenosha or Louisville, which were specific responses to clear events, as opposed to the Portland goings-on, which were more like a… lifestyle or something.  It would make sense if we learned those protesters were in the pay of the Trump campaign. That would add up. But I’m pretty sure that’s not it. You know, I watched maybe one episode of “Portlandia” and lost interest. Something about free-range chickens or something. Maybe I should have kept watching…

Well, there’s more, but that’s probably enough for now. Maybe I’ll ask more questions another time, if that dude in the strange green outfit will let me in…

Why can’t we have this in South Carolina?

I thought this was a neat thing, and read the story about it with interest, until I got to the part where it listed the states where this service was available, and South Carolina wasn’t one of them.

I started to type, “and of course South Carolina wasn’t one of them,” but I decided not to be all negative, and I’m conscious that I use “of course” too often in a number of contexts.

But it’s a shame. It would be cool if, assuming the test I took yesterday turned out positive (which I doubt, but bear with me), everyone with a smartphone (OK, everybody who had a smartphone and activated the feature) who had been near me would be warned.

But nope…

Hey, I got tested! No results yet, of course…

CVS queue

Ever since I got back from Memphis, I’ve been meaning to get a COVID test. I figured someone in my group of five family members — having spent about 20 hours, there and back, in a van — should do it. And I was curious about the process.

I was amused, in a dark-humor way, at the notice on the box I was supposed to put my completed test in.

I was amused, in a dark-humor way, at the notice on the box I was supposed to put my completed test in.

So I made an appointment yesterday, and went to have it done about an hour ago.

It was a little weird. I had to wait about 15 minutes in a drive-thru line — at the same CVS store I go into frequently — and struggle through hearing the instructions over the distorted sound system. But I got it done. And it wasn’t unpleasant or anything. I only had to put the swap barely into my nose, rather than poking at my brain with it, the way I’d heard from horror stories. Of course, maybe that means the test won’t be valid. I don’t know.

I’ll let you know what I hear back, which should be in two or three days.

You just never know. One of my ADCO colleagues — someone I haven’t seen in person since March, although we had our weekly Facetime meeting this morning — learned she was positive yesterday. Fortunately, she feels OK so far, except for having lost her sense of taste. I hope that’s the extent of it for her.

Anyway, I’ll report back. Here’s the video they texted to me, and which I neglected to watch before I got there…

The wedding party that infected 176 people, and killed seven

wedding party

You know, I had looked forward to doing some fun posts after the election was over, what with the madness of Trump behind us. Maybe even some silly ones.

But now, you know, he’s refusing to get himself behind us. Which is sometimes amusing, of course. See this video. But with Joe trying to set up a new government and save the country and all and Trump’s games getting in the way of that, the joke has worn thin. And then there’s things like Trump pushing for war with Iran last week, before his pals talked him down. Which is also kind of a buzz-killer. Oh, and have you heard that our own senior senator has been over messing with Georgia, trying to get them to throw out valid votes? Yeah….

Meanwhile, we have the coronavirus. The big new wave is coming, and we’re not ready. And the holidays are coming up, and with almost half the country having just voted for Donald J. Trump, I’m sort of guessing there might be two or three or even more people out there who won’t make the slightest effort to avoid large, unmasked gatherings.

So, no fun posts for now. But maybe this is a good time to share this story from The Los Angeles Times the other day. Let me set it up for you.

In August, seven people left California to have a wedding in Maine. The group consisted of the happy couple and five members of the groom’s family (making me guess the bride was from Maine, but I don’t know).

They had a reception at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket, Me. There were 55 people there.

OK, right off the bat you want to yell, “Why are you traveling to Maine to have a gathering of people?” But in their defense, they did take some precautions. The entire party that traveled across the country got tested as soon as they got to civilization — I mean, to the East Coast. They were all negative. “At the time, Millinocket had not reported a single case of COVID-19.”

The servers at the reception wore masks, and took the temperatures of every guest as they entered. So, sorta kinda good so far.

Of course, at the time in Maine, gatherings of more than 50 people were not allowed. But hey, they only went five over, right? Unfortunately, although signs were posted saying everyone was required to wear masks, “guests did not comply,” according to a report by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

And you see, there was one person there who was infected.

Others at the party got it, and with shocking carelessness, went to work and public events after starting to get sick.

Eventually, 176 people in addition to the index case got the virus. Seven of those people died.

Here’s the kicker sentence:

None of the victims who lost their lives had attended the party.

It’s quite a story, compellingly told. I recommend you read the whole thing

Now is the winter of their discontent… apparently

Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III in "The Hollow Crown: The Wars of The Roses."

Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III in “The Hollow Crown: The Wars of The Roses.” We don’t need this…

This is a very dangerous time, a time no Americans have faced before.

A rough beast squats in the White House, refusing to move, even though it’s his time to slouch off (is it OK to mix references to Shakespeare and Yeats, or is that kind of like confusing metaphors?).

Almost half of the country (thank God less than half) voted for him, and has been brainwashed by him into utterly rejecting reality. And now he is rejecting his own rejection. We have never seen this before, ever. And we have never had so many people seemingly ready to accept something so profoundly, shockingly unAmerican. Now is the winter of their discontent, and they are acting as though they wish to bring the cold dark upon the whole country.

I referred to this in a tweet last night:

Four years ago, I flirted with the idea that maybe — in a vain attempt to embrace their duty as Alexander Hamilton conceived it — presidential electors should refuse to vote for Trump.

I realized I was wrong — partly in response to comments some of you, such as Phillip Bush and Dave Crockett, posted to correct me — and did something you seldom see me do: I wrote and published a separate post saying I was wrong, and why. In other words, I did what we’re all waiting for Trump’s supporters (not so much the man himself; let’s not expect too much) to do — I came to my senses.

Aside from the guidance from some of you, I was influenced by the fact that I had been watching the second half of “The Hollow Crown,” a brilliant compilation of eight of Shakespeare’s history plays — from Richard II to Richard III — telling the horrible story of the Wars of the Roses.

I highly recommend the two series. After watching that second one (the three Henry VI plays and Richard III) I put the first series (Richard II through Henry V) on my Amazon gift list, and someone in my family was was kind enough to get it for me. You really should try watching them, particularly the bloody second batch.

That, and my more personal wanderings through history compiling my family tree, impressed me more than ever how fortunate we were to be living in the world’s oldest and most stable liberal democracy. As I wrote at the time:

For so much of human history, no one had much of a sense of loyalty to a country, much less to a system of laws. They couldn’t even be relied on to be loyal to a certain lord for long. Everybody was always looking for the main chance, ready to kill to gain advantage even temporarily.

Our 240-year history, our country of laws and not of men, is a blessed hiatus from all that. We may descend into barbarism yet — and yes, the election of a man who shows little respect for the rule of law is not a good omen — but so far the Constitution has held….

At least, it had held up to that point. But it hadn’t been tested yet the way it’s about to be tested…

"Plucking the Red and White Roses in the Old Temple Gardens," by Henry Albert Payne

“Plucking the Red and White Roses in the Old Temple Gardens,” by Henry Albert Payne

Straight-party voting did a nasty job on South Carolina

Mandy on the bus in 2018.

Mandy on the bus in 2018.

Why did I agonize the way I did over the fact that all four people I’d be voting for this year were in the same party? Because I know what a destructive thing the practice of straight-party voting can be.

Yes, I examined each choice I was making with the usual care, and was satisfied that in each case, I was making the right choice:

  1. Donald Trump is the worst president in our history, a thoroughly disgusting person, and Joe Biden is his opposite — so no question there.
  2. Lindsey Graham has thrown away everything that once made him worth voting for, while Jaime Harrison offered the promise of a fresh, unsullied start.
  3. Adair Boroughs was untested, but her opponent Joe Wilson has been tested over and over, and found wanting.
  4. I am thoroughly satisfied with my state senator, Nikki Setzler, and his opponent (whose name slips my mind) offered no persuasive reasons to replace him.

The fact that all four were Democrats was in part incidental, and in part the result of the utter degradation of the Republican Party in the age of Trump. I am pleased with the choices I made, and sorry that only half of them won.

But too many people don’t go through all that. They just vote for one party or the other, rather than for candidates. In South Carolina, we even offer people the opportunity to do it by pressing a single button, which is appalling. Anyone who takes advantage of that “convenience” is completely throwing away his or her responsibility to careful consider how to vote. Do that, and you’ve let the parties think for you.

Yeah, I know: Some of my regular readers do it, and feel no shame for it. If I recall correctly, the ones I’ve heard from tend to go for the Democratic option. I invite them to consider what a gross practice this is by contemplating the harm Republicans did this year when they did the exact same thing.

There is no way, no way at all that such people as Vincent Sheheen and Mandy Powers Norrell were turned out of office as a result of voters actually comparing them to their opponents and finding the incumbents wanting. That’s impossible. I’ll use Mandy as an example of what I’m talking about.

She is a Democrat who has been repeatedly returned to office by her Republican neighbors. She is one of them, born and raised in the district. Her family worked at the textile mill, and she worked her way through to become the first in her family to graduate from both college and law school. As a municipal attorney, she was thoroughly immersed in practical, nonideological local issues for years before going to serve in the General Assembly. Her commitment to Lancaster was deep and profound. I used to worry about her in 2018 because at the end of unbelievably exhausting days campaigning across the state, after she had pulled back into Columbia with the rest of us late at night, she would drive home to Lancaster. And then she’d drive back to start again before the sun had fully risen again. Day after day.

As for her opponent…. well, her qualification was that she was a Republican. She moved to the community from South Florida in 2006. But she’s a Republican, you see. Let me show you something else. Watch the video clip attached to this tweet:

And here’s another one:

Yeah, Mandy herself chose those clips, and did so because they showed her at an advantage. But here’s the thing: I know her, and I know how smart and dedicated she is. That’s the way she normally answers questions. Maybe her opponent sometimes sounds smarter and better informed than she did in those clips. But I’ve looked over her website and her Facebook page and I don’t see much sign of it. I just see lip service given to national GOP talking points, and no indications of an understanding of the issues facing South Carolina, much less Lancaster.

In other words, I see things aimed at the buttons of a straight-ticket Republican voter, period. And a particularly ignorant one at that — the type who thinks “defunding police” is a burning issue in the State House.

Can you imagine the votes for Mandy’s opponent were based on her being better suited, personally, to the job? Maybe you can. I cannot.

Let’s talk about Vincent Sheheen, one of the smartest and most earnest members of the Senate. Actually, I’ll let my friend Cindi Scoppe talk about him. I urge you to read her column about Vincent’s defeat, headlined, “This was South Carolina’s worst surprise on Tuesday. Nothing else came close.”

Some excerpts, among description of Vincent’s accomplishments over the years:

Come January, Mr. Sheheen will no longer be there to serve as a bridge between the races and the parties and the House and Senate. He will no longer be in a position to work through the big problems that most legislators don’t have the capacity or temperament or relationships to work through. Because a red wave swept over Kershaw, Chesterfield and Lancaster counties on Tuesday, as the nation’s most expensive ever U.S. Senate contest drowned the electorate in a $230 million hyper-nationalized stew of partisanship that purged voters’ appetite for local issues or the merits of individual candidates….

One news story described Mr. Sheheen’s defeat as “arguably one of the most stunning legislative upsets for Democrats for this cycle.” It’s not. It’s clearly the most stunning upset for any S.C. politician this cycle, probably this century. And the most devastating for our state.

It’s an obvious loss for Democrats. But it’s also a loss for Republicans, and all of us, because Mr. Sheheen was among a small handful of legislators who went to Columbia not to be somebody important but to do something important. And at that, he was remarkably successful.

No, I don’t know how many of the people who did this damage to South Carolina by voting Vincent out were voting straight-ticket. But the numbers suggest that few could have been doing anything else. And I haven’t seen where anyone has offered any other plausible explanation…

An even older file photo, from 2010...

An even older file photo, from 2010…

Some scattered thoughts, three days later

NYT 435

I’m still scrambling to catch up with my day job after having been out for three days — in Memphis for my brother-in-law’s funeral, which was on Election Day — but I thought I’d post a few scattered thoughts about this scattered election. (Even though it’s Friday evening and traditionally, no one reads blogs then.)

Here are some nuggets:

  • Good News: Joe is going to win this. We are going to have a normal human being as president of the United States, the way we did for 227 years before January 2017. When it truly, finally happens — when the counts are official — it will be wonderful news.
  • Bad News: As Joe wins, Donald Trump will do everything he can to destroy, among the people who heed him, any remaining shreds of faith in our system, which absolutely requires accepting election results. He is behaving like a raving tinpot lunatic, as he gave us every reason to believe he would. He may be going, but on his way out he plans to bring down the United States as completely as he possibly can. Why? Because as we all know, he does not give a damn about the country, or about anything other than himself and his impulses.
  • Worse news: This country that I love did not stand up and soundly refute Trumpism by consensus. It did not itself, or other countries, or our children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren yet unborn, that this is not who we are. This is a profound tragedy of historic proportions, exceeding any of the ugliness we had seen previously in the past four years. Before, he was just an accident that happened because people didn’t like Hillary. This time, against a vastly more appealing opponent, he got more votes than he did in 2016. America is really, really fouled up, folks.
  • Things get worse in South Carolina: There are lots of things we could point to, such as the state going embarrassingly early for Trump, or the big victory of the most pathetic toady we’ve ever seen in the U.S. Senate. But the shocking thing is the way three moderate Democrats, whose records would be praised by virtually anyone — including Republicans — who know them, were unceremoniously thrown out of the Legislature. I speak of Vincent Sheheen, Mandy Powers Norrell and Laurie Funderburk. The General Assembly will be a less rational, more extreme, and let’s admit it, dumber place without these three people. I would say this shows South Carolinians have lost their minds, but it’s worse than that. It’s the fact that the majority will vote for the Republican in our state no matter who that Republican is, and no matter who the Democrat is. Which is worse than crazy. I’m convinced that most of these voters knew nothing, or next to nothing, about any of these three Democrats or their opponents. I’ll give you just one small example: Watch the short video on this Tweet, which from everything I’ve seen about that race is more or less representative. There is absolutely no way that any voter who paid the slightest attention to these candidates could have voted for this Republican over Mandy. There’s just no way.
  • The Democratic failures in Congress: I haven’t studied this enough to have a lot of observations to make, but here are a couple. Basically, the Democrats didn’t clearly take over the Senate, although they could still barely take very limited control once all the votes are in — now that Mark Kelly has won, no doubt thanks to the $5 I sent him. Meanwhile, they lost some, but not all, of their majority in the House — although as I said previously in a Tweet, some of the moderates (my favorites in that caucus) who gave the Dems a majority in 2018, such as Mikie Sherrill and Abigail Spanberger, managed to hang on. Joe Cunningham, of course, did not (which takes us back to the preceding bullet on SC). In the big picture, this means the total, sweeping power the Dems had hoped for has escaped their grasp. That means no dramatic new federal programs, most likely. I still hold out hope for Joe Biden’s plan for improving Obamacare, but a lot of the other stuff they wanted is out. Which will be fine by me, if this means they abandon plans to expand the Supreme Court. (If they hadn’t kept yammering about that, maybe they could have won big in the Senate.)
  • Celebrating normal and decent. Even if Biden has a Congress that is difficult to deal with, though, we will still have a normal, decent president. Which is truly the one big thing I wanted out of this election — we can talk plans and programs later. In fact, if all he can do is deal with foreign policy — which is the thing I tend to care most about when it comes to the presidency anyhow — I’ll be happy. That’s the main thing I wanted — just to have the White House stop embarrassing the country, at home and around the globe. That alone will be a big, big win.
  • Some people are being too careful. My main two national news sources have been a bit too careful for my taste. NPR — which goes by the AP, which declared Biden the winner in Arizona Tuesday night — has had Joe with 264 electors since at least Wednesday. The Economist does, too. Meanwhile the two national papers to which I subscribe — The Washington Post and The New York Times — are stuck at 253 still tonight (see above). But as wild and crazy as the AP was with Arizona, they were still about an hour behind Fox News — which really drove them nuts at the White House and had Jared Kushner on the phone to Rupert Murdoch complaining. Anyway, if you want to look at nice numbers for Joe, Fox is one of your best options. See below.
For really nice numbers, see Fox News.

For really nice numbers, see Fox News.

Election Day: 2020

Voting in Line

 

Well, it’s Election Day. There have been millions of votes cast early, millions will vote today, and we will likely be counting mailed in votes for days to come as they arrive. Brad is out today due to a death in the family. I asked if he wanted me to put up a post for him on election day, and he indicated he did.

Here’s your chance to make predictions for what happens or generally comment on the election. Today, we are one people, one country. America is a special place. If you go to a polling place, you are likely to see a candidate for office in the parking lot outside asking for your vote. That’s a good thing. It’s still good to see candidates asking for our votes.

No matter what happens, I am hopeful for America.

In these last days…

Here's some good news: Remember the Biden sign in my neighborhood I mentioned that seemed well positioned, but then disappeared? Now it's back...

Here’s some good news: Remember the Biden sign in my neighborhood I mentioned that seemed well positioned, but then disappeared? Now it’s back…

This is just a quick note to let y’all know why you’re not seeing much from me in these last days before the most critical election of our lifetimes.

My brother-in-law suddenly died in Memphis, and we’re preparing to get on the road and go there for the funeral. We haven’t been thinking about much but that, and won’t be until the election is over. This is all we have room or time for right now.

Not that the last-minute election insanity hasn’t been going on around us anyway:

  • My son who is going with us had planned to vote on Election Day, and had to go stand in line for two and a quarter hours Saturday. But he got the job done. Everyone in the family has voted now.
  • I’m glad I went ahead and did it last Tuesday. I had never, ever in my whole voting life had anything come up to prevent me voting on Election Day, but this time I was worried maybe something could. I had thought, “What if I get COVID?” I never thought anything like this would come up.
  • The sign vandals have picked up their pace again — and now in broad daylight. I’ve told you I’ve been bringing in my Biden signs every night, and putting them back out in the morning. Now, they’re striking in broad daylight. Once today, one of my signs was lying on the ground. I saw that the ground was torn up at the base, suggesting it had been deliberately knocked down. I set it back up. Within an hour, it had been knocked down completely.
  • I think I’ve seen indirect evidence that some Trump signs have been knocked down or stolen in the neighborhood. A few of those have appeared now — the Donald might be up to four or five yards in the neighborhood (nowhere near as many as Biden signs). One went up about 10 houses down our street just in the last few days, together with a Graham sign (those are rare). Today, when I walked by, there was only the Graham sign. I hope it wasn’t a case of theft or vandalism, but I can’t rule it out. Passions run high all around.

Anyway, I’ve had enough of it. I’m so ready for these horrible four years to be over. Maybe, by the time we’re back home, it will be. I hope and pray so.

I’ll end with this, one of my favorite things I saw today:

When did rock ‘n’ roll die? I nominate 1993

creep

You can get a lot of nominations for this. Don McLean seemed to think it died with Buddy Holly — but you know, there was still a lot of great stuff after that.

Of course, we can argue all day what “rock ‘n’ roll” means. It gets confusing. For instance, back in the ’60s and I suppose into the ’70s, we sort of relegated the term to that “old stuff” from the ’50s. Elvis, Little Richard and the like. Buddy Holly, of course. Wonderful stuff from history, to be sure, but terribly dated. What we listened to in those days was “rock,” preferably “album-oriented” stuff, via FM — by the ’70s, anyway. “Rock” was cooler, more refined, more sophisticated than those 3 minute-and-shorter bursts of exuberance from the ’50s.

But then, it crept back into our language. We were listening to something that had always been (in our foolish young minds) and always would be (in our innocence). Little did we know that we would live to see it die, and be replaced by the kind of frothy, commercial, packaged pop that used to dominate radio and TV variety shows before The Beatles.

We resisted it, in waves of rock ‘n’ roll fundamentalism. There was punk. Then later, grunge. But grunge came at the very, very end. After that, there were good pop songs to be sure, but rock ‘n’ roll? I don’t think so.

By the term, I sorta think what I mean is guitar bands, although not exclusively. There’s a certain loudness and wildness to it, although not always. It’s definitely male-dominated, being a sort of semi-constructive (by comparison to other, less-savory, behavior) outgrowth of what happens to boys in their teens — although we also thoroughly enjoyed “Blondie” and Joan Jett and Tina Turner and Janis Joplin.

Anyway, I know what I mean. In my last post I made a passing reference to “The State” being on MTV when “rock ‘n’ roll was still alive,” and then noticed that the series came along in 1993, and thought harder about it, and realized that may have been the year it all ended.

If so, it went out with a bang. Here are some of the top songs from that year:

Yeah, I know UB40 was reggae, but I wanted to include it because it was good, and because it harked back to the beginnings of rock ‘n’ roll, to the King himself, which seemed fitting.

Anyway, Google the top songs of 1994, and you’ll see a big drop-off. Sure, there’s stuff like Beck’s “Loser,” and indeed there was some decent stuff leaking out here and there over the next few years. But the age of rock ‘n’ roll was over. And in late-1960s terms, the age of just plain “rock” was done.

Note that I didn’t pick anything from when I was a kid. I’m not claiming that 1971, the year I graduated from high school, was the last cool year or anything (although it was pretty great — think “Sticky Fingers” or “Who’s Next,” or Leon Russell). Rock stayed alive through the 1970s, producing some wonderful stuff like Elvis Costello. And then music got a shot of adrenaline stronger than anything they gave Trump at Walter Reed when music video exploded in the ’80s. I was busy being a Dad and a newspaper editor then, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

But I think 1993 — coincidentally the year I turned 40 (on that birthday, the Battle of Mogadishu happened) — was the end. Since then, we’ve been crossing a long, dry desert.

At least, that’s what I’m thinking at the moment. What do you think?

‘The State’ emerges from extinction to endorse Jaime


View this post on Instagram

Hi, we’re The State.

A post shared by Thomas Lennon (@thomaspatricklennon) on


Oh, you thought I meant The State? No, no, no, I meant the comedy troupe, “The State.”

I appreciate them going to the trouble to get together and do this, even though only one of them even momentarily wears a mask. Of course, they did it on Instagram, making it harder to just grab the video and embed it, and they also called The other State South Carolina’s oldest newspaper, which it isn’t, but why would you expect them to know better? They’re actors.

However, after an instant’s reflection, they did have the sense to back Jaime, which not all actual newspapers had the sense to do, so let’s give them some credit.

And it’s good to see them together again. I’ve often wanted to use a clip from that series on the blog — such as the practical advice of “Pants,” or “Prison Break,” which if you recall was made impossible by the fact that the open road was “off-limits” — but have had trouble finding them online.

It’s been so long. The series goes all the way back to the days when MTV was still watchable, and rock ‘n’ roll was still alive.

So enjoy….

the state

Would you hire this man?

Well, this is a particularly awesome ad on any level. I especially like it because when it comes to voting, or endorsements, I’ve always thought in these terms — I’m hiring someone for a job. It’s one reason I make such a fuss about people’s resumes — and also about their characters.

The thing about Trump is, I’ve always found it unimaginable that anyone would consider hiring him for anything, anything at all — much less the highest office in our land (in the world).

Oh, by the way — if you have hearing trouble the way I do, you might like this version with subtitles:

In any case, enjoy. And think. And run out and vote, if you haven’t yet…

interview ad

I’m glad I voted yesterday. Can we count the votes now?

I went with the bandanna rather than a surgical mask, in order to cover my beard. I'm going to mount that cotton swap on a plaque or something...

I went with the bandanna rather than a surgical mask, in order to cover my beard. I’m going to mount that cotton swap on a plaque or something…

I mean, come on, people — if you haven’t voted, that’s just too bad! I can’t wait now…

But seriously, folks… As I mentioned in comments on a previous post yesterday, I cast aside my firm preference for voting on actual Election Day — and I still prefer it — for a number of reasons:

  • I kept hearing things that made me worry that instead of taking the pressure off Election Day, the waves of people voting early (62 million as of the time I was standing in line waiting to vote) be a harbinger of a complete mess on that day. I stood in long, long lines in 2008. Those same lines would be much, much longer with social distancing, and I didn’t fancy standing in the heat or rain or whatever (it rained during the hour and forty minutes I was in line in 2008) with a mask on my face that long.
  • I didn’t feel great when I went to bed the night before. Probably just weariness from staying up half the night before, for the convenience of the West Coast, watching the World Series. But I thought, “What if this is COVID? What if I get sick and can’t vote?” I couldn’t take that chance.
  • When I found out about this satellite location — and found out about it in a way that made me hope not many people would know about it — I decided to run out and do it, suddenly and without warning.

And it worked. I got it done in less than an hour. I congratulated myself on a brilliantly successful coup de main operation. Trump and Lindsey never saw it coming. Not from me, anyway. Just BANG, and I had voted.

By the way, I voted as I reported I would — for Joe, Jaime, Adair and Nikki Setzler. Which should have taken only seconds, but I assure you I was more obsessive than usual about double- and triple-checking ever vote at ever stage — on the screen, and on the paper printout. I made sure there was zero chance of an error on my part.

Now, about the fact that the availability of this convenient polling place (about half the distance, for me, compared to the election office in Lexington) was kept such a secret…

That morning, thinking about getting out and voting, I had tried to find out what my options were. But when I had Googled “where to vote early near me” and entered my address, I was told that I had to go to Lexington. Other options weren’t offered. (Also, I could have sworn there was no info on the county election office website when I looked before, although it’s there now.)

I found out about it completely inadvertently. A friend sent me a flyer that she had gotten from a Facebook post that someone else had sent her. It was not from the Lexington Election office. It was from the page of the West Columbia Community Center, the place where I ended up voting. I went looking for that post later and couldn’t find it, but I did find a link to a WIS story about these places being opened. If The State, my main local source of news, posted it at any time, I missed it. (A search of thestate.com shows that the last time the full phrase “West Columbia Community Center” appeared in The State was 2015 — but that’s a notoriously bad search engine, so I don’t know.)

So, I can’t really say the county officials hid the information from the public. I’m just not terribly impressed by how well they got the information out. I think maybe it spread by word of mouth during the day yesterday. I voted pretty quickly, but the line grew substantially while I was there, and Bud says he saw something about it on WIS (thank you, WIS, for making the effort to help us know about this) that said people were waiting as long as 90 minutes. Although I don’t know when that was.

Then there’s the fact that the place where I voted — the only place anywhere near me — was only open yesterday, today and tomorrow. And only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., rather than full voting hours like on Election Day.

Look, I’m grateful for the opportunity I had yesterday. I want to thank the folks who manned this temporary site — including one of the folks I’m used to seeing at my own precinct on Election Days. I appreciate WIS trying to get the word out. Mostly, I appreciate the chain of people passing around the information that eventually got to me.

But you know, the folks in charge of elections in my county could have gotten the word out better. And they could have had these locations open the whole time, rather than these small snatches of time.

If they had, it would have helped more to keep the madness down on Election Day. I still worry there will be problems (although probably fewer in this county than in Richland — at least ours is an actual county office, rather than one of those notorious Special Purpose Districts).

But I’m glad I got the opportunity, and I’m glad I’m done…

ElWtKvUWoAYavaO

It was pretty exciting when I actually got INSIDE the building, and could see the little voting booths…

I’m thinking about doing this, too

No, not the dancing part, although it looks like it would be a lot of fun, for those who can do it.

I just mean I’m still thinking about going out and voting ahead of Election Day. The turnout projections I keep hearing about keep prodding me in that direction.

Just haven’t decided yet.

Yeah, I know — there aren’t many days left.

I’ll end this with something I tweeted this morning:

And I’m not even a Bob Marley fan. I don’t know where that came from — divine inspiration, perhaps — but I thought I should share it…

dancing

Glad to help. But what, or where, or who, is ‘Ambler?’

This is Lindenwold Castle, which Wikipedia tells me is located in Ambler, PA.

This is Lindenwold Castle, which Wikipedia tells me is located in Ambler, PA.

I’m getting so many fundraising emails from campaigns that they’re getting all crossed up and confused. Texts, too. For instance, my wife has been getting texts intended for someone named “Eugene” for about a year. She can’t make them stop, but has learned a lot about “Eugene.”

I was puzzled today by one from Joe Biden — actually from the Democratic Party, but pretend-signed by Joe — which, under the headline “I am respectfully asking 86 people from Ambler to contribute before Saturday’s deadline,” said:

Brad, I’ve come to you to respectfully ask for your support ahead of countless big moments during this campaign. It’s not lost on me that Kamala and I come to you often. But today, I am asking you to please be one of the 86 people from Ambler needed to support our party and my campaign, because this fundraising deadline is the final deadline of this election — and we won’t get another shot at this…

The team has briefed me on the numbers, and we can reach our party’s final fundraising goal if 86 people from Ambler chip in. Please, Brad: Will you split your first $10 donation between my campaign and the DNC before the final deadline of the race on Saturday?…

We have our work cut out for us, but we know what we have to do: If 86 members of this team from Ambler step up to donate what they can, we’ll hit our goal, fully fund the party programs we need to cross the finish line, and be in the best position possible to defeat Donald Trump and his allies. That’s why I must ask you…

I responded:

Joe, I’ve already given, and glad to do it.

But I have to ask: What, or where, or who, is “Ambler?”

And yeah, I finally did make a direct donation over the weekend. I had to set up Apple Pay — which I had resisted up to now — on my phone to do it, but I did it.

I guess this is the Ambler he meant. I hope those 86 folks step up. Because Joe really needs to win there…