Cranston, others are AMAZING in ‘All the Way’

I intend to drop my subscription to HBO Now, as an economizing measure, after the last episode of “Game of Thrones” this weekend. (I’m not giving up much; my Amazon Prime account gives me access to pretty much everything I value about HBO.)

Before doing that, I made a point last night to watch the new HBO movie, “All the Way,” starring Bryan Cranston as Lyndon Johnson.

I was blown away. Wow. I did not know Cranston could act like that. Sure, a lot of it was a brilliant makeup job, but that was just the start. And it wasn’t just the voice impersonation; plenty of people could do that. It was his physicality — the way he positioned and moved his body, the subtleties of his facial expressions, that made him seem to inhabit LBJ.

The constant Grimace of Anxiety

The constant Grimace of Anxiety

Just watching his mouth shape the words was hypnotic. As much as I liked “Breaking Bad,” it persuaded me that he had a limited set of expressions. In the early seasons, I got really tired of that grimace of extreme anxiety that he wore constantly — although, in retrospect, I suppose that was masterful, too, as it so effectively communicated his stress to me, which was part of what I didn’t like about it.

But to watch that jaw and lips and teeth become those of LBJ was astounding.

But the quality of this production extends far beyond Cranston. You’ll also be impressed by Bradley Whitford as Hubert Humphrey, and Melissa Leo as Lady Bird. Frank Langella as Sen. Richard Russell and Steven Root as J. Edgar Hoover are both wonderful as well, but then those guys always are.

There are less impressive parts, of course. The actor who plays Strom Thurmond only has a line or two, but I still fault him for doing too little with it.

But the greatest letdown is Anthony Mackie as Martin Luther King. For one thing, he doesn’t seem old enough. Yeah, I know — MLK was only 35 at the time and Mackie is precisely that age. But King had a bearing that made him seem older than he was.

Perhaps I expect too much, but it seems that in everything I see — the disappointing “Selma” comes to mind — the actors portraying King fall far short of capturing him. Mr. Mackle simply lacks the gravitas — in the shape of his face, his voice, his manner. King had a presence that impressed. Why is there not an actor out there who can communicate it, or at least approximate it?

But let’s not linger on the shortcomings. “All the Way” is excellent, and if you have access, you should take the time to see it.

all-the-way-bryan-cranston

To give you chills on a summer’s day: Ralph Stanley singing ‘O Death’

My old friend Richard Crowson, a bluegrass musician who is a master at picking anything with strings on it — would likely disown me for admitting this, but I pretty much knew nothing about Ralph Stanley before he died this week.

To give you who are similarly ignorant a little schooling, I share this:

He was a short, gaunt man in a white cowboy hat and gray suit, his features seemingly chipped from granite with a stony gaze to match. When he sang “O Death” at Wolf Trap in 2006 as part of the Great High Mountain Tour, Stanley’s scratchy high tenor made the Grim Reaper sound like an acquaintance of long standing. This traditional lament had revived his career when he sang it in the Coen brothers’ 2000 movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” but Stanley’s ghostly vocal made clear that the song was older than that movie, older than the whole history of talking movies.

Even in the 21st century, there was an echo in his voice of 19th-century mining and lumbering (his father worked in an old-fashioned sawmill) and of the 17th-century songs that immigrants from the British Isles brought to the Appalachian Mountains. It was in the southwest corner of Virginia, in Dickerson County under the shadow of Clinch Mountain, that Ralph Stanley was born on Feb. 25, 1927. Together with his brother Carter, two years older, Ralph learned the eerie harmonies of a cappella Sacred Harp singing in church and the spry rhythms of old-time string-band music at dances.

“Three groups really shaped bluegrass music,” Ricky Skaggs told me in 1998. “Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, the Stanley Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs. Everyone who came after them was just following in their footsteps. . . . Ralph’s still out there 150 dates a year; he’s the last of the giants still in action.”…

But he is in action no more. And this video sounded to me like a voice from Beyond when I listened to it over my coffee this morning.

What it does is profound. So I thought I’d share…

 

I didn’t know Bryan lived in Illinois

bumper sticker

Or Mike Cakora, either, for that matter.

Anyway, I thought they’d like this bumper sticker I saw when in line at Lizard’s Thicket today.closeup

Here’s a closeup in case you have trouble making it out. Hmmm… It’s still not that clear. OK… It said, “Better To Have A Gun And Not Need It Than To Need A Gun And Not Have It.”

This car also had a sticker — on the back window — that said “got ammo?” and another that said, “NO HILLARY 2016.”

I got caught taking the picture. Right after I took it I saw the driver’s arm come out of the window and give me a thumbs-up. I waved back in a noncommittal way.

Now, here’s where I test your assumptions. See if you can form in your mind a picture of this driver.

Think for a moment. Got it? Describe the driver.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. But it was an African-American woman. Either that or a slender, dark-skinned man with long, straightened hair.

So add that to your picture of the world.

Having voted to exit, Brits now wonder, ‘What is the E.U.?’

Forgive me for using your signature line, Dave Barry, but I am not making this up.

Since all those awful headlines about Brexit disturbed me so much, I was wondering whether the full impact was hitting some “Leave” voters and making them have second thoughts.

Well, yes. The Washington Post had this quote today:

“Even though I voted to leave, this morning I woke up and I just — the reality did actually hit me,” one woman told the news channel ITV News. “If I’d had the opportunity to vote again, it would be to stay.”

So it appears some Brits who voted on this perhaps didn’t consider what they were doing carefully enough beforehand.

Actually, it’s much, much worse than that.

Today, faced with all the madness in the wake of the vote, here were the most popular Google searches in Britain:

You know, the sort of search you might expect a voter to have started with months ago, if he or she intended to vote yesterday. Followed up by a whole lot of other questions.

Seriously. They did not have an effing clue.

I mean, here I was, feeling bad that I didn’t focus enough on the referendum to have fully made my mind up before yesterday, and yet I — a Yank who had no say in the matter — had been far more conscientious about the issue than these twits who got to vote on it.

Of course, the feckless Brits are not alone. Wonder how people in this country could vote for someone as clueness and ridiculous as Donald Trump? It’s because of stuff like this…

Why do Brexit fans wave Union Jack in celebration, when they just voted to do away with it?

Farage

I keep seeing images of Nigel Farage and other fans of Brexit celebrating their win by waving the Union Jack.

Which is really ironic, and seems to indicate a lack of thinking things through on their part. Which, under the circumstances, isn’t terribly surprising.

Already, Scotland — which voted strongly to remain in the E.U. — is girding itself for another vote for independence, and this time it seems likely that they’ll succeed in seceding.

As I Tweeted in the midst of it all last night:

And that, of course, would mean the end of the Union Jack. Right? I mean, how could you keep the St. Andrew’s Cross after that?

Flag of England

Flag of England

For those who haven’t paid attention the last few centuries, the Union Jack represents the union of England and Scotland, hence the combination of the St. George’s and St. Andrew’s crosses.

True, I’m no expert on heraldry or anything. Maybe an independent Scotland would still be part of the Queen’s realm, and she could still fly the Union flag when she’s in residence at her palace.

But still… that’s a rather empty sort of union these days, isn’t it?

Here’s the flag they should be waving, since this is what they voted for. Not quite as satisfying to look at, is it?

Union Jack

Forboding headlines from our Mother Country

I went to bed last night fairly certain that Britain would soon be out of the E.U., after a couple of hours of being buffeted back and forth by SkyNews — Newcastle says leave, Liverpool says stay, Edinburgh stay, Manchester stay, Birmingham leave — and watching the numbers creep, like a tide going out, from slightly in favor of remain to increasingly for leave.

But I wasn’t quite prepared for the barrage of dismal tidings when I first looked at my phone this morning:

Brexit 1

Merkel

brexit 3

Brexit 2

And then, a bit later:

stocks

What a barrage. And as if that weren’t enough, in case we were still unsure this was bad news, we had Donald Trump assuring us that Brexit was “a great thing.”

I started imagining what the map of Britain would look like in the future. England and Wales and maybe, way off to the upper left, Northern Ireland…

I found myself almost immediately wondering how much worse it could get. We know Boris Johnson is poised to take Cameron’s place. But… what if the Tories lose control, and there’s an election that puts that leftist lunatic Jeremy Corbyn in No. 10?

Open Thread for Thursday, June 23, 2016

BrexitArialW

As we wait for the votes to come in across the pond:

  1. EU referendum vote – long queues and bad weather — Apparently, we won’t learn what happened until sometime overnight. But you’ll be excited to know that I made up my mind that were I eligible to vote, I’d vote to remain. How did I decide? I Googled to see what my main man Tony Blair would do. So, that’s settled.
  2. Democrats end sit-in after chaotic 26 hours in House — Meanwhile the GOP got ticked off and went home. What was accomplished? Well, nothing, really, except for energizing the Democratic base, which eats up this sort of thing.
  3. Deadlocked justices block Obama on immigration — Notice how, while the Congress dithers and engages in symbolic actions, the judiciary actually goes out and does stuff? Not sure this is what the Framers had in mind, but this is how it works.
  4. Four more S.C. residents contract Zika virus — All were travel-related, but this is still just getting too close to home.
  5. Baltimore Officer Who Drove Freddie Gray Is Acquitted — As with Ferguson, we have another case in which what thousands of protesters just knew to be the case could not be demonstrated satisfactorily in the criminal justice system. Some dissidents will no doubt think this proves the system is rigged. To me, it demonstrates that people frequently take to the streets based on insufficient evidence.

General, you might want to spread your troops out a bit

ClevNgYWYAAMQks

Ran across this photo when the U.S. Army Tweeted it out in celebration of National Selfie Day — which apparently is a thing — earlier this week.

It shows Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, posing with some of his troops.

All I could think was that in a combat situation — and the way they’re decked out it certainly looks like a combat situation — a formation like this would be suicidal. One mortar round, and that’s it.

I’d just feel a lot better if they were spread out in a proper skirmish line.

Beyond that, it just looks ridiculous… it sort of cracked me up.

Cindi Scoppe’s Gonzales Award acceptance speech

Sorry about the quality of the photo. The light wasn't ideal...

Sorry about the quality of the photo. The light wasn’t ideal…

Yesterday, as I mentioned, was my day for awards ceremonies. The best, for me, was the one at The State at which Associate Editor Cindi Scoppe received the paper’s Gonzales Award (named for the paper’s first editor, who was shot and killed on Main Street by the lieutenant governor in 1903).

It was the second time she had received the award, having gotten it in 1999 as well.

Bud Ferillo, Bob McAlister and I had written letters supporting her nomination, which is why we were there.

The work for which Cindi was honored took place during her first months alone, as the last remaining member of the editorial department. (There were once nine of us.) I addressed the significance of that in my letter supporting her:

When it comes to cold, dispassionate, hard-eyed assessment of South Carolina government and politics, no one touches Cindi Scoppe. Not in 2014, and not in 2015, either.

But in 2015, she did something else as well. She grew. She still did everything she had always done, the stuff no one else could do, but she added a couple of new ingredients: Heart and Soul.

There was a time when she didn’t have to do that sort of writing, and that comforted her. She liked being, in her own assessment, the board’s “Designated Mean Bitch.” When empathy and violins were called for, she was more than happy to let other associate editors “resonate” with the proper emotion for the moment – and some of them were really good at it. She would stick to the hard stuff.

But by mid-2015, there were no other associate editors. Warren Bolton – an ordained minister who could speak to the heart as well as anyone who had ever served on the board – left in the spring, and by June, Cindi was alone….

That sort of sets up what Cindi had to say in her acceptance speech. Here it is, shorn of some personal acknowledgments at the beginning:

The day after Dylann Roof slaughtered those nine innocents, Bertram Rantin stopped by my office to chat. I probably said I knew I needed to write something about the massacre but I had no idea what to say. Because what our community needed, what our state needed was not policy prescriptions but emotion and understanding. What was needed was RESONATING. And I don’t do resonating.

And Bertram said, you know, we used to have two people who could speak to this sort of situation. And isn’t it ironic that this would happen just weeks after we lost both Warren Bolton and Carolyn Click.

We talked some more about other things, and he left, but his words stayed in my head. And at some point, I realized that I had to step up to the task. I realized, as Brad wrote in his letter supporting my nomination, that I had to grow. I had to become a writer I had not been willing to.

Three thousand years ago, when God wondered aloud who he could send to speak to his people, the prophet Isaiah answered saying “Here am I, send me.” I think that’s one of the coolest passages in the Bible. Christians and Jews see that as a great act of faith. But it could also be seen as an act of dedication, of commitment to a cause, to a calling.

And don’t we all have a calling? Isn’t that what journalism is?

Shouldn’t we all be willing to ask, in the secularized iteration of Isaiah’s response: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Isn’t that the commitment that all of us need to give to our craft, to our community?

Now, except for Paul, there’s no one on the second floor who should be doing what I do routinely – advocating for policy positions. It’s probably not often that you should be writing about your personal experiences. Certainly not about how your faith informs your life decisions, or how it relates to public policy.

But what I had to do last year – after the massacre and a few months later, after the flood – is something every one of us can and should be willing to do every day: Look for where we can make a difference, fill roles we might not be comfortable filling, grow, if necessary, into the bigger demands of our jobs.

In his supporting letter, Bob McAlister said this about our jobs:

“I have spent my professional life in South Carolina’s political/media axis and have seen the media, especially newspapers, evolve. Of this I am certain: Our citizens have never needed good journalism more to help them wade through the complexities of life and the chaos of the Internet.”

As newspaper staffs grow smaller and the cacophony of self-interested voices grows louder and objective truth becomes increasingly optional, what each one of us does becomes exponentially more critical.

I would urge all of us to focus on the critical nature of what we would do: Not duplicating what others are doing, but providing our readers with important information they can’t get anywhere else. I urge you all to be truth-tellers, not just stenographers.

Today people in public life just make stuff up..

I can remember a time when it simply didn’t occur to journalists that we needed to verify basic facts from someone in a position of authority. Oh, we needed to watch for spin. We needed to make sure they weren’t manipulating numbers or not quite telling the whole story. But if a governor said half the job applicants at the Savannah River Site failed drug tests, it was safe to assume that was true. Not anymore.

Unfortunately, there’s no way we can fact-check every single thing that public figures say. We can’t even fact-check every single thing a governor says.

But at the very least, we can do this: When people say things we know are not accurate, and we report what they say, we can point out the facts. We can say this is what the law actually says. This is what was actually spent. Or this is what the audit actually recommended.

This isn’t being an editorial writer. This is being an authoritative voice. This is being a journalist. This is something I did as a reporter. It’s something y’all do sometimes as reporters. It’s something we all need to do more of. We need to help our readers understand what is true and what is not. We need to give our readers the facts and the context they need to make informed decisions. It doesn’t matter whether we agree with those choices or not; it matters that they are informed.

Of course, as Jeff will remind us, we need to write things that people will read. And this is the hardest part. It’s never been easy to get people to read the stuff they need to know, and now we have metrics that show, at least in the online world, how little they read it. So it’s very tempting to just give up and give people what they want. That’s the easy way to drive up our unique visitor numbers.

It is not the right way.

The right way is keep trying to figure out how to turn what people need into what they want.

It is a daily battle. It is a battle that I often lose.

But it is a battle that I absolutely must keep fighting.

It’s a battle that you absolutely must keep fighting.

We have big and difficult jobs, and they are getting bigger and more difficult every day. And we have to stretch and grow to fill those jobs.

We have a calling. We work for our community.

Not to entertain our community. To inform our community. To give our readers the tools they need to be active citizens.

It is not an overstatement to say that our system of self-governance depends on our willingness to fulfill our calling.

Amen to that.

Which is a more precious right: freedom to travel or guns?

Note that I did not ask which is constitutionally protected. I’m asking which is more fundamental to a free people.

Whenever we talk about barring people on no-fly lists or terror watch lists from obtaining firearms, Bryan or someone else will make the point that we would then be taking away a constitutionally protected right without due process — since those travel lists maintained by law enforcement don’t involve judgments by courts.

Good point, logically and legally sound. It “is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection.”

We have the freedom to put on out travel vests and go where we like, no matter how ridiculous we may look.

We have the freedom to put on our travel vests and go where we like, no matter how ridiculous we may look.

But for me, it raises another question. Which is more fundamental to our basic, everyday liberty: The freedom to travel, to go where we choose within these United States whenever we like? Or the right to bear arms?

I would think the first one is. No, it’s not plainly addressed in the Bill of Rights the way guns are, but it’s protected by the Privileges and Immunities Clause — in other words, in the actual main body of the Constitution as opposed to the afterthoughts. (And in a sense the whole Constitution was an attempt to break down barriers between states and make a more perfect union, which would include moving about freely from state to state.)

We who are not on watch lists sort of take it for granted. People in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union did not, with their internal passports and other requirements to have the right papers to be here or there at a particular time. When I read about such things during the Cold War, I thought that difference as much as anything else illustrated the contrast between our countries. (Actually, I see that Russia, China, Iraq and Ukraine still have such systems. Huh.)

The right to bear arms is not such an essential divider between free and unfree countries — other liberal democracies don’t share this, um, “blessing” with us.

No, it doesn’t have a whole cult built up around it the way the 2nd Amendment does. But isn’t the freedom to move about even more precious than the right to go armed?

About that sit-in over guns by Democrats in the U.S. House…

ClkNZfVXEAIQsYn

Twitter photo from U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle.

This is my day for going to awards ceremonies. I’m about to go to The State to see Cindi Scoppe get the Gonzales Award.

But while I’m gone, y’all should talk amongst yourselves about the Democrats’ sit-in over guns in the U.S. House.

Here’s what the president thinks:

What do y’all think?

CRC honors Jack Van Loan, Nikki Haley

Jack Van Loan in 2006.

Jack Van Loan, flying back-seat in a civilian aircraft in 2006.

Today at our annual luncheon at the convention center, the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council (of which I am a board member) honored my good friend Jack Van Loan and our governor, Nikki Haley.

Jack received the Milton Kimpson Award for a lifetime of service to his country and to this community. As you’ll recall, he was an Air Force pilot who was shot down, captured, tortured and held prisoner for several years at the Hanoi Hilton, where he became fast friends with fellow prisoner John McCain. Since moving to Columbia in retirement (he’s originally from Oregon), Col. Van Loan has been a community leader particularly in the Five Points area, and is the guy who built the annual St. Pat’s Day celebration into the huge event it is today.

We honored the governor with the Hyman Rubin Award for her leadership last year after the killings at Emanuel AME in Charleston — for the way she led us in mourning and honoring the dead, and for (in my mind, especially for) doing the unlikely thing and leading us, finally, to take down that flag. Her leadership during last fall’s floods was also mentioned at some of the meetings I attended.Nikki Haley

Now I’m going to tell a tale out of school, and if it significantly bothers a consensus of my fellow board members, I’ll take it down…

Some very good people who are deeply invested in the cause of the CRC contacted board members in recent days to protest our honoring Gov. Haley. In one case, we received a long and thoughtful letter reciting a litany of reasons why, because of her policy and political actions in office, she did not embody the spirit of Hyman Rubin, or of our group.

I can’t speak for the rest of the board, but I can speak for myself on this. My reaction was that the protests were thoughtful and respectful and stated important truths. Most of the items counted against the governor were things that I, too, disagree with her about.

But I strongly believed that we should give the governor the award. (And while I didn’t poll everyone, I haven’t yet spoken with a board member who disagrees with me.) Our group is about community relations, particularly in the sense of fostering better interracial relations, and what the governor did last year did more on that score than I’ve seen from any elected official in recent years. Despite what some believe, she did not have to do what she did. I did not expect her to do it, right up until the miraculous moment when she did. Based on what I have seen over almost 30 years of closely observing S.C. politics, what she did was a complete departure from the norm.

So I was pleased to see her receive the award. She was unable to attend personally, but she sent along a video clip in which she thanked us quite graciously.

Congratulations, governor. And thank you for your leadership…

Recap: Game of Thrones decides to throw us a bone

Having a bad day, Jon? Well, it's the consequence of your own decisions...

Having a bad day, Jon? Well, it’s the consequence of your own poor decisions…

Yeah, I know how other sites give you the Game of Thrones recaps the same night the episodes are first released, but that is SO-o-o-o- 20th Century. I watch them in the modern way — when I feel like it.

So here’s my recap of Episode 9 of Season 6, “The Battle of the Bastards.”

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER — BASICALLY, NOTHING BUT SPOILERS FROM HERE ON.

Let’s cut to the chase and deal with the battle itself. Bottom line, the good guys win, which in and of itself is remarkable. For once the writers throw us a bone.

But here’s the thing — they don’t deserve to win. Not tactically speaking. In fact, they do everything they can to throw the battle into Ramsay Bolton’s nasty lap.

What was the one thing that came out of the Council of War the night before? Make Ramsay come to us. He has the numbers; he has the cavalry. Choose your ground, hold it, shape it with trenches and other things that will prevent the enemy from enveloping you, and you have a chance.

Um, remember how the plan was NOT to get enveloped?

Um, remember how the plan was NOT to get enveloped?

So what happens? Ramsay does something entirely predictable — as Sansa said, there’s no way Rickon is walking out of this episode — and Jon et al. do exactly what he wants them to do, what even a split second of thought would tell them he wants them to do. And they do it anyway, without hesitation.

This seems particularly egregious to us as viewers — or me, anyway — because who is Rickon to us? Yeah, in the abstract we know that Jon watched the kid grow up, but we have not been made to feel that. To us, Rickon is just this guy, you know? Has he ever spoken a word of dialogue? Maybe so, but not that I recall. Yeah, he’s the last legit male Stark heir who hasn’t gone north of the Wall and become a hallucinating oracle, but were any of us pinning our hopes on him to save the family fortunes? I don’t think so. The poor boy was a born victim. I didn’t seen any of Ned in him. In fact, I didn’t see any of anybody in him, because we never got to know him.

So we see Ramsay do Rickon in in a cruel manner, but not a particularly cruel manner by Bolton standards. Which we expected him to do. Which, since we don’t know Rickon really from Adam’s off ox, makes it seem especially egregious when Jon reacts by doing everything he can to throw the battle away.

And in fact, he succeeds in that. The battle, as far as the forces Jon went in with, is entirely lost when Littlefinger comes to the rescue — a deliverance we had no reason to expect, making it the plot equivalent of dealing with a nightmare situation by writing, “And then the boy woke up.”

Yeah, it’s satisfying to see Ramsay come to an ignominious, gruesome end. He brought out the cruel beast in us all.

But the good guys had this one handed to them. They didn’t earn it.

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, the Khaleesi is in a fix and her dragons deliver her from it, yadda-yadda. Personally, this girl isn’t going to impress me any more until she finally makes an appearance in Westeros and delivers on all her big talk.

But what did y’all think?

Meanwhile, Daenerys and her dragons, yadda-yadda...

Meanwhile, Daenerys and her dragons, yadda-yadda…

HOW many guys are passing the new Marine fitness test?

'The fitness test? You can't HANDLE the fitness test!'

‘The fitness test? You can’t HANDLE the fitness test!’

I don’t intend to get into the underlying issue of women in the infantry — I’ve intended to ever since that mandate came down from civilian leadership, but I just haven’t felt up to the huge and predictable argument that would lead to — but in reading this I felt motivated to make some remarks on general fitness in the Marines:

New physical standards established so women can compete for combat posts in the Marine Corps have weeded out many of the female hopefuls. But they’re also disqualifying some men, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.

In the last five months, 6 out of 7 female recruits – and 40 out of about 1,500 male recruits – failed to pass the new regimen of pull-ups, ammunition-can lifts, a 3-mile run and combat maneuvers required to move on in training for combat jobs, according to the data.USMC-logo2

The tests, taken about 45 days into basic training, force recruits who fail into other, less physically demanding Marine jobs. And that, the Marine commandant says, is making the Corps stronger.

The high failure rate for women, however, raises questions about how well integration can work, including in Marine infantry units where troops routinely slog for miles carrying packs weighed down with artillery shells and ammunition, and at any moment must be able to scale walls, dig in and fight in close combat.

The new standards are a product of the Pentagon’s decision to allow women to compete for frontline jobs, including infantry, artillery and other combat posts. But Marine leaders say they are having a broader impact by screening out less physically powerful Marines – both men and women.

“I think that’s made everybody better,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the AP in his first in-depth interview on the subject. “We’re trying to raise everybody’s bar a little bit and we’re trying to figure out how to get closer together, because at the end of the day we’re all going to be on the battlefield and we all have to be able to do our job.”…

I have a series of reactions to this:

  • These new standards are only eliminating 40 out of 1,500 male recruits? That doesn’t sound like the Marines to me. They’re supposed to be the few, not the 1,460 out of 1,500. Were the ratios always like this? If so, that sort of tarnishes the image I have in my head of the Marines as an elite force. Even the Army, at the very height of WWII, was rejecting a third of draftees. I really that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but still — wouldn’t you think more Marine recruits than that would wash out, if standards were what they should be?
  • Assuming for a moment that we’re all in agreement that women should be in foxholes, I don’t think we have any reason to look at 6 out of 7 women washing out of an elite light infantry unit as bad news. Seems to me that the best argument always advanced for letting women in is that we should treat people like individuals — that we shouldn’t say, just because most women lack, say, the upper body strength to keep up with male Marines, that all women should categorically be barred. Shouldn’t we make exceptions for, say, the Lady Briennes of Tarth among us? That always seemed a good argument to me. (I,for one, would not want to be the officer deputed to tell Lady Brienne she was out, especially since Ser Jaime let her keep that Valyrian steel sword). Besides, if six women don’t make it, the more honor to the seventh.
  • What happened to the notion of “every Marine a rifleman?” Should Marines keep the feathermerchants who can’t pass a test that 97 percent of male recruits can pass? What’s this about “other, less physically demanding Marine jobs?” When did the Marines start offering such jobs? I’ve always known the Army had places for the less fit — or at least they did in the days of the draft, when things like food service weren’t outsourced to civilian contractors and you could always put a sad sack to work peeling spuds or policing the area for butts — but since when is that an aspect of the Marines? They’re the point of the spear, are they not? Let the swabbies do the paperwork, right? Every marine is a rifleman.

I should probably stop there before I offend the Air Force, too.

But when I hear that almost all male recruits can pass the new physical requirements, it makes me think that even I, at my age, might have a shot. And I really like to think of the Marines as having higher standards than that…

Guadalcanal: A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River in September 1942.

Guadalcanal: A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River in September 1942.

Open Thread for Monday, June 20, 2016

Let’s kick this week off, shall we?

  1. Trump to campaign manager: ‘You’re fired!’ — All those Trump fans are getting the reality TV show they voted for. There’s something backward about this, though: If the Trump campaign wanted to get rid of its greatest liability, The Donald himself would be the first to go. Meanwhile, the NYT has apparently read the WashPost‘s story about Roy Cohn’s influence on Trump, and done their own version of the story, with additional details.
  2. Cavaliers win NBA championship — For those of you who complain that we don’t have enough sports here. As Kent Babb, former sportswriter at The State (now with The Washington Post) Tweeted, “Royals … Cavs … Cubs? Ain’t nothing impossible anymore.” He neglected to mention this year’s greatest sports miracle: Leicester City winning the Premier League, with a bit of encouragement from Richard III.
  3. High Court Turns Away Challenge to Semiautomatic Gun Law — This counts as a victory for gun-control advocates, as at least this is one battle they didn’t lose. Meanwhile, Here Are The 4 Gun Proposals The Senate Is Voting On (Again).
  4. Coroner: 3-year-old dies a day after twin brother — I could hardly stand to look at this story. It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. Forgive me for sharing it, but it just cast a pall on my morning. Twins are such a blessing, as I’ve been privileged to learn. Such a loss staggers the soul. My thoughts and prayers go out to this family.
  5. The Guardian view on the EU referendum: keep connected and inclusive, not angry and isolated — Somehow, they fail to persuade. But this is fairly typical, for me, of their “leaders.” Still don’t know how I’d vote…

This just in! I’ve learned that Capt. Jack Aubrey, late of Her Majesty’s Navy, has come out for Brexit, and has given his jolly tars a pep talk urging them to vote the same:

Capt. Jack Aubrey: England is under threat of invasion [evidently a hyperbolic reference to increased immigration from EU countries], and though we be on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship, is England. So it’s every hand to his rope or gun, quick’s the word and sharp’s the action. After all… Surprise is on our side.
Crew: Huzzah, huzzah!
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Do you want to see a guillotine in Piccadilly?
Crew: No!
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Want to call that raggedy-ass Napoleon your king?
Crew: No!
Capt. Jack Aubrey: You want your children to sing the “La Marseillaise?”
Crew: NO!

OK, so he’s distorting things a bit. But don’t stop him; he’s on a roll…

Watching the Brexit campaign closely, but still undecided...

Watching the Brexit campaign closely, but still undecided…

Open Thread for Friday, June 17, 2016

TrumpPressAriailW

This being Friday afternoon, practically no one will read this, but you who do can count yourselves as special:

South Carolinians observe anniversary of Emanuel AME killings — You’ve probably been hearing about it all day. Any thoughts?

  1. Russian Track and Field Team Barred From Rio Olympics — Both the NYT and WSJ are leading with this right now, so it’s a really slow news day. With the Russians, isn’t this kind of a dog-bites-man thing? Or am I thinking of the East Germans?
  2. Dozens of GOP delegates launch new push to halt Donald Trump — Very een-ter-resting. Also interesting is that the WashPost’s top three stories are about Trump, so getting barred from his campaign hasn’t cramped their style at all. The lede is about his business ties to Russia, which casts a new light on his cozying up to Putin. The third is about Trump’s long-standing relationship with the late Roy Cohn, who the story says “showed Trump how to exploit power and instill fear through a simple formula: attack, counterattack and never apologize.”
  3. Jo Cox

    Jo Cox

    Jo Cox killing: suspect’s far-right links a ‘priority line of inquiry’ — Everything, including politics, stands still when one person gets shot in Britain. Because unlike in certain countries we know and love, it seldom happens there. Guess why? Of course, she was an MP, so there’s that.

  4. Suspect who allegedly shot at car with five victims inside turns himself into police — So how did he do that? Was it magic — did he actually become a police, or did he merely put on a cop costume so that everyone thought he had turned himself into police? I like the Baltimore-style use of “police” to refer to an individual, like on “The Wire.” You know, like when McNulty or somebody said, “You’re a good police.”

Tem Miles, Republican, S.C. House District 89

Tem and the Miles fam.

Tem and the Miles fam.

Tem Miles came in second in the GOP primary for S.C. House District 89 Tuesday. He got 25 percent of the vote to Micah Caskey’s 36 percent. (Those percentages are from a tiny turnout — Caskey got 1,026 actual votes, and Miles got 717.)

But he’s already gotten a boost in the runoff on June 28. Bill Banning, the former Lexington county councilman who came in third with 21 percent, has endorsed Miles, based on his belief that “experience matters.”

That’s a reference to the fact that between the two young attorneys, Miles is the only one to have held elective office previously. In fact, as a West Columbia city councilman, Miles is the veteran of some pretty unpleasant confrontations with former Mayor Joe Owens. He was re-elected last year.

Miles also cites other experience, serving in two of the state’s three branches of government. The Citadel grad formerly clerked for Appeals Court judge Paul. E. Short Jr., and served as attorney for the Office of Senate Research. Today, he’s in private practice with the McKay Firm.

His list of goals if elected, as listed on his website, are pretty similar to those cited by his opponent, and not appreciably more detailed:

Tem Goals

Since it was the item that interested me most (hey, you want something other than that, go to some other blog!), I asked him what he meant by “reforming state government,” noting that the few words he had about it on his website suggested he was mostly talking about ethics reform.Tem Miles

But his notion of “reform,” it turns out, is much broader and to the point than that. In fact, he defines it pretty much the way I do.

Turns out that, although he was probably in middle school when my “Power Failure” project ran in the paper in 1991, he seems to have absorbed its main lessons from somewhere.

So, like Arlo Guthrie and the other fellas on the Group W bench, we just had a high ol’ time talking about the Legislative State, special purpose districts, judicial selection, co-equal branches of government, and all kinds of groovy things that would probably make your eyes glaze over — but which are the very things a lawmaker should care about if he’s running on RE-form.

Some high points from that discussion:

  • He would turn more real power over “to our governor” — although he hastened to add that he didn’t specifically mean this governor, just governors in the future. Bottom line, the executive branch must be more empowered in other to be a co-equal branch with the dominant Legislature.
  • He would empower the judiciary in part by giving it a set percentage of the state budget to run on, rather than judges having to go begging to the Legislature for funding.
  • He would further free the judiciary from the legislative branch by changing the method of judicial selection, which now lies completely in the hands of lawmakers. Rather than say he would move to the federal system, he said he would select them like worker’s comp commissioners — the governor nominates, and the full Senate confirms. In other words, the federal system.
  • “We’d be so much further along as a state,” he said, if we fully implemented Home Rule — by which he meant local governments should be run by the folks elected locally to do that, instead of by county legislative delegations and their creatures, such as SPDs.

There was more, but you get the idea. Either that, or you zoned out. Anyway, the idea is RE-form.

So that’s what I know about Tem (short for “Temus“) Miles, who is facing Micah Caskey in the runoff on June 28.

Micah Caskey, Republican, S.C. House District 89

Micah Caskey

Micah Caskey

The Caskeys and the Warthens have some common history, although it’s from before my time. Remember when I mentioned that my mother was writing her childhood memories, and I was typing them and creating a blog for them? Well she made prominent mention of “Hop” Caskey, who was a teacher and coach at Bennettsville High School in the ’40s, and his wife, “Madam.” They were good friends of my mother’s family — they used to buy season tickets together for Tarheel football so they could go see Charlie “Choo-Choo” Justice play.

"Madam" and "Hop" Caskey

“Madam” and “Hop” Caskey

Well, those were Micah Caskey’s great-grandparents. I was happy to be able to share with him recently a picture of them that he’d never seen before. By the way, the photographer in the foreground is Jimmy Covington, who’s been a fixture in Columbia media circles for decades. He was at BHS with my Mom.

Still, I’d never met him until back in March, when he filed to run for Kenny Bingham’s House seat. We had a wide-ranging conversation about values and policies. Unfortunately, if I took notes I can’t find them. At the time, my main aim was to find out whether this was a someone I wanted to run against, so I don’t think I took notes at all. I was looking for an overall impression.

And the overall impression was this: I was reluctant to run against him because dang it, not only is he a Marine combat veteran, but it was eerie how many things we agreed on. Of all the things we talked about, there was one thing we sharply differed on, and now I’ve forgotten what it was.

So for blogging purposes, that was a useless interview (aside from getting the photo above). But fortunately you can find out about him at his website. He lives in Springdale, and he’s an assistant solicitor in the 11th Circuit solicitor’s office (the one Rick Hubbard and Candice Lively are competing to run). I asked him why he didn’t just run for solicitor, and he said others seeking the office had more experience than he did.

The son of a locksmith, he’s the product of Lexington 2 schools and the University of Florida. He describes his military service thusly:

After college, Micah spent the next several years on active duty in the Marine Corps—rising to the rank of Captain. Micah commanded both company and platoon-sized units during his two combat tours of duty in Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq. Later, in 2009, Micah left law school for a year to continue his service to the country. It was during that year that he commanded a small team of specialized Marines in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

He obtained his law degree from USC, plus a master’s in international business from the Darla Moore School. He worked as a management consultant in the oil and gas industry for awhile before joining the solicitor’s office.

Here are the issues he’s running on (which are pretty similar to the ones his runoff opponent, Tem Miles, cites):

  • I want to get government working for us. America is at its best when individuals and private businesses are pursuing life, liberty, and happiness — not when wrapped up in bureaucratic red tape.
  • I’ll fight to fix South Carolina’s roads and bridges. I’ll work for meaningful reforms that innovate the way our state government functions. We need accountability and transparency.
  • I will be a voice for public safety. Last October, when the floods came, our first responders answered the call. I’ll help ensure we are ready for the unexpected.
  • I’ll fight to ensure that South Carolina continues to be a friendly place for our military to call home. As a veteran, I know what it means to serve. I want South Carolina to remain a magnet for our military, our servicemembers, and our veterans.

That’s all from his website. One thing you won’t find there (or on his opponent’s site, either) are a lot of details about how he would accomplish the above. He says he’s following political advice on that, which runs against the grain because “I want to just tell people what I think about everything.” But he realizes that unless he has an hour to get into the nuances and layers of each position with each voter, it’s easy to be misunderstood when you get into specifics.MicahCaskey_Logo_v02

(I nodded when he said that. As you know, I am no fan of campaign promises. Tell people who you are, describe your experience and your overall interests in running. But don’t say exactly what you’re going to do, because you don’t know what you’ll be dealing with into office, and you don’t want to trapped by promises into doing something that turns out to be dumb under the circumstances.)

“Taking absolutist positions isn’t useful” because “I’ve seen how layered and complicated things can be.” To take one buzzphrase, he mentions “limited government.”

“What does that mean?” he asks. He prefers to say he likes “smart government,” but even there, you have to do a lot of explaining. For an example, he says, he’d do away with having to go to “15 different offices to start a small business.”

Bottom line,”I think I’m a common-sense candidate, a pragmatist.” He notes that someone called him a “consensus candidate,” a guy who would work with anyone from anywhere on the political spectrum who would help pass sensible legislation.

He accepts service on that.

Being about the age of my kids, he has run on the slogan of “A New Generation of Leadership.” That seems to have served him well over the much-older Bill Banning and Billy Oswald.

Now, he’s up against a contemporary and fellow attorney, Tem Miles. On June 28, GOP runoff voters will decide which young man they want representing them in this relatively new century.

A gram is better than a damn, ma’am

Soma ad

Sometimes Google Adsense makes, well, sense — such as the Ancestry.com ad I’m seeing in the rail at right — I’ve really been into building my family tree lately.

Sometimes I am mystified. That’s the case with the “Soma” ad you see above.

Doubly mystified. To me, “Soma” means:

  1. The therapeutic and recreational drug of choice in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where “A gramme is better than a damn” is axiomatic. It is used to keep people in that creepy utopia from feeling disagreeable emotions. Life is tough? Take a soma holiday!
  2. The muscle relaxer I have used at times over the years — generic name “carisoprodol.”

I don’t associate it with ladies in swimsuits. But apparently, that’s a thing now.

I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s that their products are meant to fit women’s physical forms, since “soma” means “the body as distinct from the soul, mind, or psyche.” You know, as in “psychosomatic.”

But it caught my eye…

Soma

FYI, the UnParty almost ran its first candidate this year

The candidate that wasn't, posing on the State House steps (for the ADCO website, NOT for a campaign!)

The Candidate Who Wasn’t, posing on the State House steps (for the ADCO website, NOT for a campaign!)

Actually, “almost” is a little strong, but the UnParty’s unleadership did think about it a good bit. (You think Ethan Hawke was good as Hamlet? That was nothing compared to this.)

I just got off the phone with both Micah Caskey and Tem Miles, who are in a runoff for the GOP nomination for Kenny Bingham’s House seat. I plan to post something about both of them before the day is over. (OK, so it took me until the next day.)

But before I do I should tell y’all something that I’ve mentioned to a handful of people, but not to you or the world at large:

When I heard that Kenny Bingham, my representative, was stepping down, I immediately thought about running for the seat myself — as an independent, of course. (I’ve told Messrs. Caskey and Miles this.)

Ever since I left the paper, I’ve thought about the fact that, after all these years of telling politicians what they ought to do, maybe I should get off the sidelines and do something myself.

The most logical office for me to run for would be the House. My understanding of state government and issues is far greater than my knowledge of local government. And the idea of trying to raise the resources needed to run as an independent for Congress, especially in my über-Republican district (represented by Congressman-For-Life Joe Wilson) was too high a mountain to contemplate climbing. Anyway, I think people should hold other offices before aiming that high.

And the state House would be easier than the state Senate.

But I wasn’t interested in running against Kenny (or my senator, Nikki Setzler), largely because I think he’s done a good job over the years. Also, I didn’t see how I could beat him.

So this seemed like my chance. And a good one, in one sense, even though an independent is always at a disadvantage: If I ran, I would run overtly against both political parties. I would tell voters exactly what I think of the parties, and that I was running because I didn’t want Columbia to become any more like Washington than it was. (I’d tell them a lot more than that, but that would be the thrust of my elevator speech.)

I’d be running against my opponent’s parties, not the opponents themselves.

If that pitch was ever to be effective, it would be in a year in which voters are highly disaffected from the parties — with most Republicans picking a non-Republican for president, and almost half of Democrats going with a non-Democrat. And when disgust with the partisan gridlock of Congress is at an all-time high.

If I would ever have a chance, that is. My chief handicaps would be:

  • Running as an independent, period. Despite all that disaffection, voters in this country for the most part have no practice at wrapping their minds around the concept of an independent candidate. It takes a lot of explaining, which means you start out in a hole. You run as an independent in a Republican district like mine and people assume you’re really a Democrat and trying to hide it. (Sure, I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words explaining my distaste for both parties, but how many people will go read all that?) Beyond that, it’s a hugely difficult task logistically — you have to gather thousands of signatures on petitions to get on the ballot. (At least I think so — I didn’t get to the point of actually going to the election commission and finding out all the rules.)
  • Raising the money. Because I simply cannot self-finance, even partially. I can’t spend what I don’t have. And raising money is hard for me, just as it’s hard to go out and sell ads on the blog. Not my forte. (I have raised money with some success — such as when I was on the Habitat board. But asking for money for a cause like that is far easier than when the cause is me.) Which means I’d be ill-equipped to overcome the difficulties that an independent would have with fund-raising to start with.
  • This is the biggie: There has possibly never been a candidate for public office in South Carolina who is on the record (on the easily-accessible record) on as many issues as I am. And none of my positions have been crafted to help me win elections. (In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time urging pols to do the right thing even when the right thing is unpopular.) I don’t regret any of them, but the fact remains that there are thousands of cudgels out there for an opponent to beat me with. And while every one of my opinions is chock full of nuance and careful rationale that I think would help if the voter bothered to go read it, a lot of them could be misrepresented with devastating effect.

But those aren’t the things that cooled my ardor to run. Two factors stopped me. (Or at least, stopped me so far. I’m 90 percent sure I won’t run. Let’s see how this runoff ends up. But the truth is, I’ve now waited so long that I’ve made the already-long odds close to impossible.) Here they are:

  1. Some people I liked — and who I thought would be strong Republican candidates in the general in this Republican district — filed to run. I liked Bill Banning when he was my county councilman, and was sorry to see him lose his seat. And I had breakfast with Micah Caskey (I was curious to meet him because my mother was friends with his grandparents and great-grandparents in Bennettsville) a couple of months back. I agreed with practically everything he had to say about why he was running. And oh, yes — he’s a combat veteran. I didn’t talk with Tem Miles until today, but knowing I liked both Bill and Micah, and that they would both be formidable opponents, was enough to seriously discourage me.
  2. I had a bad spring with my asthma. For the first time in years, it wasn’t under control, and I couldn’t do my daily workout — and undertaking a campaign of going door-to-door nights and weekends was just unimaginable for me. I’m better now, by the way, but I lost a lot of precious time. You’ve got to feel GREAT to undertake something like this, and I didn’t there for awhile.

So anyway, now you know where things stand — or might have stood. I thought you should know this stuff before I write about either of these candidates, which I hope to do within the next 24 hours…

When I told Kenny Bingham himself that I might run, he was kind -- he didn't laugh.

When I told Kenny Bingham himself that I might run, he was kind — he didn’t laugh.