The controversy over Columbus Day got me to thinking of history-based holidays we could have, if only we thought a little harder. They’re not in order of preference, but in calendar order:
Rubicon Day — OK, so this didn’t happen in America. But Julius Caesar’s decision to cross that creek with his troops had a huge effect on something that matters to Americans. It ended the last republic we would see for 1,000 years. But I’m also thinking we could have some fun with it. We could have toga parties each Jan. 10, and go around saying “iacta alea est” to each other. Maybe not your idea of a good time, but maybe we could make a drinking game out of it.
British Invasion Day — No, it’s not about 1814. It’s about 1964, and this holiday would be pure fun. We’d celebrate it on February 9, the day the Beatles first appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” We’d all play music by the Beatles, the Stones, Herman’s Hermits, the Animals, Freddie and the Dreamers, Peter and Gordon, and so forth. We’d have theme parties in which we’d all dress like the invaders, and go around saying “gear” and “fab.” And if you said bad things about the holiday, we’d all say you were “dead grotty.”
Lincoln’s Birthday, Feb. 12 — Yes, bring it back, and repeal this “President’s Day” nonsense, in order to drive home the fact that he was our greatest president, and is largely responsible for America being America, having thrown off its original sin via that war that we fight on until the slave states’ unconditional surrender — and making sure it didn’t end until the 13th Amendment was passed, so that all that bloodshed served a purpose. Sorry about the run-on sentence…
Smallpox Day — This is sort of related to the idea of “Indigenous People’s Day,” but I actually have three reasons to mark the day. First, it seems to me that the most horrific public health disaster in human history (way bigger than the Black Death) was back in the 16th century when 95 percent of the native population was wiped out by European diseases for which they had no resistance — usually before the victims had even encountered the Europeans. Something so awful should be remembered. My second reason is celebratory — celebrating the fact that we’ve been so successful at wiping out the disease that a rite of passage of my childhood, the “vaccination” (that’s what we called it; we didn’t know what it was for), is unknown to today’s children. Third, as a warning — that it could come back some day, and we need to fully prepared to wipe it out again if it does. This would be on May 17, the birthday of Edward Jenner.
Independence Day, July 2 — So that we’d be celebrating the actual day that Congress voted to declare independence, not the day that the document’s final edits were approved. This is personal, because John Adams is my fave Founder, and this was day that HE thought should be celebrated, after his weeks of hard work arguing the Congress into taking this momentous step — debate during which Thomas Jefferson, who gets the glory, sat there like a bump on a log. Harrumph…
Look, people… If it makes you happy, Columbus was wrong, the Bugs Bunny version notwithstanding.
Yeah, the Earth was round, as every educated person of his day knew. Only low-information types thought otherwise. But the scholars of the day also knew how big the Earth was, and why Columbus’ idea of sailing west to get to the East Indies was a pipe dream.
But because he was dumb enough to insist on proving his point, he accidentally discovered the New World — and almost no other development in human history has had such wide-reaching consequences, for good or ill.
Consequently, I consider efforts to downplay his “discovery” of the New World a bit on the silly side. Such as this reference in an interesting piece by the NYT’s Brent Staples:
It also tied Italian-Americans closely to the paternalistic assertion, still heard today, that Columbus “discovered” a continent that was already inhabited by Native Americans….
Allow me to make a “paternalistic assertion.” Yep, he did discover America. And everything that has happened since arises from that fact.
Right now, I’m reading the book Guns, Germs and Steel, and it’s fascinating. Basically, it attempts to determine the underlying factors that caused certain parts of the world to be “discovered,” and ultimately dominated by, people from other parts of the world.
The whole book aims to answer a question posed to the author by a New Guinean politician named Yali back in the ’70s. When Europeans “discovered” New Guinea a couple of centuries back, the people there were technologically still in the Stone Age. The local people were blown away by the physical artifacts of a modern society — ranging from steel axes to soft drinks — which they referred to collectively as “cargo.” Yali asked the author:
“Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?”
Jared Diamond’s attempts to answer the question are deeply fascinating.
The book spends considerable time on one incident in particular, back in 1532. You may know the story of how Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro took the Incan emperor prisoner, accepted a ransom from the Incas of a vast amount of gold, and then killed the emperor anyway. Aside from dwelling on some “woke” aspect of this encounter, such as the obvious fact that these Spaniards were a__holes, Diamond asked why it happened this way. In other words, why didn’t Incan emperor Atahuallpa go to Spain, take King Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, prisoner and hold him for ransom? A variation of Yali’s question.
And no, the answer isn’t that Atahuallpa was a nicer guy, or for that matter that American Indians were on the whole nicer than white guys (although again, Pizarro and crew didn’t exactly create a great first impression for the rest of us white guys).
Nor is Diamond satisfied with, the Spaniards had guns and steel swords and horses. The book aims to understand why people from Europe had guns and steel swords and horses. For that, he goes back to when homo sapiens first spread out over the Earth, and in certain places gave up hunting and gathering for farming, and different kinds of farming in different places, and the effects that had on the development of technology an complex political structures, and so on.
I highly recommend the book.
But my point is that, whether you personally see it as a good thing or a bad thing, Columbus’ discovery of America was definitely a thing, and one of the most consequential pivot points of history. If you want to explore just how consequential, I recommend another book, which I’ve recommended before: 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, by Charles C. Mann.
What happened on Oct. 12, 1492, was monumental, and certainly worth marking with a special observance. It changed the world as almost nothing else that has ever happened did. Where people get all bollixed up is when they try to assign moral value to the event.
I don’t know why people do that. Discovering America doesn’t make Columbus a good guy. It doesn’t really make him a bad guy, either. Some other stuff he did after he got here makes him look pretty bad — especially to someone with a 2019 worldview. But like him or hate him, the thing he did, what he stumbled onto, has enormous global significance. He did something amazing, but it doesn’t make him a hero. Or the devil.
The arrival of Europeans, with their relative immunity to certain diseases like smallpox, had horrific consequences for the native population of this hemisphere. What happened was so horrible that it staggers the imagination: 95 percent of the population died out.
But just as discovering America doesn’t make Columbus a hero (to me at least he was not), he can’t really be blamed for everything that happened to the people who lived here, however badly he may have treated the natives he encountered. (Which was pretty damned badly.) He didn’t say, “Hey, let’s go to China (where he thought he was headed) and infect the local people so they all die out.” In fact, most of the people of this hemisphere died over the next few decades long before they came into contact with whites — the germs spread across these continents much faster than people did. People of European descent didn’t even realize on what scale this happened until quite recently (and to learn more about that, read Mann’s prequel, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.)
Of course, people can play games with the word “discovered.” They can say, those Asian people who crossed the land bridge 15,000 years ago “discovered” America, or even say the first Europeans to discover America were actually the Vikings. Or St. Brendan the Navigator. But none of those events opened this side of the world to the other side, mainly because the world wasn’t technologically prepared to bring that about.
So, as a historic event with repercussions for the entire planet, the moment that America got discovered — in the sense of the planet learning of its existence and being affected by it — well, that happened 527 years ago this week.
Feel about it any way you like, but that’s the way things unfolded….
Tomorrow night, Friday, beginning at 6:00 pm at the Columbia Empowerment Center on Lady Street, we’ll have a lecture on The Bridge. What began as a response to the city’s request for proposals in the spring of 1987 is now part of a major real estate development proposal that includes a five-star hotel, a Jasper Johns museum, a performing arts compound inspired by Washington’s Kennedy Center, a suggested home for the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, and other features. Property taxes taken from the private development, mostly condominiums, out of what is now thin air over the Congaree River, can be collected as part of a tax increment bond financing development district to help build the cultural amenities. Low culture, you might say, can be exercised to support high culture. The Koger Center, an awful ballet theater and a terrible opera house – I was on the board of the Palmetto Opera for six years – stays where it is as a perfectly adequate symphony hall with a band shell that works. Still, renovation of the Koger Center is in the budget.
Back in 1987, while the city was wondering what to do with a homeboy proposal of world’s first triumphal bridge in the modern era, the major hotel developer, Belz Hotels of Memphis, saw Columbia as an opportunity to build a Peabody and parade it’s ducks in the same class as the Peabody in Memphis and the Peabody in Orlando, both high-end properties. Belz committed in writing to Columbia City Council, Richland County Council, Lexington County Council, and West Columbia City Council. Copies of the Belz commitment will be available. Also available will be the blue ribbon committee report from the managing partner of South Carolina’s largest law firm, Nelson Mullins, which essentially said, “Build the Bridge.
In other words, The Bridge was wildly popular and eminently practical and thoroughly doable. It just didn’t have the initial support of the Honorable T. Patton Adams and later the support of the Honorable Robert D. Coble.
Even the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce was firmly on board. The membership was invited to vote their preference, which was reported as 65% for The Bridge, although the chamber director confided in me it was actually 75%.
So we almost had a done deal. As it turned out, we got a satisfactory convention center with good attendance and plans for expansion.
Fine. But who cares?
Now let’s get on with making a city. But who cares?
I always remember it, and not the other Beatles’ birthdays, not merely because it comes six days after my own. It’s because of Nueve de Octubre, and that looms large because when I was a schoolboy in Ecuador, we always got a whole week off for it — while only getting a day and a half for Christmas.
At the time, I thought that it was Ecuadorean Independence Day. I mean, it would have to be at least that, right — who would take off a whole week for anything less?
But it turns out that it’s only when the province of Guayas, which contained the city of Guayaquil — where I lived — declared its independence from Spain. Not the whole country.
Bonus fact ripped from today’s headlines: Guayaquil is now effectively the capital of Ecuador, since unrest in Quito caused el presidente to have to relocate the seat of government.
After the recent appeals for people to work for AOC, Bernie and JUUL and now this, I expect soon to see the following employment opportunities crop up:
Rudy Minder — Main job duty is to pull back on the choke leash each time Giuliani tries to go on TV.
West Wing Naysayer — Entry-level White House position that does nothing but say “no” to all congressional requests or subpoenas for documents or testimony by executive branch personnel. Low base pay, but plenty of overtime.
Global Newsbreaker — State Department official charged with finding a nice way to break it to allies that we’re suddenly pulling the rug out from under them. For instance, finding a better way to say, “Thanks for years of fighting ISIS for us, but now we’re going to let Turkey come in and wipe you out.” Extraordinary communication skills a must.
Cancel culture consultant — No, we don’t expect you to be able to help. There’s nothing you can do when the mob turns on you. This person’s job is just to tell you when it’s time to throw away your phone and move to that cabin you’ve been preparing up in the mountains.
I was struck by how young he looked. And I was wondering how young he was, and went to Google it.
And I ran across something odd.
I typed “bill” followed by a space, and above were the results I got. Which mystified me. I wasn’t totally stunned that Bill Cosby came first. Even though he has been more thoroughly shamed and degraded by his actions in the public eye, he is someone who once enjoyed great fame and acclamation.
But I figured Clinton would surely come next. But instead, of the next four “Bills,” only one was someone I had even heard of — Bill Gates. I would have to click to learn who Bill Nunn, Bill Goldberg and Bill Burr are or were. Which I didn’t do.
Instead, I added a “c,” and sure enough there was Bill Clinton — although still second to Cosby. See below. (And no, I have no idea who the two Callahans or Cowher are.)
Usually, I can intuit why Google offers me certain results — they reflect what is in the news, or other things I’ve recently searched for.
But sometimes it stumps me. This is one of those times.
Any idea why those bills — Nunn, Goldberg and Burr — come up before “Clinton?”
Recently, it has seemed as though I can’t watch a vid on YouTube without first having to see at least part of a trailer for the “Downton Abbey” movie.
At least, it was that way for awhile.
Anyway, today something made me remember my favorite “Downton Abbey” trailer of all time — the one SNL did imagining how the show would be promoted if it appeared on the now-defunct Spike TV. A sample from the voiceover:
It’s about a bunch of honkeys who live in a church — or maybe a museum — either way, they don’t got WiFi…. There’s a MILF and a dad, and they’ve got three daughters named ‘Hot,’ ‘Way Hot’ and…’The Other One.’ And they all hang out with this old lady that looks like a chicken.”
Yeah, it’s lowbrow humor, and not overly respectful of the best character of all, the Dowager Countess. But it cracked me up at the time. And back then, I actually watched “Downton”… (I stopped doing so when they killed off a main character in a way that I thought was particularly emotionally manipulative.)
‘We’re after eatin’ all of dem,” he said, without missing a beat.
We were on a carriage ride through the beautiful Killarney National Park on March 19, and our driver was a guy who had no problem playing to tourists’ expectations. He was a burly guy in a cloth cap whose previously broken nose made him look like an ex-boxer — an Irishman who embraced all stereotypes, cracking a steady stream of jokes that prominently featured Guinness, leprechauns and Irish whiskey.
And he did it in such a natural, unstudied way, and seemed to be enjoying himself so, that it was for me a highlight of our trip to Ireland.
As we rode through the park admiring the scenery, the medieval ruins, the miniature deer and other attractions, one of the ladies in our carriages noticed something I had not. She asked the driver, “Where are all the birds?”
As I tweeted at the time, I hadn’t kissed the Blarney Stone, but someone had…
My wife later said she would have liked a serious answer to the question. Me, I was delighted because I’m pretty sure that’s the only time during our almost two weeks in the country that I heard someone use that famous Irish construction of “after” followed by a gerund. Word guy that I am, it made my day.
So much for the anecdotal lede.
For those of you still after wanting a serious answer to the question, I’ll be after giving it to ye, soon as I finish me Guinness…
This is not a report that projects future losses on the basis of current trends. It is not an update on the state of rare birds already in trouble. This study enumerates actual losses of familiar species — ordinary backyard birds like sparrows and swifts, swallows and blue jays. The anecdotal evidence from my own yard, it turns out, is everywhere.
You may have heard of the proverbial canary in the coal mine — caged birds whose sensitivity to lethal gasses served as an early-warning system to coal miners; if the canary died, they knew it was time to flee. This is what ornithologists John W. Fitzpatrick and Peter P. Marra meant when they wrote, in an opinion piece for The Times, that “Birds are indicator species, serving as acutely sensitive barometers of environmental health, and their mass declines signal that the earth’s biological systems are in trouble.”
Unlike the miners of old, we have nowhere safe to flee….
It’s an ominously interesting piece, so I thought I’d bring it to your attention.
And now this picture I took last year of a dead bird on a street in my neighborhood comes in handy:
I was struck by the beauty of this dead bird. Can anyone identify it for me?
Yep. That’s quite likely. That’s why this is a bad place to be, if you want to get rid of Donald Trump.
Here’s the list of reasons Brooks offers:
“This will probably achieve nothing.” If you mean, he won’t be removed from office, you’re almost certain right. Two presidents in our history have been impeached, and neither was removed from office. There is no reason to think this time will be different — especially if you listen to the alternative-reality nonsense coming from the mouths of Senate Republicans.
“This is completely elitist.” Brooks means inherently, in that you put Trump’s fate in the hands of 100 senators instead of the voters. But elitism comes into this another way: Some of the people out there saying Trump hasn’t done anything wrong actually think that. They are low-information people who subscribe to the “They all do it” school. You sort of have to have above-average understanding of the norms of diplomacy, politics, and presidential behavior to understand how stunningly unprecedented this is, and understand that if this isn’t impeachable, it becomes hard to imagine what would be.
“This is not what the country wants to talk about.” Well, no, it’s not what I want to talk about, either. I want to talk about why Joe Biden must be the Democratic nominee, and must be elected. Of course, if you mean the country wants to talk about football and reality TV, you lose me. I don’t feel obliged to respect apathy.
“Democrats are playing Trump’s game.” Oh, yeah. Indeed. The more divided the country is, the more this parasite thrives.
“This process will increase public cynicism.” Yeah, maybe, among the uninformed. And that’s a lot of people.
“This could embed Trumpism within the G.O.P.” This is an interesting argument, and it makes some sense. It goes this way: Electoral defeat will discredit Trumpism among Republicans (if it doesn’t just crush the GOP permanently). This will harden Trump’s position as being at the heart of the party, with all the loyalists gathered ’round him.
“This could distort the Democratic primary process.” Yep, and in unpredictable ways.
Of course, in the end, if I were a House member — of either party, or (my preference) no party — I don’t think I would feel like I had an alternative. Sure, you know he’s not going to be removed from office, and given that we’ve seen over and over that his supporters are impervious to reason, it will greatly increase his chances of being re-elected.
But the Constitution charges the House with a responsibility. And it’s hard for me to see how the House walks away from that responsibility, in light of what Trump has done. You can’t just act like, yeah, it’s OK to do that and still be president. You have to say, “No!”
This is a terrible moment to be a House member. And a worse moment for the country….
First, I may have just missed it. I may have left the room for a minute during one of the episodes of Ken Burns’ series on country music, and maybe my guys were mentioned then. So if that happens, I’ll back away while quoting Emily Litella: “Never mind…”
But all through this series, night after night, I keep hoping that The Band, possibly my favorite musical act of all time, will make an appearance.
You may say, “But The Band isn’t a country group!” And you could have a point, although Wikipedia lists “country rock” as one of its genres (see screenshot at right). And if you click on “country rock,” you get Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt — all of whom show up in one way or another in the series thus far.
In fact, one of the great things about the series is the way it explores multiple ways that country overlaps and interacts with other genres. But The Band gets ignored. I mean, come on — there’s a long, lingering, detailed examination of the recording of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s epic album, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” which is fine — but couldn’t they have spared a minute or two of that for my guys?
One of the reasons this bugs me is that, loving The Band as I do, I’ve always wanted to understand its musical roots (and yes, “roots rock” is another way it’s described) better. I mean, what sort of song is “The Weight?” It feels… western… but in some mystical, dreamlike, maybe even surreal way. I see the “Nazareth” in which the action takes place as a dusty, tumbleweed-littered place that’s on its way to becoming a ghost town. And the characters — Fanny, ol’ Luke, Miss Moses, young Annalee, and of course Crazy Chester — sound like Western characters. Or country characters. Or country-western characters.
Remember when I wrote about Mikie Sherrill, the moderate Democrat who is emblematic of those whose elections tipped the House to the Democrats last year (in contrast to “The Squad,” whose elections meant nothing)? I described her as just the kind of person I’d jump at the chance to vote for, any time.
She’s an example of someone who steers clear of partisan combat, spending her energy on issues of concern to all her constituents, regardless of party. It’s for the sake of people like her that Nancy Pelosi has kept her foot on the brake with regard to impeaching Trump.
This flagrant disregard for the law cannot stand. To uphold and defend our Constitution, Congress must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election.
If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense. We do not arrive at this conclusion lightly, and we call on our colleagues in Congress to consider the use of all congressional authorities available to us, including the power of “inherent contempt” and impeachment hearings, to address these new allegations, find the truth and protect our national security.
As members of Congress, we have prioritized delivering for our constituents — remaining steadfast in our focus on health care, infrastructure, economic policy and our communities’ priorities. Yet everything we do harks back to our oaths to defend the country. These new allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect. We must preserve the checks and balances envisioned by the Founders and restore the trust of the American people in our government. And that is what we intend to do…
Why are they doing this? Because of what we’ve learned the last few days, about the possibility that the president of the United States used taxpayer money to pressure a foreign government to help him tar a domestic political opponent.
And because of who they are:
We have devoted our lives to the service and security of our country, and throughout our careers, we have sworn oaths to defend the Constitution of the United States many times over…
Because like the intelligence officer who blew the whistle, they are looking at something alarming to people who love their country.
Because duty demands it.
And that’s where things stand now…
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, former U.S. Navy helicopter pilot.
By the time we got there, the demonstration was fairly impressive.
You ever notice how some people have a gift for summoning up a situation in a few words, while other people will give you War and Peace in response to the simplest questions?
I experienced that walking down a street in Dublin back on the Ides of March.
There were all these kids walking toward a demonstration carrying signs. Groups of them were converging from all over the city, wearing the uniforms of the schools they were skipping that day. So I fell in step with a woman who was with group of particularly young ones, like fourth or fifth graders, apparently as some sort of chaperone, and I asked her what was going on.
“It’s their first demonstration,” she told me. So I asked what the demonstration was about.
She started telling me about this Swedish schoolgirl, who had started a movement, and now all these Irish kids were caught up in it, and that’s about all I could make out what with the street noises and the bullhorn at the actual demonstration site, which we were approaching, and the lady’s accent, and my hearing problems.
She could have just said, “global climate change,” but she was not so verbally economical. From the signs and what I heard in the next moments, I figured that much out. But I went the rest of the day wondering what some Scandinavian girl had to do with it.
Well, by the time Greta Thunberg sailed across the ocean, I had put two and two together. And now kids around the world have skipped school again for the same purpose, and Greta herself has delivered her message to the U.N., and it seems she’s really ticked off about it.
Anyway, I’m all up to speed now.
They kept coming, in groups large and small, from all over Dublin.
I’m basing this on the narration from the very beginning of the first episode of his new series about country music.
You hear Peter Coyote say:
Most of all, its roots sprang from the need of Americans, especially those who felt left out and looked-down-upon, to tell their stories…
Which sounds to me like the very words used over and over to explain Trump voters.
And since I’ve never understood that phenomenon, and never fully appreciated country music, either, I was thinking this would be a doubly educational experience for me. Lessons I needed to learn.
I’ve often felt kind of bad about the fact that I’m often on the opposite side of issues from everyday, working-class, less-educated folk, and I’ve always worried about the extent to which my strong objections to the things they like is based in some sort of class snobbishness. I always conclude that no, that’s not it — I have very good reasons to reject, say, flying the Confederate flag at the State House, or video poker, or the state lottery.
Or Donald Trump. But as much as I explain my revulsion objectively and analytically, there’s also that voice in my head that keeps saying, But can’t they see how TACKY he is!?!
And that makes me feel a bit guilty.
But just a bit.
Anyway, this series isn’t over yet, and I still hope for a revelation that helps me understand both country music and populism.
I’ve been enjoying getting them, because for once, I’m being sent jobs that would actually interest me if I were in the market. For some reason, the fact that I was a journalist who oversaw the coverage of politics and public policy for decades didn’t cause me to get postings like these. But apparently my having handled communications for James Smith was the previously missing ingredient.
Up to now, I’ve just gotten jobs having something to do with writing and editing. But the thing is, I was always more interested in what we were writing about than I was in the activity of writing. And this particular algorithm seems to get that.
So I look over these eblasts with interest — even when they’re jobs I’d run screaming from, like the “Political Mobilization Manager” for JUUL. Yikes. I hope that one pays well, for whoever takes it on. But there’s no question it would be interesting:
As a mobilization manager, reporting into the senior manager of campaigns, you will be responsible for establishing relationships with JUUL users and activating their voice to assist in accomplishing the company’s mission: to improve the lives of the world’s one billion smokers by eliminating cigarettes.
Building and executing and in-market OTG (on-the-ground) strategy designed to convert JUUL consumers and community members into advocates for the brand
Working cross-functionally with various teams across the organization, including Digital Public Affairs, Communications, State & Local Affairs and Federal Affairs to identify opportunities for OTG advocacy efforts and growing the advocacy base
Meeting regularly with community members to keep them informed on key policy issues in their municipalities and to advise on both OTG and digital advocacy opportunities
I was also, of course, intrigued by the position of Director of Early State Communications for Andrew Yang.
That would be a pretty cool job… if it were for Joe…
My wife and I were wondering about this last night, and trying to figure out who would do such a thing. The usual story is that these people did it when they were young and foolish. But back when WE were young and foolish, it never, ever would have occurred to us — and if it had, we’d have run screaming in the other direction. Seriously, what possible good outcome could anyone anticipate from being photographed like Justin Trudeau, above?
The usual explanations don’t hold water at all. Trudeau was supposedly trying to look like Aladdin? Whaaaat? Don’t you think he’d have looked more like Aladdin without the makeup? I do. But maybe y’all have a different image of Aladdin. And if you wanted to impersonate Michael Jackson, seems like you’d just learn to moonwalk.
Trudeau’s apparently obsession with dressing up this way suggests to us that it was something that happened among guys somewhere between my age and the current generation of young people. He’s 47, even though he looks younger. This caused me to put forth a theory that it was the Reagan era that did it. There was a lot of pushing back against the racial sensitivities of the 60s and 70s on the part of the “greed is good” crowd in the 80s.
Then we wondered whether it was a Greek thing. In the sense of fraternities, not the nationality. Maybe that’s what makes me mistakenly think no one in my generation would do such a thing. Because people who joined fraternities in my day were seriously out of touch with the times, real outliers, and I had nothing to do with them. And there’s something about these photos that suggests frat life. But maybe that’s because I’m just prejudiced against frats.
The people who believe in Identity Politics would probably assume that, being a white guy, I would understand this phenomenon. But I can’t even begin to. I don’t get it at all.
But maybe some of you other white guys out there can explain it. Or maybe someone else can…
First, it grabbed me because I’ll read anything about “The West Wing.” Ask Google; it knows this, based on the items it keeps showing me. Second, it grabbed me because someone thought it necessary to defend “The West Wing.” Finally, my mind was boggled by the idea that someone who thought it needed defending would would do so only modestly.
As I said on Twitter:
A “modest defense” of that which needs no defending? Anyone, especially any Democrat, who doesn’t love the show should be ignored. And if you do feel moved to mount a defense, there should be nothing modest about it…
So anyway, I read the piece, and was not mollified. You can tell why from the subhed: “The show was not perfect, but it’s way better than 2019 Democrats remember it.”
Not perfect? Say, whaaaat?
First, my scorn was engaged because the people who criticize the show are apparently the kids who think AOC is cool, and conventional postwar liberalism sucks. They’re the ones who have no tolerance of anyone who disagrees with them about anything. They look forward to getting 50 percent plus 1 so they can cram their policy proposals down the world’s throat, and they blame their elders for having thus far failed to do that. They’re the ones who, laughably, think they discovered social justice and are qualified to lecture people who were alive in the ’60s about it.
They’re the ones who…
… minor digression here…
I’ve been watching the new Ken Burns series about country music, and thinking about writing about it, pondering what I like and don’t like about it (for instance, it concerns me that it only seems interested in Country as an economic phenomenon, starting with the first practitioners to have success with radio and recording, largely ignoring the centuries of folkways that went before). But before writing about it, I was curious what others were thinking. So when I saw there was a review on Slate, I eagerly read it.
The reviewer also has a problem with it. The problem is that it’s made by Ken Burns, “and his compulsion to transform conflict and difficulty into visions of reconciliation and unity is vintage white baby boomer liberalism.”
Oh, give it a rest, kids. That constitutes an argument?
Anyway, it’s people like that with whom the writer in the Post is remonstrating, oh, so gently.
And again, it needs no defense. The only question is, is “West Wing” the greatest TV show ever, or does something else edge it out?
I come down on the side of “greatest ever.” Or at least, greatest drama. Or at least, greatest drama ever in the last 20 years, this Golden Age.
At least, those were the Top Five, back in June. Since then, Bryan got me to start watching “Friday Night Lights,” and I’m really enjoying it (in spite of the, you know, football theme) during my morning workouts on the elliptical. In fact, I’m now in the middle of the 5th season, and sorry that it will be ending soon.
When it does, I’ll report back on whether it makes the Top Five. But I’ll tell you, “Breaking Bad” may be in trouble…
It’s great, and I’m really digging it, but will it make the Top Five?
Ad in an enewsletter I received today from the NYT’s David Leonhardt.
I have little patience with people fooling around with the English language.
But today, I’ll stay away from the really offensive kind of meddling — that motivated by politics. You know, the whole Orwellian thing of changing the language in order to make it impossible for us to express unacceptable thoughts, or otherwise trying to change reality by changing the words we use to describe it.
Today I’m ticked about the trivial.
For years, I’ve been shaking my head at ads and store displays urging me to buy “this khaki pant,” or “that dress pant.” Instead of, you know, pants.
Now it’s gotten down to shorts. “One short?” Really?
This is ridiculous. And I can’t for the life of me imagine why someone would want to do this. Oh, yes, I understand that it simplifies your way of saying that you can wear one pair of shorts for different sports (as if we hadn’t figured that out for ourselves already), but work around it. Play with what I just said: one pair of shorts for different sports is poetry, in a way.
Not great poetry, mind you. But it’s not as stupid as “one short…”
Tonight Joe Biden (and others) will be at the Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking. I had thought seriously about going, but decided I had too much to do to take the trip — almost two hours each way. (If you’re closer, I urge you to go. The Stump is always interesting, and this special-edition gathering promises to be particularly so.)
So I’ll give you a picture or two from the last time I saw and interviewed Joe at the Stump, and give you a link to my column about it. It was in 2006. (Special bonus feature: The column quotes former blog regular Paul DeMarco, who happened to be at the Stump — as I noted in a separate post at the time.)
And to add a measure of substance, here’s something else I meant to post last week. I don’t expect it to change any minds among those of you who don’t like Joe for whatever reason, but I offer it as another window into why I’m for him, and really don’t have a second choice among the others running.
It’s a story from the NYT about the way he handled the process that ended in a vote against Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee, Robert Bork. An excerpt:
Joseph R. Biden Jr. was on the brink of victory, but he was unsatisfied.
Mr. Biden, the 44-year-old chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was poised to watch his colleagues reject President Ronald Reagan’s formidable nominee to the Supreme Court, Robert H. Bork. The vote was unlikely to be close. Yet Mr. Biden was hovering in the Senate chamber, plying Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, a Republican of modestly conservative politics and regal bearing, with arguments about Bork’s record.
Rejecting a Supreme Court nominee was an extraordinary act of defiance, and Mr. Biden did not want a narrow vote that could look like an act of raw partisan politics….
Mr. Biden’s entreaties prevailed: Mr. Warner became one of 58 senators to vote against Bork, and one of six Republicans.
That’s Joe. As the piece says, it was a moment when “Mr. Biden’s political ethos found its most vivid and successful expression.” At a moment when most partisans would be satisfied simply to win, Joe wanted to go the extra mile to win in a way less likely to tear the country apart. One more excerpt:
The strategy Chairman Biden deployed then is the same one he is now proposing to bring to the White House as President Biden.