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

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

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

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

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

What stiffened their spines?

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

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

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

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

But I’m still surprised.

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

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

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

Wherever possible, folks stood in the shade….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the speakers, awaiting their turns...

Some of the speakers, awaiting their turns…

Open Thread for Tuesday, July 16, 2019

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

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

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

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

400 days

I’m losing my photographic memory for trivia!

Huskers

Is that a sign of aging?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best I could do. Which is lame.

Can you flesh out the roster with full names?

You can check yourself against this

team

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

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

tumblr_pns5up2Dsh1rnn3e6o3_250

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

But all ended well.

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

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

I immediately sought to mend the rift:

Fortunately, my explanation was accepted:

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

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

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

Open Thread for Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Williamson

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK, I’m done now.

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

If it were up to me, the windows would just STAY dirty

Whoa! And there he was...

Whoa! And there he was…

I kept trying to ignore the ropes while eating my breakfast. It wasn’t easy. I was in a window seat, 25 floors up, and they were dancing, jerking, vibrating and jumping around, about a foot away from my head.

I knew there was a fellow human being at the end of them, dangling far above the sidewalk, washing the windows. And I couldn’t help identifying with his precarious state…

My fear of heights is such that normally, I can sorta kinda ignore that I’m so high up if there’s a nice, solid window between me and Kingdom Come. Like on an airplane. I think some trick of the brain pretends that it’s just a video screen or something. As long as I can’t feel the wind, I’m good (I was definitely NOT good atop Blarney Castle, where I suffered unprecedented vertigo the instant the wind hit my ear, and I was doing well not to throw up, much less kiss some stupid rock… let’s not talk about Blarney Castle…).

But the ropes kept reminding me that it was real, and there was a person just dangling out there….

Then, when I got up to leave, a few tables away, there he was! And he was reaching out to clean this way and that as casually as though he were standing on the ground. I just barely got my phone out before he dropped out of sight.

There is no amount of money that would induce me to do such a job. I would starve first. My body would just betray me, my acrophobia is so bad.

If it depended on me, the windows would all have to just stay dirty…

And then before I could take a second shot, he was GONE...

And then before I could take a second shot, he was GONE…

Yep, young people think differently. And they’re wrong.

Reading Nicholas Kristof’s latest column this morning, “Stop the Knee-Jerk Liberalism That Hurts Its Own Cause,” I was reminded of several things. Such as, for instance, Bret Stephens’ column after the Democratic debates last week, “A Wretched Start for Democrats:”

In this week’s Democratic debates, it wasn’t just individual candidates who presented themselves to the public. It was also the party itself. What conclusions should ordinary people draw about what Democrats stand for, other than a thunderous repudiation of Donald Trump, and how they see America, other than as a land of unscrupulous profiteers and hapless victims?

Here’s what: a party that makes too many Americans feel like strangers in their own country….

For liberals out there who want to dismiss whatever Stephens says because he’s a conservative, allow me to tell you why you’re wrong (I’m in that kind of mood): You should listen to Bret Stephens because he is the kind of person who will decide whether Donald Trump is re-elected. Stephens voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to try to stop Trump. (Several months later, he left The Wall Street Journal, where he was deputy editorial page editor, for The New York Times.)

Stephens has been begging Democrats to nominate someone he — and other conservatives, and independents — can vote for next year. Which is why his column before the one referenced above defended Joe Biden from the criticism he was getting over having worked with segregationists. Joe is a candidate, if not the candidate, non-Democrats can embrace. (The other candidates fell over each other trying to demonstrate that in the debates last week.) Which is an essential prerequisite to turning Donald Trump out of office.

But the association with the Stephens piece was based just on Kristof’s headline. As I got into the piece, I realize it had far more in common with a column written by David Brooks — another of the NYT’s in-house conservatives — two months ago. It was headlined “Understanding Student Mobbists.” I wanted to write about that one at the time, but it was hard to explain without quoting practically the whole thing, and I don’t want the NYT’s lawyers coming down on me for copyright infringement.

So before you read what I have to say about it, I urge you to go read the whole thing.

Then, I urge to go read all of Kristof’s latest piece.

Done? OK, then you probably see what I mean about them having a lot in common.

They’re both about how very, very differently “woke” young people in 2019 think about practically everything, but especially social justice issues. And when I say “think differently,” I don’t just mean holding different opinions, arriving at different conclusions. I’m saying the way they think is different — their brains operate in an entirely different fashion. The little cogs and gears turn in different directions, or whatever metaphor you prefer.

Both Brooks and Kristof bent over backwards to give the kids’ thought processes great deference (something the kinds of people they’re writing about would almost certainly not do with regard to the way these elders think), but neither quite succeeds in hiding how appalled he is.

That’s because the youthful phenomenon they’re discussing is a rejection, by the most fashionable current “progressives,” of fundamental principles of liberalism, principles upon which all the progress that Western civilization has yet achieved depend.

Some key excerpts from the Brooks piece:

I would begin my stab at understanding by acknowledging that I grew up in one era and they grew up in another. I came of age in the 1980s. In that time, there was an assumption that though the roots of human society were deep in tribalism, over the past 3,000 years we have developed a system of liberal democracy that gloriously transcended it, that put reason, compassion and compromise atop violence and brute force….

But certain things happened to cause the young to reject that worldview. The first was a reshaping of the way we talk about race. Then:

The second thing that happened was that reason, apparently, ceased to matter. Today’s young people were raised within an educational ideology that taught them that individual reason and emotion were less important than perspectivism — what perspective you bring as a white man, a black woman, a transgender Mexican, or whatever.david-brooks-thumbLarge-v2

These students were raised with the idea that individual reason is downstream from group identity….

If you were born after 1990, it’s not totally shocking that you would see public life as an inevitable war of tribe versus tribe…

A war being fought not within the moderating institutions of a liberal democracy, but in a Hobbesian state of nature, one assumes.

Anyway, let’s turn to the Kristof piece…

No, wait. First, I want to refer you to a podcast I heard not long after the Brooks piece ran, which provides a nice bridge. It was an episode of “Invisibilia” called, “The End Of Empathy.”

The role of Brooks and Kristof is played in this podcast by co-host Hannah Rosin. Again, if you have time (like, 52 minutes of time), you might want to listen to the whole thing. But to try to encapsulate it for you… A young contributor researched and presented a story for the podcast about a member of the “incel” movement who presents himself as having outgrown that, and is trying to move forward as something other than a woman-hater. But in the end, she — the contributor — can’t bring herself to see things his way and accept his version of himself.

“And why?” she asks. “Like, why should we see ourselves in him?”

Rosen’s partial response (the podcast goes on and on):

Why? Where did I get this idea that my job is to get you to empathize with a guy like Jack Peterson? When I was growing up, empathy was a kind of unquestioned thing. Like, of course, it was good. It was like puppies or sunshine….

I never thought of empathy as an ideology or creed, but I’ve since learned it was. Empathy was this obscure, psychobabble-y term up until the ’60s and ’70s. Social scientists and psychologists started to push it into the culture, basically, out of fear. Their idea was we were either headed for World War III or empathy. We were all going to kill each other or we were going to learn to see the world through each other’s eyes….

That’s what I learned about how you make the world better. Encounter a person you’re unfamiliar with or afraid of or even repulsed by. Don’t duck. Move closer. Figure out what they’re all about….

Starting 10 or 15 years ago, students just stopped buying the automatic logic of empathy. Like, why should they put themselves in the shoes of someone who is not them, much less someone they thought was harmful?

There’ve been surveys given to cross sections of high school and college students starting in the late ’60s….

And starting around 2000, the line starts to dip for all dimensions of empathy – either just understanding someone’s position, which is called perspective taking, and empathic concern, the one about tender feelings. More students start saying it’s not their problem to help people in trouble, not their job to see the world from someone else’s perspective….

Because if you do lose your conviction, you might not have the energy to march in the streets or get better laws to protect women from dangerous exes.

So the new rule is reserve it – not for your, quote, unquote, “enemies” but for the people you believe are hurt or you have decided need it the most – for the victims, for your own damn team. That’s how you make things better….

“Your own damn’ team.” That puts it pretty starkly. Lot of that going around… Now to the Kristof column. He writes of an argument that he had with his daughter while they were tossing around a football (I include that detail for those of you who thing we don’t have enough sports on this blog):

We were discussing a Harvard law professor, Ronald Sullivan. He had been pushed out of his secondary job as head of Harvard College’s Winthrop House after he helped give Harvey Weinstein, accused of sexual assault, the legal representation every defendant is entitled to.nicholas-kristof-thumbLarge-v2

To me, as a progressive baby boomer, this was a violation of hard-won liberal values, a troubling example of a university monoculture nurturing liberal intolerance. Of course no professor should be penalized for accepting an unpopular client.

To my daughter, of course a house dean should not defend a notorious alleged rapist. As she saw it, any professor is welcome to represent any felon, but not while caring for undergraduates: How can a house leader support students traumatized by sexual assault when he is also defending someone accused of rape?…

Progressives of my era often revere the adage misattributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” For young progressives, the priority is more about standing up to perceived racism, misogyny, Islamophobia and bigotry….

Kristof concludes:

As we head toward elections with monumental consequences, polarization will increase and mutual fear will surge. The challenge will be to stand up for our values — without betraying them.

I’ll do like Brooks and Kristof (who at least tried not to judge the young folks) to the extent of saying, of course you defend sexual assault victims, with all your might. But in doing so, you don’t throw out such liberal values as the right of the accused to counsel, or making the effort to see another person’s perspective, or trying to find common ground that you can build on.

If you reject those liberal values, and call yourself “progressive,” your brain isn’t working right. Which is why, in the end, I have to conclude that you’re wrong

Supreme Court pulls a Pontius Pilate on gerrymandering

court

By which I mean, of course, that they have washed their hands of any responsibility for the single problem doing the most to divide our country and destroy our constitutional system:

I’ve got to go get some work done, but I thought I’d establish a place for talking about this shocking development.

As Kagan said in her dissent, “The practices challenged in these cases imperil our system of government. Part of the court’s role in that system is to defend its foundations. None is more important than free and fair elections.”

Sending it to the states — that is to say, the legislatures who created the problem and are highly motivated to perpetuate it — is indeed, as Harry Harris said, the fox guarding the henhouse.

What are we going to do as a country?

Regarding last night’s prelim debate

prelim debate

Sorry, folks. Aside from being tired last night, my jaw thing was throbbing, and I just had to hit the hay with a pain pill.

Some of y’all already posted commentary back on this post. I’ll try to catch up.

I say “prelim,” of course, because there was only one contender on the stage, Elizabeth Warren, and her team had to be kind of frustrated that she didn’t make the cut for the real bout tonight. That put her in the position last night that Joe Biden will be in tonight — although Joe will have stiffer opposition. Interestingly, most of the commentary I’ve seen in the NYT and WashPost (such as Frank Bruni, and Aaron Blake) seems to be to the effect that she did great. I wasn’t that impressed. To me, she was just being Elizabeth Warren, and that has never worn particularly well with me.

Beyond that… a couple of you — Bud and Scout — have already ranked last night’s performances, and Doug has gone into what he liked and disliked in some detail (loves Tulsi, can’t stand Elizabeth). So I’ll take a stab at it myself:

  1. Amy Klobuchar
  2. Jay Inslee
  3. John Delaney
  4. Tim Ryan
  5. Cory Booker
  6. Elizabeth Warren
  7. Tulsi Gabbard
  8. Beto O’Rourke
  9. Julian Castro
  10. Bill de Blasio

Mind you, I wasn’t crazy about any of them, and there’s a big drop-off after Klobuchar, but that’s how I rank them without thinking too hard about it. You’ll note that Warren, whom so many think this debate was about, falls in the middle.

Briefly last night, Doug and I were in agreement about the ones we liked least…

… but I decided overnight I didn’t dislike Warren quite as much as some others.

That done, the real debate is tonight, with Joe facing Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg. Too bad we didn’t see how Warren would do against those four.

Here are my Tweets, so you can see how I was reacting in real time:

(And yes, that was an allusion to this skit…)

 

Feeling kinda lumpy, and kinda ratty, too… but grateful to have figured out what’s wrong (I think)

lumpy

The swelling on my right side — your left — has flattened out some, but it’s still there.

About three weeks ago, I had a headache, in the sinus above my right eye. Then, it moved to my teeth on that side, both upper and lower. Then to my inner right ear. Then to my face, along a line running under my right cheekbone, from the teeth to the ear.

Then, it started getting intense. It was a particularly bad brain freeze, although it would surge for several minutes rather than seconds. It would ease off for awhile, then come back with a vengeance.

My regular doctor, I learned, was out of the country. So I went to an urgent care, where I was told it might be a number of things, including shingles. Yikes. I’d been meaning for years to get that vaccine — like 95 percent of adults, I had chicken pox as a kid — but had not gotten around to it.

But I was told it would only be that if my face broke out in a rash along that same lateral line under my cheekbone. I was given a prescription for an antiviral med to fill and start taking if that happened. In the meantime, I was given a prescription for prednisone to start taking right away, to reduce the inflammation that was apparently pressing on that facial nerve.

I headed for my pharmacy, thinking “Shingles! How absurd!” But worried about it nonetheless. When I handed the prescription to the pharmacist and explained what it was for, drawing my finger across the line of pain, he said, “Shingles?” Which really worried me.

But it wasn’t shingles, and the prednisone helped almost right away. For the next three weeks, I’d have an occasional twinge, but that was it. But being on the alert for that caused me to be more conscious of chronic sensitivity to cold in some of my teeth on that side. My wife, upon learning that I’d been ignoring warnings from the dentist that I needed three crowns, told me to get started on that.

Then, night before last, when I was going in for a crown the next morning at 8, I was awakened by the facial pain — not terrible, but enough to keep me awake.

Which I mentioned at the dentist, as they were shooting preliminary x-rays. And the dentist pointed out something on one of the x-rays, and told me I didn’t need a crown at the moment; I needed a root canal. I had an abscess, right in the part of the mouth where my pain sometimes resided. And that, he said, was probably what had been causing the whole problem.

On my way to the pharmacy yet again, I felt something that made me unconsciously touch my right cheek, and it was all swollen and sore. That had not been the case when I got up that morning. So things were getting rapidly worse, all of a sudden.

Miraculously, I was able to get an endodontist appointment for the root canal at 1:45 that afternoon. I think it helped that I went there in person to make the appointment, and the receptionist could see how swollen my face was.

It took at least six shots of novacaine before I was numb enough — the endodontist said infection can interfere with the effectiveness of the local anesthetic. But eventually, I was comfortably numb, and we got it done.

I’m feeling better today, although the diminished lump is still palpable and sore, so I decided not to shave this morning, as you can see above. So I’m feeling sort of ratty. But grateful to all who helped figure this out, and acted so quickly to help.

Oh, and that’s why I didn’t post anything yesterday. Which is my point…

A fun SNL skit to look back at as debates loom

First, this is just plain hilarious, so enjoy.

Second, it’s relevant. As brilliant as Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin was, it’s easy to forget how good a job Jason Sudeikis did with Joe Biden. And the Joe Biden that he was making fun of in 2008 is the same Joe Biden we see today.

It seems particularly relevant in light of Joe’s statements last week about working with everyone who will agree to help (even segregationists). What he was trying to say (which I understood perfectly, as did John Lewis and Jim Clyburn, although some people claim to be confused) last week was a lot like what Sudeikis’ Biden is saying about John McCain. I mean that in the sense of Joe’s ability to happily and cheerfully “hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

Or in the sense of his willingness to disagree vehemently with someone, but still regard him as a fellow human.

It’s a message that’s counterintuitive for people who believe that left is left and right is right and never the twain shall (or should) meet. And that’s where the humor comes from in these lines:

Well, I would do what I have done my whole career, whether it’s been dealing with violence against women or putting 100,000 police officers in the streets. I would reach across the aisle. Like I’ve done with so many members of the other party. Members like John McCain. Because, look, I LOVE John McCain. He is one of my dearest friends. But, at the same time, he’s also dangerously unbalanced. I mean, let’s be frank, John McCain — and again, this is a man I would take a bullet for — is bad at his job and is mentally unstable. As my mother would say, “God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…” and a dear, dear friend….

In order to be hilarious, it’s exaggerated. But it also expresses something about who Joe Biden is. And America knows Joe Biden is this way, which is one of the reasons he’s been leading in the polls.

But whether you love or hate the way he is, whether you think it makes him a better candidate or disqualifies him, I thought you might get a laugh out of this look back.

So enjoy…

"As my mother would say, 'God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…' and a dear, dear friend."

“As my mother would say, ‘God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…’ and a dear, dear friend.”

Open Thread for Monday, June 24, 2019

Trump Haley

A few things going on out there…

  1. Trump imposes new sanctions on Iran — Just because it’s the latest and it’s also, you know, important…
  2. Oped: Trump-Haley in 2020 — OK, when you stop screaming after reading that headline,  consider that the piece begins with these words: “I’m proud to have founded the Democrats for Trump movement in 2016.” Yikes, who knew there was such a thing? Kind of starts this guy, Andrew Stein, in a bit of a credibility hole, doesn’t it? Also, Bill Kristol asserts that the guy “pled guilty to lying in a financial fraud.” Oh, and he looks the part.
  3. ‘We don’t trust you!’: After fatal police shooting, black residents confront Buttigieg — And apparently, some of them are ticked that he took off in the middle of this crisis to come to Columbia on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how the young man handles this situation.
  4. What Happens After Amazon’s Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues — I learned a few things from this piece about how Amazon does very little to prevent the sale of shoddy, counterfeit books via its platform. Here’s a sidebar story…
  5. OK, I’m envious of Jeff Bezos — No, not because he’s a gazillionaire, although that’s a nice bonus, but because of the way he is able to order his working day. His goal “Make three good decisions a day and no meetings before 10 a.m.” Sounds like the perfect job description to me. I’d be glad to do it for 1 percent of what he makes.
  6. Stonewall and the Myth of Self-Deliverance — Probably the most interesting opinion piece I read over the weekend. I liked it, but what I liked best wasn’t the main point. (His main point was that oppressed groups seldom end the oppression on their own.) I liked a secondary, perhaps you would even say implied, point: That demonstrations are not the best way to effect social and political change. Bit of a hobby-horse of mine, as y’all know. I need to make a point to check out more by this guy, Kwame Anthony Appiah. He’s sufficiently iconoclastic that there’s no telling where he might go, so I might end up hating his stuff. But I doubt he’d be boring.

The most presidential candidates EVER in one place?

signs

I mean, it’s gotta be, right?

I don’t remember a time when there were this many people running for a major-party presidential nomination before, and almost all of them (21!) were right there today in the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

Of course, MY candidate went last, as I had a feeling he would. And after waiting through a bunch of the prelims I finally went home to get a late (about 3) lunch and watch the rest on my iPad via MSNBC.

Joe did not disappoint. Personally, I didn’t need him to rattle off all those policy proposals he recited — I guess Elizabeth Warren has made him think he needs to do that — but he did great. I got a little irritated when someone off-screen tried to hurry him right when he got to the podium, saying standing there receiving applause was using up his time (he’d only been standing there a few seconds), but hey, he didn’t get rattled and he did fine.

The next two best among the ones I heard (I missed some of the early ones, including Warren, Harris and Buttigieg) were probably Andrew Yang and Jay Inslee. Interestingly, Yang was a smoother speaker than veteran pol Inslee, but I could still see why Bud likes him.

Anyway, I’ll just post my Tweets here as a conversation-starter, and then I want to know what y’all thought if you were watching. And if you weren’t, here’s some coverage by The State and the Post and Courier:

And then, finally, Joe. Which was a great note to end on…

Joe Wilson’s potential Democratic opponent

This came out a couple of months ago, but I just ran across it.

I knew former Justice Department attorney Adair Ford Boroughs had announced she was going to go after Joe Wilson next year, but hadn’t seen the video until now. It caused me to check out her website as well.

Random observations, in no particular order:

  • First, while I need to know more, she’s probably got my vote. Not because of this or that thing Joe has said or done, but because — as she correctly points out — Joe has done nothing in his almost 18 years in Congress. Joe loves being a congressman — he gets all breathless when he expresses how much he loves it — but he doesn’t seem interested in doing anything in the position.
  • Second, the odds are way, way against her. The district is drawn for a Republican, big-time. And once the Lexington County votes come in, it tends to be over for the Democrat.
  • This is neither here nor there, but I got a little confused, thinking “Adair” was her last name. Everywhere you look, it’s “Adair for Congress,” and since I’ve always seen it as a surname, well…. Interestingly, I can’t even find “Boroughs” on the home page of her website. It doesn’t mean anything; I just don’t remember seeing this before.
  • The video is OK, and probably the best part about it is the way it drives home the point I mentioned above — that Joe has gotten only one bill passed in all these years, and it was to change the name of a local post office. There are some things I’m not that crazy about, such as the populist cliches about “career politicians” and “good ol’ boy politicians.” Those are such tired expressions. If you’re going to go there, and least come up with a fresh way to say it.
  • Speaking of populism, I’m also not thrilled by the “going after corporations and millionaires who cheated on their taxes” stuff either. I’m all for getting people to pay the taxes they owe, but that smacks a bit of the class conflict stuff that’s so popular on the left now, which leaves me kind of cold. (By that I mean it seems to suggest she went after them because they were “corporations and millionaires” as much as because they were tax cheats. Maybe that’s unintentional, but the vibe is there.
  • I see she clerked for District Judge Richard M. Gergel, and I have a lot of respect for Richard, and if he chose to hire her, she must have something going for her.
  • Of course, I’d rather see someone who has done more in the public sphere — someone who has been a judge rather than a judge’s clerk, or someone who has held some lower office before shooting for Congress. Y’all know me. But when you’re going up against someone who has done as little as Joe has with the office, that’s not as important as it might be under other circumstances.

Anyway, it’s early, and I’m going to watch this with interest…

Adair

OK, Bill, this is YOUR fault, dang it…

44084-ram-mccartney

Today’s earworm is brought to you by our musical correspondent Bill, who a couple of days back shared a link to “Dear Boy,” from Paul McCartney’s “Ram” album in 1971.

I focused on it more than usual because of a quirk in the way it’s recorded: During the day, I almost always listen to music or anything else involving sound with earbuds. (I don’t wish to bother my neighbors.) And apparently the lead vocal was on the right side, where I’m almost completely deaf.

It gave the song an eerie sort of feel. So I listened to it a couple of ways as an experiment, including putting the buds in the wrong ears. I’m still adjusting to this hearing loss thing, and find it interesting to explore the limits of it.

As a result, it lodged somewhere in my brain, good and tight, and then emerged this morning, and kept playing over and over in my mind.

Which is strange, because I don’t remember taking much note of the song when the album came out and I listened to it over and over. Like everyone, I listened a lot to “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” to a lesser extent the musical joke “Smile Away,” and maybe “The Back Seat of My Car.” (Yes, I was 17, and my tastes weren’t terribly sophisticated, or even cool. If they had been, I might not have bought the album in the first place.)

But now, I learn to my surprise that “Dear Boy” is an infectious tune. And I can’t seem to shake it…

I also enjoyed Lennon's send-up of the cover, several months later.

I also enjoyed Lennon’s send-up of the cover, several months later.

How would YOU answer these 18 questions from the NYT?

18 questions

The New York Times put 21 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination “on the spot” by putting them in front of video cameras and asking them 18 questions.

My man Joe Biden declined to participate. Make of that what you will. (I could write a separate post on why it doesn’t bother me, I suppose, but I probably wouldn’t persuade anyone who is bothered.) On the other end of the cooperation spectrum, Elizabeth Warren was the first to be interviewed and even came in a second time, because the NYT added some questions after her initial session.

I haven’t watched all the videos, or even most of them, because I have a life — and as y’all know, I don’t make electoral decisions based on this or that specific issue — and if I did, it wouldn’t be on many of these issues. But I’ve skimmed the accompanying story, which you might wish to do to save time.

How the non-Biden candidates answered the questions doesn’t interest me as much as how y’all would answer the questions. So here they are, each with a brief answer from me. The links take you to the video answers:

  1. In an ideal world, would anyone own handguns? Of course not. I see that most of the candidates tried to dance around this, trying to reassure people that they aren’t against the 2nd Amendment. Pete Buttigieg seems to be about the only one who actually heard the question. The operative word is “ideal,” as in “perfect.” Which I take to mean, like the Garden of Eden. Handguns have one purpose — killing people, whether in acts of aggression or self-defense. In a perfect world, people wouldn’t be killing people, so no need for handguns. Now if you’d wanted a real-world answer, you should have asked the question differently.
  2. Would your focus be improving the Affordable Care Act or replacing it with single payer? I prefer single-payer, the one truly sensible way to go, but improving the ACA is probably more politically feasible. And even that is only likely to happen if Democrats keep the House and win the Senate. As we’ve seen, Republicans just talk about repealing it, but don’t repeal it, preferring to cripple it and watch it die a slow death.
  3. Do you think it’s possible for the next president to stop climate change? No. What is possible is for the next president to take significant, positive steps in that direction. For a change. And that is what should happen.
  4. Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights? Generally speaking, yes. But what are international standards, in a world that contains Russia, China, Syria, the Philippines and Venezuela? Let’s use the higher, Western, liberal-democracy standard. I think that on the whole, Israel strives to meet that higher standard while dealing with a host of people around them and in the country itself who wish Israel to cease to exist. And that means it’s not going to be perfect all the time.
  5. Who is your hero, and why? I’ve never known how to answer questions like this one. I could say “Jesus,” and leave it at that, or maybe throw in St. Peter, Thomas More, Pope John Paul II, and then move to the secular realm and add Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, FDR and Martin Luther King. John McCain was a hero to me. If it has to be living people, I might name Tony Blair, and both Rileys in South Carolina — Joe and Dick. You’ll notice none of them currently hold office….
  6. Would there be American troops in Afghanistan at the end of your first term? Probably, just because I haven’t heard anyone explain how we prevent the Taliban from taking over once we leave, and once again making the country a safe haven for Al Qaeda or ISIL. I’d love to have a plan for doing that, I just don’t know where to find it.
  7. How many hours of sleep do you get a night? Depends. If we’re pretending I’m a candidate, I’d be saying “not as many as I like,” but then campaigns change your metabolism. You adapt. I functioned on less sleep last year, and James and Mandy on much less than I did. All that said, may I say how much I hate wasting time on a personal lifestyle question?
  8. Do you think illegal immigration is a major problem in the United States? I think it’s a major political problem, especially if you’re a Republican. As for a real problem… I think it’s a disorderly process right now, and most of that is caused by the political problem. The anti-immigration folks have killed every effort at comprehensive reform since the start of this century. If you ask me what I want us to have, I’ll say we need more immigration, not less, for the sake of our economy, but even more because of what America is to people everywhere seeking freedom and opportunity. And that additional immigration needs to be administered in a far more rational and orderly process than we have now.
  9. Where would you go on your first international trip as president? Wherever I could meet with our key allies — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and others — to repair damage done to our relationships, and reassure them as to our ongoing commitment to multilateral arrangements for everything from collective security to trade to climate change. Then, I’d try to revive T.P.P., if that’s possible — which is to say, if it’s not too late to undo the huge diplomatic and economic advantage we handed China when Trump abandoned it.
  10. Describe the last time you were embarrassed. Why? Just a second ago, when I read this question. But yeah, I get why you ask it, given the embarrassment that currently occupies the White House — a man who either doesn’t get embarrassed or won’t ever admit it. Anyway, I’m embarrassed so frequently, so routinely, that I can’t tell you the most recent incident. If I remember, I’ll come back to this.
  11. Do you think President Trump has committed crimes in office? Oh, I don’t know. And given the obstacles to prosecuting a sitting president, I’m not sure it’s a relevant question. What IS relevant is that he is grossly, pathologically unfit for the office — for pretty much any office involving the public trust, but especially this one — and we need to get him out of office as soon as possible. Unfortunately, given GOP control of the Senate, the first practical opportunity is the election next year. Americans who care about our country should focus on coming up with the very best candidate to defeat him.
  12. Do you support or oppose the death penalty? I oppose it. And I oppose this being a federal issue. That the federal government has muscled its way into something that was once almost completely a state issue is a problem.
  13. Should tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google be broken up? I don’t know. There probably needs to be more regulation, but I’m not smart enough to tell you what form that should take. We find ourselves in a situation like what we faced in the Progressive Era, when railroads and oil companies and such exerted an unexpectedly excessive influence on our society. Major tech companies have had an even more dramatic effect, for good and ill, even to the point of rewiring human cognition. As a country, we need to come to terms with this somehow. I can’t tell you I know what the specific remedies might be.
  14. Are you open to expanding the size of the Supreme Court? Absolutely not. Hear me: What Mitch McConnell did to prevent even the consideration of Merrick Garland was unconscionable. A Democratic effort to do the same thing — tilt the court for partisan purposes — would be equally unconscionable.
  15. When did your family first arrive in the United States, and how? You’d think I’d know the answer to this, given my genealogy obsession, but I don’t. In fact, it’s because of my genealogy obsession that I know that I don’t know. The short answer is that I don’t have any recent immigrants on my tree. If I did — say, if all four of my grandparents were immigrants, I could answer the question. But I can’t. On every branch of my tree that I’ve been able to trace back that far, everyone was here by the mid-1700s. That’s about nine generations back. When you go back that far, each of us has more than 500 direct ancestors, with about 500 different surnames. (I’d be precise and say “512,” but even that recently, I have some people from whom I’m descended more than one way, and you probably do, too. That lowers the number slightly.) When you’re talking about being descended from 500 families just a couple of centuries back, it raises the question of which one is “your family.” Obviously, all of them are.
  16. What is your comfort food on the campaign trail? Oh, come on. Really? From my own limited experiences on the campaign trail — as a campaign staffer last year, and covering campaigns long ago — food is food, and lacks emotional meaning, beyond the fact that eating is more comfortable than not eating. I ate anything I could get my hands on, when I had the time, that wouldn’t kill me, given my allergies. Oh, and before you ask, on a related question of equal value: I used to wear briefs, but have worn boxers for about 30 years now. OK? Can we move on?
  17. What do you do to relax? Give me a break. If I’m a presidential candidate, I don’t. Since I’m not, I spend time with my family, I read, I watch TV, I exercise, I work on my family tree. I make time for this by not answering questionnaires such as this. Maybe that’s how Joe Biden maintains his equanimity. Sorry, but this particular question is a peeve for me. I once had a publisher who invariably asked this very question of candidates during editorial board meetings, because he wanted to say something and he didn’t know anything about politics or policy. Each time, I would have to stop myself from rolling my eyes. (Actually, it’s just now occurring to me, I should have thanked him for staying neutral and not delving into topics that would have a bearing on our editorial decisions.)
  18. Does anyone deserve to have a billion dollars? I’ll quote Clint Eastwood from “Unforgiven” on this point: Deserve’s got nothing to do with it. If you’re asking whether, when a person has amassed such a fortune without doing anything illegal or morally reprehensible, the government should take it away from him, I’ll say no. And unlike maybe Bernie or Sen. Warren, I think it’s a rather dumb question.

What’s missing: any serious questions about the chief part of the job of being president, which is dealing with the rest of the world. The one question about Israel is just a gut-check thing to test how you stand with the pro-Palestinian wing of the Democratic Party — and with a lot of this paper’s readers. And the “first international trip” question is somewhat vague, in terms of direct bearing on policy.

Nothing about China, or Russia, or Iran, or Venezuela? Or climate change? Or international organizations such as NATO or the U.N., or the defunct TPP? Or general philosophy on national or collective security? Really? Are you kidding me? What office do you think these people are running for?

That such questions are left out while time is spent on how the candidates “relax,” or their fave “comfort food,” just floors me. This is The New York Times, not Tiger Beat….

Welcome to Orlando, Donald. We endorse anyone but YOU.

Orlando

I have to congratulate the Orlando Sentinel for its endorsement today in the 2020 presidential election — of anyone but Donald Trump.

For those out there simple enough to believe that being for or against Trump is a matter of being a Republican or a Democrat, I should point out that this is a paper that practically always endorses the Republican. But like serious, thoughtful Republicans everywhere (a dwindling breed, although it includes most prominent conservative pundits, which makes it seem like a dominant view to those of us who take in our information from the written word), this board is apparently made up of Never Trumpers.

I’m not a regular reader of the Sentinel‘s edit page, but from afar I’ve always seen it as more or less center-right, based on the few times it has come to my attention (which admittedly could be misleading). For instance, in 1998, I briefly thought we were the first paper in the country to call for Bill Clinton’s resignation when he admitted lying to us — but I soon discovered the Sentinel had done so on the same day.

So… great minds and all that.

Here’s how today’s piece begins:

Donald Trump is in Orlando to announce the kickoff of his re-election campaign.

We’re here to announce our endorsement for president in 2020, or, at least, who we’re not endorsing: Donald Trump.

Some readers will wonder how we could possibly eliminate a candidate so far before an election, and before knowing the identity of his opponent.

Because there’s no point pretending we would ever recommend that readers vote for Trump.

After 2½ years we’ve seen enough.

Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies….

From there, the piece gets into a long litany of his sins, any one of which would have ended a politician’s career, back before our country went stark, raving mad in 2016.

It’s a very well-reasoned piece, although none of the points in it should be a surprise, and the conclusion is inescapable to any thinking person.

It’s a nice, VERY early kickoff to the endorsement season. For that matter, it’s nice to see that some major metropolitan newspapers still do endorsements, or even have editorial boards. Only one in South Carolina still does…

Open Thread for Monday, June 17, 2019

tanker

A few things we might talk about — just don’t cough!

  1. Four years after Charleston church massacre, what have SC lawmakers done? — Nothing, if you’re talking about keeping people like Roof from getting a gun.
  2. Iran Threatens to Exceed Nuclear Deal’s Limits on Uranium Enrichment — We’re in a fix, aren’t we? POTUS has alienated our allies on the nuclear deal, which they have scrambled to try to save. Now, he wants them to back him on on the latest Iranian provocations. Would you, in their place? Meanwhile, Iran seems poised to tell us all to go to hell…
  3. Supreme Court Hands Democrats A Win On Racial Gerrymandering In Virginia — No, NPR, they’ve handed America a win, coming down against the practice that’s tearing our country apart. Question is, what do we do next? How do we slay this dragon so it stays dead?
  4. Trump tosses Mulvaney out of Oval Office for coughing — The story notes that Trump “has called himself a ‘germaphobe’ and labeled the practice of shaking hands ‘barbaric.'” I’m reminded of the brilliant “Bern Your Enthusiasm” skit: You sure it wasn’t a cough and a wipe?
  5. Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret — The report “tracks how US waste makes its way across the world – and overwhelms the poorest nations.” You might be tempted to dismiss this as yet another evocation of The Guardian’s never-ending Evil America theme (it’s part of a series called “Toxic America”), but that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious problem.
  6. Buttigieg says it’s ‘almost certain’ the United States has had ‘excellent gay presidents’ — He was speaking statistically. When asked to speculate which ones, he demurred: “My gaydar doesn’t even work that well in the present, let alone retroactively.” I like that sort of humility in a candidate. On other topics, Jennifer Rubin had some good things to say about Mayor Pete today.
No cough! No shake! And definitely not a cough AND a shake!

No cough! No shake! And definitely not a cough AND a shake!

Yes! In your FACE, Slate News Quiz!

417

OK, so this was a pretty modest achievement. I got two questions wrong, which means that if this were a test in school I would have gotten an 83, which even by South Carolina’s currently overly generous grading system would be a low B.

But here’s the thing… Y’all know that I’ve always taken inordinate pride in my test-taking skills. That’s what got me through high school without studying, slacker that I was. (One of my favorite lines from Woody Allen’s “Love and Death” is when a fellow soldier, heading into battle, moans, “Oh, God is testing us!” and Allen’s character says, “If He’s gonna test us, why doesn’t He give us a written?” Yes! Why can’t all tests be written?)

But the Slate News Quiz is the kind of test that foils me time and again. Partly is that they have a penchant for trivial news over the top stories. But mostly because you get points for how quickly you answer, which rattles me. I hate being timed doing anything, and especially on something requiring thought. I don’t do anything fast.

So week after week, I get skunked on this quiz, humiliated by the Slate staffer they pit you against, or the reader average, or both. But not today.

You know why I did better today? I made myself slow down. I allowed myself that extra beat where I go, Come on, you read something about this, or when I don’t know, Which makes most sense?, or on less certain ones, Which of these names do you have a vague memory of having heard lately?, or more deviously, Which of these names wouldn’t be here unless that’s the one?

I took a hit on my score for taking time, but I got most of them right.

I even did better than “senior editor” Jeremy Stahl. Curious as I tend to be when these online publications call somebody a “senior” something, I looked him up. He graduated college in 2004, so he’s about 37. Which at least is older than I would have guessed.

I mean, at least he’s four years older than that twerp, “Senior White House Advisor” Stephen Miller

And who knows? If the boy studies up, maybe he’ll beat the old man next time. You know how it was in the old Westerns: the top gun always has to be looking over his shoulder for the next punk looking to make a name for himself