Author Archives: Brad Warthen

Come on out and help us Remember Pearl Harbor

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island. View looks about east, with the supply depot, submarine base and fuel tank farm in the right center distance. A torpedo has just hit USS West Virginia on the far side of Ford Island (center). Other battleships moored nearby are (from left): Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee (inboard of West Virginia), Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland, and California. On the near side of Ford Island, to the left, are light cruisers Detroit and Raleigh, target and training ship Utah and seaplane tender Tangier. Raleigh and Utah have been torpedoed, and Utah is listing sharply to port. Japanese planes are visible in the right center (over Ford Island) and over the Navy Yard at right. Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry.  U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island.

As y’all know, I help the S.C. Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum publicize its events. But I too often forget to let y’all know about them ahead of time.

I was telling Bryan Caskey about this one yesterday, and he was interested (although he had a conflict), so I thought I’d pass it on to the rest of the gang.

Since I already wrote a release about it, I’ll just save myself some typing by sharing that with you:

Join us at the Relic Room to Remember – and learn about – Pearl Harbor

COLUMBIA, S.C. – “Remember Pearl Harbor!”

Who could forget? It wasn’t just the “date that will live in infamy,” but the moment when America turned on a dime and was permanently transformed. We went instantly from being a nation of isolationists who didn’t want to hear about the problems of Europe and Asia, to a war machine of unprecedented power – and after that, the leader of global efforts to prevent such a conflict from ever emerging again.

On this Dec. 7, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum will host a Pearl Harbor Day program that will help both young and old better remember, and understand, the meaning of that day in 1941. The program will certainly be about memory, but also about lessons learned.

Admission is free to the entire program.

Here’s what’s on the schedule for that Saturday:

10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Living History and WW2 Weapon Displays. In the Atrium, living historians will impersonate a wide range of participants in the conflict, and talk to attendees about their different roles. Military equipment, including small arms, from the world’s largest conflict will also be on display. In addition to the re-enactors there will be real-life heroes, members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. You can thank them personally, and support the work of this association of combat-wounded veterans.

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – WW2 Education Stations. At stations within the museum gallery, volunteers will offer short lessons in basic World War II skills include aircraft silhouette identification, code-breaking, and other sailors’ tasks, which could make the difference between victory and defeat. Get your “Qualification Card” signed for the “Battle of the Atrium Sea.”

2 p.m.  – “Guadalcanal: US Marines against Imperial Japan, 7 August 1942-8 February 1943.” Fritz Hamer, the museum’s curator of history, will explain the bloody but vital struggle for the island of Guadalcanal. This is a lecture for adults while younger participants join in the simultaneous wargame out in the museum’s atrium.

2 p.m. – “The Battle of the Atrium Sea.” Kids can sharpen their tactical thinking, controlling their own pieces of the Pacific theater, laid out on the atrium floor. Will the defiant Americans or the mighty Imperial Japanese fleet win the day? It’s going to be up to you! (Battle participants may be limited by available units in the scenario.)

3 p.m. – “Atrium Sea After-Action Review.” We’ll look over the “battle” fought in the atrium and compare it to actual Pacific War fights. What happened, and why?

Come on out and help us remember the day that we must never forget.

About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum

Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military heritage from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to https://crr.sc.gov/.

Did you notice how I slipped in and oblique mention of the Postwar Liberal Order? Sneaky, huh?

As you see, the program is broader than merely remembering Dec. 7 — it covers portions of the long road back.

For my part, I’m tentatively planning on attending Fritz’ lecture on Guadalcanal. Most of what I know about that comes from fiction: Battle Cry by Leon Uris, and The Thin Red Line by James Jones. I’d like to place my understanding on more of a factual footing…

Uncle Jed, I wanna be one a them double-naught analysts!

cyber threat

I know I’m boring y’all with these, but I continue to enjoy the daily job listings I get from Daybook.

That’s because almost all the jobs they show me are ones I would actually be interested in. And you just have no idea what a novelty that is to me, after the thousands of emails I’ve gotten in the years since getting laid off, almost none of which have any basis in who I am or what my skills are or what I might actually like to do.

But the folks at Daybook get me. I think what did the trick was my stint as communications director for James last year. That seems to have been the missing ingredient. Combined with other things in my background, it suddenly caused the algorithms to start churning out some cool jobs, things I might actually like to do in my post-newspaper career.

Today’s coolest job is “Cyber Threat Analyst.” It might not be as cool as being one of the Navy codebreakers who enabled us to win the battle of Midway, but I guess being the guy who, say, warns the country that the Russians are trying to make Donald Trump president of the United States is as close as it gets these days. (Although it seems maybe that may have been more humint than sigint.)

Never mind that I’m totally unqualified for the position. I’m not planning on applying for it. I just like the sound of it.

It appeals to me the way various fantasy jobs appealed to Jethro Bodine — medieval knight, Army general, double-naught spy. It momentarily engages my enthusiasm.

That’s not much, but it’s something. And I enjoy the momentary distraction…

Ancestry DNA told me my ethnicity. Then it kept changing its mind.

new estimate

This is really irritating.

It’s especially irritating because I can’t get back to the original ethnicity estimate that Ancestry gave me after I sent them a vial full of spit.

That one made sense, and I thought I understood it. It went something like:

  • 45 percent Western European
  • 20+ percent from England, Wales and Scotland
  • 20+ percent Irish
  • 5 or 6 percent Scandinavian
  • Something like less than 1 percent from Southern or Eastern Europe — or was it Iberia? (I don’t know because there have been several versions since then).

I thought that gave me a pretty good sense of how my ancestors were distributed on my tree, which now has more than 7,000 people on it.

As for that big number from Western Europe — it wasn’t that I had a lot of people come to this country from France, Belgium, Germany and the like. No, the vast majority of people I’d been able to trace came here from England, and the rest from Scotland and Ireland. But a lot of those from England had ancestors from Western Europe, if I was lucky enough to trace them back a few more centuries.

And yes, as crfazy as it may sound, I was able to follow quite a few lines well back into Medieval times, and some (only two or three) to before the Norman Conquest. And it turns out a lot were Normans, and some were Welsh, but I’ve yet to find anyone I can point to and say yes, that’s a Saxon. And that means a lot of my English ancestors had nonEnglish ancestors.

And I was able to get a few of those Normans back to Scandinavia, which is where Normans came from. Of course, those were so far back they were highly dubious but it seemed consistent with what the DNA said.

So that first “ethnicity estimate” made some sense.

But since then, Ancestry has redefined its ethnic groupings, and scrambled everything up. Two or three times. Above you see the latest version.

Since when is “England, Wales and Northwestern Europe” a single ethnicity? That’s so broad and general that yeah, I’m unsurprised that I’m 65 percent that. But what does it tell me, really? pretty much nothing.

And look, below, at a closeup of that distribution:

closeup

OK, that’s England, sure enough — all but a bit of Cornwall. And that’s most of Wales, all right. But as for the “Northwestern Europe” part — say what? The Cotentin peninsula, plus another little bitty slice of Northwestern France that runs a bit south of Calais? That’s IT? How is THAT “Northwestern Europe?” You should call it “England and Wales (and a few people who lived close enough across the Channel that they probably crossed back and forth a lot).”

Sheesh.

And why did Scandinavia go in the other direction, getting more specific, narrowing down to Sweden?

And what on Earth is “Germanic Europe,” If it leaves out most of Austria?

Germanic

This is maddening.

I suspect Ancestry just has too many employees, and they need something to do, so they are assigned to frequently scramble and rescramble the “ethnicities.”

But each time they do it, they get drunk first.

Look at them telling themselves, ‘Keep a straight face… Act like this is totally normal….’

macron

So it appears our president is over across the pond embarrassing us, again, squabbling with allies and roiling markets.

For me, it’s interesting to turn the sound down and just watch these foreign leaders sit next to him and labor to keep a straight face.

I give Macron some credit for breaking out of this pattern and confronting Trump, which you see above. But most continue to play the game, trying not to have a diplomatic incident.

I’m very sorry that we keep putting our friends through this…

The Open Thread that wasn’t

So we can sell wine now? All RIGHTY then...

So we can sell wine now? All RIGHTY then…

I started putting this Open Thread together on Saturday at a Barnes & Noble in Memphis where I had gone to do some work while my wife was otherwise engaged. (Actually, she was at a soup kitchen downtown where her brother and sister-in-law volunteer, helping them out. I felt bad about not being with them, but I did get some work done.)

Anyway, when I realized they were back at the house, I dropped the blog post (I had only started it because I’d run out of work things I could do without reaching clients on the phone) and went and joined them.

It was an eclectic Thread I had in mind, just based on stuff I’d found interesting in that day’s Washington Post. Here you go:

  1. We need a major redesign of life — This is a provocative piece about how our expectations of life are built around the assumption that people wouldn’t live much past 65, if that. “Long lives are not the problem. The problem is living in cultures designed for lives half as long as the ones we have.” What sense does it make, for instance, for people to retire in their 60s or even 50s if they’re going to live to 100? It’s interesting even though I look askance at some of the findings such as: “To thrive in an age of rapid knowledge transfer, children not only need reading, math and computer literacy, but they also need to learn to think creatively and not hold on to ‘facts’ too tightly.” Really? I think one of the problems we have today is that too many have abandoned belief in facts altogether. But maybe that was just awkwardly worded. Of course, if you mean people need to be flexible and learn new facts as they arise, I’m with you…
  2. Whaddya mean, I’m funny? — This was a nice little profile on Joe Pesci, whom I’ve enjoyed in so many movies in the past. Remember John Travolta’s line in “Get Shorty” about wanting to get into movies, and someone says, but you’re a loan shark, and he replies that “I was never that into it…”? Well, it turns out Joe Pesci was never that into acting — which is why Martin Scorsese had such a hard time talking him into coming out of retirement. Ironic, given how good at it he is. Anyway, I haven’t had the time to watch “The Irishman” yet, but this further whetted my appetite.
  3. Ice preserved a tiny puppy in near-perfect condition for 18,000 years. Scientists are fascinated. So am I. Even if you don’t read the piece, you have to look at the pictures. It’s from the time when domesticated dogs were starting to evolve from their wolf ancestors. And this puppy looks like its alive, and only sleeping…
  4. Facing impeachment, the president strives to look hard at work — This was mildly interesting, although not as much so as the other pieces. Basically, it answers the question (which frankly had not occurred to me), Why is this man popping up in Afghanistan and going to see the Queen? Basically, it says Trump is taking a page from Bill Clinton’s playbook: “Then-President Bill Clinton survived his 1998 impeachment in part because the economy was roaring and because he appeared to many voters to be relentlessly focused on doing the business of the American people.”
  5. So which is it, Charlie or Charley? — This rather stupid topic does not come from The Washington Post, so don’t blame them. Being a lifelong editor, things like this really bother me, whereas probably no one else cares. While I was at that Barnes & Noble, I was listening to some Spotify to drown out the noises of the cafe. And I happened to look at that screen as this number came on (see picture below), and I immediately wondered, “So which is it? Charley Musselwhite or Charlie Musselwhite?” I decided the album cover, which says “Charley,” was more likely to be right than the Spotify text — but then, Wikipedia has “Charlie!” Does Musselwhite himself even care? Probably less than I do. I need to relax; after all, it’s not his official given name, right? It’s not like they spelled his surname “Musclewhite” or something. Oh, and don’t even get me started on “Charly,” which should have been called “Flowers for Algernon,” which by the way was an awesome book.

As a postscript… I went looking for a photo for this post among what I shot in Memphis over the last few days, and settled on the above shot of an aisle in a Kroger. All the years I lived in Tennessee, it was illegal to sell wine in grocery stores. Since that changed (and this is the first time I’ve been back since that happened), the grocers have been making up for lost time. The picture doesn’t even show the whole aisle. There’s about six feet more of wine shelves behind me…

Musselwhite

Today, let’s be thankful for teachers

See the way I tied the holiday to the funny video I wanted to share that actually had nothing to do with Thanksgiving. Old newspaperman’s trick.

Back in the day, when newspapers had some heft to them, today’s was always the biggest paper of the year. We saved up copy for weeks to fill that sucker. In fact, when I started my first newspaper job out of college in the fall of 1975, my managing editor gave me a special assignment, and acted like he was showing me favor by handing me such a great responsibility.

He put me in charge of the Turkey Box. It was a cardboard box that I was to fill with evergreen stories that would hold for the big day. So I crammed it with AP copy of a non-urgent nature.

I didn’t let it swell my head, which is to my credit.

Anyway, I thought this video was great. I would say hilarious, except for the serious point it makes. I particularly like the bit about the first-round draft pick who is instantly a millionaire, a great rise from his unassuming beginnings: “His father lived paycheck to paycheck as a humble pro football player.”

Yes, it would be great if top teachers were lured away to a new school by $80 million over six years, etc.

Of course, I don’t know if it’s healthy for a society to get this excited about anybody. But if we’re going to do that, it might as well be about teachers or someone else who actually contributes something of value to society.

That’ll be the day, huh?

Anyway, have a great and blessed Thanksgiving.

Henceforth, all witnesses should talk like Fiona Hill

No, I’m not just talking about the accent, although I would love that.

And it wouldn’t have to be her specific Northern-English accent, either. I’d settle for a nice, posh RP mode of speech, which for a brief second was what I thought she was using — she just has such an authoritative delivery that it came across as upper-class until I’d listened a moment.

Or failing that, perhaps a thick Cockney — say, Michael Caine or even more so. Or Scouse — think of any one of the Beatles, especially George.

That would really liven the proceedings, and make me want to listen. But I don’t mean merely to indulge my unabashed Anglophilia. I’d love to hear a Scottish accent, a la Fiona Ritchie. (A Scottish ancestress of my wife was accused of witchcraft back in the 1650s, although eventually released. I suspect her guilt, in the sense that I find few sounds more bewitching than a woman speaking with a Scottish accent.)

Or Welsh. I seldom hear a true Welsh accent, and would like to become more acquainted with it. Especially since family lore holds that the Warthens were Welsh (although to my great frustration, I’ve been unable to nail that down).

Better yet, given the topic of these proceedings, how about having a witness who lays out all the facts in a true Ukrainian accent? That could be edifying.

But I digress…

Back to where I started: It’s not about the accent. Tonight, my wife was watching a rerun of Dr. Hill’s testimony and remarked that she seemed the most intelligent witness she’d heard yet.

I don’t think that’s a matter of accent. After all, while she sounds as educated as she is, those Northern tones — she’s from County Durham, the daughter of a coal miner and a nurse, educated at the University of St Andrews — tend to be looked-down-upon, historically, by the Southron snobs in London.

No, it’s the fact that she knows what she’s talking about.

Like most of these witnesses, she’s a professional, a person of obvious expertise and discernment. The accent just serves as a garnish, calling extra attention to the fact this is not your average idiot at the end of the bar holding forth on what his gut doth dictate.

She — like Vindman and Taylor as so many of these people, and so unlike Nunes and Jordan — is the embodiment of what Trump and his supporters despise. They are, as I said, people who know what they are talking about, and have this country’s best interests at heart. It radiates from them; it’s undeniable.

They are, in short, the anti-Trumps.

And I want to hear more from them, and less from some of those idiots on the committees. I doubt Fiona Hill could get elected to Congress from any district in the country. And that’s the country’s loss. And an indictment of democracy as practice in the 21st century.

I want to hear more from her. And people like her. They give me hope for the country, hope for humanity…

Fiona

Don’t go changing things around on the foremast jacks

Screen-Shot-2016-07-09-at-8.39.46-AM

Only Bryan and Mike Fitts are likely to appreciate this, but I share it anyway…

I get a ridiculously large number of unsolicited offers to supply this blog with content, and pay me to run it.

Most I ignore. But this morning I was feeling more sociable than usual, so I responded by saying:

Not interested, thanks.

Well, that was a mistake. Because instead of going away, this person wrote back:

I can do $50 for 1 permanent (one time fee) article publish [article content of your choice of topic] with do follow link to sports betting or casino site.Will supply unique content as well.
Let me know.
Note :1.Article must not be any text like sponsored or advertise or like that
2. we can only pay by paypal.

I mean, set aside the fact that I have zero interest in promoting gambling, and that even if I were persuadable, an amount as small as $50 would just be insulting.

So I just responded,

I generate all my own copy, and that’s what my readers expect.

I had to hold myself back with both hands to keep from adding:

It is what they are used to, and they like what they’re used to.

Which always makes me smile whenever Patrick O’Brian says that about the foremast jacks in Jack Aubrey’s ships.

It makes me feel fond of them, fictional characters though they all are…

Throw something new at the foremast jacks, and they're likely to look at it like this...

Throw something new at the foremast jacks, and they’re likely to look at it like this…

The mob turned me into a NEWT! And I didn’t get better!

This is something new to me: a satirical video op-ed — in the Gray Lady, no less!

mobI loved it. It was accompanied by some text. Having read it, and followed the links, I’ve concluded that as just as these mobs have always been with us, they’re probably not going away any time soon — mainly because the current culprits are immune to irony.

Even President Obama’s gentle attempt to speak to them as a grownup should got the mob howling at him. As the subhed of one piece taking exception to his plea says, “Old, powerful people often seem to be more upset by online criticism than they are by injustice.”

Speaking of Barack Obama. Yeah.

I’m guessing that if cancel culturists see this video, when a character says, “Our anger makes us qualified,” or “I‘m a peasant, and I’m offended,” they don’t get the joke. In fact, they may even get… offended.

Anyway, to add to the fun, here’s the original:

My best new follow in a while. Currahee!

Shared this on Twitter, might as well share it here:

Guarnere feed

NO, I’m not watching TV all day. Are YOU?

live tv

I’ve never been fond of “man-on-the-street” interviews. I prefer “people-who-know-what-they’re-talking-about” interviews. Guess that makes me an elitist. That, and… other stuff.

Anyway, this morning on NPR — I think it was on “The Takeaway” — there was this long string of short clips of Real People answering the question of whether they’d be watching the impeachment hearings on TV today. As usual, I could only take so much of it before switching it off.

If I remember correctly, most of the Real People were not planning to watch the hearings. (Actually, I just went back to check, and all of the ones I heard said that. There was a string of people who said “yes” after that, but I had turned off the radio before they came on.)

Presumably, I was supposed to be interested in their reasons for watching or not watching, as though there would be something edifying in these reasons, as though I would be somehow wiser for having heard the usual comments like “I’ve made up my mind,” “It’s all a partisan farce,” “I have a life,” etc.

And I’m thinking, Who can sit and listen to TV all day — TV about ANYTHING? And moreover, who on Earth would WANT to?

Or NEED to in order to be an informed citizen? I take in news and analysis from quite a few competent professional services every day. I’ll get all the information I need from those sources. (Unlike the president, I trust professionals to do their job — and I know if one slips up in doing it, the next one will fill in that gap.) If — and this seems doubtful — I feel the need to watch a portion of the testimony, to get intonation or whatever, I can go back and find and watch it with little trouble. In fact, I most likely won’t even have to look for it, because so many sources will be throwing the clip at me.

So in other words, the Real Person who sounded most like me was the one who said he would not be watching, but “I will pay close attention to the media recaps.”

Which will give you more than anyone needs to know. In fact, you’ll have to scan the whole mess with skill, discernment and alacrity if you’re going to get anything else done that day.

So who’s watching? And why?

the room

Anybody remember Woolco stores?

woolco

That thread-within-a-thread we had going yesterday about the closings of Kmart and Sears stores reminded me of something…

Anybody remember Woolco stores? That was my very first experience of the big-box discount store, before Kmart or Wal-Mart or anything else of the kind.

I’ve written a lot about when my family first moved back to the States from Ecuador in 1965, and I happily overdosed on TV and many other aspects of American culture that I had done without. (As I wrote at one point, “It was so amazingly stimulating, as though all my neurons were on fire. It was like mainlining some drug that is so far unknown to pharmacology, one that fully engages all of your brain.”) The new TV season that fall seemed to this 11-year-old like the most exciting thing that had ever happened (“Lost in Space,” “Green Acres” and “I-Spy” all premiered on the same night!), but I also thoroughly enjoyed the smaller pleasures, such as drinking water straight from the tap without fear of hepatitis.

Anyway, all mixed up in that in my memory was the Woolco store not far from where we lived on the Navy base in Algiers, La., across the river from New Orleans.

It was enormous, and they had everything — way more exciting than the Navy Exchange. We drove there to shop often in our 396-horsepower 1965 Impala Super Sport. I used to spend a good bit of time in the record department. I have fairly specific memories of some of the new releases I saw on display during those couple of years we lived there — “Day-Tripper,” “Mellow Yellow,” “Paperback Writer”…

Woolco went away in 1983. Instead of closing in dribs and drabs like Kmart and Sears, all 336 U.S. stores closed in January of that year.

Oh, here’s a bonus question for Pee Dee denizens: Anybody remember Treasure City in Florence? Similar concept if I remember correctly, although maybe not as big as a Woolco. My brother and I got our first GI Joe there, also in 1965. The building still stands, although I think it has housed a flea market in recent years…

Anybody remember Treasure City, right across the highway from the Florence Airport?

Anybody remember Treasure City, right across the highway from the Florence Airport?

Sanford Shocker: He’s giving up his White House bid!

Hey, y'all will tell me when I've overused this particular file photo, won't you?

Hey, y’all will tell me when I’ve overused this particular file photo, won’t you?

Had y’all forgotten Mark Sanford was running for president? Yeah, I kinda had, too.

Well, now he isn’t:

CONCORD, N.H. — Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford dropped out of the race for president just moments ago, ending his protest bid 60 days after it began.

In a noon press conference at the New Hampshire Statehouse, Sanford announced his long-shot run is ending after previously declaring he would spend most of November campaigning in the Granite State, site of the nation’s first primary.

The move came after Sanford failed to collect much of a following, especially as President Donald Trump remains the favorite of most Republican voters nationally and while Washington is gearing up for impeachment hearings….

So now you know what that unsettling sound was you heard a few moments ago: It was the entire voting population of New Hampshire, crying out in dismay…

Hey, look: I kid, but at least the guy was willing to try to oppose Trump in a GOP primary. Sure, I assume he was doing it for his own reasons — payback, and an excuse to talk about federal spending — but at least he tried. Briefly….

Nikki Haley was asked to help save the country. She refused.

Nikki book

Having been out of town travelling, the first thing I read about Nikki Haley’s most-newsworthy revelation in her book took a sort of second-day, second-guessing approach.

Aaron Blake wrote that yes, the assertion that Rex Tillerson and John Kelly asked her to help them save the country from Trump and she refused was important, but “The bigger story, though, is that two even-higher-ranking officials took such an extraordinary step that allowed for Haley’s refusal.”

No. Sorry. It’s not really news that Tillerson and Kelly knew their boss was a dangerous idiot. Hadn’t we assumed that?

The simple version IS the news here: Nikki did NOT fully see what a loose cannon Trump is, and refused to help them.

I suppose I’d need to read the whole book to know, but the few quotes I’ve seen seem to hint that when the two men told her, “The president didn’t know what he was doing,” she didn’t immediately agree with them.

And this is important because, against all reason, people keep saying that Nikki is “widely viewed by Republicans as a top potential presidential candidate in 2024,” even “the Republican Party’s brightest rising star.”

Only in a world in which Donald Trump can get elected president of the United States — a radically different universe from the one we all lived in before 2016 — could she look like presidential timber.

For that matter, only in a world like that could she — a charming person with ZERO training or experience in international affairs — have been considered a candidate for ambassador to the United Nations. But she got that job (because the priority was to make Henry governor), and managed to look very good in it, given the background — which is to say, given the train wreck that is Trumpian foreign policy.

Don’t get me wrong here: Nikki looks great compared to Lindsey Graham’s abject degradation.

Also, I’ll acknowledge that it makes me a tad nervous to have political appointees presuming to work around an elected president, even when that president is Trump. But I don’t get the impression that these guys were talking coup. (They weren’t even proposing the nearly-impossible task of putting the 25th amendment into play, although they should have been.) I could be wrong — and y’all tell me if I am — but it seemed more like a couple of guys in unenviable positions trying to guide the administration in a sane direction, and hoping for a little help.

Which she refused to give. And that’s what we should remember, whenever anyone mentions what a hot prospect she is to become POTUS.

Polls indicate Trump remains competitive in key states. Oh, yeah: And if Warren is the Democratic nominee, he wins

polling chart

Tonight I got a fund-raising text from Joe Biden that reminded me that I meant to share with y’all something I saw in The New York Times this morning. The text said:

BREAKING: A New York Times poll says that Joe Biden is the ONLY candidate who can beat Trump in some critical swing states that Trump won in 2016.

So if Joe Biden isn’t our nominee, Trump will be reelected again.

But Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have more money than us — even though they can’t defeat Trump. And if we can’t catch up, they might be the ones facing off against him….

And so forth.

Here’s what the Biden campaign is talking about. See the graphic above, which I hope the NYT doesn’t mind my showing you (I urge you to go read it on their site, and even subscribe, as I do). There are other informative graphics with the piece.

The Times emphasized Trump’s competitiveness, leading with:

Despite low national approval ratings and the specter of impeachment, President Trump remains highly competitive in the battleground states likeliest to decide his re-election, according to a set of new surveys from The New York Times Upshot and Siena College…

But the graphic (which I had to go grab from an old Tweet, because it no longer appears with the story), shouted something else: Democrats are nuts if they go with Elizabeth Warren.

Of course, I knew that already. Did you?

The story has an important caveat:

There is a full year before Election Day, and a lot can change.

But then, a caveat to the caveat:

But on average over the last three cycles, head-to-head polls a year ahead of the election have been as close to the final result as those taken the day before.

So I suppose we should take heed….

The Whistleblower? Who still cares about him?

A portion of the front page of The State today...

A portion of the front page of The State today…

… or her, but the hints I’ve seen have pointed strongly toward a “him.”

The front page of The State today (above) had a headline, above the fold, dealing with The Whistleblower. And I thought, “Who still cares about him?” Hence the headline.

One does hear Republicans, and their master Trump, speak of him as though he and his identity were crucial, the main point, even. And we know why. They want to have a face, a person, they can thoroughly trash, to distract everyone from the truth he told about what Trump has done.

That’s why one Republican leader has rejected the idea of Republican lawmakers being able to depose The Whistleblower. They’re not interested in facts, not interested in getting answers. They’re interested in the Trump base seeing them, the Republican members of Congress, attacking the guy and demonstrating how hard they’re trying to defend Trump. To them, nothing else matters.

That’s why the arguments they present make so little sense. A reasonable, impartial person might wonder why, after demanding over and over that a formal vote be taken on initiating the impeachment process, they complained so mightily when such a vote was taken last week. Because, boys and girls, that’s the point: not the facts of the matter, but whether they are recorded on sound and video loudly decrying the process and competing to see how many times they can say “sham” in one sentence. It’s about the emotion, about the indignation.

Anyway, seeing and hearing (on radio) The Whistleblower back in the news reminds me that last week I meant to share this editorial that was in The New York Times.

The headline was “Thanks, Whistle-Blower, Your Work Is Done.” And it was accompanied with a copy of the official whistleblower complaint, with portions highlighted to show things that have been corroborated by other, usually named, witnesses.

That document, of course, was pretty much redundant the day it was released — because the day before, Trump’s own White House had released the memo that confirmed The Whistleblower’s account of the July 25 phone call.

It’s only become more obsolete since then.

In fact, that editorial with the highlighted complaint has been made pretty dated with the release today of a first batch of transcripts from the closed-door depositions taken thus far.

But anyway, I pass on the editorial and the annotated complaint, as they are still interesting — although the whistleblower himself and what he had to say become less central each day.

A portion of the complaint, annotated by the NYT.

A portion of the complaint, annotated by the NYT.

 

 

 

Shakespeare without the Shakespeare? Why?

Promotional image from "The King."

Promotional image from “The King.”

So I clicked on this new movie on Netflix called “The King,” curious to know which king. The promo blurb gave me a clue:

Yesterday, he was a drunken fool. Today, he’s king…

Sounds like Henry V, right? Well, it is.

And here’s the weird thing about it… I watched a few minutes, and rather than being some historical Henry V freshly drawn from independent sources — or fantastical one drawn from the writer’s imagination — it’s basically (so far) the Hal from the plays (I say “plays,” plural, because I can’t recall which bits are in the Henry IV plays, and which in “Henry V.” I’m especially mixed up for having watched “The Hollow Crown” straight through.). It even has Falstaff in it, a fictional character invented by Shakespeare. I haven’t watched long enough to see whether Doll Tearsheet is mentioned.

So, it’s “Henry V,” only with no iambic pentameter. In other words, a wonderful play, without the thing that makes it wonderful.

You know, sometimes I feel like I get popular culture, and I really get into it, but other times I don’t. This is one of the other times…

Anyway, here’s a dose of the real thing:

State Chamber takes on Act 388. I wish it luck and success

A chart the Chamber shared in context of the issue. Source: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence 2019

A chart the Chamber shared in context of the issue. Source: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence 2019

I’m kind of busy at the moment, so I’m not going to rehash all the reasons why Act 388 was an execrable piece of legislation that distorted our state’s system of taxation and made it both unfair and ineffective.

You can go back and read where I’ve done it before.

But while I’m thinking about it, I wanted to make sure you read Ted Pitts’ op-ed on the subject in The Post and Courier. Ted — my former House member — is the head of the state Chamber, so naturally he’s against something that shifted so much of our tax burden from owner-occupied homes to businesses.

I particularly appreciate that in this piece, he emphasizes the extreme regressivity of the Act, causing renters to pay as much as three times as much in property taxes as homeowners do.

Anyway, just go read the whole piece. His column refers in the lede to a recent column on the subject by Cindi. Read that, too.

Both of them, being astute and fair-minded observers, see Act 388 as one of the worst things our Legislature has done so far this century.

They’re right. That doesn’t mean anything’s going to happen. It should, and Ted is right to point to the current discussions about how we fund schools as a great opportunity. But it’s a tall order. Act 388 is the kind of dumb, irresponsible legislation that makes lawmakers popular with some of their loudest constituents. The voice of reason seldom shouts that loud.

Baseball, the thread that runs through our lives and ties them together

win

I had a little “Field of Dreams” moment during the wonderful conclusion to the World Series last night. In the sentimental “Dad, you wanna have a catch?” sense.

While Joe Buck or someone was talking about how it had been 95 years since a team from Washington had won, a picture of Senators legend Walter Johnson came on the screen. The BIg Train.

And I was reminded of a story my Dad likes to tell of when he was just a little guy. He grew up in Kensington, Md., in a house his grandfather had built for his Dad. My great-grandfather had a construction business, and he did that for each of his kids when they got married. Consequently, several of them lived quite close together. My Dad’s Aunt Ethel lived behind my Dad, on the next street over.

Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson

Aunt Ethel’s daughter Jean married a guy named Walter Perry Johnson Jr. — the son of the Big Train. Occasionally, the great man was a guest in their home. When that happened, Aunt Ethel’s husband Carroll would call over and tell my Dad to come over, and bring his glove. Dad would go running, and then he would play catch with the great Walter Johnson.

Speaking of the Senators, there’s a story that my grandfather was invited to play for the Senators’ organization, but decided to go into the construction business with his father instead. It seems to me a surprising decision, since his life had revolved around baseball up to that point. Ancestry offers me scores of “hints” about his life, and most of them are clippings from The Washington Post telling about some ball club or other that he was forming, or pitching for, or the captain of.

He worked for the Post Office for awhile, for just one reason: So he could play on its baseball team.

Here’s how he and my grandmother met (which I think I’ve told before): She would see him walking past her house, in his suit and wearing a straw boater, with a satchel dangling from one hand, on his way to the Kensington train station. She decided he must be a traveling salesman, and the bag contained his wares. But when she finally spoke to him, she learned that the bag was filled with his uniform, glove and cleats. He wouldn’t have thought of going to work without them.

What's he doing in an Expos uniform?

What’s he doing in an Expos uniform?

I could go in all sorts of directions about baseball and how its threads run in and out of American life. I could reminisce about when we lived in Tampa, and in the spring we’d go over to St. Pete to watch the Cardinals play. I was an autograph fiend at the time, and in those days the players were easily accessible. (Once in Tampa, I went into the Reds’ locker room to get Pete Rose to sign my glove as he sat shirtless on a table during an interview with a sportswriter. Things were that informal then.) So I would chase Joe Torre, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Curt Flood. But I failed to get Tim McCarver’s. He was on the other side of a chain-link fence signing for some other kids, but I couldn’t get him to turn around, despite repeatedly calling, “Mr. McCarver! Mr. McCarver!”

Years later, when I was first dating my wife, I was over at her house and she was working on organizing her family’s photos. I asked why there was a publicity photo of McCarver in the box (in an Expos uniform, which is not the way I think of him). “He’s my first cousin,” she said. So, several years after that, we happened to be at the Red Sox training camp in Florida the one year Tim played for them. Carlton Fisk injured his wrist in the first inning and Tim went in for him. After the game, we went over to the house Tim was renting during spring training. As he drank a beer, guess what I chose to talk him about? That’s right: I complained that he wouldn’t turn around and give me an autograph when I was 14.

His answer? “Aw, I wasn’t playing when you were 14.”

Not long after that, his playing days ended. After that, he started his broadcast career. He would eventually be teamed up with Joe Buck, who I think was the one talking about the Senators in 1924 last night.

Which is where we came in.

(Oh, wait, something I forgot to mention: There’s meaning in the fact that Tim was, against all expectations, in an Expos uniform in that photo. The Expos are now the Nationals.)

Anyway, that’s a small taste of what baseball means to American life. My American life, anyway.

It runs through the years and the lives, tying everything together…

I’m very pleased for the Nationals today. And for Washington…

One of my grandfather's baseball teams. That's him squatting on the right.

One of my grandfather’s baseball teams. That’s him squatting on the right.

So, where do you stand on carrying the bat to first base?

bregman

Here’s a little thought experiment…

Earlier, some of you expressed disapproval of the crowd booing Trump at the World Series Sunday night, while others defended it.

Contemplating another Series controversy from last night’s game (and not the disagreement that led to the Nationals’ manager being ejected — it was quite a game), it occurs to me that it might be a sort of related issue.

I’d like to see y’all’s positions on the booing thing alongside your positions on whether it was OK for Alex Bregman and Juan Soto to carry their bats to first base after hitting home runs.

I have this theory that people who were disturbed by the booing would also disapprove of the bat-carrying, both being violations of certain standards of behavior. Likewise, anyone likely to approve of the “Lock him up” chant would be more inclined to let those young ballplayers strut a bit.

Me, I disapprove of both. I see both within a context of society fraying, becoming less civilized.

You?

soto