Author Archives: Brad Warthen

Is originality dead? For that matter, did it ever exist?

all the tees

This morning there was this huge Google Adsense ad spread across the top of my blog, right under the header (this one), for something called “Chummy Tees.”

There was no picture, so, wondering what was being promoted on my blog, I Googled the company (I didn’t dare click on the ad, as Google forbids me to do that). And I saw, among the rather plain, gray tee shirts being promoted, one that said “SURELY NOT EVERYONE WAS KUNG FU FIGHTING.”

And that cracked me up. I might be meaningless to people too young to remember the song, but I loved it. A perfect low-key joke for, say, an editor — someone who has spent most of his adult life keeping reporters from making extravagant statements that can’t be backed up. (Which is another way of saying you might not find it funny, but I do.)

I kind of liked this one, too.

I kind of liked this one, too.

I wasn’t going to shell out $23.95 for the shirt, of course. I’m neither crazy nor made of money. But… maybe I’d like to put it on my Amazon list. So I go to Amazon — I didn’t have to hunt for it because I already had a pop-up window from Amazon begging me to go there for such shirts — and it seems that while everyone may not be kung fu fighting, everyone seems to make a sure with that line (although all these used “everybody” instead of “everyone,” which is truer to the song).

And it got me to thinking, and not for the first time, that in the Internet age, we are no longer allowed to delude ourselves into thinking we have had an original thought. You think of something clever — something that in eras past you would have congratulated yourself for coming up with, convinced that you were quite the wag — and then for whatever reason you Google it, and you find out an army of people got there before you.

And this is frustrating. It fosters fatalism — why even TRY to come up with something good?, you ask yourself.

Yesterday on a podcast I was listening to, there was a discussion of the many ways that the internet casts a pall on our lives, bringing ills previously unimagined, and making us dread the future.

Add this to the list. It takes any small attempt to be original, and slams it to the ground.

And it makes you doubt there was ever anything such as originality. We may have thought we were clever, but that’s because we didn’t have the Web to set us straight. Each time you patted yourself on the back for a happy thought back in, say, 1975, there were a million other people out there having the same thought and thinking they were clever, too.

And we were all happier…

chummy

Thoughts about Democratic debate Number Umpteen?

jan 14 debate

Did you watch it? I watched about half of it, caught up on what I’d missed by reading written accounts this morning. I didn’t expect to learn anything new, and I didn’t.

Joe Biden is still the one candidate for me, and increasingly the voters in Iowa seem to be agreeing, after flirting with other possibilities. Not that I care, normally, what all those white people up there think. I’ve been to Iowa. Covered the GOP debate there in 1980. Slid around in the ice a good bit. Flew through an ice storm in a four-seater airplane. Not overly impressed.

Joe did fine. Nobody else made any particular impression that he or she had not made before. Bernie and Elizabeth had me about to start banging my head against a wall with their idiotic back-and-forth about whether Bernie had, or had not, said something about the electability of women. But I got through it. I seem to recall that there was another thing just as stupid that a couple of the candidates got into during the last debate, and I’ve managed to forget what it was, so there’s hope for the future.

That’s about it. Your thoughts?

Words I can’t seem to learn, or re-learn

I’ve noticed something lately, and I wonder whether it’s a function of aging.

I don’t don’t obsess about it or anything. I don’t focus anxiously on it like Catch-22‘s Yossarian, of whom Heller writes:

He wondered often how he would ever recognize the first chill, flush, twinge, ache, belch, sneeze, stain, lethargy, vocal slip, loss of balance or lapse of memory that would signal the inevitable beginning of the inevitable end….

But it does occur to me, when I have trouble remembering things I once knew (say, all the lyrics of every Beatle song) or retaining new information. I wonder, Is this normal, or is this… decline?

For instance, in recent days I’ve found myself looking up the following, to make sure I’m understanding what is meant by the writer using them. And I’ve been very conscious of having looked up all of them before, perhaps multiple times. But the definitions don’t stick:

epistemology — This one is important, and it gets used a lot lately because Trump and Trumpism challenge the very basis of knowledge, of what a fact is, of what is knowable. But I keep having to go, Wait, let me look that up again. And unfortunately, it’s sufficiently slippery that you can’t hold onto it the way you can, say, an apple. The short answer is that “Epistemology is the study of the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief.” But that means it can be used all sorts of ways. Every time I run into this one, I picture myself as Kenneth Parcell on “30 Rock,” with a particularly bewildered look on his simple face.

neoliberalism — This is a stupid word. It’s nothing like “neoconservative,” which describes something clear, something of which examples abound: generally speaking, a liberal who turned away from the Democratic Party and other liberals post-Vietnam. But Wikipedia defines it this way: “Neoliberalism or neo-liberalism is the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism and free market capitalism, which constituted a paradigm shift away from the post-war Keynesian consensus that had lasted from 1945 to 1980.” So… it’s classical liberalism, right? Oh, sure, pedants draw a distinction, but the distinctions are stupid. A neoliberal is someone saying, “Gimme that old-time liberalism.” The “neo” is a superfluous affectation. No wonder I can’t remember it. It lacks meaning.

tautology — This one’s actually easier to understand than the others. It’s kind of like, you know, pleonasm. Yeah, I know. I’m going to go ahead and forget “pleonasm” on purpose…

Maybe I should stop reading Ross Douthat. I’m pretty sure he’s used all of those words recently, sending me to Google them again. The showoff.

But it’s not just polysyllabic Latin- or Greek-derived words in English. I see the slippage in other areas as well.

For instance, I’ve had a lot of trouble relearning Spanish. I spoke it fluently as a child. The other day I happened to remember my landlady in Ecuador telling me how I sounded like a native after I’d been in country three months. She was being nice, of course, but I did pick it up ridiculously easily — helped by the fact that I was only 9 years old. My vocabulary probably wasn’t great at the point, but my pronunciation was already good, learned entirely from imitating the non-English-speakers who surrounded me all day, every day.

I especially have trouble remembering the gender of nouns (especially those that don’t end in “a” or “o,” and even those — such as mano — can fool you). Whenever I serve as a Eucharistic minister at the Spanish Mass at church, part of my duty is to help clean up the vessels afterward. Then we lock up everything. And on several occasions, I’ve wanted to ask, “Where is the key?” And I start to say it, and can’t remember: Is it “la llave” or “el llave?”

Most people whose Spanish is as bad as mine now is wouldn’t worry. They’d just say one or the other in the confidence that the native speakers would understand anyway, and be forgiving toward the gringo. Which they would, on both counts. I’m not satisfied with that. I want to get it right, or not say it at all. So I ask in English, rather than expose my failing.

Llave is feminine, by the way, as I found from looking it up yet again

kenneth

Some advice for the Queen on handling Prince Harry

take sides

I’ve often thought of putting together a book of advice for life from “The Godfather.” But I figured getting the rights would be a hassle, and the royalties would probably eat away any money I’d make from it.

Still, fans would enjoy it, and maybe someone would actually get some good out of it; who knows? It’s not that I see the Corleones as a morally defensible guide to how to live one’s life, but the book and film do contain a lot of advice, good or bad. And some of it makes some common sense. Especially, I’ve noticed, to men.

Anyway, this is on my mind today because of the confab Her Majesty has called to help Prince Harry get his mind right (just to mix my movie metaphors a might). And I’m thinking the Queen, not being a guy, might not be hip to this stuff.

The first thing she and the other princes need to tell him is fundamental. I’m picturing William telling him this, while the others nod:

Harry, you’re my younger brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.

It doesn’t need that menacing look that Michael gave Fredo. Harry’s a good kid. Ask the South Carolina guardsmen who served with him in Afghanistan. They’ll back me up on this. Just reason with him; he understands duty.

But if he needs more convincing, the other thing they might say is a corollary to the first:

What’s the matter with you? I think your brain is going soft with all that comedy you are playing with that young girl. Never tell anyone outside the Family what you’re thinking again.

Which means like, ixnay on the Instagram posts. If you have something to say, run it through the palace press office.

As long as he listens, that should do it.

Yeah, I kid, but my own view of this situation isn’t all that far off. Harry does have an obligation to his family, and as an extension, to his whole country — which actually makes the obligation greater than just family. It’s not as heavy as that borne by his brother, but it’s still an obligation. Just show up, cut a few ribbons, keep your nose clean, and in return you get this amazingly posh life. You don’t tarnish the brand by running off to America and peddling tacky souvenirs, or whatever fantasy you have in mind for being “financially independent.”

Sorry. Best I can manage is grim determination. Will that do?

enthusiastically

Good thing I’m not qualified, on a couple of grounds, for membership in the American Association of University Women. In addition to the obvious, I don’t think I have the oomph for it.

I got an email about the “AAUW’s 2020 Lobby Day” coming up later this month at the State House. First thing on the schedule is to “Enthusiastically Arrive in Columbia!!!” Apparently, one is expected to remain in this overexcited state for a full half hour.

Sorry. No can do. Were I a member, I’d have to reply, “Best I can manage is grim determination. That will have to suffice…”

They’d drum me out. And who could blame them?

Persistent traces of history: Foxholes in the Ardennes

1000w_q95

I was looking up something about the Battle of the Bulge, which had started on Dec. 16 and was still going on 75 years ago today, and ran across a fact that surprised me a bit, and that I though I would share.

It seems that you can still see the foxholes occupied by members of the 101st Airborne Division — including the guys celebrated in the book and series “Band of Brothers” — in the Bois Jacques portion of the Ardennes. Time has not yet fully filled them in. Which is fitting I suppose, since these holes were not the kind that were dug one day and abandoned the next. Those guys lived in and fought from those holes for a month before rising up to take the town of Foy and resume their march into Germany.

When I did a search for images, I ran across this one of several present members of the 101st sitting in what remains of those holes just last month, on Dec. 14.

Here’s the caption provided by the Army:

Maj. David Real with sustainment Brigade 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), sits in a foxhole in Ardennes Belgium, Dec. 14, dug by soldiers during the battle of the bulge. The Soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge fought in these foxholes for over a month. (DOD photo by Pfc. John Simpson)

That’s all. I just found the image interesting, and thought I’d share it.

A Modest Proposal on Iran: We just have to play to Trump’s ego. It might even be worth it.

There’s a window of opportunity here, but it probably only stays open as long as the Iranians are content to have fired a few missiles without having hurt any Americans.

It won’t be easy. It will require a lot of people being in on the plan and sticking to it. And it will be distasteful, because it will involve flattering and kowtowing to Trump as though we were a bunch of Lindsey Grahams or something.

But it could definitely be worth it. Bear with me.

All of our allies would have to be in on it — the ones who have labored so to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump is assuring them is kaput. As for Israel — well, it will require some forbearance from them.

All the Democrats will have to play along. Nancy Pelosi’s role will be key. We’ll need the Republicans, too, but no sweat… this sort of toadyism is reflexive to them, so we don’t even have to ask for their help.

Here’s what we do: We all get together and communicate the following to Trump:

Oh, wow, you really showed those ayatollahs! You whacked their guy and after a bunch of bluster, they only had the guts to blow up some sand! You really had their number! You owned them, the way you always do with the libs! We can’t wait to see what you do next! Actually… we have a suggestion, not that it wouldn’t occur any moment to someone as brilliant as you…

You know that stupid Obama nuclear deal that only you saw needed to be scrapped? You know how the “allies” are all being so petulant about that? Well, let’s show them something. Let’s show them how it’s done by a real dealmaker! Negotiate a REAL deal, an America-First deal that makes everybody else they they got a great deal, too (the saps!)…

It won’t even be much trouble. Just take the stupid deal that Obama sweated over, work some of your magic on it to make it your own, and presto! The Trump Comprehensive Plan of Action will avert war, settle down the whole region, prevent nuclear proliferation and probably help with that global climate change thing that people keep yammering about!

It will be easy, for someone with a brain as brilliant and normal as yours! It would be just like what you did with NAFTA — knock it down, then replace it with something that is basically the same but less sad, a beautiful new thing with the glittering Trump brand on it — just chock full of real class! Something you can stand up and strut about…

As you see, we’ll probably have to work hard on the sincerity in doing this, but he’s so eager to be validated in his illusions about himself that he won’t examine it too closely. He’ll lap up the flattery, and next thing you know we’ll have a real breakthrough that would increase peace and security in the region and the world.

I mentioned Nancy Pelosi’s role. It’s essential, although fairly easy for her. She just needs to keep holding back the impeachment from the Senate. The hardest part for her will be that she’d have to say that she’s doing it because what our wonderful president is doing is so important that he must not be distracted!

We should be able to get all this done in a month or so — as I say, all the actual work got done in the Obama agreement — and then get on with impeachment, and the election.

What do you think? I’ll tell you what I think:

It. Could. WORK!

via GIPHY

‘Shame on Nikki Haley,’ says Frank Bruni

nikki

And he has a point.

It seems our girl, so fresh from tarnishing her own fine record on the Confederate flag, has stepped in it again. Not sure why she keeps doing this. Does she feel she’s not in the limelight enough these days?

Anyway, Bruni said this in his latest email newsletter, under the headline “Don’t you dare question my patriotism:”

Shame on Nikki Haley.

In the aftermath of the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, she didn’t merely praise President Trump — a show of support that may well reflect her own, like-minded assessment of events and is absolutely her right.

She denigrated Americans who took a different view by disingenuously describing their reaction. “The only ones that are mourning the loss of Suleimani are our Democrat leadership and our Democrat presidential candidates,” she told Sean Hannity during an interview on Fox News. Of course he thrilled to that characterization…

Nikki’s point seems to have been the usual thing about partisanship stopping at the water’s edge. And there’s value in the usual thing, when we have a usual sort of president. Which we did, with the first 44.

But our situation now is as different as ones and zeroes from what we had before 2016.

As I said earlier, as we try to apply the usual standards for whether killing Soleimani was a good thing or a bad thing, we just can’t forget for a moment that this is Trump who decided to do this. And it is impossible to give him the benefit of the doubt, ever. This is a startlingly ignorant, narcissistic, unprincipled, impulsive, vindictive man who doesn’t know what truth is, who has no notion of the national interest, and is motivated entirely by what he sees as benefiting him personally, or stroking his pathetically fragile ego.

Not that he’ll never do what’s best for the country. He’ll do that if it is coincidentally the thing that he sees as benefiting him. He’s like a stopped clock that way.

To pretend we are living through a normal political era in which the usual maxims apply is to lie to yourself and to the American people.

And we get enough of that already from the White House.

Nikki Haley managed to extricate herself from the Trump administration with her image as Golden Girl of the GOP relatively untarnished. Now that she doesn’t work for him any more, she should keep her distance, if she’s serious about the future ambitions we keep hearing about.

She’s better off not trying to be Trump’s Yes Girl. Anyway, he’s got Kellyanne Conway for that

I got elected to Congress last night. Is that a good dream, or a nightmare?

Our watch party on the night of Nov. 6, 2018. That one came out differently.

Our watch party on the night of Nov. 6, 2018. That one came out differently.

One time ago a crazy dream came to me
I dreamt I was walkin’ in World War Three
I went to the doctor the very next day
To see what kinda words he could say
He said it was a bad dream
I wouldn’t worry ’bout it none, though
Them old dreams are only in your head…

— Bob Dylan, “Talkin’ World War III Blues

I’m not sure where this dream last night started, but I know where it ended up.

Very close to the end, I found that I had just been elected to Congress. It was election night and results were still coming in, but my race had been called, and I’d won, and I was wandering about in a crowd of people at some sort of watch party — not my own, because people seemed just as interested in the races that were still up in the air as in mine. So I was generally being ignored by the crowd, which was fine, because I had a lot of thinking to do.

Mostly, what I was thinking was, How did this happen? and What happens now?

You ever see “The Candidate?” Not the recent Spanish-language series on Netflix, but the movie from 1972. In case you haven’t, here’s a SPOILER ALERT: Robert Redford plays the son of a former governor who is an environmental activist, but has no interest in electoral politics. A political operative played by Peter Boyle talks him into running for the U.S. Senate, promising him that he can say anything he wants, because he’s going to lose anyway. But then Redford, learning he is going to lose by a landslide, agrees to moderate his message somewhat, to avoid complete humiliation. In the end, he wins. He stands stunned in the middle of a crowd, and pulls Peter Boyle aside to ask, “What do we do now?” Boyle conveniently opens a door to let the excited crowd in, and affects not to have heard the question.

My dream was kind of like that ending, only maybe more so. I didn’t remember how I’d gotten there, even how I came to have my name on a ballot, and I was really stunned to have won. I didn’t have any particular interest in being a member of Congress, and I was feeling a sense of dread as to how this would affect my life. Evidently, it had not occurred to me previously to wonder about these things.

And there was no Peter Boyle to ask. But I kept running into random people. One of them was Lindsey Graham, who congratulated me warmly — he seemed quite sincere about it — which really made me wonder: Had I run as a Republican? What had been my platform?

I had no idea, and the situation was sort of like that college nightmare where it’s exam time and you don’t know where the class is located, and it’s WAY too late to ask anybody that.

I was lost and bewildered. I think the doc would say it was a bad dream…

Below is the ending of “The Candidate.” Don’t watch if you haven’t seen it before:

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it, and other thoughts on the killing of Soleimani

1200px-Qasem_Soleimani_2019-10-01_05

Why have I gone so many days without commenting on the assassination of Qasem Soleimani by the United States?

Because I’m still not sure what to say. I don’t have enough information to say “this was a good thing” or “this was a bad thing.” And ever since I made the move from news to editorial in 1994, I’ve been disinclined to write about anything that I couldn’t offer some sort of judgment on.

What follows is a few of the thoughts that have been going through my head since this happened…

We can’t get around the fact that this is Trump doing this.

First, if this is a classic “wag the dog” move, Trump has miscalculated. Because this incident underlines more starkly than anything else that’s happened in the past three years why it is an extraordinarily bad idea to have such an ignorant and deeply flawed person in the role of commander-in-chief.

Yes, the natural impulse in such a situation is for the American people to close ranks with the president and give him the benefit of the doubt. But how can anyone, other than the blindest of his base, do that with this man? Most people in the country know that he only cares about his own self-interest. There could be a situation in which his interest and the country’s coincidentally line up — the stopped-clock principal — but we know that to him, the country’s interest is simply not an operative variable.

And he lies. About everything. He doesn’t misspeak and then backtrack when the untruth is exposed, the way other people in politics do. He lies with utter abandon, and when the lie is proved beyond any doubt, he doubles down on it.

In a situation like this, in which (I’m assuming here) the American people can’t be shown all the evidence without compromising intelligence sources, it is essential that we have some faith in the truthfulness and judgment of the president, whether we like him or not. That is utterly impossible in this situation. So instead of persuadable people going, “This is a dicey situation, so we’d better rally around the president,” they are more likely to go “Oh, my God, how soon can we get someone else — anyone else — into the White House?”

Forgive me for starting with the political calculation, but the fact that this guy is in this job affects all the other things I have to say.

This is a job for the Deep State.

I can’t trust anything Trump — or anyone who owes his or her job to him — says about the situation. I know I can’t trust Republican members of Congress, either, based on their completely surrender of their minds to Trump. Nor am I terribly interested in what the Democratic presidential candidates think about it. (Yes, their statements may help us choose between them, but their reaction isn’t helpful in assessing the immediate situation, which is what I’m talking about here.)

What I want, what I need, to know in order to form a judgment is what the Deep State thinks. I need the views of experts who have no political dog in the fight.

Is it the consensus of our intelligence community that there was an imminent threat that justified taking the extraordinary chance (given that we don’t know what Iran will do) of killing this guy? Oh, and while I’m asking, what do they think we should do next?

Often in these situations, within a few days after the story has initially broken, there will be a piece — probably in The New York Times — from a reporter with excellent intelligence sources who has interviewed them about the situation and gleaned some sort of consensus from those sources.

This would be a great time for such a story. I’m not asking for the moon — I don’t expect something as definite as, for instance, the fact that ALL of our intelligence agencies agree that Russian interfered in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. I’m not greedy. I’d just like to know in general what people who know a LOT more about this than I do are thinking. That might help me decide what I think.

Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.

When in doubt, quote a Clint Eastwood movie, right?

I don’t think anyone in this country, outside of people like this out-of-work football player, doubts for a moment that Soleimani had it coming.

But he’s had it coming for a long time, and we’ve had the ability to kill him before now, and we haven’t done so. The question isn’t, “Did he deserve it?” The question is, what changed that switched the calculus toward a decision to kill him now? And was that calculation sound?

In other words, someone might be a bad guy, but killing him may be a bad idea. (In fact, as an opponent of the death penalty, I would argue that it’s usually a bad idea to kill someone just for being a bad guy.)

And we just don’t have enough reliable information to know.

No one, but no one, thinks war with Iran is a good idea.

No matter how crazy and bloodthirsty you may think neocons are, I can’t think of anyone in that camp that has ever put forth outright war with Iran as a good idea. (Neo-cons don’t usually count John Bolton among their number.) I’ve never seen the case credibly made that it would be in anyone’s interest, except maybe people on the sidelines who don’t like us, such as Russia or China.

So, you know, we probably need to do what we can to avoid it from this point on… which brings us back to my fervent wish that a normal human being of any party was in the White House right now… Something I heard on the radio earlier today struck me as ironic in the extreme: A Republican member of Congress (I think; I didn’t catch the name) was making the point that the Iranians aren’t totally crazy; they don’t want war with the United States. How weird is that? We’re counting on the ayatollahs to be more rational and mature than the president of the United States

I could say much more, but I figure that’s enough to get a conversation going. Sorry to have taken so long, but as I say, I was hoping to know more….

No, I’m not. I’m something else, and Joe speaks to that

John Lewis

Having made all sorts of virtual connections as James Smith’s director of communications last year (no, wait — it’s now the year before last!), I’ve grown used to emails such as this one, ostensibly from John Lewis, who as you know is very ill:

Brad,

My team flagged you as a Top Democrat, so I need to you to take my most important survey yet. Will you give your Democratic input in this personalized survey?

Your team is wrong. Their database is wrong. I’m not a top Democrat. I’m not a bottom Democrat. I’m not an in-between Democrat. And Lord knows that in this era, I’m no Republican.

I’m just this guy, you know. A voter. One who looks at teach candidate in each race and does his best to discern whether he or she would do the best — or the least-bad — job in the office in question. I’m a thing undreamt of in your philosophy.

But I’m not unusual, even though so many people involved in politics (and so many who cover politics) act as though I were. There are a lot out here like me. That’s something Joe Biden understands, which is why he says sure, he’d consider a Republican running mate.

Which is an indication of why he’s the one guy running who speaks my language. Just as James Smith was in 2018. James ticked off some Democrats picking me to be his spokesman. I hear some Democrats are ticked off now at Joe’s openness to running with a Republican — and by the way, that’s all he said: that he’d be open to it.

James’ openness was an invitation that not enough independents or Republicans took him up on — which was their, and our, loss.

But some of us yearn for that openness, because framing everything as us against them is a dead end for the country. If any of you Democrats doubt that, reflect on the fact that that way of thinking is the main reason Republicans have thrown principle to the winds in their defense of Trump.

What this country desperately needs right now is some open-mindedness among Republicans. That may be too much to hope for right now, but at least there’s a Democrat willing to show them how that’s done…

He is not making any of this up. Except maybe some of it…

Barry 2019

Yes, it’s time for Dave Barry’s annual look back at the year, which as one would expect in the era of Trump, both depressing and hilarious.

And occasionally educational. I, for one, didn’t even remember knowing that back in July, an asteroid with the potential destructive force of a large nuclear warhead passed uncomfortably close to the Earth. How close? Like, five times as close as the Moon.

Which is not, you know, “funny ha-ha.” But most of the piece is just fun stuff like:

Meanwhile as the 2020 U.S. presidential race heats up, several hundred Democratic presidential contenders gather in Miami for the first major debates. The front-runner is Joe Biden, but he suffers a setback when Sen. Kamala Harris, in what is clearly a planned attack, points out that Biden is wearing his pants backward. Biden’s staff hastily releases a statement explaining that the former vice president “thought it was Friday.” Also getting a lot of attention is Marianne Williamson, who qualifies for the debates based on the number of campaign donations she received from other dimensions.

And this passage shows that Dave still makes masterful use of his signature punchline, “I am not making this up:

In domestic politics, Virginia is rocked by a series of scandals involving elected Democratic state officials, originating with the publication of a 1984 photo from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical-school yearbook showing a man in blackface. Northam initially says he is “deeply sorry” for appearing in the photo; the next day, however, he calls a news conference to declare that he does not believe he is in the photo, although he does recall one time that he was in blackface, that being when he entered a dance contest dressed as Michael Jackson and did the moonwalk. Northam further asserts that he won the contest, and at the request of a reporter appears to be on the verge of demonstrating to the press corps that he can still moonwalk, only to be stopped by his wife. We are not making any of this up.

As pressure builds on Northam to resign, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax prepares to succeed him, only to become embroiled in a scandal of his own when he is accused of sexual assault. The third person in line is Attorney General Mark Herring, who, several days after calling on Northam to resign for wearing blackface, issues a statement admitting that as a college student he wore blackface when he went to a party as rapper Kurtis Blow. We are still not making this up.

OK, so in some other parts he exaggerates a tad (such as when he says a Trump rally in Orlando was “attended by 246 million people, as confirmed by Fox News”). But the funniest parts really do seem to be, as always, what he has to say about stuff that is, sadly, true.

Enjoy.

In case you doubt corporations are taking over the world…

jobs dec 30

I want to say it was sometime in the ’70s when fiction started portraying a dystopian future in which corporations ruled the world instead of the governments of nation-states. Or maybe the ’80s. I have trouble remembering any specific works that had this as a theme, and this list I found only covers books from this century. But suffice to say that it’s a well-established trope, even older than the national emergence of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and their paranoia-based campaigns.

Anyway, I couldn’t help thinking of that when I saw the top two job postings today.

I saw the job titles, and assumed the employer would be the CIA, NSA, DIA or something along those lines.

But no, they’re both for Microsoft. And note we’re talking “Senior Intelligence Analyst,” which suggests there are other intelligent analysts junior to that one, which in turn seems to indicate there are agents out there to collect the intelligence that they analyze…

This is not quite as disturbing to me as it once might have been. I’d much rather have Bill Gates (or some random guy pulled off the street, for that matter) in charge of our foreign policy than You Know Who. And of course, in order to carry out that task, he’ll need good intel. And the great thing is, unlike our current president, he would actually take the facts thus uncovered into consideration…

Oh, as for the last posting you see in that screenshot… it would be fun to do another campaign, and I really, really need to lose the weight… and I met Tom Steyer’s wife a couple of weeks ago and she seemed nice and all, but… I’m still totally in Joe’s camp. So until he calls and asks for my help, I’m sitting this one out…

The bloody, horrific Fourth Day of Christmas

Massacre of the Innocents, by Léon Cogniet

Massacre of the Innocents, by Léon Cogniet

I was going to post some quick quotes from columns I read this morning, one of them quite frivolous, but then I remembered what today is. The Fourth Day of Christmas, when we remember the slaughter of the innocents.

And yes, it’s still Christmas. We’re only a third of the way through. You can’t tell from the secular signs. There’s not a carol to be found on the radio. They played them all back during Advent, the heathens.

Speaking of heathens — lest I seem to be putting on righteous airs, I would have forgotten myself except for a silly show I saw on PBS the other night, telling how the 12 days were marked during the reign of Henry VIII. And then the NYT reminded me, too.

And it’s the most sobering day of the season:

Gospel Mt 2:13-18

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:


A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.

Anyone have anything to say about YET ANOTHER Democratic debate?

Joe on TV

These things are getting to be as regular as Prime Minister’s Questions, but less entertaining.

Anyway, I watched as much as I could stand, and I more or less agree with the assessments I read this morning that it was a good night for my man Joe, and for Pete Buttigieg, and that Amy Klobuchar did well but probably not well enough, and beyond that… bleh. As for that seemingly never-ending back-and-forth about wine caves, double bleh

Anyone have anything else to say?

I may not be bright, but I’m not quite as dumb as these guys

380

I never truly excel at the weekly Slate News Quiz, unlike our friend Doug. I’m just too deliberate, and this test rewards celerity.

Also, I sometimes get the answers, you know, wrong.

So I take satisfaction from such modest results as today’s. I came out looking pretty dumb, but not as dumb as certain other people.

Although I’m still kicking myself for getting the below question wrong, when I KNEW the answer. I had used the correct answer in something I was writing for an ADCO client (one in the insurance industry) just a few days ago.

But… I was trying to be fast, and that was my undoing. I saw the name of a corporation that I knew had been in the news in relation to the opioid crisis, and clicked on it, and even as my finger was applying pressure to the mouse button my brain saw the correct answer and screamed “NOOOOooooo!” But it was too late.

opioid

Watch out, fellow elitists! It’s a trap!

trap

Mr. Smith accused me of being elitist today, and let’s face it: He had evidence on his side.

But something good came out of that scolding of yours truly. It reminded me of a piece I read back in October, and meant to share here, and forgot. But it occurs to me that today is the perfect day to share it and the warning it contains.

It was an oped piece in The Washington Post by Joel Stein, author of In Defense of Elitism: Why I’m Better Than You and You Are Better Than Someone Who Didn’t Buy This Book.

I actually probably should buy that book, if it’s anywhere near as funny as the column. An excerpt:

Impeachment is an elitist trap

As an elitist, I enjoy a good impeachment. Especially if followed by a trial in the Senate, overseen by the chief justice in a black robe with gold stripes. In fact, I wish there were an even more complicated way to kick out a president — one with a Latin name that centered on the opinions of Ivy League historians and presented as a nine-part documentary on PBS.

Correcting the electorate’s stupid mistake via an intricate legal process created by our Enlightenment-loving founders and enacted by entrenched experts in Congress is the elites’ version of “John Wick.”

I am assuming that “John Wick” is movie about a righteous, skilled underdog battling an incompetent, corrupt power. But I have no idea if that’s true, since elites have never seen any of the “John Wick” movies…

… and so forth. That passage made me feel very smug, since I have never seen a John Wick movie, either. (Are they particularly stupid? I need you to tell me, because I wouldn’t know!)

The piece is full of good bits that tempt me to push the envelope just a mite on Fair Use. Here’s another one:

Populism is the demand for pure democracy. Its enemy is the republic, which removes the dangerous edges of democracy by protecting human rights from the majority’s will. Our founders gave us a republic. If they had wanted a direct democracy, the Constitution would be one page. Majorities don’t like republics. Majorities were sold a democratic system where they get whatever they want, right away. When they don’t get what they want, they get frustrated and turn to tyranny, which gets things done faster. Plato predicted this in “The Republic.” It’s the job of the elitist to explain this to people without mentioning Plato’s “The Republic.”…

Anyway, the serious point in all this hilarity is that the best approach to getting rid of Trump is to beat him next year at the polls, “Especially if we do it with a big enough majority so that we don’t have to explain the electoral college.”

But read the whole thing. It’s fun. And when you’re living in such depressing times — when a president is about to get the impeachment he so richly deserves, and the Senate is waiting to reject that impeachment in the most insultingly dismissive way they can think of — it’s nice if we can, even for just a moment, laugh about it…

giphy (5)

It’s always interesting to watch tech behemoths try to be something they are not

Bing shopping

Anyone out there actually use Bing?

I never have, even though I use a PC most of the time, and am therefore frequently reminded of its existence. I mean, there’s Google, right? So what would I use Bing for — unless I was trying to throw cyber surveillance off my scent? I do enjoy some of the cool photos they use to try to engage my interest, though.

As for Google — remember its pathetic attempt to be a social medium? I tried it out. I even used Google Hangout once for a video conference. But if I wanted video conferencing, I’ve got Facetime on my phone, right? And I have vague memories of something called Skype, although I haven’t used it in years.

Today, on my lockscreen on my PC, against a beautiful photo of a snowy countryside, I saw an invitation to check out something called “Bing shopping.”

Curious, I called it up. And I found something singularly unappealing. Then, intrigued by what sort of e-reader Bing shopping was promoting, I clicked and to my amusement saw that the first three offered were Amazon Kindles.

So… why am I not looking for them through Amazon?

As for Amazon… it might be too early to mock it for its foray into bricks-and-mortar retailing, but perhaps the time will come ere long…

Kindles

Impeachment has been rushed, and it shouldn’t have been

This image has nothing to do with my topic, but I went looking for a picture of House leadership, and I thought this one very interesting on its own terms.

This image has nothing to do with my topic, but I went looking for a picture of House leadership, and I thought this one very interesting on its own terms.

I’ve actually meant to say that for a couple of months, but there’s never been a day when I felt I had enough time to explain all the reasons I think that. And I don’t have time to explain it all today, either. But I thought I should at least say it, before the whole thing is over with.

Oh, and I have another excuse: I haven’t always been sure I felt it was being rushed. But it’s a thought that has occurred to me, many times. And this time, I’ll go ahead and say it before I doubt it again. And if I’m wrong, y’all can tear it to shreds.

The Democrats have been hurrying this thing because they want it over well before the 2020 elections. And that makes a certain amount of sense as electoral strategy, except for this great, big flaw: Impeachment itself has NEVER been in the electoral interest of the Democrats — or the nation — since a conviction in the Senate was never in the cards, and it increases the chances of a Trump re-election.

But the thing is, they had to go ahead and do it. If you’re a sworn member of the House, and a president has done what this one has done, you have to impeach him. Just as the Republicans had to with Clinton 20 years ago. Clinton’s behavior was impeachable from the get-go, and so has Trump’s been.

So, good for the House Democrats for doing their duty, as the House Republicans did last time around. But they’ve tried to have their cake and eat it, too — to do this thing that honor requires, but try to minimize the political cost.

They should have insisted that the process wouldn’t end until, for instance, Mulvaney and Giuliani testified. At the very least, they should have continued to pursue that — through the courts as well as in the court of public opinion — for a few more weeks. At the very least, it would have made Trump’s obstruction more painfully clear, even if that didn’t move the Senate.

Now, the Senate is going to rush this through even faster and we’ll never hear from people we should have heard from.

And Trump will still be in office, and his base — which is immune to reason or facts — will still be ticked off about it, so you will have paid the political price without a concrete result.

All of this said, it’s better to impeach him than not to impeach him, even if you rushed it.

But I do think they’ve rushed it, and I’m not persuaded that was necessary or advisable.

Discuss…

And furthermore, it’s not quite the thing…

"Excuse my strong language, but the president's conduct has been... unacceptable. There, I said it."

“Excuse my strong language, but the president’s conduct has been… unacceptable. There, I said it.”

I don’t have much more to say than what I said in this Tweet:

I’m a little reminded of Mr. Darcy’s comment that dancing at “at such an assembly as this” would be “insupportable.” Although I admit that the situations aren’t comparable. Just the manner of speaking.

But I don’t want to give the congressman in the next district a hard time. I fully appreciate that it’s a tough call for a guy who wants to stay in office and happens to live in South Carolina.

But I also fully believe that if you can’t support impeachment under these circumstances, then you shouldn’t BE in office.

And yeah, I’m talking to you, Lindsey Graham. And Tim Scott and Joe Wilson and those other four moral Munchkins in the House…