Author Archives: Brad Warthen

Happy April! Here’s an Open Thread for the weekend

… since it’s a bit late to call it a Friday thread. Sorry to be so chary with the posts. As I’ve explained, this crisis has me busier working at home than I was at the office. One thing after another, as clients try to communicate their way through it all.

As I’ve also said, I expect it to slow down at some point, and to start feeling the lack of economic activity out there. It just hasn’t happened yet. And I’m glad to have the work.

Here are some topics. Maybe you’ll have some better ones:

  1. SC coronavirus cases at 1,700; 147 new cases Friday, 3 more deaths — The grim math keeps churning.
  2. Henry takes another incremental step; still won’t do what’s needed — His approach seems… random. We’ve just got to stop interacting with each other in person. We’re one of only a dozen or fewer states now that haven’t just told people to stay home. Ask Mandy; she’ll tell ya.
  3. An outbreak of incompetence — Jennifer Rubin riffs on Jared Kushner’s stunningly ironic statement that “when you elect somebody” you should “think about who will be a competent manager during the time of crisis.” As she notes, down here on the state level (the level that Jared doesn’t want touching any of his federal stuff), we see the stark difference between competent governors, and those who take their cues from Jared’s father-in-law. Ahem. Hey, I did what I could to elect a good ‘un. And Mandy, too. Wasn’t enough, I guess.
  4. Did y’all see Karen Pearson’s obituary? — If not, I thought you might like to have the link. As y’all know, we lost a good blog friend last week.
  5. Explore your family history for free on Ancestry while cooped up at home — I’m jealous. I’m cooped up at home but am too busy to spend the time on my own tree. But yeah, if you’re idle, or relatively so, this is a great time to form a new obsession. My own tree now has 8,120 people on it. Yeah, I know. Maybe it’s time I rested on my oars and let someone else have a chance…
  6. Want something to make you smile? Check out the bears — I figure I’m at least a Yogi, striving to be a Berenstain. That’s all. Nothing else to say…

bears

Check out Joe Long’s awesome history lectures on Zoom!

Joe one

Y’all, I’m swamped today, but right now, Joe Long — curator of education at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum — is giving a great lecture on some of the fascinating, unique, handmade flags in the museum’s collections.

The museum is closed because of the crisis, but Joe it doing these from home, three times a week.

Here’s the link to join:

https://us04web.zoom.us/j/3124574421

And here’s a release we put out about the series:

Tune in to History at Home, with the Relic Room’s Joe Long

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum may be physically closed by the coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean our programming has to stop.

Starting Wednesday, April 1, Curator of Education Joe Long will be presenting some fascinating live programs that you can stream at home.

And while we all know Joe as a guy more at home in the 19th century, he assures us this is no April Fool’s joke. He’s been training himself on 21st century technology that will enable him to stream onto your screens at home in real time.

Each presentation will last half an hour, and will be a mix of live lecture, Powerpoint and images from our collections.

Go to the museum’s Facebook page, and there you will find a link and instructions on how to tune in. Don’t be late! Each program is limited to 100 participants.

Joe plans three live programs each week, and here are the first three:

  • Wednesday, April 1, 11 a.m. – “How to Be a Villain: Tarleton and Kilpatrick.” South Carolina has seen its share of villains. Banastre Tarleton, nemesis of Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion, was seen as a monster by Patriots. And Judson Kilpatrick relished his role as cavalry commander in Sherman’s March to the Sea – when he got to Barnwell, he said it would be known as “Burnwell” when he was through.
  • Thursday, April 2, 11 a.m. – “Rally ‘Round the Flag: Relic Room Flags and Stories.” This will feature images from the museum’s extensive collection of both Confederate and Union flags from the Civil War. Joe will talk about the people who made these unique, original flags; about the men who carried them into battle; and about the symbolism of the flags’ designs.
  • Friday, April 3, 11 a.m. – “Dread of the Adriatic: U-Boat Skipper Georg Von Trapp.” If you’ve seen “The Sound of Music,” you know Capt. Von Trapp as the dour, if brave and distinguished, man whose household is transformed by his children’s governess, Maria. But before that, he was a bold naval leader with a flair for unconventional tactics – a U-boat captain, a staunch monarchist, and an Austrian patriot.

The programs will be suitable for all ages – educational for the kids as well as their homebound parents.

Check it out, enjoy, and learn!

flag one

Who would take coronavirus advice branded this way?

Trump card 1

Seriously, what use is this postcard I got in the snail mail the last couple of days (I forget which day now — probably Saturday or Monday)?

What is its practical purpose, other than as a campaign mailer? The point seems to be the “President Trump’s” part. Look! The Donald is looking out for you! You know, the guy with the great ratings!

Who, among those of us who are not suicidal, would turn to this quarter in a desperate bid for useful advice? This is the guy who, after this card was mailed, was assuring us we’d be back like gangbusters by Easter.

Yeah, I’ve got it. The idea of this card is entirely defensible, even laudable in the abstract. Any president has the duty to give out information that might protect someone from this national threat. And no doubt some folks, particularly among the most vulnerable, still turn to snail mail as a source of timely information.

But why does it have to be branded “President Trump’s…?” That’s almost like saying, look to almost any other source of information, not this one! If it said “Dr. Fauci’s…,” it might do some good.

This is dated March 16, but it feels like it must have been mailed sometime in February.

“IF YOU FEEL SICK, stay home. Do not go to work.” As of tomorrow, I will have been working from home for two weeks. You? (Admittedly, that was after the date on this card. But it feels like years ago.)

There was one bit of good news in this:

“Avoid eating or drinking at bars and restaurants — USE PICKUP OR DELIVERY OPTIONS.”

Bars deliver? Why has no one told me this? I could have used that information.

Anyway, perhaps the card was sincerely meant to help, even to reassure, making us think a benevolent entity had things well in hand.

Perhaps I’m just the wrong audience for it…

Look, the card recommends we go for more information to CORONAVIRUS.GOV. I recommend that, too. There’s probably good advice there, timely advice, advice that doesn’t bear the taint of “President Trump’s”…

Trump card 2

 

Open Thread for Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Did you get one of these? Did it kinda scare you for a second?

Did you get one of these? Did it kinda scare you for a second?

Yeah, another late-in-the-day post. I continue to be really busy with my day job. Hope to stay busy, but who knows?

Some topics:

  1. McMaster orders closing of nonessential SC businesses — Holy Moly! Did you get one of those bulletins (above) on your phone? Made it seem really dramatic, didn’t it? My wife said it startled her for a second. Well, it’s not an order for everybody to stay home, but he’s inching in that direction. Henry’s problem, I fear, is that he’s way overly concerned about the opinions of people like this.
  2. Coronavirus cases in SC pass 1,000. Four additional deaths reported — The grim numbers roll on. And they’ll climb for awhile.
  3. Residents ordered to stay home for 14 days, exceptions for essential businesses — No, no, no — Henry didn’t man up and take the next step. That’s the local officials in Mt. Pleasant. Misleading headline.
  4. But… don’t a lot more people than that actually have it? — Notice there is no link on this one, because I can’t find an answer to my question. When we read that 1,000 people have it in SC, we know that the real number has to be higher than that. Tests are scarce, and generally only people who are symptomatic are tested — right? And people often have it for a couple of weeks before feeling symptoms and therefore getting tested. So… the real number of people walking around and infecting other people could be WAY more than these grim numbers we’re hearing, right? Someone out there must be trying to do the math to make an educated guess of how many really have it. But I’m finding it. Maybe I’m searching wrong. Surely thousands of other people are thinking the same thing…
  5. Should We All Be Wearing Masks In Public? Health Experts Revisit The Question — Uh, yeah. Anything that retards the transfer of those strands, right? I’m doing it anyway. Mostly. But mainly I’m hardly going anywhere. We’re planning an early-morning visit to an unspecified Walmart tomorrow, to resupply. And yeah, we’ll wear masks.
  6. McConnell claims impeachment ‘diverted the attention’ of Trump administration from coronavirus response — Are you kidding me? Senator, Trump was impeached for being an idiot. The impeachment didn’t make him an idiot. You’re confusing cause and effect. Or something. Whatever you’re doing, it’s offensively stupid. You’re saying he wouldn’t have said things would be hunky-dory by Easter if he hadn’t been impeached, right? That’s what you’re saying? Wow. Just wow…

That’s enough for now. Maybe y’all will have some happier topics to bring up…

Doug just gave to Mandy’s re-election. You can, too…

A file photo of Mandy on the first morning we set out on the Leave No One Behind bus, October 2018.

A file photo of Mandy on the first morning we set out on the Leave No One Behind bus — October 30, 2018.

I was happy to retweet this earlier today:

And I was even happier to see that someone took me up on it: Our very own once and future Doug Ross (currently on hiatus from the blog on account of a New Year’s resolution):

Thanks, Doug! I appreciate the fact that you appreciate what a positive force Mandy is in the Legislature and in our state.

Anyway, should any of y’all like to give as well, follow the link on her initial tweet…

I couldn’t believe even Trump did this

Look at me! I have the most popular show on TV! Isn't this great? I'm a hit!

Look at me! I have the most popular show on TV! Isn’t this great? I’m a hit!

My wife showed me this last night, and I assumed it was a joke. It looked like a real Tweet, but I figured it was from The Onion or something like that, spoofing Trump’s obsession with his own popularity.

I thought it was carrying things a bit far, suggesting even as a joke that he would brag about his TV ratings when he’s giving national briefings about something that could kill 200,000 Americans.

But then I looked. And there it was, in his Twitter feed:

Even after I saw that, I figured something was missing that would explain it. I started looking around for news stories about it, and didn’t find any right away — although there was a lot of buzz about it on social.

This morning, I found some coverage, buried way down below other stuff. But basically, they treated it as routine.

This is how far we’ve fallen in normalizing his behavior. The president of the United States puts out something you would only expect from a profoundly maladjusted child, bragging about how everyone’s watching him while thousands of people are dying around him. In the world we knew before 2016, his aides would be trying to gently maneuver him into a padded room, and preparing to invoke the 25th Amendment…

‘That’s it! I vote we continue to be hunter-gatherers…’

That tiny square of ground is what inspired these musings.

That tiny square of ground under the shovel is what inspired these musings.

My wife is the gardener. Always has been. She’s had an organic garden going since the first time we were in a house rather than an apartment. At our current location, which is cursed with hard clay, she grows vegetables in small, raised beds.

Consequently, she just goes out to pick our food daily. Depending on what’s in season — and almost any time of the year, there are various greens going that she can go trim from and make a salad.

Which is nice.

So this year, as I have done in previous years but not followed up on it, I voiced a wish to grow something myself: okra. With me, it’s always okra.

I’ve grown other things in the past during my own brief forays into agriculture. But whenever I think, what vegetable do I want more of?, it’s pretty much always okra. Also, it’s not that hard to grow, and you don’t have insane stuff happening like smut growing on your corn.

Anyway, this year my wife took me up on my idle assertion, and — using the authority vested in her as agriculture commissioner of our household — granted me the use of one of her boxes. But I’d have to dig a new bed for it. That is, before purchasing and filling the box with bagged soil from the store (the only place to get serious dirt when you live on “land” like ours), I would have to use one of our mattocks to bust up a section of lawn.

I, of course, being a thoroughly modern fellow, suggested borrowing our older son’s tiller that he bought last year (he’s a pretty serious gardener himself, blessed with sandy soil — recently, he even started keeping chickens). My wife said all the rocks in our clay would probably break his tiller, and I agreed that she probably had a point.

So I spent a fairly lengthy amount of time Saturday bent over almost completely (the mattock has a short handle), chopping and chopping and chopping up the clay, and then grabbing handfuls of loosening grass and trying to shake the clay loose from it.

And I kept thinking… well, you member recently I told you about reading Guns, Germs and Steel? It deals at great length with what caused different human populations to develop differently, and why when the nations of Europe started spreading around the world in the 16th century, they ran into a lot of cultures that were still hunter-gatherers. The book did a lot of explanation — and speculation — about how and why those cultures developed the way they did when they did.

One of the main themes of author Jared Diamond is refuting the racist assumptions that had such currency in the 19th century about why European cultures “advanced” so far beyond those of more “primitive” people. Basically, he demonstrates that it was mostly a matter of luck of the draw — having the right, domesticable plant and animal species in a given area being one of the greatest determinants. Because everything that came later — writing, technology, complex political structures, etc. — depended on how early and how successfully you adopted agriculture.

I was convinced of the rightness of his propositions, with a caveat: I suspect there are some people who just didn’t want to give up hunter-gathering.

And as my mattock rose and fell, and as I fought off dizziness every time I straightened up for a moment while tilling the soil in a manner not far removed from the techniques of the Stone Age, I kept thinking that were I a member of a pre-agricultural band or tribe or whatever, I would be that guy.

I’d be the guy saying, Yes, you make excellent points about the advantages of settling down and growing our own food and forming more complex social arrangements and initiating a technological process that will ultimately lead to HD televisions. And I particularly like the point made by Ogg over here that if we start growing crops, we can then make beer. A good supply of beer would be nice to have while watching our HD televisions. Especially if we have developed the refrigerator. It’s an appealing vision of the future, I’ll admit.

And as you know — I mention it often enough — I’m a communitarian kind of guy. I like the idea that we would have to work together to build such infrastructure as elaborate irrigation systems for our crops — and that to do that, we’d have to have structures for cooperating such as governments. That’s very much in my wheelhouse.

But think about it: Don’t we have cooperation now, in a truly meaningful way? I mean, come on, guys — we all know that no one of us can bring down a mastodon alone! We have to work together — Ogg in front of the mastodon distracting him, Thrag and his brothers on the flanks to drive their spears into its sides, and me standing on a nearby hill offering helpful suggestions. You know, as Karl over here keeps saying, “from each according to his ability”…

And what about when those yahoos from across the valley attack our camp, trying to take some of our women so they can diversity their feeble, stagnant gene pool? We need all the spears and clubs that can come running. That’s way communal.

But if we settle down and start farming, next thing you know we’ll have villages, then towns, then cities. And we’ll have ever more elaborate institutions to direct and organize our affairs. And you know that that means:

  • First think you know, libertarians will start cropping up, absurdly claiming that they can make it on their own without collective effort.
  • Then before you know it, there’ll be a Tea Party.
  • Then, as sure as can be, Trumpism will arrive, and you’ll know the whole thing has grown decadent, possibly beyond saving.
  • Finally, some jackass like this guy will arise.

None of us wants that. So let’s put down these stone implements before we get a blister, and go out on a hunt, how about it? Who’s with me? (I go running off like Bluto in “Animal House”…)

Anyway, that’s what I was thinking while I was digging out that raised bed. And it was only about four or five feet square. Imagine if it had been an acre. It would have inspired me to write War and Peace, if I survived it…

Open Thread for (late) Thursday, March 26, 2020

Isn't this gorgeous? I don't even LIKE the color orange, but this drew me from quite a distance on my walk today. I've never seen azaleas this color.

Isn’t this gorgeous? I don’t even LIKE the color orange, but this drew me from quite a distance on my walk today. I’ve never seen azaleas this color.

Sorry not to have posted today. I’m drawing to the close of one of the busiest weeks I’ve had with ADCO since the end of the 2018 campaign. I expect things to slow down some (maybe a lot) now, but these last few days at home have been pretty packed. A lot of clients communicating about the coronavirus — letting their clients know what they’re doing, how to do business with them from afar, those kinds of things.

I still get out and take walks, hence the pictures above and below, showing nature is continuing to do its thing despite all.

Here are some topics, starting with the worst news:

  1. The coronavirus took our friend Karen Pearson today — We sort of had warning of it yesterday, but this sad news is still hard to take. Karen was one of the vulnerable, with previous health problems. And we have a lot of friends and loved ones like that. Karen had been a member of this blog community since at least 2007 — when I looked back at her comments just now, there were 133 pages of them. So we all knew her. She was always a thoughtful and considerate commenter. She was a kind lady. This will not be the end of such tragedies that strike close to home. I think Mandy was talking about Jack West, son of Gov. West, late yesterday when she tweeted, “A friend of mine died today from COVID19. I would love for this to be the last time I type that sentence. Please isolate … and take care of yourselves.” Amen.
  2. U.S. Leads the World in Known Cases — A horrific milestone. Here’s another: U.S. death toll hits 1,000. And there’s so much more to come. No, we’re not going to come roaring back by Easter…
  3. Henry still won’t tell us to stay home — But cities are doing it. I can’t decide what is causing his hesitation. Can it be as simple as wanting to play to the Trump crowd? I hope not. I hope he’s really trying to do his best by us.
  4. Is anyone having a worse allergy season than usual? — Speaking of nature. This may seem silly to mention in the face of a deadly pandemic, but for me it actually is kind of related. Bad allergy days can make me feel like I’ve got some sort of bug, just crappy all over, and I can’t help thinking, “Is this how it begins…?” But mostly it’s just my eyes itching worse than in many a year. Are any of y’all experiencing the same?
  5. Joe Biden reminds us: Help is on the way — Yeah, we’re still having an election this year — maybe. I mentioned this Jennifer Rubin column in a comment yesterday, but I thought I’d share it more prominently, because she does a good job of setting out the reasons that we can take some comfort from knowing Joe is out there, ready to take this guy’s place.
It's not as awesome as the orange azalea, but it's impressive. This volunteer tulip popped up spontaneously 3 or 4 feet from the nearest flower bed in our yard. We didn't plant it. And we've lived her more than 22 years and never seen it before.

It’s not as awesome as the orange azalea, but it’s impressive. This volunteer tulip popped up spontaneously, 3 or 4 feet from the nearest flower bed in our yard. We didn’t plant it. And we’ve lived her more than 22 years and never seen it before.

How many people do YOU know who have it?

David Beasley, marching with Joe Riley to get the Confederate flag down in 2000.

David Beasley, marching with Joe Riley to get the Confederate flag down in 2000.

There are still people out there who don’t see the pandemic as real, as anything other than an abstract concept. And they don’t get why we’re all staying at home and economic activity has largely ground to a halt.

Some of them are saying some phenomenally stupid things, and I don’t just mean the president.

Well, I don’t know about you, but to me this thing is not abstract. It’s real. It affects people I know:

  • I think the first victim I actually knew, personally, was former Gov. David Beasley. That news came last week. I won’t say we’re close, but I’ve known him since the early ’90s — maybe the late ’80s. When he came in for an endorsement interview in 1994, it was a milestone for me: the first gubernatorial candidate I had ever interviewed who was younger than I was.
  • About the same time, I heard about my second cousin, an Episcopal clergyman out in Texas. He had been horribly sick with pneumonia for three weeks before he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He is now recovering, I’m happy to say.
  • Just yesterday, I learned that my sister-in-law’s brother, who lives in New York, has it. He has had significant health problems in recent years; he didn’t need this, too.

Getting closer, members of my immediate family have been exposed to people with the virus — that we know of. Probably all of us have. So we’re just hoping and praying we all stay healthy.

Of course, we all know of famous people who have it, from Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson to Prince Charles (who I hope has not been close to Her Majesty lately).

Oh, by the way — Charles is, near as I can tell, my 16th cousin twice removed. I say that not to impress you — you’re probably more closely related to him than I am — or bore you with my genealogy mania. I say it as a reminder that we are ALL related in some way to someone who has this, however distant they may seem. Do not send to ask for whom the virus tolls.

Whom are you close to who has the virus? I think we should share notes, to help each other wrap our heads around this. You don’t have to provide names — you see I didn’t, above. I just thought I’d ask how close it’s getting to y’all, at this still early stage of the crisis….

 

Open Thread for Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A retired Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh) in his garden...

A retired Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh) working in his garden…

I didn’t post yesterday because I was too busy with work — all of which I’m doing from home, of course. A number of clients are hurrying to get out various communications related to coronavirus. But I’m not sure what will happen when they’ve said all they can about that. We’ll see.

  1. McMaster discourages groups of 3+ people — But he still won’t go the full “everybody stay at home” route, unlike California and Illinois. What do y’all think about this? Is he underreacting?
  2. What about all those partying punks? — I don’t have a link with this one, because I’m not talking about the kids on spring break in Florida. I heard this morning from someone who lives around the USC campus (no, not Kathryn Fenner — someone else) who is really fed up with the students around her constantly partying. A neighbor keeps calling the cops, and they quiet down momentarily, then resume making jackasses of themselves. (I find myself idly wondering whether any of them are our governor’s tenants, but I have no knowledge that they are.) I guess there’s no cure for stupid at that age.
  3. Senate nears passage of $2 trillion stimulus deal — I’ve got to ask: Are any of y’all paying much attention to this? Are you hanging on every word? Are you heavily invested (other than financially, which I suppose we all are) in whether the Democrats or the Republicans get their way on this? Does it seem like this debate is going on in another universe, one where it’s still 2019 or something? Apparently, some people on Wall Street care, though. News that they’re nearing agreement has caused stocks to recover somewhat today.
  4. Trump says he may soon push businesses to reopen — This is one of those “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” moments… And if reminds me of a separate post I’m thinking about writing, posing the question, “Do you ever get the sense that we’re devolving as a species?”
  5. Fauci on Trump: ‘I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down’ — That’s pretty much what I thought the people standing around POTUS at these briefings are thinking.
  6. Seen anything good on TV? — I saw an interesting movie my wife had borrowed from the library (which of course is now closed, so no more of those). It’s called “All Is True,” and it’s about the last three years of Shakespeare’s life, when he retired to Stratford after the Globe burned down. It stars Kenneth Branagh (although it’s hard to recognize him) and Judi Dench. It was interesting. I was particularly fascinated to think that at 49, Shakespeare did actually stop writing. How could he — a guy who had always been so prolific? Had he just said everything he wanted to say? Oh, and last night I started watching that Netflix series about the origins of British football — “The English Game.” Not bad so far…

The English Game

Open Thread for Friday, March 20, 2020

The deli-meat wall at Walmart.

The deli-meat wall at Walmart.

A variety of things we can yammer about as we sit at home:

  1. The breakdown of our food distribution system? — Last night I tweeted the above picture from Walmart with the words, “The deli meats section at Walmart tonight. Every item, gone. This is insane, people. Cut it out…” I was actually getting kind of a creepy feeling walking around the store. No sugar. No rice (except in those microwaveable single-serving packs). What if our food distribution breaks down to where we actually can’t get what we need to eat? But in spite of the specter of imminent starvation, I had to smile when I got Mandy Powers Norrell’s reply to my tweet: “Food Lion in Lancaster didn’t have tofu vegetarian dumplings. I thought I was the only person who ate them.” I’d have thought she was the only one, too, in Lancaster anyway…
  2. Is selling off your stocks really the worst thing a person can do? — This is one of those things where I’m tone-deaf, because it’s about money. But I’ve had trouble getting shocked at Sen. Richard Burr selling off his stocks before the market tanked. Yeah, I get that he sort of had access to extra information, but anyone could have gotten a gut feeling any time this year, and dumped his stocks. But Tucker Carlson says “There is no greater moral crime…” Even if I grant that it’s wrong — and I suppose it is — I think I can think of some worse ones. What do y’all think?
  3. Judge approves $520 million settlement in Santee Cooper lawsuit — Remember when this would have been HUGE news? It was the third story down on an eblast yesterday from Columbia Regional Business Report. What was the top story? Here ya go: “Food truck owner serving barbecue, sense of normalcy.” I guess that sort of is a man-bites-dog story, right now. As for the Santee Cooper thing — I have to confess my eyes starting glazing over at these stories shortly after the nuclear plant project was abandoned in 2017.
  4. Kirsten to the rescue! — Did you see that Kirsten Gillibrand has stepped out on a limb and endorsed Joe Biden? Bryan Caskey tweeted that it was “Like Jeb Stuart showing up late at Gettysburg.” I replied “No, because Lee was actually DEPENDING on Stuart…” People stopped thinking about, much less expecting anything from, Sen. Gillibrand months ago.
  5. Tulsi shows Bernie how it’s done — See, Bernie? You just drop out, and endorse Joe. It’s easy. Yes, the Gabbard juggernaut has come to an end, despite the support she enjoyed from our good friend. I think Doug’s a little disappointed in her.
  6. Earworm of the Day: Elenore, by the Turtles — I’ve actually had this one stuck for a couple of days. Had to look it up. I learned that it was intended to be a bad song, a sarcastic reply to the record company execs who kept pestering the Turtles for another song like “Happy Together.” From Wikipedia: “The band recorded “Elenore” as a parody of the type of happy-go-lucky pop songs they themselves had been performing, but with deliberately clichéd and slapdash lyrics such as: “Your looks intoxicate me / Even though your folks hate me / There’s no one like you, Elenore, really’…” But as a joke, it failed. Turned out to be another hit.

The super-cool art of Kirkland Thomas Smith

On October 17, 2018, the day of the first of two gubernatorial debates, the campaign booked a suite at the Hotel Florence — which is a pretty neat place, in case you’ve never checked it out. (And I’m not just saying that because of, as a Pee Dee boy, having a tendency to see Florence as the “big city.” It actually is a pretty cool hotel.)

The suite had a terrace, from which you could see the civic center where the debate would be. James sat out there for awhile alone, studying a bit for the debate, and we talked a bit of strategy around the suite’s dining-room table. But mostly we sat about killing time — James was not a great one for debate prep. He just got his head into the place where it needed to be, and went out and mopped the floor with Henry. Not that it did us any good on Election Day.

I’ve got some photos from that afternoon. There’s Scott Hogan, the campaign manager, on the couch staring at his phone. There’s Phil Chambers on his laptop at the table. There’s Mandy Powers Norrell ironing her dress for that night.

But the person most absorbed in a task was the candidate’s wife, Kirkland Thomas Smith. She was busy making a dress out of beer can pull tabs. She said she was making it for the inaugural ball — then asked whether we thought that was a bad idea. I guessed she meant, was she jinxing the campaign? I don’t think so. I think we can chalk up the loss to other causes — such as most white South Carolinians being physically incapable of pulling the lever for a Democrat.

Anyway, Kirkland is always doing something cool like that, something surprisingly creative. Things like this four-foot-square portrait of James that hung in the foyer of our campaign HQ. That’s what she does. I felt privileged to get to know her better during the campaign.

And I thought I’d share the “Artist Minute” that Alan Cooper put on his site, MidlandsBiz, which shows Kirkland talking about her amazing artwork that she creates from junk. I can’t even begin to see how she takes debris and turns it into a recognizable portrait.

I can’t wait to see what she creates next…

A completed part of the dress Kirkland was working on, sitting on the table in the hotel suite. At top you see a memo of talking points I had put together for the debate. Not that James needed it. He knew what his talking points were.

A completed part of the dress Kirkland was working on, sitting on the table in the hotel suite. Under it you see a memo of talking points I had put together for the debate. Not that James needed it. He knew what his talking points were. But I felt like, as communications director, I should do something to prepare.

Watching things close down, a step at a time

library

Each day, on my walks around the USC campus and downtown area, I’ve watched things change. Each day, I encounter fewer people. And I watch as things close down a step at a time.

For instance, last week I could still walk into the Thomas Cooper Library, get a sip of water at the fountain, use the rest room if I needed to. Maybe walk back to the Hollings annex to see what collections are on display.

Monday, there was the above sign — only students, faculty and staff would be admitted. IDs would be checked.

Then today, the below sign — closed down completely.

When I got to Main Street today, it was the first day that I felt a bit like Rick Grimes entering Atlanta. Blocks of open curbside parking. Businesses all closed — or sufficiently curtailed that they looked closed. Go ahead and cross the street without waiting for the light, because there’s no one coming.

Passing maybe one person per block, each of you veering away sideways as you approach, so you don’t come too close. Careful. You might get “bit,” and become one of them

I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

closed

Someone needs to sum things up for Bernie as bluntly as possible

Somebody needs to tell the guy...

Somebody needs to tell the guy…

Since reading this morning that Bernie Sanders, in the wake of Joe Biden (again) sweeping the primaries yesterday, would be “talking to supporters to ‘assess his campaign,'” I’ve been thinking of the Mitchell and Webb sketch titled “The New Fuhrer.

No, I’m not comparing anyone, much less a Jewish Democratic candidate, to Nazis.

But there is something relevant to what I think needs to happen now.

The sketch paints a comical imagining of what it was like when Admiral Karl Dönitz was named, very briefly, head of the German state after Hitler’s suicide. In this version, Dönitz misunderstands the situation and is initially excited about his big promotion.

But one of the officers who brought him the news brings him down to Earth very firmly. Placing a piece of paper on the admiral’s desk, he says:

We’ve taken the liberty of drawing up a list of priorities.

Here’s General Eisenhower’s telephone number.

Here’s the English for, “We give up.”

And here’s an analysis of our military situation in one, rude word.”

Someone needs to get that blunt with Bernie. This nation has too much going on to waste time and energy pretending that anyone other than Joe Biden is going to get the Democratic nomination.

As Jennifer Rubin wrote last night while the results from Illinois, Florida and Arizona were still coming in, the time is past for Sanders to maintain “the pretense that the race is still active.” There’s work to be done to make sure we can even have a general election in the fall:

The Biden team certainly would like to begin staffing up for the general election and planning for the distinct possibility that there will be no in-person convention. The latter would necessitate a Democratic National Committee rule change. The logistics of such an effort would be daunting. (Would state delegates be able to meet in their home states, or will nearly 4,000 delegates “attend” from the safety of their own homes? What access will be afforded to the media?)

Moreover, the DNC should be making a full-court press now to arrange for no-excuse voting by mail in all 50 states for November (and for primary races for House, Senate and state races). Failure to do so would mean thousands or even millions of people might be effectively disenfranchised depending on the status of the pandemic and the condition of those who might have contracted the virus (as well as their family members who are caring for them). Foot-dragging by the Republicans — whose mission in recent years has been to make voting harder (thereby suppressing the votes of those they think are likely to vote for Democrats) — must cease. Their own voters will be just as likely to be affected, so it would make little sense for them to oppose one uniform system of mail-in ballots….

And so forth. Even with Biden as the acknowledged nominee, there’s a lot to be sorted out.

If someone needs to sum it up for Bernie in “one, rude word,” I volunteer. Of course, he won’t listen to me. But someone needs to do it…

Sure and LAST year, St. Paddy’s was all it should be…

The parade in Killarney was everyone one could wish for.

The parade in Killarney was everything one could wish for.

It was sort of like St. Patrick’s Day didn’t even happen today, wasn’t it?

No parades, here or anywhere else — including Ireland (except for this one I found).

Which, by the way, is where we were last St. Patrick’s Day.

We started the day in Waterford, which is where my wife’s people — the Phelans, or Ó Faoláins — are from, and where my people started the Norman/English conquest of Ireland, which as you know has led to a great deal of unhappiness that we try not to dwell on at my house.

The night before, we had gone to Mass at the cathedral that was right around the corner from our hotel, where we experienced a great blessing. The priest showed us — you’re not going to believe this — an actual relic of St. Patrick himself, on loan from Rome! As a convert, I usually go in for that old-Catholic sort of stuff, but I was excited as anyone. And no, I didn’t ask what part of the good saint we were venerating; I just enjoyed our good luck to be there at the time.

I shot this pic of Blarney Castle on March 17, 2019, before my unfortunate ascent to the top.

I shot this pic of Blarney Castle on March 17, 2019, before my unfortunate ascent to the top.

The next morning, we got on the bus and headed to Blarney, where I climbed to the top of castle, got hit in my bad ear by a huge gust of wind, and immediately suffered one of the worst bouts of vertigo I’ve ever experienced. No, I did not kiss the stone. I just wanted to get back down alive. When I finally got down to the ground — for a bit there, I thought I never would — I kissed a stone at the very base of the tower, when no one was looking. I was that glad to be back on terra firma.

We got to Killarney precisely as the parade was beginning, and it was awesome. Small and quaint and homey and real. We then got a late lunch at a Thai place, of course.

Toward the evening we went about checking out the pubs, mostly guarded by tough-looking locals standing at the entrances smoking and saying, “not in this pub, tourist” with their eyes. At one point we passed one victim of spontaneous celtic enthusiasm sitting in the street bleeding. We went back to the hotel to have our pint there. I mean, you know, I had the wife with me.

There was this one young man with our group, not long out of college, who met an Irish lass who insisted that a pub full of locals admit him to their revels, and he was in no condition to sight-see the next day. But I think he got his money’s worth.

I think we all did. And may we all have such fine St. Paddy’s days in the future. Just not this year…

Even Uncle Sam was there! And taller than I thought. We ran into these guys after the parade.

Even Uncle Sam was there! And taller than I thought. We ran into these guys after the parade.

Meanwhile, from the leader of our once-great country…

trump tweet1

For what it’s worth, he did send out a followup seven minutes later saying, “Federal Government is working very well with the Governors and State officials. Good things will happen! #KILLTHEVIRUS”

Maybe someone had a word with him. I don’t know who that would be, though, since pretty much all of the grownups have left his administration.

And yeah, I’m still using that plug-in on my Chrome browser that renders Trump’s tweets in a special typeface. They come in the regular old way on my phone and iPad. But somehow this seems to bring out their essence….

You know, there’s nothing new about this. But as many times as we’ve seen this kind of childishness, I still have to ask my self occasionally, What kind of person, in a leadership position, thinks that is something appropriate to publish for the world to see?

trump meeting

Are you doing ANYTHING now that’s not related to COVID-19?

Today's headline of the day.

Today’s headline of the day.

I’m not. Even when it’s something I would normally do, the way I do it is affected by the pandemic.

I’m still going in to the office (for now; I might work from home tomorrow), but everything I do there is about the coronavirus. Starting last week — I’d say from Thursday morning on — all I have done is assist clients with virus-related communications. I’m writing press releases, social media posts, eblasts and the like telling people who normally interact with these clients things they need to be told relating to the pandemic. Closings, cancellations, or how to continue to do business remotely.

Even blog posts I’m writing for clients’ websites are about the coronavirus, and how it’s affecting that particular client’s industry and so forth.

My personal life is the same. I just came back from a lunchtime trip to the Five Points Food Lion to see if they had some items I was unable to find at the store nearer my house, on account of hoarding. (They did! And no, I’m not talking face masks or hand sanitizer. Nobody’s got those. This was some frozen vegetables I was looking for.)

My daily walks (got to get in those 11,000 or 12,000 steps a day) may look the same outwardly, but I’m listening to podcast about, you know, the pandemic.

When I go to check on my parents, I wear a face mask. And I urge them to stay in, and let me go out to get whatever they might need.

Pretty much all conversations with the rest of my family have to do with this or that detail of our new mode of life. And checking to make sure folks are OK.

We didn’t go to Mass this past Sunday. And now all Masses are cancelled. Don’t worry, the bishop has granted dispensation.

Anyway, how about you? Does your life in any way retain any normalcy?

My favorite headline of the day

fundamentals

I loved this today, in The State.

There’s nothing funny about COVID-19, but this did make me smile.

Our lives are being turned upside-down by a global pandemic.

Many of us are out of work with no way to make up the lost play.

The stock market is tanking.

We’re almost certainly plunging into a recession.

As we increasingly hole up in our homes, the vaunted American system of food distribution is malfunctioning as people hoard all sorts of goods.

As many as 200 million Americans could be sickened by the virus, and more than a million of us could die.

But… never fear, America! The fundamentals of our toilet paper pipeline remain strong!…

Could COVID-19 give an advantage back to Bernie, contrary to most Democrats’ wishes?

biden debate

For a number of reasons, this would be a perfect time to declare a hiatus from campaigning, just as we’re putting off all sorts of aspects of our regular lives.

This would begin with Bernie Sanders dropping out. Then, it won’t even be necessary to hold the remaining primaries (which of course have no constitutional role in the selection of a president). The election can pick back up with Joe Biden being nominated at the convention.

We need to pause, and concentrate on staying alive between now and the summer.

Here are some of the reasons:

Last night’s debate illustrated the point that we’re just going through the motions now. The various things Bernie Sanders brings to the non-contest look increasingly irrelevant in light of what the nation is facing now. Here’s how Frank Bruni described the debate:

…Biden was able to portray Sanders’s grander plans for transforming the American economy as luxuries unaffordable in the face of a scourge, as distractions from the emergency upon us. “People are looking for results, not a revolution,” Biden said….

But there was something strained and strange about Sanders’s repeated pivots from the pandemic to income inequality, from the pandemic to corrupt pharmaceutical executives, from the pandemic to how many millionaires and billionaires have contributed to Biden’s campaign. The world has been transformed; the script remains the same….

This is an illustration of why I don’t believe in campaign promises. You’ve all heard the saying, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Bernie is all about his plans, as Elizabeth Warren was. But the job of president is about dealing with things that arise once you’re in office, things you can’t anticipate during the election. That’s why I always choose based on the candidate’s character and experience, not “read my lips” promises.

I think the coronavirus has made a lot of other people think more about this. Citing that same Bruni column, he also said of Sanders:

And he couldn’t claim the kind of experience that Biden repeatedly did, the intimate knowledge of what it’s like to be at the center of crucial national decisions.

Biden smartly understood that his eight years beside the last Democratic president and his foreign-policy seasoning are probably more reassuring to voters now than they were a month or even a week ago. So he marinated in them….

Odd metaphor (marinated?), but yes. That’s what I’m on about. Biden has the relevant experience.

Bernie thinks always in terms of his worldview and his plans. Talk about coronavirus, and he keeps trying to change the subject to his allegations that the system is fixed and billionayuhs are exploiting us all. Which really doesn’t help us deal with the pandemic upon us.

Nevertheless, COVID-19 could skew upcoming primaries in Bernie’s favor, contrary to the actual will of the electorate.

How’s that? Well, as we know, Bernie’s army of young voters have thus far failed to appear, which is why he’s getting pounded by Biden. But think about this: Who is more likely to show up at polling places during the coronavirus crisis? Younger voters, for two reasons:

  1. They think they’re going to live forever. Their lack of fear of consequences lead to all sorts of reckless behavior, from extreme sports to voting for Bernie Sanders. They’re constitutionally less likely to fear COVID-19, because they’re less likely to fear anything.
  2. They actually are at less risk from the virus. Younger people are less likely to die of it.
  3. The Biden majority thinks their guy is inevitable now, so they need not risk their lives turning out to vote for him.

While the numbers of young people coming out to vote still won’t match Bernie’s grandiose visions, a large enough percentage of older voters may stay home and hand Bernie a victory — even though most of the usual electorate, sitting at home, prefers Biden.

Doubt it? Think about the confusion of the last few days. I don’t know you, but I keep swinging back and forth in my mind about whether this or that activity is still OK to engage in. Of course, if it were just me, I’d turn out, because I’m that much of an obsessive about having my say. But not everyone is.

I suspect if Bernie won any of the new few primaries, the narrative would change. It could reverse, at least to some extent, the perception of Biden’s inevitability. I still don’t think Bernie could win, but he could drag the process out in a way that is destructive to the cause of beating Trump in the fall.

And of course, that’s what’s important.

I can hear some of you snorting, “Brad’s trying to rig things for his guy!” But what I’m actually doing is worrying that the coronavirus could rig the process for Bernie, contrary to the will of the great majority of Democratic voters — the majority that has turned out in such force in the last few contests before the nation started shutting down over the pandemic.

One day — tomorrow — could be enormously destructive to the cause of beating Trump, if the factors I’ve just described come into play in Illinois, Florida, Ohio and Arizona.

Maybe I’m wrong to worry. Maybe Biden will roll to easy victory in those contests tomorrow, and then it will become obvious even to Sanders that he should drop out. (And I think this is what most observers expect to happen. So would I, were I not a born worrier.) And maybe he even will, at that point..

But I confess that at this point, I’m a little concerned about what could happen tomorrow. And how it could fail to reflect the will of Democratic voters as a body, and continue to tear at party unity in a way that benefits Trump…

both Joe and Bernie