Author Archives: Brad Warthen

And then there were none: Reports say Kasich quitting

eaf8bb796e99a2cfded0906f4f11f04c

Any devoted Dune fans out there? Remember when Paul and Lady Jessica have escaped Harkonnen clutches after being betrayed, and they’re hiding in the desert listening to radio chatter, and on every band, the message is the same: Atreides reports of defeat, Harkonnen messages of triumph? Complete disaster, no hope.

That’s what I’m seeing now on Twitter:

No hope anywhere, for the party or far more importantly, the nation.

It must have been much like this when the Germans marched into Paris…

Sorry about mixing metaphors there…

Weeping_Parisian

Finally, the way is clear for my man Kasich, as he planned

All the media are missing the real story tonight:

Finally, the way is clear for John Kasich, the last hope for sane Republicans everywhere.

No more distraction from that Cruz guy, whom John Boehner summed up so neatly. The nation has dodged a bullet, but it still has a howitzer round coming on, name of Trump.

Finally, Kasich has a shot at some of the press attention he deserves. And, one hopes, notice from the voters. Just enough to keep delaying Trump getting that magic number. Just enough to stay alive, to remain the one alternative going into Cleveland.

And where else can the Bushes and the Lindsey Grahams and the Romneys now turn? It’s time for them to line up behind a guy they actually respect for a change. They’ve tried the opposite course, and it didn’t work.

Oh, they all said he was crazy. And just watch — by tomorrow the calls for him to drop out will be legion.

But he won’t pay attention. He knows what he’s doing. He knows it’s a hoop and not a “ring.” His gameplan has always been to make it to a contested convention. He’ll keep playing with only four guys on the court, like Coach Norman Dale, and everyone will call him mad.

Except Shooter, sitting alone in a dark corner of the bleachers grinning and shaking his head, the one guy in the gym who knows what the coach is up to, and admires him for it.

In case you haven’t picked up on it, I’m Shooter. You see me at 2:37 in the clip above…

DennisHopper-Hoosiers-Shooter

Open Thread for Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Unfortunately, Indiana also seems to want Donald Trump, which means we’re all in trouble. If you’d like to comment on that or anything else, type away:

  1. Indiana Votes, in What Could Be Knockout Blow in Races — If you have thoughts as the results come in, leave them here. Me, I’m fantasizing that Cruz gets fed up and quits after tonight, and Kasich starts getting the attention he deserves, and manages to win enough delegates in the remaining primaries to deny Trump a first-ballot win. Hey, it could happen. If Donald Trump can be on the verge of obtaining a once-great party’s nomination, anything can happen. Oh, you don’t believe in underdogs? I refer you to “Hoosiers.” See photo below.
  2. Democrats’ Brand Is Bad, But Republicans’ Is Way Worse — I sense it approaching… the UnParty Moment!
  3. US accuses Russia of nuclear sabre-rattling, amid NATO tensions — While we make a mockery of the process of choosing our commander in chief, there’s some serious s__t going on in the world…
  4. American killed as U.S. troops get closer to Islamic State battle in Iraq — As this administration continues its excruciatingly gradual escalation, at what point do we drop the “adviser” shtick, and go after ISIL?
  5. Father-daughter dance canceled following complaints at elementary school — The complaint apparently was that a lot of kids are left out by a father-daughter dance. After having worked with the SC Center for Fathers and Families for several years, I’ve been acutely aware of the severe problem of father absence in far too many families. This dramatizes it.
"OK, boys -- we're gonna run the picket fence at 'em!"

“OK, boys — we’re gonna run the picket fence at ’em!”

 

ICYMI: C.J. Cregg returns to the briefing room

All of y’all probably saw this already, but I would have missed it if Kathryn Fenner had not brought it to my attention via Facebook over the weekend.

Of course, Facebook being Facebook, I had to go hunting elsewhere to find an embed code. (I couldn’t even find it at the White House, which is where Kathryn had gotten it — apparently, they only posted it on FB — unless I’m just looking in all the wrong places on the website.)

It was great to see her back in the saddle. And seeing her as press secretary instead of chief of staff takes us to those wonderful days when Leo was still alive. Sigh…

I was a bit disappointed in her when she ducked the one question she got from the actual reporters assembled: “Who is President Bartlet supporting in the Democratic primary?”

But she ducked it with typical C.J. aplomb…

CJ Cregg

Allison Janney fields an actual question from an actual reporter in the actual West Wing.

Charleston Post & Courier buys Free Times

freetimes

I heard the rumor a couple of weeks ago and started poking around, and just now got confirmation from the most reliable of sources:

Brad,

Yes, we just closed on the Free Times in Columbia!  We are putting out a press release as I am sending this.  We are super excited about the acquisition and look forward to growing in the Columbia market!

Thanks,

P.J. Browning

Publisher

The Post and Courier

This is good news, following on the most terrible of news. In the wake of Charlie Nutt’s shocking death, I had worried about what would become of the alternative weekly and my friends who work there.

It’s good to know that an outfit as steady and successful as the P&C will now be publishing the paper.

Open Thread for Monday, May 2, 2016

May_Day_Parade_1957_Moscow (1)

So, did you have a good May Day, comrades? Well, if not, don’t come crying to me. Nichevo. It can’t be helped:

  1. Terrible, awful, horrible news out of Indiana — Did you see the poll results showing Trump with a double-digit lead? Yep. It’s just getting harder and harder for the Republicans to avoid nominating this bizarre character. Which leads to such cringe-inducing stories as this one: What would Trump be like as the Republican nominee? Meanwhile, the candidate’s latest gem: “Trump accuses China of ‘raping’ US with unfair trade policy
  2. Should your workplace have a nap room? — Absolutely. One of the few nice things about our steadily decreasing staff those last few years I was at the paper was that we had an empty office in which we kept a couch. Sometimes, along about 4 in the afternoon when I needed to concentrate on proofs, I’d get this debilitating sinus headache. So I’d go into that room, set my phone to wake me in 12 or 15 minutes, and drop off immediately. I’d wake up feeling great and ready to work hours more — which is great, because I had to do just that. I highly recommend it if you can swing it.
  3. CIA ‘Live Tweets’ Bin Laden Raid On 5th Anniversary — Fortunately, the raid itself was well thought-out. This Twitter stunt, I’m thinking, not so much. Look, we killed the guy; it was a thing that needed doing. Let’s not invite the country to celebrate each moment of the experience, OK?

Or maybe you’ve run across something more interesting, which wouldn’t be all that hard. If so, please share…

Open Thread for Friday, April 29, 2016

But I'm a creep; I'm a weirdo. What the hell am I doing reading about the BUSINESS side of music?

But I’m a creep; I’m a weirdo. What the hell am I doing reading about the BUSINESS side of music?

A few things that might spark conversation (if only this weren’t a Friday):

  1. Nikki Haley says she’ll help Obama find the money to keep Guantanamo open — Just call her NIMBY Haley from now on. This cockiness about helping POTUS find money comes from the woman who thinks we should finance roads by either a) cutting another tax by a larger amount than that needed for roads or b) taking it from other programs even though roads have their own dedicated funding source, one that hasn’t been raised for 29 years.
  2. GOP elites are now resigned to Trump as their nominee — This is very, very, extremely, awful, horrible news, if you are an American, or the resident of any other country affected by U.S. policy, which is to say, if you are an earthling.
  3. Cruz’s latest fights with fellow Republicans are a reminder: Many simply don’t like him — And see, this is why we’re in the horrible situation described in the previous item: Two things characterize Cruz: Tout le monde sees him as the only guy to stop Trump, and he is a guy who causes normal Republicans to say such things as what the former speaker of the House said — that he “never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.” If only there were a sane option out there that leading Republicans didn’t hate… someone like… I don’t know… KASICH?
  4. Radiohead’s corporate empire: inside the band’s dollars and cents — Disregard! I was hoping this would be about Radiohead’s upcoming new album or something, but it turns out the headline was accurate: It really was about business and money. Bleh. I’d just as soon watch “Vinyl” as read about that…
  5. Pentagon Disciplines 16 for Errors Tied to Afghan Hospital Bombing — This is the one back in October, not the latest one. The latest one wasn’t us.

When you’re spending this much on PR, how do you keep getting such a black eye?

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Check this out:

Richland County Council will have a special work session Friday afternoon to discuss Wednesday’s revelation from the Department of Revenue that the county’s transportation penny sales tax revenue would be cut off until the county brings the penny program into “compliance with state tax laws.”

Council will meet at 3 p.m. Friday in Council Chambers at 2020 Hampton St., Columbia, only to discuss the Department of Revenue penny tax issue. The discussion could move behind closed doors, as council has done regularly for updates and discussions on the matter during regular council meetings….

Executive session. Yeah, because, you know, what this situation needs is less transparency…

What kinds of things has the county been spending penny tax money on other than roads and buses?

You’ll never guess. Really. Not in a million years (unless you already know, which is cheating)…

Public Relations. That’s what it went for.

Yeah.

The Nerve reported this yesterday:

Analyzing months of reports from the Small and Local Business Enterprise Office – an office that the Department of Revenue (DOR) contends was improperly funded from penny tax revenue and which the county has agreed to repay in full through its general fund – the county paid:

  • $169,687 to Strategic Business & Politics LLC, a single-employee business owned, S.C. Secretary of State records show, by Duane Cooper, the executive director of the South Carolina House Democratic Caucus. The business address is listed as 701 Gervais St., Suite 150-208, which is a mailbox at the UPS Store.
  • $178,809 to Mizzell & Associates, a public relations/marketing firm held by former Richland County Councilman Tony Mizzell. Mizzell, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Columbia City Council in 2010.
  • $674,440 to P.J. Noble and Associates, Pat Noble’s Columbia-based marketing company that in 2010 was the subject of news reports questioning a $65,000 public relations contract with the City of Columbia over North Main Street improvements. Noble worked in the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety under former Gov. Richard “Dick” Riley.
  • $486,201 to J.B. Ladner & Associates, a one-person firm owned by Clarence Hill, an independent planning professional and former S.C. State professor, for outreach work.

The $1.5 million in public relations/outreach payments is over and above the $3 million awarded to two private firms – BANCO Bannister and Campbell Consulting – for penny tax public relations work. Owners Heyward Bannister and Darrell Campbell are well-known Democratic consultants, with Bannister having run the political campaigns for the penny tax both in 2010, when it was defeated, and again in 2012….

So I have to ask — if county has spent $4.5 million on public relations, how come it keeps getting nothing but black eyes over the penny tax?

You can do a heap of image-building on $4.5 million. But here’s the thing: Where is all that image-building? There’s a website… and… well, I don’t know what else. (There was a public info meeting about the tax yesterday and I’m kicking myself because I missed it. If anyone attended, and got a good answer to that question, please share.)

Whatever it went for, it’s not working…

Does Fiorina make you like Cruz any better?

Carly Fiorina campaigning in Columbia, May 2015

Carly Fiorina campaigning in Columbia, May 2015. Hey, there’s Emile DeFelice behind her!

It doesn’t me. But it doesn’t make me like him any less, either.

In calling this to my attention, Jeff Mobley called it a “Hail Mary.” Which may be apt. Or is he “calling an audible?” I don’t know; I’m not a master of sports analogies.

Anyway, here’s the news before it happens:

Ted Cruz will announce Wednesday that Carly Fiorina will be his vice presidential nominee if he’s the Republican Party’s pick for president, according to three sources with knowledge of the announcement.

Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard CEO, has been among Cruz’s most loyal and active surrogates since she ended her own 2016 GOP presidential bid after a poor finish in New Hampshire in February.

The Cruz campaign deliberated over whether to pick Fiorina for the last two weeks, according to one person familiar with the move. It has polled the potential ticket, examining it for its prospective strengths and weaknesses.

The hope within the campaign is that Fiorina will help Cruz in California, which will award 172 delegates on June 7. Fiorina is scheduled to give the keynote address at this weekend’s California Republican Party convention, speaking hours after Cruz takes the stage.

The move comes at a time of growing desperation within Cruz circles. Some in the campaign worry that the Texas senator will lose Indiana on Tuesday and lose other key states in May, paving the way for a Trump nomination….

WSJ: ‘Politics Is Not a Crime’

I’m sharing this for the headline as much as anything else.

When I saw that former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was arguing before the Supreme Court that he “had engaged in nothing more than politics as usual,” I thought, how sleazy can you get?

But then I saw the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal make the same argument, and this time I paid attention:

Bob McDonnell

Bob McDonnell

A jury convicted Mr. McDonnell in 2014 for taking more than $170,000 in gifts from a Richmond businessman who was also a family friend. The gifts included a $50,000 loan, $15,000 to finance their daughter’s wedding, fancy dresses, a Rolex watch and vacations. Let us stipulate that this is reckless and sleazy, and that the businessman hoped the Governor would take actions to promote his diet-supplement business.

The legal problem is that Mr. McDonnell never provided much of any quo for the quid. Virginia law lets politicians accept gifts, and prosecutors never charged him with violating state law. They charged him under federal law with performing “official acts” to benefit the business, but none of those acts influenced policy or changed a government decision.

Mr. McDonnell was convicted for attending a lunch at the executive mansion where the businessman’s company gave out grants to universities, for attending a reception with the businessman, for asking an aide about research pertaining to the company, and for arranging a meeting with his staff and the man.

This stretches the bribery statutes to criminalize the normal transactions of politics…

So basically, yeah, taking all those gifts was sleazy, but the man did not commit a crime. And they make a good case for that position.

For the WSJ, this fits with their overall limited-government guiding principle; they see the federal prosecutors as overstepping. It also afforded them the excuse to include this subhed: “If Bob McDonnell is guilty of corruption, then so is Hillary Clinton.”

But the larger point is also worth making. Just because we find something about politics distasteful doesn’t mean it’s a crime.

Often, it isn’t even sleazy — in this case, taking the gifts stank to high heaven, but what McDonnell did for the giver was in no way corrupt. As the Journal notes:

Public officials routinely act as boosters for local businesses. They also frequently meet donors and introduce them to others. Citizens also have the First Amendment right to petition their elected officials. If arranging a meeting for a benefactor qualifies as corruption, prosecutors will be able to target any politician in the country.

And that would be wrong.

‘Ten Reasons Moderates Should Vote for Ted Cruz’ (if they are Republicans)

Jeff Mobley brings to our attention this interesting piece in National Review, “Ten Reasons Moderates Should Vote for Ted Cruz.” It’s by a guy named Dan McLaughlin.

Jeff makes these observations:

From reason nine of Ten Reasons Moderates Should Vote for Ted Cruz:

Ted Cruz loves the Constitution like a fat kid loves cake, like a dog loves a tennis ball, like Donald Trump loves the sound of his own name.

Reasons four and six were somewhat interesting. I hadn’t really thought about reason six before.

And it is an interesting piece, which raises some points many of us may not have thought about. In the end, though, for me, it fails to persuade. That’s because the list assumes, since you’re reading National Review, that you are a Republican and think like one. It’s not aimed at independents who just want the best (or least bad) candidate to win, regardless of party.

Here are the 10 reasons:

  • One: This Election Is Too Important to Punt.
  • Two: Only Ted Cruz Can Stop Donald Trump.

    McLaughlin

    McLaughlin

  • Three: Ted Cruz Might Beat Hillary Clinton; Donald Trump Won’t.
  • Four: Ted Cruz Knows What He’s Doing.
  • Five: The Republican Party Can Survive Losing with Ted Cruz.
  • Six: Ted Cruz Won’t Rest until He Gets His Shot.
  • Seven: You Can Live with Ted Cruz and His Supporters.
  • Eight: Ted Cruz Might Be the Man to Tame Trumpism.
  • Nine: Ted Cruz Loves the Constitution.
  • Ten: President Cruz Would Be More Responsible Than You Think.

Before you consider my objections to some of them, go read the explanations. Some of them are pretty good.

And here are my objections, based on my UnParty perspective:

  • One: All elections are too important to punt, but this one is no more so than others. This assertion is based in the Republican assumption that “Twelve years of Democratic control of the White House, with its expansive powers and massive cultural footprint, is intolerable.” No, it isn’t. It’s no worse than 12 years of GOP control.
  • Two: You know I disagree with the thinking here, but we’ve been over that again and again…
  • Three: Again, defeating Hillary Clinton is only a desired thing if the one defeating her would make a better president. Hillary is a mess, and with all her baggage is not someone that a reasonable, objective, nonpartisan person would actually want to become president. But she’s far more likely to govern from a pragmatic center, relatively free of unbending ideology, than Cruz. The Republicans only have one candidate left who would be a better deal as president, and that’s Kasich.
  • Five: I don’t care about the Republican Party surviving, not if it thinks its only choices are Trump and Cruz.
  • Seven: Basically, the argument here is We Republicans are used to dealing with people like Cruz supporters, so it won’t be so painful. Speak for yourselves, GOP.
  • Eight: The argument here is that Trump and Cruz have enough in common that Cruz could take Trumpism and channel it for good. The trouble is, their areas of agreement are some of the worst things about both of them. Dealbreaker after dealbreaker, ladies.
  • Nine: Yes, he does love the Constitution, and at least knows a lot about it, which distinguishes him sharply from Trump. I love the Constitution, too. But I noticed something a number of years back: Political candidates who go on and on and on and on about the Constitution quite frequently have some eccentric ideas about that same document. They see unconstitutionality everywhere they look. But folks, most political disagreement isn’t between the constitutional and the unconstitutional; it’s between options that represent different ways to go within the framework of constitutionality.
  • Ten: Yeah… tell me another one.

Anyway, as you can see from all that typing I just did, at least the piece made me think. Maybe it will do the same for you…

Other lawmakers think solicitor should probe RCRC

BRP-Prk10

Bluff Road Park, one of the facilities overseen by RCRC.

This is an interesting wrinkle:

Four members of the Richland County legislative delegation now are asking Sheriff Leon Lott to turn over an investigation of the Richland County Recreation Commission to 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson.

In a letter sent Friday to Lott, Sen. John Scott, Sen. Darrell Jackson, Rep. Jimmy Bales and Rep. Christopher Hart ask Lott to engage the Solicitor’s Office in investigating any possible criminal activities of the legislative-controlled Recreation Commission….

Two weeks ago, Sen. Joel Lourie, Rep. Beth Bernstein and Rep. James Smith, asked the sheriff’s department to investigate the commission in light of further recent reports of possible criminal activity.

“We think it is a more appropriate channel” to have the solicitor investigate, Jackson told The State. “Our goal is just to get down to the bottom of this. If something criminal has happened, then we need to take action. … If there are no criminal activities, then we hope we will put this to rest.”…

So… what’s that about? Why the solicitor instead of Lott? I hope it’s not just as simple as a superficial analysis would suggest. This matter is rife with racial tension — until now, you’ve had white officials seeking an investigation of black officials. Is it meaningful that three white lawmakers sought for the white sheriff to investigate, while three black lawmakers and one white one want the black solicitor to be in charge?

Perhaps, in the minds of some, both white and black.

One thing I’m sure of: Anyone who would accuse Lourie, Smith, Bernstein or Lott of racism would be light years off base – and I can’t see Jackson, et al., doing that. So what’s the real reason for the other four lawmakers choosing this other course?

The story doesn’t mention, by the way, where the four stepping up on the issue today would back the call by Lourie, Smith and Bernstein to turn the commission over to county council — which is the most obvious reform measure from a legislative perspective…

Open Thread for Monday, April 25, 2016

Several interesting items out there that I’ve run out of time today to turn into separate posts:

  1. Roof friend Meek to plead guilty to federal charges — I still find myself wondering, based on what has been reported, why the feds bothered with Meek — did they really think there was a realistic chance the slaughter could have been prevented by him? I suspect it was mostly about having leverage over him when it comes time to prosecute Roof.
  2. Cruz and Kasich team up to try to stop Trump — Fascinating. And, I suppose, it’s a good thing. Although it does have its Orwellian aspect. Cruz was going around acting like it’s a personal affront that Kasich was still running, and now he’s is all like, Oceania was always allied with Eurasia…
  3. Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Tom Brady, Says He Must Serve Suspension — REALLY? People are still talking about this? An actual, literal federal case about whether a football was sufficiently inflated?
  4. Obama outlines plans to expand U.S. Special Operations forces in Syria — Obama is SO intent on not repeating our experience in Iraq. I think he’s safe on that point. This gradual escalation of the involvement of “advisers” feels a lot more like Vietnam… By the way, you may also be interested in reading this recent piece by the editorial page editor of The Washington Post (because editorial page editors are always right), headlined “Obama destroyed Syrians’ ‘glimmer of hope’ that America would intervene“…
  5. Cleveland To Pay $6 Million To Settle Tamir Rice Lawsuit — I heard an interesting observation on the radio this afternoon. Some note that in settlements regarding Walter Scott in North Charleston, Eric Garner in New York and a couple of other cases, the amounts were also about $6 million. Leaving the person on the radio to observe that $6 million seems to be the “going rate” for the wrongful death of a black man — on in the Cleveland case, a 12-year-old boy…

Check out the often chilling ‘Look Who’s Back’

Just wanted to bring to your attention a fascinating dark comedy that recently made its appearance on Netflix, in case you haven’t seen it already.Er_ist_wieder_da_(book_cover)

In English, it’s called “Look Who’s Back.” But it’s a German film, and the original name is “Er ist wieder da.” It’s based on a satirical novel of the same name. Here’s the premise…

One day in the present, Adolph Hitler wakes up, disoriented, in a park located on the site of the Führerbunker. He meets up with a desperate man who has just lost his job at a TV network, who uses the Führer to turn his fortunes around. Subsequently, Hitler becomes a huge draw on a popular show called, “Whoa, dude!”

The idea is that no one knows this is actually Adolph Hitler. People think he’s a brilliantly ironic comedian or method actor (since he never drops out of character). They love him. And many come to love him for the wrong reasons.

SPOILER ALERT!

What makes this interesting is that it punctures our smug assumptions that we moderns are so much better than those awful people who live in the past. Two of the most chilling moments:

  • Hitler is delighted by many aspects of modern life. He particularly is drawn to the Web, especially because anyone can make use of it, without editors or other conventional controls being in the way. When he learns that no one ultimately controls Wikipedia, he is delighted. He sees the opportunity that provides.
  • HUGE SPOILER ALERT: Repeatedly, the Führer runs into everyday people on the street who are filled with indignation over the way nonEuropean immigrants are flooding into their country. Hitler encourages them in this, and declares, in the very last line of the film, “I can work with this.”

Because, you see, while everyone else thinks their using Hitler — to drive TV ratings and such — he is single-mindedly bent on rising to power again.

Oh, and don’t think this is just a German problem, given how well politicians with similar messages are faring in this country in this election year…

Samuelson tries to inject some reason into ‘gender pay gap’

From Robert Samuelson at The Washington Post:

Samuelson

Robert Samuelson

The gender pay gap is back in the news — and it may become a major issue in the presidential campaign. It seems an open-and-shut case of job discrimination. Women earn only 79 percent of men’s average hourly wages. Who could favor that? Actually, the comparison is bogus. A more accurate ratio, after adjusting for differences in gender employment patterns, is closer to 92 percent. Even the remaining gap of 8 percentage points may not stem fully from discrimination….

… if women were paid a fifth less for doing the same work as men, there would be pervasive discrimination. That’s how the pay gap is interpreted by many. They demand “equal pay for equal work.” But that’s not what the pay gap shows. It’s simply the ratio of women’s average hourly pay to men’s average hourly pay. The jobs in the comparison are not the same, and when these differences are taken into account, the ratio of women’s pay to men’s rises to almost 92 percent from 79 percent, say Blau and Kahn….

After all the adjustments, the remaining 8-percentage-point unexplained gender gap could reflect discrimination….

But the persisting gap could have other causes….

Go read the whole thing. I’ve given you about as much as I can under Fair Use rules. (I think. Fair Use is open to interpretation.)

In any case, don’t expect the study Samuelson is writing about or anything else to modify the way Democrats speak about this. That 79 percent, and the assumption that it’s all about discrimination, is far too important to their whole “War on Women” meme to allow it to be sullied by considerations of reality.

Both parties like to trump up issues to generate outrage among their respective bases. This is a favorite among the Democrats.

Is there such a thing as ‘Men’s spring wardrobe must-haves’?

must have

I’m serious here. Unless one is naked and freezing — or naked and therefore in danger of a ruinous social faux pas — how could there be such a thing as a “wardrobe must-have?”

I speak particularly from the perspective of a man — since that’s who this come-on assumes must have these things — but the same would seem to apply to women as well.

What wardrobe item, nakedness on a cold day aside, is necessary, to the extent that one’s existence is threatened without it? Under certain circumstances, perhaps, a pressure suit or a Kevlar vest or a crash helmet, but why must one have, for instance, chinos — or a light jacket, a button-down shirt, loafers or athletic shoes (those being the items specified in the email)?

I have no idea.

2016: Everyone dying, and not a single dragon in sight

In the last couple of days, two prominent columnists have reflected on what an annus horribilis 2016 is.

Alexandra Petri, as is her wont, addressed the mess with a lighter tone, although the proximate cause for her reflections was rather grim:

I think 2016 has jumped the shark.

All the plot arcs revolve around this weird, surreal election whose central character is Donald Trump, a real estate developer who speaks at a third-grade level and is obsessed with his hands. I don’t buy this at all. If I wanted to obsess over the travails of a flawed male antihero, I have the rest of TV.petri

But what really pushes this year over the edge are the gratuitous deaths. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Merle Haggard. Zaha Hadid. 2016 is slowly killing off everyone we were actually rooting for, the people who gladdened us with their songs or their performances or their architecture. Please, no, 2016. You’re not “Game of Thrones.” I don’t want to watch everyone I love die, but if I do, there had better at least be dragons. But I don’t see a single danged dragon.

And now Prince, too….

Peggy Noonan was more depressing, far less entertaining:

Have you had your 2016 Moment? I think you probably have, or will.

The Moment is that sliver of time in which you fully realize something epochal is happening in politics, that there has never been a presidential year like 2016, and suddenly you are aware of it in a new, true and personal way. It tends to involve a poignant sense of dislocation, a knowledge that our politics have changed and won’t be going back.renocol_PeggyNoonan

We’ve had a lot to absorb—the breaking of a party, the rise of an outlandish outsider; a lurch to the left in the other party, the popular rise of a socialist. Alongside that, the enduring power of a candidate even her most ardent supporters accept as corrupt. Add the lowering of standards, the feeling of no options, the coarsening, and all the new estrangements.

The Moment is when it got to you, or when it fully came through….

Insight into our modern polarization over guns

The Wall Street Journal today published an excerpt from a interesting-sounding book called The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture, by Pamela Haag.

After asserting that in the early part of our history, guns were not so much romanticized as seen as tools that a lot of people needed, the account gets to the point when marketing came into play:

BN-NR025_guns_JV_20160421123914Though some Americans always loved their Winchesters and Colts, many others saw guns as dowdy, practical tools. They would shop for them by perusing advertisements in farm-focused periodicals like the American Agriculturalist or the Rural New Yorker.

As the frontier was settled and U.S. cities grew, fewer Americans even needed guns as tools. By the turn of the 20th century, the industry had embraced the emerging science of marketing. Gun companies began thinking about how to create new demand for their products. In this respect, their business was no different from the stove or soap business.

Having started with customers who needed guns but didn’t especially love them, the industry now focused on those who loved guns but didn’t especially need them. In the late 1800s, gun companies were innovators in advertising, among the first merchandisers to make extensive use of chromolithography, an early technique for producing multicolored print. Their calendars and other promotional materials were works of art, depicting exciting scenes in which gunmen faced off with bandits or beasts….

I like that bit about how “the industry now focused on those who loved guns but didn’t especially need them,” which helped encourage many people’s emotional attachment to these items.

The piece concludes:

Gun-industry advertisements began to invoke the “natural instinct” to own a gun or a “real boy’s” yearning for one. A 1920 ad in Literary Digest neatly summarized this spirit: “You know [your son] wants a gun. But you don’t know how much he wants it. He can’t tell you. It’s beyond words.” Gun marketing had moved from describing how guns work to describing how guns make their owners feel.

This period, before the outbreak of World War I, saw the birth of today’s American gun culture. Within a few decades, as guns became more prominent in criminal activity and suicides, an antigun culture also began to rise. Many Americans recoiled from these new forms of everyday violence, even as others increasingly cherished their firearms and the personal meaning they found in them. The U.S. was on a slow spiral toward the modern, polarized politics of guns.

And here we are, a nation split between people who are appalled by the existence of guns and others who would rather die than relinquish them.

 

Obama: ‘Brexit’ would not make Special Relationship closer

Prince_of_Wales-5

Conference leaders during Church services on the after deck of HMS Prince of Wales, in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, during the Atlantic Charter Conference. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (left) and Prime Minister Winston Churchill are seated in the foreground. Standing directly behind them are Admiral Ernest J. King, USN; General George C. Marshall, U.S. Army; General Sir John Dill, British Army; Admiral Harold R. Stark, USN; and Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, RN. At far left is Harry Hopkins, talking with W. Averell Harriman.

I kind of go back and forth on the whole “Should Britain exit the E.U.?” thing:

  • I’m generally not for nations or federations splitting up, especially not for nationalistic (in the racial or cultural sense) reasons. Balkanization is bad. I’m against secession whether practiced by the Confederacy or Quebec separatists. I make an exception for the USSR.
  • On the other hand, British culture is so awesome! From Shakespeare to the Beatles, Jane Austen to Nick Hornby, Monty Python to Douglas Adams, King Arthur to QEII, the guy who wrote “Greensleeves” to Elvis Costello, Beau Brummel to Carnaby Street, Jack Aubrey to Arthur Dent, James Bond to George Smiley, I want to see Britain hang onto everything that makes it special and unique, and I don’t want a bit of it to be watered down.
  • The E.U. makes for a strong trading partner for the United States, when it’s not having eruptions in Greece and such.

    Stack of British one pound coins

    No coin is sounder than a pound.

  • I’m deeply gratified that the Brits didn’t go to the Euro. I’m still not thrilled that they decimalised the pound. It was disappointing, when I was there, not to hear people refer to shillings and crowns and such. But every time I held a pound or two-pound coin, I fully understood the phrase “sound as a…” That is some seriously solid, dependable-feeling money.

And so forth.

I found myself swinging back and forth today, with President Obama visiting London and backing up David Cameron’s position of maintaining the union.

For instance, I find the idea that maybe we could deepen the Special Relationship by having special bilateral trade deals, just between us and our Mum Country.

But Obama threw cold water on that:

The UK would be at the back of the queue for a trade deal with the US if Britain voted to leave the EU, Barack Obama has said.

The US president said a trade agreement would not happen any time soon in the event of Britain leaving because it was better to strike a transatlantic deal with Europe as a whole….

Which made me think, it’s great you’re helping the PM out and all. As you say, that’s what friends do. But really? We wouldn’t negotiate favorable trade terms with our closest friend in the world if she stood alone?

It’s almost enough to make you think Boris Johnson is onto something when he suggests that Obama’s Kenyan heritage makes him a less-than-enthusiastic ally of the colonial power. I mean, really — American presidents don’t stiff-arm Great Britain (by doing such thing as sending Churchill’s bust back).

Almost.

In the end, I suppose, I think it’s best for our friends to hold France close, and Germany closer. After all, Europe hasn’t launched another World War since this alliance came together. Yet.

But my Anglophilia still causes me to go wobbly sometimes…

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom talk during the G8 Summit at the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom talk during the G8 Summit at the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 17, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)