Author Archives: Brad Warthen

Finally, we’re done with the stupid ‘debates’

kennedy nixon

Was there ever a time when presidential debates were useful?

Sure, we can go back and watch the Kennedy-Nixon debates, and mourn for a time when candidates stood there (or, as you see in the awkward photo above, sat there) and talked maturely and coherently about actual issues, and even showed signs of having a few brain cells between them. Halcyon days.

And yet, even those may have turned on such things as the fact that Kennedy was tanned and relaxed, while Nixon was not.

Which is idiotic.

Why do we have these things? So many people consider them to be critical. I don’t see why. They in no way measure skills that are relevant to being president of the United States. Presidents don’t operate in an environment in which people are throwing zingers at them and watching to see how they react.

Life in the Oval Office is the opposite. First, you have time — limited time, but time — to consider what you are going to say and do. Not only that, but you have a vast army of people to whom you can delegate the work of saying and doing — and of doing the research necessary to intelligently decide what to say and do. And those people defer to you. They’re there to do whatever you say, and they deal with you with tremendous respect. They’re not there to trip you up and see how well you recover, as though you were on a TV game show.

Sure, public speaking is an important and relevant skill. But that is tested and tested and tested with unbelievable repetition during a campaign. Debates add nothing to our ability to assess their speaking skills.

I’m not just talking about the extent to which these things have deteriorated intellectually since the days of JFK and Nixon (even if they were valuable then, they aren’t now). That startling decline would be reason enough to abandon them. Basically, they’ve been reduced to something that only has value as fodder for SNL skits. Or rather, it would have such value if SNL had any writers who possessed a sense of humor. (Go back and watch this one if you want to see the potential; there’s been nothing as good since. Yeah, I know I refer to that one a lot. That’s because it was really funny. To see the opposite, watch anything from this season.)

I just wonder whether they were ever useful, even in the Quemoy and Matsu days.

Anyway, they’ve been astoundingly tedious and trying in this round — from the first one in which Kamala Harris nearly scuttled her chance to get on the ticket (fortunately for her, Joe is more forgiving than I am) to last night, when the president of the United States hurled a bunch of attacks that were unintelligible to anyone who doesn’t watch Fox News.

(The amazing thing is that many people today are remarking on how very well Trump did. Which would be astounding to anyone — especially a time traveler from, say, 1960, but really anyone — who hadn’t seen the raving insanity of the previous event. Basically, he said the usual stupid stuff in a more normal tone of voice. And for him, this was progress.)

Yes, it’s finally over. No more crowd of nobodies taking a wild shot at the Democratic nomination and trying to attract attention. No more listening to Trump rant while everyone waits with eagerness to pounce on any imperfection, any at all, from a lifelong stutterer.

If you want to examine Joe Biden’s words, examine these, and vote accordingly:

you know who I am. You know who he is, you know his character, you know my character, you know our reputations for honor and telling the truth. I am anxious to have this race. I’m anxious to see this take place. I am … The character of the country is on the ballot. Our character’s on the ballot, look at us closely.

We can now get on with the election. There are 11 days left….

debates over

We have to elect Joe, if only for these 545 children

Back during the 2018 campaign, I used to say I’d be voting for, and working for, James and Mandy if only for one thing: their promise to expand Medicaid. There were so many other reasons, but that alone would have been enough.

In this election, I can say something similar. Discount everything else… withholding military aid appropriated by Congress to pressure an ally into serving his personal political advantage; talking about “very fine people on both sides;” forcing protesters out of the park so he could stage an amazingly stupid and pointless photo op; firing people who did their duty by testifying truthfully against him; “shithole countries;” getting his crooked friends off the hook with the law; stiff-arming allies and having “love” affairs with tyrants; 220,000 dead from the pandemic… obviously, I could list hundreds of utterly horrific, wildly abnormal things he has done to degrade this country and damage its ideals and interests.

But we would have to do everything we could to get him out of office, and replace him with Joe Biden, if all there was was this:

Advocates for immigrants say they still have not found the parents of 545 minors who were separated from their families starting three years ago during President Trump’s immigration crackdown at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The 545 children are among more than 1,500 who were separated from their parents as far back as July 1, 2017, and they include cases that were part of a pilot immigration program at the time and were not immediately disclosed to the U.S. District Judge who ordered the families reunited in June 2018, said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Lee Gelernt….

headline

Now I’m giving money. Not much, but technically money

filthy lucre

I mention this because to a lot of people, giving money is a big deal.

It’s not so much to me, because I don’t find money very interesting. Which is a big reason why I don’t have much of it. I’m less interested in lucre than I am in football.

It was a bigger deal to me to actually start choosing and endorsing candidates back in 1994, my first year in the editorial department. That took some serious rewiring of my head. And then getting the point of putting out yard signs for candidates, as I started doing in 2018. And when I went to work for James and Mandy that same year.

To me, saying “I support you” is a bigger thing than “Here’s some money.”

But I know that makes me kind of weird, so I’m telling y’all — so you can make of it what you will — that one night last month, I actually, deliberately made a financial contribution to a candidate, in response to this appeal:

So I went to the ActBlue link and gave.

Yeah, I know. Twenty dollars and twenty cents ain’t much. I wish I could give Mandy a lot more. But still, it was technically money, and therefore kind of a step for me.

And as long as we’re talking technically, I guess it wasn’t my first. Several days earlier, my wife had made a contribution to Jaime Harrison. She mentioned it so I’d know, because my name’s on the account. So I was on the books as a donor. Which I thought was great — I’d been thinking about making a contribution to Jaime, but as I tend to do with money, I had repeatedly forgotten about it. So I was a donor, and I didn’t even have to do anything (like fill out a form or something, which I hate with a passion). Which is awesome.

But technically… I had made a contribution earlier in the year, to Joe Biden. I had reached out to folks I knew on his campaign, back before the primary, to ask if they’d like a free ad on the blog. They said yes, so I filled out an in-kind form (see how much I love you, Joe?), and put up the ad. I liked seeing it there that I left it up for several awhile after the primary was over, but finally made myself remove it.

So I guess that was my first “financial contribution.”

I did it again a week or so ago. And reached out to Jaime Harrison’s campaign and did the same for him.  You can see both ads in the rail at right. (And I’d put one up for free for Mandy if I thought it would help her up in her district — I don’t know how many actual readers I have there.)

So I’ve just been giving like crazy to these campaigns. Sort of. And now you know…

 

Should I go ahead and vote? Have you?

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

A friend who voted today took this picture while waiting in the queue.

I’m starting to feel doubts. They may not affect my behavior, but I’m having them.

Y’all know how strongly I feel about the importance of turning out and voting with one’s neighbors (which is way communitarian), in person, on actual Election Day. It is to me a major, deeply meaningful ritual of life in America.

But… this is an extraordinary situation, is it not?

First, we have the most important election in my lifetime, one in which we will either save our republic by electing a normal, decent human being as our highest elected official, or drag the country — and the rest of the world, which has been holding its breath for four years waiting for us to fix this — down further and deeper into the mire, the utter degradation.

So, you know, I need to vote, and it needs to count.

Second, we’re in the strangest situation of my life, in which so much about normality has gone out the window. For instance, I may never again go to work at an office, or anywhere other than my home — which overthrows thousands of years of human social and economic behavior. And that’s just one piece of it. I mean, 220,000 Americans are dead from this thing, and it’s far, far from over.

So… maybe I should make an exception in this instance.

Up to now, I’ve held to my resolve to wait until Nov. 3. But each day, more friends and family members go out and vote early — or technically, vote “in-person absentee.”

Which on the one hand supports my plan, by taking pressure off and reducing crowds on the day of. But what if that day is still even more insane, and things break down? I’m pretty sure I’ll get to vote anyway, but what sort of societal breakdown will occur while we’re waiting for all the votes to be counted, and a clear winner to emerge and be accepted?

I dunno. What do y’all think?

For that matter, what do y’all do? What have you done already? Some of you have reported in, but what about everybody else? Who’s voted by mail? Who’s done the “in-person absentee” thing? Who’s waiting for Election Day?

And why?

I would find it helpful to know…

Wait! Lemme run get my notebook

hilton

Moving on from the painfully serious to complete nonsense…

I dunno about you, but I get the weirdest stuff in the mail. This is from my work mail, my ADCO address.

Who’s going to deliberately attend such an event? Who can’t wait to know Paris Hilton’s business tips? What sorts of questions might a participant ask? Do I have to be an heiress first? Is the sex tape really necessary? Do I have to start with Donald Trump’s modeling agency, or is there another route? (No, I didn’t just know all that stuff about the lady. I took a moment to look it up.)

I dunno. I need to get back to work. Yeah, I do have a bunch of serious posts I want to do, but I haven’t had time…

 

On the subject of these hearings today…

Barrett

I have a lot of my plate today, but in case y’all want to discuss the hearings going on today, here’s a place to do it.

I provide this with mixed feelings, since I believe any time spent on the explosively divisive issue of confirmation hearings takes away from what we should be talking about, which is the election three weeks from tomorrow.

This morning, my wife had the hearing playing on the radio, and I heard Lindsey Graham speak and then turn the floor over to the very last Democrat we should want to hear from right now, Dianne “Dogma” Feinstein. We turned it off shortly thereafter, thank goodness, because my wife had to do a Zoom call.

Look, folks, the latest poll shows Joe leading by 12 points — nationally, which of course doesn’t matter, although it’s encouraging. Here’s how I reacted:

That’s pretty much how I react to everything right now.

Every word spoken, every action taken from now on by people who want to save this country should be aimed at increasing the victory margin for Joe Biden — in the battleground states first, and then nationally as well. Even if we somehow know that Joe’s going to win — which we don’t — we should work like crazy to double and then triple his victory margin, because we so badly need for Trumpism to be resoundingly, undeniably rejected.

And I don’t see any way that anything said about this court nomination helps in that goal.

But yesterday, Clark Surratt asked me to comment on the Barrett matter, and I obliged, and now I’m going to turn that comment into a post, in case y’all want to talk about this. Which I hope you don’t.

Actually, I didn’t completely oblige Clark, because he said, “I wanted to get your opinion on whether the sub-group (or groups) under the Catholic banner that she belonged to should be grounds for questioning her qualifications for the court.”

Since I haven’t spent time thinking about that, I stepped past it. I’ll come back to it, though, after I share what I did say to Clark, which was the following:

I don’t know much about them, Clark.

As for Judge Barrett, what do I think of her? Not a lot one way or the other. She seems to me to be fairly well qualified, which is what matters. Just as I considered Merrick Garland to be qualified. I’m not a cheerleader for her, nor am I opposed to her being on the court, from what I’ve seen so far.

But then I haven’t studied her that closely. For me, the issue isn’t her. The issue is that I don’t want this supremely politically divisive fight happening right NOW. And I’m pretty furious at the scummy behavior on the parts of McConnell and our own Lindsey Graham that has brought us to this pass.

If McConnell hadn’t done the unforgivable thing he did in the Garland incident — and then reversed himself and then some when HIS priorities were on the line — I wouldn’t be AS upset about it. But this would still be a very unwelcome thing to be happening right now.

I’m very unhappy about this process starting tomorrow, for a lot of reasons. One of them is this: A story in the Post this morning about how Kamala Harris will be in the spotlight, thanks to her role in the Kavanaugh hearings.

Boy, do we not need that right now: Spectacularly divisive hearings in which Joe Biden’s running mate plays a starring role.

Oh, the partisans in the Democratic base might clap and cheer if Sen. Harris is at the forefront of intense grilling of this woman. Yes, partisans will be energized.

And at least as many partisans on the other side will be at least equally energized.

And as I keep saying: Things that divide us benefit Trump. This is why he is always as divisive as possible.

Joe is the antidote to what’s tearing our country apart. But it will be harder to motivate people to vote for that antidote if his running mate is seen as being in the forefront of the thing dividing us.

That’s ONE way this situation is dangerous to the country. There are loads of them out there, most of which I can’t possibly anticipate at this point.

She is going to be confirmed, barring something so far unforeseen. All I can hope for now is that the process will be as calm and quick as possible, and we can put it behind us and be thinking about other things by Election Day.

But with only three weeks left, that is going to be tough…

That’s what I said last night.

But now that I read Clark’s question again, I realize he wasn’t asking what I thought of her affiliations — which is the way I answered, or didn’t answer, him (since I didn’t have any thoughts about them). He was asking whether those affiliations “should be grounds for questioning her qualifications.”

And my answer to that is “No.”

In fact, I hope the hearings don’t go within miles of her religious affiliations. Got that, Sen. “Dogma?” Please, please, please don’t do or say anything that starts Trumps yammering again about how Biden and the Democrats want to “hurt God.” It’s stupid and outrageous, but it stirs up some people, and those people are likely to vote for him.

Anyway, the questions should be about her qualifications, period. Not her religious beliefs or associations. Not her thoughts on the ACA (folks, that’s for Joe to talk about on the stump — we are not adjudicating the ACA in that hearing room today), or Roe, or anything else. The purpose is not to judge her on the judgments she may or not render from the bench.

Judicial philosophy? Sure, OK. Talk originalism or whatever, as long as you stay away from particular cases. But really, the best thing you can do is show that this process is performing its constitutional duty by checking to make sure this lady is prepared to do this job. And, I’m about as sure as I can be, the Senate is going to decide in the end that she is. Keep that in mind, and please don’t do anything stupid and futile to wreck Joe Biden’s chances.

Because that’s what matters.

Thank you.

Let’s talk about ‘real Catholics’

Back in the middle of last month, I tweeted this about a group that was planning to spend millions trying to prevent the election of our second Catholic president:

That led to a somewhat extended discussion with Chad Connelly, former chairman of the Republican Party in South Carolina and founder of Faith Wins, a group that aims to engage Christians in the public arena. I’m not sure of Chad’s denominational beliefs, but he seems to have a sharply defined idea of what we Catholics are supposed to believe. It has to do with one issue — actually, one monolithic aspect of one issue. Guess which one:

The Catholic Church still condemns abortion though right, so it makes sense the church and Christian leaders within would denounce Biden’s 47 year history & consistency of being okay with killing babies? I’d hope any catholic group would work against his policies.

My first response was: “Chad, that’s right. Our opposition to abortion is one of many, many important teachings of the church. So yes, many people grab onto that one in order to allow themselves to ignore all the ways Trump ignores and violates other profoundly fundamental teachings.”

If you want to read the full discussion, it’s attached to the tweet embedded above.

Anyway, readers of this blog know of my unwavering opposition to abortion. Some of you might even realize that’s one aspect of Cardinal Bernardin’s Seamless Garment — a fully-developed respect and reverence for human life, to which I also try to adhere. Among the many things the cardinal said and wrote about it:

Those who defend the right to life of the weakest among us must be equally visible in support of the quality of life of the powerless among us: the old and the young, the hungry and the homeless, the undocumented immigrant and the unemployed worker.

It’s kind of what, you know, the pope teaches:

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly…. We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in (the) world.

Is the pope Catholic? I tend to think so, because I’m Catholic, and that’s what I believe. (Other, far more authoritative, sources would also, I believe, support his being about as Catholic as one gets — hence the joke.) Being pro-life means caring about all sorts of things, all sorts of people — including, for instance, those who live in “shithole countries,” to quote the man whom some people inexplicably believe Catholics should follow. You know, the guy who said “I am pro-choice in every respect,” until it was to his advantage to do a 180.

Excuse me for using such language while discussion religion. But as jarring as that is, it helps express just how far Donald Trump is from being someone a Catholic, or any follower of Jesus Christ, should support. And indeed, half of Catholics voted against him in 2016. I hope more of us will this time.

But don’t just listen to me on this.

I loved this piece by Jeannie Gaffigan, wife of the comedian Jim Gaffigan. I’ve even started watching some of his standup on Netflix, for the first time, since reading it. But I’m more a fan of his wife. She’s the one I now follow on Twitter. Anyway, she just recently wrote this great column for the Jesuit magazine America headlined, “My loved ones told me ‘real’ Catholics vote for Trump. Here’s my response.” Some excerpts:

My critics seemed to conclude: If you don’t support Mr. Trump, you, Jeannie Gaffigan, mother of five, are a pro-abortion, “fake Catholic.”…

Jeannie Gaffigan

Jeannie Gaffigan

Here is my confession: I am a real Catholic, and I am not going to vote for Donald J. Trump….

My faith, family and Catholic education have given me the belief in the innate dignity and worth of every single human being. Human life is sacred, and all humans have equal value. Of course, this means it is wrong to intentionally take a human life under any circumstances, but it is also wrong to disregard human life through racism, unjust social and economic structures, providing inadequate access to health care, wantonly harming the environment, abusing or neglecting anyone—a child, a mother, a father, a grandparent, an immigrant. I am not sure how one thing that harms a life can be weighted more strongly than another, but based on the reaction to Jim’s now-infamous tweetstorm, it is abundantly clear that there is a segment of the Catholic Church that feels that the single issue of abortion, for lack of a better word, trumps every other evil…

Actually, I just want to quote the whole thing, but I don’t want the Jesuits coming after me for violating their copyright. So I urge you to go read the whole thing yourself. If you don’t read anything else about how real Catholics should approach this election, read this.

Oh, I can’t hold back. One more quote:

As much as some of my well-intended fellow Catholics will hate to hear this, it is crystal clear to me that the right thing to do is vote for Joe Biden. I believe it will be impossible to tackle these other issues with a president who is working overtime to sow division and hatred in this county through insults, intimidation, fear and blatant racism. This venomous “us against them” mentality is trickling down, seeping into our churches and poisoning our pulpits. To a culture of life, vipers are deadly….

Are you seeing a consistent theme (say, a consistent ethic of life) running through what she, the pope and Cardinal Bernardin said? Yeah, me too. And if you go read the Gospels, you’ll see Jesus was pretty much in keeping with this point of view as well. Or rather, they’re in keeping with him.

Let me finish with a column E.J. Dionne wrote in recent days. It was about something Pope Francis just wrote — and, as previously mentioned, the Pontiff is way Catholic.

It was headlined, “The pope’s unexpected election message.” You should read that, too.

We are not accustomed to a hearing from a pope, a month before Election Day, who criticizes “myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalism,” and castigates those who, through their actions, cast immigrants as “less worthy, less important, less human.”

E.J. Dionne

E.J. Dionne

Nor is it in our political playbook that a pope would call out an “every man for himself” worldview that “will rapidly degenerate into a free-for-all that would prove worse than any pandemic.”

Or say this: “The marketplace, by itself, cannot resolve every problem, however much we are asked to believe this dogma of neoliberal faith. Whatever the challenge, this impoverished and repetitive school of thought always offers the same recipes … the magic theories of ‘spillover’ or ‘trickle’ — without using the name.”

These are all Pope Francis’s words from his encyclical letter released Sunday, “Fratelli Tutti.” It translates literally “Brothers All,” words drawn from St. Francis of Assisi, although Francis was quick, in his first sentence, to address “brothers and sisters.” His purpose was to advance a worldview that stresses, as he put it, “the communitarian dimension of life” and values “fraternity and social friendship.”…

E.J. quickly adds that there is “no evidence that the pope is trying to influence the contest between President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden.” Basically, the Holy Father (that’s something we Catholics call the pope, you see) says stuff like this all the time.

Which kind of makes you wonder why some Catholics don’t listen when he does…

St_Patrick's_cathedral_NY

Today, South Carolina can be proud of one of our own

File photo: The last time I saw Beasley was at the State House in 2015. He's been busy since.

File photo: The last time I saw Beasley was at the State House in 2015. He’s been busy since, doing good work.

Today, we can be proud of one of our own: Former Gov. David Beasley, who runs the U.N.’s World Food Programme. Today, his program was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

This just cuts through so much nonsense.

The last time this prize was in the news, it was because a right-wing nut in Scandinavia was recommending Donald Trump for it. This week, we’re all wrapped up in whether or when there will be more presidential debates (I, for one, don’t ever need to see another one like the one we’ve seen), the plots of nutballs in Michigan, and who is or is not “likable” enough.

And now this, which reminds us what is important: Feeding starving people.

We used to yammer about nonsense when David was our governor, too. But now, he spends his days laboring in a higher calling than any in which I have ever engaged, and I expect y’all would say the same.

The challenge is immense, and in large part the Nobel committee gave the program this prize to call the world’s attention to it — and tell us to rise up and help. Here in America, we have amazingly idiotic arguments over wearing masks. David Beasley, who experienced COVID himself several months ago, gets up every morning and tries to meet the broader disaster this pandemic has visited upon the poor of the world:

Last month, the World Food Program’s executive director, David Beasley, warned of a wave of famine that could sweep the globe, brought on by a combination of conflict and the coronavirus pandemic. He said WFP needed $5 billion to prevent an estimated 30 million people dying from starvation. Beasley pointedly noted that there are 2,000 billionaires in the world, and asked them to help.

“Humanity is facing the greatest crisis any of us have seen in our lifetimes,” Beasley said.

Because of the coronavirus, the agency estimates that the number of people facing food insecurity will double, to roughly 270 million. Lockdowns and weakened economies are undermining a decades-long — and largely successful — effort to reduce extreme poverty. The World Bank projects poverty levels to rise for the first time since the 1990s….

“In the blink of an eye, a health crisis became an economic crisis, a food crisis, a housing crisis, a political crisis. Everything collided with everything else,” the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said in a recent report. “We’ve been set back about 25 years in about 25 weeks.”

Millions in Syria and Yemen depend each month on WFP for survival. The organization says that more than 800 million people are chronically hungry, most of them living in conflict-stricken areas….

We must join our former governor in meeting this crisis. How? I don’t know. For starters, of course, we can vote for leaders who don’t call the places where the starving live “shithole countries.” But as individuals, as a country, as a community of nations, we must do more than that…

Mali,  Koundougou village, Mopti region, 20 May 2018 The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, travelled to West Africa, where more than five million people in six countries of the Sahel region – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal - could go hungry this year.  “In the Sahel, low rainfall has hurt harvests and reduced fodder and water for livestock, making lives harder for people there. WFP is working actively to help, and I am looking forward to meeting with the leaders of Senegal, Mali and Niger to reinforce our commitment to support their response plans. Our work in this region also includes long-term programmes that help communities help themselves, and I am looking forward to meeting men, women and children who are participating in these efforts.”      WFP urgently requires US$165 million to meet the needs of 3.5 million people during the lean season.  WFP is also working with partners and national governments on plans to scale up resilience to create jobs for young people; rehabilitate land and restore ecosystems; and invest in health, nutrition and education for a sustainable future.  In the Photo: WFP Executive Director David Beasley warmly welcomed by the community in the village of Koundougou, where WFP provides humanitarian assistance to address urgent needs during lean season, along with resilience building activities for long-term food security. Photo: WFP/Cecilia Aspe

Beasley in Burkina Faso.

Open Thread for Thursday, October 8, 2020

From comments I saw, the most 'likable' was the fly.

From comments I saw, the most ‘likable’ was the fly on Pence’s head.

Told you I was going to do more of these. Here we go:

  1. High court slaps down McMaster on giving millions to private schools — This was the worst thing Henry McMaster has tried to do as governor — it’s right down there with the things he doesn’t do, like try to fix our roads — and it was nice to see the state Supremes say so unanimously. This time, the system worked
  2. Fly wins veep debate — I missed the beginning of this, and then missed a good bit more because I wasn’t what you’d call riveted. Congrats to both for being more civil than Trump. A low bar, of course. And is it civil to completely ignore time limits and refuse to shut up, but do it in such boring voice that people fall asleep and don’t notice? Someone should ask Miss Manners.
  3. The likability trap — Maybe this should be a separate post. Anyway, here’s one of the things that keeps me from being a feminist. Feminists believe there’s some “likability” standard that applies only to women. There isn’t. The fact that they keep saying there is makes me not like them. For instance, Donald Trump is the least likable S.O.B. (we can have a separate discussion later about the “B.”) in living history of American politics, which would be enough to keep me from voting for him for anything. We just don’t talk about it much because it’s such a bigger deal that he is both stupid and evil. Joe Biden is one of the most likable people ever to run for president, and it’s a real asset for him. Even though he doesn’t drink beer, you want to have one with him. We don’t know whether Mike Pence drinks beer, but we don’t care because we don’t want to have one with him. Although he’s less unlikable than Trump, we just don’t want to hang with him. Kamala Harris has many assets, but no, being likable isn’t one of them. But she wasn’t particularly unlikable last night, because she didn’t say stuff like “That little girl was me.” So have we got it all straight now? Have I mansplained it enough? Stop making me do this. I don’t, you know, like it.
  4. Trump pulls out of debate over plan to hold it virtually — Maybe he’s scared he can’t talk over everybody in that format. Or maybe he’s just scared, having seen polls after the first debate. Or maybe he suddenly wised up, realizing a COVID patient shouldn’t be debating… naaahhhh.

I’m tired of looking for stuff. You want to talk about something else, bring it up. I’m in enough trouble already with the “likability” thing…

Open Thread for Wednesday, October 7, 2020

balcony

With the election coming up and all, I should do more of these — even on a slow day like today:

  1. Trump’s erratic tweets on economic relief leave strategy unclear — Or, we could headline this one, Trump Yadda-Yadda. I think he must be somewhere around Barstow — the drugs are kicking in. You notice that we’re having a bit of a lull? Which is nice, after the crisis-every-day of last week. This is the lull between Trump’s helicopter ride back to the White House, and the upcoming one back to Walter Reed. But maybe not. I hope not. I want him healthy. I don’t want him having an excuse when he loses. The message of repudiation by America needs to be as clear as possible.
  2. Heading into second debate, race between Graham, Harrison now a toss up — Which is also nice, although I’ve about had enough debates. Can’t believe the veep debate is tonight. Dang. But I suppose this would be a good time to hear from y’all as to how you think Jaime and Lindsey did in their first debate, since I didn’t post about that. I thought Jaime did fine. Here’s how I think Lindsey did.
  3. Supremes say SC absentee voters must get witness signature — This is way old, but hey, The State led with it this morning as though it hadn’t happened way back on Monday. And we haven’t talked about it. Maybe we don’t need to. Let’s use this one as a departure point for anything you want to say about absentee voting, which opened with a bang this week.
  4. Stephen Miller gets COVID — I’m going to confess something here, so y’all can give me a hard time about it. Which I deserve. I was walking last night, listening to NPR on my earbuds, when I first heard this news. And for a split-second, I felt my face start to smile. I stopped it immediately, because I think that is inexcusable. I really believe the things Bret Stephens said in his column yesterday, “Wish a President Well Who Doesn’t Wish You Well.” That applies to Miller, too. Maybe if he didn’t look like a movie villain (specifically, a young Jonathan Banks). Or better yet, if he didn’t act like a movie villain. But those excuses are inadequate. I should not have felt that impulse.
  5. Islamic State ‘Beatles’ charged in US over hostages’ deaths — Just to say, this stuff is still out there. Our inward-looking insanity isn’t the only thing in the world. A quick point about this: Is it a weakness, in the sense of a flaw in the system, that it takes liberal democracies this long to get around to processing something like this? These monstrosities took place in 2014.
  6. Eddie Van Halen dies — Wow, now even the kids are dying. Yeah, I know, he was almost as old as I am. But the ’80s were when my kids were kids, so after my time. Anyway, I hate to see it.

NYT runs out of room for the people who are NOT sick

Tuesday chart

Yesterday morning I screenshot an interesting graphic from the NYT. It showed people in the White House who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and on the bottom line showed some people in the drama who, thankfully, were still officially OK — such as Joe Biden, Mike Pence, and so forth.

You can see that Monday-morning chart below.

Anyway, they’re still running the chart, but now it doesn’t have any room for well people. As you can see above. The new one has newer cases of infection, such as Stephen Miller and Adm. Charles W. Ray. I’m not sure why it says “And at least 8 others” when there was still room for three of them on the chart. Maybe the guy in chart with the graphic was having trouble keeping up.

To me, it’s sometimes helpful to see a chart. This is sort of one of those time. If you want to dig further, click on the chart above and go to the page where the movements — together, off and on — of these people are tracked over a number of days…

COVID chart

 

 

 

Now they just STEAL the signs

stolen

Remember when my Biden signs were vandalized, so I replaced one of them with a blue one I had in my garage?

Well, a few nights later, that one just disappeared, as you can see above. So I guess they’ve moved on to just stealing them.

So I went on Friday to state Democratic headquarters and picked up a couple of their Biden/Harris signs with the map of South Carolina. They’re not as nice as my old Biden signs, but they’re something.

I told the lady at the door what happened, and she asked me I needed two, or four? I said just two for now, but it was nice to know I could go back for more. I also picked up some Jaime Harrison bumper stickers while I was there. They were out of them at the Harrison HQ.

And I put them up Saturday. But I took them down last night before bed — and put them out again this morning. I don’t mind going downtown to get more, but if I can avoid it by taking them in at night, I will — if I can remember.

Other neighbors keep putting them up.

Other neighbors keep putting them up.

By the way, I saw my second Trump sign in my neighborhood yesterday. Between the first and second ones, of course, more Biden signs had gone up in my Republican precinct. I think there’s about eight Biden or Biden/Harrises — no, seven, because one house that had had them vandalized took all signs in a couple of days ago. Which is a shame.

Of course, while some Democratic signs are placed back away from the street — to make the vandals a little more reluctant to approach them — the two Trump signs are closer to the street, where they show up better.

And I guess what that tells us is that even Trump supporters understand that Biden supporters aren’t the sort to deface or steal other people’s signs… (WHOOPS! Had to correct myself on that!)

One of my new Bidens is in the distance. I also now have a Nikki Setzler sign.

One of my new Bidens is in the distance. I also now have a Nikki Setzler sign.

Well, he’s got it.

3D_medical_animation_corona_virus

Thought I’d better put up a post in case y’all want to discuss Trump (and his wife, and Hope Hicks, and who knows who else) having the coronavirus.

Joe said about all that really needs to be said:

But of course, a lot more will be said. And we’ll have a lot to think about. Some of the things I’ve thought include:

  • I really hope he doesn’t die. I hope that about anyone, of course, but such a private tragedy would in this case lead to a chaotic situation at a particularly chaotic moment for the country. I could probably write a couple of thousand words about the political possibilities, but I won’t. I’ll just hope and pray he gets better, and we can go ahead and have this election, and get a rational, sensible, decent person into the Oval Office.
  • At the same time, imagine what happens if he has one of those super-light “mild-cold” cases (as people around him, so far, are suggesting). This would confirm him in his “it’s no worse than the flu” carelessness, which would be bad for us all, and likely lead to a lot more people dying. As awful as it is to hope someone feels bad (and it is), other people’s lives depend on him realizing, for the first time, that this is a serious illness. So… I don’t know what to think or say along these lines. As for his wife, I hope she suffers as little as possible.
  • I’m glad Joe and his wife tested negative. Although you can’t really bet on negative tests. Fortunately, we know Joe will be careful, as always, not to infect others.
  • Of course, if Joe did get it, we’d know how it happened. It happened from you-know-who shouting at him across a stage for an hour and a half. Sure, they were technically “safe-distanced,” but since Joe is careful, when else has he been exposed like that?

Anyway, I’ll just stop now, and let y’all share your thoughts…

Did you see that ludicrous display last night? (Thoughts?)

chart

Major national newspapers — I’m thinking here of The Washington Post and The New York Times, since I subscribe to them and read them every day — have to go way out of their way to find opinion writers who will defend Donald Trump. No established, accomplished writer with a reputation — whether on the left or right — will do that, so they’ve had to dig.

For instance, the Post enlisted this guy who made news in 2016 when his little paper actually endorsed the guy. So they’ve been running columns by him ever since. And we’ve also gotten used to the Trumpist stylings of former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen. We sort of knew who he was before, but he’s gotten a lot more play since the disaster that befell our nation four years ago. The State, which is also desperate to find people who will say such things, has run him a good bit.

I had not heard of the Chris Buskirk guy who was the only person the NYT could find who might applaud Trump’s behavior last night — behavior that would cause a 4-year-old to be sent to stand in the corner in preschool. He is described as “the editor and publisher of the journal American Greatness and a contributing opinion writer.” That’s from the NYT; he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page or anything. Anyway, mission accomplished! They got somebody to occupy the right-hand side of that chart.

You’ll note that the only one of the NYT’s most prominent conservatives who participated — Ross Douthat — is over in the middle of the “Biden won” crowd. No actual thinking conservative can stand up for Trump’s increasingly more outrageous boorishness. You have to go hunting for relative unknowns. Preferably ones who are hungry, I would guess.

Anyway, I have nothing to add about that ludicrous display last night, except to thank Joe Biden for standing there for all that time rather than walking out — which is probably what I would have done, and which would not have helped my electoral chances.

I cannot believe there will be two more of these. There must be a way that our country can be spared that. As I’ve said so many times before, if only we could just vote today and have an end to all this!

If you want to know what I had to say when I was forcing myself to watch last night, here’s my Twitter feed.

Other than that, if you have thoughts to add, please go ahead…

ludicrous

Hey, this should be easy — no choices to make!

Several months ago, I was thinking my bumper stickers for my state representative Micah Caskey were in sad shape, and I needed some new ones. But then I thought, wait: I don’t think he has opposition (which would mean he probably wouldn’t be buying new ones this year). So I sent him a direct message to check:

Just realized you have no opposition this year (unless I missed something). That’s good, because I hate to see good reps be forced to waste effort and money fighting off gratuitous challenges. But dang — I was hoping to get a new bumper sticker…

But then I thought, if I think my rep’s doing a good job, why not say it publicly? Well, I know the reasons why not (see below), but I did it anyway — adapting that message into a public tweet.

And of course, I caught some criticism for it, as writers of opinion always do when they say something nice about somebody:

But I let that go, because it’s hard to fully explain on Twitter. But I was alluding to something that’s been a pet peeve of mine for many years.

The critic certainly had a strong point on his side — I’m just sorry he didn’t understand me.

His point is that far too often, incumbents have NO opposition. And many of them are not doing what a fair observer would call a great job. Some of them have no business in public office. Some are complete doofuses. Some are worse than that.

But year in and year out, they glide to reelection without anyone contesting it. And that’s a profound shame. That’s what my critic was talking about.

What I was motivated by was this: Far too often, it seems the only people who DO get opposition are the best people in office. Often (although not so much in Micah’s case — he’s just a good rep without this cause), it’s because of the very thing that makes them good public servants: They represent a district that isn’t drawn to be safe for one party or the other, so they work hard to serve all their constituents. The lack of such districts, by the way, is one of the main reasons the quality of representation has declined.

Anyway, that dynamic causes them to get opposition. Sometimes, it’s as simple as someone in the other party seeing an opportunity because the district is fairly drawn. Other times — and I really hate this with a passion — they have zip to offer, but see the district as drawn more for THEIR party than the other, and think nothing of opposing the good rep just because it’s doable.

Worst of all — although this mainly applies to primaries — they draw opposition because they do such a great job of representing everybody, and the partisan extremists hate that, and run to the far right or (in other parts of the country) left of them, in partisans’ never-ending quest to destroy representative democracy.

Sometimes, good reps draw good opposition. And that can be inspiring, as you get to watch something that should happen ALL the time. Although it tends to make me think: You’re running against a good public servant. Why doesn’t someone like you run against the unopposed idiot in the NEXT district?

In any case, though, such an embarrassment of riches rarely occurs. Usually, the people deciding to take a chance against good reps have little or nothing to offer, and it causes me to hold my breath hoping they don’t win anyway.

So that’s what I meant, and couldn’t say in 280 characters in response to my critic. But as I said, he had a point. And that point is illustrated dramatically by the sample ballot I just pulled up for Nov. 3. Yep, we’ve got some drama going on at the top of the ballot, with wonderful challengers going up against horrendous incumbents — Biden against Trump, Harrison against Graham…

But down at the bottom, it’s pretty sad. Of course, I should make two points about this. First, some of these offices should not be elective offices. It’s ridiculous to ask voters to decide who, say, the coroner is — or even more absurdly, whether that functionary should be a Democrat or a Republican. Second, there’s no opposition in the general because the real election in Lexington County was held in June.

In any case, it’s still sad…

no choices

 

 

 

had no general election opposition

Look at what they did to my Biden signs

defaced 1

As you know, I very proudly put out my campaign signs on Labor Day. I live on a corner at the highest point on a long residential street, so I put one set on each street.

Since signs and bumper stickers are new to me — I just started this in the 2018 election — I put thought into it. First and foremost, they were carefully selected to express support for:

  • Joe Biden — Because I’m one of the people who can’t wait for the chance to get out and save our country on Nov. 3. And of course, as you know, I believe Joe is the perfect candidate to do this. He was the only one of the multitude that put up their hands who is a survivor, an emblem, of the country we were before we went mad — a decent, thoughtful, fair-minded human being who knows all about how to be better than what we see around this. A guy who deeply cares about every American he meets, and will do his best to serve us all. A guy who had done more than enough for his country and deserved to kick back in retirement. But he saw what happened at Charlottesville, and what the malevolent ignoramus in the White House said about it, and that was it. He stepped up.
  • Jaime Harrison — He’s the other one I’m willing to do this for because of two factors: One, Lindsey Graham has to go. As you know, I’ve respected and praised Graham for years, for the intelligence and courage he has displayed over the years, doing his best to play a constructive and unifying role on some of our most divisive issues, such as immigration and judicial selection. For years, he was the kind of senator we need — just as Joe always was. Now, he has lost his character, his courage and his mind. No, he hasn’t lost them — he’s thrown them away, contemptuously. He is opposed by a young man I’ve respected and praised in the few years I’ve known him. Someone I believe would be the kind of senator Graham once was.

Anyway, that’s what those signs represent. And a lot more, of course. In fact, I’ve often thought about putting a third sign up that says, “To understand what these signs mean, read my blog,” with the URL for a relevant post.

I’ve told you about some of my neighbors who have put up the same or similar signs in their yards. And I noticed something I hadn’t seen before: They had placed them far from the road, near their houses. I didn’t talk to them about it, but this indicated to me that they worried about having the signs defaced or destroyed by hostile passersby.

They were less 'polite' on this side.

They were less ‘polite’ on this side.

But I didn’t do that. Not because I’m bold or defiant or anything, but because I wanted them to be seen as easily as possible, from the most advantageous angles. And I’ve worked in a campaign, so my attitude is that you can always get more signs.

So now I’m going to some more signs now, after what they did last night to mine. Or rather, to my Biden signs. They left the ones for Jaime untouched. Interesting. Why on Earth would anyone hate Joe Biden — one of the most likable people on the planet — enough to do this? And why spare Jaime, who is running in essentially the same cause — saving the country from people like Trump and Graham?

Anyway, it means that this time I only have to replace two signs. Next time, maybe it will be more. I’ll keep doing that until I can’t get anymore signs. I suppose I’ll be stuck with some Biden/Harris replacement, as the signs I was using from the primary were rarer. Which I regret, because for me it’s about Joe. Nothing in particular against Kamala; she just wouldn’t have been my first choice, and Joe was my guy, 100 percent, from the start. As I say, I’m particular about the signs I put up — I have to be really, REALLY on board.

But I’ll put up what I can get, if it supports Joe.

As you can see below, I’ve already replaced one of them, with the last primary sign I had in the garage. I’ll get more.

I had to clean some dust off this one from the garage, but I put it up.

I had to clean some dust off this one from the garage, but I put it up.

Some really worthwhile recent podcasts

podcast

The news I just got on my phone reminds me of something I meant to share a few days back.

The news is that a cop — actually, now former cop, Brett Hankison — has been indicted in the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

And it reminds me of some podcasts of “The Daily” that I meant to recommend earlier, but forgot.

Most directly, it reminds me of the two-part series the NYT podcast did on “The Killing of Breonna Taylor” on Sept. 9 and 10. Here’s the first part, and here’s the second.

It was really educational. It started with the recording of an incident that happened long before Ms. Taylor’s death, which actually led to the changes in Louisville police procedures that eventually led to the raid that killed her.

It provided a reality-based understanding of what happened. It was horrific, but also contained all the complex texture of real life. You had the fact that this kind of policing was actually based on “reforms” from what had gone before. You were appalled at the bad intel upon which the raid was based. You were as shocked as the cops were when it turned out her boyfriend (who they didn’t know was there) had a gun, and he fired it and nearly killed the first cop in the door by hitting him in the femoral artery. You felt the fear that caused the boyfriend to shoot, and the cops’ panic as they turned their attention from their initial purpose to getting an ambulance to the scene.

And you mourned the shocking tragedy of this young woman’s unnecessary death.

And, when Hankison was indicted today, you had the background to think, “Well, if one person was going to be indicted, he was the one.” (That is, if he’s the one — and the sketchy reports I’m reading indicate he was — who, in the podcast, was described as stepping away from the apartment entrance during the confusion and firing wildly at the apartment and a neighboring apartment, through the walls and windows. That guy was fired back in June, if my memory serves.)

The podcast gave insights that exceed the simplicity of the black-and-white demands of protesters, or of idiot presidents who criticize those who protest.

Anyway, I recommend it, if you can get past the paywall (I’m not sure how that works with podcasts; I’m a subscriber).

And I also recommend one from a couple of days earlier, which was less depressing — even uplifting — but also ultimately distressing.

It was called “Who Replaces Me?” It was the story, told in his own words, of a veteran black cop from Flint, Mich. You learn of his background as a kid who grew up with a father in prison, determined to be whatever his father was not. You hear about him becoming a cop, and amazing his trainers out on patrol, because on every call, he knows and understands the people on the scene.

You hear about him being the guy who intervened when white cops weren’t giving any basic human consideration to black suspects. You hear the stories of when he has “given out his cellphone number, driven students to prom and provided food and money to those who were hungry.” You hear his quiet pride at the service he provides to his community.

And then you hear of his dismay and disillusionment at such events as the killing of George Floyd. It’s the voice of a guy who finds himself contemplating retirement, but wondering, “Who Replaces Me?”

It’s the story of a hero — the real kind, not the cartoon sort. The kind of guy whose narrative doesn’t fit easily into the narratives of left or right.

Anyway, if you can, I recommend listening to that, too…

 

 

 

Sounds like Joe gave a great speech yesterday

Joe speech

I haven’t had time to go back and listen to Joe’s whole speech yet — although I’ve heard highlights — but I’m eager to do so when I get caught up.

In the meantime, I thought I’d bring your attention to the very encouraging Jennifer Rubin column that brought his address to my attention, which begins, “Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gave his most compelling speech of the campaign Sunday, blowing away the notion that the Republicans’ effort to jam through a confirmation to fill the seat held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in any fashion a plus for the right….”

As you know, I was pretty depressed at Justice Ginsburg’s untimely death Friday — not because I knew her personally or anything, but because of the effect it was likely to have on the election.

The crux to saving this nation by electing Joe Biden to replace Donald Trump is getting everyone to focus on the fact that Joe represents, is all about, the things that unite us as Americans. And Donald Trump lives to divide us, as he sees dividing us further as his one chance to hold onto power.

And nothing in modern American political life is more divisive than a fight over a Supreme Court opening.

But reading this piece was very encouraging, because Ms. Rubin was essentially saying, “Have more faith in Joe, and in his ability to appeal to our better angels.”

Sure, a lot of people — like me — were out working in the yard, or going to Mass (or, as in my case, both — I had some yard work left over from Saturday and had to get it done by 5:30 Mass) or whatever. So they didn’t catch the speech.

So I’m posting this to spread the word a bit more. I’m going to track down and listen to the whole thing when I get a little more caught up. In the meantime, I celebrate this passage, and urge you to check it out as well:

To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power, and I don’t believe the people of this nation will stand for it. President Trump has already made it clear this is about power. Pure and simple. … Action and reaction. Anger and more anger. Sorrow and frustration at the way things are in this country now politically. That’s the cycle that Republican senators will continue to perpetuate if they go down this dangerous path they have put us on.

We need to de-escalate — not escalate. That’s why I appeal to those few Senate Republicans — the handful who will really decide what happens. Please, follow your conscience. Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created. Don’t go there. Uphold your constitutional duty — your conscience. Let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country.