Category Archives: Blogosphere

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.

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…

Corporate America leaps to associate itself with Prince


Donning my ADCO hat for a moment…

In the brave new world of social media, some pretty big brands — that in the past would have spent months deciding how to present themselves — sometimes make hasty decisions with their identities.

Sometimes their instincts are sound. Sometimes, not so much.

In any case, here’s how some brands positioned themselves upon the news of the passing of the artist formerly, and latterly, known as Prince:

Thank Mashable for calling our attention to these efforts.

Open Thread for Monday, April 18, 2016


Flag of Ecuador. I used to be able to sing the national anthem, but it’s been awhile.

Let me just toss out a few topics before I go give platelets:

  1. Ecuador quake death toll rises to 350 — This might not hit home for you, but I lived there for the longest period that I lived anywhere in my peripatetic childhood. Small quakes that would move furniture in our house were a regular part of life.
  2. Dow Closes Above 18000 for First Time Since July — And if that floats your boat, I’m happy for you.
  3. Oil Slips After Output Deal Fails — Which is both good and bad news. Good because I really don’t want to go back to paying more for gas, and it’s been creeping up lately. Taking the long view, it’s bad from an Energy Party perspective. You know who is the world’s largest producer now? Russia. Because it costs a lot less to produce a barrel there than it does here.
  4. Supreme Court Sharply Divided on Obama Plan for Immigrants — Again, it would be nice to have nine justices!
  5. A cold-eyed view of allies has left Obama with few overseas friends — Which is not good, geopolitically speaking.

Open Thread for Tuesday, April 12, 2016


I hope Breakthrough Initiatives doesn’t mind my using this image of a “Starchip” on its way to another star system.

Once, I had to come up with a front page every day whether there was news or not. Now, if there really isn’t enough front-worthy news out there, I can do an Open Thread instead. It’s liberating. No need to find a lede! Nothing even has to be important!…

  1. Forget Starships: New Proposal Would Use ‘Starchips’ To Visit Alpha Centauri — This NPR story is very cool. It seems according to Stephen Hawking this other guy, before too much longer we should be able to send tiny, postage-stamp sized probes to other star systems, using sails (check it out, Brian) and lasers. And they’d get there in about 20 years. We’d send bunches of them, to make sure some made it. Interestingly, there are several different artists’ conceptions of what this craft would look like, such as this one.
  2. Despite Party Pleas, Ryan Rules Out Presidential Bid — That’s OK, I wasn’t holding my breath for this anyway. Besides, I think he’s doing a passable job as speaker thus far. Let him stick to that — if, you know, the GOP can hang onto the House when their nominee is Trump or Cruz.
  3. This white nationalist shoved a Trump protester. He may be the next David Duke. — Interesting piece on a guy who’s gone off the deep end.
  4. STIs may have driven ancient humans to monogamy, study says — Well, yeah… and maybe to drink as well. Because this was right about the time we invented beer. “STI,” by the way, is Brit for STD. This is from The Guardian.

Open Thread for Monday, April 11, 2016

Don’t quite feel up to a VFP today, but here are some possible topics:

  1. White officer gets probation in black driver’s shooting in Edgefield — They didn’t exactly throw the book at him; they just wafted a few pages in his general direction. The black driver in question was killed. This is kind of a weird outcome. One expects that either the cop would be cleared of wrongdoing, or receive a heavy penalty. This is odd. Oh, and guess what — we still haven’t seen the video.
  2. Bible makes list of ‘most-challenged’ books — Methinks the American Library Association is trying to drum up some sympathy from conservative quarters for its concerns about efforts to “ban” books. Where did Holy Writ rate? No. 6 — Four slots below Fifty Shades of Grey and four ahead of Two Boys Kissing.
  3. The fall of Edward Lin, the Navy officer accused of espionage and hiring a prostitute — Does the second charge sound kind of anticlimactic after espionage? Like, “We may not get him on the spy charges, but he’s a sailor, so everyone will believe the second one. Let’s also charge him with jaywalking while we’re at it…”
  4. Why I’m quitting the ‘Walking Dead’ franchise — I confess I gave up on it myself a couple of seasons back. Are you still watching it? Why? And don’t give me any spoilers. I especially don’t what to know if something bad happened to Daryl…
  5. Masters winner was a Gamecock, but not from USC — I had no idea that the Jacksonville State team also called itself the “Gamecocks.” I thought our Gamecocks were unique, for good reasons. The only other thing that interested me out of the Masters was this item from The Onion: “Jordan Spieth’s Family To Wait A Few Days Before Asking Him What The F__k Happened.”



FYI, Bobby Harrell is once again out there, in the public eye


This is certainly just coincidence, but as the struggle between Alan Wilson and David Pascoe has been in the news, I keep running into Bobby Harrell on Twitter.

There he is, popping up with some frequency, still using the @SpeakerHarrell handle, even though the content is purely business, and “Speaker” is something he will never be again.

It has seemed to me that this started just as the ongoing legislative investigation hit the front pages again, but his re-emergence on social media predates that a bit.

Harrell was absent from Twitter from 10 Sep 2014 to 14 Apr 2015, and after that Tweeted infrequently and with no apparent aim for several months — two Tweets in April, one in May, none again until September. But in December he launched his campaign, Tweeting 32 times, then 43 times in January and 43 again in February, rising to 45 in March.

The content ranges from the blandly seasonal…

… to the kind of content meant to position himself and his company as authoritative on insurance-related matters:

And no, I haven’t seen him weigh in on politics even once.

It’s interesting that he decided to use his own feed, his own identity (complete with “Speaker”), to promote the business — as opposed to having an employee Tweet via a feed branded more directly with the name of the business (which is the approach he takes on the Facebook page). Apparently, he’s decided the value of his name recognition outweighs other considerations.

No, I don’t have any particular editorial point to make here. I just thought these renewed sightings were interesting…

Your Virtual Front Page for Monday, April 4, 2016

A quick look at top stories this hour:

  1. Supreme Court rejects conservative challenge to ‘one person, one vote’ (WashPost) — For all of you who paid attention in school, this is what we used to call “one man, one vote.” So, way important. A side note: As long as the Court is willing to rule unanimously, as they did on this, I guess maybe replacing Scalia isn’t as urgent. Yes, my tongue is in my cheek, but it’s nice to see them not splitting into the liberal/conservative camps. Gives one hope and all that.
  2. The Panama Papers (WSJ) — These are generating a huge reaction elsewhere in the world — they’re chanting in the streets in Iceland demanding the resignation of their PM — but not making much of a splash here., except perhaps among the “feel the Bern,” “the whole world is rigged by billionaires” crowd.
  3. Database would track refugees in South Carolina if passed (The State) — Yeah, this is the same bill that would penalize sponsors for having done the Christian thing in helping desperate people find refuge — if any of them turn out to be bad guys. The ill will in that provision is just staggering.
  4. Princeton Will Keep Woodrow Wilson’s Name On School Buildings (NPR) — Apparently because, you know, his legacy is complicated. You know what? Read The Washington Post‘s story instead; it’s a little clearer. I suspect all the news people had a hard time grabbing ahold of this story firmly because the university’s tiptoeing statement was so bewilderingly oblique…
  5. Double Agent Kim Philby’s Credo: ‘Deny Everything’ (NYT) — Something fun for those of you who, like me, are into spy stuff. For the mix.
  6. Transcript of Woodward and Costa’s interview with Trump — A trip through the mind of the GOP front-runner. (First the editorial board meeting, now this. The Post certainly is getting some serious access to Trump…)
Bob Woodward talks about interview with Trump.

Bob Woodward talks about interview with Trump.

Your Virtual Front Page for Friday, April 1, 2016

President Barack Obama hosts the Nuclear Security Summit working dinner with the heads of delegations in the East Room of the White House, March 31, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama hosts the Nuclear Security Summit working dinner with the heads of delegations in the East Room of the White House, March 31, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Not a huge news day, but let’s see what we can put together. Sorry to say that none of these are April Fool’s jokes:

  1. Obama warns of terrorist nuclear attack (BBC) — This is more like a storm watch than a storm warning, but the threat is real. And presumably, POTUS considers this to be worse than the bathtub threat to the country, which is encouraging. Why lead with this story? Because I’m a Cold War guy. How close we are to nuclear midnight is important. And I was inspired by our exchange about the Triad earlier today.
  2. U.S. Economy Showed Broad Strength in March (WSJ) — You can’t really tell it by me, but I’m glad to hear it. The Journal is leading with this on this slow news day.
  3. Tens of thousands of Americans just lost their food stamps (WashPost) — Something that, if you’re fortunate enough to still be in the middle class, you might have missed. The Post is leading with it.
  4. Here’s Why Mississippi’s ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill Is So Controversial (NPR) — It’s narrower in its focus than the others.
  5. Trump manager Lewandowski: poster boy of a brash new politics (The Guardian) — This guy is very Trump — just as clueless, but he’s winning. I’m thinking this guy (Mikey Palmice) from the Sopranos) would be good to play him in the movie.
  6. Severe weather moves east toward Carolinas after tornadoes (The State) — Not huge news, but we need something local, and I don’t see the flag thing as worthy of the front. Besides, it’s a day old.

Your Virtual Front Page for Monday, March 28, 2016


Very quickly:

  1. Pascoe claims Wilson blocking legislative investigation (The State) — The AG denies trying to shut down probe of General Assembly. Wilson’s office expresses “grave concerns that Solicitor Pascoe is not following the law or proper procedure.”
  2. In Stunning Setback, Belgium Frees Man Held in Bombings (NYT) — That guy they were holding? They had to let him go. They’re looking for a whole other guy now.
  3. Gunshots fired at U.S. Capitol (WashPost) — Someone has been shot; may have been a police officer, may have been the shooter. This could turn into a lede, depending on how it develops. The Tweets pictured above illustrate how confused initial reports are.
  4. Fidel Castro scorns Obama’s Cuba visit (BBC) — So much for Un Nuevo Día
  5. Georgia Gov. Says He Will Veto Controversial ‘Religious Liberty’ Bill (NPR) — We’ve got this going on on both sides of us now. The Culture War rages on.
  6. USC baseball jumps upward in rankings (The State) — For those of you who complain you don’t get enough sports here, for the mix.

Your Virtual Front Page for Thursday, March 24, 2016

McCain's favorite Communist: Delmer Berg, standing second from right wearing a beret, with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain around 1938.

McCain’s favorite Communist: Delmer Berg, standing second from right wearing a beret, with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain around 1938.

We haven’t had one of these for awhile, since I’ve been opting for the less demanding Open Threads, but there’s real news today, so here goes:

  1. Belgium Admits Lapse in Not Heeding Alert on Suspect (NYT) — So they dropped the ball big-time, and innocents died as a result. Belgium!
  2. Despite potent attacks abroad, ISIS is in retreat in Syria, Iraq (WashPost) — On the other hand, we have this, which if accurate would seem to vindicate the Obama Doctrine (motto: Be Careful in that Bathtub!) to some extent. If, you know, MPrince doesn’t it think it too stupid for me to applaud actual gains in traditional, conventional military terms.
  3. Bosnian Serb Leader Guilty of Genocide in Massacre of 8,000 (NYT) — Yeah, I’ve already posted on this, but this is a front page, so I have to include it. It’s history.
  4. Lexington’s Rawl Farm operation fined $1 million for unlawful workers ( — We’re enforcing the law, and that’s a good thing. On the other hand, who’s gonna pick those crops now?
  5. John McCain: Salute to a Communist (NYT) — Just a really interesting read, by one of my favorite Americans. It’s got Hemingway in it, and the Spanish Civil War. And adventure, and nobility, and honor. Fine stuff.
  6. Comedian Garry Shandling dies at 66 (WashPost) — I was never a fan, but some of y’all probably were, so here you go…

Open Thread for Wednesday, March 23, 2016

To review the rules — this not being a Virtual Front Page, it is not intended as a complete summary of the most important news of the moment. It’s just stuff I think might be interesting to talk about — or that I think you might find interesting:

  1. The Outsize Role of Brothers in Terror Plots — The two dead Brussels bombers have been identified as brothers — one of whom, if you’ll allow me a wildly irrelevant digression, looked weirdly like Will Folks (see above) — and The New York Times examines this pattern of brothers doing such things.
  2. Obama rejects calls for change in strategy against Islamic State – At least on one level, I’m with POTUS on this. It’s ridiculous to say that because a terrorist attack occurs, an overall military strategy is a failure. It was grossly unfair several years back for Bud to keep claiming that the Surge didn’t work in Iraq because there were still terrorist attacks, and it’s unfair to say Brussels proves the Obama Doctrine isn’t working today. As long as there are people insane enough to blow themselves up to make a political point, it will still sometimes happen, even if your strategy is ideal. No, I’d go more by who is controlling what parts of Iraq and Syria to judge the efficacy of the president’s approach. But his position will become increasingly untenable if he keeps telling his staff about how many people fall in bathtubs in the U.S. And he needs to recognize that there is a lot of room for maneuver between his strategy and “carpet-bombing.”
  3. Richland Sheriff’s Department now has three mobile gizmos — They may not be as awesome as having a tank (technically, an armored personnel carrier), but they look like they might be a lot more useful in the everyday business of law enforcement.
  4. Religious groups take on government in supreme court battle over contraception — You know, whatever the ins and outs and legal fine points, you’re going to have a really uphill battle ever convincing me that the big ol’ government trying to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to do something that violates their consciences is a good thing. If nothing else, from a PR standpoint, it casts our system in a terrible light. It makes the federal government look like the kind of overbearing bully that my libertarian friends think it is. If only the order was named something else, like “Big, Mean Nuns Who Whack You on the Knuckles with a Ruler.”

Open Thread for Monday, March 21, 2016

Official White House photo of the president greeting Cubans.

Official White House photo of the president greeting Cubans while some guy in the background picks his nose.

So spring officially begins and it turns chilly again, eh? Go figure. Here’s some other stuff to talk about:

  1. Obama does Havana — In case you haven’t heard. Overall, a nice visit. Of course, Raúl had to be a bad host and spoil the buzz by demanding we leave Guantánamo. He could have been cool about it and let the nice vibes rule the day, but nooooo…. “Es Un Nuevo Dia” was the right tone to strike today. Brutal dictators are so bad at PR…
  2. Former Lt. Gov. McGill running for governor as a Republican — You’ll know him as longtime Senator Yancey McGill (he was Gov Lite for a comparative hiccup). And as a Democrat. Hey, it worked for David Beasley. It remains to be seen whether it still works more than two decades later.
  3. Apple Unveils New Smaller iPhone as Cook Addresses Security — Tim, I love the smaller iPhone — the move toward bigger and bigger was ridiculous (I mean, I have an iPad for that sort of thing) — but I hate your antiAmerican position on security. Just FYI.
  4. Kasich working in SC to get friendly delegates — I found this encouraging — Kasich is working on getting friendly SC delegates, for the critical votes after Trump fails (the nation must hope) on the first ballot. And he seems to be be out ahead of Cruz and Trump in working on this. Meanwhile, Reince Priebus is starting to get his mind right (although he still needs to work on the name) about a contested convention.
Official White House photo.

Official White House photo.

I liked the above picture of the Obamas arriving in Havana because it reminded me of this scene from “Bananas:”

Our own Kathryn Fenner on the pellet-gun vandalism

I’ve been extremely busy the last few days — my wife was out of town and I was among other things filling in for her taking care of grandchildren part of the time — and I just now saw this, brought to my attention by Doug Ross.

For the sake of Kathryn and her neighbors, I hope they got the right guys


Open Thread for Tuesday, the Ides of March, 2016


Caesar, beware of Brutus. Take heed of Cassius. Come not near Casca. Have an eye to Cinna. Trust not Trebonius. Mark well Metellus Cimber. Decius Brutus loves thee not. Thou hast wronged Caius Ligarius. There is but one mind in all these men, and it is bent against Caesar. If thou beest not immortal, look about you. Security gives way to conspiracy. The mighty gods defend thee!

As for the rest of y’all, here’s some other stuff:

  1. Kasich MUST win Ohio tonight — Otherwise, I don’t hold out much hope for the Republic, Julius.
  2. Nikki Haley calls Kirkman Finlay “childish” and “rude” — For bullying and intimidating DJJ employees in a hearing. It’s fascinating to see Nikki Haley, Tea Party darling, defending bureaucrats from a fellow Republican. Of course, they’re her bureaucrats now. But I take it as further evidence that she’s grown in office — a lot.
  3. Offshore drilling plan scrapped for South Carolina, other Atlantic states — That’s been out there all day, but here’s your chance to comment.
  4. Former USC teacher, sister arrested after meth bust — He apparently was not a chemistry teacher, yo, so I don’t know how this happened.
  5. US millennials feel more working class than any other generation — But if you say to them, “A Working Class Hero is something to be,” they look at you and go, “Huh?”
  6. Obama condemns ‘vicious atmosphere’ in 2016 campaign — Bless him, but that’s just not going to have any effect at all

Open Thread for Monday, March 14, 2016

Could his moment be about to arrive?

Could his moment be about to arrive?

Some things to talk about..

  1. Putin announces Russia will pull most of its military from Syria — Whoa! What is this — some kind of judo thing, where you pull back and use your adversary’s momentum against him? What’s his game?
  2. American Fighting for Islamic State Is Captured in Iraq — We’re told this is the first American captured fighting with ISIS. I guess that’s because capturing terror suspects isn’t President Obama’s style. He prefers blowing them up. He’s a bit like Omar Bradley in that respect.
  3. If Kasich wins Ohio tomorrow, a door opens to a new possibility — I thought I’d go ahead and throw this out. If I get time, I’ll write a separate post about it. If Kasich wins Ohio and Rubio loses Florida, you have a three-man race — and while Cruz will argue that Kasich should then drop out (as if we’d really be better off with Cruz than Trump), the WSJ this morning made a good case that the three-way competition could make it less likely that Trump can get the full 1,237 delegates by the convention. I think they’re right…
  4. Ex-trooper pleads guilty to shooting — Actually, the headline pretty well states it.
  5. N.C. sheriff weighs ‘inciting a riot’ charge against Trump — Might as well. Things aren’t crazy enough yet, right? And it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy…

Here’s a reunion for you: Mark Sanford and Gina Smith


How weird is this world? This weird:

Gina Smith (now Gina Smith Gilbert), who now handles the editorial page at the Island Packet in Hilton Head, posted this on Facebook today:

My favorite politician of all time, Rep. Mark Sanford, stopped by the paper today to talk Trump, offshore driling, etc. I’m always happy to see him. He’s a great sport who — unlike many of his brethren — does not hold grudges against reporters.

And what would Sanford hold a grudge about?

Gina, then at The State, was the reporter who caught Sanford coming back from Argentina in June 2009, thereby breaking that whole story. A few hours later, having been caught red-handed, Sanford came clean in his own peculiar way at that infamous presser.

And you know, it’s just like Sanford to happily pose for a picture with Gina today.

Which is weird to me because, had I been in his place, I’d have:

  • Resigned as governor.
  • Never, ever run for any public office again.
  • Lived in dread of anyone ever taking my picture and publishing it.
  • Experienced tsunamis of guilt at the mention of anyone or anything associated with the Argentina scandal.

But that’s me. I’m dramatic that way. I lack the insouciance that Mr. Sanford wears so easily.

I’m on my quarterdeck attending to duty, I assure you, sir…


Bud, and then Bryan, raised the alarm yesterday over my absence. Bryan wrote:

No, I haven’t heard from him at all. I even asked him for a book recommendation on the Aubrey-Maturin series, and he never responded.

I hope he’s okay.

That sounds alarming, indeed. But come on, y’all know that I frequently fail to post on the weekend, and yesterday I had business in my hometown of Bennettsville and didn’t get back to the office until 4:30 or so — at which time I promptly gave y’all an Open Thread with more topics than ever before.

But yeah, there was a lot going on over the weekend in politics, so it seemed weird for me not to be commenting, but I assure you I was attending to duty, for the most part, and am now back aboard, pacing the quarterdeck and scanning the horizon for a suitable prize.

Oh, and as to Bryan’s question:

I’m picking out my beach reading in advance. I’m thinking about starting the Aubrey-Maturin series. (Yeah. I’ve never read those books. Hangs head in shame.)
Which three would you recommend starting with, and in which order?

Here’s my response — and I hope others among you will be interested as well, because I’m always glad to have someone else to discuss the books with:

Start from the beginning. They are chronological and sort of like one super-long novel, although O’Brian didn’t intend it when he started out:

  1. Master and Commander — Nothing at all like the movie, which was actually based very loosely on the 10th book, The Far Side of the World. It starts with Lt. Jack Aubrey being assigned to his first command, the 14-gun sloop Sophie, and meeting his soon-to-be best friend, Dr. Stephen Maturin. The actions that sloop engages in track closely with Cochrane’s with the Speedy, including the memorable fight against the Gamo, renamed in the book the Cacafuego. Which you’ll recognize as scatological if you talk foreign, which Maturin does and Aubrey doesn’t. (O’Brian would later say that if he had known the series would go on so long he would have started earlier, with Jack as a midshipman. It apparently didn’t occur to him to go back and write prequels after the series gained a following. He was scrupulously careful to keep to a realistic time frame from the first book to the final fall of Bonaparte.)
  2. Post Captain — This one is in parts weirdly like Jane Austen, in which our heroes, stuck on shore during the brief peace with France, try their hand at being country gentlemen and become romantically entangled with a family of young ladies reminiscent of the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice, but with interesting variations. But don’t worry, lads — there’s still a good bit of action here and there — and quite a lot of character development important to later books. This and the first book are the two longest, and if there’s one in the series that will seem perhaps a tad too long, it’s this one, but be patient — the pace quickens after this. And the good bits are very rewarding. Be advised that the relationships with the ladies severely test Jack’s and Stephen’s friendship. (A constant theme of the books is that Jack is far better off at sea, well out of the sight of land and away from such complications — while Stephen, ever the lubber, is least at home aboard ship.)
  3. HMS Surprise — For the first time Jack commands the frigate he will love the most for the rest of his career. You also learn more about Stephen’s secret life — he is something more than an accomplished physician and respected naturalist. This is one of my very favorites in the series, chock full o’ action and human drama from Port Mahon to Bombay.

So, there you have it. Get busy reading — quick’s the word and sharp’s the action.

I’ll expect a full report upon your return. Before you have your clerk write it out fair, have Stephen look it over — he’s a learned cove.

Hereof nor you nor any of you may fail as you will answer the contrary at your Peril…

Open Thread for Monday, March 7, 2016

I’ve been out of town today — made a run up to my hometown, Bennettsville, on bidness — but here are some things for y’all to ponder:

  1. Obama’s shortlist for the Supreme Court nomination — The names are in this WashPost story. The White House is leaning toward a federal judge who has already been vetted and was confirmed with bipartisan support — ya know, to make it even more obvious how ridiculous the GOP refusal to consider anybody is…
  2. Now there is one: Beatty and only Beatty running for SC chief justice — OK, but… Didn’t Pleicones just get the job? I’m confused… I mean, at least the SCOTUS position is actually open. (OK, after I posted this, a trusted source reminded me that Costa has to retire at the end of this year because of his age. There will be a vote on his successor this spring. So… never mind…)
  3. Michael Bloomberg Says He Won’t Run for President — Just in case you were holding your breath on that one…
  4. US air strike ‘kills 150 Somali militants’ — This is leading the BBC, but not any of the American outlets I’ve looked at. British publications are less insular, more interested in the world than we are — even when it’s about what we are going in the world.
  5. White House to reveal death toll of US drone strikes for first time — Taking it to another level, this leads The Guardian. One can sometimes get the impression, reading that publication, that all we do here in the U.S. of A. is send drones to kill people abroad, and kill each other with handguns at home. Still, (sort of) neocon that I am, I enjoy reading the paper. I read it most days when I was in England.
  6. Inside the Rubio meltdown: Frustration, perceived blunders — Yay for Marco, he won Puerto Rico! Otherwise, not doing so hot. I was looking to a story to link to about all the activity on the GOP side over the weekend, and this was the first thing I landed on…
  7. Shush now, Hillary; don’t you know a man is tawking? — A lot of people think Bernie still needs to learn a few things about running against a woman…