Isn’t this gorgeous? I don’t even LIKE the color orange, but this drew me from quite a distance on my walk today. I’ve never seen azaleas this color.
Sorry not to have posted today. I’m drawing to the close of one of the busiest weeks I’ve had with ADCO since the end of the 2018 campaign. I expect things to slow down some (maybe a lot) now, but these last few days at home have been pretty packed. A lot of clients communicating about the coronavirus — letting their clients know what they’re doing, how to do business with them from afar, those kinds of things.
I still get out and take walks, hence the pictures above and below, showing nature is continuing to do its thing despite all.
Here are some topics, starting with the worst news:
The coronavirus took our friend Karen Pearson today — We sort of had warning of it yesterday, but this sad news is still hard to take. Karen was one of the vulnerable, with previous health problems. And we have a lot of friends and loved ones like that. Karen had been a member of this blog community since at least 2007 — when I looked back at her comments just now, there were 133 pages of them. So we all knew her. She was always a thoughtful and considerate commenter. She was a kind lady. This will not be the end of such tragedies that strike close to home. I think Mandy was talking about Jack West, son of Gov. West, late yesterday when she tweeted, “A friend of mine died today from COVID19. I would love for this to be the last time I type that sentence. Please isolate … and take care of yourselves.” Amen.
Henry still won’t tell us to stay home — But cities are doing it. I can’t decide what is causing his hesitation. Can it be as simple as wanting to play to the Trump crowd? I hope not. I hope he’s really trying to do his best by us.
Is anyone having a worse allergy season than usual? — Speaking of nature. This may seem silly to mention in the face of a deadly pandemic, but for me it actually is kind of related. Bad allergy days can make me feel like I’ve got some sort of bug, just crappy all over, and I can’t help thinking, “Is this how it begins…?” But mostly it’s just my eyes itching worse than in many a year. Are any of y’all experiencing the same?
Joe Biden reminds us: Help is on the way — Yeah, we’re still having an election this year — maybe. I mentioned this Jennifer Rubin column in a comment yesterday, but I thought I’d share it more prominently, because she does a good job of setting out the reasons that we can take some comfort from knowing Joe is out there, ready to take this guy’s place.
It’s not as awesome as the orange azalea, but it’s impressive. This volunteer tulip popped up spontaneously, 3 or 4 feet from the nearest flower bed in our yard. We didn’t plant it. And we’ve lived her more than 22 years and never seen it before.
A retired Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh) working in his garden…
I didn’t post yesterday because I was too busy with work — all of which I’m doing from home, of course. A number of clients are hurrying to get out various communications related to coronavirus. But I’m not sure what will happen when they’ve said all they can about that. We’ll see.
What about all those partying punks? — I don’t have a link with this one, because I’m not talking about the kids on spring break in Florida. I heard this morning from someone who lives around the USC campus (no, not Kathryn Fenner — someone else) who is really fed up with the students around her constantly partying. A neighbor keeps calling the cops, and they quiet down momentarily, then resume making jackasses of themselves. (I find myself idly wondering whether any of them are our governor’s tenants, but I have no knowledge that they are.) I guess there’s no cure for stupid at that age.
Senate nears passage of $2 trillion stimulus deal — I’ve got to ask: Are any of y’all paying much attention to this? Are you hanging on every word? Are you heavily invested (other than financially, which I suppose we all are) in whether the Democrats or the Republicans get their way on this? Does it seem like this debate is going on in another universe, one where it’s still 2019 or something? Apparently, some people on Wall Street care, though. News that they’re nearing agreement has caused stocks to recover somewhat today.
Trump says he may soon push businesses to reopen — This is one of those “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” moments… And if reminds me of a separate post I’m thinking about writing, posing the question, “Do you ever get the sense that we’re devolving as a species?”
Seen anything good on TV? — I saw an interesting movie my wife had borrowed from the library (which of course is now closed, so no more of those). It’s called “All Is True,” and it’s about the last three years of Shakespeare’s life, when he retired to Stratford after the Globe burned down. It stars Kenneth Branagh (although it’s hard to recognize him) and Judi Dench. It was interesting. I was particularly fascinated to think that at 49, Shakespeare did actually stop writing. How could he — a guy who had always been so prolific? Had he just said everything he wanted to say? Oh, and last night I started watching that Netflix series about the origins of British football — “The English Game.” Not bad so far…
A variety of things we can yammer about as we sit at home:
The breakdown of our food distribution system?— Last night I tweeted the above picture from Walmart with the words, “The deli meats section at Walmart tonight. Every item, gone. This is insane, people. Cut it out…” I was actually getting kind of a creepy feeling walking around the store. No sugar. No rice (except in those microwaveable single-serving packs). What if our food distribution breaks down to where we actually can’t get what we need to eat? But in spite of the specter of imminent starvation, I had to smile when I got Mandy Powers Norrell’s reply to my tweet: “Food Lion in Lancaster didn’t have tofu vegetarian dumplings. I thought I was the only person who ate them.” I’d have thought she was the only one, too, in Lancaster anyway…
Is selling off your stocks really the worst thing a person can do? — This is one of those things where I’m tone-deaf, because it’s about money. But I’ve had trouble getting shocked at Sen. Richard Burr selling off his stocks before the market tanked. Yeah, I get that he sort of had access to extra information, but anyone could have gotten a gut feeling any time this year, and dumped his stocks. But Tucker Carlson says “There is no greater moral crime…” Even if I grant that it’s wrong — and I suppose it is — I think I can think of some worse ones. What do y’all think?
Kirsten to the rescue! — Did you see that Kirsten Gillibrand has stepped out on a limb and endorsed Joe Biden? Bryan Caskey tweeted that it was “Like Jeb Stuart showing up late at Gettysburg.” I replied “No, because Lee was actually DEPENDING on Stuart…” People stopped thinking about, much less expecting anything from, Sen. Gillibrand months ago.
Earworm of the Day: Elenore, by the Turtles — I’ve actually had this one stuck for a couple of days. Had to look it up. I learned that it was intended to be a bad song, a sarcastic reply to the record company execs who kept pestering the Turtles for another song like “Happy Together.” From Wikipedia: “The band recorded “Elenore” as a parody of the type of happy-go-lucky pop songs they themselves had been performing, but with deliberately clichéd and slapdash lyrics such as: “Your looks intoxicate me / Even though your folks hate me / There’s no one like you, Elenore, really’…” But as a joke, it failed. Turned out to be another hit.
For what it’s worth, he did send out a followup seven minutes later saying, “Federal Government is working very well with the Governors and State officials. Good things will happen! #KILLTHEVIRUS”
Maybe someone had a word with him. I don’t know who that would be, though, since pretty much all of the grownups have left his administration.
And yeah, I’m still using that plug-in on my Chrome browser that renders Trump’s tweets in a special typeface. They come in the regular old way on my phone and iPad. But somehow this seems to bring out their essence….
You know, there’s nothing new about this. But as many times as we’ve seen this kind of childishness, I still have to ask my self occasionally, What kind of person, in a leadership position, thinks that is something appropriate to publish for the world to see?
It’s been a long couple of days for me, helping ADCO clients with various coronavirus-related communications needs. It’s been affecting members of my family far more directly. For instance, one of my daughters works at the Richland County courthouse. Others are dealing with other shutdown-related challenges at their places of work, or figuring out how to keep working with the challenges presented by the virus.
I’d be interested in hearing from y’all as to how you are affected, even if it’s just inconvenience. Meanwhile, here’s some news:
Trump declares ACTUAL state of emergency this time — But let’s not look upon him as the boy who cried wolf, just because he previously declared a state of emergency in order to divert billions from national defense to his border wall. This time it’s real, and the only thing wrong with his doing it now is that he didn’t do it sooner. Of course, he’s not taking responsibility for not doing it sooner. But just how much do you expect from this guy? We take what we can get. He’s done it, and we need to pitch in and do what we can to help each other get through this.
Henry follows suit — Closes schools in Kershaw and Lancaster counties, among other measures.
Stocks bound back, big time — I was going to say that maybe we should all give the president a pat on the back for finally getting serious — but he actually got a bigger thank you than any of us could give him. You know how important a booming stock market is to him. And not only to him, of course.
Learning to Live With the Coronavirus — This is Friday’s edition of the NYT podcast, “The Daily.” I don’t know if y’all have been listening to the shows theyve been doing with Times science reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr., but they’re well worth your time. He’s very good at putting it all into perspective, and giving practical advice for dealing with the situation. If you don’t have time to listen to it, there’s a transcript. But it’s better if you listen.
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have tested positive for coronavirus— This is an important milestone in the nation’s consciousness about the disease. We have now entered the “people we like and feel that we know” stage. I heard an expert on a podcast today say America didn’t fully take AIDS seriously until Rock Hudson died of it. He said we won’t take the measures that were effective in China and South Korea until something like that happens to someone we know and like. Is this COVID-19’s Rock Hudson moment, or a precursor of it?
Yikes. Here’s some nice music to make you feel better. It’s the isolated vocals from a Beatles song that seems appropriate to the moment: “Help!” I never really heard the background harmonies before. I was impressed:
The “possible live updates” is because I might post some additional stuff about the primaries today, if I feel like it. I might not, though. It’s really an awesome feeling to be able to say that, after all those decades when the paper had to come out every day no matter what, or else… or else… well, I don’t know what else, because we always got the paper out.
Today is a relatively mild news day, one in which the NYT is answering the question “Is Your World Safe?” with a “Yes, relatively so.” You can tell this by the fact that the lede story — the “Coronavirus Updates” one, is just one column(well, one wide column, more like a column and a half), with a small-font headline. (I explained the theory behind all of this in my very first Virtual Front Page post, back in 2009. Before I started calling it that.)
Coronavirus Updates: Stocks Rebound as Washington Moves to Bolster the Economy — They led with it; I’ll lead with it. Here’s something you might find interesting: When stocks recover, the NYT sees it as worthy of one column. The WSJ sees the same news as worth two extra-wide columns. But before you jump to the conclusion that this is a liberal-vs.-conservative thing, I don’t think so, for two reasons: First, the WSJ has a totally different philosophy of front-page play, having nothing to do with ideology. You’re not comparing apple to apples. Second, financial news is the WSJ’s thing. They will always overplay it (from my perspective). Just as The Washington Post will always overplay stuff inside the Beltway.
Apparently, I shouldn’t have come in to work today — Have you seen the advisory from the CDC saying people over 60 should stay home, and prepare to stay there a really long time? Oh, come on. I mean, few of us like to think we’re old, but this is ridiculous. My parents, whom I’m about to go check on on my way home, are elderly and I worry about them — although you’d never guess it of my mom the way she gets around, and my dad always seemed closer to my age than his until the last couple of years. But come on. Does this mean I shouldn’t do my 10,000 to 15,000 steps every day? Or is it OK if I do them outside?
Biden, Sanders duel in six states on another key day of voting — This is what I might add live updates about. Actually, it will probably be more like Tweets turned into comments. If I feel like it. This is an awkward, blah day of voting for headline writers. When we had the South Carolina primary, they could say “S.C.” A week ago today, they could say “Super Tuesday.” This time, it’s “another key day of voting.” Not much of a ring to it. Doesn’t really get your blood going, does it?
Question: Who got the most votes ON Super Tuesday? — As see, no link on this one. I’m sort of hoping y’all can find one for me. This is something I’m curious about, but I can’t seem to find what I keep Googling for. In particular, I want to know how Joe did in California if you don’t count early voting. Has anyone seen any figures along those lines? Or is it impossible? Do they not report voting results that way?
Biden will pick a woman as his running mate. But who? — This is a Fred Hiatt column. Of course, y’all know what I think: Amy Klobuchar all the way. None of the others who ran would do. This column widens the field by citing some female governors and mayors. But I don’t know them. At least those who ran for president have had some vetting…
Max von Sydow, Star of ‘Seventh Seal’ and ‘Exorcist,’ Dies at 90 — OK, which are your favorite von Sydow movies? I’ve got to say that while I’ve seen him in such highbrow stuff as “The Seventh Seal” and found them good, my favorite performance is as the freelance assassin in “Three Days of the Condor.” Best scene: When he and Redford are trapped on an elevator together. Redford knows he’s there to kill him, and von Sydow’s character knows he knows, but they’re both trying to act like everything is normal. The tension is made greater by some smart aleck kids who hit all the buttons before getting off. Von Sydow smiles wryly at Redford and just says, “Kids… probably the same everywhere…” Here’s where you can stream some of his best films.
You know, after this weekend, I just feel better about the whole world, and I’m in a generous mood. So instead of a Virtual Front Page, let’s go with an Open Thread, because they’re more fun:
Klobuchar dropping out of 2020 race and endorsing Biden — You go, girl. Pete showed her the right thing to do, and she did it — and then went Pete one better. She remains my top choice for veep. What else can I say, except what David Leonhardt had to say today (see item No. 3.)
Bernie or Biden. Period. — That’s the headline on David Leonhardt’s column today, and that’s where we stand. There are no other real choices. So it’s time to decide, Democrats: Go down the tubes with Bernie, or take back the White House with Joe. As Joe said Saturday night, after South Carolina had done its bit to make everything devastatingly clear, “win big or lose, that’s the choice.” At this point, the only likely role of Bloomberg would be to continue to split the moderate vote, and deliver the nomination to Bernie. So he needs to get out, too.
What popular chain businesses is Columbia missing?— The State raises this question, and offers a lot of silly answers, but to its credit includes the one that matters: an Apple store. It raises doubt that we’ll get one, but come on, gimme a break: Augusta’s got an Apple store…
This is why I’m not worried about Artificial Intelligence taking over the planet any time soon.
As you see, Artificial Intelligence remains pretty stupid.
Why would following Joe Biden make me “like” Elizabeth Warren?
OK, granted — since I’m a blogger, I have interest in seeing what all the candidates are doing. But certainly that wouldn’t be true of most people who follow this candidate or that? Would it? If so, tell me where I’m wrong. And if you make a good case, then I’ll start worrying about A.I., because that would mean it’s gotten crafty.
Oh, and then you can tell me when I started following Biden on Instagram, for that matter. Generally speaking, I don’t do Instagram…
Katherine Johnson, hard at work at NASA back in the day.
Very quickly here at the end of the day:
New SC poll shows Biden in stronger position — Good news, and I hope it’s right, but part of it goes against my sense of what’s happening. It says it’s a two-man race between Joe and Bernie, with Joe having a good lead. It discounts Tom Steyer, and that feels off to me. The guy has spent millions here (it was $14 million a month ago on broadcast ads alone, and he seems to have stepped things up since then), in South Carolina trying to eat into Joe’s support among black voters, and it’s hard to believe that’s not having some effect (and of course, the effect would be to help Bernie by hurting Joe). But we’ll see…
I keep seeing stupid ads, including on my own blog.
Look at that one. A young man without a gray hair on his head (and with long sideburns — must be one a them there juvenile delinquents, like in “The Wild One“!) is doing this exaggerated slouch like he’s trying to peer out a window that’s too low for him.
And yet the copy says:
Seniors Love Posture Corrector
Yeah, that’s right! We love it because… because we’re sick of seeing these punk kids slouching all over the place! Dagnabbit, when we were their age we whipped Hitler and Tojo, and we did it by keeping our backs straight!…
What America needs now is a really nice guy. Fortunately, we’ve got one.
I almost did a Virtual Front Page, but that would have been the third in just eight days! I don’t want to spoil y’all, so we’re going for an Open Thread instead. They’re easier: I don’t have to come up with a lede and rank the items in importance, and I can pull in opinion, which is more in my wheelhouse anyway. (I was the front page editor at two papers in the ’80s, but that was a long time ago — or so everyone keeps telling me and Joe Biden.)
A Dishonorable Senate — This is an NYT editorial, and my only beef with it is that “An.” What, like we have an array of Senates, like multiple universes, and there’s just this one bad one? No. Until we work out the quantum inter-universal travel thing, this is the only Senate we get. And it has shamelessly, blatantly, without any pretense of doing anything else, completely abandoned its constitutional duty. More than abandoned, spat upon it. Look, we knew they were going to acquit, but we did have a right to expect an actual trial first. Is this it, folks? Is the loss of our republic now inevitable? Has it happened already? I didn’t think I’d live to see this…
Why don’t we all just ignore Iowa and New Hampshire? — Not a bad idea, particularly given that Iowa is caucuses, not even a primary. Have you READ the rules of this insanity? People standing around in groups, and then if their group is less than 15 percent of the total in the room, they regroup and the losers gravitate to second choices? It’s like ice-breaker games at that team-building retreat the soulless corporation you work for made you go to. (See what I did there? Two dangling prepositions in one sentence! Can I write, or what?)
Joe Biden: A Really Nice Guy for President— This is a column by Frank Bruni, which means it’s the third opinion piece in a row from the NYT. But hey, they had some good pieces today. There’s only one cure for Trump, one thing to set this nation back on course: Replace him with a really nice guy. Last thing we need is to replace him with another one of those angry people out there — you know, the ones who can’t string two sentences together without saying “fight” at least once?
Senate hears closing arguments — Switching over to news now… and can you imagine that they’re still going through the motions as though this were still an actual trial being conducted by an actual credible deliberative body. I don’t see how the House managers made themselves get up this morning and do this. But at least they are doing their duty, so my hat’s off to them.
Earth Fare grocery chain closing all stores, including in Columbia — This just in, and it kind of blew my mind. It suggests a lot of questions: Why now, instead of back when Whole Foods opens? Do we think Whole Foods will last since Amazon has taken it over and corporatized it? Couldn’t Earth Fare have hung on a little longer to see what happened there? How do small local shops like Rosewood Market and 14 Carrot hang on while Earth Fare can’t? Business and the way it works is just such a mystery to me…
Walking downtown the last couple of days has been delightful…
Can you believe it? I go eight months without one of these, and now I do two in two days! You, my readers, are just sooooo lucky!
Trump releases long-awaited Middle-East peace plan— The product of the efforts of that noted diplomatic genius Jared Kushner, it’s just chock full of stuff likely to delight the Palestinians, who weren’t even involved in drafting it! There won’t be two states, Jerusalem is Israel’s permanent capital, and oh, yes — Israel is about to vote on annexing about a third of the occupied West Bank! So what’s not to love? Aren’t you thrilled Trump isn’t letting impeachment distract him from such important work?
Stocks drop on coronavirus fears — I’m leading with this because it’s global, it’s scary, and it has the potential to be a way bigger deal than anything else in the news. Here’s hoping it’s a bust in the end. We can do without a pandemic. Here’s an explainer from The Washington Post that I found helpful over the weekend. The death toll is up to 81.
The Death of Kobe Bryant — This has been dominating news coverage, especially broadcast news coverage, since yesterday. So I thought I’d include it for those of you who thing there’s not enough sports coverage on this blog. I knew next to nothing about him, but I’m certainly sorry to hear the news about him and his young daughter.
I should have posted this on Friday, when Doug sent it to me. Perhaps I held back out of envy.
As he reported:
Got a 100% for the first time on a Slate News Quiz… so I got that going for me, which is nice. (Caddyshack reference)
For my part, I missed one, and only got a 468… probably from being slow. But if I’d gone faster, I’d have missed more. That’s the way I am. I need that extra second or two that keeps me from the high scores.