Category Archives: Blogosphere

Norman: Let’s keep S.C. RED, for all you comrades out there

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Bryan Caskey brought this to my attention. Apparently, Ralph Norman tweeted it out early on the day of the special election, with the message, “The polls just opened in SC and will stay open until 7 tonight. This is a very tight race so make sure you vote!”

Bryan’s reaction:

Vote for this guy….because he’s a Republican. Apparently, that’s it.

Yup, that’s about the size of it. Actually… that overstates it. He’s not even being that explanatory. He’s just using a euphemism for being a Republican. And an unfortunate one, for a guy who’s anxious to be seen as a “conservative.”

I mean, if he gets on the Foreign Affairs Committee, is his mantra going to be, “Keep China Red?”

We’ll close with an appropriate tune, sung by the malchicks aboard Red October:

About that question: Can words kill people?

girl

I generally stay away from “people being beastly on the internet” stories because I’m just too busy with politics, policy and pop culture.

But this past week there were two horror stories that totally boggled what little mind I allowed to get distracted by them. Ironically, we had just had a discussion about cruel and unusual punishment when a prime candidate for such treatment was in the news: The monster who dangled his baby out a 15th-story window in a bid for Facebook “likes.” (Note that my link is to the Daily Mail, which seems the perfect setting for such a story.) You know how FB recently added those alternatives to “like”? For this guy, they need to add an “If I ever meet you in person, I’m breaking both of your arms so you can’t do that again” button.

Then there was the case Kathleen Parker wrote about under the headline, “Can words kill people?” It’s about “Michelle Carter’s conviction last week on involuntary-manslaughter charges in the 2014 suicide of her 18-year-old boyfriend, Conrad Roy III.” Excerpt:

At the time of the suicide, Carter was a 17-year-old whose boyfriend spoke frequently of taking his own life. He finally did by filling his parked truck with carbon monoxide. Mind you, Carter was nowhere near. She had no physical hand in the death, although she did text and call Roy, urging him to go ahead and do it. When he had second thoughts and got out of his vehicle, she instructed him to get back in.

Manslaughter? Evil? Or just dumb?

If Carter’s words were Roy’s death sentence, then his death was hers, if not literally, then, indeed, virtually. For her clearly tangential role, which one could as easily interpret as drama-queen excess, Carter faces up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 3.

It is easy to feel outrage at what transpired. Prosecutors introduced hundreds of text messages between Roy and Carter in which she encouraged him to end his life and sometimes taunted him for his lack of courage. In one, she wrote: “You’re ready and prepared. All you have to do is turn the generator on and you will be free and happy. No more pushing it off. No more waiting.”

This alone is enough to make one dislike or even despise Carter. But is it enough to blame Carter for Roy’s death?…

Kathleen concluded that no, it isn’t. I was unsatisfied with that conclusion.

The columnist asks, “Manslaughter? Evil? Or just dumb?” The best of the three would seem to be evil. You read the words she wrote to this boy on the edge, and your blood runs cold. Mine does, anyway.

In terms of how to approach such a thing in the criminal justice system, manslaughter seems inaccurate. And I’m not sure how the law works on aiding and abetting. What should be the charge for being a cheerleader at a boy’s death?

There is evidently something essential missing in this girl, and at the very least it seems she should be confined somewhere until experts can figure out what it is, and whether it’s possible to fill that void.

Because anyone who will do what she did — repeatedly, insistently, matter-of-factly — is dangerous….

Donald Trump and Barack Obama on social media today

Let’s do a little compare-and-contrast.

Today, Senate Republicans released their health-care proposal, which apparently is almost, but not quite, entirely like the abominable House plan:

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans, who have promised a repeal of the Affordable Care Act for seven years, took a major step on Thursday toward that goal, unveiling a bill to make deep cuts in Medicaid and end the law’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance.

The 142-page bill would create a new system of federal tax credits to help people buy health insurance, while offering states the ability to drop many of the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, like maternity care, emergency services and mental health treatment…

Anyone checking to see what the president of the United States had to say about it via his favored mode of communication was disappointed. He didn’t address it. Here are his last two Tweets as of this posting:


How do you like that? He went into depth! Two whole Tweets on one topic! His other Tweets today were more or less in the usual “it’s all about me, and everybody else is to blame” mode.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, who no longer gets paid to do this stuff, had this to say on Facebook:

Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.Barack Obama Facebook

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.

We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

See which you find more valuable…

Open Thread for Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Parnell

Not all that much out there today, but here’s what I’m looking at:

  1. Hard-fought House race in Georgia nears end as a referendum on Trump — Yeah, OK. But as I’ve said so many times before, it’s really none of my business whom the folks in Georgia want to sent to Congress.
  2. The SC 5th Congressional District election — I’m somewhat more interested in this one, although it’s apparently not as competitive as the one in Georgia (it would be nice to be surprised, however). Mostly what I know about this is the ads I’ve seen (which is always a lousy basis for making an electoral decision). And while I think Parnell’s have been rather silly, at least they show an original approach and don’t make me crazy the way Norman’s mindless “Ah’m a bidnessman and ah’m agin’ that Obama” approach. (Dang. There’s a particular ad I kept seeing last night that illustrated my point, and I’m not finding it…)
  3. Kasich & Hickenlooper: Another one-party health-care plan will be doomed to failure — I share this just to remind you that Kasich is the guy I wanted for president, and I’m not above saying “I told you so.” It’s interesting to see governors standing up and speaking out in the face of the Senate’s silence. You may also be interested in this interview on the subject with the independent governor of Alaska.
  4. How Could The Navy Destroyer Collision Happen? — That’s what we’d all still like to know.

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The NYT makes a mistake, and Bryan and I have a spirited discussion about it

I had a dental appointment at 8 this morning, which meant I arrived there uncaffeinated, intending to eat afterward.

To keep from dozing off while the dentist and hygienist were out of the room, I looked at Twitter, and saw this from Bryan:

And I’m like, say what? Has @realdonaldtrump taken over Bryan’s feed? I glanced quickly over the link provided, but couldn’t tell what he was trying to convey by the time people came back into the room and made me open my mouth again.

When I got into my car to leave, I saw I had a couple of direct messages from Bryan, to this effect:

I hope Palin sues the hell out of the NYT.

and:

I mean, if you want “fake news” it’s right there.

Huh? I replied,

You have the advantage of me, sir. As the foremast jacks would say, what are you on about?

I then drove downtown to get some breakfast. And coffee. When I got there, I found the following messages:

The NYT “Editorial Board” wrote a piece about the Scalise shooting. They specifically blame Palin for Loughner shooting Giffords. Explicitly.b3f68215788bf24bfc7cc42223023a42_400x400

However, it has been specifically, demonstrably proven that Loughner had no idea about Palin, AND THAT WAS IN THE NYT back in 2011.

So the accusation in today’s editorial is demonstrably false according to the NYT itself.

Which, to my legal mind, is evidence of actual malice and enough to support a libel claim.

Do Editorial Boards not run things by lawyers on a regular basis? I can’t imagine any lawyer would have let them make this claim in today’s editorial.

… which was lot to take in during one’s first cup. I replied:

Well, I haven’t seen the reference, but obviously, no one intended to make a false claim. No one knew that they were doing so. They would have zero motivation for doing that. And when you don’t know something you’re referring to is problematic, why on earth would you consult a lawyer?

From Bryan:

Just saying, this editorial is completely counterproductive to having both sides come together, not to mention utterly wrong.

And it was exactly what I predicted and exactly why I hoped the shooter wasn’t left-wing.

It’s another example of why lots of folks don’t trust big news outlets.

You can’t be “the paper of record” and get something factually wrong six year later.

Me:

Well, there are two things going on here. There’s the point the NYT is making, and there’s the error that was made in a reference to a different case. Critics see a connection between the two. I don’t.

“You can’t be ‘the paper of record’ and get something factually wrong six year later.” Of COURSE you can. Let’s suppose for a moment the NYT is the best paper in the world, as it believes it is. It would still make errors, regularly. You seem to be assuming omniscience on he part of the editors, and therefor not only intent, but malicious intent. You show me a long profile about this Loughner guy, and I’m taking your word that somewhere down in it, there’s something that negates the reference in that editorial. Then, you seem to assume that everyone who works at the Times, being omniscient, HAD to know that that fact existed, buried in a profile that appeared in the paper SIX YEARS AGO. Do you not see how unlikely your assumptions are?

Bryan:

It’s not hard to avoid saying false things you know are false.

Me:

“It’s not hard to avoid saying false things you know are false.” That’s 100 percent true. But I fail to see what that assertion has to do with the present case.

Bryan:

I assume the Editors of the NYT are informed about important things reported in their own newspaper. This wasn’t an obscure event.

I don’t think you have to be omniscient to know there was zero evidence linking Loughner to Palin.

Me:

I think our disconnect arises from the differences in our experiences. An attorney has months, sometimes years, to pursue and research anything and everything that might bear upon the case he’s presenting. Try going from concept to publication in half an hour.

Bryan:

Maybe. Might not be the best defense in court, though.

 Me:

The fact that Gifford got shot was not an obscure event. The footnote you refer to most certainly was. I couldn’t have told you the guy’s name was Loughner…

 “Might not be the best defense in court, though.” Actually, it is. Without intent — and if you think about this, you HAVE to see no one would make such a mistake intentionally (and I’m still taking your word that it’s a mistake, since Google isn’t helping me find independent evidence outside of Breitbart et al.) — you can’t have malice.

I then drove to work. By the time I got here, Bryan had written:

I think the fact that it was in their own newspaper is enough to show malice. Maybe a jury would disagree with me, but I think it’s certainly enough to get to a jury and survive a summary judgment motion. If Pailin asked me, I would take the case.

Could be some prize money in it.

And as long as I didn’t have former editorial page editors on my jury, I’d feel pretty good about my chances.

Oh, and related: This editorial is how you get more Trump. If you are someone who is anti-Trump, you should discourage this sort of erroneous editorial. It’s going to make it easy for him to run against the NYT et al. when they continue to make it easy for him to do so with editorials like this.

I’m against this editorial for that reason (it enables Trump), for the reason that it breeds distrust and reinforces existing distrust, and breeds contempt between opposing viewpoints. Literally no good comes from this awful piece.

As you can see, the NYT has now issued a correction, completely retracting their false claim – so you can stop taking my word for it that it was an incorrect claim.

Oh, it it fits into my previous point (a few weeks ago) about the “fake news” being this paradigm: (1) false story trumpeted out from large media source and then repeated by lots of other sources; (2) it’s proven to be factually wrong; (3) retraction/correction is made, but it doesn’t get the same fanfare the original wrong statement did; (4) general public never remembers the correction.

Ok. I’m off my soapbox. I’ll be getting back to some actual legal work now. Cheers.

Now that I was at the office and on my laptop (making typing less laborious), I concluded:

“I think the fact that it was in their own newspaper is enough to show malice. Maybe a jury would disagree with me…” It certainly would if a single person who had a clue about the newspaper business was on the jury. Because the expectation that the editors HAD to know about that point of fact buried in a profile six years ago is one of the wildest things I’ve heard this week.

Bryan, I want to drop this, but every time I get back to Twitter I see multiple assertions I have to address… “This editorial is how you get more Trump.” Yeah, and it would be a bad idea to intentionally publish editorials that contain errors — except no one would be crazy enough to do that! Can’t you see the fundamental flaw in making that point?

As for your complaint about the corrections process, another thing that could only come from a non-journalist (seriously, what is your practical suggestion for an alternative), please examine your words: “false story trumpeted out from large media source.” What “false story?” “Trumpeted how?” One would think that “trumpeting” would at least, at LEAST entail a headline, and to in any way match your indignation here, the headline would have to be large, and would have to say, “Sarah Palin goes around encouraging mass killers.” Instead, this involved an erroneous assertion of fact that was NOT the point of the piece. And your evidence that it was malicious is that there was, once upon a time (six freaking years ago!) there was a lengthy news story that also, deep down, contained something that refuted that fact — as assertion of fact that, just like the current instance, was not the main point being made, or even close to it! It would be outrageous to expect every editor at a paper to remember every HEADLINE that had appeared in the paper in the past six years, much less every single assertion of fact that could be found in every single story!

You know, there’d be a lot fewer arguments like this if, as part of everyone’s civic education, everybody in the country were required to work at a newspaper for a month. It would stop arguments like this before they start…

Of course, my solution is impractical, because to fully get what I’m saying, you’d have to be a senior editor for that month — and you can’t be that without years of experience, experience that would necessarily make the month unnecessary. Here’s the bottom line: To an editor worth his salt, every error is intolerable, and inexcusable, and must never happen again. But of course, it will. And all you can do is correct it. Used to be, you had a whole day to sort things out and make the correction. Now, if you haven’t completely refuted yourself within a couple of hours, the world has a coronary…

Folks, I don’t care what you think of The New York Times, but I’m here to tell you, it is a credible institution — about as credible as you’re likely to find in this sin-stained world.

And its editors — like every editor I’ve ever known or worked with — would rather get a hard punch in the face than make a mistake like that. It’s excruciatingly painful. Any editor I know spends his or her days and sleepless nights worrying about errors like that, and doing everything he or she can to avoid it.

Think for a moment: What in the world do you think would be an editor’s motivation to screw up like that intentionally? I can’t imagine, but maybe you’ll come up with a reason that will surprise me.

Whatever else you come away from this discussion with, I hope you absorb that one point…

Open Thread for Wednesday, June 14, 2017

US_Flag_Backlit

Happy Flag Day, folks:

  1. Gunman in GOP baseball practice attack dies after shootout — I don’t know what to say, but maybe y’all do. Oh, I can say this: There are too many nuts out there, and it’s too easy for them to get guns. That’s it for now. Wait; I’ll add this: NPR notes that the ballgame the members were practicing for is one of the few bipartisan traditions Washington has left. And now this.
  2. Four dead in San Francisco shooting after UPS worker opens fire at facility — I include this to illustrate the points I made above — too many nuts chasing too many guns.
  3. Think you’re lucky? One Little River man won the Powerball lottery twice this week — No, I don’t think I’m lucky — that way. But we’ll never know, since I don’t intend ever to buy a ticket. However, I do consider myself blessed in terms of the things that count in life.
  4. Thoughts on the Sessions testimony yesterday? — Yeah, it’s old, but we haven’t talked about it. Personally, I missed it, and haven’t read much about it. But maybe y’all have observations.

The problem is pulling that one lever to vote straight ticket

2 thoughts

For some reason, when someone links to my blog, it sometimes shows up as a comment awaiting my approval. I don’t know why. Anyway, that happened today, and it led to a response from me, so I thought I’d share it.

I was being quoted in the context of a much longer post. Actually, I’m not sure why what I had said fit into this post — as the writer said, it was about conservative propaganda, and as he or she said, my point comes from the center — but it did, so I’m just going to address that portion of the post.

The writer was referring to this post from this past Election Day. It was one in which I (and others) objected to people who actually vote on Election Day “late voters.” I then went on to object to the term “ticket-splitting.” My point was that there should be no such term, that the practice should simply be called “voting.” As opposed to what people who pull the party lever and ignore the ballot itself, thereby abdicating their responsibility to think, to discern, to discriminate, to make decisions about each individual candidate, to vote.

Here’s the passage of mine that was selected for quotation:

You know what I call ticket-splitting? “Voting.” True voting, serious voting, responsible voting, nonfrivolous voting. I am deeply shocked by the very idea of surrendering to a party your sacred duty to pay attention, to think, to discern, to discriminate, to exercise your judgment in the consideration of each and every candidate on the ballot, and make separate decisions.

If you don’t go through that careful discernment, you aren’t a voter, you are an automaton — a tool of the false dichotomy presented by the parties, a willing participant in mindless tribalism.

Sure, you might carefully discern in each case and end up voting only for members of one party or the others. And that’s fine — kind of weird, given the unevenness of quality in both parties’ slates of candidates — but if that’s where you end up.

And here’s what the person quoting it had to say about it:

Kernel of truth:
Human beings are certainly tribal, just in general. The idea that political parties are becoming tribes is an obvious extension of this, especially bolstered by worrying observations like increasing polarization of political opinion in the U.S. and (very likely related) increasing physical separation (segregation) between red (suburbs/country) and blue (cities) tribes. You also don’t have to look very long or hard to find a person who has a basic, surface-level understanding of politics, who doesn’t have an elaborate, well-thought-out intellectual theory of politics guiding their positions (in fact, their positions might be a contradictory mish-mash of things) but know very well who they’re supporting in the next election.

Tribal chauvinism can be scary — the ability to ascribe Deep Differences between in-group and out-group justifies (and thus creates) violence. People instinctively wish to bridge gaps between groups. Doing so stems future violence and can even be an ego boost to the person capable of doing so — being able to see how both sides are just tribal takes the person able to see it out of the realm of primitive partiality into the era of enlightenment and clear sight free from petty bias.

Why is the use of “tribalism” messed up?
There are at least three things messed up about analyzing political disagreement as largely tribalism.

First thing: it disrupts public democratic discourse by giving people the ability to dismiss people’s positions as born from blind, unenlightened loyalty rather than being sincerely held. The ability to say, “Well, you WOULD say that because that’s your tribe’s Doctrine” is not a good way to engage with fellow citizens’ opinions.

Second thing: it elides the very real differences and very real societal implications that different positions have. Whether Muslims should be banned, in my opinion, really really isn’t a matter of, “Well, you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to. Who’s to say what’s right, really?” The concept of political disagreement boiling down, ultimately, to tribalism spreads a weird moralized amorality throughout society, where the ability to see the value of both sides becomes valorized (morally lauded) much more than the ability to take a side decisively (such preference for one over the other is close-minded, unenlightened, tribal). I’m not saying being able to see the logic or reasoning behind the other side is bad — I will never ever turn my back on the importance of empathy. But if your idea of enlightenment extends to “seeing through the bullshit of each side impartially” and no further, not to being able to evaluate the merits and awfulness of various positions, choose a side, and fight for the more moral option, your ability to see free from bias serves you and no one else.

The example above finds it unusual that someone would uniformly choose politicians of one party after careful evaluation because the “quality” of candidates varies so much that there is likely to be overlap, which means that a straight ticket will probably select a bad quality candidate over a better quality candidate. However, this doesn’t really make sense to me as someone for whom political positions are the main criteria of “quality” in a candidate. The two parties agree on a lot, but on the issues they don’t agree on, it is very rare for me to agree more with the political positions of a Republican over even a very right-wing Democrat — my notion of “quality” does not suggest there is much overlap at all. It’s true that serious issues like corruption / criminal behavior might make me consider voting for the other candidate, or a very odd politician who runs on issues no other politician has a stance on might warrant a closer look. However, I think the view that political differences seem like the least relevant consideration only makes sense when you’re in the center.

In the place of political stances, there is an unspecific notion of “quality”, and as you can see in the post, the state of being indifferent to political differences is morally valorized.

Third thing: as someone who is not a centrist, I will tell you that you can have zero loyalty for a political party (in fact, actively have an antagonistic relationship with both), and still have a very clear preference for one party’s politics. Having a preference between two teams ≠ being guided by tribalist loyalties. It just means your politics are not located midway between the teams.

Instead of / when you encounter “tribalism” you should:
Recognize that the existence of tribalism as a psychological feature of humans doesn’t negate very real differences between political stances. Recognize that while it’s good deed to reduce partisan bias in the world, there are sometimes things much worse than being partisan, and sometimes doing the right thing means decisively taking a side and fighting for it, rather than saying “well, I can see the value of both sides”.

Yes, I know that a lot of people hate it when I say “I can see the value of both sides,” and they let me know it, but this was not a case in which I was saying that.

Pleased that this writer was approaching my point thoughtfully, but distressed that my actual point had been ignored for the sake of concentrating on a word (“tribalism”) that was neither here nor there, I responded:

I’m glad you found my blog worth quoting, and I appreciate your thoughtful approach.

But you didn’t address my point.

No one’s trying to paper over differences, or call genuine disagreement “tribalism.”

I’m attacking the indefensible practice of party-line voting. I’m talking about people paying ZERO attention to the relative qualities of individual candidates, and simply pulling the party lever, choosing the very worst candidates that party is offering along with the very best. I’m referring a gross form of intellectual laziness, which I would think — given your thoughtful approach — you would abhor.

A person who pulls that lever abdicates the profound responsibility, as a voter, to think, to discern, to honestly compare each candidate to his or her opponent(s).

Sure, I can see how you can be a Democrat and vote for Democrats most of the time because you more often agree with Democrats. But it would be absurd to say, to assume, to believe, that ALL Democrats are automatically better than ALL Republicans, and vote accordingly, without taking a moment to test your proposition with each candidate on the ballot. In other words, without thinking.

If you’re really, really into being a Democrat (and of course it works the same way with Republicans; I’m just choosing the side you’re more likely to go with), then you will usually vote for the Democrat. In a particular election, you might even end up voting for every Democrat, without engaging in intellectual dishonesty. It seems to me unlikely, but then I can’t imagine agreeing with either party — or any party in the world — on everything. But a person who truly leans that way might legitimately do that.

But if he or she has not thought through every choice on the ballot before arriving at that 100 percent, we have an abdication of responsibility.

And then — you ever notice how irritating it can be when you want to change what you wrote in a comment, but there’s no edit feature (yes, I’m trying to be funny)? Well, those of you who complain about it so much can feel a little Schadenfreude at my having experienced it myself today. So looking back and seeing I had expressed something poorly, I had to add, immediately:

Rather than “I’m attacking the indefensible practice of party-line voting,” I meant to say, “I’m attacking the indefensible practice of party-lever voting.” As I go on to say, it’s OK if you end up voting for every candidate of one party or the other — as strange as voting that way seems to me.

The irresponsible thing, the indefensible thing, is doing so without having considered the individual candidates and their relative qualities in each contest on the ballot.

Beasley advocates to save U.N. World Food Programme

Beasley the last time I saw him, at the signing ceremony for the legislation to take down the Confederate flag.

Beasley the last time I saw him, at the signing ceremony for the legislation to take down the Confederate flag.

Here’s an interesting thing brought to my attention this morning by a Tweet.

To backtrack a bit first, this is from Foreign Policy back in March:

Former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley will be sworn in next week as the executive director of the World Food Program, placing the first Trump administration appointee at the helm of a major U.N. relief agency at a time when the president seeks deep cuts in funding for humanitarian causes, three senior U.N.-based diplomats told Foreign Policy.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres is gambling that the appointment of Beasley — who has no experience running a major international relief operation, or with the United Nations — will help dissuade the administration from cutting a large portion of the more than $2 billion it contributes each year on the agency to help fight hunger around the world.

In making his case for the new job, according to U.N. advocates he reached out to, Beasley has highlighted his Christian faith, and an extensive network of lawmakers around the world. Most important, perhaps, are his personal relationships with a trio of powerful South Carolina politicians who hold the U.N.’s financial fate in their hands: Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that oversees U.N. funding; and former congressman Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget chief, who has targeted the U.N. for some of the steepest cuts in the federal budget….

I didn’t realize Beasley was all that close to any of those three — the only one whose political career overlaps at all with his is Graham, and I find it very hard to imagine that the former Democrat is major buds with Mulvaney — but perhaps he is.

In any case, this Tweet this morning shows Beasley at least trying to realize the U.N.’s hopes:

This will be interesting to watch…

This is how far we are (or should be) toward impeachment

Jennifer Rubin’s on a roll lately. This morning I Tweeted this out:

If you don’t read anything more of her piece, read these two grafs:

We now have a situation in which multiple, highly respected GOP officials — Coats, Pompeo and perhaps Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — will have a remarkably consistent story showing a frantic and persistent president pestering them to derail an ongoing FBI investigation.

In the case of President Richard Nixon, a recording of a single directive for the CIA to squash the FBI investigation of the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters was dubbed a smoking gun….

Yeah. Assuming these stories remain consistent, we don’t just have a smoking gun — we have a whole battery of them.

Of course, Trump utterly lacks the sense of honor and grasp of reality that led Nixon to resign.

Speaking of grasp on reality, another good piece from a Post writer who generally gets put in the “conservative” camp (although as always when it comes to describing intelligent people, that’s an oversimplification):

This column does a couple of things. First, it tells of Kathleen’s conversations with a friend who, like pretty much the whole Trump base (which keeps him at about 39 percent approval, and WAY higher among Republicans, which is why impeachment will take longer than it should), is blind to how unhinged their guy is — or almost blind: The friend thinks Trump would be fine if he’d just stop Tweeting.

Yet, as Kathleen points out, the Tweets are our window into the real Trump:

So, yes, on one hand, Trump must stop tweeting. On the other, how else would we know how truly demented the man is? Luckily, it’s not too late to save the country, yet. But if Jack is worried about the president’s tweeting, it may be time for congressional Republicans to acknowledge what has long been obvious, declare the man incompetent and deliberate accordingly….

Interesting thing (to someone who cares about the little decisions involved in editing): On the Post iPad app, the headline leading from the main page to the Parker piece was “If Trump stops tweeting, how will we know how demented he really is?” — as you can see below. Then when you got to the column itself, the hed said far less: “If Trump stops tweeting, how will we know who he really is?” When I went to Tweet it, the app offered me the hed that said less. I changed it to the one that stated the case….

demented

Open Thread for Monday, June 5, 2017

one drive

I’m taking a slightly different approach with this one. It’s less like a Virtual Front Page. Some of the most interesting stuff from the last couple of days:

  1. Trump National Security Team Blindsided by NATO Speech — Apparently, none of the grownups were in the room when Trump decided to delete the Article 5 reassurance — after they had worked hard to make sure it was in there. If you don’t understand how pointlessly reckless what Trump did is, you might want to read Charles Krauthammer’s column from Friday.
  2. With his London tweets, Trump embarrasses himself — and America — once again — Excellent piece by Jennifer Rubin, which I retweeted Saturday, saying, “Something he had not done in the past — what? Two or three minutes?” But being Trump, he still managed to explore new areas of crassness.
  3. Donald Trump Poisons the World — Sorry about three Trump items, but after the last few days, dare we look away? This is one of David Brooks’ best columns in awhile, and I didn’t see it until Cindi ran it in the Sunday paper — with the Krauhammer piece mentioned above, as it happens — and if you haven’t yet, I urge you to read it.
  4. Anybody get a threatening email from Microsoft? — Check out the email at the top of this post. I don’t recall ever asking Microsoft for cloud space, much less going over my supposed allowance. Anybody else get a threat like this? I’m not even entirely clear on what “One Drive” is, except that I’ve ignored it whenever it tried to get my attention. Sort of like Cortana. Who needs it?
  5. Have you seen the Wonder Woman movie? — And if so, is it worth my going to see on the big screen? I ask because, while I’ve heard a good bit about it, it’s mostly been cast in What This Means in Feminist Terms (Et tu, Rolling Stone?), and frankly, that’s not what I go to see superhero (or superheroine) movies for. I mean, how does it compare to, say, “Doctor Strange” or “Captain America: Civil War?” Should I just save my money and go see the new Spiderman next month?
  6. Check out this cool simulation — That’s all I have to say. I couldn’t seem to grab the gif itself, so here’s the Tweet in which I saw it:

Open Thread for Thursday, June 1, 2017

Longhaired_Dachshund_portrait

Sorry I haven’t been posting. Super busy. And I’m in a rush to get done today because my grandson’s in an “opera” at school this evening.

Remember, this is an open thread, so feel free to introduce your own topics:

  1. Trump Expected to Withdraw From Climate Deal Today — So, ya know… that planet thing? Fuggedaboudit. What do we need with a planet anyway? We got America. Except for California, which will probably do its own thing.
  2. First cases of highly contagious dog flu confirmed — I feel bad for the pooches, but I’m basically just including this for the pictures, for you dog lovers. We’ve got sad pictures (which, let’s face it, is not a stretch for a dog), and even some with surgical masks — see below. Just search on Twitter for “dog flu,” and you’ll get your fill of pitiful cuteness. And if this doesn’t do it for you, try “Stolen puppies go for a wild ride in Mercedes as alleged thieves flee down interstate “. I’m thinking Disney’s already taken out an option on that one… Let me guess — are these the suspects?
  3. Nigel Farage is ‘person of interest’ in FBI investigation into Trump and Russia — Exclusive from The Guardian. This is like the TV version of “Batman” — the same villains keep cropping up.
  4. High IQ and mass murder: Files shed more light on Roof — You know what? I sorta already know all I want to know about this guy. You? And I find the “high IQ” bit highly doubtful…
  5. Grieving SC parents shed light on addiction in 2 obituaries — We owe a debt of gratitude to these parents for their frankness. We need to know what’s going on in our communities. I’ve got a peeve about obits that don’t list the cause of death. Sometimes, disclosing that provides a public service.
  6. Trump decides to keep U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv — for now — OK. I wonder what the position will be next week?

Open Thread for Thursday, May 25, 2017

Graham grill

Sorry I’ve had no posts today before now. Busy day. Here are some items:

  1. Graham grills Mulvaney over cuts to ‘soft power’ — And you know whose side I’m on in this one. (Hint: the sane, rational side). Good on you, Lindsey.
  2. Colin Powell: American Leadership — We Can’t Do It for Free — Just to note that rational Republicans agree with Graham on this, whether they speak up or not.
  3. Appeals Court Rules Against Revised Trump Travel Ban — The courts continue to do their vital job. And this was the 4th Circuit — the conservative one, the polar opposite of the 9th.
  4. Trump tells NATO allies to pay up — Which we all say, but of course we must keep NATO going whether they do or not. Maybe this is one of those cases where the Madman Theory will actually work — the one instance in which Trump is useful. I’m not betting on it, though.
  5. Jared Kushner now a focus in Russia investigation — I wish it were Steve Bannon instead, but you take what you can get.
  6. Trump threatens to prosecute over Manchester attack leaks — Here, he’s standing by Theresa May, as he should. But I wonder if he thinks this is a way of achieving his own goals of stopping leaks back home? I’m thinking of the Trump/GOP narrative that the problem isn’t the awful stuff Trump’s doing, but the fact that we keep hearing about it…
  7. Richland deputy saves choking toddler — I thought you could use some good news, and something local…

mulvaney

 

Open Thread for Monday, May 22, 2017

The 1812 editorial cartoon from which we get the term "gerrymander."

The 1812 editorial cartoon from which we get the term “gerrymander.”

Not much that’s interesting out there, but here are some talkers:

  1. Justices rule North Carolina improperly relied on race in redistricting efforts — Whoa! If they’re not going to allow that, then there goes every district in South Carolina. And it can’t be too soon. Reapportionment reform!
  2. Trump said what?!? — That’s the headline on a Jennifer Rubin column — one she could use at any time these days, but here she specifically marvels at what Trump said in denying he had revealed the source of code-word intel he gave the Russians: “I never mentioned the word or the name Israel in that conversation.” This puts Trump on the level of my granddaughter when she was about 2. One day her baby brother started crying suddenly and my wife asked her what had happened, since he couldn’t talk. Her reply: “I didn’t kick him in the head!” (He’s fine, by the way. We celebrated his 5th birthday over the weekend. She’s 7 and, unlike our president, way too smart now to incriminate herself that way.)
  3. Flynn takes the Fifth, declines to comply with Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena — That pretty much states it.
  4. Officials: Visitor releases boa constrictor in Congaree park — But that’s not the good part. The good part’s in italics here: “A visitor who thought boa constrictors were a native snake species in South Carolina released one in a Midlands park.” Really? Really? Who would own a boa constrictor and not know where they come from?
  5. Lawmaker apologizes after saying Louisiana leaders ‘should be lynched’ for removing Confederate statues — Well, golly gee… As long as he said he’s sorry… This is getting prominent play on The Guardian because they love stories that make Americans sound like malevolent hammerheads…
  6. You should go give blood — That’s what I’m about to do in a few minutes. I’m giving platelets again, as I do about every two weeks…

Weird juxtaposition of the day

car

First, I don’t know why I keep getting these “save Planned Parenthood” ads. Aside from the fact that I am far from supportive of the organization, I can’t think of the last time I said anything about it, or looked up anything about it. (Although I guess I just invited more ads mentioning it here.)

But I was struck by the juxtaposition with the “proud redneck” car, which has been one of my more popular header images over the years. (As you probably know, my header images are generated randomly from a library I’ve built up over the years.)

I see “I stand with Planned Parenthood” under that image, and I’m like, “Really, Mr. ‘I heart fat women’? You do?”

I don’t know what the resulting message of this accidental juxtaposition is, but it is at the very least discordant…

Donald Trump, pathological truth-teller?

pinocchio

For some time, I’ve been intending to write a post raising the question, “Is Trump really a liar?”

It sounds like a dumb question because, of course, we’ve never in American history dealt with a man who is such a stranger to the truth. This guy constantly, relentlessly says things that are painfully obviously untrue — things everyone can immediately see are not true, like his ridiculous claims about the size of the crowd at his inauguration. And he sticks to the lies, no matter how much they are debunked.

But is it, technically and even morally, a lie if you believe it to be true? So much of what he says — say, his comments about how upset Andrew Jackson was about the Civil War, which started 16 years after his death — arises from his abysmal ignorance about, well, almost everything. Of course, speaking of the inaugural flap that mattered to no one but him, you don’t have to be an expert to look at a photo and see the crowd was smaller than at previous such gatherings. But he is so delusional about anything that bears on his fragile self-esteem that even there, I suspect he actually believes that the photos lie.

When media report facts, he dismisses those facts as “fake news.” Is that really a calculated, deliberate effort to brainwash his followers into ignoring said facts? I suspect that even there, his own grasp on the fact-based world is so tenuous that he may actually believe that it’s the news, and not him, that is wrong.

Anyway, the point seems rather moot now, because the big story of the past week has been instances in which Trump has rocked the world by telling the truth on himself.

First, all his followers who were out there saying no, the Comey firing (or as the BBC calls it, the “FBI Sacking Row,” which I love) was not about the investigation into alleged collusion between his campaign and the Russians. Heavens, no! What a shocking suggestion! It was really about Comey being beastly to that poor Hillary Clinton. And it was all at the suggestion of Comey’s boss in the Justice Department….

So what does Trump do? He does a network television interview in which he says, no bones about it, that he was going to fire Comey no matter what his advisers said, and yeah, it was at least to some extent about “this Russia thing.”

Then yesterday, the news breaks about him spilling code-word classified information to the Russians, so his defenders rush out to push the line that nothing of the kind occurred, the story is completely wrong, yadda-yadda…

…and what does Trump do? He gets on Twitter in the middle of the night and — to the extent that we can decipher his meaning, given that the Tweets were written in the semi-literate dialect known as “Trumpese” — said yeah, I told the Russians that stuff, and it’s OK that I did.

(At his point, who would want to work for this guy?)

And so we have to consider which is the greater problem with this guy — that he lies, or that he tells outrageous truths and considers himself immune from consequences (which, so far, he has been, especially with his fan base)?

Is he a pathological liar, or a pathological truth-teller?

Trump reveals U.S. secrets to Russians, and other news

RL_exterior1_Big_horizontal-1200x500

My blog was shut down most of the day. There was a server out of action somewhere, and it took a long time to fix, according to my host. I’m still fuzzy on the details. But here are some topics:

  1. Trump revealed highly classified information to RussiansBREAKING… This was just last week, on the day after he fired Comey for, you know, investigating the possibility of collusion with… let’s see… what country was that?
  2. G.O.P. Senators Begin Edging Away From the President — “And they all started moving away from me on the Group W bench there…” This story actually predates the breaking one above.
  3. Richland Library wins nation’s highest honor — Don’t tell me I never give you any good news. Access freely (a tagline, by the way, created by ADCO when we rebranded the library awhile back). I prefer this kind of “access freely” to the way Trump uses it with regard to the Russians.
  4. McMaster won’t use Richard Quinn for 2018 re-election bid — This is from the Post and Courier over the weekend, but I just learned about it this morning. Looks like there’s some “edging away” going on here in SC as well.
  5. Secret Republican Senate Talks Are Shaping Health Care Legislation — Just in case you got up this morning wondering, “What fresh hell will Washington send my way next?”

Raging hormones. Or something…

This kind of cracked me up, and I can’t say exactly why…

If you’re a blogger, you frequently get emails such as this one from folks promoting their own content:

Hi Brad,

My name is Zoey Miller, and I am the Editor-in-Chief at The Babble Out (http://www.thebabbleout.com/). We recently released a comprehensive blog post about testosterone. Since we published it on our site, we have received over 400 social shares on this article.
While browsing your site, I noticed that you linked to a piece from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testosterone on the same topic from this page: http://www.bradwarthen.com/category/transportation/ .I believe our piece is more practical and more comprehensible to ordinary people, and I think it would be an excellent addition to your page.

If you are willing to add our link to that page, I would be happy to share it with the tens of thousands of people who follow us via social media, in order to help you gain some visibility.Here is the link for your review:

https://www.thebabbleout.com/health/testosterone/

Please let me know what you think. Thank you for your consideration!

Cheers,

Zoey Miller

Cheers back atcha, Zoey.

These messages tend to assume that I’m way more interested than I am in the subject that I touched on one time a month, or a year, or 10 years ago. Nevertheless, I sometimes click on the link to see what’s being offered, and I did so this time.

And I couldn’t get past the photo used to illustrate the concept of “testosterone:”

testosterone

Oh, my! Protect me from the scary man, Mama!

Perhaps that’s how I’m supposed to react to this… what shall I call him… raging savage hipster? But it cracked me up. I couldn’t help thinking of the “If Millennials Were Lumberjacks” video I shared recently.

I think he’s going for what The Band was singing about in “Jemima Surrender:”

Jemima Surrender, I’m gonna give it to you,
Ain’t no pretender, gonna ride in my canoe
If I were a barker in a girly show,
Tell ya what I’d do, I’d lock the door, tear my shirt and let my river flow…

But it just doesn’t quite come across that way…

Trump fires Comey, and other news of the day

Comey cropped

Yeah, this is an Open Thread, but that first item just demanded to be in the headline:

  1. Comey dismissed after misstatement of Clinton email evidence — Wow. Whoa. Hang on!… I had seen a headline earlier today about Comey’s “oops,” and wasn’t interested enough to read it (the whole Comey-Hillary thing has sort of been done to death). Now this, which has only happened once before.
  2. SC House passes gas-tax hike — Both chambers have passed it with enough votes to override McMaster’s outrageous promise to veto. I still have questions about this bill — especially the pointless tax breaks in it — but on the whole this looks like it’s a good bit better than I would have expected from this General Assembly even a couple of weeks back. So good for them. I think…

And you know what? I’m going to stop there, because everything else looks so uninteresting by comparison…

Open Thread for Friday, April 28, 2017

Mug shots from crime story in The State. Note the way the "whites" of her eyes are totally dark. Is she a Fremen? If so, Fremen are scary.

Mug shots from crime story in The State. Note the way the “whites” of her eyes are totally dark. Is she a Fremen? If so, Fremen are scary.

Sorry I haven’t posted much. Here are a few topics:

  1. Congress passes spending deal to keep government open another week — Woo-hoo! Talk about leadership! These statesmen for the ages can’t get it together to actually DO anything (even stupid things, like repealing Obamacare), but they’ve gone all out and avoided shutting down the government for a whole week! If you see your congressman, be sure to pat him on his overburdened little head.
  2. Economic Growth, at 0.7%, Is Weakest in Three Years — That’s what The Wall Street Journal is leading with. But hey, those Trump tax cuts are going to fix it all up, right, WSJ?
  3. Trump Administration Wants North Korea At Negotiating Table On Nuclear Weapons — Beats the scary news from earlier in the week.
  4. SC needs money for roads, so senators pass tax cuts — Yeah, they did it while increasing the gas tax, but I just can’t stop focusing on the insanity of — when faced with a need for revenue, and you have a tax dedicated to that purpose, it’s lower than the national average, and you haven’t raised it in 30 years — refusing to raise it without cutting totally unrelated taxes? It’s just completely nuts. You say “Hello, good morning” to these guys, and their response is “Yes, let’s cut taxes!” And don’t even get me started on Henry McMaster’s role in all this…
  5. NSA halts warrantless collection of Americans’ emails that mention foreign targets — Why? Sounds like a potentially valuable intel source to me.

Can anyone tell what Google’s problem with me is?

download

I got this email four days ago, but didn’t see it until today. The headline was, “Google AdSense: Action required to comply with AdSense program policies.”

OK, so I opened it, intending to deal with whatever the problem might be.

Trouble is, based on this, I have no idea what the problem is:

Hello,

This is a warning message to alert you that there is action required to bring your AdSense account into compliance with our AdSense program policies. We’ve provided additional details below, along with the actions to be taken on your part.

Affected website: bradwarthen.com

Example page where violation occurred: http://www.bradwarthen.com/category/sex/

Action required: Please make changes immediately to your site to follow AdSense program policies.

Current account status: Active

Violation explanation

As stated in our program policies, sites displaying Google ads should provide substantial and useful information to the user. Users should be able to easily navigate through the site to find what products, goods, or services are promised. Examples of misguided navigation include, but are not limited to:

  • False claims of downloadable or streaming content
  • Linking to content that does not exist
  • Redirecting users to irrelevant and/or misleading webpages
  • Text on a page unrelated to the topic and/or business model of the website.

For more information, please review Google’s Webmaster quality guidelines and the AdSense program policies.

How to resolve:

  • If you received a notification in regard to page content, we request that you immediately remove Google ads from the violating pages. If you are unable to, or unsure of how to remove the ads from these pages, or would like to continue monetizing the page with Google ads, please modify or remove the violating content to meet our AdSense policies.
  • If you received a notification in regards to the way ads are implemented on your site, please make the necessary changes to your implementation.

You do not need to contact us if you make changes. Please be aware that if additional violations are accrued, ad serving may be disabled to the website listed above. You should immediately take time to review your pages with Google ads to ensure that they comply with our policies.

Additionally, please be aware that the URL above is just an example and that the same violations may exist on other pages of this website or other sites that you own. To reduce the likelihood of future warnings from us, we suggest that you review all your sites for compliance. Here are some useful resources you might be interested in.

For more information regarding our policy warning notifications, visit our Help Center.

We thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

Of course, of course, of COURSE it’s from a “noreply” address, so I can’t ask questions.

And of course, when you click on the Help Center link, you get more words, and links to other words, none of which start out, “Our problem with your post is…”

They did allow me to vent a bit. When I clicked the “no” button at the bottom asking whether the article was helpful, I got a box to type in, under the invitation, “How can we improve it?” I wrote:

You can give me someone to talk to. The warning I received was completely unintelligible. I cannot begin to intuit what the problem is. If you have a problem with something on my blog, come out and tell me exactly what the problem is. From what you sent, I don’t have a clue….

But maybe I’m being obtuse. Can y’all see what it is, and tell me how to fix it?

The only thing I see on that post that might conceivably be troubling would be a copyright issue. But I’m pretty sure that my use of the photo from “Breaking Bad” and the Jimmy Carter one from Playboy, I’m in Fair Use territory. And I don’t think that’s what they’re talking about.

So what do you think it is?