Open Thread for Thursday, April 6, 2017

FilibusterFingerPOintingAriailW

Here’s what we’ve got going:

  1. Trump weighing military options following chemical weapons attack in Syria (WashPost) — Here we go, y’all. Hang onto your seats.
  2. Senate Republicans use ‘nuclear option’ to break filibuster on Gorsuch (WashPost) — Yeah… You know what? In light of Syria and the pictures of children killed by WMD, maybe we’d better dial back the hyperbolic language used to describe bloodless parliamentary maneuvers, OK? Here’s my question: Since they knew this would happen, what do Democrats think they achieved by voting as a bloc against a qualified nominee?
  3. Nunes to Step Aside From House Russia Investigation (NYT) — With this coming on the heels of Gen. McMaster getting Steve Bannon off the National Security Council, it seems we’ve got a tiny streak of good news going on the national security front — except, of course, for that going-to-war-in-Syria thing.
  4. S.C. House backs plan for carrying firearms without permits  (The State) — I know; this is old. But we didn’t deal with it yesterday when it happened. In any case, the need for this measure continues to elude me.
  5. Should America Have Entered World War I? (NYT) — Most provocative assertion in this piece: If we hadn’t, there might not have been a Hitler. To which I say, woulda, shoulda, coulda…
  6. Comedian Don Rickles, Merciless ‘Merchant Of Venom,’ Dies At 90 (NPR) — I hate to say it at this particular moment, but I never liked this guy. Yeah, I know — he was supposed to be a sweetie in real life, kind to friends and dogs, but I just never enjoyed his brand of humor. He was like a pre-internet troll. I found it grating. You?
Rickles in "Kelly's Heroes."

Rickles in “Kelly’s Heroes.”

It’s official, and here’s the portrait to prove it

Going by that window in the background, this looks like it was actually taken at the White House, so I guess she dropped by for a visit:

Apparently, this photo is generating a lot of buzz on social media. I’m not interested in that. What the photo says to me is, See? It’s official. This is the first lady. And you know what that means, in terms of who the president actually is…

So, you know, it’s time to start hyperventilating, if by some weird circumstance you have failed to do so yet…

Your Virtual Front Page for Tuesday, April 4, 2017

First one of these for April, which will come whether you’re ready or not:

  1. Worst Chemical Attack in Years in Syria; U.S. Blames Assad (NYT) — We’re talking about at least 58 dead. Victims were foaming at the mouth. Then, the clinics where the stricken were taken were attacked by warplanes and rockets.
  2. Gov. McMaster urges lawmakers to borrow up to $1 billion for road repairs (The State) — You’ve already read about this one, back here. I had expected this governor to be more engaged in what’s actually going on at the State House, instead of sending missives from another planet.
  3. Blackwater founder held secret Seychelles meeting to establish Trump-Putin back channel (WashPost) — The Post touted this cloak-and-dagger story as an exclusive. It happened before Trump’s inauguration.
  4. Midlands driver accused of attempting to run over teens multiple times (The State) — Did you get a load of the mug shot with this one? See below. Couldn’t the booking officer have said, “Enough with the Hannibal Lecter pose,” or at least, “Lift your chin?”
  5. Still celebrating Lady Gamecocks winning national championship (The State) — This is my lame, belated attempt to answer Bud’s complaint. It could be worse. I could be suppressing coverage of the Bowling Green Massacre.
  6. Trump Donates Salary To National Parks Even As He Tries To Cut Interior Department (NPR) — Can you believe this guy? Does he expect applause?
Nancy Meiler, accused of trying to run over teenagers./Sumter County Sheriff's office

Nancy Meiler, 49, accused of trying to run over teenagers./Sumter County Sheriff’s office

Lucas gives McMaster’s roads letter the answer it deserves

Henry McMaster continues to disappoint those of us who had hoped for some leadership for a change over at the governor’s office.

At least, we kept telling ourselves, he hadn’t threatened to veto the bill increasing the gas tax and reforming DOT, the way Nikki Haley would have done.

Well, today he crossed that line.

Then he exacerbated it by coming up with a cockamamie alternative for paying for road repairs:

Promising to veto an increase to the state’s gas tax to repair the state’s roads, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster wants lawmakers instead to borrow up to $1 billion to fix South Carolina’s crumbling roads.

McMaster, governor since January, urged lawmakers to change a proposed $500 million borrowing plan, proposed by the House, to instead spend that money — and more — on roads. McMaster made his proposal in a letter Tuesday to House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington….

The speaker gave the proposal the contempt it deserved. Translated from genteel Lucasspeak, he not only said “No,” but “Hell, no:”

unnamed (1)

Governor McMaster’s proposal continues the pattern of placing the costs of road repair solely on the South Carolina taxpayer and not on out-of-state motorists who use and deteriorate our crumbling roads. Borrowing more money to fix South Carolina’s roads and bridges will not serve as a permanent solution to our infrastructure crisis. The House passed our roads bill with an overwhelming bipartisan and veto proof majority, which protects the South Carolina taxpayer by providing a sustainable funding stream that requires every motorist to pay their fair share.

Not only is Henry throwing behind the runner — he’s throwing to first when the House has long ago crossed home plate — but the proposal would have been ridiculous even if it were still an open question in that body.

We have a mechanism for the ongoing funding of roads — the gas tax. You want to fix roads and you don’t have enough money, you raise the gas tax. It’s not complicated, and there is no call for trying to reinvent the wheel as a way of avoiding the obvious, commonsense solution….

When the world needed a hero, he stepped forward

grammar vigilante 1

As you may have noticed, I’ve been a bit bothered by the state of the world lately.

Well, after seeing this, I feel better:

This man goes out in the night and deletes erroneous apostrophes, wherever they rear their ugly tails. As long as they do so in Bristol, England. That’s his Gotham. Says he:

“People might say what I am doing is wrong, but it is more of a crime to have the apostrophes wrong in the first place.”

Bloody well right.

Going by the video, he’s mainly attacking the most idiotic of apostrophe errors — placing them so that they turn what should be plural nouns into possessive ones.

I haven’t seen him deal with my own particular bête noire — the open single quote where an apostrophe should be at the start of a word or number, as in a truncated date.

But hey, he’s just one man, doing all he can.

Maybe he needs a sidekick. And I’ve been looking for an excuse to go back to England…

Don't you love this -- a huge apostrophe where there shouldn't be one, and NO apostrophe where there SHOULD be...

Don’t you love this — a huge apostrophe where there shouldn’t be one, and NO apostrophe where there SHOULD be…

I’ll call this one ‘Cardinal Wolsey’

Cardinal

Christmas before last, my wife received a bird feeder for our deck. Things were going pretty well with the Wagner’s Eastern Regional Blend, except for the squirrels.

Initially, we defeated them by swinging the boom holding the feeder out over open space off the deck, but a few months back they figured out how to defeat that, and basically whenever we weren’t looking, they emptied the thing. I don’t know what it was they were so crazy about; maybe the sunflower seeds.

So a month or so ago I bought some seed at Lowe’s that would only attract smaller birds — and cardinals.

So what’s happened? The cardinals tend to hog it, and run the sparrows and wrens off.

And some of them have gotten pretty fat.

Get a load of this guy. Yeah, his feathers are kind of fluffed out, but he’s still rather large.

And he’s not even eating. He’s just sitting there, staking out territory. Very political, very wordly for a bird of the cloth.

I think I’ll call him “Wolsey”…

How does this make Mike Pence a ‘misogynist?’

Look at this face. No, LOOK!... See, you've already looked away...

Look at this face. No, LOOK!… See, you’ve already looked away…

A simple conversation
With a new man now and again
Makes a touchy situation
When a good thing’s comin’ to an end…

Janis Joplin

I admit I don’t pay a lot of attention to Mike Pence, so maybe I’ve missed something indicative of his supposed hostility toward women.

He’s not terribly interesting. I think Trump deliberately chose him for that reason. I think his rationale went, Solid, unremarkable conservative (which I’m not). Won’t distract attention from Yours Truly. Central Casting would immediately peg Pence as the guy to stand in the background and applaud during bill signings. Look at his face. No, look at it — see, you’ve lost interest and looked away already, so never mind.

Anyway, it seems that Pence is in trouble with some for having said, years ago, that he makes it a personal rule not to have a meal or drinks with a woman without his wife being present. It started with this modest aside in a Washington Post story about Mrs. Pence:

In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either….

A lot of people have freaked out over this, to a sufficiently absurd degree that it can cause people who don’t hold with Pence’s rule to be converted to it, just in reaction to the madness:

The thing that really set me off on this was a column in The Guardian that called Pence a “misogynist” because he’s a guy who takes the “lead us not into temptation” part of the Our Father (or Lord’s Prayer, since I think he’s switched from Catholic to evangelical) really, really, really seriously.

When you Google that word, the first definition you get is “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.” Yeah, that’s the definition I’d use. And I don’t see how this practice, or perhaps former practice, of the veep qualifies him for that epithet. But to a certain sort of ideologue, if you don’t agree with certain propositions (such as, women are exactly the same as men and no one should ever evince in any way an atavistic belief in la différence), then you’re a hater.

Yeah, I get all the reasons why people object to Pence’s view. No need to explain it; I read the piece in The Atlantic, written by a young person named Olga, who looks (yes, I had to go see what a person named “Olga” looked like, so sue me) just like lots of other very young persons who are often to be found online ‘splaining such things to the likes of me, as though I hadn’t heard that stuff before they were born. (I had pictured someone different.)

But back to the Guardian piece. It includes an argument that the writer, because of her ideological inclinations, considers to be a real slam-dunk:

As the Black List founder Franklin Leonard noted, if Keith Ellison – who is Muslim – “refused to dine one on one with women and used his religion to justify it, the political right would lose their minds”.

Which seems rather doubtful to me, as do most such “if x were substituted for y, then z would go ballistic” arguments, which are usually based in an excessive faith that one knows one’s adversaries’ minds better than they do.

I have no doubt that there are plenty of people on the right who would indeed have a fit when someone on the left says it looks like we’re going to have a nice day. And vice versa: “Nice for whom: dead white male oppressors?!?!”

Of course, I can only speak for myself. I’m not of the “political right,” but I suspect this Franklin Leonard would beg to differ. Anyway, while I don’t hold with the Muslim notion of restricting interaction between the sexes, I respect the intention, and the willingness to submit to the will of Allah in avoiding compromising situations.

Similarly, like Ross Douthat, I consider Pence’s rule to be a bit much, but I respect his decision not to let himself enjoy even the limited intimacy of a shared meal with any woman but his wife. (And if that’s too much of a temptation for him, I especially applaud his decision to keep alcohol out of the equation.)

It’s like the way I feel about, again, Muslims — and for that matter Baptists — who strictly avoid alcohol. I respect the motivation and admire the discipline, even though I’m, you know… Catholic, and therefore not inclined to follow such precepts myself.

And I’m not going to call them names for taking a different approach.

What’s Henry McMaster afraid of? Mark Sanford?

McMaster for governor

Several weeks back, I was on an elevator with a Republican attorney who asked me what I though about how Henry McMaster was doing as governor.

As I was mentally crafting a reply — something like I have hopes, and I see the gasoline tax issue as one that will help determine whether the hopes are justified — he followed up his own question with speculation about Mark Sanford running against Henry in 2018, and wondering whether any other Republicans will run as well.

I don’t know what I said to that. After Donald Trump handed Henry the job he’d wanted so long, I had sort of stopped pondering 2018, thinking Well, that’s that. I certainly hadn’t given any thought to Mark Sanford having ambitions of running again for the office for which he is so spectacularly unsuited, as he spent eight years demonstrating. I probably just made some noises like homina-homina, as though the speech center of my brain had been struck by lightning.

I had not spent time worrying about that the same way I don’t wake up in the morning worrying about an invasion of Nazi zombies. (Of course, when the Nazi zombies do take over, you realize that you should have worried.)

Anyway, once the brain started running again, I started thinking: Is this why Henry’s running from the chance to lead on the gas tax? Is it all about fearing a challenge from Mr. Club for Growth? (And yeah, Sanford had been on a number of people’s 2018 speculation lists — I just hadn’t been paying attention to that stuff.)

Let’s set aside the absurdity of Sanford leaving his comfort zone to once again occupy the governor’s chair. Being a member of the “no” caucus in Congress suits Sanford’s style perfectly. His political M.O. is: Toss out proposals and watch them get shot down, and then moan about it. That seems to be what he runs to do. That makes him perfectly suited to be a member of the Freedom Caucus. Nobody expect them to accomplish anything. Do that as governor, and you just make the legislative leadership of your own party want to throttle you. They count the days until you’re gone, hoping you’ll be replaced by someone who wants to govern.

Which is what, after 14 years of Sanford and Nikki Haley, lawmakers had every reason to expect. And they did. They were even described as “giddy” about the prospect:

“He’s pragmatic,” said state Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester. “He gets people together to reach compromises. He doesn’t dig into one position, and you’re either with him or you’re not.”

Publicly, S.C. lawmakers offer mostly guarded assessments of Haley and their optimism about McMaster, who will ascend to the governor’s office once Haley is confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in a few weeks.

Privately, however, some are giddy to trade in Haley – a 44-year-old Republican who bashed lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Legislature on Facebook and in their hometowns, offered failing “grades” to those who disagreed with her and told a real estate group to “take a good shower” after visiting the State House – for McMaster, a GOP governor they think will work with them….

Meanwhile, we saw the GOP leadership in the House stepping out and leading on fixing our roads — unabashedly raising the gas tax, and reforming governance of the agency.

And then, rather than joining them in the vanguard, Henry started muttering about what a bad idea raising the tax was (as though there were some rational alternative way of paying for roads, which there isn’t), making ominous “last resort” noises. As though we hadn’t gotten to the “last resort” stage some time ago.

No, he hasn’t promised to veto such an increase — which would have been his predecessor’s opening move — but he just won’t stop sending out bad vibes about it. (“Always with the negative waves, Moriarty!”)

It’s bad enough that the proposal has to run the Senate gauntlet, with Tom Davis shooting at it from one side and the “tax increase yes; reform no” crowd on the other. When a thing needs doing, the Senate is at its best dysfunctional. It would have been really, really nice to have the governor standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Speaker Lucas in trying to solve this problem, instead of standing by and watching it get kicked farther down the pothole-pocked road.

Taxes are a killer?” Really? No, governor — unsafe roads are a killer, if anything is on this front.

Of course, if one is inclined to pessimism, one might think the window for leadership has closed or soon will, now that a dark cloud has parked itself over anyone and everyone associated with Richard Quinn. I certainly hope that’s not the case, because we have issues in South Carolina that need to be addressed.

I also hope the governor won’t hold back out of fear of 2018, because at some point, you really need to stop running for office and govern

Trump vs. ‘Freedom Caucus:’ Whom do you root for?

This had me shaking my head this morning:

President Trump effectively declared war Thursday on the House Freedom Caucus, the powerful group of hard-line conservative Republicans who blocked the health-care bill, vowing to “fight them” in the 2018 midterm elections.

In a morning tweet, Trump warned that the Freedom Caucus would “hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast.” He grouped its members, all of them Republican, with Democrats in calling for their political defeat — an extraordinary incitement of intraparty combat from a sitting president…

I just don’t feel like I’ve got a dog in that fight; do you? All I could think of to say was this:

Is this what American political discourse has become? A to-the-death battle between irrational fringe elements, with neither side having a clue how to run a government — or even any interest in doing so?

Look at what, thanks to gerrymandering, Republican primaries have become:

The ad battles are heating up in the 5th District special election, including one spot that calls out GOP lawmakers for “folding” on the Confederate flag.

Republican Sheri Few of Lugoff launched her first radio ad in the congressional race this week, attacking “weak Republicans” who voted to remove the Confederate flag at the S.C. State House in 2015 in the wake of the Charleston church massacre.

“I’m running for Congress to reject political correctness,” Few says in the ad, a 60-second spot airing in the Columbia market….

And for you aliens who are visiting our planet and trying to understand how our politics work, here’s the exlanation:

Few is competing for right-wing Republican voters in the May 2 primary, which is expected to have a low turnout…

Yep.

Any of y’all ever have an extended conversation with Sheri Few? It’s… an experience.

I suppose I should note that she’s running for a seat vacated by a member of the “Freedom Caucus…”

Sheri Few/2008 file photo

Sheri Few/2008 file photo

Change has slowed down so much in the meat world

What people allegedly looked like in 1994. How are they different, except that they're not looking at their phones?

What people allegedly looked like in 1994. How are they different, except that they’re not looking at their phones?

I was looking at the pictures with my post about “Hoosiers,” and something hit me.

Do you realize that the 1980s — when the movie came out — are now as far in the past as the 1950s were when it was released?

That blows my mind. (Although not as much as when I reflect that the ’70s are now further back than the First World War was when I was born!) The early ’50s were ancient history, a different universe, a time hard to place yourself in, when the film was made. But the ’80s don’t seem long ago at all.

Yeah, some of that is age, and you younger folks won’t get it. The time in which the film was set was before I was born, but in the ’80s I was an adult and, by the end of the decade, the father of five kids.

But there’s more to it than that. It goes to my running theme about how much less dynamic our culture is today than it was within living memory.

In the world in which we Boomers grew up, popular culture — fashions, music, film, slang, the whole look and feel of living in America — changed markedly from year to year.

Yeah, the ’80s look different from now, so there’s a definite feeling of that decade being “past” — just not distant past. And I think that’s because if you look at pictures from the ’90s or the ’00s, things look pretty much the way they do now — except that now everybody’s walking around looking down at their phones.

Clothes, hair, cars may be slightly different from the early ’90s — but not as different as they tended to be from year to year in the ’60s.

It’s weird, to me, the way change has slowed down in the meat world, even as it has changed rapidly online. It’s like all of our dynamism, energy and creativity have poured into the virtual, abandoning the real…

Carnaby Street in London in the '60s, when change was what was happening.

Carnaby Street in London in the ’60s, when change was what was happening.

Some ‘no’ states reconsider expanding Medicaid

The BAD news is, Sam Brownback's likely to veto expansion in Kansas./2007 file photo

The BAD news is, Sam Brownback’s likely to veto expansion in Kansas. /2007 file photo

This is fascinating:

Paul Ryan promised his donors yesterday that he will keep pushing to overhaul the health care system this year, despite his failure last week. But in the 19 states that never expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the calculus has quickly changed.

A lot of state legislators, including Republicans, are putting more stock in what the Speaker said Friday, that Obamacare will be the law of the land for the foreseeable future….

With Obamacare repeal less likely, opponents of expansion in the states have just lost their best argument….

Consequently, the Kansas Senate has now joined the House in voting to expand Medicaid.

In Georgia, GOP Gov. Nathan Deal wants to reopen the issue.

In Virginia, Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe sees a chance to try again on expansion.

The issue could also be in play, according to different sources, in North Carolina, Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota, Maine (where a referendum is scheduled) and Arkansas.

Can South Carolina be far behind?

Well, yes, it can. But Dum Spiro Spero

Revisiting the Hickory Huskers

Huskers

Back row: Whit, Jimmy, Strap, Coach Norman Dale, Everett, Merle, Buddy. Front row: Rade, Ollie.

All the Gamecock basketball excitement over the weekend caused me to go back and watch “Hoosiers” again, even though I had already done so once in the past month or two. I figured I needed to brush up on my sports jargon, so I could say stuff like:

You’re playing Gonzaga Saturday. Ain’t nobody knows ’em better’n me. Now, I been watchin’ how you’ve been breakin’ the colts. But, my friend, you cannot play them all the way man-to-man. They got no head-toppers. Gonzaga? A bunch o’ mites. Run you off the boards. You gotta squeeze ’em back in the paint. Make ’em chuck it from the cheap seats. Watch that purgatory they call a gym. No drive, 12 foot in. That’ll do…

I still think some of what Shooter told Coach was gobbledegook, but it sounded deep.

Anyway, as happens when I’m watching a movie with an iPad on my lap, I started looking up the colts to see what happened to them. Some of them tried to pursue a movie career, with minimal success. One (Merle) committed suicide at 39. Another — Rade, who violated Norman Dale’s 4-pass rule in the first game, is a successful dentist, and looks just the same except that his hair’s not slicked down.

Anyway, I ran across this fun picture from this past November, when the Huskers reunited in Indianapolis, and were interviewed on a radio show. I hope Kent Sterling, the radio host, won’t mind my sharing this. It’s pretty cool…

crop reunion

Pictured are, left to right:

  • Brad Long, who played BuddyThat’s the guy with the crewcut who mouthed off to the coach in the first practice and got kicked off the team — then, mysteriously, is back on the team later in the movie. It’s a mystery because the money men forced the director to butcher the movie to get it under 2 hours, and it was still awesome! The very last cut they made was to the scene in which Buddy asks Coach for another chance.
  • Dr. Steve Hollar, who played Rade — Rade had an attitude problem, too, but later became so loyal that in defense of Coach Dale, he threw the punch that got him and Dale kicked out of the game. “Got him good, didn’t I, coach?” “Yeah, you did.” Steve was playing basketball for DePauw University when he got the part. After filming, he went back to school and became a dentist.
  • Wade Schenck, who played Ollie — Ollie wasn’t no good, as he put it — “Equipment manager’s my trade.” But he scored the charity shot that got them into the championship game.
  • Kent Sterling, the radio guy
  • Maris Valainis, the immortal Jimmy Chitwood — Valainis showed up for the casting cattle call, and decided it was ridiculous with so many competitors, and got out of line to leave — and the director spotted him. He pulled the kid aside and asked him to show his basketball skills. Even though he was the only Husker who didn’t make his high school team in real life, he ended up portraying the best player anybody had ever seen in Indiana.
  • David Neirdorf, who played Everett Flatch — That’s Shooter’s son, who was initially embarrassed by what Coach was trying to do for his Dad. “Son, kick their butt!”

And who doesn’t get goose bumps when, at the end, the camera zooms in on the team photo and you hear Gene Hackman say, “I love you guys…”

One thing should be deader than Trumpcare — the idea that you can (or should try to) run government like a business

By Michael Vadon via Flickr

By Michael Vadon via Flickr

Maybe Trumpcare — or Ryancare or, more accurately, Don’tcare — is dead. But I know of one thing that should be even deader: The absurd notion, which too many people cling to as an article of faith, that government can and should be “run like a business.”

And even deader than that (if, you know, you can be deader than something that’s deader than dead) should be the laughable idea that the best person to run a government is a businessman with zero experience in government — especially if that businessman is Donald J. Trump.

Remember all the silliness about how Trump was going to be so awesome because he’s such a great deal-maker (just ask him; he’ll tell you — over and over)?

Well, so much for that. The one deal he had to close to meet minimum expectations of the base — repeal that “awful” Obamacare — was so far beyond his abilities, it would be hard to find a better case study of how the skills involved in accumulating a bunch of money in real estate have nothing to do with the skills involved in corralling votes in Congress.

And yet… in spite of all the above… we read this this morning:

Trump taps Kushner to lead a SWAT team to fix government with business ideas

President Trump plans to unveil a new White House office on Monday with sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and fulfill key campaign promises — such as reforming care for veterans and fighting opioid addiction — by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, privatizing some government functions.

The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements….

Wow! He’s still spouting that stuff! You’d think that, after it was all proved to be nonsense on Friday, he’d give it a little time before repeating it!

But when you live in a fact-free universe, I guess this is how it goes…

How long is a generation? Longer than I thought…

Coronation of Charlemagne

Coronation of Charlemagne

We hear a lot of silly generalizations about demographic cohorts that we refer to as “generations,” which become particularly absurd when you look at how they are defined. For instance, the only really cool generation, the Baby Boom, supposedly includes people born in 1964.

Which is ridiculous. How can you possibly be a Boomer if you can’t remember JFK’s assassination, the arrival of the Beatles or the introduction of the Ford Mustang? It’s obvious; you can’t — if the Baby Boom has any cultural meaning.

But there’s another problem: Even with that overbroad definition, the “generation” only lasts from 1946 to 1964 — 18 years.

That’s not a generation.

So what is a generation? Not having made a study of it, I’ve tended to think it was in the 20- to 25-year range.

That made particularly good sense to me, since my wife and I had our first and second children at ages 23 and 25. Yes, I’m aware that most people of our generation were a bit slower than that, but I figured that in earlier times, people married and had kids even earlier than we did, so historically, 20 to 25 years made sense.

But today, it struck me to use my family tree to find out how it works in reality — and I was surprised at the result.

I decided to go back as far as I reliably could — to Charlemagne, from whom I (and every other person of mostly European descent) am directly descended. He was, calculated the way I first discovered the connection, my 38th-great grandfather (I’ve since discovered quite a few paths back to Charlemagne, which is a mathematical certainty when you go back that far).

So that means he’s exactly 40 generations back.

Charlemagne was born in 742. I was born in 1953. I subtract one from the other and get 1,211 years. Divide that by 40, and the average generation is 30.275 years.

Even going back through the Middle Ages, when life was supposedly so nasty, brutish and short! And maybe it was, for poor people. And no doubt, most of my ancestors in the 8th century were peasants. Unfortunately, I can’t trace back to them; the records don’t exist.

So I’m stuck with 30 and a quarter years. And it would seem reasonable that the more recent generations were even longer.

And they were, slightly. Let’s go back just 10 generations, to about the time my ancestors were moving to this country. Let’s consider some of my 8th-great grandfathers:

  • Walter Chiles II, born March 20, 1630 in Middlesex, England. (Died in Jamestown, Va.)
  • Capt. Luke Gardiner, born Jan. 11, 1622 in Oxfordshire, England. (Died in Maryland.)
  • Sir Ambrose Crowley III, born Feb. 1, 1658, in Staffordshire, England. (Died in England, but his daughter emigrated.)
  • Richard Pace II, born about 1636, Charles City, Virginia. (Grandson of the famous Richard Pace who saved Jamestown.)

The average length of a generation going back to them is, respectively, 32.3, 33.1, 29.5 and 31.7 years.

So, an average of 31.65 years per generation.

Yes, these are all great-grandfathers; the mothers were usually younger, which might reduce the average if there were more female links in the chains (I later checked, and found those were mostly male connections). I just went with male ancestors for the one-to-one comparison. (Also, when you go back that far, there tends to be a bit more information available about them.)

It just seems to defy reason. Yeah, my notions may seem skewed by having had a child at 23, but our youngest was born when we were 35 — and by the time she started school, when we went to PTA meetings all the other parents seemed way younger than we were. Which argued that most of them didn’t have their kids at 35.

Anyway, that’s what I find. As Bryan likes to say, your mileage may vary…

Talkin' about my generation -- the only cool one, of course.

Talkin’ about my generation — the only cool one, of course.

‘Repeal Obamacare! Repeal Obamacare! Repeal Obamacare! Repeal Obamacare! Repea… oh, never mind…’

pulled it

One thing was for sure — fer danged sure — once Republicans were in charge, Obamacare was going to be toast, immediately if not sooner.

That’s before the GOP became the dog that caught the car.

So now it’s… um, never mind…

GOP health-care bill: House Republican leaders abruptly pull their rewrite of the nation’s health-care law

House Republican leaders abruptly pulled a rewrite of the nation’s health-care system from consideration on Friday, a dramatic acknowledgment that they are so far unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We just pulled it,” President Trump told The Washington Post in a telephone interview.

In a news conference shortly after the decision, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) conceded that his party “came up short.”

The decision came a day after Trump delivered an ultimatum to lawmakers — and represented multiple failures for the new president and Ryan.

“I don’t blame Paul,” Trump said, referring to Ryan….

I especially liked this quote from Ryan: “Doing big things is hard.”

Awww… It’s just not like when the frat boys planned slashing Medicaid around the keg, is it? (I know he’s way younger than I am, but it’s like this guy went to college in a whole other universe…)

Gamecocks: Cinderella with brass knuckles?

I hope Wade Payne and the Associated Press don't mind my using this to send you to the Post story (just click on it.)

I hope Wade Payne and the Associated Press don’t mind my using this to send you to the Post story (just click on it.)

I thought some of you sports fans would enjoy this piece from The Washington Post this morning.

I like the way they portray Frank Martin as an “ogre” (although one loved by his players). I think of him as this guy who is so supportive of the S.C. Center for Fathers and Families, an ADCO client — if not exactly a teddy bear, at least a benign force.

Anyway, the story’s a good one. An excerpt:

South Carolina is like Cinderella — if she came to NCAA ball with brass knuckles

South Carolina is the closest thing to a Cinderella left in the NCAA tournament, but that ball-gown of a word is too delicate for them. There’s no dreamers in this team, they’re all brawl and substance, beginning with their rage monster of a coach Frank Martin, who seems to burst out of his suit with that terrifying tripwire temper, and looks at any moment like he’s ready to get in a fight with a pool cue….

Imagine that visage and voice coming at you. The large ogre’s jaw, topped by graying hair cut currycomb short. The eyes like an uncontrolled methane burn. You’d do what he said, too. In 2014, Martin cussed out guard Duane Notice so vehemently that his athletic director had to suspend him for a game. Yet that’s just one facet of a coach who must be acknowledged as the real thing, a masterful teacher who has gotten South Carolina to its first NCAA Sweet 16 since 1973. He has done it with force of will, superb habits instilled over five years of grinding, and largely with homegrown players. Here’s the thing about all that yelling. It works. His players do what he tells them to….

Defining the Presidency Down (what would Moynihan say?)

Yes, I realize this is likely to feel like déjà vu — this is about much the same point as this post yesterday.

But I was conversing via email with someone about that, and he shared this, so I’m going to share it with you.

Why return to the same topic? Because it’s an important one, making points that I think a lot of folks still haven’t absorbed.

Ever since Election Day — or maybe even since Trump captured the nomination — I’ve had this conversation over and over with some of you, and with others… Someone will say, “What are you so upset about? Why don’t you wait until Trump does something truly horrible, and react to that?” Which I answer with what seems to me excruciatingly obvious: He’s doing it already, every single day — with every crude lie he Tweets, with every embarrassing moment with a foreign leader, practically with every breath he takes. By being our president, he’s taking the greatest country on Earth and making it smaller, cruder, stupider, tackier — demeaning the treasure that our forebears bequeathed us.

It’s not something I can kick back and regard as normal. In fact, that would be inexcusable.

Anyway, like the one I cited yesterday, this piece captures that pretty well:

is probably too much to expect President Donald Trump to have read “Defining Deviancy Down,” the 1993 essay by the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Much noted at the time, and remarkably prescient, Moynihan’s essay warned that Americans were seeing a decay in social behavior (for example, the rise in gun violence), and were becoming inured to it. To accept such deviant behavior as normal—to “normalize” it, to use a word lately in fashion—was bound to render America a less civilized society, Moynihan wrote.

Moynihan

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

He was, of course, correct: In the quarter century since, we have accustomed ourselves to the ongoing coarsening of our society, from small things like the vitriol of Americans writing on social media and in the comments sections of news articles, to big things like our increasingly ugly political debates.

Early on in the presidential primary season, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart cited Moynihan in declaring that candidate Trump’s embrace of “nativist, racist, misogynistic slop” was defining deviancy down in the presidential campaign—mainstreaming coarse rhetoric and prejudicial views. Today, with President Trump continuing to exhibit deeply unpresidential behavior in the White House, he isn’t just defining deviancy down for political campaigns; whether intentionally or not, he is defining the presidency itself down.

Moynihan would have turned 90 this month. Decades ago, I had the honor of serving as one of his top aides. He was in many ways Trump’s polar opposite—a self-made statesman, sociologist, political scientist and lifelong student of history, someone who had seemingly read every book in the Library of Congress. The man had a core set of principles. He insisted on factual accuracy, believed that “governing requires knowledge,” and, famously, often said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” He required his staff to double- and triple-check factual assertions, and was known to include footnoted citations in his speeches and sometimes even his letters….

I like that this one cites Moynihan. I always liked that guy. Not that I ever met him or anything.

In fact, I only saw him once in person. (Warning! Brad’s about to reminisce again!) It was that time in 1998 that I mentioned recently, when I went to Washington to check on Strom Thurmond and see if he was still functioning, and also visited Mike McCurry at the White House. Anyway, as long as I was there, McCurry arranged for me to attend a ceremony in the East Room marking the 50th anniversary of NATO.

That afforded me an extra opportunity to observe Strom, as it happened. After everyone else was seated, President Clinton walked in with Strom beside him holding onto his arm. Bill walked the nation’s senior senator to his front-row seat and got him situated before heading up to the podium to speak. (We Southern boys are brought up to act that way with our elders, and I thought better of Bill for it.)

Anyway, after the event was over and most of the media folks were headed back to the West Wing, I stepped out of the door that opens into the covered portico on the northern side of the House. I stood at the top of the steps for a moment deciding whether to continue to the press room or go back in and chat with folks, and watched as cars picked up the dignitaries, there at my feet.

I nodded to Strom as he came out, and watched him negotiate the steps pretty well. But there was a guy in front of him having all sorts of trouble hobbling down to his car.

It was Moynihan. He was only 69. Strom was 95 at the time.

It’s a shame Moynihan didn’t take better care of himself. If he had lived to be 100 like Strom, he’d still have 10 years to go now, and we’d have the benefit of his perspective as the nation so dramatically defines its self-respect downward…

Can we make the presidency great again? Please?

jan14-2-img

An interesting conversation started in response to one of the items on yesterday’s Open Thread, and I’d like to continue it here.

The item was this:

The American presidency is shrinking before the world’s eyes

… Every new administration has a shakeout period. But this assumes an ability to learn from mistakes. And this would require admitting mistakes. The spectacle of an American president blaming a Fox News commentator for a major diplomatic incident was another milestone in the miniaturization of the presidency.

An interested foreigner (friend or foe) must be a student of Trump’s temperament, which is just as bad as advertised. He is inexperienced, uninformed, easily provoked and supremely confident in his own judgment. His advantage is the choice of some serious, experienced advisers, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell. But success in their jobs depends on Trump’s listening skills.

Mere incompetence would be bad enough. But foreigners trying to understand the United States must now study (of all things) the intellectual influences of White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon….

It’s a wonder that the author, Michael Gerson, was able to type “the intellectual influences of… Stephen K. Bannon” without his fingers rebelling and refusing their duty.

In response, Bryan Caskey posed this question:

Yeah. It’s been going downhill for awhile. Raises the interesting question: When was the American Presidency at its apex in the world? Which President cast the longest shadow on the world stage?

Mark Stewart responded with his nominees, but I’d like to see some thoughts from others.

My own views…

Franklin Delano Roosevelt towers over all. I measure all by that. He’s the standard to rise to. (Yes, Lincoln was our greatest president, but not so much “on the world stage.” He was rather tied up here at home. And in his case, I can forgive that.)

Truman, Ike, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush père and the others are measured by how well they navigated the world order that FDR left them.

The presidency began to diminish with the end of the Cold War. When people started talking about “peace dividends” and domestic agendas and saying obnoxious things like “It’s the economy, stupid” — that’s where the decline started.

Oh, and before you (especially you Democrats, but some of you populists and culture warriors on the right as well) get on a high horse defending domestic priorities, try doing this: Add up the domestic accomplishments of all of U.S. presidents from 1991 on, and I think you’ll find the result is a tiny fraction of what LBJ — or FDR — did domestically in a single year. (Say, 1964-65.)

Presidents and Congresses no longer do great things, globally or domestically. They just jockey for position in the next election.

OK, so that’s a bit broad and perhaps unfair. But compared to Roosevelt, Truman and Johnson, the pickings are pretty slim, and the ambitions for the country less impressive. I mean, look at THE big agenda item for Republicans now that they finally hold all the cards. What do they most want to do? Undo something that was done under the last administration, which by the way was the most ambitious thing Washington has tried to since the days when LBJ did bigger things than that before breakfast.

That, and build a big ol’ wall to keep them pesky Mexicans out.

In other words, low, petty, mean, small, crabby things that diminish us as a nation, that drag us down into being even less than we are in these uninspiring times.

And what’s the greatest ambition of the Democrats? To stop them from doing those things. Or maybe to try to stop them, and fail, and use it in the next election — which is as far as any of these people’s horizons extend.

What would it take actually to Make America Great Again, or at least have the office of president — and if we really want to aim high, Congress — be something we can respect?

And how on Earth do we get there from this profoundly low, demeaning spot in the road?

jfk010-785

Open Thread for Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Screenshot of Washington Post video

Screenshot of Washington Post video

Some topics for your consideration:

  1. Graham urges Dems to give Gorsuch the chance he gave Kagan, Sotomayor — And he’s right. I heard an absurd argument from Russ Feingold this morning claiming that Republicans’ outrageous behavior on Garland (and it was inexcusable, an unprecedented refusal by senators, including Graham, to do their jobs) means Gorsuch shouldn’t get a chance. That’s insane. Gorsuch should get the same respect and consideration that Garland should have received.
  2. Bill allowing carrying firearms without permit heads for House floor — Because ya know, when we look around at the problems we have in the world today, we really need to add THIS to the pile, right?
  3. Charleston church killer’s friend sentenced to 27 months in prison — This reminds me of a conversation earlier in the week with Doug. I don’t see why the hed couldn’t have said, in the interests of brevity, “Roof’s friend Meek” instead of “Charleston church killer’s friend.” Anyway, it’s out there in case you want to comment.
  4. Trump tells GOP critics of health-care bill: ‘I’m gonna come after you’ — Today’s classy move by the fulminator-in-chief. I wonder how much longer it will take for these people to have the nerve to tell him to take a flying leap…
  5. The American presidency is shrinking before the world’s eyes — Yep. And it shrinks more every day. This is what I keep saying to those of you who ask why I don’t wait to complain when Trump does something “horrible.” The answer is that he’s already doing it, every day. Worldwide respect for American institutions went into free fall the moment this guy captured the GOP nomination, and it hasn’t stopped falling yet…
  6. Trump is under investigation for ties to Russia. What happens now? — This is a day old, but still worth examining. This is a place where we’ve never been — in the first days of an administration, we learn officially that it’s being investigated for ties with the Russians, and the head of the FBI says under oath that the president’s attempt to deflect with wild accusations about his predecessor is a load of horse manure. Where, indeed, do we go from here?

 

All those names ending in vowels — it’s confusing!

irregular-around-the-margins-05-1024

Tony Soprano, who tended to take great offense at any slight toward people whose names end in vowels, would not be pleased:

Lindsey Graham mixes up Samuel Alito with Antonin Scalia

… Sen. Lindsey Graham mixed up Supreme Court justices during the confirmation hearing for nominee Neil Gorsuch on Tuesday. The gaffe happened while Graham discussed nominations made during an election year.

“Justice Alito passed away in February,” the South Carolina Republican said.

Except that Justice Samuel Alito is actually alive. It was the death of another conservative judge, Antonin Scalia, that left the vacant seat on the court….

My first thought was, “Yeah, I’ve done that, too.” Even though I know Scalia is the dead one, and the one considered such a boogeyman by the left, and Alito is the low-profile, live one, I’ve been guilty of hearing the name of one of the only two Italian-Americans ever to serve on the court, and thinking of the other one.

Does this make me a bad person? I didn’t mean anything by it, T…