I refuse to be an ‘idiot.’ I’m joining the ranks of the involved

signs

This is my front yard. As of Monday night, for the first time in my life, my yard features a campaign sign for a political candidate. In fact, it boasts two.

I’ve decided not to be an idiot any more — in the ancient Greek sense, which meant someone who was not involved in public life. As I noted the other day, Bobby Kennedy once summarized the ancient meaning as “One who is not involved in politics.”

Well, with these two signs, I’m stepping out of the ranks of idiots (which my career as a journalist forced me to be, at least in a sense), and joining the polites — the involved public citizens.

James Smith is the best candidate for governor by far, and Micah Caskey is easily the best candidate for his House seat, if not the best running for any House seat this year. They are the two people I most hope to see elected this year, for reasons I’ve gone into in the past and will elaborate upon again, I assure you.

By erecting these two signs, I also take a stab at resolving a dilemma.

A couple of weeks ago, Micah Caskey, standing on the State House steps, asked me to vote for him on June 12. Specifically, he nodded toward James Smith — whom he knows I like for governor — a few feet away and said he hoped I wouldn’t be voting in the Democratic primary, because he needs my vote in the Republican.

The fact that I have to choose, and can only vote for one of the two people I want most to elect on primary day, is a gross injustice. But it’s one I have to confront.

Normally, I take a Republican ballot. Not because I’m a Republican, any more than a Democrat, but simply because of where I live. If I don’t vote in the Republican primary, I get no say in who represents me in most offices. If I lived in Richland County, I’d probably vote mostly in Democratic primaries — especially this year, with that solicitor’s race. We have to choose carefully: Our primary vote is critical because far too often, it’s the only time we get a real choice.

That we have to choose one ballot and miss having a say in the other races that are contested in the primary (but not in the fall) is wrong, a denial of our rights as citizens. It thoroughly disenfranchises us. But those who make the rules refuse to see that.

At least this way, whichever primary I vote in, I’ll have done something for both of these fine candidates. I just wish I could vote for both of them…

Joel Sartore photographs his 8,000th species

The Pyrenean desman, which on Friday became the 8,000 species photographed for the Photo Ark.

The Pyrenean desman, which on Friday became the 8,000 species photographed for the Photo Ark.

Y’all remember my old friend and colleague Joel Sartore, the National Geographic photographer who for more than a decade has been trying to photograph every animal species currently in captivity before they can disappear?

Well, in the last few days he added his 8,000th species to his Photo Ark!

And he’s celebrating that putting forth a special offer:

As announced Friday, the Pyrenean desman marked the 8,000 species for the Photo Ark.

To celebrate this momentous milestone, this week I am giving away eight, signed 8×10 prints, one print of each milestone species that brought the Photo Ark to 8,000.

Four winners will be chosen from Instagram and four will be chosen from Facebook.

Each person may only win once per platform. Due to the limited number of prints, selection and winners will be chosen at random.

Winners will be announced on my Instagram story and my Facebook page Wednesday, May 9th.

How To Enter:

Follow me on Instagram @joelsartore or on Facebook at Joel Sartore, Photographer.
Tag three friends on my Monday contest post on Instagram or Facebook.

Good luck!

Take him up on the offer, and help promote the Photo Ark…

This Persian leopard at the Budapest Zoo was the 5,000th animal on the Photo Ark.

This Persian leopard at the Budapest Zoo was the 5,000th animal on the Photo Ark.

If my DNA helps catch a serial killer, I’m totally fine with that

my DNA

My DNA results overview page. I do not “shudder” to share this, with you or the cops.

This morning while working out on the elliptical, I started watching a movie on Netflix called “Anon.” It imagines a near-future in which there is no privacy. Apparently, everyone’s brain is wired to record video of every single second of his or her life — sort of like Google Glass without the glasses. And that data is easily shared wirelessly with other people, and is completely available to the police. The police can even access the last experiences of a dead person, which makes finding murderers ridiculously easy.

Also, you can watch TV or movies without a TV — they just stream in your head — and talk to anyone anywhere without a phone. Which, if an accurate prediction of the future, is really bad news for Best Buy. (First showrooming, now this…)

So since the main character (played by Clive Owen) is a homicide cop, a plot twist is needed to make his job interesting. In this case, the plot twist is that he’s on the trail of a serial killer who has managed to hack people’s digital memories, so that everything in the victim’s last moments is seen from the killer’s POV — so you see the victim being shot, but you don’t see the shooter.

I lost interest in it after 39 minutes, and switched over to “Babylon Berlin” for the rest of my workout. It may have been low-tech, but Germany between the wars was never boring.

But it reminded me of something I meant to blog about a week or so ago.

You’ve probably read about how the Golden State Killer was caught more than 40 years after his crimes when investigators tracked him genetically through a consumer DNA service like Ancestry. Basically, they found links to some of his relatives who had voluntarily shared their DNA info on such databases. Then they found him, and made a positive DNA match to something he’d discarded.

Which I thought was awesome.

But of course, this development immediately led to such headlines as:

The Golden State Killer Is Tracked Through a Thicket of DNA, and Experts Shudder

Data on a genealogy site led police to the ‘Golden State Killer’ suspect. Now others worry about a ‘treasure trove of data’

Really? Experts “shudder?” People worry about a “treasure trove of data” that not only can connect you to a 4th cousin, but help cops determine whether he’s a serial killer? Which would be a cool thing to know before you reach out to meet him or trade family information?

Why? That’s utterly absurd.

Sharing DNA info can lead to some pretty painful results for a lot of people. For instance, you can find out that your “Dad” isn’t really your Dad. This can lead to a great deal of family trauma and upend lives.

I’ve been lucky in that regard. My results have been boring. I am related to the people I thought I was related to in precisely the way I thought I was. There could be surprises in results from folks who have not yet been tested, but so far it’s been pretty vanilla. (Extremely vanilla, in terms of ethnicity — so much for those Ancestry ads that tell of all the exciting, exotic backgrounds people have found in their DNA.)

Not that there haven’t been surprises elsewhere on the tree. Some months ago, my daughter was contacted by a guy who was trying to find his birth parents, who thought a cousin of mine might be his father. Sure enough, he shows up on Ancestry as being right behind a couple of my first cousins in terms of his closeness to me. He narrowed it down to one of my cousins. I don’t know whether that cousin knows about it, because I haven’t wanted to pry.

Something like that can be upsetting to those involved, and I’m very sympathetic to that. But that’s just the DNA service working as advertised.

What these “experts” out there are “worrying” and “shuddering” about is the police being able to use these connections to solve crimes.

This does not worry me. If one of my cousins is a serial killer, I’d kind of like the duly constituted authorities to know that, and act upon it.

And I have trouble imagining a scenario in which that is a bad thing — although I’m sure we’ll see a movie soon that shows it to be a frightening thing…

Remembering ‘American Girl in Italy’

american_girl_in_italy

The girl in the famous photograph became an old woman, and died this week at the age of 90.

I just thought I’d post the picture and see if y’all wanted to discuss it. I hope this will be seen within the bounds of Fair Use, because I can’t afford to buy rights to photos.

It should stir all sorts of reactions based in all sorts of worldviews. At one end of the spectrum is the attitude of the woman herself, who “said the image represented nothing more than admiration and curiosity and was ‘a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time.'” She elaborated:

“Women look at that picture and feel indignant, angry,” she told the Times. “They say, ‘That poor woman. We should be able to walk wherever we want to and not be threatened.’ As gently as I can, I explain I was not feeling fear. There was no danger because it was a far different time.”

On the other end of the spectrum is the whole #metoo movement, and the notion that what the photo depicts is barely distinguishable from sexual assault.

As for me, I’m somewhere in between. I personally would never behave like the men in the picture, and yes, some of that is a matter of character — a gentleman does not act that way. But maybe I’m just less honest than those guys. Also, I’m not Italian and I wasn’t alive in 1951.

My wife backpacked around Europe with another girl the summer before we met, and in Italy she experienced worse than what is depicted here. Which, needless to say, displeases me and makes me feel protective. But it happened before I knew her, and she came through it OK, and, generally, seems to have done OK taking care of herself without me.

My reaction to that picture lies somewhere between a wry smile at human nature and a contemptuous “look at those a__holes….”

Sex, and the way people are about sex, are complicated things. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully understand it with regard to myself, much less other people. This picture remains iconic because it depicts the power of sex both as a creative and destructive force.

What does it say to you?

Hey, leave us night owls alone!

I always enjoy Kyle Michel’s invitations to drop by his office for First Thursday, which is tonight:

I’m reading a book on the science of sleep – fascinating stuff. It seems 40% of people are early-birds, 30% are night owls and the rest are in between. The early birds start getting sleepy at 9:00, but are coming back to life by 6 or 6:30 a.m.. The night owls don’t start to yawn until 11:00 or 11:30 and aren’t really back in the game until 8:00 or 8:30 (or later). And here’s the kicker – it’s wired in your DNA, you can’t control or change how your 24 hour sleep clock is timed.kyle michel

A whole lotta things are starting to make a whole lotta sense. Now, I know why I am always tired when my alarm goes off *every* day and why I’m never really sleepy at bedtime. Now, I know why exercising early in the morning feels terrible before, during AND after the workout. Now, I know why I’m running like a super computer when I make myself leave the office at 6:45 or 7:00.

​Its becoming apparent that there’s a vast early-bird-wing conspiracy against us night owls that makes the world get going as early as it does. Hey! If you can hobble 30% of your competition right out of the starting gates, that’s more gravy on your train in the great capitalist footrace of life! And to heap on the pile, we get tagged with “lazy” and “slacker” because we wanna stay up late, then can’t get out of bed – like we’re all just goofing around all hours of the night and like they aren’t spending that same time drinking coffee, reading the funny pages, and watching the farm report.

First Thursday is kinda like that great capitalist footrace of life, but without the capitalism or the footrace. We start early enough for the conspirators to get back home in time to tuck in by 10, and keep going late enough to keep the owls from thinking the party was a bust.

If you’re out tonight, stop by…. no matter what time it is on your body clock.

Hooty Hoo

I’m more of a nightowl than he is. I discovered years ago that I tended to get my second wind, a new burst of energy, about 10 at night — something that came in handy all those years of working until 2 a.m. getting newspapers out.

I don’t know if that would still happen now. I haven’t tested it lately.

But I know that getting started in the morning is really hard — hard enough that I wonder if it’s healthy. I have a terrible time getting started on the elliptical, which I do for 50 minutes first thing upon rising. The first few minutes are tough. In fact, the first 30 minutes are. But the last 20 goes a lot quicker.

I can go much faster and longer if I work out later in the day. But I like to start out getting a jump on my steps for the day..

Anyway, Kyle is right that the people who are wired toward the morning tend to think they’re somehow morally superior to the rest of us. Which seems to be to be based on very little…

What does it say about me that I didn’t know what ‘idiot’ meant?

idiot word cloud

I love discovering things about words. I love it the way… well, probably the way some of y’all like football. I get a rush out of it, and I can’t stop talking about it.

The discovery I made this morning is a big one, full of meaning, a discovery that sends tentacles of understanding into a lot of things that matter to me. It ranks up there among my most exciting word finds ever, right alongside when I learned the word “esoteric” in high school. (For years I had wanted a word for that concept, and I finally had one. I confess I overused it for some time after that.)

This morning, I learned what “idiot” means. Or rather, what it meant originally, which for me tends to be the same thing.

I can’t believe I didn’t know this before. I feel like such an… well, you know….

I learned it from TV, of all places. At the very end of the fourth and last installment of the documentary mini-series “Bobby Kennedy for President,” which I was watching while working out on the elliptical this morning. At the very end, Kennedy aide William J. Arnone says:

One thing that Robert Kennedy taught me, Robert Kennedy would say, ‘The word, “idiot” in Greek, you know what it means? “One who is not involved in politics.”‘ But he instilled in me that you must be involved in politics. Must, must, must. You cannot be on the sidelines.

I thought, wow — that’s just too good to be true. But it isn’t. That’s what it meant to the ancient Athenians. A person who wrapped himself in the personal, the private, and turned his back on politics and the community was called an “idiot.” Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Idiot is a word derived from the Greek ἰδιώτηςidiōtēs (“person lacking professional skill”, “a private citizen”, “individual”), from ἴδιοςidios (“private”, “one’s own”).[1] In ancient Greece, people who were not capable of engaging in the public sphere were considered “idiotes”, in contrast to the public citizen, or “polites”[2]. In Latin the word idiota (“ordinary person, layman”) preceded the Late Latin meaning “uneducated or ignorant person”.[3] Its modern meaning and form dates back to Middle English around the year 1300, from the Old French idiote (“uneducated or ignorant person”). The related word idiocy dates to 1487 and may have been analogously modeled on the words prophet[4] and prophecy.[5][6] The word has cognates in many other languages.

An idiot in Athenian democracy was someone who was characterized by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private—as opposed to public—affairs.[7] Idiocy was the natural state of ignorance into which all persons were born and its opposite, citizenship, was effected through formalized education.[7] In Athenian democracy, idiots were born and citizens were made through education (although citizenship was also largely hereditary). “Idiot” originally referred to a “layman, person lacking professional skill”. Declining to take part in public life, such as democratic government of the polis (city state), was considered dishonorable. “Idiots” were seen as having bad judgment in public and political matters. Over time, the term “idiot” shifted away from its original connotation of selfishness and came to refer to individuals with overall bad judgment–individuals who are “stupid“. According to the Bauer-Danker Lexicon, the noun ίδιωτής in ancient Greek meant “civilian” (ref Josephus Bell 2 178), “private citizen” (ref sb 3924 9 25), “private soldier as opposed to officer,” (Polybius 1.69), “relatively unskilled, not clever,” (Herodotus 2,81 and 7 199).[8] The military connotation in Bauer’s definition stems from the fact that ancient Greek armies in the time of total war mobilized all male citizens (to the age of 50) to fight, and many of these citizens tended to fight poorly and ignorantly.

Wow. My whole life, I have tried to learn and become one of the polites, and to urge others to do the same — with mixed success on both counts. Often I’ve done so overtly, such as when I set out my dichotomy about the contrast between people who see themselves as consumers and those who see themselves as citizens. Sometimes it’s less overt, but I’m always arguing that one of the first things a person must learn as a member of a community is how we are all inescapably connected. (Not that we should be, but that we are. And politics is what we do in light of that fact.) To me, becoming a fully realized, worthwhile human being is to a great extent about understanding and embracing that connection, becoming a fully mature member of a community and seeking ways to make community interactions more positively effective.

All this time, all these words, and I didn’t know until today that a person who pursued the opposite of that was, from the dawn of Western civilization, called an “idiot.” Right up until the late 19th century, when it started to mean a person of very low intelligence.

By the way, in researching this, I found this piece, which led this way:

In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, respondents were asked what word immediately came to mind when they thought of Donald Trump: The No. 1 response was “idiot.” This was followed by “incompetent,” “liar,” “leader,” “unqualified,” and finally, in sixth place, “president.” Superlatives like “great” and a few unprintable descriptives came further down on the list. But let us focus on the first.

Contemporary uses of the word “idiot” usually highlight a subject’s lack of intelligence, ignorance, foolishness or buffoonery. The word’s etymological roots, however, going back to ancient Greece, suggest that, in the case of the president, it may be even more apropos than it might first seem….

And of course, the original sense of the word speaks to the objection I have to Trump. He is a man who spent the first 70 years of his life pursuing his own private interests and satisfying his own appetites. Almost everything about the ways he violates presidential, political and moral norms arises from that utter inexperience in, and disdain for, civic life. He has shown a sort of idiot savant (to use the word a different way) flair for a certain kind of politics, but it arises from a lifetime of avid self-promotion, and therefore arises from his pursuit of private rather than public benefit. (In Star Wars terms, you might say the Dark Side of politics is strong with this one.)

This is fascinating. So much more can be said about it, but I’ll stop now and share this much with you…

Finally, some substance: James Smith’s campaign playlist

James Smith playlist

Before I get into the important stuff, I’ll share this: On my downtown walk yesterday, I ran into James Smith and Mandy Powers Norrell leaving the State House, and I asked James why he hadn’t released his tax returns — since some of y’all keep bringing that up.

He told me he was going to make them available to the media on Thursday and Friday. He said he wasn’t passing out copies, but folks would be free to peruse the documents on those days. I didn’t dig into why he doesn’t want copies going out: We were talking while crossing the street, he was going to meet with his campaign manager at one of those sidewalk tables in front of restaurants on the first block of Main north of Gervais, and I was in a hurry to get back to the office and drive to the twins’ school to hear them sing. So I just made a mental note: financial disclosure, Thursday and Friday, and hustled away.

At least, I think he said Thursday and Friday. So if I’m right, you read it here first. If not, I’ll correct it.

Anyway, in keeping with my campaign to drive Bud crazy (Look, Bud, more style over substance!), I’m more interested in something the candidate sent out today: his campaign music playlist, which he describes as “what’s been keeping me rocking as I travel the state.”

In my defense, this is more relevant in his case than in other candidates’, because he’s a musician himself — he used to play bass with the Root Doctors, many years ago. As he put it in the release:

Music has always been important to me — it can lift you up when you’re feeling low, make you run when you are tired, and inspire hope just when you need it.

Here’s his list, which you can find at Spotify:

  1. Sunday Bloody Sunday,” U2
  2. One,” U2
  3. Perfect Duet,” Ed Sheeran & Beyoncé
  4. Message in a Bottle,” The Police
  5. Happier,” Ed Sheeran
  6. Beautiful Day,” U2
  7. Pride (In the Name of Love),” U2
  8. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” The Police
  9. Find Me,” Kings of Leon
  10. Castle on the Hill,” Ed Sheeran
  11. Sign, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours),” Stevie Wonder
  12. We Take Care of Our Own,” Bruce Springsteen
  13. Come Together,” The Beatles
  14. Feeling Good,” Nina Simone
  15. Vertigo,” U2

Some general observations:

  • OK, we got it: You like U2. And “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is a perfectly fine song for kicking off a playlist, particularly in this case because it’s politically serious. It’s sort of the pop music equivalent of quoting W.B. Yeats. (For this purpose, we would also have accepted “Zombie,” by the Cranberries.) But five out of the 14 songs? Come on! You don’t want to come across as that… I don’t know… monochromatic. And let’s face it: U2 isn’t that great. Two or even three songs from Elvis Costello maybe, but five from U2? Nah…
  • Who is Ed Sheeran? I think I know what you’re trying to do here: Jack Black, as Barry in “High Fidelity,” would describe it this way: “Ohhh, kind of a new record… Very nice… A sly declaration of new-classic status slipped into a list of old safe ones….” I would not say that, of course, because I’m nicer than Barry. I appreciate that there’s something this old guy doesn’t know (the singer was born in 1991, saints preserve us!). And he sounds good. But again — should he appear on the list twice?
  • “Come Together” — the messaging may be a bit heavy there, but a communitarian like me never tires of that message. Thanks for including something for us Boomers. Which is smart, since we vote.
  • Good Springsteen choice, and I know it’s meaningful to you as a guy who served in the war. And no harm in reminding people of that. And while I’m not a huge fan of the Boss, another song from him couldn’t have hurt. Something fun, like “Pink Cadillac.” Or, especially since you’re doing some of that campaigning in the Pee Dee, “Darlington County.” Bruce is good politics for a Democrat, and he’s better than U2.
  • Who are the Kings of Leon? Never mind; we’ve already covered that ground with Ed Sheeran. And in the end, a guy who’s serious about music should have some performers not everyone has heard of. Broaden people’s horizons a bit. Be a leader, not a follower…

Anyway, that should get a discussion started. What are y’all’s thoughts? And speaking of High Fidelity, remember Rob’s rules as you consider the list:

To me, making a tape is like writing a letter — there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention ***, and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can’t have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can’t have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you’ve done the whole thing in pairs and… oh, there are loads of rules…

Yeah, he says “tape” instead of “playlist,” but give him a break: It was the 90’s and anyway, he’s a fictional character. But the rules are the rules…

Yeah, U2's good, and they sort of have political seriousness going for them, but they're not THAT great...

Yeah, U2’s good, and they sort of have political seriousness going for them, but they’re not THAT great…

What kind of person wants to elect a ‘buzzsaw?’ And would those who do please stop voting?

buzzsaw

Catherine Templeton makes me wonder about a lot of things:

  • What makes her think anyone would want to vote for someone who calls herself a “buzzsaw” — whose entire public persona is about being as destructive as possible?
  • Is she right that there are people out there who want to do that? (I fear she is.)
  • What is wrong with such people? Are they just nihilists — do they simply want to “blow s__t up?” Do they really, truly not want to see people they vote for accomplish anything positive at all — just rend and destroy?
  • Could people who want that please take a break from voting? Because I think they’re why we have a lot of the problems we have in this country. Ever since we started electing people to run government whose main message was that they HATE government, things have been on a downward slide.
  • When the Toby Maguire version of “Spider-Man” came along, people understood that a character who called himself “Bonesaw” was a character to be avoided. “Buzzsaw” isn’t that far off in terms of imagery (just less anatomical). What has happened to people’s common sense since then?
  • Oh, and must we even get into the fairly obvious fact that the words “conservative” and “buzzsaw” do not go together? That phrase is a contradiction in terms. Conservative people wish to conserve, not destroy.
  • Why would any normal person — and presumably we still have some normal people voting, without whom an electoral victory is difficult — want to vote for a candidate who has opted to run as the kind of candidate who appeals primarily to people who want to elect a “buzzsaw?” In other words, doesn’t getting the votes of the “buzzsaw” voters negate your chances of getting anyone else’s vote? Let’s hope so…

Stop trying to lower my non-expectations!

Of course, there are some jobs I wouldn't take no matter how well they paid.

Of course, there are some jobs I wouldn’t take no matter how well they paid.

As you know, back when I first got laid off, I signed up for all kinds of job-tip services — and I still get emails from most of them, all these years later. Sometimes, they are a great source of amusement, considering some of the jobs for which they think I’m just perfect.

One of the many is a service called “Ladders.” It’s one of the least realistic in terms of jobs to which I’d be suited. But I signed up for it anyway, because it supposedly specialized in jobs paying six figures and more. Why lower my standard of living, I thought, right after losing what may have been the last journalism job in South Carolina that paid well?

Of course, the universe of jobs that pay that well is limited, so the jobs the service lists tend to be from a wide variety of fields, including many very far from my experience and qualifications. Some are really interesting: For instance, I frequently see positions for “executive assistant,” which makes me think, Really? Being a secretary pays that well now? What do their bosses make?

But today, I saw something disturbing — an email from Ladders headlined, “Jobs that pay More Than $80K.”

What?!? No-no-no-no-no. If you’re going to show me jobs that I’ll never get anyway, then make them super high-paying ones. In fact, since the whole enterprise is so unrealistic, from now on I only want to see jobs paying at least a million a year.

Stop trying to lower my non-expectations. You might discourage me…

JFK and RFK worried, a little, about poll drop to 70 percent

This was the image on the screen as we heard Bobby say, "God... the poll..."

This was the image on the screen as we heard Bobby say, “God… the poll…”

The last couple of mornings during my workouts, I’ve been watching the Netflix documentary series, “Bobby Kennedy for President.”

I’m motivated to do so by the enervating despair that today’s politics instills. I was young then and not following politics very closely, but it’s always been my understanding that RFK’s campaign had an inspirational effect on voters, and I’d like to see a candidate that I might be able to feel good about — because it’s been awhile.

I’m through the second of four parts, and I’ll give you a full report when I’m done later in the week.

But I’d like to share one tidbit from the first episode, which I watched on Monday.

A recording of a phone conversation between President Kennedy and Bobby was played. RFK, ever his brother’s campaign manager, informed JFK that he had dropped in the Gallup poll — from 76 percent to 70 percent. Jack says he had read the papers, but had missed that (that’s how people learned things back then, children — they read newspapers).

They didn’t act like it was the end of the world, but it was still a cause for concern — mainly because they’d dropped six points in a month. Bobby started the conversation by saying, “God… the poll…”

I thought maybe I had heard it wrong. A president with an approval rating of 70 percent? A number that high seemed impossible. Especially since, a moment before, we had seen footage of a Kennedy detractor reminding us that “He got elected by just a gnat’s eyebrow.”

So I looked it up. And not only was that probably right, but 70 percent was Kennedy’s average during his time in office, according to Gallup. It was the highest average in history (that is, since Gallup starting measuring when Truman was president), easily topping Eisenhower in second place at 65 percent.

For comparison, Barack Obama’s average was 47.9 percent. The last president we had with an average over 50 percent was Bill Clinton at 55.

Wow. Imagine that. Seventy percent. And Bobby was concerned about it, at least a little…

Galup averages

Get over yourself, Hillary. It happened to the COUNTRY

An image from the ex-candidate's Twitter feed.

An image from the ex-candidate’s Twitter feed.

Something I meant to mention when I posted at the end of last week about that piece in the NYT by their reporter who’s just released a book about covering Hillary Clinton.

I meant to say something about the writer’s description of the way the candidate reacted when campaign manager Robby Mook told her she had lost the election:

“I knew it. I knew this would happen to me,” she said, now within a couple of inches of Mr. Mook’s ashen face. “They were never going to let me be president.”…

Happen to you? Happen to YOU?

Hey, the election of Donald Trump happened to the country. That election you lost trampled on 240 years of American history, ending a streak of 44 more-or-less fit presidents.

So, you know… get over yourself…

Oh, and if you happen to talk to the “they” who were “never going to let” you be president, ask them whether they’re through having their fun. Ask them to put a real president in charge. I don’t care what party or anything. Just someone with at least minimal qualifications and a modicum of control over himself. Or herself, if that makes you feel better about the assignment.

I say that because, based on the way you said that,”they” must be all-powerful, and capable of making anything happen…

Ha! I don’t even HAVE TO walk today, unless I want to!

Just keeping y’all current on my exercise routine, so y’all can in turn keep me accountable.16k

In February and March, I averaged more than 15,000 steps a day. So my goal for April was 16,000.

Once I had done my morning workout on the elliptical today — I’m doing at least 50 minutes a day on that now, which starts me off with more than 6,000 before I even leave the house — I had achieved my goal for the month!

I don’t even have to walk another step today if I don’t want to. But I probably will anyway.

So… can I do 17k a day in May? I think maybe I can.

I’m just so danged virtuous…

Me, too, Mandy. We need more such pictures…

Mandy and Nathan

In the spirit of the UnParty

Mandy Powers Norrell, a Democrat I see as a positive force in the S.C. House, tweeted this a few minutes ago:

Yep, me, too, Mandy. We need more such pictures…

Ambition does weird things to people

Doug was talking about Hillary Clinton always being in the news, and I was saying stuff like Hey, I never see her in the news, but then I remembered that last weekend, I read something in The Washington Post about a new book by the lead NYT reporter who covered her campaign.

And then, having read that, I read a piece by that reporter, Amy Chozick, in the NYT itself, sharing observations about her experience.

And the part that really struck me was this:

In July 2013, Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of The New York Times, put me on the “Hillary beat” ahead of the 2016 election. It was 649 days before Mrs. Clinton would announce she was running for president again, 1,226 days before she would lose to Mr. Trump…

No, not that part. That part’s normal enough, although it’s a little weird that she’d counted the days and all. But then the piece continues:

Every major life decision in my 20s and 30s — when to get married, where to buy an apartment, whether to freeze my eggs until after the election — had revolved around a single looming question: What about Hillary Clinton?…

Really? You let what most of us would consider to be the most important things in our lives be dictated by what this stranger did and what you’d have to do in order to be prepared to cover her?

Amy Chozick

Amy Chozick

Hey, I know back in my reporting days, almost four decades ago, I wasn’t covering politics on that level, but the difference between the way I approached the job and the way she did makes me feel like a member of another species. Back in 1978, my editor was like, I want you to go travel with this gubernatorial candidate next week, and then follow his opponent the following week.

And I was like, yeah, OK, sounds like more fun than what I’d be doing otherwise. And it was. But I didn’t rearrange my life in order to do it.

The idea of making such decisions based on how it affected my readiness to cover one person boggles my mind….

The name of Amy Chozick’s book is Chasing Hillary. Writing about it in The Washington Post, Carlos Lozada said, “Yes, she chases Hillary. But it is Chozick who gets caught.”

Yeah, no kidding…

Graham’s extremely careful praise of Macron’s speech

Macron speech

To everyone else, Emmanuel Macron’s speech to Congress yesterday was a forceful refutation of everything Donald Trump stands for, made all the more dramatic by the hugs and kisses earlier:

The fact that the important thing about Macron’s speech was the way it refuted Trump and all he stands for presented our senior senator with a conundrum:

Practically everything the French president said had to be music to foreign policy wonk Graham’s ears. Yet… he’s trying so hard these days to play nice with Trump, even though he knows (and he knows we know he knows) the current U.S. president is wrong about very nearly everything.

So he applauded Macron without a word about how Trump’s policies had been slammed:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on President of France Emmanuel Macron’s address before a joint meeting of Congress.

“President Macron delivered an eloquent and inspiring address to Congress.  He described the unique relationship between France and the United States which is based on common values that have stood the test of time.

“President Macron has been a great partner to President Trump in confronting the challenges of terrorism and globalization.

“In President Macron’s speech about preserving the post-World War II world order and rejecting the false promises of isolationism, I heard the voice of John McCain – an ally and kindred spirit for the thoughts expressed by President Macron. 

“As to the Iran Nuclear Deal, it must be made better or we must withdraw. The Iran Nuclear Deal in its current form ensures a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. President Trump is right to withdraw if the deal is not made substantially better. I hope President Macron can convince the world community to bring about the much-needed changes.”

#####

Awkward…

Macron 2

I’d have been a Democrat in FDR’s day. And I liked Ike, too

FDR signing the Social Security Act.

FDR signing the Social Security Act.

I saved this comment from Richard to enlarge upon in a separate post:

Why are you so concerned about Democrats winning? You’ve stated you aren’t a Democrat.

That’s right, I’m not. And I appreciate having another chance to get the point of that last post across, since apparently I failed the first time, at least in your case.

That post was about a piece in the NYT in which David Leonhardt pointed out that if Democrats could get away from abortion and guns and other things that serve to divide us, and concentrated on economic policy — where they represent more of a consensus — Democrats can help themselves out a lot.

I liked the piece because what he was describing was the kind of thing Democrats would need to do to get my vote.

And I’d very much like to see one of the major parties doing something to appeal to voters like me.

I noted in passing that what Leonhardt was talking about would to some extent represent a return to the New Deal Coalition. No more trying to separate the world into two camps — Acceptable People and Deplorables. Instead, lift up a vision that can unify the country.

And would I be a Democrat if it was once again the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt? You bet.

And if the GOP was once again the party of Eisenhower, you can bet I’d be a Republican.

And if both of those things happened — if both parties were reaching out and trying to appeal to all of us, instead of separating us into sheep and goats, trying to get us enraged at each other so we’ll give money to the cause — the country would truly be blessed…

President Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles.

President Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles.

Donald and Emmanuel, sittin’ in a tree…

From The Guardian's web page.

From The Guardian’s web page.

Huh….

I was hearing on the radio about how fond of each other Trump and Macron are, and it sounded like the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in a while.

I mean… Trump is the walking, talking embodiment of every ugly American stereotype that sets the Gauls’ teeth on edge, while Macron is so… continental. I mean, I’d pick the guy out of a lineup as the French guy, even if I’d never seen him before.

But now I see it must be true, based on all the kissing, hand-holding and other touching going on.

This is not the way a couple of straight guys usually interact. And, not that it matters, but we have every reason to believe they are straight, although the ways they relate to the opposite sex couldn’t be more different: Macron is married to a woman who’s older than his Mom, and Trump keeps trading in his wives for the latest model. (In fact, were you to see the four together, you’d be likely to assume Melania was Mrs. Macron and Brigitte was Mrs. Trump.) Which again raises the question: What on Earth do they have in common? I can’t imagine.

Why are these guys so fond of each other? Where is the advantage for either of them in the awkward buddy act? Is Macron working up to ask for the Statue of Liberty back? Do they need us to fight ze Germans again?

There are just so many levels on which I don’t get this…

From the BBC web page.

From the BBC web page.

Yes, this COULD be the winning formula for Democrats

Can the New Deal Coalition rise again?

Can the New Deal Coalition rise again?

David Leonhardt had a good piece in the NYT last night. He promoted it this way:

There’s a roiling debate about whether Democrats should move to the political center to win back Trump voters or focus on energizing the party’s progressive base. On some issues — like abortion, guns and immigration — Democrats really do face this difficult choice. The policies that excite progressives alienate many of the white working-class voters who swung the 2016 election to Donald Trump, and vice versa.

But there is also one huge area where no such tradeoff exists: economic policy….

In the column itself, he asserted  that economic stagnation and inequality added up to “the defining problem of our age, the one that aggravates every other problem. It has made people anxious and angry. It has served as kindling for bigotry. It is undermining America’s vaunted optimism.”

And people across the political spectrum have lost patient with timid, incremental approaches to the problem. Which helps to explain both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Leonhardt writes:

Some observers remain confused about all of this. They imagine American politics as a simple two-dimensional spectrum on which Democrats must move to the center. But every issue isn’t the same. Yes, there are cultural issues, like abortion and guns, on which the country is classically divided. On these, moving to the center, or at least respectfully acknowledging our differences, can help Democrats. Representative Conor Lamb recently showed how to do it in Pennsylvania.

Economic policy is different. Most voters don’t share the centrist preferences of Washington’s comfortable pundit class. Most voters want to raise taxes on the rich and corporations. They favor generous Medicare and Social Security, expanded Medicaid, more financial aid for college, a higher minimum wage and a bigger government role in job creation. Remember, Trump won the Republican nomination as a populist. A clear majority of Americans wants the government to respond aggressively to our economic problems….

So, the smart thing would be to drop the topics that divide us — the culture war stuff, the Identity Politics, the “pussy hats” and such — and set out a vision for a rising tide for all.

But are national Democrats willing to do that? The occasional Conor Lamb aside, it remains to be seen.

In South Carolina, it’s not such a leap. SC Democrats — those who have actually served in office and understand political realities — have long understood that they have to reach across superficial barriers and appeal to as many voters as possible. You wonder why I like James Smith for governor? One reason is that he manifests that smart, inclusive approach. He’s identified with issues that could benefit all of us, such as trying to liberate renewable energy from artificial caps.

This is underlined when you look at his opposition: Phil Noble hits Smith for not being orthodox enough, for instance for being (allegedly) insufficiently hostile to gun-rights advocates. Noble is one of those Democrats who wants to divide the electorate into sheep and goats. Marguerite Willis seems to be pinning her hopes on getting women to vote for her simply because she’s a woman — despite Smith’s strong support within that largest of demographics.

So, the question is whether Democrats — on the state as well as the national level — are willing to take Leonhardt’s sensible advice, and identify themselves with issues that unite rather than divide. Mind you, he’s not talking about moving to a hypothetical center, but embracing issues with broad support among everyone but the most libertarian folks on the right.

I think they will in South Carolina, but polls tell us that’s far from certain. And nationally? I just don’t know…

I wonder: How many lawyers voted for Trump?

H.W.P.M.V. -- How would Perry Mason vote?

H.W.P.M.V. — How would Perry Mason vote?

This is just an idle-curiosity thing.

I was talking with a colleague today when I happened to mention that it was unlikely that many attorneys voted for Trump. She immediately rattled off the names of several that she’s pretty sure did vote that way.

She may be right, but they’ve got to be in the minority, right?

And I’m not basing this on stereotypes, like the old cliche about doctors being Republicans and lawyers being Democrats. I know quite a few Republican lawyers, but they sort of tend to be #NeverTrumpers, or just to stay quiet. I’m thinking some of them might have voted against Hillary Clinton assuming she’d win anyway, but were then shocked by what happened.

I’m thinking in particular of one very prominent Republican attorney who just shakes his head at the mention of Trump’s name, in private at least. I don’t know how he voted; I just know he’s unhappy with the outcome.

And I want to think that’s typical of GOP-leaning attorneys. It’s just hard for me to imagine an officer of the court not being disturbed at having a chief executive with roughly zero appreciation and respect for the rule of law.

But all that might just be a function of my respect for the profession and my lack of respect for the guy in the White House. Just a silly prejudice on my part.

My attempts to Google “how lawyers voted in 2016” turned up nothing. (Think about it — there are a lot of stories involving the vote in 2016 and lawyers that have nothing to do with how they voted).

So, I’m reaching out to y’all asking for two things:

  1. Have you seen any reliable data on how lawyers voted? If so, please share.
  2. Absent such data (or in light of it), do you think I’m right or wrong in my unsupported assumptions, and why?

By the way, my leaps of intuition are not completely unsupported. My colleague found and shared this with me: Lawyers mainly put their money behind Hillary. Of course, that’s not exactly the question…

I'm guessing THIS attorney, at least, is a Democrat. But I could be wrong...

I’m guessing THIS attorney, at least, is a Democrat. But I could be wrong…