Pictures from a Confederate flag rally

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Y’all, click on this panorama, and then click again to enlarge it. It’s pretty cool.

Y’all know that I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words over the years about the Confederate Flag and how we need to get it down off that pole on the State House grounds. So obviously, I set great store by words on this subject.

But I’ve been struggling for a couple of hours with my computer this evening — several crashes, including two appearances of the Dread Blue Screen of Death — and it’s after 11 p.m., I’ve spent a lot of time today out in the heat, and I’m getting to the point that I’m too exhausted.

Besides, I don’t think this is about the words. Oh, there were some fine ones said by speakers at the rally, and some less inspiring ones that don’t do the cause a bit of good.

But it wasn’t about the speakers. This first rally — there’s to be another on July 4, the organizers said — was more about people just wanting to get out and be seen while national media were watching, letting the world know that that flag does NOT fly there with our consent.

The organizers — Mariangeles Borghini, Emile DeFelice and Tom Hall — did a great job in two days. I can’t wait until the next one.

For now, enjoy the pictures…

Mitt Romney says take down the flag. How about it, Lindsey Graham?

Check it out:


Now, there’s an example of somebody we need speaking at a State House rally!

So, the last GOP nominee for president has taken the leap. Where are you, Lindsey Graham? It’s time to lead, not to mouth excuses that you know are all about dodging the truth!

But it’s all about heritage, right?

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This just in from The Hill:

The website for the alleged gunman in the Charleston, S.C., mass shooting was discovered Saturday, multiple reports say.
The Last Rhodesian” depicts photos of Dylann Storm Roof, 21, the man accused of attacking Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and murdering nine people.
The domain for the website was also registered last February to “Dylann Roof,” The New York Times reported Saturday.
The Daily Beast also reported that photos of Roof on the website were taken in spring, according to metadata.
The site features a document describing the evolution of its author’s racist worldview.
It is not clear who is responsible for either the photos or the article, titled “An Explanation.”
“I chose Charleston because it is [the] most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country,” the author says. It’s not made clear what would occur at the location chosen…

I was unable to call up the site. I don’t know whether it’s been taken down, or there’s just too much traffic going to it…

No, wait! I got it… and I’m sorry I did.

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What I’ve learned about the flag rally Saturday night

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As y’all may have noticed, I’ve been ranting and raving about my inability to find out anything about the anti-Confederate flag rally that Facebook told us was (and still is) scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at the State House.

Who was organizing it? Who would be speaking? Would this be a mainstream sort of thing that would impress the powers that be (legislators), like the original King Day at the Dome and Joe Riley’s march in 2000? Or would it be something that lawmakers could smugly dismiss as “fringe” and continue in their state of apathy and cowardice on the issue?

Being someone with more than 20 years hard-won experience dealing with the issue, I know where the mines are buried in the field, and I was very concerned that this rally might make fatal missteps. I was also concerned that this was too quick, too early. We’re still in mourning, families and friends have yet to bury the dead — time enough for political moves later.

But I knew why people were impatient. They were impatient because we live in a world in which we all see national and international news coverage immediately, and the story was playing like this: A white supremacist murdered black worshippers and drove away in a car decorated with the very same flag that South Carolina still flies on the State House lawn. And we all wanted to say, Yes, that’s the case, but it doesn’t fly there with MY permission. At the very least, we wanted to say that.

Anyway, gradually, in bits and pieces, reaching one person who led to another who led to another, I’ve managed to get ahold of people who are involved in pulling this together. And one reason I’ve had trouble getting ahold of them is that they ARE trying to put this thing together in a very short time, and things are rather hectic. Here are some chunks of what I’ve learned:

  • Apparently, what has happened is this… A lady I will not name because I haven’t spoken to her yet put out the idea that wouldn’t it be great if everybody gathered at the State House Saturday to express our desire that the flag come down. This engendered a tsunami-like response (note the activity on the Facebook page) which kind of overwhelmed her. She was particularly unprepared for some of the more hateful messages she received. So, chivalry not being dead in the post-bellum South, two men agreed , on the spur of the moment, to pitch in and help her. They were Emile DeFelice and Tom Hall.
  • I’ve spoken with Emile, who says that the program is still coming together, and as they know more they will post more (speakers and such). But he assures me that this group will look like South Carolina, or a reasonable cross section of it. It’s an unaffiliated gathering, owing nothing to any group or agenda. As he puts it, “This is a group of concerned, mainstream citizens who give a s__t.” He says there are a thousand people coming, in spite of the ungodly weather, and national media will be there. So, you know, if you’d like to tell the world what South Carolinians are really like, that we’re not a bunch of Dylann Roofs, then here’s your chance.
  • I haven’t reached Tom Hall. We’ve both tried, and keep missing each other.
  • Before I talked with Emile, I spoke with Becci Robbins and Brett Bursey at the SC Progressive Network, who seemed to have been pulled in by the event in a haphazard way. Becci had posted earlier in the day a question like mine: What is going on here, and who’s in charge? She had not realized that Brett had already started getting involved in it. Brett said he was telling people that this was less a flag rally than a memorial for the slain — although the flag would be mentioned. At 5:21 p.m. today, after I spoke with him, Brett put out a media advisory saying the following: “The tragic deaths of nine black people at the hands of a young white man in Charleston is a soul-searing opportunity for South Carolina to confront our state’s historic racism and the bitter fruit it continues to yield. The Confederate flag that has flown on the State House grounds since 1961 is a symptom of the institutional racism that afflicts all aspects of life in South Carolina. The removal of the flag from the front lawn to the State Museum is but one necessary step in the long road to true racial equality. The SC Progressive Network is calling for the community to gather on the Gervais Street side of the State House on Saturday, June 20, 6pm-7pm. There will be a short program. People are advised to bring water, lawn chairs and a shade umbrella.”
  • It was not clear under whose auspices Brett was issuing that. I had had no indication from Emile that he expected Brett to be doing media relations on the event or indeed playing any central role in it. But Becci had written to me that she had spoken with “someone associated with this event,” and he “invited us to do what has not been done: logistics, program, hospitality etc.” It may have been one of a number of people I talked to other than Emile. There are a lot of people eager to make this thing happen, and I don’t think they’re all talking to each other.

So there you have it. It’s going to happen, but no one is yet entirely sure what will happen. I’m going to be there, and a lot of good folks I know are going to be there, and in the end I think it’s important that we do that, so that the aforementioned national media can see that we’re there and we care. There’s plenty of time for refining the message and the movement later. It’s almost impossible that anything would be done about the flag before the Legislature comes back in January, for a lot of reasons. Not least, the fact that this is too soon after the tragedy for a major political sea change to occur.

A final thought: I enjoyed listening to Emile talk about the issue.

“We really take it on the chin in Columbia,” he said. We host the nation’s Army, the state’s flagship university, the state government, and the region’s homeless people.

He says “we’ve done enough” without lawmakers “planting a flag and running home” to leave us to live with it. “I work on Main Street,” he says, and he’s tired of it. He wants to tell them, “It’s not fair for y’all to plant that flag where we have to deal with it.”

He fantasizes about getting a bunch of Confederate flags, some poles and a few bags of cement, and driving them in a truck to the places of business of some of these lawmakers — their law offices, their insurance agencies and so forth — and planting the flags in front of their businesses and seeing how they like it.

And he’s right, of course. Most of them wouldn’t. They just keep the flag up because they don’t want to stir up that extremely passionate minority out there who would descend on them if they lifted a finger to bring it down — the kinds of people who totally freak out the uninitiated when they venture into flag territory.

Anyway, that’s what Emile wants to do. But instead, he and a few other folks are trying to pull a rally together.

Maybe I’ll see y’all there.

Elliott Epps on his friend Clementa Pinckney

On Wednesday, the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council had its big annual community luncheon at the convention center. I was there, as a member of the Council, but I had not made a reservation, so I took pot luck in being assigned to a table. I ended up with one at the back that had to be added because we had such a big crowd. I knew a couple of people at the table, but met some new ones as well, including an older (slightly older than I am, that is) black lady named Minnie (sp?).

Elliott Epps

Elliott Epps

Our outgoing chairman, Elliott Epps — former head of City Year, and a classmate of my daughter in law school — opened the event with a gag from the news: He said that yes, he was a Caucasian male, and he was not asking us to believe he was anything else. So people laughed, and I said something to my tablemates to the effect of, “Elliott, we can tell!” Minnie smiled and said something like, “I don’t know; he looks just like some of my cousins.” And true, he does have dark hair, but that’s about it.

At that moment, we could still have a laugh about things in the news, even things in the news that bore on race.

Hours later, that would all change.

This morning, CRC Executive Director Henri Baskins sent out a note to all board members letting them know about the statement I had drafted yesterday. Among the responses was this personal reflection from Elliott, which he has also posted on Facebook. I asked him whether I might share that with y’all and he generously agreed:

I have been numb today. Clementa Pinckney was my best friend from graduate school when we spent two years together getting a Masters in Public Administration at the University of South Carolina. Two months after leaving City Year Boston in 1997 I met him when he was 24 and I was 26 when we both started grad school. He and I worked as office assistants in the office of government and international studies in order to get the tuition reduction. This man at 24 had his own congregation in Jasper County; had his own constiuents in Jasper, Beaufort and Charleston county, was taking a full load of graduate degree classes; but still managed to work 20 hours in office with me making copies and stuffing faculty boxes. The humility. The grace. The strength. He epitomized the servant leader.

Clementa Pinckney

Clementa Pinckney

He and I both entered our dating phases with the women we were to marry. What a fun time! We went to each other’s weddings. He introduced me to a lifetime friend, mentor Steve Skardon which led to get me a job for the Palmetto Project to work on improving race and community relations. He is the only person I have walked door to door for a large part of James Island when he ran for State Senate. Later we had our oldest children a year apart. When my mother got cancer, Clem drove to Aiken and prayed with her and over her, holding her hand weeks before she died. Sadly years later his mother died also of cancer.

Clem probably drove more than anyone in this state that was not a professional truck driver. When I knew him his blue car was seriously over 300,000 miles. His district when he was elected to the SC Senate is bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

As I watched all of the coverage and I heard the President, Congressman Clyburn, his colleagues in the SC Senate and the House, and so many people talk about Clemnta this was not how it was supposed to be. Clementa was always pulled between politics and the church. I always wondered and thought from our discussions about the future and our dreams that he would either be Bishop of the AME church or the successor to Congressman Clyburn to represent SC in Washington. All of those leaders speaking about Clementa was not weird because I always expected because of his gifts that he would be talked about by them and with them. But never in my worst nightmare like this. Not about this. What a terrible, terrible waste.

Someone from the SC Senate said I thought beautifully, “Out of all of us. How can this happen to gentlest? How can this have happened to the best of us?” He called him the “Conscience of the Senate.” The book by Norman Vincent Peele entitled “Why do bad things happen to good people” could in this case be renamed “Why do the worst things happen to the best people?” My thoughts go to Jennifer, Eliana and Malana. We must lift them and the other families affected by this chaos.

It is time to mourn but when we move forward we need to follow Clemnta’s lead and listen to that incredible voice in our heads and our heart when we work together on how to solve this. I miss you Clem!

Dylann Roof in cell next to Michael Slager

Wow. This just in from the Associated Press:

The 21-year-old man accused of killing nine people at a black church in Charleston is being held in a cell next to the former North Charleston police officer who fatally shot a black man running away from him.

Charleston County sheriff’s Maj. Eric Watson said Friday that Dylann Roof, who is accused in the church shooting, is in a cell next to former officer Michael Slager.

Slager has been charged with murder in the death of Walter Scott. Slager’s shooting of a fleeing Scott following a traffic stop on April 4 was recorded on a bystander’s cellphone…

We need to see mainstream SC — and mainstream leadership — at the Confederate flag rally Saturday

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Our own Phillip Bush wrote these wise words on Facebook today:

Petitions through moveon.org are well-meaning, but ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst: I can tell you anything transmitted to SC legislators via moveon.org will automatically get them to dig in their heels the other way. Calling and writing legislators directly is better, and I like my friend Brad Warthen‘s idea best of all. I’m in, how about you?

Phillip is absolutely right. As I’ve written what seems like a thousand times — petitions from moveon.org, boycotts by the NAACP, federal lawsuits and related kinds of pressure are useless at best, and counterproductive at worst. The white Republicans who control the Legislature (which controls whether the flag flies), and for that matter the black and white Democrats who need to know that there’s a realistic chance if they push the issue forward, need to see that a very broad base of South Carolinians are the ones who are ready and willing to “move on.”

In response to Phillip, Kathryn noted that there’s a rally tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the State House.

Yes, there is. I see that my wife and my daughter-in-law and quite a few friends have already said they plan to be there. That’s wonderful. But I’m a little worried, since the first person I heard about this from was my friend Walid Hakim.

I’m VERY curious to know who’s going to be up on the podium at this event, and details are scarce on the Facebook page. If this is seen as an Occupy Columbia/SC Progressive Network deal, we’re back to the moveon.org problem that Phillip cites. If Walid and Brett Bursey are the only ones up there speaking, it’s not going to accomplish anything. We need to see mainstream people prominently in such an event, like the business and religious leaders who stood up in 2000.

I see that as doable. I don’t know if it’s doable by Saturday night.

I’m very encouraged by the friends I see planning to go. Lots of solid, mainstream South Carolinians. But again, who’s going to be in the news photos from this event? Who’s going to be quoted? That is essential. I don’t want an important event such as this to be something that people who don’t want to act feel like they have an excuse to wave off.

We need to see the kind of prominent advocacy we saw in 2000. We need to see something like the wide array of dignitaries who marched along with Joe Riley on his walk from Charleston. We need religious leaders, and not just the Neal Joneses of the world — we need my own bishop, and people like Dick Lincoln, pastor of Shandon Baptist, who stepped forward when his congregant David Beasley was trying to lead on the issue.

We need leaders from the state Chamber of Commerce. We need presidents of universities. We need party leaders from BOTH parties (which is a very tough thing with one of the parties).

And we need them on the podium, speaking.

I’m kind of doubting anything like that can be arranged by Saturday. There’s so little time. But if any such people are reading this, please come out on Saturday.

Maybe there’s only enough time for ordinary, decent South Carolinians to come out and stand together and take comfort from each others’ company in this terrible time. That’s something, and its worthwhile.

But I want more. I want action. I want a sea change. And I want it come from the very heart of the SC electorate, and from our state’s leadership as well.

We need that.

Mayor Riley, let’s march again

Former Gov. David Beasley joins Mayor Joe Riley on the last leg of the 2000 march.

Former Gov. David Beasley joins Mayor Joe Riley on the last leg of the 2000 march.

In 2000, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley led a march from his city to the Statehouse in Columbia to demand that our lawmakers take the Confederate flag off the dome over our seat of government.

They did — and then put it down on the lawn, behind the Confederate soldier monument. There, it is no longer in a position of false sovereignty. But it’s far more visible. Much more in-your-face.

Today, the mayor’s city is grieving because, authorities say, a young white man from Columbia went to Mayor Joe’s city to kill worshippers in a church that is unparalleled in its significance to black South Carolinians. After killing nine people, including a state senator who just hours before had been doing his duty in that very Statehouse, the gunman allegedly drove away in a car with Confederate flags on the front license plate.

Charleston and Columbia are at either end of an axis of sorrow and racial hatred. And while the U.S. and S.C. flags atop the Statehouse are at half-mast as an expression of true sorrow on the parts of most of our citizens, the Confederate flag still flies at the top of its pole.

It’s time for another march.

Statement on church massacre from Community Relations Council

As you may know, I serve on the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council. Today, in consultation with our Executive Director Henri Baskins, I drafted this statement, which is now posted on the CRC website:

The Greater Columbia Community Relations Council joins the good people everywhere across our state who are shocked and saddened by the brutal murders of a pastor and eight members of his congregation as they gathered in peaceful bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston Wednesday night.
Our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers go out to the families and friends of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the other innocent victims of this merciless attack.
But as we look with anguish toward the Holy City, we know that this crime strikes at the heart of our own community as well. Not only was Sen. Pinckney a respected member of the Legislature – he had been in the State House the day of the shootings – but the young man accused of these murders is one of our own – a resident of the Midlands, who attended our schools.
And the issues raised by these acts go beyond the mere fact of one person’s derangement. If Dylann Storm Roof was indeed the killer, then we know that he traveled from his Columbia home to commit his crimes in a church that has profound meaning in the history of our state, a landmark of tragedy, struggle and hope for African-Americans for the past 200 years. We’ve seen the photographs of the suspect defiantly wearing symbols of white supremacy, and posing on a car with license plates proclaiming “Confederate States of America.” We know what these things mean.
If police have the right man, then his act of domestic terrorism is firmly rooted in the worst elements of our history, in the original sin that after all our best efforts still haunts our nation, our state and our communities.
As these communities struggle to make sense of what happened last night, the conversations will be difficult. They must be conducted with mutual respect and civility, but without shrinking from the truth.
The Community Relations Council, which was founded 50 years ago to help foster just this kind of conversation, stands ready to serve in any way that we can help.

U.S. and S.C. flags at Statehouse are at half-mast. The Confederate flag is not.

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Since there was so much chatter on the Web about Confederate flags in South Carolina — the ones on Dylann Roof’s car, and the one on our Statehouse grounds — I thought I’d go over and take a look.

I found that the U.S. and S.C. flags atop the dome were at half-mast. The Confederate flag flying behind the Confederate soldier monument was not.

And yes, those are storm clouds in the background. The photo was taken at 4:02 p.m. today…

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Church shooting suspect said to be in custody

Dylann Storm Roof, wearing Rhodesian and South African flags, from his Facebook page

Dylann Storm Roof, wearing Rhodesian and South African flags, from his Facebook page

Just to update from my previous “on the loose” headline — if indeed the suspect and the shooter are one and the same. From The State:

A source close to the investigation says the suspect in a Charleston AME church shooting that killed nine Wednesday night was captured Thursday in Shelby, N.C.

Authorities named 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, of the Columbia area, as the suspect in the shooting that killed nine, including state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a longtime South Carolina legislator who was pastor of the church….

 

A monster is on the loose in South Carolina

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UPDATE: Suspect has been captured.

Again, South Carolina is leading national news for a horrible reason, and this time it’s even worse than the Walter Scott shooting. In fact, it’s nine times as bad.

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Dylann Storm Roof

Police are giving the monster a name: Dylann Storm Roof. They say he sat with people engaged in prayer for an hour before announcing that people like them had to go, and opened fire.

This time, one of the dead had a familiar name: Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor. And the church where the shooting occurred, Emanuel AME, looms large in our history, both proudly and tragically.

There is so much that we have yet to learn about what happened exactly, but I thought I’d best go ahead and put up this post for your comments as we await more…

Joel Lourie on the ‘toxic’ atmosphere in the Senate

You know, I quit doing “The Brad Show” — thereby devastating my millions of fans, who had to console themselves with “Game of Thrones” instead — because it just got to be too much of a physical hassle to produce, especially after the guys who used to shoot it for me moved out of the ADCO building.

But lately I’ve been thinking… I still have my iPhone. Why not go back to the kind of guerrilla video reportage for which this blog was once famous — quick-hitting, spur-of-the-moment clips on the news of the day?

So today, I was talking with Sen. Joel Lourie after a Community Relations Council luncheon at which he and Sen. Katrina Shealy had just been honored with CRC’s annual Hyman Rubin Distinguished Service Award, and he happened to mention that the atmosphere in the Senate chamber was as toxic as at any time he could remember. Here’s what he was referring to.

So, thinking with the blinding speed to which my readers are accustomed, I asked whether he wanted to say that on video. He said no. Then he said yes.

So here ya go.

Since we spoke briefly about roads, I thought I’d call your attention to Cindi Scoppe’s piece today describing what real roads reform would look like. And of course, it’s a classic with its roots deep in the Power Failure series: Turn the roads over to local governments, and leave the local governments alone to fund them as they see fit. A solution that, of course, strikes right at the heart of the Legislative State, which is why nothing like this has ever come close to happening.

If we’re gonna dream about what really ought to happen, we might as well dream big.

Oh, and on the subject of the budget, which Sen. Lourie also mentioned, here’s another good column from Cindi casting doubt on Joel’s man Hugh Leatherman to deliver on that…

I know nothing, Jon Snow, about why people think this show is so awesome

I was directed to the above fun video by The New York Times‘ recap of the “Game of Thrones” season finale, which I watched almost in real time, having binge-watched, off and on, all the way from the first season, starting when HBO NOW came available in April.

Here’s that recap, and here’s the one from The Washington Post. Between the two, the NYT one is better, if “better” is defined as “more obsessive and exhaustive.” Although you may be interested that the Post also provides a second recap by someone who has actually read the books. (Must be nice to work at a paper that can afford to pay two writers to watch a TV show and go on and on about it. For that matter, it must be nice to still work at a paper.)

Now, SPOILER ALERT, in case any of y’all still haven’t gotten to that episode.

Some observations based on the latest, and for that matter the whole series:

  • As the NYT observes, no more awkward dinner parties for Jon Snow. Which brings me to the key point about all this to me: From Ned Stark to his bastard son, this is not a series that I can ever love, because it will capriciously and sadistically kill anyone I am capable of having any admiration for at all. Although Brienne is still around. I think.
  • And speaking of Brienne, why didn’t we get to see her kill Stannis, who so richly deserves it? This series now ranks in my mind as the most obscene in history. The very fact that anyone could even conceive of what happened to Stannis’ precious daughter, and then go ahead and depict it, sends my mind careening off into the darkness. Why, when we are “treated” to all kinds of graphic violence committed against far more admirable characters, are we cheated of the satisfaction of knowing for sure that this pretentious monster is dead?
  • And speaking of pretension: Where are we supposed to grab ahold of this series politically (seeing as how what it is about is people maneuvering for political power)? Where are we supposed to stand? We know that, under the monarchical rules of succession, Stannis was indeed the rightful heir — but who ever rooted for him for even a moment in the course of this series? So who are we supposed to want to win the game?
  • This season was at least a tad less adolescent than others, with fewer shots of gorgeous young female nudity. As though to make up for that, in the final episode Cersei is stripped naked and made to walk through the streets of King’s Landing for about a week and a half of screen time — although it’s fake, because they used a body double. And sorry, Beavis and Butthead, but there’s really nothing sexual about the scene. You remember when Jerry Seinfeld explained the difference between “good naked” and “bad naked”? Well, this was bad naked.
  • Whatever happened to Bran Stark? You know, the kid we thought we were supposed to care so much about ever since the Kingslayer tossed him from the battlements in the very first episode of the series? I mean, he reached the end of his quest, had a mind-expanding experience (I think, but it’s been awhile), and then, nothing. He was last seen north of the Wall, where a good bit of this season’s action takes place, but no Bran. I looked it up and got an explanation, but it’s still weird.
  • When, pray tell, does winter get here? For five seasons, we’ve been told it’s coming; it’s coming. Characters in the vicinity of The Wall always make like their running just half a step ahead of it. And we’re also led to believe that in this alternative universe, when it comes it will last for years. Well, it’s been five years since we were told to bundle up; where is it?
  • How long does it take a Khaleesi to gather up her dragons, cross over to Westeros and start sorting these clowns out? Hasn’t that been the plan since the first season? She seemed to be doing well there for awhile, gathering up resources and gaining power on her way to the sea, but then she takes yet another city, and stops there and gets all bogged down in local politics. Here she had this awesome fighting force, advancing with Tarquin’s ravishing strides, and then… she takes up residence in a pyramid and lets the Unsullied wear themselves out rumbling with the local hoodlums. What’s the plan here, Mother of Dragons? What does policing Meereen have to do with taking back the Seven Kingdoms? Talk about mission creep…

That’s enough for now; I’m sure y’all have plenty of other stuff to say.

Bottom line: I watched this to find out what everybody was on about, and it was intriguing enough to keep me going to the present point. But it’s not as compelling as many people seem to think it is, and in many ways is quite flawed. It’s no “Breaking Bad,” or even a “Mad Men” or “Walking Dead.” It doesn’t come close to “The Wire,” and no way does it measure up to “The Sopranos,” HBO’s proudest achievement in fictional drama to date.

That’s my verdict, anyway.

Oh, please spare us the ‘fighting’ words, Hillary…

I mentioned favorably the fact that on her visit to Columbia recently, I did not hear Hillary Clinton use the “fight” language she has resorted to in the past. I wrote about how nuts that makes me back in 2008.

Actually, she did promise to “fight” for us once (“You’re not gonna see me turn white in the White House, and you’re also not gonna see me shrink from a fight”), but it slipped by me. Apparently, that was a harbinger.

The last few days, I’ve been hearing the “fight” hyperbole invoked again and again by her campaign. For instance, there’s this video that came out three days ago, titled “Fighter.”

Oh, please, spare us. Use tempered, sensible words to appeal to our minds rather than our emotions. It would be so refreshing.

Interestingly, this surge of “fight” talk coincides with her almost complete turn away from the world and to domestic issues. Which is downright weird, considering that she’s not more foreign policy experience than any of the Republicans who are going on and on about national security.

But Democrats, like Republicans in the 1930s, like to pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist, and obsess inward. They want to talk about something they call “kitchen-table” issues. And THAT is where they like to use “fight” language, ironically. Apparently, the only enemies that need to be “fought” are right here at home.

Which, of course, leads in turn to more political polarization, which means actual progress on the issues they care about becomes less and less likely.

Representative democracy works when we deliberate with our fellow citizens, not when we see them as our enemies. So the more I hear that “fight” stuff, the more I despair for the country…

There’s a good REASON why she’s not with you on trade, Bernie

Bernie Sanders is frustrated, or at least he’s letting on to be frustrated, that Hillary Clinton won’t join him and House Democrats in opposing free trade:

WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called on Democratic presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday to say exactly where she stands on President Barack Obama’s trade agenda now that Congress is considering it.

“I think our trade policies have been disastrous,” Sanders said during a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. “Secretary Clinton, if she’s against this, we need her to speak out right now. Right now. And I don’t understand how any candidate, Democrat or Republican, is not speaking out on this issue right now.”…

See, there’s a reason Hillary is fudging on the issue, Bernie — she actually has a realistic chance of becoming president, and no president would want to be hobbled with positions such as yours.

And yet, since a lot of people in her party are opposed to free trade, she’s not crazy about taking a bold stance that would make her as nonviable as you are.

Wanting to be president, and seeing the real possibility in front of you, can be a constricting thing…

Camille Paglia on identity politics

Camille Paglia is a feminist, which I am not. She is also an atheist, which I am not — although I like her observation that “God is man’s greatest idea.”

But she and I have some common ground on Identity Politics. The WSJ quoted this over the weekend. Here’s a link to the full interview, at reason.com:

reason: For you, what is the essence of feminism? Is it using the lens of gender to explore every given issue? Is it a formal gesture? Is it a methodology, or is it a set of political positions that can’t change?

Paglia: I am an equal opportunity feminist. I believe that all barriers to women’s advancement in the social and political realm must be removed. However, I don’t feel that gender is sufficient to explain all of human life. This gender myopia has become a disease, a substitute for a religion, this whole cosmic view. It’s impossible that the feminist agenda can ever be the total explanation for human life. Our problem now is that this monomania—the identity politics of the 1970s, so people see everything through the lens of race, gender, or class-this is an absolute madness, and in fact, it’s a distortion of the ’60s. I feel that the ’60s had a vision, a large cosmic perspective that was absolutely lost in this degeneration, in this splintering of the 1970s into these identity politics.

I like people who refuse to fit in boxes, whose thoughts range beyond them. I may not like them all over — I’m less enchanted with the “vision” of the 60s, if I’m understanding her correctly — but in spots.

The Golden Age of Television Overload

Good riddance to you both! Now can I have my life back for awhile? And could somebody turn up the lights?

Good riddance to you both! Now can I have my life back for awhile? And could somebody turn up the lights?

Pope Francis recently disclosed that he hasn’t watched television since 1990. Which means he’s like way behind on “Game of Thrones.” Among other things.

I’m beginning to think His Holiness is onto something. I’m feeling… a bit out of control with my own binge-watching lately. Wouldn’t I be a better person — more productive, more attuned to the needs of those around me — if I stopped watching Netflix, HBO NOW, the downstairs TV, the upstairs TV, the Roku, the Apple TV, the iPad and on very rare occasions, actual broadcast television?

The Pope has enough on his plate keeping up with matters relating to this world and the next, much less Westeros and all those other fictional universes out there.

Today, the front of the Arena section of The Wall Street Journal raises the question, “How Many TV Series Can Your Brain Take?” An excerpt:

“Game of Thrones,” which will leave multiple story lines dangling for a year with Sunday’s season finale, is notorious for befuddling even ardent fans with its many clans, lands and simmering subplots. But it’s just one of many shows taxing the memories of audiences who have been flooded with complex story lines and crowded character ensembles.

“Orange Is the New Black,” which returns Friday for a third season on Netflix, uses more than 20 characters to populate a fictional women’s prison with inmates and staff. On “Orphan Black,” finishing its third season on BBC America this month, lead actress Tatiana Maslany plays six different characters, all clones, in a sci-fi conspiracy story. New viewers have to absorb dense mythologies if they hope to jump aboard returning shows such as CBS’s summer series “Under the Dome,” which, in its coming third season, might finally explain why a bubble is encasing the town of Chester’s Mill.

The deluge of compelling shows means fans have to be good at time management to keep up with the best offerings. But they also are grappling with the limits of memory. How many shows (and knotty plots and twisting character arcs within) can we keep track of at once? In a binge-watching world, where we aren’t limited to weekly installments of network TV shows, is there a limit to the number of narratives we can keep straight?

Actually, I don’t think that frames the question correctly. Binge-watching doesn’t cause the problem of having trouble keeping up. What I find is that failing to binge-watch makes it harder to know what’s going on.

Dramatic series are written for binge-watchers, not for people who watch an episode, walk away and lead real lives, then come back in a week or more to try to pick up the thread again. That is part of what makes the new breed of shows so absorbing — they pull you into a complicated world, and if you can’t stay there until the season (at least) is over, you’re likely to be disoriented when you return.

For instance — when the third season of “House of Cards” came out several months back, I did what I had with the first two seasons. I started watching to see what everybody was talking about, then got fed up with it and quit, and then, when curiosity built up enough, came back and pushed through the rest of it.

SPOILER ALERT! Consequently, when I saw the season finale the other night, I was somewhat at a loss: Why was Claire leaving Frank? Yeah, they had been slightly weirder together the last few episodes — which means five percent more than their usual standard, which is creepy as all get-out. But what precipitated this blow-up? Surely nothing that had happened recently had showed her anything she didn’t know about her husband. Not to mention that she’s no bargain herself on the decent-person scale.

If I’d watched it all straight through, I think I might have a good feel for it. But as things stand, I don’t.

Not that it matters, right?

Last year, David Carr wrote in The New York Times about the problem of “Barely Keeping Up in TV’s New Golden Age.” I could really identify:

The vast wasteland of television has been replaced by an excess of excellence that is fundamentally altering my media diet and threatening to consume my waking life in the process. I am not alone. Even as alternatives proliferate and people cut the cord, they are continuing to spend ever more time in front of the TV without a trace of embarrassment.

I was never one of those snobby people who would claim to not own a television when the subject came up, but I was generally more a reader than a watcher. That was before the explosion in quality television tipped me over into a viewing frenzy….

And what a feast. Right now, I am on the second episode of Season 2 of “House of Cards” (Netflix), have caught up on “Girls” (HBO) and am reveling in every episode of “Justified” (FX). I may be a little behind on “The Walking Dead” (AMC) and “Nashville” (ABC) and have just started “The Americans” (FX), but I am pretty much in step with comedies like “Modern Family” (ABC) and “Archer” (FX) and like everyone one else I know, dying to see how “True Detective” (HBO) ends. Oh, and the fourth season of “Game of Thrones” (HBO) starts next month.

Whew. Never mind being able to hold all these serials simultaneously in my head, how can there possibly be room for anything else? So far, the biggest losers in this fight for mind share are not my employer or loved ones, but other forms of media….

I think back to a time before all this. Say, the ’80s. In that whole decade, I can remember watching only one dramatic series on television that in any way compares to the shows I’m juggling now: “Hill Street Blues.” There was that, and maybe “Cheers” — both on the same network on the same night. I was very, very busy with a demanding job in the daytime and a family full of young children at night, and entertainment wasn’t high on my list — which made the lack of high-quality options a good match for my lifestyle. And “Hill Street” was written for people who only visited that world weekly. There were continuing story lines, but everything was episodic. One episode held you for a week.

Lately, I’m juggling, off and on:

  • Blue Bloods” — My only current show written in that old fashioned episodic form, and the only one coming from commercial broadcast television. But I’m watching it the new way. I had never seen it before a couple of months ago, when I started the first season on Netflix. It’s the perfect length for a workout on the elliptical. I’m not quite as obsessed with it as I was with “The West Wing” last year, but I do like it.
  • Foyle’s War” — Watching this on two temporal streams. We just finished the current season of new ones on PBS last night. Meanwhile, we’re almost done with the previous seasons on Netflix.
  • Game of Thrones” — ALMOST caught up. I’ve got one more episode to watch (last week’s) before this Sunday’s season finale. And I’ll be glad to be done with it for awhile. I wanted to be up on the cultural phenomenon, and now I almost am. I don’t find it very satisfying.
  • The Wire” — The best of the lot right now. I’m trying not to spend it all at once. I’m past the halfway mark in the second season.
  • Orange is the New Black” — We were really into this, but my wife and I sort of lost interest during the second season, and didn’t get more than a few episodes into it. With the new season out today, will we get back into it? I don’t know.
  • Daredevil” — Probably the best adaptation of a Marvel franchise ever to appear on television. I’ve only got one episode left in the Netflix season, still waiting to see him in the red superhero costume. The series is taking the origins thing at a stately pace.
  • True Detective” — Got started on this and got sidetracked. Want to finish the season before the new one comes out.
  • Mad Men” — Lost interest a couple of seasons back. There’s just so much moral vacancy one can take. But my wife and daughter say the last season was as good as the early ones, so I’m going to take it back up soon.
  • The Walking Dead” — Haven’t watched it in months, but I do want to get back to it and catch up. I just want to know one thing before I do: Daryl doesn’t die, does he?
  • Justified” — It’s as good as some of my friends here say, but since the only way I can see it is on DVDs from Netflix, I only get back to it periodically. I’m only up to the second or third episode in the second season.
  • Better Call Saul” — Since we don’t get AMC (the only station I miss from cutting back on cable), I bought the season on iTunes when it first came out. So since I paid for it, I really must get back to it and watch the rest of the season at some point. It’s good, but it’s not as compelling as “Breaking Bad.” I’ve just got this investment in it.

It’s over now, but for a few weeks there, we were really into “Wolf Hall” — which we’d watch on Apple TV the night after each episode’s release, because I didn’t want to stay up past 11 on Sunday night. (One good thing about this — it forced me to go ahead and finish reading Bring Up the Bodies in order to stay ahead of the show — which I shoved aside The Guns of August in order to push through.)

Meanwhile, it seems that Netflix releases a new series daily, and some of them are bound to be good. It’s just ridiculous.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to read The Guns of August, a really compelling history book, for months. But if I read a chapter in a sitting, it’s unusual. And it was interrupted first by the trip to Thailand, and then by Bring Up the Bodies. Mostly, it’s a couple of pages over dinner. And talk about losing track of characters and story lines — of course, books are supposed to be that absorbing and complex. TV never was before.

Yeah, it’s true, and it’s appalling: I’ve only finished on new book so far this year.

The Pope has the right idea. I just need to summon the self-discipline…

"Daredevil:" Matt Murdock still hasn't fully donned his superhero persona.

“Daredevil:” Matt Murdock still hasn’t fully donned his superhero persona.