Open Thread for Thursday, May 24, 2018

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Since I’ve only had two comments on my last five posts (anybody out there?), I wonder whether it’s worth the trouble. Oh, well, I guess that means I can say whatever I want without anybody arguing with me…

  1. Trump cancels N. Korea summit, calls it a ‘tremendous setback’ — Does this mean he has to give back the Nobel Peace Prize. No, wait… Anyway, now Trump’s back to making threats — against, you know, a nuclear power controlled by an unpredictable adolescent. It seems that The more the U.S. said ‘Libya,’ the angrier North Korea got. Those people are just so touchy
  2. U.S. Commandos vs. Russian Mercenaries: Inside a Deadly Battle — Yeah, apparently we’ve been going toe-to-toe in small-unit combat with the Rooskies. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. Seems like we should have known that…
  3. Bingo cards are here for the Democratic debate — Yeah, I think maybe my friends at the Charleston paper are having a little trouble staying serious about this campaign. Or maybe they’re just bored…
  4. Apparently, Al Amir is struggling — I’m sorry to hear that, because I like the place. Bryan and I ate there just a couple of weeks back. Maybe we should go again. The place used to be packed when it was down south of the State House; I guess it’s just a bit more out of the way now…
  5. The Risky Business of Speaking for President Trump — Why is this interesting? Because the central character in this lengthy NYT Mag piece is South Carolina’s own Hogan Gidley. Y’all remember Hogan. You know, “Chuckles?“… Anyway, that’s him in the middle of the fancy graphic below, which I hope the NYT doesn’t mind me sharing on account of he’s our homeboy…

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There’s my famous daughter, in Dance Magazine!

dance mag

I’ve told you about my Peace Corps daughter Becca and her efforts to get dance education back up and running on the one Caribbean island most devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Now, she and her efforts in Dominica are the lead story in Dance Magazine — which is the magazine for folks involved with that art form. (My wife, who danced as a child, said she remembers seeing copies in her studio when she was 4 years old.)

Here’s hoping that, seeing as I’m her Daddy and all, the magazine won’t mind me sharing the whole piece:

Meet The Ballet Dancer Teaching Hurricane Maria Survivors

Rebecca Warthen was on a year-long assignment with the Peace Corps in Dominica last fall when a storm started brewing. A former dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Columbia City Ballet, she’d been sent to the Caribbean island nation to teach ballet at the Dominica Institute of the Arts and in outreach classes at public schools.

But nine and a half months into her assignment, a tropical storm grew into what would become Hurricane Maria—the worst national disaster in Dominica’s history.

Some of her students at a makeshift barre.

Some of her students at a makeshift barre.

The Peace Corps sent her home to South Carolina for two months while they assessed the situation.

“I spent much of the next few weeks worrying what had become of my coworkers, students and community, finding out only bits and pieces through news and social media,” says Warthen. “Many people evacuated to neighboring islands or the U.S. but even more stuck it out through the aftermath without roofs or enough food and water.”

When the Peace Corps asked her to return in December, she instantly agreed, even if that meant living without electricity.

“Some people probably thought I was crazy for wanting to return to a place that people were still evacuating from,” she says, “but I was just excited to round up my students and start teaching again.” So excited, in fact, that she extended her service until January 2019.

She shares in a blog post for the Peace Corps that during her first week back, she held a “return to dance workshop” for the kids. She asked the students to write a poem describing their experiences, then had them choreograph to their own words. She writes:

Many students had traumatic tales of what happened during the storm, yet it was the things that were missing they most wanted to talk (and dance) about. Many were staying with neighbors since their homes were unlivable. One girl never found her pet puppy. Another missed the flowers in her garden. And they all longed for the normal things: eating fruits, going to school and taking dance class.

She’s found that teaching them has been transformational: “For these children whose lives have been so disrupted, ballet brings stability, a positive focus, friendship, joy, dreams, goals and something beautiful when much of the outside is still recovering from disaster.”Boo in Dominica

Unfortunately, Dominica School of the Arts’ dance studio—the only one on the island—was completely destroyed. The dancers are now taking class in an art gallery while Warthen raises money through a Peace Corps Partnership Program grant to help rebuild the studio. Fortunately, she just found out that her $8000 fundraiser to repair the floor and mirrors is now fully funded.

“The people living in Dominica have adapted to a ‘new normal,'” says Warthen. “Most schools have yet to be repaired, so students are sharing space on shift schedules. Many businesses have closed and with them many jobs have been lost. Agriculture systems were quite literally uprooted. Maria did a lot of damage, but she also managed to instill a sense of resiliency in everyone that survived her.”

Meanwhile, Warthen’s found that her work in Dominica has not only been a way to empower her students and help them process this traumatic experience, bot it’s also reignited her own love of dance.

“I get to witness the total joy they emit when they dance,” she says. Teaching them has allowed her to feel the wonder of being a beginner again: “It’s the joy of jumping really high and relishing a slow port de bras. It’s synergy and dancing with other people that share your passion. This experience has reminded me how lucky I am that this is my life.”

Note that her project is now fully funded. Thanks to those of y’all who contributed!

I’m very proud of my baby…

Here's Becca dancing in the studio back before the storm.

Here’s Becca dancing in the studio back before the storm.

Thoughts on last night’s GOP debate?

GOP debate

Actually, it seems a bit jarring to use any form of the word “thought” in relation to that sorry spectacle. My Republican representative put it well:

There just didn’t seem to be much thinking going on on that stage. In fact, I found myself wondering whether, after all these years, even the GOP base has gotten sick of hearing the same pandering cliches stated over and over, ad nauseam.

Of course, there were exceptions to the right-wing cliche thing:

Old times there are not forgotten. At one point during the debate, someone asked me about McGill, “Is that the one they call Foghorn Leghorn?” No, no, I replied — you’re thinking of Henry. Although even he doesn’t have as firm a claim to that as Fritz Hollings. Of course, with Fritz, you never had the feeling someone was pulling a “Chatty Cathy” string. Fritz always spoke his mind.

My most popular tweet during the debate — 15 likes, which isn’t much by usual standards but I think this was a fairly low-viewership event — came with a typo, I’m embarrassed to say (and with Twitter, once there’s been a like or a retweet, I always hesitate to delete and start over). Substitute “rude” for “ride:”

Lynn Teague had an apropos reaction to that:

Indeed.

In retrospect, I felt a little bad about this one, as I worried it may have been misunderstood:

I didn’t mean to say our lieutenant governor is crazy. I mean he’s got the extreme territory staked out. He’s pretty out there. But at least he’s an extreme conservative, instead of, say, a “buzzsaw,” which means there’s some legitimacy to him, or at least consistency.

Did I have anything positive to say about anybody? Yes, I did:

So good one there, Henry. Nice to hear someone talking about an actual problem that exists in our state, instead of nonexistent things such as “sanctuary cities.” Of course, we know who talks the most about those.

My nominees for lowest point in the debate:

Henry talking about how proud he is to be helping Trump patrol the border down in Texas.

Catherine Templeton expressing her eagerness to execute some prisoners.

You may have your own favorites. Suggestions?

In any case, I didn’t hear anything that made me want to go out and take down my James Smith sign

You can be ‘bold,’ OR you can be ‘conservative.’ Choose.

Just caught Catherine Templeton’s latest ad. At the end, she says:

It’s time for a governor as bold and conservative as the people of South Carolina.

Um… you can’t be both of those things at the same time. You can be bold if you choose. Or you can be conservative instead. You have to choose.

Otherwise, words have no meaning. And who wants to live in a world like that?

“Bold and conservative” is as nonsensical as, well, “conservative buzzsaw.” Again, you can be one of those things, but not both…

Cath

Philip Roth, the last of the literary lions of the ’60s

At least, I don’t think there are any left… Joseph Heller, Tom Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, John Updike… who’s missing?

Anyway, Philip Roth’s gone now, too.Philip_Roth_-_1973

I don’t have a lot to say about this one. I had read and largely loved most of what Tom Wolfe had ever published, so he meant more to me.

I think all I ever read by Roth was “Goodbye Columbus.” That was pretty good, but not exactly something that set my mind on fire the way, say, Catch-22 did. I think I liked some of the other stories in that collection better, such as “The Conversion of the Jews.” So I appreciate that one writer eulogized him as being “forever the little boy on the roof threatening to jump, forcing the Rabbi into an apology.” Nicely said, especially since it’s an allusion I actually get.

But I never heard anything about Portnoy’s Complaint that made me want to read it. (Of course, I never heard much about it that rose above the level of a dirty joke.) Maybe I should. You know, to have a better grasp on the serious literature of my time, the way I made myself read a couple of Updike’s “Rabbit” books, to be better in touch with the alienation and discontent of my generation and yadda-yadda.

Or maybe not. I had a pretty happy childhood, and have only ever had a limited appetite for disaffected moral aridity. Thoughts?

Or anything else you’d like to say about Roth? I’m outta ammo…

Goodbye, Columbus: I not only read the book, but saw the film. I'll say this for it: If forced to watch an Ali McGraw movie, I'd rather see this than "Love Story."

Goodbye, Columbus: I not only read the book, but saw the film. I’ll say this for it: If forced to watch an Ali MacGraw movie, I’d rather see this than “Love Story.” That’s about as far as I can go with it. I liked Benjamin better in “Catch-22.”

Are y’all getting all these notices about privacy?

privacy

I guess it has something to do with the spectacle of Mark Zuckerberg, all dressed up like Daddy, looking stiff and uncomfortable, like he’s about to have a tooth pulled, in front of first Congress, and now the European Parliament.

Maybe it’s something else. But now it seems every company that I do any sort of business with is falling all over itself sending me notices about its privacy policies.

I suppose I’d know more what it’s about if I read one of them, but I’ve never read anything like that in the past, and I’d just as soon have a tooth pulled myself as start now.

My own privacy policy, which I’ve had ever since we switched from typewriters to mainframes in 1980, is this: “Don’t type anything into a computer that you don’t want to see published for all the world to see.” This was based on bitter experiences with the messaging function we had built in to that mainframe, sort of a forerunner of the text and the IM. We no longer had to shout our “witticisms” across the newsroom; we could privately send them to a chosen recipient. Which meant the comments might take on an edge you would avoid if saying it aloud.

But it only took one or two times of accidentally sending the message to the person the wisecrack was ABOUT to break me of that habit. “Ah, yes… ha, ha… That was a JOKE, you see, one I thought only you would appreciate. Ha-ha-ha!…”

Also — the storage on that entire mainframe system was probably far less than 1% of what you have on your phone. So, in order for the system to keep working, a couple of tech guys had to go into the system every night and delete everything extraneous, including that day’s messages — which they had to call up and look at individually.

Eventually, they got tired of reading the messages between this one woman and man who were carrying on a torrid adulterous affair, using the system as a primary means of communication. And someone had to speak to them. And everyone heard about it.

Hence my rule.

The rule became exponentially more critical when computers became connected to the internet.

Yeah, I suppose I might slip and do something indiscreet one day, but in the meantime I’ve generally managed to stay out of trouble with my policy.

Anyway, are y’all getting these emails, too?

Lynn Teague on the Legislature’s unfinished business

When I saw this Tweet yesterday, it gave me an idea:

In my church, we confess every week as follows: “I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do…”

That last part is where I, personally, fall down the most. So I take it seriously.

I asked Lynn if she would write us a blog post on what our lawmakers “have failed to do.” She kindly obliged, and here’s her report:

What Remains at the State House

The General Assembly just canceled their scheduled return to Columbia for May 23-24 to work on unfinished business. The conference committee on S. 954 and H. 4375 has been scheduled for Wednesday, but there will be no meeting of the whole House and Senate until the end of June. What haven’t they done? What should they be doing before the days dwindle down to a precious few?

Lynn Teague

Lynn Teague

Their work for the remainder of 2018 is defined by the sine die resolution, passed before their departure from Columbia on May 10. Under that resolution, they can return to deal with the state budget, anything related to V. C. Summer, legislation to make the state tax code conform to changes in the federal tax code, bills that have been passed in both houses and are now in conference committee, and some local legislation. They have given themselves until November to do this. That is far too late for some of the remaining bills.

First, the state needs a budget. The government won’t shut down if the budget doesn’t pass by July 1, but it would surely be better to let agencies know what they have to work with at the start of the fiscal year. The budget also includes important provisos that are there in part because the General Assembly failed to pass other needed bills. Legislators should be working now to resolve their differences on those.

What else should legislators do when they return? They must surely bring our tax system into conformity with changes in the federal tax code, either by reconciling H.5341 and S. 1258 in conference or by writing a new bill. This is an area in which failure to act could be costly for South Carolina’s citizens.

And then there are the utilities. Of course, the utilities, which everyone said were the sole focus of the 2018 session. And yet, bills to resolve both short-term and long-term issues arising from the catastrophic failure of V. C. Summer remain to be passed. Some of the delay can be attributed to differences between House and Senate. Some can be attributed to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that was not inclined to haste. I wouldn’t say that they were slow, but substantial parts of the Greenland ice sheet collapsed between meetings. So now a significant amount of work remains to be done.

S 954 is best known for the ongoing battle between House and Senate over the amount of a temporary rate suspension, whether 13% or 18%. With each passing day, we pay more to SCANA for something that we aren’t getting because this isn’t resolved. However, in the long term the more important aspect of this bill is the PSC schedule, which would give all participants certainty of a schedule to resolve the complex issues surrounding SCANA and its exorbitant rates. This schedule is especially important given SCANA’s stonewalling of discovery requests from intervenors and the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) at the PSC, delaying the ability of stakeholders to examine material evidence.

Other surviving utility bills include H.4375, amending the Base Load Review Act (BLRA) that made the V. C. Summer catastrophe possible. Retroactive repeal would be lovely, but is pretty surely unconstitutional. The most important elements of H. 4375 are preventing future use of the BLRA and introducing a definition of prudency, a central concept in evaluating whether SCANA’s costs at V. C. Summer were legitimately incurred. Another bill, H. 4379, creates a consumer advocate and removes the serious conflicts currently embedded in the ORS mission statement. The first two of these bills are on the agenda for the Wednesday conference committee, but H. 4379 is not yet in conference. Legislators must be working to resolve their differences on these bills before proceedings at the PSC and in the courts move further forward.

Those are the absolutely necessary bills for June. We are sure that legislators expect to dig in and move fast when they return to Columbia, but there is a lot to do. November is too late for much of it. July is too late for some of it.

Two other important utility bills, H. 4377 and H. 4378, were never heard in Senate Judiciary subcommittee, but nevertheless could and should be taken up under the sine die resolution. No one has indicated any intention to do this, but it is possible and needed so it is worth mentioning. H. 4377 makes important changes to strengthen the qualifications of members of the PSC and improve their access to information. We need that. PSC members shouldn’t be just representatives of local areas there to look out for local interests, they must be technically and legally competent to address the complex issues before the PSC.

H. 4378 revised the membership of the powerful State Regulation of Utilities Review Committee (PURC) that oversees the whole regulatory system. It gives the Governor appointments to this important body and ensures that legislators are not a majority on the committee. We badly need this. However, at present H.4378 does not go far enough. We should also prohibit members of PURC, their immediate families, and the businesses with which they are associated from receiving income, donations, or gifts from any regulated monopoly. At present they can receive all of these benefits from the industries that they oversee. This should end, now.

So, with all that time until November, there is no good reason for the General Assembly not to take up these other bills and actually reform our regulatory system.

Lynn is more diplomatic about all that than I would be, but she sure knows her stuff, and I felt a post from her would be far more informative than one from me…

Archie Parnell’s shameful secret (which hasn’t shamed HIM enough to get him to bow out)

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Well, I guess I feel pretty foolish for having given Archie Parnell a hard time for not shaving his beard.

But you know why political consultants will tell you to do that? So that voters won’t wonder what you’re hiding.

It turns out Parnell has been concealing something far, far worse than a weak chin:

Top South Carolina candidate refuses to quit congressional race after abuse discovery

Archie Parnell, a Democratic congressional hopeful who earned national attention after nearly winning in deep red South Carolina last year, is resisting pleas to withdraw after his campaign staff discovered that he physically abused his ex-wife in the 1970s.

In divorce records obtained by The Post and Courier, Kathleen Parnell said the marriage deteriorated after two years in 1973 because of “unwarranted accusations” from her husband.

In October 1973, Archie Parnell, then a University of South Carolina student, was locked out of some friends’ apartment to protect Kathleen Parnell, who was staying there. At 2 a.m., Archie Parnell used a tire iron to break a glass door, the complaint said. He made more unspecified accusations to Kathleen Parnell before striking her several times. She said she was beaten again later that evening.

After the “acts of physical cruelty,” Kathleen Parnell said she feared for her life and did not want to stay married. She obtained a restraining order against Archie Parnell after seeking the divorce, according to court documents. The divorce was finalized in early 1974….

When this came out his campaign manager immediately quit, saying “He has no business running for Congress and he never did.”

But Parnell himself won’t quit.

I feel ridiculous for having to say this, but he should. A man doesn’t hit a woman. Ever. Even when it was a long, long time ago.

Oh, and by the way — his party agrees with me:

SCDP CHAIR STATEMENT ON ARCHIE PARNELL
Columbia, SC –South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson released the following statement on Monday after the Post & Courier reported that he physically abused his then-wife in 1973:
““In light of this sad revelation, Archie Parnell has no choice but to withdraw from the race for the 5th Congressional District. His actions, though long ago, directly contradict the values of the Democratic Party.”
###

The life of a gentleman is (or was) the life for me…

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To live any other way would be… insupportable…

Kay Packett, who has been known to comment here in the past, confessed on Facebook that “I want to live in an English novel, where, when anything goes wrong, someone immediately makes tea. I don’t even like tea.”

I responded immediately:

I’ll drink anything you like, as long as I’m a country gentleman with a competent man of business to deal with the running of the estate. I’ll be happy to serve as an MP as long I don’t have to think too hard, just vote the High Tory line. Will I have a membership at White’s, for when I’m in Town? If so, I’m in… Yeah, I’ve thought this out…

And I have thought it out; that’s the pathetic part. All that stuff was right there at my fingertips when the question arose.

And just so you don’t think I want to be a leech on society, I would also be happy to serve as a post captain in the Royal Navy during the same period (Regency era), commanding a frigate, with plenty of independent cruises and therefore opportunities for prize money…

1480530742_658279_1480530991_noticia_normal

Et tu, Publix? (And more embarrassing news from SC)

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Mike Fitts brought it to my attention first:

Then, to my horror, I discovered that The Washington Post was also prominently playing this deeply embarrassing South Carolina story:

South Carolina grocery censors graduation cake inscription

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A South Carolina woman isn’t happy a grocery store censored her honor graduate son’s cake, which was supposed to include the Latin phrase “Summa Cum Laude.”

Cara Koscinski told The Washington Post a cake online from Publix that was supposed to say “Congrats Jacob! Summa Cum Laude class of 2018.”

She says the online message box did not like the word “cum,” the Latin word for “with.” The computer marked it as a naughty word and substituted three hyphens….

Yeesh.

It’s not that I’m saying everyone should have at least two years of Latin the way I did (although, of course, they should). I’m saying that to be ignorant of what cum laude means indicates that not only did you not graduate with honors, but you don’t even know anybody who maintained a 3.0 or better.

Some good news: I looked back a few minutes ago, and that story was no longer being played as prominently on the Post as it had been this morning. Whew.

But here’s the bad news: THIS is now the very top story under the Post‘s National heading on my iPad app:

A short circuit unlocked cells at a South Carolina jail. Now two murder suspects are on the loose.

Two men facing trials for brutal murders managed to overpower a jail guard and escape into the trees outside a small town in South Carolina, authorities say, after a short circuit caused their cell doors to automatically open.

Tyshon Demontrea Johnson and Curtis Ray Green fled the Orangeburg Detention Center on Saturday — initially escaping with an accused carjacker from the same cell block. The third inmate has since been recaptured, but a manhunt had not found Johnson and Green by late Monday, leaving the jail’s frightened neighbors demanding to know how its systems could so utterly fail.

It was not the first time that a cell door at the 1960s-era facility released an inmate because of a malfunction: Last June, a man serving a sentence for a probation violation noticed that his door had failed to lock, according to WRDW, and he enjoyed a few hours of freedom before police caught him in an alley.

Oh, boy…

embarrass

 

Another perfectly good blog post, ruined by gratuitous, over-eager journalistic enterprise

Grabbed this from Meg's Twitter feed. Hope she doesn't mind...

Grabbed this from Meg’s Twitter feed. Hope she doesn’t mind…

Dadblastit!

I’ve been giving key personnel at the Post and Courier unmitigated hell for having ruined a perfectly good, really fun blog post that I was almost finished writing when they had to stick their noses in:

This is what had me ticked off:

And what did I get from Andy Shain, the Columbia bureau chief? A bunch of sass:

And his boss, Executive Editor Mitch Pugh, was no better, thoroughly enjoying my pain:

I fired this back at Andy:

Fortunately, I was then able to taunt them a second time-a with this:

But enough of my fulminations. Some of you may wish to comment on the substance of the breaking story.

Frankly, I’m surprised she went with a guy with such a mainstream pedigree, given her desire to be seen as a destructive force, an “outsider buzzsaw,” yadda-yadda. The answer to the standard South Carolina question, “Whose his Daddy?,” is respected former federal appeals judge Billy Wilkins.

And his uncle is even more establishment — our former speaker and ambassador to Canada, David, a throwback to the days when South Carolina Republicans voted for people with names like “Bush” instead of “Trump.”

So maybe she’s not quite the rebel she wants Trump voters to think she is. Or maybe she was just excited to hear that he was a “Young Gun.” Because, you know, she likes guns. Or likes us to think she likes them, anyway…

‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’

UMBRELLAS-OF-CHERBOURG

Having recently become members of the Nickelodeon, my wife and I on Sunday attended a special showing of “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, ” the film that launched Catherine Deneuve as a star.

I’m not what you’d call a big fan of colorful romantic musicals of the early 1960s, but this one was unusual, if not unique. And not just because it was in French.

First, it was at first glance visually very much like Hollywood films of the time — very Kandy-Kolored, none of that somber continental auteur black-and-white stuff. In fact, the colors were sort of a foreshadowing of the later psychedelic portion of the decade. The wallpaper alone in some of the interior sets would make you suspect there were some very funny mushrooms in the vicinity of Cherbourg.

Then there was the fact that it wasn’t just a musical musical, in the sense of people suddenly and without warning breaking into song for no good reason. Every word of dialogue, down to the most pedestrian remarks, was sung. A bit disturbing at first, but this operatic device worked, even with me. In the opening scene, a guy who works with one of the protagonists at a garage sings that he doesn’t like opera; give him movies instead. I could identify, ordinarily. Anyway, it made for a nice little internal joke.

If you get the opportunity to see the film sometime — it’s no longer showing at the Nick — it’s worth it just for the moments when suddenly, you recognize a tune the characters are singing. I was delighted and frustrated by this, because these tunes were very much a part of the background of the 1960s — the grownup, Muzak, “standards” part that was always playing somewhere, even though it’s not what we kids sought out. Here’s a cover of one. I’m proud that I made the connection on this one before the film was over, when suddenly my brain replaced the French words with “If it takes forever, I will wait for you.” Here’s another earworm from the film.

I had never heard of the film back in those days, but I certainly knew the tunes.

SPOILERS to follow…

That warning seems a bit unnecessary, but I’m hoping that some of you who haven’t seen it will see it sometime. As for those who have seen it, I’d be interested in what you think about how the film turned out.

As happens at the Nick, there was discussion of the film there in the theater before and after the showing. At the start, we were told that this apparently light story was set within the context of France’s traumatic experience in the Algerian War. But… I didn’t see any heavy political subtext. The structure of the film was in three parts, the first being boy-meets-girl and the second boy-leaves-girl-to-go-to-war. It could have been any conflict, or some other cause. The point was that the boy went away. There was nothing special about the fact that it was to Algiers.

Madeleine -- not only was there character in her face, but she had a sort of Katharine Ross thing going on...

Madeleine — not only was there character in her face, but she had a sort of Katharine Ross thing going on…

Then there was the ending, which in a sense was the least Hollywood thing about the film. And this is the real spoiler. We’d been set up to think it would be a terrible thing if Geneviève and Guy didn’t get back together — in conventional Hollywood terms. But from the moment Mssr. Cassard and Madeleine made their appearances, I felt that they were better mates for our star-crossed lovers. Sure, in Hollywood-values terms, Deneuve was beautiful as Geneviève — being beautiful was her specialty, especially when she was older — but Madeleine was more my type, and Guy’s, too, I thought. Not only did Ellen Farner have a kind of pre-Katharine Ross thing going on (and it was a law of movies in the ’60s — if Katharine Ross appears, you the male viewer will fall in love with her), but there was depth of character in her face. This is the girl you marry, Guy. And Messr. Cassard was more the kind of mate Geneviève needed, despite — or perhaps even because of — his over-trimmed mustache.

Anyway, I guess that’s enough on the subject of a film you probably won’t see unless you go out of your way. But it impressed me and I wanted to share that…

The psychedelic wallpaper was well ahead of its time.

The psychedelic wallpaper was well ahead of its time.

That 2010 picture was an expression of something good, and rare, in our politics

My original caption on this picture was, "Dogs and cats, living together -- Republican Rick Quinn and Democrat James Smith at the Benjamin victory party."

My original caption on this picture was, “Dogs and cats, living together — Republican Rick Quinn and Democrat James Smith at the Benjamin victory party.”

Remember the night Steve Benjamin was elected mayor back in 2010? It was a heady evening, and a lot of people, including people you might not expect, were excited about it.

There were the usual suspects, of course. A lot of black voters were thrilled to have had the chance to elect the first black mayor of a major South Carolina city, only 15 months after seeing Barack Obama become president. And even though this was a nonpartisan election (as all elections should be), it was quite natural that white Democrats would be happy, too. Steve had been their party’s nominee for attorney general several years earlier, and had also served as an agency head in Gov. Jim Hodges’ administration.

But Benjamin’s appeal was much broader than that. There were some very prominent Republicans at his celebration, and they were as happy as anybody. In all my years in South Carolina, I had never seen these people at the same victory celebration:

But the best part of all? Seeing the happy Democrats (James Smith, Anton Gunn, Boyd Summers, etc.) and Republicans (Rick Quinn, Butch Bowers, Kevin Hall — at least, I heard Kevin was there) together there, and hearing the chant, begun by the mayor-elect, of “ONE Columbia.”

Reminds me of that awesome night in that same building when the people chanted “Race Doesn’t Matter!” in celebrating the Obama victory in the SC primary…

(By the way, if you’re not all that involved in politics, you might not know just how Republican Butch Bowers and Kevin Hall are. They were law partners at the time, and their clients included pretty much every statewide elected official in the state — all Republicans, of course — as well as much of the congressional delegation. We’re talking big-time GOP lawyers and movers and shakers behind the scenes.)

What I meant by that observation about Obama’s SC victory was, it was almost like people at the Benjamin thing were chanting, “Party doesn’t matter.” And you know what music that would be to my ears, feeling as I do about parties. I definitely got caught up in it myself, in a way I wouldn’t have back when I was at the paper:

It was pretty awesome being in the room when Steve made his victory speech. I was right up front, and when I congratulated him, I got one of those regular-guy combination handshake-hugs — which was also embarrassing for a serious journalist, but I was happy for him. In fact, I was caught up enough in the moment to Tweet this, which DID actually post, during his speech:

This is awesome. I’m happy for Steve, for everybody in this room, and for Columbia…

And I meant it. It was a big moment. I mean, the man had tears coursing down his face as I sent that out. And if you didn’t get a contact high from being in that crowd, you’ve got ice water in your veins….

So, in that atmosphere, with everyone enjoying the moment, I ran into James Smith and Rick Quinn at the same time and said something to them like, “This is not a sight you see every day. I’ve got to get a picture of this!”

So that political Odd Couple, in the spirit of the moment, gladly posed for me, and then went back to the celebration.

Why were so many different kinds of people happy about this result? Well, Rick’s motive was pretty clear — his Dad’s political consulting business had worked to get Benjamin elected. But the next question is, Why would the Quinn’s — as solidly identified with Republican candidates as anyone in South Carolina — work for this Democrat, even in a nonpartisan election?

I can’t answer that precisely because I don’t think I ever asked. But it seemed natural to me that such lines were crossed. My impression at the time as to why his support was so broad was because his message had been so unifying. Check out my shaky video from his victory speech, which he started out by repeating his campaign slogan: “We are ONE Columbia.”

His campaign had been about pulling together a fragmented community — not just split by party and race and class, or by town and gown or government and private sector, but by the fact that government itself here is the most fragmented I’d ever seen in my career when I arrived at The State to become governmental affairs editor in 1987. I came here from Wichita, Kansas — a city of about the same size at the confluence of two rivers, with a deep cultural split between the east and west sides of the water. Sound familiar? But it was easy for Wichita to move forward together because it was one city in one county with one school board and so on.

The economic community of Columbia is split not only between two politically incompatible counties, but into about 10 municipalities, seven school districts, and a confusing array of little special purpose districts that provide services cities and counties should provide (Richland County Recreation Commission, anyone?).

Benjamin had spoken of all of that as ONE Columbia, with optimism about what we could do together, with eloquence and Kennedyesque vigor (vigah?), and people were pumped about it.

So it was a night when it looked like it was possible to sweep aside all the usual garbage that divides us and causes so many of us to become depressed at the mere mention of the word, “politics.”

Speaking of all that garbage — that’s what causes me to bring up the subject of that night eight years ago.

I hear that someone is about to use MY photograph of James with Rick Quinn — without my permission, of course — to attack, to smear, to malign James Smith, to damage his chances of becoming governor, or even of getting his party’s nomination in the June 12 primary.

The photo couldn’t possibly damage him among people who know him or his record or his character. No, this would be a smear based on exploiting and manipulating voter ignorance, an attempt to generate this sort of reaction: I don’t know that James Smith, but he sure seems to be buddy-buddy with that Rick Quinn, and while I don’t recall exactly what Quinn DID, I’ve heard he’s some kinda crook or something! I better find somebody else to vote for…

Or, the hoped-for reaction could be as simple and stupid as this: That Rick Quinn’s a Republican! That James Smith must be one, too…

If this attack emerges, and it’s anything like what I’m hearing (I hope the rumors are wrong) it will be an expression of the things that make our politics ugly, relying on such things as blind partisanship, mistaken impression, damning a person for incidental association rather than for anything he ever did….

Will Folks predicted something like this would happen several months ago, having gotten wind of a group that was prepared to spend a lot to try to take down James Smith’s candidacy, by trying to make him appear to be something he’s not. I don’t know if what I’m hearing about now is the same thing. We’ll have to see when it emerges.

The thing is, James Smith is that rare thing in politics — a guy who not only looks like a Boy Scout, but really is one. He’s always been a clean, honest, diligent public servant. To try to suggest he is something else would be disgusting. And it would be especially appalling if a photo of mine was misleadingly used to do that.

I just hope what I’ve been hearing is wrong…

Steve Benjamin on that heady night in 2010 when he was elected mayor.

Steve Benjamin on that heady night in 2010 when he was elected mayor.

I’m ashamed that I thought I was having a bad day

shooting

To begin with, I’m still not over this cruddy cold thing, and haven’t done my quota of steps all this week. That keeps me from feeling myself.

Then, I decided I had to drive the Volvo today because I’d be transporting grandchildren this afternoon and I can’t do that in the truck. And the Volvo was still like a rain forest inside because the rain took me by surprise the other day with the sun roof and windows open, and since the rain hasn’t ceased, I hadn’t been able to air it out. So I drove downtown with everything open to try to dry it out a little. And then a rear window wouldn’t go back up. With more rain on the way…

So over breakfast, I actually sent my wife a whiny text that began, “Not having a good day…”

Then I got to the office, and heard the news that reminded me what an actual bad day is like:

At least eight people were killed in a shooting Friday morning at a high school in Southeast Texas, police said, and a student was taken into custody amid the carnage.

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said there were “between 8 and 10 people” killed, most of them students at Santa Fe High School in Galveston County, south of Houston. Some faculty members were also killed in the shooting, which occurred before 8 a.m., he said….

God help those folks out there. God help us all…

Open Thread for Thursday, May 17, 2018

She LOOKS like a nice lady, anyway...

She LOOKS like a nice lady, anyway…

Covering several subjects:

  1. Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief — I hadn’t posted about this before because I was so ambivalent about her. On the one hand, I was for her confirmation on the basic principle I almost always prefer promoting professionals from within for such jobs (Robert Gates being a perfect example) and that is particularly important as a way of mitigating the harm Trump is doing to our country. (Steve Bannon would say I’m depending on the “Deep State.” To the extent that I understand the phrase, yes I am.) On the other hand, John McCain said she doesn’t meet his standard. McCain isn’t my guide on every moral question, but he definitely is on the subject of torture. So I was torn.
  2. Donald ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ Trump threatens to whack Kim — He didn’t quite understand what Bolton meant by “Libya model,” which he interprets as “The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation.” I’m also guessing he doesn’t understand what “decimation” means, but I could be wrong, I suppose. Maybe he knows way more about Roman history than he does about American.
  3. Call It ‘Crossfire Hurricane’: The Start of the Trump Inquiry — Read about the Trump thing if you want, but I’m more interested in a lyrics problem. Yes, we know that code name comes from the first line of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” But what’s the second line? I had always thought it was “and I howled at the moon in the driving rain.” The Web offers three alternatives: “And I howled at the morning driving rain,” And I howled at my ma in the driving rain,” and “And I howled at the maw in the drivin’ rain.” Listening to the original with headphones and an open mind, I think it might be the last one. Either that, or he’s saying “Laurel.” But definitely not “Yanny…”
  4. ‘Explosive’ eruption at Hawaii volcano’s summit shoots ash more than five miles high — Wow. Burl, are you getting any of that ash or other material over on Oahu?
  5. James Smith releases campaign ad — Here it is below. What I’d like you to do is contrast its calm, mature, positive tone to the nasty, petty, childish, backbiting ads we’ve been seeing from the other folks out there…

OK, let’s talk about Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’

Doug and Norm were talking about Childish Gambino’s “This is America” video. So I made my usual joke about “What’s a Childish Gambino?,” and then I went to look at it. (I had recorded SNL over the weekend, but hadn’t watched it yet.)

Apparently, this is the “I Am the Walrus” or “American Pie” of the moment, with everyone trying to interpret the references. So I went and watched it. And I didn’t find it to be all that mysterious, although I’m sure I missed a lot on that one run-through. I felt like I “got” what I saw, but I’d need to watch it a few more times to catch things I missed, and wonder about things I don’t get.

This was my stream-of-consciousness reaction, which I’m rethinking even as I post it here, but this was the way it played for me as I watched:

I watched it. I get it.

It’s about reparations.

And it’s also about a whole lot of other images and ideas from the black experience in America, spanning centuries. You have the references to “contraband” all the way through apparently random gun violence, and life going on around it.

The care of the guns just refers to the way we cherish them in America. We have another shooting, and elected leaders sort of close ranks in making sure nothing changes and the holy gun is protected.

He also runs through various caricatures of the Dangerous Black Male that white society has traditionally feared — the sexualized dancing, the violence, the drugs. His mugging facial expressions, some of his dance moves, the whites of his frightened eyes being the first thing you see in the darkness when he’s being chased at the end — all those things make cultural references to the black man as a ridiculous figure of entertainment for whites. So you have this jarring, sudden, back-and-forth going on between a minstrel show stereotype and the dangerous stereotype.

And the old cars remind me of the days of Hollywood’s blaxploitation fad, although they may be a little more recent than that.

The kids are in school uniforms, which seems a reference to the way people think one way of addressing social ills is to put kids in such uniforms. Yet the chaos goes on around them.

It’s interesting. I like that the music has a Caribbean feel to it (at least to my ears). After all, the black experience in America largely came first through the West Indies. South Carolina, the most pro-slavery state in the Union, was initially settled by people who had practiced a particularly brutal form of chattel slavery in Barbados.

And on and on.

Doug thinks I’m clueless. I’m not. The old guy who’s out of it is just a character I play on TV. Or on social media, anyway…

That’s first-blush, without looking to see what others thought of it.

Thinking back, I’m not sure I should have said “Caribbean.” It sounded exotic to my ears, and for whatever reason I thought “Caribbean.” Maybe it’s the way the guy’s dressed, as a combination between a slave working in cane fields (the American form of slavery got its start with sugar cane cultivation) and a Calypso dancer. Wait… I searched on that, and it seems calypso dancers aren’t as a rule shirtless. Don’t know why I thought they were.

Anyway, there’s a lot to unpack here…

Oh, and Childish Gambino? It’s Donald Glover. The guy I keep thinking is related to Danny Glover, but isn’t….

mugging

Another message from ‘Conservative outsider and Republican gubernatorial candidate Cath…’ oh, never mind!

long name

Yeah, I know I’ve written about this before, more than once. But they keep doing it, so I’m going to keep pointing out how ridiculous it is.

The more I see her campaign refer to her, over and over and over again, without deviation, without letup, as “Conservative outsider and Republican gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton,” the more I marvel at their apparently limitless tolerance for tedium.

You’d think that at some point someone writing one of these releases would just get fed up with the monotony and say, “The hell with this! I’m not going to keep people in suspense! I’m just going to go ahead and tell the reader who I’m talking about!”

You have to wonder, is this mind-numbing tactic that her campaign just will… not… drop, even in the face of withering satire from the likes of my good buddy Robert Ariail, something that will work against their ability to build name recognition? Will voters who might have chosen her get frustrated and give up in the booth after perusing the ballot and being unable to find anywhere a name that begins “Conservative outsider and Republican gubernatorial candidate…?”

SCTempletonAriailW

‘… and we gon’ KEEP it dat way…’

Forgot to share this Henry McMaster ad a couple of weeks back. Remember when I said Henry’s accent needed to be preserved and placed in a museum?

Well, he outdid himself in that one.

I got to thinking about that ad because of his new one, in which he takes on a nastier edge and makes like Catherine Templeton voting for Vincent Sheheen for governor in 2010 was a bad thing. When in truth, it’s one of the few good things I’ve ever heard about her.

Meanwhile, he suggests that being “friends” with Donald Trump is a good thing. It’s just a topsy-turvy world that Henry inhabits.

But snark aside: That’s one very ugly ad. Listen to the irritating female voice that just drips with sarcasm when it says, “because Nikki’s Democratic opponent was her friend.” As though there could be nothing more contemptible on Earth than calling Vincent Sheheen your friend. Or any Democrat. As though they were some subhuman species.

That’s a truly disgusting video, governor, and you should be ashamed of it. Are you going to keep going down this trail?

Open Thread for Tuesday, May 15, 2018

m10-4312-tom-wolfe

I actually have a request for an Open Thread today — from Doug. So y’all can blame him if you don’t like it:

  1. Tom Wolfe dies! — When I went looking for material for this post, this was the first thing I learned and it deeply shocked me. I’m a huge fan. And I’m kind of irritated that the WSJ headline says “‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ Author Tom Wolfe Dies at 88.” I didn’t like Bonfire, or any of his novels, nearly as much as his earlier nonfiction stuff. The Washington Post got it right with “Tom Wolfe, apostle of ‘New Journalism’ who captured extravagance of his times, dies at 88.” He was the best practitioner of an exciting form of journalism, or literature, or whatever you want to call it that came along in my youth and made deep impressions. While I loved Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, my all time favorite was The Right Stuff. It was unusual in that it combined his usual tone of ironic detachment with something that nevertheless communicated what heroic figures those guys were. No one could have told that story the way he did.
  2. Fired Richland administrator Seals to get more than $1 million settlement — This was what prompted Doug to want an Open Thread. Have at it, Doug — this is rich material. The crazy saga continues. But at least we know how it happened: “Council members voted 5-4 on the settlement payment after a roughly four-hour… special-called meeting Monday.” No, wait; I left out some words: “Council members voted 5-4 on the settlement payment after a roughly four-hour, closed-door, special-called meeting Monday.” So, we don’t know. You know, I started my journalism career in Tennessee, where there were no “executive sessions” of public bodies. It’s still incredible to me that they’re allowed in South Carolina four decades later…
  3. McMaster getting other governors to nominate Trump for Nobel — Sheesh.
  4. Killings in Gaza, a New Embassy in Jerusalem and No Sign of Peace — That about sums it up. What I’d like to know is, how is this issue worth all those people dying, no matter where you stand on the issue?
  5. Carolina Panthers expected to be sold for about $2.2 billion, an NFL record — Some of you sports fans may be interested. I am not.

Or, bring up whatever you’d like…

 

THAT’S kind of a cool, idiosyncratic ad…

Fenimore

Google Adsense gives me a lot of odd ads that I’d rather not see on the blog.

But I thought this one was pretty cool, and kinda weird — a James Fenimore Cooper ad?

I just flashed on my fave line in that movie with Daniel Day Lewis, when the British officer asks Nathaniel how he can possibly go to Kentucky when there’s a war on where he is, and the reply is, “Well, we kinda face to the north and real sudden-like turn left…”

Although, now that I think about it… Since this was set in Upstate New York, shouldn’t he head south and then turn right? Or head west and then turn left? Maybe the actor got confused because they filmed it in North Carolina, which would have made those directions perfect…

Wes Studi: One scary villain

Wes Studi: One scary villain

I don’t know, but I liked the film for two reasons: One was the incredible menace of Wes Studi, who played Magua. That was one scary villain.

The second was how well Day-Lewis inhabited a character who is probably THE prototypical American character. There’s no one in literature more American, unless it’s Huck Finn.  (That quote, displaying his utter lack of regard as to what a representative of the Crown thought of his doings, perfectly illustrated that.) How do the Brits do that, time after time? This may well be the ultimate example of the phenomenon.

Of course, not all the Google ads today are awesome. At the same time the Cooper one was showing, there was this across the top of the page….

No, not the great picture I took in Thailand. I mean the thing under it...

No, not the great picture I took in Thailand. I mean the thing under it…