That other Alabama senator ALMOST did the right thing

But he only went halfway in the honorable cause of trying to stop Roy Moore.

At first blush, one is inclined to pen a latter-day profile in courage at this news:

Shelby bucks his party and president to oppose Moore for Senate

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In his sternest rebuke yet, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said repeatedly Sunday his state can “do better” than electing fellow Republican Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate, making clear that a write-in candidate was far preferable to a man accused of sexual misconduct….

“The state of Alabama deserves better,” he said….

That’s fine as far as it goes, and can be described as real leadership — assuming anyone follows.

But the gesture is revealed as a halfway one when we look more closely at what he said:

“I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I didn’t vote for Roy Moore. But I wrote in a distinguished Republican name. And I think a lot of people could do that,” Shelby told CNN’s “State of the Union.”…

Here’s a clue for anyone who doesn’t get my point: Writing in “a distinguished Republican name” shows Shelby isn’t entirely serious about stopping Moore. I don’t care how distinguished the name is. If it was Abraham Lincoln, he still wouldn’t have a prayer of beating Moore. Being dead and all. (And this being Alabama.)

Sure, the senator has seen to it that Moore doesn’t get his vote. But that only does exactly as much good as if the senator had simply not voted.

Someone has to beat Moore in order to prevent him from going to Washington. And there’s only one person on the planet in a position to do that: Democrat Doug Jones.

That Shelby cannot bring himself to vote for a Democrat even to stop his party from being shamed by Moore shows that he’s not quite the high-minded, above-the-fray statesman the headlines would suggest.

We’ve been here before, of course, and on a much larger scale. The nation is now reaping the bitter harvest of such thinking last year, when the woods were full of Republicans who knew it would be insane to elect Trump, and held back from doing so — but considered voting for Hillary Clinton to be so completely, absolutely unthinkable that they could not entertain the notion for a moment.

So they threw their votes away, rather than give them to the only person on the planet in a position to stop Trump.

This partisan mindlessness must stop if we are to save this republic. It just has to…

Shelby

Samuelson will tell you the truths you don’t want to hear

Robert J. Samuelson — whom I don’t read as often as I should because of his tendency to write about money and other things one can measure with numbers — is not a guy to read at all if you want him to tell you things you want to hear.

Robert J. Samuelson

Robert J. Samuelson

Well, let me amend that: I think the things he has to say are fine, when I can cut through the numbers and read him. But based on voting patterns I’ve seen in recent years, he’s likely to give a lot of other folks apoplexy.

For instance… not satisfied merely to slice and dice the Republicans’ contemptible tax “reform” plan last month, he strode right past the nonsense to speak a home truth: “Americans aren’t taxed enough.

He didn’t mean it in absolute terms, of course. There is no perfect amount of taxation, and saying “this isn’t enough taxation” in a vacuum would be as idiotic as say, also in a vacuum, that “Americans are taxed too much.” And Samuelson is not an idiot.

No, he means that as long as America means to spend X amount — and there has been no credible effort to reduce the lion’s share of spending — it must have the common sense and maturity to pay X amount in taxes. And it’s been a very long time since we’ve done that.

As he put it:

The truth is that we can’t afford any tax reduction. We need higher, not lower, taxes. What we should be debating is the nature of new taxes (my choice: a carbon tax), how quickly (or slowly) they should be introduced and how much prudent spending cuts could shrink the magnitude of tax increases.

To put this slightly differently: Americans are under-taxed. We are under-taxed not in some principled and philosophical sense that there is an ideal level of taxation that we haven’t yet reached. We are under-taxed in a pragmatic and expedient way. For half a century, we haven’t covered our spending with revenue from taxes…

We resist the discipline of balancing the budget, which is inherently unpopular. It’s what Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute calls “take-away politics.” Some programs would be cut; some taxes would be raised. Americans like big government. They just don’t like paying for it….

But if you think that’ll make some people mad, consider his column today. But first, someone bring the smelling salts for Bud and Doug. The headline is, “Why we must raise defense spending.” An excerpt:

Politically, the vaunted military-industrial complex has been no match for the welfare state’s personal handouts. There has been a historic transformation. In the 1950s and 1960s, defense spending often accounted for half of the federal budget and equaled 8 to 10 percent of gross domestic product (the economy). In 2016, defense spending was 3 percent of GDP and 15 percent of the federal budget, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Meanwhile, welfare programs — called “human resources” by the OMB — accounted for 15 percent of GDP and 73 percent of federal spending….

The result is this:

Here is the assessment of Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense specialist at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute:

“The United States now fields a military that could not meet even the requirements of a benign Clinton-era world. The services have watched their relative overmatch and capacity decline in almost every domain of warfare . . . for nearly two decades. As rival nation-states have accelerated their force development, the Department of Defense has stalled out, creating a dangerous window of relative military advantage for potential foes. . . . While the United States continues to field the best military personnel in the world, policy makers have asked them to do too much with too little for too long.”…

So, to summarize, we’re not taxing enough for the spending we’re doing, and we’re not spending enough to adequately perform what was originally the government’s chief responsibility.

And before I get the cliche response — citing numbers showing how much more we spend than other nations is pretty pointless. We emerged from 1945 as the chief guarantor of a security order designed to stave off World War III. And the only nations that have shown any interest in taking that mantle of dominant military power off our hands have been the very last big countries a believer in liberal democracy would want to see do so.

Samuelson may write too much about numbers, but I have to hand it to him: He goes right where the number lead him, regardless of whose ox gets gored, on both the left and the right…

Penalty for trains blocking streets is $20? Now I get it…

train

I just got this from the S.C. House Democrats:

Rep. Rutherford Pre-Files Legislation Targeting Train Obstruction of Roadways

Columbia, SC – Democratic Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia), announced today that he will pre-file legislation to target the issue of roadway obstructions caused by trains. The proposed bill would significantly increase the penalty for train and railroad companies that have products or assets that block South Carolina roads for longer than five minutes.

Todd Rutherford

Todd Rutherford

The intent behind the legislation comes less than a month after two trains blocked Whaley Street, Assembly Street, and Rosewood Drive in downtown Columbia, halting morning traffic for over an hour. Unfortunately, trains and other objects impeding automobile traffic are too common of occurrences, in both urban and rural communities across South Carolina.
Under current state law, the maximum penalty for obstruction of a roadway is $20. Rutherford’s bill seeks to increase the fine to $5,000 per lane blocked, with the fine rising to $10,000 per lane if the violation occurs between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm.
Rutherford stated, “We cannot allow trains and obstructions to paralyze our roadways. Delays caused by these occurrences directly impact South Carolinians’ wallets and even worse, can be a matter of life or death. It is my hope that increased penalties and improved enforcement of the law will keep our roads clear and our cars moving.”
Rutherford continued, “South Carolinians should not have to suffer because they happen to live near a freight-train line. This issue threatens our quality of life, public safety, and economic growth.”
###

Can that even be right? $20? If so, it explains a great deal…

‘From Russia With Love’ Trump parody

As you know, I have my doubts about whether Robert Mueller can save the country from this predicament, no matter how well and thoroughly and honestly he pursues his duty.

So I don’t look at this video and think, “Yes! When this happens our country will be back on track!”

But I do enjoy it, simply because I tend to enjoy when people are clever with video. Personally, I lack the video-editing skills even to produce a “Downfall” parody, so stuff like this impresses me.

Of course, the editing is rough — the heads don’t fit as smoothly onto the bodies as perhaps they should — but that crudity seems almost like a stylistic statement by the editor. He’s not asking us to suspend disbelief; he just wants us to dig it.

I’m struck by the weirdness of having Flynn and some of the others talking constantly, as though muttering to themselves as they are being pursued. I don’t know whether that’s deliberate or the creator was too lazy to find non-talking video, but I kind of like it, without being able to explain why.

But then, neither Comey nor Trump is speaking, which is appropriate, although uncharacteristic in Trump’s case. I think maybe the editor is saying, “This would shut him up…”

Anyway, enjoy, for what it’s worth…

Flynn

A man does not need a game to drink, if he is a man

A man does not need company to drink. Nor does he need games...

A man does not need company to drink. Nor does he need games…

I noticed the other day that the MSM (the Charleston paper) had reported on the Nancy Mace video (yeah, that one). This part of the story, relating the reaction of Mace opponent Cindy Boatwright, jumped out at me:

Boatwright, a mental health counselor making her first bid for office, confirmed she has played beverage games in the past.

“Yup, I have,” she told Palmetto Politics. “However, not last year. I went to college. There was beer pongs.”…

First, I think it’s beer pong, not “pongs,” but I could be wrong, having never played. (Weirder was the paper’s description of the Mace video: “In the clip, Mace, who won the House District 99 GOP runoff Tuesday, is seen drinking a beverage and then pouring the liquid from her mouth into the mouth of another person at a table.” Don’t know about you, but “pouring” seems the wrong verb. Whatever.)

But here’s my question: Who needs a game in order to drink? I mean, I went to college, and I drank my share of beer and wine (and maybe someone else’s when he wasn’t looking). I don’t remember having to play games as an excuse to imbibe.

Is it a woman thing? I ask because another thing I did in college was read a lot of Hemingway, which is why I know that a man does not need a game to drink like a man. A man need only get up in the morning. First, he will do some work, which he will do cleanly and well. He might do some journalism to pay the bills, and then work on the next chapter of the book, the one about the war. Then he will stop while the work is still good, and when he knows what comes next.

Then he will go to the cafe and he will drink. He will do so deliberately and with purpose, as a man does. He will read the Herald-Tribune while he drinks. He may start with one of those Dutch beers that are so cool and so clean in the green bottles. Then the man will proceed to another cafe, where he will read the letters from his publisher while having an aperitif. He will then eat his lunch with a bottle of rioja alta, which is an honest wine and red, like the red that spills from the bull at the end of the corrida . He will take satisfaction in this because the work he has done this day was right and true, so that he knows he has deserved the wine.

He will not speak during any of this. If Brett starts to speak, he will say, “Don’t talk about it. If we talk about it, we will lose it…”

OK, I forget now where I was going with this…

Slate Quiz: Ha! Take THAT, you young whippersnapper!

405

I know I shouldn’t feel pumped for beating a lowly intern, but I so seldom do well on the Slate News Quiz (it’s timed, and that rattles me) that I deserve to celebrate, just a bit.

Even though, you know, I cheated. Just a little…

Here’s what I did: On the very first question, I could see the right answer immediately. But then I hesitated, thought a bit more, and clicked on a different answer — and it was wrong! I had been right to start with!

I wasn’t going to proceed on that basis, starting in the hole, so I allowed myself a mulligan; I started over.

I ended up knowing most of the answers, and beating both the intern (take that, young Lila Thulin!) and the average by a fairly substantial margin (405 to 316 to 342, respectively).

So I made myself go back and do it again, deliberately getting the first answer wrong. But then, I accidentally correctly answered another question I’d gotten wrong the first time (No. 4), so I had to deliberately screw up another one (No. 12).

But I failed set things right. I ended up with a higher score, 431, the second time — probably because I did it faster.

So, there is wrongness still in the universe, and it’s my fault, and I seem to be incapable of setting it right. But I still slam-dunked this quiz! See how you do.

431

 

You say we NEED the slaves to work the fields? So much for philosophy…

The capacity of the human mind for rationalization is an amazing thing. The things we can talk ourselves into without breaking a sweat…

Seeing this sentence this morning in a story about honoring the slaves who built USC sent me off on a tangent: “Sancho and his wife Lucy became the property of Thomas Cooper, president from 1821 to 1833 of what was then South Carolina College, with Sancho becoming a well-known figure on campus.”

Thomas Cooper

Thomas Cooper

My wife’s mother was a Cooper. All the Coopers in living memory lived in West Tennessee, but I knew that if you followed the line back to the mid-19th century, some of the Coopers lived here in Richland County, SC. And a number of Coopers were named Thomas.

So I had often wondered whether there was a connection to the famous Thomas Cooper of USC, and this morning I decided to read up on him.

Apparently, there’s no connection, since the academic Cooper was originally from England — whereas my wife’s Cooper ancestors had been in America a couple of generations ahead of him. With such common first and last names, that’s hardly surprising.

But I found reading about the USC Cooper interesting. He was apparently quite the philosopher, friend to Thomas Jefferson and other leading lights of the time. But this bit from Wikipedia sort of blew me away:

He supported the institution of slavery, although he had strenuously opposed the slave trade. In the mid to late 1780s Cooper fought passionately against “that infamous and impolitic traffic”. He wrote that “negroes are men; susceptible of the same cultivation with ourselves”, claimed that “as Englishmen, the blood of the murdered African is upon us, and upon our children, and in some day of retribution he will feel it, who will not assist to wash off the stain”. But in America Cooper accepted slavery itself, as he doubted that “in South Carolina or Georgia…the rich lands could be cultivated without slave labour”….

Let me make sure I’m following you, Tom: The slave trade is “infamous.” People of African descent are just as human as whites and just as worthy, and all of us who fail to do something to remedy this injustice are deserving of “retribution.”

But hey, we need them to work the plantations, so never mind! That cotton’s not going to pick itself!

Wow. He was celebrated for his great intellect, and this is how he used it…

Open Thread for Tuesday, December 5, 2017

SlagerShooting5x3.1

Very quickly:

  1. Russian Team Barred From 2018 Winter Olympics — Yeah, OK. Get back to us when they get barred from the real Olympics. But I will say this is a better way of punishing Russia than the last time we did it, when we stayed home instead. Y’all know I like me some Jimmy Carter, but that was a huge disappointment to a friend of mine who was coaching our boxing team.
  2. Trump risks backlash as he prepares to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — Seeing as how it is the capital, it’s hard for me to get worked up about this one. Of course, I don’t have to because millions in the region will get worked up for me….
  3. Justices seem divided in case of baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple — I’m including this for Bud, who may have a point — this guy seems to have a stronger case than most defendants in this are. But in the end, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t eat cake, so what do I know?
  4. Evidence of fight, threats mark defense’s version of Scott shooting case — Can anyone ‘splain to me how the defense thinks any of that adds up to, “It’s OK to shoot a guy running away from you in the back?”

That’s it for now. Gotta run…

Trump and Clinton were the two most-despised nominees ever. How do we avoid that in the future?

Red_state,_blue_state.svg

The election that made Donald Trump president was an unmitigated disaster for America and for the world it has led since 1945. And it’s hard to see how the nation is going to extricate itself and recover.

But things would not have been a bed of roses had Hillary Clinton won the election as well as the popular vote. You think Congress has been feckless and obnoxious this year (it’s great achievement passing an unneeded, execrable tax bill)? In the event of a Clinton victory, Congress would have spent all its time launching attacks and investigations against the woman many of the GOP members have hated with every fiber of their beings almost (and with some you could leave off the “almost”) since they were children. The nasty partisanship of the Bush and Obama years would be looked back on fondly as a golden age of harmony.

It was a no-win proposition. Of course, a voter with judgment and a conscience had to vote for Clinton because Trump had to be stopped and she was the only person in a position to stop him. But still, things would have been pretty bad had she won — just not as bad.

The country couldn’t win in 2016, because Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the two least-appealing nominees in the memory of pollsters. As FiveThirtyEight proclaimed in May 2016, “Americans’ Distaste For Both Trump And Clinton Is Record-Breaking.”

How did this happen? Of course, in part it can be explained as simply a function of our partisan polarization: The candidate who appeals most to one side is the most hated by the other. But it’s way more complicated than that. These people were little liked among us independents, either. And these candidates were unique. Never before has a party nominated someone who was in the White House 25 years earlier, and started being despised by a large portion of the electorate way back then. Nor has a party picked a famously sleazy businessman with zero relevant experience, knowledge, understanding, or principles. So no, it was not politics as usual.

This predicament was in no way inevitable. As recently as 2008, both parties had opted for their most broadly appealing candidates, leading to what I, as an independent who (like so many) liked them both, saw as a win-win proposition. I regretted that I couldn’t vote for both McCain and Obama.

So how do we avoid this in the future? Well, the dream option would be for both parties to fall apart and to have some better system of winnowing the field suddenly and magically replace them. Do you see that happening? I don’t. Or rather, I see the falling-apart part happening, but not the replacing-with-something-better part.

Another option would be for the parties to stick around, but clean up their act to where they can put forth candidates who appeal to someone outside their most-committed respective bases.

I’m not seeing this happening so far. I heard on the radio the other day (but for some reason am having trouble finding it now) that Democrats have been working on “reforming” (Democrats sometimes use “reform” loosely, the way Republicans do with regard to taxes) their nomination process. I can’t give you specifics since I can’t find it now, but it sounded to me like they wanted to make the process more democratic, so that party elites can’t stack things in favor of their preferred candidates. This to me sounds like the opposite of reform. The insurgencies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are the best argument I’ve ever seen for smoke-filled rooms. But then I have to acknowledge the inconvenient fact that Hillary Clinton was the choice of party elites this time. So what that tells me is that they need new elites.

(OK, I found something about the Democratic reform process. But it’s not what I was looking for.)

Meanwhile, the Republicans are cursed with power, and obviously haven’t a clue what to do with it. All of their pathological dysfunction has been nakedly on display this year, which is why the party has accomplished nothing but a tax bill that looks like a parody of everything the populists who voted for both Sanders and Trump despise about the GOP. Really, fellas? This is the big achievement that you think will save you? Basically, the GOP has spent the year staggering from disaster to embarrassment and back again. And hey, in a few days the Republicans in the Senate will likely be welcoming Roy Moore, the ugliest baby yet produced by the polygamous marriage of incompatible factions that is currently the Republican “big tent.”

I don’t have a magic wand or I’d be waving it like crazy to prevent 2020 from being like 2016, which would be more than either party seems to be doing so far.

Perhaps you have some ideas…

Hate to say it, but I don’t see this Trump thing ending well

It's not easy to keep a republic going. Ask the French -- they're on their Fifth, in less time than we've had one.

It’s not easy to keep a republic going. Ask the French — they’re on their Fifth, in less time than we’ve had one.

Some good people who place their faith in the rule of law may have gained encouragement from the guilty plea of Michael Flynn. After all, this is the case that Trump tried to get Comey to back off on, before firing the FBI director. Time to start up the impeachment apparatus!

Others will cite the continuing stream of evidence that the president is not right in the head, from making “Pocahontas” jokes when he’s supposed to be honoring the Navajo Code Talkers to telling people that he doubts that was him on the “Access Hollywood” tape — more than a year after admitting that it was. Obviously, a case for the 25th Amendment!

But setting aside the facts that a) Republicans would have to initiate and drive either of those processes for removing a grossly unfit president, and b) Republicans have shown us time and time again that they are too terrified of Trump’s supporters even to mutter a word against him, I don’t think it’s time to get optimistic that this madness will end soon.

Even if Republicans were ready, willing and able to take those steps, I’m pretty sure the original problem would remain: Trump’s fans would go ballistic.

The terrible truth that faces us is that no amount of evidence of Trump’s unfitness is likely to ever persuade these folks of the truth. They are inoculated against evidence. If the truth makes Trump look bad (and it most assuredly does), then to them it’s not the truth; it’s “fake news.” As unlikely as it would seem to most rational people, they actually seem to believe that. But whether they believe it or not, they act as though they do, which is what matters.

But so what? Most of the country can’t stand Trump, so those people can’t control what happens! Right?

Wrong, at least so far. Remember, most of the country held Trump in contempt at the time of the election, and yet here we are. More importantly, since the early 90s Republicans have been enormously successful at drawing electoral districts so that most of them are safe for Republicans. This, however, instead of empowering the people who drew those lines, has undermined them. It has caused them to walk in fear of someone running to the right of them in their next primary. Consequently, as a result both the election of a lot of those extremists and the fear of such occurrences on the part of more moderate Republicans, the party has moved farther and farther out onto its own fringe.

Even if the current GOP House got up the nerve to impeach Trump, it’s highly likely that what they fear would occur: They would be replaced by others who are more extreme than they are.

But forget the insidious effects of gerrymandering. The fact is that the nation can ill afford to have the Trump bloc, minority though it is, believing they were cheated out of having their guy in the White House. I’m not talking about armed insurrection here, although we can’t totally rule that out. I’m saying our system of government would have its greatest crisis of legitimacy it has ever faced. (At least, since 1860-65.)

Remember the snit fit Democrats had after Gore was found to be the loser in Florida (and he was the loser in Florida)? It went on for eight years, and many of them still believe the U.S. Supreme Court “stole” the election and “gave it” to Bush. And these were relatively sensible people, not a cult that worships at the altar of “alternative facts.” (In fact, there was one way you could have counted the votes so that Gore won — just not the way Gore had demanded they be counted. That way, and most ways, he lost.)

There is already ample evidence that the common vision of what America is all about has largely been lost, and not only among Trump voters who think “liberal democracy” means a democracy run by Nancy Pelosi. David Brooks had a good piece on that a couple of weeks ago.

As divided as we are, can you imagine what it would be like if some 30 percent of the electorate — a bloc utterly immune to contrary evidence — was convinced that it had been robbed?

How would we ever get back on an even keel? And even if the next occupant of the Oval Office is the best president we’ve had in 50 years, how would he or she lead us?

There was a thoughtful piece in The Washington Post today arguing that the only good way to get rid of Trump will be at the ballot box in 2020. But given the facts on the ground at this moment, can we even be confident that that would happen?

(Get back to me in a few days. I’m still reading Tom Holland’s Rubicon, and I’ve finally gotten up to the events of 49 B.C., and steeping oneself in that era is not a thing likely to inspire confidence in the staying power of republics…)

To cross or not to cross?

To cross or not to cross? Either way, the Republic’s pretty messed up…

OK, you’ve hit your limit: No more ‘having a field day…’

Some folks having an actual field day about a century ago.

Some folks having an actual field day about a century ago.

You ever suddenly hit a wall in terms of your ability to tolerate trite, overused expressions?

I do.

For instance, this morning that moment arrived for “have a field day.”

A woman on NPR was talking about all the complex junk thrown into the Republicans’ tax bill at the last minute. She started to say that in the coming months, tax lawyers would… and suddenly, driving the old Volvo over the Jarvis Klapman bridge, I’m thinking Don’t say “have a field;” please, just spare me… and she completed the sentence with “have a field day,” as everyone listening knew she would. Once a sentence such as that one has gathered speed, there’s no avoiding the inevitable.

Perhaps you’re not tired of it. Perhaps I’ve reached my threshold because of the way it’s overused in reference to journalists, as in “The press will have a field day.” (Which it tiresome, but not as tiresome as non-journalists saying something is “splashed all over the front page” when it simply appears, quite soberly and modestly, on the page in question.)

But think about it: How much sense does this expression make to begin with? A “field day” is:

a : a day for military exercises or maneuvers
b : an outdoor meeting or social gathering
c : a day of sports and athletic competition

And usually, it means the last of the three.

What does that have to do with what tax lawyers will be doing with this mess of a bill? Nothing, really.

So it was kind of a stupid expression the first time it was used to mean “to gain advantage or success from a situation, esp. one that is bad for someone else.” (Which doesn’t, let’s face it, really quite describe what people are doing when they “have a field day.” They mean something more like “have themselves a time with it,” or “go hog-wild with it,” or some other hoary expression that doesn’t irritate me quite as much — yet.)

And at this point, it is far beyond useful. So let’s have no more of this nonsense…

Another popular field-day activity.

Another popular field-day activity.

Would the real Lindsey Graham please stand up?

Who is this man, and what has he done with Lindsey Graham?

Who is this man, and what has he done with Lindsey Graham?

I’ve called Lindsey Graham a stand-up guy here before, and I’d really like to have reason to do so again. After all, we’re talking about the Republican most likely to speak truth about the madness during the long nightmare of the 2016 election.

But it has come to this:

I don’t understand it. I really don’t. Yeah, I know a lot of GOP pols have concluded that they can’t be themselves and get their party’s nomination in this environment. But he doesn’t face re-election for another three years! By that time, will the Republican Party even exist anymore? Not at the rate it’s going…

Your Virtual Front Page, Thursday, November 30, 2017

Is it that the missile is so big, or he's just so small?

The experts say it’s a real monster.

I haven’t done one of these in awhile. There’s certainly plenty of news for it:

  1. Senate GOP tax plan hits deficit snag, leaving leaders scrambling — Flake and Corker are refusing to agree to jacking up the national debt. Good for them. In the bad news column, John McCain has agreed to support the bill, despite the news that it will increase the deficit by a trillion over 10 years. That’s very disappointing.
  2. If North Korea fires a nuclear missile at the U.S., how could it be stopped? — I’d be leading with this, since it’s infinitely more important than stupid tax policy. But the actual news of the N. Korean test was yesterday, so it can’t lead today. And the tax thing is breaking. There are rules. Meanwhile, in this story with a rather comical headline, experts note with alarm that Kim’s missile is way bigger than they’d thought.
  3. 2nd undisclosed report shows delays, poor oversight doomed SC nuke project — Hang on. Did I just hear “undisclosed” again? And get this: “State regulators and legislators said Thursday that they were unaware of the Fluor report’s existence until told of it by The State.”
  4. Alan Wilson joins multi-state effort to ban abortion after 20 weeksThe State reports that “Other states whose attorneys general are part of the coalition include West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas.”
  5. White House Plan: Replace Tillerson With C.I.A. Chief — Well, I doubt he’d be any worse. Meanwhile, talk about Nikki Haley getting the job has faded to the background. I suppose if Pompey doesn’t want the job, they’ll go with Crassus or Caesar. Oh, wait — it’s PompeO. (Sorry. I’m still reading, and enjoying, Rubicon.)
  6. Gloria Steinem: ‘I wouldn’t write the same thing now’ — Normally, I pay little attention to what she says about anything, but that piece she wrote defending Bill Clinton in 1998 was so deeply shameful and egregious that this is worth noting. But like the sex harassers who “apologize” with caveats and excuses, she’s still not ashamed that she did it then — and that’s appalling.
"I want you to listen to me... and to Gloria Steinem..."

“I want you to listen to me… and to Gloria Steinem…”

Nice try at seeming balanced, senator — but you failed

Back in the late ’80s, when The State had money for such things, my duties as governmental affairs editor included supervising the South Carolina Poll (at least, I think that’s what we called it — it’s been a long time).

Cindi Scoppe was the reporter I had working on it, because she had studied polling at UNC-Chapel Hill and was keenly interested in the process. She also had the kind of incisive mind, even as a very young reporter, that meant for a very critical eye when we were drafting the questions (which is why I later brought her up to editorial).

She and I and Emerson Smith, who used to bridle when I called him our “pollster” in print (political polling was more of a sideline for him, but he proved to be very good at it), would work hard at making sure that every question was as neutral as possible, and would give us the cleanest possible read on what the public really thought. This, of course, is how journalists spend a great deal of their time and energy — even though Trump supporters and that O’Keefe idiot think journalists do the precise opposite, bending the news to their supposed biases. (They think this because they know zero, zip, nada about journalists and what motivates them. And because they have the kinds of brains that assume if someone isn’t reinforcing their biases, that someone is biased. Especially now that there are plenty of information sources that will humor them.)

I think we did a pretty good job. I can’t confirm that with evidence on the issue questions, but Emerson’s polls were remarkably accurate on the kinds of things that can be confirmed — such as predicting election results.

Anyway, stepping outside of what you think in order to pose a neutral question takes practice, I guess, and politicians don’t get much of that kind of practice.

So it was that when Lindsey Graham tried to poll his constituents about the tax plan he and his GOP colleagues are determined to rush through Congress before anyone has a chance to stop them, I think he really tried to at least look like he was posing the question fairly.

But he fell short. Way short.

Here’s what he sent out:

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TAX REFORM IN THE SENATE

Dear Friend,

The United States Senate will begin debating tax reform tonight and I want to hear from you on this important issue facing our nation.

Supporters of Tax Reform:
President Trump supports tax reform and has pushed the Senate to pass this important piece of his agenda for America.  In fact, he came to the Senate yesterday to push Senators to support this plan.  His pitch was simple – hard working Americans should be allowed to keep more of what they earn.  According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, in South Carolina the average family would be allowed to keep $2,391 more in their pocket.  The legislation also will benefit business by creating more than 13,000 jobs in our state.

Opponents of Tax Reform:
Opponents of tax reform have said they believe it is unnecessary and the Senate should defeat it when it comes up for a vote.  They have expressed concerns that tax reform could benefit the wealthy at the expense of the middle and lower income Americans.  They have not offered an alternative proposal and feel our current tax system is working as intended.

Regardless of whether you support or oppose tax reform, hearing from you allows me to better represent your interests in the United States Senate.

Make Your Voice Heard:

Click here to share your thoughts

I appreciate you taking this opportunity to make your voice heard before this important vote.

Sincerely,

Lindsey O. Graham
United States Senator

It looks nice, and sounds nice if you read it aloud in a calm voice and don’t engage in critical thinking. Of course, I’m talking about where he tries to make the case against the legislation.

But come on. What would be the first thing you would want to mention as an argument against it, assuming you were a fair-minded person. What’s the thing that even a person who thought this package of cuts was wonderful might have qualms about?

Why, the deficit of course. That’s why Bob Corker has demanded, as the price of his support, a trigger that will automatically raise taxes if this “reform” increases the deficit the way it certainly will.

But there’s no mention of that. So right away, this attempt at “fairness” fails. Then, of course, it gets worse: “They have not offered an alternative proposal and feel our current tax system is working as intended.” To which the average recipient on his mailing list responds, They haven’t even offered an alternative (you know, like Republicans on health care)? Then screw ’em! And in what universe is there an idiot big enough to believe “our current tax system is working”?

Of course, I’m only analyzing the way he presents the “con” side.

His representation of the “pro” side is shilling of a shameful order. If I were to parody an attempt to condescend to the prejudices of the kind of people who voted for Trump (something the senator is doing a lot these days), I would probably think I’d gone overboard if I wrote something this embarrassing: “President Trump supports tax reform…” “this important piece”… “hard working Americans should be allowed to keep more of what they earn”… “in South Carolina the average family would be allowed to keep $2,391 more in their pocket” (translation: We will pay you $2,391 to support this bill!)…  creating more than 13,000 jobs in our state.”

Gimme a break.

No, wait! I take that back — you might take that as “Yes, I want my tax break!” But I don’t, because I haven’t heard anything about this bill that persuades me it’s a good idea. And this laughably transparent bid for my support didn’t help your case…

Maybe Garrison Keillor shouldn’t have written that op-ed piece

Garrison_Keillor_6190507095

This morning, there was a column in The Washington Post by Garrison Keillor sort of sticking up, in his own tongue-in-cheek way, for Al Franken.

I wondered at the time, Is that a good idea?

Now, the AP is reporting this:

MINNEAPOLIS — Garrison Keillor says he’s been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of inappropriate behavior….

Yikes! You suppose there’s a connection? You suppose someone read that op-ed piece and decided, “That it! I’m gonna tell the world about this guy…”

This morning, I overheard someone saying this in reaction to the Matt Lauer thing: “I ain’t putting nothing past nobody now!”

No kidding…

Finally looked at the Nancy Mace video. Wish I hadn’t…

Nancy Mace, in a photo from her campaign website.

Nancy Mace, in a photo from her campaign website.

Somebody brought this to my attention on Twitter last week. Seeing it was video, I didn’t click on it (I frequently check Twitter in places where that would be annoying to other people), and soon forgot about it.

That is, I forgot about it until Nancy Mace, as expected, won her runoff last night for the GOP nomination for Jim Merrill’s old House seat, District 99. Suddenly more people were mentioning the video.

So I went and found it.

First, for those who need reminding, Nancy is known for three things, mostly for the first:

  1. She was the first female cadet to graduate from The Citadel, back in 1999.
  2. She was Will Folks’ partner for a time in the FITSNews blog. Will handled the content, she dealt with the technical side. (At one point I met with her to ask how they worked that out, looking for ideas for turning this blog more into a business. I tried setting up something similar, but it didn’t work out.) Here’s Will’s coverage of her win last night.
  3. She was one of the crowd of folks who ran against Lindsey Graham in the primary last time around.

Now, conventional wisdom would have it that she’s positioned to cruise into the House. Because, you know, it’s a GOP seat, and they don’t draw them for Democrats to win.

There are only a couple of factors that might stand in the way of that. First, Democrats seem pretty enthusiastic about their candidate, Cindy Boatwright. Second, there’s that video, which has been mentioned quite a few times on social media since last night.

So I went back and looked at it. The first person you see is Nancy Mace:

Perhaps not wishing to share the part about “that’s not her husband… or a man,” a number of Democrats have Tweeted about it separately, especially in recent hours, now that they know whom they’re facing.

Here’s Cindy Boatwright’s statement:

I hope they can get to the point of discussing factors other than this between now and election day Jan. 16. But whether they do or not, this is likely to get interesting…

boatwright twitter

McMaster picks a running mate, and it’s… who?!?!?

Pam-Evette-1

(Hey, it’s just McMaster all the time today on bradwarthen.com…)

“Who?” is the only response I could muster initially when I read this bit of news:

But after I’ve thought a minute, I have other questions and observations as well:

  • Is this how it’s going to work? Even though I’ve advocated for having the Gov Lite run with the gov, I guess when they got around to making that happen, I didn’t read the the bill very carefully. Or, let’s face it, at all. (Nobody pays me to do that now, and even when they did pay me, I’d get Cindi or someone to read the bills, and tell me what they said.) I had sort of thought a gubernatorial candidate would pick a running mate after being nominated — to the extent that I’d thought about it. Like president and vice president.
  • Thinking that, or sorta thinking it, I’d assumed that Henry would pick Catherine Templeton, if he could beat her in the primary. Instead, he’s picking someone who (he presumably believes) helps him counter whatever appeal Ms. Templeton may have. As Democratic operative Tyler Jones said, “Not sure why people are surprised about McMaster’s Lt. Gov pick. He’s running against a female outsider. So he put a female outsider on his ticket. Not hard.”
  • Which brings me to my problem with her. I can’t see putting someone with zero experience in public office a heartbeat away from the governor’s office. We’ve never seen this person operate in the public sphere. We have absolutely no way of knowing how she would perform. She says, she’s never made a dime off of government, which translated from the Trumpese means she is in no way qualified for the job… or if she is, she was miraculously born qualified, because nothing she’s done since has prepared her for it in any way.
  • She says, “I was a Trump girl from the beginning,” which, you know… Words fail me (which I guess kinda makes me a “Trump boy,” in a sense). So much for balancing a ticket, eh? Take Henry’s absolutely worst trait, and pick someone just like that to run with. Sheesh.
  • Is “Evette” a surname or a middle name — you know, like an alternative spelling of “Yvette?” (OK, that one’s kind of a throwaway — no need to answer.)

That’s enough for now. Talk amongst yourselves….

A look back: Henry’s 2010 interview with the pro-flag guys

wary

Remember the squirm-inducing video of Nikki Haley being interviewed by some pro-Confederate flag guys back in 2010? Remember how she meekly gave them the reassurances they sought, while looking like a hostage forced to say these things?

Something caused me to look back at that (I think it was a comment on this blog, but it may have been on an old post, because I’m not finding it now), and to note that Henry McMaster, too, was interviewed by the same guys at the time.

“These guys,” by the way, were a group that redundantly called themselves “South Carolina Palmetto Patriots,” and said this about their agenda on their now-defunct website:

The Federal government has stolen our liberties and rights and nullified our ability to self govern as a state. It is the obligation of all people of our great state to restore unto ourselves and our children these inalienable rights as set forth in The Constitution of the United States of America.

As I noted at the time, that was their 2010 agenda and not their 1860 agenda, but I can see how you might have been confused.

I’d show you more, but the URL they were using then takes you to a page that shows a picture of a hat rack and the words, “This site has stepped out for a bit.”

Yeah, no kidding.

Back to the McMaster videos: There are six clips of about 10 minutes each, and there are commonalities with the Haley clips. For one thing, Henry sometimes looked very wary of these guys and their questions, as I think you can see in the still above. Or maybe that’s just me; I share the image so you can decide yourself.

He doesn’t seem to be having a rollicking good time. Still, he gives them the answers they seek, promptly and perfunctorily, as they tick off their list of traits that make an acceptable person in their book.

In the first clip, he starts out with a recitation of the 10th Amendment’s limitations on the federal government, which seemed welcome to these (as we learn later) latter-day nullificationists. At times, it takes on the cadences of the Catholic baptismal rite — if you’re a Protestant, you’ve heard it in “The Godfather:”

Do you reject Satan?
I do.
And all his works?
I do.
And all his empty promises?
I do.

Only on this video, it’s:

Have you read the constitution of the state of South Carolina?

Yes.

Do you believe we should be governed by this document?

Yes.

On that second “yes,” Henry seems a bit impatient. Of course, it is an idiotic and insulting question to ask an officer of the court, but you get that sort of thing from the kinds of extremists who believe that they are the only ones who understand what the constitution in question truly means.

Continuing…

Do you think it is better to have the government spending money to improve the economy or have tax cuts to improve the economy?

Tax cuts. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

Do you think we should amend our state constitution to include the right of petition and recall by the people…?

Yes….

Are you a Christian? What is your current church membership?

Yes. First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina; I’ve been there my whole life.

After that last, there is a pause, and the questioner explains, “Some of these questions are designed for other candidates…,” because, as he notes twice, he had known Henry was a Christian.

Which candidates might those be?, one wonders…

Eventually, after Henry makes it clear that he adamantly disapproves of illegal immigration, they get down to the nitty-gritty, at 8:10 in the clip:

Do you support keeping the Confederate Battle Flag in its current location…?

Yes.

At that point, the questioner turns things over to “Bob,” who possesses an accent that gives Henry’s a good run for its money. The grilling on this subject continues to the end of the first clip, and all the way to 5:16 on the second one — after which “Bob” moves on to nullification.

When I listened to all this this morning, I typed up Henry’s answers in some detail — and my PC crashed before I could save it. Suffice to say, he further assured them that the flag flying on the State House grounds was a settled matter. Everyone had had their say during the debate before the “compromise,” and that was that.

Of course, he now says that the removal of the flag is a settled matter (if I read it correctly), so let’s give him credit for that.

I confess I didn’t spend an hour listening to all six clips. Do so, if you’re so inclined, and share with us what you find. I just found it interesting to revisit, however briefly. I’ll leave you with this: As marginal as these guys might have seemed in 2010, the video seems almost quaint today — after Charlottesville. And at the same time chilling, after Mother Emanuel…

ETV needs to think really hard about its demographics

Bob_Hope,_Bing_Crosby_and_Dorothy_Lamour_in_Road_to_Bali

I’ve read that public broadcasting is in trouble because its audience is aging. (OK, what I read was about NPR, but can’t the same be said about PBS?)

But you’d think they’d want to do something about that, instead of rolling with it to this extent.

Tonight, ETV is offering a deal to donors: Give at a certain basic level, and you get a CD of a documentary about… wait for it… Bob Hope! (Here’s who that was, kids.)

Then, if you give a little more, you get… CDs of all the “Road” pictures with Bing Crosby!

And if you give more, you get more Bob Hope stuff!

How shall I put this? I’m 64 years old — well into my dotage, as the Beatles (I’ll explain later who they were) once reckoned it — and Bob Hope was popular way, way, WAY before my time. I mean, my mother was only 9 years old when the first “Road” picture came out, so I’m thinking it was aimed more at her parents.

When I was young, only Lawrence Welk was more identified with the blue-haired set.

So, what’s the deal here? Why is this the pitch? I’m genuinely puzzled…

I shot this during one of the promotions. I shot it off the old cathode-ray tube upstairs instead of the HD model, because it seemed appropriate.

I shot this during one of the promotions. I shot it off the old cathode-ray tube upstairs instead of the HD model, because it seemed appropriate. A narrator said Hope and Crosby sort of invented the “breaking the fourth wall” thing, so they were cutting-edge. In 1940…

The politics of the court’s abandonment of Abbeville case

sc supreme court

I had thought Cindi Scoppe was out of the country — Wales, I think — but then she had a good column over the weekend explaining why the S.C. Supreme Court had dropped the 24-year-old Abbeville case that sought equity for those who attend some of our state’s poorest schools.

Not in terms of fine points of the law. Not in terms of the merits of the case. In terms of politics.

It was headlined “Why the SC Supreme Court washed its hands of poor students.” Here’s an excerpt:

Contrary to House Speaker Jay Lucas’ declaration that the order showed the court “is satisfied by the House’s transformative efforts to improve South Carolina’s education system,” the majority actually had nothing to say about how satisfied it was or was not with the Legislature’s efforts.

Contrary to House Speaker Jay Lucas’ declaration that the order showed the court “is satisfied by the House’s transformative efforts to improve South Carolina’s education system,” the majority actually had nothing to say about how satisfied it was or was not with the Legislature’s efforts….

Basically, lawmakers let their intentions be known in the way they screened prospective justices to replace Jean Toal and Costa Pleicones:

When legislators grilled would-be justices leading up to the retirement of Justices Toal and Pliecones, they made sure the candidates understood that the court is not in fact the co-equal branch of government that the constitution claims. So for the past two years, the school districts’ Abbeville victory has existed on paper but not in reality, reduced from a mandate to act to a requirement to file annual progress reports…

Mind you, Cindi’s not at all sure that there exists a constitutional mandate that the state ensure a good education to every student. Like me, she believes that as a matter of public policy, it’s insane (and yes, immoral, for those who think I’m ignoring that) not to:

The many South Carolinians who recognize that our state cannot progress as long as we leave behind so many children are understandably upset by the court’s ruling. But we never should have needed to rely on the court to tell the Legislature to do what anyone who cares about the future of our state would do. And ultimately, it is up to all of us to demand and insist and never stop demanding and insisting that our legislators make the changes to the laws and the enforcement of those laws and, yes, the funding that are necessary to ensure that all children in this state have the decent education that we all need them to have.

Note that last part: “that we all need them to have.” It’s fine if we want to provide equality of opportunity to poor kids, if that makes us feel good about ourselves. But our collective self-interest comes into play here.

We need an educated population. All of us need that. We cannot afford to have these broad swathes of our state where people simply lack the skills to hold down a good job and contribute to the state’s prosperity and general well-being. We need capable doctors and nurses and lawyers and paralegals and air-conditioning repair people and cooks and clerks and cops and factory workers and builders and thousands of other kinds of workers. We can’t afford to live in a place where there are large bunches of people without skills.

Universal education is not so much a kindness to individuals as a pragmatic goal for the whole community.

It’s a wonderful thing to live in a country of laws. But one less-wonderful side effect of that is people sometimes think there needs to be a law that makes people do the right thing. To some extent, the Abbeville case was predicated on that.

But forget about whether the state constitution mandates a “minimally adequate education” or a “super-duper education.”

It’s just smart policy to do all we can to provide everyone with the chance to get educated. It’s that, and of course, it’s the right thing to do…