Remembering a better time, just 10 years ago

That's me interviewing Obama on MLK Day 2008 -- taking notes with my right hand, shooting video with my left. With my Initech mug: "Is This Good for the COMPANY?"

That’s me interviewing Obama on MLK Day 2008 — taking notes with my right hand, shooting video with my left. With my Initech mug: “Is This Good for the COMPANY?”

I retweeted this today…

I passed it on not because it was particularly profound or unique or even one of our former president’s better Tweets, but because it reminded me of a better time for our country.

As it happens, I met Barack Obama 10 years ago, on MLK Day.

That was such a better time for our country.

McCain in the same seat, not long before.

McCain in the same seat, not long before.

A week before, we had endorsed John McCain in the SC Republican Primary, and he had won. We knew, when Barack Obama came in, that we liked him for the Democratic Primary in a few days. But this interview, at 8 a.m. on that holiday, cinched it. We were all very impressed. And since Hillary Clinton declined even to come in for an endorsement interview (I would learn why sometime later) and Joe Biden had dropped out much earlier, that was pretty much it.

We endorsed Obama, and he won the primary a few days later.

As a result, I’ve never felt better about a presidential election than I did about that one — my last in newspaper journalism, although I didn’t know it at the time.

From the time McCain and Obama won their respective nominations, I referred to it as the win-win election. Whichever one won, I felt good about our countries future.

We endorsed McCain in the fall — I’d wanted him to be president since long before I’d heard of Barack Obama, and I was concerned about the Democrat’s lack of experience. But it was OK by me when the latter won. It was the win-win election.

Fast-forward eight years, and we find the Democrat we rejected then running against the worst candidate ever to capture a major-party nomination in our nation’s history — and as if that weren’t bad enough, the worst man won. And we are reminded of that daily, as he goes from outrage to outrage.

So it’s good, if only for a day, to look back and remember a time, not so long ago, when all our prospects seemed good.

Burl’s 1st-hand account of the Great Missile Alert of 2018

Your truly with our correspondent Burl in Hawaii on a less-panicky Saturday in 2015. Note the rainbow.

Your truly with our correspondent Burl in Hawaii on a less-panicky Saturday in 2015. Note the rainbow.

You’ve no doubt heard about the false alarm in Hawaii today:

For 38 harrowing minutes, residents and tourists in Hawaii were left to believe that missiles were streaming across the sky toward the Pacific island chain after an erroneous alert Saturday morning by the state’s emergency management agency.

“Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii,” warned an 8:07 a.m. message transmitted across the state’s cellphone networks. “Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”

Only after an inexplicable delay by the state agency — during which residents scrambled to seek shelter and contact relatives — was a subsequent message sent describing the missile warning as a “false alarm.”

Not satisfied with mainland newspaper accounts, I turned to our intrepid correspondent on the scene, veteran newspaperman-turned-historian Burl Burlingame, to tell us what it was like.

Initially he responded with a text that said:

We’re OK but the neighbors have resorted to cannibalism.

Journalists are conditioned to react to incipient annihilation with gallows humor, and protocol required that I respond in kind, so I said, “Perfectly understandable, under the circumstances.” Then, with patience born of decades as an editor waiting for reporters to get off their a__es and file the actual story, I waited.

Eventually, he filed his report via Facebook Messenger. It follows:

In Hawaii, at 11:45 a.m. on the first working day of every month, sirens go off all over the state. You can hear them almost everywhere. Civil defense has them to warn of incoming missiles, but mainly because we’re a seacoast state with a low land mass that can easily be hit with a tidal wave or earthquake from almost any direction. Such natural disasters aren’t iffy; it’s just a matter of when …

So we take such alerts seriously.

The alarm clock on my phone was set for 8:10 a.m. this morning, so when it made noise I dimly perceived it as my wake-up call. Was it ever! It took a few moments to focus on incoming alerts and the top one said that missiles were incoming and it was not a drill.

Huh?

For a while, we’ve been getting practice alerts that are worded similarly — thanks, Trump! — although this one was most clear. But there were no sirens, no ancillary information being broadcast. Being an ex-journalist, I was pretty suspicious of a single phone alert with no backup.

I woke up the wife and told her to prepare to fight in Thunderdome after the imminent nuclear annihilation. She said OK and went back to sleep. Since she’s the night editor at the paper, I suspect she’s pretty busy this evening dealing with “I was there” stories.

There was some commotion in my neighborhood as folks were packing their cars. To go where?

I had an appointment at 10 a.m. to deliver a lecture and people were expecting me there, so I went. The electronic highway signs were already flashing MISSILE ATTACK WARNING IS AN ERROR / THERE IS NO THREAT and I mentally filed away the revelation that they are tied in with Civil Defense.

Many people were caught away from home and family. People dashed home or to churches. Tourists were rounded up off the beaches and sequestered in hotel lobbies. I expect there might be casualties from the panic.

No info yet on how this happened. It’s possible it was an online troll attack. People here are blaming Trump, but we’re expecting him to blame Hillary.

Good report. Short and to the point. And he didn’t speculate about anything he wasn’t sure about.

Gov. David Ige has now attributed the mess to a state employee’s errant push of a button. Yeah… I think the good folk of Hawaii are going to want a more complete answer than that…

The USS Arizona memorial stands as grim reminder that attacks from the air DO happen, even in paradise.

The USS Arizona memorial stands as grim reminder that sudden attacks from the air DO happen, even in paradise.

Yes, Trump violated this blog’s standards today

Yesterday, Trump welcomed the prime minister of Norway which, as he explained today, is NOT a "s__thole country." I'll bet she's relieved to know that.

Yesterday, Trump welcomed the prime minister of Norway which, as he explained today, is NOT a “s__thole country.” I’ll bet she’s relieved to know that.

I’ve been so busy today doing actual work, I didn’t know what Bryan was talking about when he texted, “Would the president’s comment today violate your blog’s civility standard? Assume he was posting under his own name.”

So I went and looked, and the answer is “yes,” of course it would. It also poses a problem to newspapers across the country that normally don’t allow such language to foul their pages. The Gray Lady, The New York Times, refused to use it in a headline. The breaking bulletin on their site said ” Using vulgar language, President Trump said the U.S. should welcome immigrants from Norway, not places like Haiti or Africa.” And the headline after you get to the story said “Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa.”

But the president of the United States said it, and it’s a newspaper’s job to report, so they held their noses and quoted him directly in the body of the story:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday balked at an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and African countries, demanding to know at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from “shithole countries” rather than people from places like Norway, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation.

Mr. Trump’s remarks left members of Congress attending the meeting in the Cabinet Room alarmed and mystified. They were there discussing an emerging bipartisan deal to give legal status to immigrants illegally brought to the United States as children, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity without authorization to discuss the explosive proceedings of the private meeting.

When Mr. Trump heard that Haitians were among those who would benefit, he asked if they could be left out of the plan, according to the people familiar with the conversation, asking, “Why do we want people from Haiti here?”…

So I just violated my own policy, which is not to allow words that are unsuitable in a family newspaper. I didn’t like doing it. But then, I don’t like having this crude ignoramus as president of the United States, and stuff like this is one of the reasons why.

Being less prim, The Washington Post went ahead and used the word in their headline, since the word itself was half the story. That’s defensible, perhaps even laudable in these crass times in which we live.

The Guardian used it in the headline, but the Brits are less puritanical about words than we are.

The State used it in the headline, but good luck finding the story on the website — it’s not on the home page. (The Post and The Guardian are both leading with the story.)

Google has measured me and found me guilty

Google-favicon-2015And there is no appeal, since I have been offered no opportunity to interact with a person and make my case. Never mind facing my accuser, or even getting an explanation of the charges against me. (Ain’t the private sector wonderful? Such accountability!)

Here’s Google’s verdict on the matter I told you about yesterday. You have to hunt for the verdict; the lede is buried (it’s in the second bullet):

Dear Publisher,This Google Publisher Policy Report gives you an overview of recent activity related to violations found on specific pages of your websites. As enforcement statuses may change over time, please refer to the “Page-level enforcements” section of the AdSense Policy Center for the current list of active violations.

Please note this report doesn’t cover violations that may happen on an overall site or account level. You may be notified by a separate email if site or account level violations are found. Ads will continue to serve where no policy violations have been found, either at the page- or site-level.

In the last 24 hours:

  • 1 page-level review request was received. You’ll be notified when the review is completed.
  • 1 page was reviewed at your request and found to be non-compliant with our policies at the time of the review. Ad serving continues to be restricted or disabled on this page.

Further details on enforcements can be found in the AdSense Help Center. To learn more about our program policies, please view the AdSense Program Policies.

Kind regards,
Google Publisher Policy

And my punishment is… that no Google ads will appear on a seven-year-old post. Fine…

Oh, the words I’ve wasted!

Hannah presents her young son Samuel to the priest Eli. By Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Hannah presents her young son Samuel to the priest Eli. By Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Today’s first reading on the Catholic liturgical calendar is from 1 Samuel, chapter 3. It gets me every time I read this part at the end:

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.
Thus all Israel from Dan to Beersheba
came to know that Samuel was an accredited prophet of the LORD.

Imagine that. If I were offered a super power, I might choose that one — that no word of mine would be without effect. Good effect, worthwhile effect. Effect that is pleasing to God.

But as it happens, I’ve wasted thousands upon thousands. And although one gets to utter many, many words in a lifetime on this Earth, the supply is not infinite.

I hang my head at the thought of all those wasted ones…

Open Thread for Tuesday, January 9, 2018

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Dang, I neglected to do an Open Thread for Elvis’ birthday yesterday. Well, here’s hoping somebody gave you a jelly doughnut anyway.

Here’s what we have today:

  1. Trump Says He Is Open to Sweeping Deal on Immigration — We’re talking about not just the Dreamers, but a path to citizenship. Hey, if he can pull off a Nixon-goes-to-China and push through real comprehensive reform like that sought by his two predecessors, I will applaud. But the heads of those in his base are likely spinning right now. For his part, Lindsey is pretty excited about this, calling it the “Most fascinating meeting I’ve been involved with in twenty plus years in politics.”
  2. As North Korea Tensions Rise, U.S. Army Trains Soldiers To Fight In Tunnels — I heard this on NPR this morning. Fascinating. It’s like we’re getting ready to do battle with the Mole People. The north has thousands of these tunnels, some of which extend under the DMZ and deep into the south.
  3. Ex-DHEC chief to run troubled Carolina Water Service — We’re talking Catherine Heigel, not Templeton. Will this help clean up CWS’ rep? I guess it depends on what she does from this point.
  4. Roman Polanski will not face criminal charges for allegations of 1975 molesting — Too bad. He’s been a fugitive from charges of having sex with a 13-year-old since 1978. This alleged victim was 10. The statute of limitations had expired on this one.
  5. Fusion GPS founder claimed FBI had Trump source during campaign — This is from transcript Diane Feinstein released, in apparent defiance of GOP members of the panel.
  6. Steve Bannon Out At Breitbart News — Like I care or something.

 

The Rutles: The Legend That Will Last a Lunchtime

Today while I was working on website copy for an ADCO client, I kept myself sharp by listening to the Pre-Fab Four — The Rutles! — on Spotify.

If you don’t remember The Rutles and their breakout film, “All You Need is Cash,” then you’re probably too young to be allowed out of the house alone.

They were incredible. I don’t know enough about music to understand how Neil Innes could write songs that sound SO much like Beatles songs without actually being Beatles songs.

It sort of cheapened the Beatles a bit for me seeing how easy it was to mockingly sound like them, but I managed the mental acrobatics necessary to be a fan of both groups. I ran out and bought The Rutles’ first album immediately.

If you don’t dig the Rutles, well, all I can say is that you’re so pusillanimous

R-1197593-1325511319.jpeg

House panel to resume work on nuclear fiasco

S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas sent this out a few minutes ago:

Lucas

Lucas

“The House has continued to monitor the recent developments surrounding the VC Summer nuclear fallout since our ratepayer protection package was prepared in December. Comments made today in the Senate illustrate an inability to comprehend that our thoughtful approach remains the top priority of this legislative session. House leadership believes the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee should continue to thoroughly investigate the moving parts of this complex issue to ensure millions of South Carolina ratepayers receive the protections they deserve. As a result, Representatives McCoy and Ott are fully prepared to bring the the committee back in short order to address ratepayer concerns.”

I’m not sure what he means by “Comments made today in the Senate illustrate an inability to comprehend that our thoughtful approach remains the top priority of this legislative session.” Maybe everybody over at the State House today (yes, they’re back) knows, but I only walked around the State House on the way to my 11,447 steps (so far today), and did not go in.

But this might be a piece of it:

Leatherman

Leatherman

Leatherman urged the Senate and its special committee to take a deliberate, thoughtful approach to fixing the systemic problems exposed by S.C. nuclear fiasco, which has cost SCANA stockholders and SCE&G customers billions of dollars.

“We need the Senate to take our time, to make sure decisions we make are well thought out and take into account more than just political expediency,” Leatherman said, making one of several digs at the S.C. House, which is expected to pass quickly its package of nuclear proposals….

Typo of the day, courtesy of S.C. Democrats

This release came in a few minutes ago. I refer, of course, to the headline:

For Immediate Release
January 9th, 2018
SC HOUSE REPUBLICANS SET TO SUSTAIN VETO ON SCHOOL BUSS FUNDING
“There is nothing more important than our children’s health and education, but the Governor and Speaker are choosing to play politics with their safety instead of working with Democrats.” – SCDP Chairman Trav Robertson
Columbia, SC — At 2 PM this afternoon, South Carolina Speaker Jay Lucas will bring up a vote to override Governor Henry McMaster’s Veto 15 from the budget regarding school bus funding – money that is desperately needed to reinforce our aging fleet across the state – even though he does not have enough Republican votes to override the veto and he knows it:
“The Speaker is rushing to get it off of his plate because he doesn’t like the optics of having Republicans willfully endanger our children,” said South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson. “The truth is that the Speaker is putting South Carolina’s children in danger because Republicans refuse to work with Democrats to get them out of this terrible situation the Governor has put us in. Both Speaker Lucas and Governor McMaster would rather have our children suffer than work with Democrats. The people of South Carolina have to live with the consequences of this series of political stunts by the Republicans.”
###

Yep, we gotta do something about all that smoochin’ going on in our public schools…

Anyone have any idea what I’m doing that bugs Google?

The cartoon that started the fuss back in 2010. In case you forget, it was about Nikki Haley calling for transparency for everyone but herself...

The cartoon that started the fuss back in 2010. In case you forget, it was about Nikki Haley calling for transparency for everyone but herself…

Google Adsense — the folks who place the more random-seeming ads on this blog — sent me this warning recently. I just wish I knew what it was I did that they don’t like — because while the money I get from Google for those ads is a tiny trickle, it’s better than nothing, so I’d hate to see them pull the ads altogether.

Here’s what they said:

Dear Publisher,

This Google Publisher Policy Report gives you an overview of recent activity related to violations found on specific pages of your websites. As enforcement statuses may change over time, please refer to the “Page-level enforcements” section of the AdSense Policy Center for the current list of active violations.

Please note this report doesn’t cover violations that may happen on an overall site or account level. You may be notified by a separate email if site or account level violations are found. Ads will continue to serve where no policy violations have been found, either at the page- or site-level.

In the last 24 hours:

  • New violations were detected. As a result, ad serving has been restricted or disabled on pages where these violations of the AdSense Program Policies were found. To resolve the issues, you can either remove the violating content and request a review, or remove the ad code from the violating pages.

Further details on enforcements can be found in the AdSense Help Center. To learn more about our program policies, please view the AdSense Program Policies.

Kind regards,
Google Publisher Policy

The particular post that is seen as being in violation was this one from 2010, in which I rebutted people who were offended by a Robert Ariail cartoon. All Google tells me is that it contains “Dangerous or derogatory content.” Google further defines that this way:

As stated in our program policies, Google ads may not be placed on pages that contain content that:

  • Threatens or advocates for harm on oneself or others;

  • Harasses, intimidates or bullies an individual or group of individuals;

  • Incites hatred against, promotes discrimination of, or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization.

Of course, neither my post nor Robert’s cartoon did any of those things, although there were people who managed to twist logic enough to be offended. Perhaps one of them complained to Google. Well, sorry, folks, but this is a political commentary blog, and that cartoon was legitimate commentary that made a highly relevant political point at the time.

Even if you do find a way to be offended, it completely escapes me how this seven-year-old post constitutes a “new violation.” This post was old and moldy before I ever started running Google ads. And the last comment on it was posted on Aug. 14, 2010. There’s nothing new there. In fact, reading over it just now I found some glaring typos, but I’m not going to touch them in case that makes the post more current to some algorithm out there.

The only way Google offers me to question this ruling is to “request review,” which I have done. I don’t get to offer a defense or anything; I just click on “request review,” and they say this:

What’s happening

You’ve requested a review for this page and we’re currently looking into it. Reviews typically take 1 week but sometimes can take longer. We’ll let you know when the review is complete.

We’ll see.

Important info in case of werewolf attack

upload

I just kind of enjoyed this Tweet today. I also liked the photo, above, that Stan Dubinsky posted on Facebook in response to my retweet of it…

That’s all. As you were…

Go see ‘Darkest Hour’ before it’s gone!

p05ndb9k

We finally got in to see “Darkest Hour” at the Nickelodeon over the weekend — the first time we went it was sold out and we were turned away — and it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

It’s only running there three more days after today, so run see it before it’s gone. (I don’t know how long it will be at the mass-market theaters where it’s showing). And get your tickets online in advance — that’s what we did, and the place was packed for the 2 p.m. Saturday showing. I didn’t see a single empty seat. And the audience was apparently riveted. I was hungry, not having had lunch, but I told myself I wasn’t going to go for popcorn and a beer until I saw someone else do it. Nobody did — except a guy who was on the end of a row, and I was in the middle.

But that’s OK, the movie was great. Gary Oldman, as usual, was fantastic, and the makeup artists even more so. He really, really looked and sounded like Winston.

For someone like me who has always been very rah-rah-for-our-side regarding that conflict, it was very enjoyable because one is encouraged to cheer. I especially like the last line, uttered by Lord Halifax after Churchill has completely routed him and Chamberlain in the House of Commons. Doug probably won’t like that line — or the film itself — as much, since he dismisses Trump’s flaws as “just words.” The director has said, “It’s a movie about words and the power of words to change the world and change the course of history.”

Anyway, run see it and let me know what you think.

Would you vote for Oprah?

Liz Lemon hallucinating about Oprah.

Liz Lemon hallucinating about Oprah.

Sources say Oprah Winfrey is “actively thinking” about running for president. Of the United States.

Not long after that broke, former Nikki Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey tweeted this question:

Remind me to ask Rob sometime how you set up a tweet like that. Now, back to the topic…

I answered “wut idk,” because I really don’t know. It would depend on the office she was running for (since Rob said “any”), who was running against her, and on me learning a lot more about her.

Having never watched her show (beyond that clip of Tom Cruise going nuts, which I think all America has seen) or read her magazine, and having certainly never heard her political views, I just don’t know. The longest exposure I’ve ever had to her was that episode of “30 Rock” when Liz Lemon took a tranquilizer before flying and hallucinated that Oprah was in the seat next to her.

I do assume (unless I learn some really bad stuff about her) that I would vote for her over Donald Trump for pretty much anything. That’s because while I don’t know of any great positive qualifications she has for the presidency, I’m also ignorant of any negatives. Whereas I’ve never seen a person in high office with more negatives than Trump.

Last time I looked, one person had answered Rob in the affirmative, three of us had answered idk, and the rest were negative. I wonder what makes those five people so sure they would never vote for this woman, for any office? Maybe they know of huge negatives I don’t know about, but I sort of doubt that…

Open Thread for Friday, January 5, 2018

Cowboy (or Wade Hampton) rides into sunset. Nothing to do with the news, just a picture I recently shot on one of my downtown walks.

Cowboy (or Wade Hampton) rides into sunset. Nothing to do with the news, just a picture I recently shot on one of my downtown walks.

Just to close out the week:

  1. Mueller Learns of Trump Effort to Keep Grip on Russia Inquiry — This is pretty wild stuff. I thought Jennifer Rubin did a good job of putting these revelations into perspective. I still remain pessimistic about the Mueller’s investigation’s ability to heal what’s wrong with the country. But he needs to do his job, and go where the evidence takes him.
  2. Graham, others take weird turn in GOP’s Russia investigation — Are they going after Manafort or Trump Jr. or Russian agents? Nope, they’re talking possible charges against Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 guy who compiled the infamous dossier on Trump and the Russians. I suppose next they’ll go after that dude who wrote the new book, Fire and Fury. Or better yet: Hillary Clinton! I’ll bet the Rooskies are quaking in their felt boots with such bloodhounds as these on their trail.
  3. These numbers could shake up the SC governor’s race — A poll shows Phil Noble edging out James Smith. This tells us that so far Dems are paying zero attention, or they’ve kind of gone nuts. Noble’s beef about Smith is that he’s too “Republican.” (You know, someone with potential appeal in the fall. I suppose Noble would hate to see the party break its streak.) The news that Kevin Bryant is ahead of Catherine Templeton is almost as weird. I find myself wondering how accurate this poll is…
  4. Blizzard Has Passed, But Frigid Temperatures Remain Along East Coast — In case you still want to talk about the weather.

Y’all have any other topics?

Statement: ‘Appy-polly-loggies, oh my brothers (and to all devotchkas and ptitsas)!’

a-clockwork-orange-why-alex-delarge-is-so-beloved-yet-creepy-af-1140006

Apparently The Onion had this back in November, but they just tweeted it again:

Alex DeLarge Forced To Step Down As Leader Of Droogs Amidst Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct

LONDON—Pushed out of power as the damning charges mounted, Alex DeLarge was forced to step down Wednesday as leader of the Droogs amidst allegations of sexual misconduct. “In an unfortunate development, we have been forced to remove Mr. DeLarge from his post due to the startling accusations of sexual impropriety that have come to light,” said Droog member Georgie, explaining that although the group had systems in place to swiftly address such allegations, it clearly did not adequately follow those procedures. “Even though these acts took place decades ago, it does not excuse Alex’s heinous and unforgivable actions. This is not at all what the Droogs stand for.” At press time, DeLarge had offered to undergo two weeks of rigorous aversion therapy to rehabilitate himself.

We have high hopes for this Ludovico Technique, which is the heighth of fashion in reconditioning, and we expect our droogie to be back at the Korova Milkbar in his platties of the night at fortnight’s end, slooshying to lovely Ludwig van.

For now, he has a bit of a pain in the gulliver, so bedways is rightways…

original

How ‘America First’ helps bring about the Chinese Century

China's Rambo: The piece in The New Yorker leads with the wild success of a new film in which the Chinese hero flexes muscle abroad...

China’s Rambo: The piece in The New Yorker leads with the wild success of a new film, “Wolf Warrior II,” in which the Chinese hero flexes muscle abroad…

Last night, New Yorker journalist Evan Osnos was on Fresh Air, talking about his new piece in the magazine headlined “Making China Great Again.” The subhed of the piece is “As Donald Trump surrenders America’s global commitments, Xi Jinping is learning to pick up the pieces.”

No kidding. All the way home as I listened, my reaction was essentially “Duh!” I mean, everything he was saying about the way Trump has damaged U.S. standing in the world — and elevated that of China and others who can’t wait to fill the vacuum — was obvious. Anyone would know that this would be what would happen as a result of his “America First” idiocy.

Except, abundant evidence exists that this is not obvious to everyone. So I thought I’d share. And I learned a lot of details about how the predictable has actually played out. It’s particularly interesting to hear him talking about how Chinese leadership has figured out where all Trump’s buttons are, and manipulated him to their advantage at every turn.

Here’s the basic thrust of the New Yorker piece:

China has never seen such a moment, when its pursuit of a larger role in the world coincides with America’s pursuit of a smaller one. Ever since the Second World War, the United States has advocated an international order based on a free press and judiciary, human rights, free trade, and protection of the environment. It planted those ideas in the rebuilding of Germany and Japan, and spread them with alliances around the world. In March, 1959, President Eisenhower argued that America’s authority could not rest on military power alone. “We could be the wealthiest and the most mighty nation and still lose the battle of the world if we do not help our world neighbors protect their freedom and advance their social and economic progress,” he said. “It is not the goal of the American people that the United States should be the richest nation in the graveyard of history.”

Under the banner of “America First,” President Trump is reducing U.S. commitments abroad. On his third day in office, he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a twelve-nation trade deal designed by the United States as a counterweight to a rising China. To allies in Asia, the withdrawal damaged America’s credibility. “You won’t be able to see that overnight,” Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, told me, at an event in Washington. “It’s like when you draw a red line and then you don’t take it seriously. Was there pain? You didn’t see it, but I’m quite sure there’s an impact.”

In a speech to Communist Party officials last January 20th, Major General Jin Yinan, a strategist at China’s National Defense University, celebrated America’s pullout from the trade deal. “We are quiet about it,” he said. “We repeatedly state that Trump ‘harms China.’ We want to keep it that way. In fact, he has given China a huge gift. That is the American withdrawal from T.P.P.” Jin, whose remarks later circulated, told his audience, “As the U.S. retreats globally, China shows up.”

For years, China’s leaders predicted that a time would come—perhaps midway through this century—when it could project its own values abroad. In the age of “America First,” that time has come far sooner than expected….

This is something I’ve worried about for a long time. One of the first editorials I ever wrote for The State, probably in January 1994, was about the way China was quietly insinuating its way into positions of influence around the globe, including in our own Monroe Doctrine backyard — Latin America. But at least for the next 23 years, we had leaders who understood why this was a problem (as we had my whole life), and were taking steps to counter it — such as with the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia, of which TPP was a critical part.

I never dreamed that we’d have a president who on Day One (OK, Day Three) would just trash it all, and invite China to jump in with both feet. Trump was so eager to do this that he even took a moment out of his busy first-week schedule of loudly proclaiming that his inauguration crowd had been the biggest ever.

And why does it worry me (one or more of my relativist friends will ask)? I always feel a little absurd having to explain it, but I feel a lot better living in a world in which the global hegemon is the planet’s greatest liberal democracy than in one dominated by the oppressors in Beijing. So should all of you who like to exercise your freedom of expression here on this blog. It’s that simple. Or rather, it’s that, and my belief that the rest of the world is better off with the U.S. playing the role China wants to play.

I recommend you listen to the radio interview and read the piece in The New Yorker. Then let’s discuss…

So we’re not going to have SCANA to kick around any more…

vc summer

Just thought I’d better put up a post about the big news of the day, to give those of you who wish to comment a place to do so:

Dominion buying SCANA, offers refunds to SCE&G customers after nuclear fiasco

Virginia-based Dominion Energy is buying SCANA Corp. in a $14.6 billion deal that offers $1.3 billion in refunds to SCE&G power customers who unwittingly helped bankroll SCANA’s failed nuclear expansion project.

In a news release announcing the deal, Dominion pledged cash payments of about $1,000 per household to customers of SCE&G, SCANA’s Cayce-based electric utility.

The deal, subject to regulatory approvals, would leave SCANA as a subsidiary of Dominion. The Richmond-headquartered company promised to cut SCE&G’s electric rates by $7 a month, on average, and to put a halt sooner to customers’ ongoing charges for the abandoned nuclear project….

Personally, I’m not yet sure what I think of what was South Carolina’s largest publicly traded company no longer being locally owned.

One thing I’m curious about, though, and did not see addressed in The State‘s story (maybe I read it too fast): Does this mean Dominion owns the permits to build the nuclear reactors, and does that revive hopes of building them in the future?

dominion

Yep, that’s exactly how a republic is supposed to work

The Caskey boys, spotted together at an event in 2017. No, I don't know exactly how they're related...

The Caskey boys, spotted together at an event in 2017. No, I don’t know exactly how they’re related…

Bryan posted this about his kinsman and my representative, Micah Caskey:

Yep, that’s exactly the way our representative democracy is supposed to work. Elected representatives are not your agents whom you send to do your bidding. They’re people you delegate to go do what, in a complex modern economy, most people don’t have time to do: Go to the capital and study and debate complex issues until they understand them better than they otherwise would — and then act accordingly.

A lot of Americans, maybe most of them, don’t understand that. They expect the following from elected officials:

  1. That they make very specific promises when running for office.
  2. That those promises appeal directly to what they, the voters, want to hear.
  3. That, once elected, the representatives do exactly what they promised, without amendment or deviation.

I don’t expect those things at all. With me, it’s more like:

  1. I don’t care to hear specific campaign promises, because I don’t want that person, once elected, to have his or her hands tied.
  2. To the extent that such promises are made, it’s not necessary that they align with what I think should be done. Sure, if the candidate is promising a lot of stupid stuff I’m dead-set against, I’ll oppose him or her (in part for the simple fact of making pandering promises, whatever their content). But I don’t expect agreement across the board. Since I don’t buy the prepackaged sets of values the left and right sell, there’s never been a candidate with whom I agreed on everything.
  3. Once elected, I expect the representative to buckle down and study, and debate matters with people with different views, and learn, and become wiser about the issues than he or she was during the campaign. And if that means breaking a stupid promise that was made when the candidate was less wise, then I hope my representative has the courage and integrity to do so — like George H.W. Bush ditching the “read my lips” thing.

But as I said, too many people have the first set of expectations, and that misunderstanding has led to many of the ills our country is suffering today. The Tea Party and Trumpism were both outgrowths of the frustration of people who were mad because the people they had elected had not followed through on stupid promises they had made.

The danger in that, of course, is that you can arrive at a point at which people who will actually follow through on stupid promises get elected.

Which is where we are today…

Which is why a fine representative like Micah is good to find. Which in turn is why, once I met him and saw how bright, serious and thoughtful he was, I gave up my crazy thoughts of running for the office myself. I didn’t see how I would do a better job than he would. I don’t remember any of his positions in particular; I just remember that the way he approached issues made me trust him to address them wisely in the future.

And that, boys and girls, is how our system is supposed to work. And yes, this will all be on the final exam…

Open Thread for Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Note the weirdness of the seven identical microphones. In a free society, an important person might be seen with multiple microphones, but they would be different, placed there by an array of news organizations. This is Kim trying to look important without the freedom part...

Note the weirdness of the seven identical microphones. In a free society, an important person might be seen with multiple microphones, but they would be different, placed there by an array of news organizations. This is Kim trying to look important without the freedom part…

Happy New Year! Here’s what we’ve got at this hour:

  1. South Korea welcomes Kim Jong Un’s offer of talks — This could be a big deal — and could drive a wedge between South Korea and the U.S. First you-know-who pulls us out of TPP, now this. Stand on the Pacific Rim, and watch American influence disappearing over the horizon. A smooth move by Kim. So far in 2018, that’s one point for Little Rocket Man, zero for the Dotard…
  2. Nikki Haley, Lindsey Graham call out Iran. Here’s what they said — I won’t make you click to find out that they were supportive of protesters, critical of the regime. The Iranian regime, that is. Graham was sucking up to the Trump regime (“As to President Trump and all those who love freedom…”).
  3. Leaving a car idling so that it’s warm when you get in is illegal in SC. Here’s why — Um, is it because that makes you a total jerk who hates the Earth? No, that’s not it. But if you need another reason, that one’s lying around available. I would also accept, “Because it makes you look like a total wuss who can’t handle a little weather…”
  4. In 347 days, Trump has made 1,950 false and misleading claims — In case you were wondering whether someone is keeping score, the answer is yes — the Post‘s Fact Checker is. Of course, this won’t impress Trump supporters, because they believe “They all do it.” Well, they don’t all do this. The White House has never been held by someone with such complete disregard for reality. Ever.
  5. New SC laws go into effect on New Year’s Day 2018 — I share this purely as an illustration of how slow news is: This story is four days old, and is still leading thestate.com. Seriously…

What’s the most deserted mall in South Carolina?

space

The other day I mentioned walking at Dutch Square mall, a place that would hardly be standing any more if not for the movie theater and Burlington Coat Factory.

I can remember when it was new, that one semester I was a student at USC, in the fall of 1971. I never actually visited it then — neither I nor any of my friends had a car (now try to imagine that, boys and girls), so what little shopping I did was limited to Five Points and the Main Street area — but I heard reports that it was really something. And when we moved home to South Carolina in 1987, it was still going strong.

Today, not so much. There’s the two businesses mentioned above, some athletic shoe stores, a fitness emporium, some clothing stores with such names as “Urban Fashion,” a nail salon and some places that deal in gold. And a lot of dead space between some of them.

But it’s hardly alone in that regard. A couple of nights later, we decided to take a walk around Richland Mall, after my wife exchanged something at Belk. Wow. First, some of the mall seems to be inaccessible, at least from the end where we were walking — the occupied part that includes Belk, Barnes & Noble, a LensCrafters and a barber shop. There didn’t seem to be a way to get to the part on the other side of Belk, at least from inside. After a couple of circuits around the part we could get to, we quit walking. It was depressing.

My wife raised a question that hadn’t occurred to me: How do they afford to keep the lights on, and climate control operating? I don’t know. That bill has to be huge, even with parts of the mall closed off.

But for sheer emptiness, I’m not sure even Richland can compete with Inlet Square Mall in Murrells Inlet. That was a fairly hopping place just a few years ago, and now it’s like something that’s begging to be used as a movie set. You ever see Logan’s Run, about an entirely underground society? They could have shot that in Inlet Square, probably with room to spare.

The tipping point for that mall was, near as I can tell, the closing of the K-Mart that anchored one end, followed by the disappearance of Steinmart. The amazing thing is that this mall still has a Belk, and yet seems much more deserted than Dutch Square.

This is our brave new world, with Amazon taking the place of all these public spaces. (I wonder — if I asked Alexa the way to a mall, would she know? Would she tell me?) Over the course of December I made a couple of trips to Columbiana. It’s still thriving — that is to say, it’s still active and busy. But I sense a certain fraying around the edges. Filling the former Sears with the men’s department of Belk was a master stroke of hiding the damage, but how long will it be before this place is largely deserted, too?

Yeah, I know one form of economic activity is being replaced by another that’s just brimming with vitality, but there is something about these deserted spaces that were once so filled with life that gives the impression of a dead or dying civilization. It’s like the Roman Forum after the Visigoths were done with it, or the Acropolis, or some Mayan city overtaken by the jungle. All that infrastructure, so recently vibrant and glittering, left to crumble.

Can anyone think of any other mall in South Carolina that is more deserted than the above, yet still standing and open to the public? If so, I might like to try walking there of a cold evening…