Monthly Archives: April 2012

‘It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift…’

This is a question for Phillip Bush (or maybe Burl, or pretty much anyone who knows more about music than I do, which is a large set)…

After I posted that item about “Sulky Girl” and “So Like Candy” and other Elvis Costello songs that have an appeal to me that is mysterious, elemental and profound, and it got me to thinking about something else I’d heard in the last couple of days that had an equally mystifying appeal.

I had been watching the film noir comic-book movie “Watchmen,” and there was a scene that was utterly transformed by Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” So I went to YouTube (the one place you can find practically any piece of music you want to hear immediately and for free) and listened to several versions, and tried to plumb why it completely kicked my brain, my being, into another state as reliably as peyote did for Carlos Castaneda (although perhaps a tad less dramatically).

I have no idea. Is the secret revealed in this lyric?

It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth

The minor fall and the major lift

Are those particular changes where the magic happens? For that matter, do those words even describe what is happening in the music as I hear that line? I’ve looked up the guitar chords, and I see that then go like this:

  • It goes like this — C
  • the fourth — F
  • the fifth — E
  • the minor fall– Am
  • the major lift — F

Or, in another version, I see it’s G, C, D, Em, C…

Are those even the right chords? I expected them to be something more exotic, with “sus4″ or something after them.

Is it even the music, or is it the lyrics, with their mixing of the transcendent divine with the transcendent sexual? No. I mean, yes, they’re evocative, and work as poetry (to my unsophisticated ear, they strike a literary note somewhere near that of the Song of Solomon), but they aren’t the secret. I remember when I first heard the song — the cover version used in “Shrek” — I was deeply impressed with the music without hearing the words beyond “Hallelujah.” (Yeah, I’m that uncool. I’m sufficiently unfamiliar with Leonard Cohen that I first remember hearing it watching “Shrek.”)

And how about the fact that it is used in such incongruous contexts as “Shrek” and “Scrubs” (which I discovered from Pandora), and works?

Speaking of Pandora (which I just did, parenthetically), it was little help. I tried creating a “Hallelujah” station, to see if it would give me other songs with that special something. And once or twice, it has moved in that direction — “Let it Be” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” do have something of that essence — but it’s played Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Over the Rainbow” so many times that it’s rapidly losing its charm for me. And “I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight,” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’”? I don’t think so. “The Sound of Silence”? Maybe. But I’m not sure.

Help me out, those of you who understand music. What is it?

‘… the centre cannot hold… while the worst are full of passionate intensity.’

Today I pulled from my bookshelf a volume of William Butler Yeats, which I’ve had since college. Someone had recently mentioned the source of the phrase “no country for old men,” and I wanted to look it up.

Eventually, as I browsed, my eyes fell on this:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

W. B. Yeats

Which is a pretty good evocation of what it feels like to be an UnPartisan these days.

And it took me back to what I read in the paper this morning, a story about how SC Republicans (who “are full of passionate intensity”) are reconciling themselves to the man who had turned out to be their best — the one who is widely known  to “lack all conviction.”

I was dismayed throughout the piece. First, there was this quote from Tom Davis — someone I’ve always seen, in person, as a reasonable man, but who continually takes unreasonable positions:

Davis, who backed U.S. Rep. Ron Paul for president in the state’s January GOP primary, now has some good things to say about Romney. But his words sound as much like a warning as an endorsement.

“If he frames the debate between President Obama’s agenda of an ever-growing and more powerful government versus faith in free markets and individual liberty, I think he’s got a good chance of winning,” said Davis, a lawyer in Beaufort. “If he doesn’t draw the line that sharply and tries to tack toward the center, then I think it will be very difficult.”

In other words, my friend Tom is saying that if Romney does anything to make himself more appealing to nonpartisans like me, then people like Tom won’t support him.

This is distressing. It’s distressing that Tom actually seems to believe that the president’s agenda, rather than being the good of the country, is “an ever-growing and more powerful government,” and that he actually doesn’t believe in “individual liberty.” The first is mere hyperbole; the second completely delegitimizes the president, for what American doesn’t believe in liberty.

But this is mild stuff. Tom is the very soul of moderation compared to GOP Chair Chad Connelly:

“He’s a better candidate than he was a year ago. He’s able to articulate all the reasons we need to make sure Obama is just the worst one-term president ever.”…

“When Gov. Romney is the eventual nominee, (those voters) will excited because they’re so disgusted at what Obama has done, trashing the Constitution and pushing Obamacare down our throats,” Connelly predicted.

What?!? “Worst… president ever?” “Disgusted?” “Trashing the Constitution?” “Pushing Obamacare [legislation shaped and legally passed by the Congress) down our throats?”

You would think the leader of our country were Caligula. There has never been a president of the United States who deserved that sort of language, although we’ve had some sorry ones. Yes, I know Chad is the head of a party, but still — I’ve sat and talked pleasantly with him. He’s not a raving lunatic. Yet he speaks as though he’s lost all sense of proportion. This is the way people in the mainstream of the major parties speak these days.

To end on a positive note, I was struck by the language used by Tea Party Freshman Congressman Jeff Duncan:

“Gov. Romney’s policies would be a clear departure from the dubious tactics of the Obama administration,” said Duncan, who hasn’t endorsed Romney or any other Republican candidate.

“I’m confident that Gov. Romney can win over the American people on the promise of limited government, defending individual liberties and a return to common-sense solutions to our country’s biggest problems,” Duncan said.

See, now? That’s the way civilized men speak of others with whom the disagree. “Dubious tactics.” That says one disagrees with the man’s ideas (while at the same time, admitting that the other man could be right, since you are merely calling his approach “dubious”), but one’s sense of proportion is still intact.

Sad, isn’t it, that such rational speech stands out so starkly these days?

Has anyone read “Men Against The Sea”?

And if so, how was it?

I just finished reading Mutiny on the Bounty, for the first time — I think. I initially had this vague idea that I had read it as a child. Yet most of it seemed fresh to me. Of course, I knew at ever step of the way what was to happen next. Who doesn’t know the general outline of the story? Who hasn’t seen at least one of the Hollywood versions? But the actual words seemed fresh as I read them, and certain things about it — such as the fact that, bizarrely, the English sailors refer to the people of Tahiti as “Indians” throughout — seemed totally unfamiliar.

In any case, I’m certain I’ve never read either of the sequels, Men Against the Sea or Pitcairn Island. That is to say, I’ve never read the “chapter book” versions. I have a clear memory of reading the Classics Illustrated version of Men Against the Sea. What sticks out in my mind is the desperate men in the open boat managing to kill a seagull, and Captain Bligh rigidly serving out portions of its blood to the neediest men on board. (Or do I remember Charles Laughton doing that in the 1935 film?)

Anyway, now that I’ve finished the first book, I’m wondering whether it’s worth my while to read the second. I know what happened — Bligh, a tyrant of a captain but an extraordinary seaman, manages to get himself and 17 others safely to Timor, 3,500 miles away, in an open boat with practically no provisions. It stands as one of the most extraordinary feats of seafaring history.

But I’ve got to think it’s not much fun to read. It’s a tale of horrific suffering, day after day. And the main protagonist is a guy who’s hard to like. I mean, Mutiny on the Bounty had gorgeous topless Tahitian girls. (No pictures, but still…) What’s this got to recommend it?

Perhaps the fact that it’s told mainly through the experience of Thomas Ledward, acting surgeon, helps you root for these guys a bit more than you otherwise might. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to read it in Bligh’s voice.

Anyway, has anyone out there read it? Did you like it? And if so, why?

And now, another Sulky Girl is heard from…

I had just posted the item about our governor’s latest bout of petulance, and was driving home with disc 1 of “The Very Best of Elvis Costello” in the CD player, and this came on. Hearing that at such a moment may not have been fraught with meaning, but it was enjoyable:

I think you’d better hold your tongue
Although you’ve never been that strong
I’m sorry to say that I knew all along
You’re no match for that sulky girl

It put a nice finish on the day.

I had forgotten how amazing it was. It’s not one of the usual suspects, like “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding” — the quintessential Elvis song which, ironically, was not written by him. Or “High Fidelity” or “Lipstick Vogue” or “Radio, Radio.” Just one of those gems that you aren’t seeking out, and there it is, putting a whole new texture on your day.

And then, right after it, there’s “So Like Candy,” which he co-wrote with Paul McCartney. Another unexpected bit of delight, showing the depth and breadth of Declan Patrick McManus.

That’s a great compilation, by the way. If I have a complaint, it’s that “The Invisible Man” isn’t included:

I was committed to life and then commuted to the outskirts
With all the love in the world
Living for thirty minutes at a time with a break in the middle for adverts…

But with Elvis, you can’t possibly include everything that is great, even in a two-disc set. I mean, “Green Shirt” is on there, so they knew what they were about…

Oh, get over yourself, governor

Again, our governor seems to have been Facebooking under the influence… of something. Strong emotion, perhaps.

Did you see this in the paper today?

The Senate approved a constitutional amendment that would have gubernatorial candidates and candidates for lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket, just as the president and vice president are elected now. Voters would have to approve the change in November.

But senators made sure the change would not take effect until 2018, when Haley’s term as governor, if she is re-elected in 2014, will expire.

Haley immediately took to her Facebook page to criticize the Senate, asking voters to call lawmakers and pressure them to change the effective date.

“I’m not the one taking it personally, they are,” Haley said Thursday in an interview with The State. “This is a reform I pushed for all through the campaign. … To have it go in front of the Senate, and then have them push it through, because they know it’s the will of the people, only to say, ‘Oh, no, we don’t want the girl to have it. We want to wait until 2018’ – they are the ones taking it personally.”…

Which raises a couple of points:

  • First, why would she care? What possible difference could it make to her whether this goes into effect in 2014 or 2018? Did she have some sort of grand scheme in mind, and this messes it up, or what? She’s going to have enough trouble gaining re-election (if she even seeks it) without worrying about who the lieutenant governor is.
  • Second… “This is a reform I pushed for all through the campaign…” Well, whoop-te-do. Some of us have been pushing it a lot longer than that — like since you were in school. I’ve been pushing this for more than 20 years. (As have a lot of other people.) But you don’t see me getting bent out of shape because I’m not given credit for it.

Maybe I should. Maybe this is what one does now. Maybe I should run over the Facebook and throw a total snit…

Rove says SC’s a toss-up? Is this a typo, or what?

I think maybe the partisans at both ends have totally lost their minds now. I just got this from Dick Harpootlian:

President Barack Obama is going to win South Carolina.

You don’t believe it? Would you believe the Prince of Darkness Karl Rove?

Well click here and read his latest poll calling South Carolina a “toss up.” So even the biggest Republican propagandist in the country has to admit Barack Obama CAN win South Carolina this fall.

So help us make Karl Rove’s nightmare come true and click here to volunteer. President Obama CAN win, but only if you help. Just do it.

Hey, anything can happen, but if you’re talking probabilities… no way.

Here’s the original Rove info to which Harpootlian refers, but it doesn’t answer the question: What is the basis for putting SC in the “toss-up” column?

If anyone knows, please share.

So long to Blue Dogs and GOP moderates

There’s a good piece over at CNN.com by David Gergen and Michael Zuckerman detailing, and decrying, our continued slide into extreme-partisan gridlock.

Basically, it takes note of some the latest developments in this abhorrent trend:

One can see these trends in harsher relief amid campaigns for the Senate and House. Olympia Snowe, a moderate and much-beloved GOP senator from Maine facing her first primary challenge, is retiring because of a lack of bipartisanship and mechanisms to find “common ground.”

Sens. Richard Lugar and Orrin Hatch — both stalwarts of the GOP who have committed apostasy by trying to work across party lines — face primaries this season that imperil their survival: A poll Thursday morning found Lugar down 5 points to a tea party-backed challenger in Indiana, and Hatch failed to secure a 60% supermajority at his party’s convention in Utah, sending his race to a primary. Only two years ago in Utah, another stalwart Republican who had worked with Democrats, Bob Bennett, was deposed by an ideologically purer primary challenger.

In the House, meanwhile, the once-robust cadre of “Blue Dog Democrats” — moderate to conservative members of the liberal party — has been winnowed out, with two more members (Reps. Jason Altmire and Tim Holden of Pennsylvania) defeated in primaries this past Tuesday by opponents from their left flanks.

As of 2010, there were as many as 54 Blue Dogs, but the midterms knocked their caucus down to 26. With retirements and primaries, that number will probably be well below 20 by next January — an effect that further turns Democrats into the party of the left…

Are there any good guys left? Yes there, are, but they are few:

So it’s crucial to bolster the men and women of courage in politics: the ones who can act as ambassadors between these increasingly dug-in parties and who can kindle that small flame of trust that has almost gone out. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and a handful of others, for example, have launched laudable work on this count in the Senate, pulling together small, quiet dinners with legislators from both sides of the aisle who are strong in principles but equally strong in their commitment to moving the ball forward for the country…

I’ve always liked Lamar, ever since I covered him running for governor back in 1978.

How would Jesus have voted? Well, he didn’t…

We got sort of theological on an earlier post, and it reminded me of something I meant to blog about a couple of weeks ago, when this item ran on NPR:

Christians Debate: Was Jesus For Small Government?

What would Jesus do with the U.S. economy?

That’s a matter of fierce debate among Christians — with conservatives promoting a small-government Jesus and liberals seeing Jesus as an advocate for the poor.

After the House passed its budget last month, liberal religious leaders said the Republican plan, which lowered taxes and cut services to the poor, was an affront to the Gospel — and particularly Jesus’ command to care for the poor.

Not so, says Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee. He told Christian Broadcasting Network last week that it was his Catholic faith that helped shape the budget plan. In his view, the Catholic principle of subsidiarity suggests the government should have little role in helping the poor.

“Through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities — through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community — that’s how we advance the common good,” Ryan said.

The best thing that government can do, he said, is get out of the way.

But Stephen Schneck, a political scientist at Catholic University, says he thinks Ryan is “completely missing the boat and not understanding the real heart, the real core, of Catholic social teaching.”…

At the time, I zeroed in on Ryan’s (rather restrictive and misleading) use of “subsidiarity.” What I didn’t get into was the bigger subject: What would Jesus do politically? What sort of government would he advocate?

In a sense, it’s a stupid question, in that it really can’t be answered authoritatively.

We are hobbled by the fact that Jesus wasn’t into politics. In his day, that simply wasn’t in the hands of the people, and therefore there could be no moral imperative to shape one’s society. He taught people how they should live their lives in the world as they found it.

Such issues as “the size of government” (which has always seemed like a ridiculous thing to talk about, as though there could be an objectively ideal “size” — of course, that’s me talking, not Jesus) simply were not anything an average person had any control over. That was up to Caesar. Or the Senate. Or on the more local level, the Tetrarch or Pilate. Or the Sanhedrin. In His day, government actually was what libertarians imagine it to be today. It was “they,” something outside of and apart from the individual.

One of the tough things about applying moral teachings from the Bible to our own time and place is that our relationship to government today is so radically different. For the first time in human history most people (in Western countries, at least) now have a moral responsibility for the world around them, because they have a say in it. They elect the leaders who make the laws. That was unthinkable in Jesus’ day.

Jesus had a live-and-let-live attitude toward government. Unlike his apostle the Zealot, he wasn’t interested in revolution. And if you tried to engage him discussing the morality of taxation, he said render unto Caesar — that was Caesar’s business, not his.

The challenge that Christians have today is what to in in a world in which they have a say in the government. But they don’t get all that much guidance from the Bible, which is why Christians run the gamut from left to right on the political spectrum.

There’s no question, for instance, that we are called upon to care for the poor. But both left and right can make cases for their positions. The left will insist that government must do that job; the right will insist that it must be done by private entities.

The weakness in the left’s argument is that, in this country at least, what the government does is by definition done outside the Christian framework. Government can’t say, “What would Jesus do?” and act accordingly, on account of the way we currently interpret the First Amendment.

The weakness in the right’s argument is that since a Christian today does have responsibility for his government, he should advocate that his government act in accord with his beliefs. If we are enjoined to minister to the poor, than we should vote accordingly. Our vote should be an instrument of Christian charity just as our tithe at Church is.

Ironically, it is so often people on the left who object to anyone trying to make the government an agent of any sort of religious agenda. (I point you to liberals’ horror at what they perceived Rick Santorum as being about.)

In the end, Christians on the left and on the right will tend to imagine what a “Citizen Jesus” would do if he lived in a modern liberal democracy in terms of what they themselves believe politically.

When, of course, we know he would have voted UnParty…

Ott calls for ‘real comprehensive tax reform’

Sort of following up on the subject of my last post, I share this release that came in a few minutes ago:

Ott Calls for Real Comprehensive Tax Reform

Columbia, SC – House Democrats voted against a Republican plan on Thursday that raised sales taxes by over $12 million on parks, energy efficient home products, postage, zoos, trains, and cargo vessels as well as many others. Minority Leader Harry Ott released the following statement in response to the vote:

“House Democrats have been advocating for comprehensive tax reform for over ten years. This is not even close to tax reform. These are tax increases. Raising taxes is the last thing we should be doing in this economy. This bill doesn’t even begin to address the real problems with our flawed tax code in South Carolina. This was simply a bill that was passed so that House Republicans could go home and say they voted for tax reform. It’s time to stop playing politics and pass real comprehensive tax reform.”

####

Oh, yeah, Democrats? Well, I’ve been calling for comprehensive tax reform for more than 20 years, so don’t be putting on airs. (And even though I still haven’t gotten what I’ve pushed for, my calling for it is just as meaningful as you calling for it, because Democrats in the House don’t have a snowball’s chance of affecting that body’s agenda, especially not on anything this big.)

But you’re right. In all that time, I’ve never seen anything that looked like it actually come close to passage.

In fairness to you Dems, I will say that the closest we did come was when then-Ways and Means Chair Billy Boan led a study group that came up with a pretty good report after the legislative session of 1994, making proposals that would indeed have looked like comprehensive reform.

But before lawmakers could come back in January 1995, the Republicans had taken over the House, and all they wanted to do to taxes was cut them and cut them some more, with no thought given to the overall system.

Consequently, while there have been a number of special committees charged with drafting comprehensive reform since then (but none that looked as good as what Boan’s group came up with), they have all died before getting very far in the process.

And thanks to legislative tinkering here and there (pretty much all of them cuts aimed at pandering to this or that constituency, rather than trying to come up with a smarter and fairer system), our tax system is far, FAR more out of whack than it was when I started calling for reform. Termites have chewed through two, and to a certain extent all three, of the legs of the stool.

Cindi keeps pushing that ol’ Truth Rock up the hill

Anyone who would like a refreshing change from the utter nonsense we hear so often from the majority over at the State House should read Cindi Scoppe’s column today.

In it she reiterates irrefutable truths that fly completely in the face of the way so many of our pols describe reality.

Over and over again, we hear the people who call themselves “conservatives” railing against all those awful people who keep wanting to raise your taxes. When of course, raising taxes is the least likely thing one could expect from the General Assembly.

Such folks, in arguing that we should adopt their latest pet plan for doing what SC lawmakers love most to do — cut taxes — frequently make like the choice is between their plan and tax increases. Which is laughable.

Excerpts:

I moved to South Carolina in the fall of 1987, a few months after the Legislature raised the gas tax by 3 cents per gallon. It didn’t raise taxes again the next year. Or the next. Or the next 17 after that.

The Legislature didn’t raise taxes again until 2006, and then only as part of a swap that reduced taxes even more, increasing the sales tax by a penny in order to eliminate homeowner property taxes for school operations. And the extra penny hasn’t generated as much money as lawmakers projected, so next year they’ll have to send an extra $118 million in general tax revenues to the schools to make up for the shortfall. That is, they’ll divert $118 million from other spending in order to pay for the tax cut that was supposed to have been offset by a tax increase.

Lawmakers also have increased various fees and raised court fines — all of which take more money out of taxpayers’ pockets but can be avoided by not breaking the law or using fee-based services.

In 2010, the Legislature increased unemployment-insurance assessments by $150 million a year, to support a program that is by law supposed to be self-sustaining. It wasn’t self-sustaining — the state had borrowed nearly $1 billion to pay out unemployment claims — in large part because the Legislature had slashed businesses’ assessments before the recession. (In 2011, the Legislature appropriated $146 million to essentially pay the businesses’ higher assessments for them; this year the House has appropriated $77 million for the same purpose.)…

Also in 2010, the Legislature increased the cigarette tax from 7 cents to 57 cents per pack. This $115 million tax increase came after a decade-long campaign by public-health advocates such as myself who wanted to decrease teen smoking. Even with the increase, the tax remains the ninth-lowest in the nation. Still, this was a real, honest-to-goodness, raise-more-money tax increase.

The only one our Legislature has passed in the past quarter century.

Over those same 25 years, the Legislature has eliminated the sales tax on groceries, a $400 million-a-year tax cut.

It has eliminated homeowners’ school property taxes. That’s worth about $970 million per year, but the sales tax brings in $550 million a year, so the net tax cut is $420 million per year.

It has increased the homestead exemption for senior citizens’ local government property taxes from $20,000 to $50,000. Another $100 million per year.

It has indexed income tax brackets to inflation, saving taxpayers $390 million per year.

It has eliminated the bottom income tax bracket, reducing individual income taxes for everyone and eliminating them for many. That’s worth $90 million per year.

It has reduced the top income tax rate for most small businesses from 7 percent to 5 percent, saving $130 million per year.

And it has handed out at least 39 more sales tax exemptions — ranging in size from $4,000 to $47 million. And more income tax breaks.

According to the Board of Economic Advisors, the tax cuts enacted just since 1991 were worth $2.3 billion in 2009. The tax increases over that same period totaled either $665 million or $815 million, depending on whether you count the unemployment-insurance increase that businesses haven’t had to pay. That’s a net tax cut of at least $1.5 billion per year.

As a result of all these changes, the portion of our income that South Carolinians pay in sales taxes has dropped from about 2.8 percent when I moved here in 1987 to 2.2 percent today. Even as the sales tax rate was increased from 5 percent to 6 percent. Going from 2.8 percent to 2.2 percent might not sound like much, but it’s a 21 percent reduction…

Actually, you should just go read the whole piece. It’s chock-full of simple, obvious facts of which the people who run our state seem to be completely unaware.

Maybe I’m just missing the purpose…

Speaking of Twitter, here’s something I sent out yesterday…

It’s a conundrum.

Is the purpose to help the planet, or to save gas? Either way, a hybrid something else would get the job done better. I mean, why buy a Tahoe, and then spend extra to make it a hybrid (I’m assuming, perhaps erroneously, that the hybrids cost more).

Or is it just to send a message to the world: I care about the planet, I really do! I just can’t help myself — I gotta drive a dreadnought through the city streets!

Or is it something else? Such as sheer irony?

Jon Huntsman’s very last Tweet

I was doing a little housecleaning on my Twitter account… as I climb toward 1,800 followers, I thought I’d weed out some of those I follow in a quest to get under 600, so I could brag that I had three times as many followers as I follow, instead of my old standard of twice as many (the ways being one of the Twitterati can mess with your head is truly embarrassing)… and I ran across @JonHuntsman.

So I did what I do with others I’m unsure of — I checked to see what his last Tweet was. And I was startled to see that it was this:

As you can see, that was transmitted at 1:56 p.m. on Jan. 15.

OK, now, remember the sequence of events on that day…

The State‘s endorsement ran that morning.

Around 9 p.m. that night, the news broke that he was dropping out of the primary.

So… it was widely known that he was dropping out only about seven hours after he — or perhaps I should say his campaign — was Tweeting out how pleased he was by The State‘s endorsement.

Yeah, a guy who’s going to drop out can still be appreciative — maybe even especially appreciative — of kind words. But why would he bother Tweeting it? Especially when he’s not much of a Tweeter to start with (his last Tweet before that was five days old).

Of course, I’ve been told there were people in his SC campaign who didn’t know he was dropping out until after media had contacted them. A confusing time.

But I thought this was a mildly interesting footnote.

Oh, and yeah, I’ll be dropping him from my “follow” list.

One thing seems sure — you won’t get “change” of any kind with Mitt Romney

This morning on the radio, I heard a discussion of what a challenge Obama has in his re-election effort getting young people to back him they way they did in 2008.

Those young people, the argument went, wanted “hope” and “change,” and didn’t get enough of it.

I can see how that might have the effect of dampening enthusiasm, perhaps even of suppressing turnout.

What I don’t see it doing is translating to support for Romney. Unless these young folks really delude themselves, or unless the change they want is of a rightward bent — in which case, they’re still deluding themselves.

And most of us know this. It’s why the GOP base went running to everyone else they could think of before settling on Romney — they knew he wasn’t a True Believer on the kind of change THEY wanted.

And I knew it, which was why I saw him as the most palatable candidate in the field — the real conservative. Romney is a manager. He wants to manage the nation to prosperity. And maybe he can do that. But he’s not a revolutionary, or a counter-revolutionary. He’s a manager.

Now you might throw at me various statements that he’s made or positions he’s taken that contradict that, to which I’ll say, Right. And he’s also the father of Obamacare, but you don’t see him acting like it, do you? As you may have noted, his positioning is somewhat… flexible… based on what he thinks is needed to get the job done at a given time.

I backed Romney — reluctantly — because I didn’t like the kind of “change” that the GOP field was offering this time around. Repealing Obamacare. Endangering the full faith and credit of the United States by absolutely insisting that budget cuts not be accompanied by any kind of tax increases. I didn’t want any of that stuff.

When McCain and Obama ran four years ago, there were changes I looked forward to with each. I believed McCain would manage the War on Terror much better than Bush had. I knew he had the courage to take on things like comprehensive immigration reform. With Obama, while being reasonably certain that he would NOT institute the kinds of national security changes his base hoped for (and I was right — in fact, he has pursued the war with a stronger hand than Bush, and gotten away with it) and he just might give us meaningful health care reform. I even sorta had hopes for a rational energy policy.

But Romney’s virtue, to me, is that he does not represent the kind of change that his party has stood for since 2010 (or perhaps I should say, since the day after Election Day 2008, which seems to be the moment that party went off the rails). That’s a good thing.

I still don’t understand how ANYONE was fooled by John Edwards, at any point in time

Here is an explanation by one accomplished professional (Walter Shapiro) who was completely taken in. Excerpts:

About three weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, my wife, Meryl Gordon, and I had an off-the-record dinner with John and Elizabeth Edwards at the Washington restaurant Olives. The dinner was at the blurry intersection of Washington life—ostensibly social (Meryl had bonded with Elizabeth after writing an Elle magazine profile of her husband in 2001) but at its core professional (I was a columnist for USA Today and Edwards had White House dreams). Everyone was in a shell-shocked daze after the terrorist attacks, but my only clear memory of that dinner was Edwards’ palpable dislike for John Kerry, an obvious rival for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.

That was the beginning of a political-journalistic courtship that now makes me cringe. With Edwards on trial in North Carolina on charges of violating federal campaign-finance laws—after the disgrace of being caught with a mistress and denying being the father of her baby—I wish I had befriended a comparatively more honorable political figure like Eliot Spitzer or Mark Sanford…

In hindsight, I feel like the jaded city slicker, bristling with self-confidence that he can never be fooled, who ends up hoodwinked by the smiling rural Southern confidence man. Please understand: I did not deliberately put a thumb on the scale when I wrote about Edwards. It was more that I was convinced by Edwards’ sincerity when he talked passionately about poverty and the Two Americas. And I especially believed (because I spent so much time with Elizabeth) the romantic myth of the Edwards marriage.

Many Edwards insiders from the 2004 campaign say the vice-presidential nomination (bestowed by, yes, John Kerry) changed him. The entourage, the plane, the Secret Service detail and the frenzy of a fall campaign all supposedly fueled Edwards’ self-importance and sense of entitlement. But as I struggle to understand my own entanglement with a scandal-scarred presidential contender, I wonder if this arbitrary division between pre-veep Edwards and post-veep Edwards is too glib.

The danger signs and character flaws were always there, and I failed to notice them. I was certainly not alone in my blindness. David Axelrod, for example, was Edwards’ first media consultant during the 2004 primary campaign. Even after Axelrod drifted away to concentrate on a long-shot Senate race for a candidate named Barack Obama in Illinois, he returned for Edwards’ last stand in the Wisconsin primary. I recall running into Axelrod in the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee on primary day and hearing him say of Edwards, “He’ll be president someday.”…

Yes, the “danger signs and character flaws WERE always there,” and they stuck out a mile. While I hadn’t reached the point of completely dismissing him in print as a phony, you can see my uneasiness with him in this column from 2003:

… There are few things more unbecoming than a millionaire trial lawyer presenting himself to a crowd as the ultimate populist. Huey Long could pull it off; he had the common touch. So did George Wallace. But John Edwards is one of those “sleek-headed” men that Shakespeare wrote of in “Julius Caesar.” He may be lean, but he hath not the hungry look. Mr. Edwards is decidedly lacking in rough edges. Not even age can stick to him.
His entrance was predictably corny. Other speakers had unobtrusively climbed the back steps onto the platform. Mr. Edwards snuck around to the back of the crowd, then leaped out of his hiding place with a huge grin and his hand out, looking for all the world like he was surprised to find himself among all these supporters. He hand-shook his way through the audience to the podium, a la Bill Clinton , thereby signifying that he comes “from the people.” Watch for that shot in upcoming TV commercials.
His speech was laced with populist non-sequiturs. For instance, he went way over the top exhibiting his incredulity at Bush’s “jobless recovery,” chuckling with his audience at such an oxymoron – as though the current administration had invented the term. (A computer scan found the phrase 641 times in major news sources during calendar year 1993 ; so much for novelty.)…

(The point of the column was to say that some protesters who were there to picket Edwards were even worse than he was. But first I had to establish what I’d thought of him. This incident formed part of my better-known “phony” column in 2007, in which I particularly concentrated on a detail I had not used in this piece — because it involved such a subjective impression that I didn’t have the confidence to attach importance to it until I’d had more experience with him.)

I’m not smug for having been put off, from the first time I saw him in person, by what seems to have taken in others. I’m just surprised that they didn’t see it, too.

Boogity, Boogity, Boogity, Amen (the cover)

This post is a ripoff of a post by Burl Burlingame over at his Honolulu Agonizer blog, headlined “Great Songs Are Inevitably Covered.”

I owe him a debt of gratitude because, while I had heard of the “Greatest NASCAR prayer ever,” I had never bothered to listen to it. It’s… remarkable. That is to say, it’s remarkable to me as a Catholic. Maybe you protestants pray like this all the time. But I doubt it. I went to my cousin Jason’s church for Easter Vigil this year, and there was nothing like this.

The original prayer was actually like this. The version above has been “songified” by The Gregory Brothers. I don’t know who they are, but they definitely rendered the pastor’s effort more awesome.

Here is some bare-bones explanation of the prayer, posted on HuffPost last July:

Prior to Saturday night’s Nascar Nationwide Series race in Nashville, Tenn., Pastor Joe Nelms was tasked with delivering the invocation. What happened next plays like a scene straight out of Will Ferrell’s “Talladega Nights.”

And here is a followup at The Christian Post:

A Tennessee pastor claims he was emulating the apostle Paul when he was called on to deliver the opening prayer at a NASCAR event in which he thanked God for his “smokin’ hot wife,” among other things. Some fans have called it the “best prayer ever” while critics are calling it disrespectful and possibly blasphemous.

Joe Nelms, pastor of Family Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tenn., insists that he was just trying to be like the first-century apostle, but some wonder how far Paul would go in his effort to become “all things to all men.”…

Although the prayer might have offended some people, Nelms said the prayer was not really for Christian audiences. He was more trying to reach out to the unsaved or those turned off by church.

“Our whole goal was to open doors that would not otherwise be open. There are a lot of folks who think churches are all [full of] serious people who never enjoy life and [who have] just a list of rules.”

His invocation was all about showing the world what Christian joy looks like, he said, sharing a bit of his testimony. “We who have been saved by Christ, we know that living has just begun. When I accepted Christ, that’s when I really learned what joy was.”

Despite criticism, Nelms’ evangelism effort has apparently paid off; several people have contacted him expressing a desire to give church a try.

The cover is by some kid named Roomie, who posts a lot of music videos on YouTube.

And that’s all I know.

Turns out America likes Edwards less than I do

If y’all will recall, I experienced an unexpected, and not entirely pleasant, moment in the national spotlight back in 2007 when I wrote a column headlined, “Why I see John Edwards as a big phony.”

I caught a lot of heat about it at the time. I later had the gratification of having many people tell me I’d been right all along, even though what was learned about him later was somewhat different from what I was accusing him of. Nevertheless, all of it spoke to his general failure to be what he represented himself to be.

But even I, who first started raising questions about the guy in 2003, was slightly started to read this this morning, as Edwards’ trial started:

(CBS News) With opening arguments in the trial of former U.S. senator and presidential candidate John Edwards set to begin on on Monday, a CBS News/New York Times poll shows that public opinion of him has plummeted since he was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2007. Now, he is now most known for cheating on his wife.

The CBS/NYT poll reveals that only 3 percent of those polled hold a favorable view of Edwards, who has been charged with misusing campaign funds. That is down from 30 percent in 2007 when he was running for the Democratic nomination, which is also the last time the question was asked among registered voters.

Since 2007, Edwards’ unfavorable ratings have risen eleven points, from 30 percent to 41 percent today. However, half of those polled are undecided or don’t have an opinion of Edwards.

Women, however, especially dislike Edwards, with just 2 percent holding a favorable view of him compared to 45 percent who view him unfavorably…

And who can blame them?

But 2 percent? It almost makes me feel sorry for the guy. Almost.

Forgive me for intrusinating on your day with a word about Twinspeak

My three youngest granddaughters, in an intrusination-free moment.

Saturday night, we kept all three of our youngest granddaughters. Sunday morning, I was recuperating on the couch, just barely dozing, while the Twins played a few feet away from me.

I was awakened by a sudden loud dispute, as Twin B got frustrated with her sister for grabbing at some toys she was playing with.

“Stop intrusinating me!” she cried.

I lifted my head to look in that direction in wonder: “What did you say?”

Twin A, speaking as one would to a hard-of-hearing elder, explained, “She said to stop intrusinating her.” Like, what did you think she said?

OK, I said. Thank you.

I suppose the word — which I’m guessing is kin to both “intrude” and “insinuate,” and perhaps “excruciating” — if fine, as long as the one to whom it is spoken understands. Which she did.

The twins are 4 now.

Rawl defends Georgia dredging decision

South Carolina Chamber of Commerce President Otis Rawl — who two years ago led his organization to make the unprecedented move of endorsing Vincent Sheheen for governor — today stuck up for Nikki Haley for something virtually no one at the State House will defend her on.

Speaking to the Columbia Rotary Club, he said the DHEC decision allowing Georgia to deepen the way to the port of Savannah was not a game-changer, and not a problem, for South Carolina in the long term.

In saying this, he was partly reflecting the wishes of multistate members who like the idea of competition between ports to keep costs down. But he also said it was a competition that Charleston, and South Carolina, would win.

To start with, he said, the proposed work would only deepen the Georgia port to 48 feet, compared to Charleston’s 52 — and that those four feet made a big difference. Further, he said that if South Carolina makes the right moves (always a huge caveat, but he seemed optimistic) we are well-positioned to become the entry point for the world to the Southeast, and an ever-greater distribution hub. One of the things SC has to get right — opening up the “parking lot” that I-26 has become at key times between Charleston and Columbia.

Otis agreed with me that this stance makes him a lonely guy over at the State House, where both houses almost unanimously rebuked the governor for, as many members would have it, selling out South Carolina to Georgia. Aside from Otis, only Cindi Scoppe has raised questions that challenge that conventional wisdom.

Now, lest you think ol’ Otie has gone soft on the Sanford/Haley wing of the GOP, he went on to say that one of the things business and political leaders must do to help build the SC economy is to refute, challenge and combat the Big Lie that our public schools are among the worst in the country. Because who in the world would want to invest in a state like that?

Not that we’re where we want to be, but as Otie pointed out, on realistic measures of quality, SC is more likely to rank in the low 30s. Which may not be fantastic, but is a far cry from “Thank God for Mississippi.”

On the whole, a fine set of assumption-challenging points from today’s Rotary speaker…