Open Thread for Monday, August 7, 2017


Nikki and the Brits voting on new North Korea sanctions Saturday.

Some items to chew on while I run to the Red Cross to give platelets:

  1.  North Korea Says It Would Use Nukes Only Against U.S. — Is this supposed to make us all feel better?
  2. SC Dems call on Alan Wilson to resign over State House corruption probe — This is apparently about Wilson seeking advice from Richard Quinn on his approach to getting rid of Pascoe, back in 2014. I say “apparently” because I can’t get past the Post and Courier’s paywall.
  3. As Coal Seeks a Comeback Under Trump, the West Is Split — The NYT is leading with this. So, is this what we’re doing instead of building nuclear plants?
  4. Atheists tend to be seen as immoral – even by other atheists: study — Wow. And you thought they were tough on believers
  5. Why Does Trump Remain So Witless About the World? — This is a New Yorker piece quoting such people as Max Boot about how amazed they are at how little POTUS knows, and uninterested he is in learning.
  6. Al Green sings ‘To Sir With Love’ — No, this isn’t news, although it was to me. I never knew he had covered this. Heard it for the first time over the weekend, and loved it. Not saying it’s better than Lulu’s, or even as good as his best stuff, such as, say, “Love and Happiness.” It was just a nice weekend surprise for me — two worlds colliding, but in a good way — so I thought I’d share.

32 thoughts on “Open Thread for Monday, August 7, 2017

  1. Doug Ross

    Wilson is claiming he only sent an email containing his draft of his plan to get rid of Pascoe to Quinn to help him with grammar and verbs.

    “Reached Friday, Wilson said he did nothing more than reach out to a longtime adviser to South Carolina attorneys general for advice on the letter’s tone and to make sure it was grammatically correct. He wanted to ensure he didn’t come across as too hostile and that all his nouns and pronouns were in the right place. ”

    Does that even pass the sniff test for the truth? I guess whichever institutions of higher learning conferred degrees on the Attorney General may need to have their accreditation revoked.

    The level of corruption is wide and deep in this state.

    1. Doug Ross

      And this this…

      “Wilson also confirmed Friday that three former members of his staff, including his-then deputy chief of staff Adam Piper, were receiving paychecks from Richard Quinn & Associates during this period while also drawing state salaries. Before going to work for Wilson, Piper was a political consultant for the Quinn firm.”

      Come on… well would still defend Wilson after this?

    2. Scout

      I don’t know much about the politics of this issue but addressing your skepticism that someone would consult a friend for input on grammar and tone – I personally don’t find that so odd. I have friends that have me proof stuff for them on a regular basis. Some people are more word people than others – I don’t think asking a friend for writing feedback necessarily calls into question the validity of a person’s college degree. It probably says more about their level of conscientiousness or perfectionism.

      Maybe it’s suspicious for other reasons, but just on the face of the action itself – I don’t find that to be as odd a thing to do as you apparently do.

      1. Doug Ross

        He’s the freaking attorney general! If he can’t write English sentences, he should quit. Are you seriously ignoring that the person he sent the draft to is the center of the largest corruption case in SC in twenty years? Using his private email to send an email after he said he would establish a “firewall” between himself and the case?

        I know you champ at the bit to disagree with me, but let’s be real here.

            1. Doug Ross

              Exactly. Out of all the people Wilson knows, Richard Quinn was considered the Strunk & White of SC? Give me a break. This was the puppet asking the puppeteer for more string.

        1. Scout

          “Are you seriously ignoring that the person he sent the draft to is the center of the largest corruption case in SC in twenty years? ”

          This falls under “I don’t know much about the politics of this issue” and “Maybe it’s suspicious for other reasons” both of which I acknowledged. I admit I didn’t read the article and haven’t paid much attention to this case, which is why I said I don’t know much about the politics of this issue. Sorry, I should have read it.

          So sounds like who he asked was stupid; I was just saying the question itself could be valid, which you seemed to doubt.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, I’m with you, Scout. Of course, I’m someone who has been the recipient of such requests my whole adult life.

        I graduated from college at the tail end of a recession, and it took me a couple of months to land my first real, professional newspaper job (not counting my job I’d had as a copy boy while in school).

        During those weeks I freelanced around Memphis. I did some very odd jobs. I wrote some for a downtown legal pub (a rather marginal “newspaper” that existed because it charged lower rates for legal ads than The Commercial Appeal did), wrote a TV commercial, wrote resumes and other small jobs. One evening, I took my camera to the posh home of the wealthy lawyer who owned the legal pub to take pictures of him and his wife dressed up to go to a ball. Odd jobs. And I was amazed by something: People would pay me to write things for them when they already knew what they wanted to say! They’d tell me what they wanted to say, I’d write it as they said it, give it back to them and they paid me.

        I decided then that lots of educated, smart people lack confidence in their writing. Of course, a great deal of what I do for ADCO now is based in that very same phenomenon. And it makes a little more sense for people to come to me for such things than it did when I was a 22-year-old kid — but they did then, too.

        But this goes to another level. Wilson wanted someone to sniff it for political feasibility — and I don’t think it would have been entirely appropriate for him to ask a state employee in his office to do that. For that, you go to… wait for it… a political consultant.

        From our 2017 perspective, running this by Quinn looks terrible. But how did it look in 2014? Was there reason then to think Quinn was implicated, directly or indirectly, in what was being investigated? I honestly don’t remember. Maybe the Post and Courier story clears up that point, but they won’t let me read it.

        Has anyone else read it? Does the story indicate that there was good reason to stay away from Quinn at that time? I just can’t recall…

        1. Doug Ross

          “Does the story indicate that there was good reason to stay away from Quinn at that time?”

          The story doesn’t have to do that. Anyone who was even mildly aware of the depth and breadth of Quinn’s connections in the state at that time would find Wilson’s actions suspect. Under what circumstances should Quinn have been even AWARE of what the Attorney General was planning to do? Quinn isn’t an elected official… If Wilson was looking for help with his “nouns and pronouns”, wouldn’t it be better to pass by someone who is completely disinterested?

          Using private email to send it was another sign that Wilson was trying to hide something, If it was all above board, the communication could have been made using his state provided email.

          I’m expecting this all will shakeout by the end of the year with a bunch of people making the perp walk and others resigning. Self imposed term limits by unethical people… but they’ll just be replaced by another group of the same type.

          1. Doug Ross

            The Post and Courier has the original email from Wilson to Quinn. It says:

            Subject: 2 drafts

            Letter 1 is the longer one I read to you tonight. Letter 2 is a slightly shorter version. I will be working on these tomorrow with Bob [Bob Cook, whoever that is]. Let me know what you think.


            Ok, so he read Quinn the letter on the phone. Then sent him two versions. Never asks for any help with grammar and plans to work on it with someone else the next day (apparently another illiterate person who doesn’t know about nouns and pronouns).

            What part of this lines up in any way with Wilson’s story now?

            1. Doug Ross

              And here’s another email from Quinn to Wilson:

              “Good morning General.
              Just saw your email from last night. Ruthle and I got in late.
              No worries. It has been deleted. I never attempt complex maneuvers with my cell phone.
              Hope you pay proper tribute to Jennifer and Roxanne this Mother’s Day week-end.


              That’s not fishy at all…

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            “The story doesn’t have to do that. Anyone who was even mildly aware of the depth and breadth of Quinn’s connections in the state at that time would find Wilson’s actions suspect.”

            So the short answer to my question would be “no.”

            I know that the normal, legitimate things that politicians and the consultants they employ do are, to you, deeply corrupt, crooked and wrong.

            I, however, believe that we need politicians in a free society, and that the more careful and thoughtful they are in their communications, the better. I also esteem people who are willing to listen to the advice of experts, which alone would be enough for me to despise Trump.

            Again, the main question here was whether there was any indication at that time of implication of the Quinns. If there was not, this was not an automatically bad thing to do.

            At least, not a “corrupt” thing to do, as you would have it.

            I could see criticizing Wilson on the grounds that he shouldn’t be thinking about political considerations when conducting the state’s legal business, particularly on a criminal matter. In fact, give me a little time and a bit more information, and I could get worked up and fulminate at length about that.

            But I need more information before I know whether it was specifically wrong to turn to Quinn. If you’re a Republican in South Carolina, that’s one of the main places you went for advice — before the last few months.

            By the way, how did you read the Post and Courier piece? Did you subscribe?

            1. Mark Stewart

              Alan Wilson has known all along that the two parts of the investigation were Harrell and Rick Quinn (initially redacted in public disclosures but obviously know by Wilson at the time). Wilson asking Richard Quinn for “advice and counsel” on aspects of the unfolding investigation in no way passes any sniff test. Never has, in fact.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author


                And now I can say I think contacting Quinn DOES appear to be inappropriate, in light of this:

                The exchange came as Pascoe prepared to dig deeper into a State Law Enforcement Division report detailing alleged misdeeds by sitting lawmakers. Named in that document were Quinn and his son, state Rep. Rick Quinn, who was also identified as a potential target of the probe.

        2. Mark Stewart

          Four paragraphs from the Post & Courier article caught my particular attention:

          “Harrell’s plea agreement required him to cooperate with Pascoe and other authorities on further public corruption investigations. Front and center were the remaining allegations contained in the SLED report, including those concerning Rick Quinn.

          The emails show Wilson reached out to Richard Quinn on Oct. 26, 2014, and asked him to review two drafts of a letter he planned to send to Pascoe the next day. In the drafts, Wilson thanked Pascoe for his work on the Harrell case while expressing concern about the plea agreement and Pascoe’s continued involvement in the investigation. Wilson stated that Pascoe’s role was limited solely to the Harrell prosecution. He stated that he always intended to include Pascoe as a “collaborative partner” on future cases, but he made it clear that the Attorney General’s Office would be in control of the investigation and any prosecutions that arose from Harrell’s cooperation.”


          “Weeks before the Harrell plea, Wilson had quietly assigned his chief deputy, McIntosh, to handle that task and serve as supervising prosecutor. He did so after Pascoe emailed him on Oct. 1, 2014, urging that the lawmakers included in the sealed portion of the SLED report be prosecuted as part of the probe, according to court documents.”


          “After Pascoe was warned off the case in late October 2014, the corruption probe ground to a halt and SLED investigators received no direction from Wilson’s office for months on how to proceed with the remaining allegations included in the agency’s report, according to an affidavit submitted by Keel. In fact, the Attorney General’s Office had focused solely on Harrell since the SLED report was completed in the late 2013 and had no [sic – my catch] taken no action against any of the other legislators mentioned in the document since that time, he stated.”

          So, nothing happened until July 2015 on the case until reporters began asking hard questions about what was going on with the case. This is when McIntosh wrote to Pascoe that “the Office” of the AG was off the case and that Keel should seek his “prosecutive decision” from Pascoe. Then, later when Pascoe and Keel began to make moves with the State Grand Jury, the Alan Wilson fireworks began…

          1. Mark Stewart

            I’m not an attorney, but it would appear from the contents of the P&C story (several other “say what!” revelations are presented as well) that Alan Wilson is looking at an obstruction of justice charge – at the very least.

            It also appears that his deputy AG was pretty concerned about what was going on as well and tried hard to distance himself from the case – and then he retired as chief deputy after not quite 20 years in the summer of 2016 …

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            Are you a subscriber? Or do y’all know a workaround that I don’t?

            I’ve thought about putting in a call to Andy Shain to ask if they’d give this blog a complementary subscription. I can’t afford to subscribe to any more newspapers…

            1. Mark Stewart

              It’s a great article – and no, I don’t subscribe.

              As with all hacking, there is always a work-around. I do have to get a bit more creative recently, but it’s news and it want to be out there to be read and considered…

  2. bud

    3. The key aspect of this coal push is the cut in royalties. That is a flagrant act of picking winners. Isn’t that a criticism leveled at the Obama administration over renewables? Coal is dirty stuff that will generate few new jobs given the extent of automation used today in the mining process. The peak year for coal industry employment was 1923! It will never be a major player in the job market. The government has an affirmative duty to recover spillover costs from coal through the royalty process. Corporate welfare is alive and well under Trump and the Republican congress.

    1. Claus2

      “Corporate welfare is alive and well under Trump and the Republican congress.”

      How much did public welfare grow under the Obama administration?

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Speaking of “To Sir With Love” — y’all aren’t, but I am — it raises the same question I’ve asked before of Phillip and others: What makes that combination of notes, the timing, or whatever of that song so compelling?

    It’s going to sound good done by any professional singer, really, I suppose. That it’s the Rev. Al Green here just guarantees that.

    I was so excited about finding it over the weekend, that I immediately went to my wife and had her listen. She thought it was fine, but not “great,” because she preferred the Lulu version. I’m tempted to say, “Aw, that’s just girls sticking together,” but I think she’s probably right. If I heard the Lulu song right now for the first time in my life, I’d probably be even more blown away than by the Al Green version.

    But again, I want to know why the SONG is so awesome, so evocative, so magical…

    Phillip? Burl? Others?…

    1. Scout

      I can tell that the chords don’t follow the more common traditional tonalities of most western pop music (you know, three chords and the truth). The three chords are usually the major triads built on the first note of the scale of the key (the tonic), the fourth note of the scale of the key (the subdominant), and the fifth note of the scale of the key (the dominant). If there is a minor chord, it is usually built on the 6th note of the scale of the key – it has a name too but I don’t remember it. So in the key of A, usually A,D,E and F#m. But in the key of A, this song also uses B, A flat minor, C # minor, and F# major. It is different to our ears.

      I can hear where it deviates from the typical tonality, and I googled the chords and can see they don’t follow the typical pattern – but I don’t have the terminology to tell what they do instead or why it is so cool.

      My Dad could tell. In real life, he is not actually Atticus (though he says some things that are kind of Atticus-like sometimes). In real life, he is a music professor, and I have had these sorts of conversations with him mostly about Beatle Songs, which also have been known to deviate from the expected tonality at times.

      There are a couple of places where I hear it change from the typical. If you take this verse (copied from here: (in the key of A presumably)

      A Those school girl days
      B of telling
      D tales and biting nails are
      A gone
      A But in my mind
      B I know they
      D will, will still live on and
      A on

      A♭m But how do you
      C#m thank someone who has
      A♭m taken you from crayons to
      C#m perfume
      B It isn’t
      E easy but I’ll
      B try….F♯

      If you
      B wanted the sky I’d
      D write across the sky in
      B letters that would
      D soar a thousand feet
      B high To
      E Sir, With
      F♯ Love

      Where it goes from A to B on “of telling tales” is unexpected for the key. Where it goes from A to A flat minor on “but how do you” is unexpected for the key (maybe this is just a modulation, not sure). Where it goes from B to F# on ‘try’ is unexpected for the key. and Where it goes from E to F# on “love” is unexpected for the key.

      But I’m sure there are reasons that those unexpected changes sound good to us. I just don’t know them. I’ll try to remember to ask my Dad tomorrow. But maybe Phillip will tell first.

    1. Doug Ross

      What a shocker… working for a government regulated monopoly yields laziness and waste. They did more work in the last month on the project than they had in a year prior once they heard the rumors of layoffs. Why worry when you can always expect the rate commission to screw the general public and keep the money flowing?

  4. bud

    We need a bit of competition in our government. Republicans are guaranteed winning so they pretty much do what they want without regard to political consequences. Not sure what the voters see in this depraved, vile political party. But as long as they feel insulated from the welfare of the voters they will push policies and actions that benefit themselves and their rich buddies. The VC Summer plant should be a huge red flag that this monopoly status by this oligarch loving club will continue until called by the voters.

    1. Richard

      So what should Republicans do to promote this level of competition? Make their party weaker so it’s on the same level playing field? Maybe Alabama should lower their level of play so it’s a competitive game when they play Southwest Charleston Tech and Barber College. Winner play to win, not to lower themselves to their competition… in our world not everyone gets a trophy.


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