Images from the Unity Festival at the State House

The above video gives you a small taste of what the Unity Festival at the State House was like yesterday, July 4, 2015.

It was different from the urgent, earnest gathering of two weeks earlier. That one was more intensely pitched at urging our state’s leaders to take down the Confederate flag that flies on the State House grounds. It was a cry from the heart, and at the same time one with relatively little hope for quick action. Folks were mostly there, I believe, to bear witness by their presence that the flag didn’t represent them, whatever our elected leaders did.

But two days later, the event’s three main organizers were present at the miraculous presser at which Gov. Nikki Haley and an extraordinary gathering of other state leaders (including Sen. John Courson!) called for the flag to come down.

As a result, this second demonstration changed focus, and became an occasion for people to celebrate, in a fairly laid-back way, the way black and white, Democrat and Republican have mostly come together on the issue — even though, let me emphasize, it hasn’t happened yet (although we’re moving that way with extraordinary speed, for the SC Legislature).

Basically, the program was half live music, half speakers. In the clip above, I particularly enjoyed that the band was covering Link Wray’s classic “Rumble,” the 1958 guitar instrumental piece that had such huge influence on the guitarists of the ’60s. You’ve heard it a hundred times, probably, as background in a film about surfing, or really almost anything. But few know the name of the piece, or its author. Anyway, it felt just right as background for a pan around the scene. I’m sorry the sound isn’t better.

The crowd was smaller than two weeks earlier, although still respectable for a holiday when so many are out of town or gathering with family (I slipped away before it was over because we were having dinner with my parents and all five of our grandchildren). Estimating it was complicated by the fact that a lot of people were off to the sides, in the shade of trees. The weather wasn’t as hot and humid this time, but there was more direct sun, and it was uncomfortable. Lynn Teague estimated it at 800-1,000. If the first one was indeed 1,500, that sounds about right.

The speakers were… generally not as impressive as at the first rally. And they lacked focus. The Rev. Neal Jones of the Unitarian-Universalist congregation was the first speaker, and he went beyond the flag to call for a litany of lefty causes, such as an increase in the minimum wage. I couldn’t resist saying, via Twitter, that “I guess no Southern Baptists were available.” And indeed, that was the disappointing thing. The consensus in this state to get the flag down — as represented by that group standing with the governor at the aforementioned press conference — is so much broader than this roster of speakers would indicate. I mean, there was no Brett Bursey this time, but Kevin Gray spoke. Enough said.

I had broached this subject with one of the organizers earlier in the week, and the problem largely is that these folks, who are not political consultants, simply didn’t have the contacts for the kinds of speakers that I hoped for — say, Paul Thurmond or the governor herself. (Confession time: I stepped out of my role as journalist so far as to give the organizer the phone number of Matt Moore, chairman of the state GOP. But apparently nothing came of it. I had thought that since Democratic Chair Jaime Harrison had spoken at the first rally, either Matt or some designee would provide balance — and I knew they were both on board on the flag.)

By the way, I had been concerned when I heard that the NAACP was taking over the logistics of the event, even being called the sponsor. You know, on account of its confrontational style, especially the attempt to coerce the state to do the right thing via a boycott, which has done so much over the years to keep lawmakers from wanting to address the issue. But it was cool. Sure, you had the NAACP signage, but aside from a brief address from Lonnie Randolph, the group was cool and low-key, in no way disturbing the whole “Shiny, Happy People” tone of the event.

The best speaker by far was Rep. James Smith. And though as a Democrat he couldn’t symbolically balance the event the way a Paul Thurmond could, he centered the issue nicely, because he was the one speaker focused on the debate coming this week in the real world. He said a lot of things that would never occur to the other speakers — such as noting, as I have done (and as organizer Tom Hall had done two weeks earlier) that it is a gross dishonor to the soldiers who represented South Carolina in the Civil War to fly that flag after they surrendered.

But the most important thing he said, and something we all need to keep in mind and insist upon this week, is this: There must be no compromise this time. As he said, “No flag and no flag pole!” In a shouted conversation before he went on, while one of the bands was playing, he told me he was optimistic, but worried by all the talk of compromises that were swirling around — such as leaving the pole and flying some other flag there.

Absolutely not. This absolutely must be the end to it. Nothing else will answer at this historic moment. The governor, with all those people standing with her, said it was time for the flag to be removed, and that’s it. Get it down, put it in a museum. Period. Otherwise, we’ll be talking about it for another 15 years.

Happy Fourth! See you (I hope) at the flag rally

flag rally FB

Just a reminder that the Unity rally for taking down the flag — and for celebrating and supporting the fantastic consensus in the State House to do so — is at 4 p.m. today.

I hope to see you there.

And I hope it will be an event that looks and sounds like South Carolina, which is something I’m always jittery about. Just as I did two weeks ago, I’ve been communicating this week with the organizers, fretting about whether the speakers and the visuals will help cement this miraculous consensus and not weaken it. I won’t go into all that. I just hope this is at least as positive an event as the one two weeks ago turned out to be, only with even more people.

I’ll try to post something about the rally tonight. I say “try,” because I’ll be hanging out with two, and possibly four, grandchildren tonight, and playing with them comes first.

And just because I’m proud of it, I’ll post again the video my son did based on the last one. It tells you a little about the origins of that event, and therefore this one, since it has the same initial organizers:

Why South Carolina seceded (in case you’re still confused)

Slave sale in Charleston, 1856

Slave sale in Charleston, 1856

Lee Bright’s bizarre view of history, and Prof. David Carlton’s related comment about South Carolina secessionists’ attempt to justify their action, remind me that it might be useful to place at your convenient disposal the original document itself.

We’ve all heard the absurd lie, from Confederate apologists, that the Civil War was not about slavery. We may hear it asserted next week, when lawmakers take up the matter of lowering the flag.

Just to make sure there is no confusion, I thought I’d share with you the full text of the “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” In other words, I’ll let the secessionists themselves tell you what the war was about.

If you’d like to read a slightly shorter version, which leaves out the history lesson about the Declaration of Independence and the framing of the U.S. Constitution, you can read this one instead. It cuts to the chase, going right to the aforementioned “Immediate Causes.”

The document leaves no doubt as to why South Carolina was precipitating this crisis. For those of you who prefer numbers to words, I’ll provide these:

  • The document mentions some form of the word “slave” (“slaves,” “slaveholding,” “slavery,” etc.) 17 times. That’s the number I found in one quick pass through it; I may have missed some.
  • It refers less directly to slavery 9 other times, with such phrases as “person held to service or labor,” “fugitive,” “servile,” “right of property” and “persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens.”

But go ahead and read the whole thing, and let me know if you’re still confused.

 

‘Amazing Grace at the Statehouse’

My good friend Hal Stevenson emailed me asking that I share this flyer with my contacts, which I choose to do via the blog:

grace

Amazing Grace at the Statehouse!

Honoring the Emanuel AME Nine and Their Families

Monday, July 6, 2015

9:00 AM – until

Rotunda of the South Carolina Statehouse

(between the Governor’s and Lt. Governor’s Offices)

When the South Carolina General Assembly convenes on Monday, July 6, a diverse group of Christians will be there to meet them. Amazing Grace at the Statehouse! is composed of individual Christians from many denominations who will gather in the Statehouse for the simple purpose of celebrating the grace of Jesus and gospel witness demonstrated by the families of the victims of the Emanuel shooting.

Amazing Grace at the Statehouse! has no political agenda. Those who join the effort are strongly encouraged not to discuss political issues. We are simply dedicated to joining together as fellow South Carolinians to serve as a reminder of the purpose and reconciliation found in the love of Jesus that was so wonderfully demonstrated by our brothers and sisters in Charleston. We will bear witness to their Amazing Grace at the Statehouse! has no official denominational sponsorship. So far, this ad hoc “effort of the willing” includes members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God in Christ Jesus, the United Methodist Church, Independent Bible Churches, the Church of God, Assemblies of God… and we hope many more to come.

On Monday, our goal will be to distribute 1,000 Amazing Grace! lapel stickers (pictured above).

Questions?

Bob (Columbia Race Reconciliation Group) at (803) 315-1278 or bobj6461@gmail.com

Hal (IBelieveSC.net) at (803) 319-7750 or hal@graceoutdoor.com

Coordinated by the ad hoc Racial Reconciliation lunch group of Columbia, SC

Amazing Grace! Share It!

No official sponsorship. This is an alliance of the willing: join us!

You MUST watch this video, in which Lindsey Graham gets choked up talking about his friend Joe Biden

 

This is an extraordinary clip, which I thank Norm Ivey for bringing to my attention. HuffPost sets it up this way:

When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) celebrated his retirement from the Air National Guard last week after 33 years of military service, he was greeted at the ceremony by an unexpected guest: Vice President Joe Biden.

Though they hail from opposing parties, Graham and Biden have long had a close friendship, going back to their years serving together in the Senate. The South Carolina senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate was particularly touched that the vice president attended his military sendoff.

Over the weekend, The Huffington Post spent a day with Graham on the campaign trail in Iowa for the latest installment of our original series, ’16 And President. We’ll have the full episode up next week, but the above clip is a short preview of what’s to come….

In it, our senior senator chokes up talking about Joe Biden, about whom Graham says:

If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, then it’s probably… you’ve got a problem. You need to do some self-evaluation. What’s not to like?… He’s THE nicest person I think that I’ve ever met in politics. He is as good a man as God ever created…

This is one of the more touching illustrations I’ve seen of my oft-stated thesis that politicians — despite what you may firmly believe — are people, and not monolithic representations of good and evil, as most partisan rhetoric would have it.

Graham Biden

Lee Bright’s Bizarro perspective on the Confederate flag

There are two measurements for how far we have so suddenly come on the Confederate flag issue.

The first is on the positive side — all the people who once would have opposed removing the flag, or ignored it, coming suddenly and dramatically to the point that they are convinced along with the rest of us that it must come down ASAP. Until just a few hours before that remarkable press conference on June 22, I would have counted this sudden shift as impossible, based on more than two decades of intimate acquaintance with the issue.

The second is on the other side — the tiny group of people still willing to defend the indefensible. They have become so marginalized that their rhetoric — which was always based in foolishness — has become so starkly absurd that people who once might have listened to them respectfully cannot fail to see how profoundly wrong they are.

You’ve heard the Bizarro-world incoherence of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, steadfastly holding their ground in a universe where up is down and down is up.

Now take a look at what Lee Bright, the one lawmaker who gladly embodies what resistance is left in the Legislature has to say. The irrationality and moral bankruptcy of his approach is underlined by the fact that he is using it to try to raise money.

Our own Doug Ross received one of these appeals, to which he simply responded, “Take it down.” Here it is:

 

Lee Bright

Hello Doug,

Is there any doubt that states’ rights are under attack more than ever before?

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the latest liberal hysteria surrounding the placement of the Confederate battle flag has swept the nation. And unfortunately, many of my conservative friends and colleagues have fallen prey to this radical, Big Government scheme.

With all the noise surrounding this issue, please allow me to be abundantly clear where I stand. It is my fervent belief that the Confederate flag is a proud symbol of the following:

  • Resistance against a federal, centralized power that FAR overreached its Constitutional limits.
  • States’ rights and Constitutional liberties, which many have fought and died protecting.
  • Southern heritage and a culture that values freedom, even in the face of federal tyranny.

It is certainly important for us to take steps that prevent future acts of violence. But in this pursuit of peace, should we also dismantle the historical symbols that memorialize states’ rights?

My answer is an emphatic “NO!”

The plain and simple truth is that the placement of this flag will not prevent future tragedies. It’s abundantly clear that the radical liberal agenda is behind this push to remove the flag, which raises the question: where does it all end?

Are we to also remove the names of Confederate officers from our roads? Should we crumble all the Civil War monuments that dot our nation’s landscape?

Doug, it’s time to take a stand. Right here. Right now.

Over 150 years ago, brave Confederates made a bold stand against an oppressive government that far overstepped its Constitutional limits. Will you please take a stand with me now by signing my online petition to keep the flag flying?

States all over the nation are giving ground to the radical liberals by removing the symbol of states’ rights from their historical monuments. But if we can make a stand here and now, we can send a strong message to the elites in DC that states’ rights are still alive and well.

Please click here now to sign my petition, which I will then present to my colleagues in the South Carolina legislature. Let’s show them how much we value our heritage!

Thank you for all you do.

Sincerely,

P.S. Please stand with me in this fight to protect states’ rights by signing my petition today!

Can you believe this guy exists, other than as a figment of The Onion? Let’s dip into this remarkable document:

  • Taking down the flag — in other words, the government deciding to cease doing something it is doing now, is a “radical, Big Government scheme”? I knew that people like this are so wedded to their bumper-sticker phrases that they long ago ceased to be firmly rooted in reality, but to use them in a context to which they have NO conceivable connection is new to me. If we were under attack by aliens from another solar system, Sen. Bright would probably decry the invasion as another “radical, Big Government scheme”…
  • “Liberal hysteria?” This is akin to the SCV’s insistence that Dylann Roof got the race war he wanted, asserted in the face of this miraculous demonstration of reconciliation and unity of purpose. Hysteria? The calm dignity displayed by everyone from the families of the victims of the massacre to the lawmakers quietly accepting their responsibility is the very essence of steady resolve. And liberal? Nikki Haley, Mark Sanford, John Courson, Glenn McConnell, Tim Scott, etc., etc., etc.? Do words have no meaning on his planet?
  • Then there’s his utterly morally bankrupt defense of what the flag is a “proud symbol” of: “Resistance against a federal, centralized power that FAR overreached its Constitutional limits.” Um, let’s see… what had the big, bad federal government done when South Carolina seceded? Well, essentially nothing. A presidential election had simply had an outcome that the slaveholders who made up our state’s political leadership abhorred. “States’ rights and Constitutional liberties, which many have fought and died protecting.” Yes, states’ right to enslave people, I’m with you there. And I suppose the “Constitutional liberties” refers to the Framers’ compromise that allowed slavery to exist. Or perhaps you’re referring to Lincoln’s later suspension of habeas corpus, which was an extreme effect, not a cause, of the rebellion that Mr. Bright extolls. Finally, “Southern heritage and a culture that values freedom, even in the face of federal tyranny.” How could even a native of the Bizarro planet put “Southern heritage” and “a culture that values freedom” in the same sentence, within the context of the Confederacy? How does anyone live with himself after composing a sentence like that and sending it out for other humans to read?

Well, he just goes on and on in the same insurrectionist vein, proudly exhibiting his hostility toward the United States of America and the finest things that it stands for. He portrays himself as appalled that the United States prevailed in a struggle in which it purged itself of its own original sin.

This is the sad state to which the pro-flag camp has sunk. And as appalling as it can be to delve into the workings of such minds, we should take comfort from the fact that the vast majority of our political leadership has decided to stop honoring such nonsense.

Video reminder to come to the flag rally Saturday

Take The Flag Down: SC Unity Rally from Brian Harmon on Vimeo.

Remember the short video that my son Matt made about the flag rally Saturday before last?

Well, a friend of his has made another one to promote the rally coming up this Saturday, July 4th.

This one has a slightly better-known narrator. I’m not sure he’s the best narrator for persuading any Republicans who are still on the fence on this issue, but hey: It’s effective.

We have ONE flag to deal with, and in SC, we know which one it is

flags cropped Sowell

This morning, The Washington Post ran a story headlined, “Did Republicans jump the gun on the Confederate flag?

It was prompted by a national poll that showed the public evenly split on whether the flag is a racist symbol. The premise of the story was that golly, did Nikki Haley and the rest get ahead of public opinion by moving to take down the flag?

This engendered a couple of strong reactions in me. The first was, a NATIONAL poll? Really? In what way is that relevant? I appreciate that, in this era of all local stories being nationalized, the rest of the country feels like it’s a part of our problem, but no matter what sort of vicarious interest they may have in this drama, it is ours to deal with. Our obligation, our duty, our task.

The second was, please don’t anybody do a South Carolina poll, not for another week or so, please. And my reason for saying that leads to my third reaction, which I put in a Tweet:


I realize that to folks in Washington, a town full of political consultants, the idea of getting out ahead of public opinion is… well… unprofessional.

Of course, it’s an awfully rare thing here in South Carolina. In fact, the last time I saw leadership on the flag by a public official in our state was Joe Riley’s march from Charleston to Columbia in 2000.

But that’s what we’re seeing right now. That’s the miracle, or one of them. Our governor and two-thirds majorities in both chambers are ready to act, and they’re not waiting around for polls or political advice from anyone. And I, who have castigated pretty much all of them on one occasion or another (and with a lot of them, a lot more than that), am as proud of them as I can be.

Anyway, my Tweet ended up on Facebook as all of them do, and someone commented (and seems to have thought better of it and taken it down now) something to the effect that she was fine with taking this one flag and putting it in a museum, but she felt like people across the country going on about other Confederate symbols and such were going overboard.

My response to that:

None of that concerns me, or I should think any of us in South Carolina. We have this one flag to deal with. We’ve known that for ages. So we need to get it done.

There’s this one flag, that is qualitatively different, in terms of what it means, from any other flag, symbol, statue, institution name, monument or what have you anywhere in the world.

It, in one form or another and in one place or another, has flown at the State House since 1962, and we all know why. It is a way white South Carolinians have had of saying that, despite Appomattox and the civil rights movement, We can do this. We can fly this flag no matter how it affects you or how you feel about it. We don’t care about you or how you think or feel about it; you can go to hell if you don’t like it. In your face.

This message is delivered, of course, primarily to black South Carolinians, and secondarily to anyone else who wanted the flag down, including — putting in a word for people like me — quite a few of us white South Carolinians.

It’s a message that could only be delivered by a flag flown at our seat of government, this message about a highly exclusive, restricted definition of whose state this is. You can’t send that message anywhere else with any symbol. By flying rather than being a cold monument, it says this definition of South Carolina is alive; it’s now; it’s not just history.

That’s why this one flag has to come down.

I’m tired of folks, some of them quite nice folks, talking slippery slopes: Oh, but what about all those other flags, symbols, etc.? I dismiss such questions with increasing impatience. We are dealing with this specific flag for specific reasons that are particular to it — in fact, unique. Those reasons don’t exist for any other object you can name.

Let the rest of the country talk about what it wants to. Since they don’t have this flag to deal with, let them obsess over whatever lesser symbols they have in their desire to be a part of what we’re dealing with. That desire may be laudable, but right now it’s a distraction, if we let it be.

We know what we have to do here in South Carolina. And finally, we’re about to do it.

Arts advocates gear up to fight veto yet again

Back in the dark ages when The State and other papers were produced on a mainframe computer, the Atex system I used both here and in Wichita had something called “SAVE/GET” buttons. They enabled you to store simple, repetitive bits of copy — say, your byline — and insert them into a story with just one keystroke.

So whenever someone felt like he was having to write the same story over and over (a common feeling in the news biz), he’d say, “I need to put this on a SAVE/GET key.”

Well, I’m guessing that by now, the folks over at the Arts Alliance feel that way about their annual appeals to override Gov. Haley’s vetoes:

Miss Mona at the Statehouse

“ART WORKS in South Carolina”

REMINDER!

ARTS ADVOCACY CALL TO ACTION!

The vote takes place Monday, July 6.

Take a few minutes now to contact your legislators 

and ask them to override veto # 21.

 

The Governor has issued a veto eliminating 

$1 MILLION for Arts Education.

The House and Senate included $1 million in the S.C. Department of Education’s budget for a partnership with the S.C. Arts Commission. These funds are intended to provide more arts education for more children in more ways, including in-school, after-school and summer programs. These new efforts grew out of a long-term collaboration between the Dept. of Education and the Arts Commission.

TAKE ACTION NOW! The Legislature returns July 6 to take up vetoes. Email or call your House and Senate members and ask that they vote to override Veto # 21 to ensure that S.C. children, especially those in underserved, high poverty areas, have access to additional arts education opportunities.

Feel free to use the SCAA’s 2015 General Assembly Contact List by clicking HERE or at the SCAA’s websiteYou can also use these links: 

House

http://www.scstatehouse.gov/member.php?chamber=H

Senate

http://www.scstatehouse.gov/member.php?chamber=S

Please feel free to share this Call to Action with your friends and colleagues and through social media. Keep up with the latest budget activity and other important arts news by following the SCAA on Facebook and Twitter — just click our icons below!  Thank you!

SUPPORT THE SOUTH CAROLINA ARTS ALLIANCE!

Please take the time now to support the important work of the South Carolina arts Alliance as the only statewide advocacy organization that advocates for ALL the ARTS and we have a proven record of success!

Just go to:

www.scartsalliance.net and click the “Donate” button. You can pay on line at our secure web form or use it to indicate other forms of payment.  Your contribution is 100% tax deductible.   

 

Thank YOU for your support!

Betty Plumb, Executive Director
South Carolina Arts  Alliance

The way Lindsey Graham dealt with a racist blowhard

I liked reading this at Buzzfeed:

TAMA, Iowa — Lindsey Graham was in the full swing of his pitch to a group of potential voters gathered at a VFW hall in this small town an hour outside Des Moines on Saturday when, while he was talking about his relatively liberal stance on immigration, there came an unwelcome interruption.

“Towel heads,” grumbled a man sitting at the bar, sporting a denim shirt with the arms cut off. “Sand n*****s.”

Graham did what every candidate must in the age of smartphones and opposition trackers following a candidate anywhere he or she goes.

“I totally dissociate myself from this guy,” Graham said. “What I would say is that what he said is not who I am. I’m not running to be president to please this guy.” He then moved on and continued on taking questions from the other attendees.

At this early stage, running for president can be a weird thing — especially in these tiny, intimate gatherings where people are able to to speak their minds. In an earlier era, maybe before a woman once notoriously insisted to John McCain that Barack Obama was an Arab, Graham could probably have gotten away with ignoring the man; today, he had to act.

But Graham is also a long-shot candidate without much to lose, and his response ended up being different from the kind of tight-lipped, efficient shutdown one could imagine coming from someone for whom the stakes are higher. A few minutes after the exchange, Graham concluded his spiel to the 15 or so people assembled in the dark, low-ceilinged room by drawing a comparison between his own hardscrabble upbringing in a bar in small town South Carolina and people like the man who had issued the slurs.

“I’m tired of telling people things they want to hear that I don’t believe. I changed a long time ago as a politician. I was scared to death of going into a room to be disagreed with. I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel free. I feel able to tell you exactly what I believe and why I believe it,” Graham said….

I hope Buzzfeed doesn’t mind that long quote. I wanted you to have full context. But I urge you to go on and read the whole thing. It has a nice ending.

The event had been billed as “Politics and Pool,” and before leaving, Lindsey wanted to shoot pool with somebody. The only person willing to play was the blowhard. So our senior senator played him, and beat him.

Quoth Graham: “I wanted to beat him. I was going to beat him if it’s the last thing I did in Iowa.”

Charleston gets funding for port deepening

I don’t pay all that much attention to this issue, but I should. So I’ll pass on this announcement from Lindsey Graham, from a few minutes ago:

Charleston Port Receives Pre-Construction Funding for 2015

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today applauded news that the Charleston Port Harbor Post-45 Deepening Project will receive $1.303 million in Preconstruction Engineering and Design (PED) funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ work plan allocations for Fiscal Year 2015. This allocation of funds will allow the preconstruction phase of the project to begin immediately.

Last week, the Army Corps’ Civil Works Review Board (CWRB) unanimously approved the port deepening project, keeping the project on schedule. This vote was a necessary condition for receiving today’s allocation and will allow the Port to be eligible for the remainder of PED funding in Fiscal Year 2016 and be ready for full construction dollars in Fiscal Year 2017.

“Today’s $1.3 million allocation is fantastic news for the Port of Charleston and for expediting the deepening project,” said Graham. “I again applaud the Army Corps of Engineers for amending its FY 2015 work plan to include funding for the Port. This money is yet another sign of the Port’s value to the country as a whole and a welcome step toward ensuring construction and eventual completion.”

Graham is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and serves on the Energy and Water Subcommittee. He was an early and ardent advocate for deepening Charleston Harbor and continues the fight to secure federal authorization and funding for the project.

#####

Mrs. Christie having an AWESOME time at announcement

I don’t have time to watch all of this right now, but maybe you will.

I’ve watched the beginning, and didn’t hear much because I was having fun watching his wife. She, and at least one of her daughters, kept doing that thing that some ladies do — I mean that thing where they apparently see a friend in the crowd, and they throw their mouths WAY open and their eyes pop really big, with the brows way up, displaying the very essence of almost maniacally delighted surprise, sending the pantomime message that it’s SO awesome to see you, but I can’t talk right now

She must have had a lot of friends in the crowd…

As for my observation that “some ladies” do this — I guess some guys, particularly politicians, do something like that, but the smile isn’t as big. They’re more like, well, the son in the picture below, sort of smiling at someone out there but not about to act like he’s thrilled by any of this.

Anyway, I enjoyed her.

Here you have wife and daughter doing that thing simultaneously, in opposite directions, while Chris soldiers on with his speech, saying something I'm missing...

Here you have wife and daughter doing that thing simultaneously, in opposite directions, while Chris soldiers on with his speech, saying something I’m missing…

On the Supreme Court and ideology

Or, if you prefer, the good and the bad. Because as one who loves the American system of government and respects the court, while at the same time decrying what ideological partisans are doing to the political branches (and trying their best to do to the judiciary as well), I’m all like “Yay, Supreme Court” and “Boo, ideology.”

But you knew that. Or at least you knew about me and ideology.

The burning question is, to what extent have the ideologues succeeded in their quest to make the Supreme Court as messed up and ineffective as, say, the Congress?

Others just take it for granted that the Court now consists of partisan hacks on both ends of the spectrum, with one or two swing votes. I see the things they’re seeing, but in the end I don’t reach that conclusion.

Anyway, Doug Ross started a conversation over on Facebook about the court, and with his permission I’m dragging it over here in keeping with my firm belief that all interesting conversations should take place on the blog.

Doug started the ball rolling this way:

We assume judges are going to be impartial when deciding on cases before them yet our highest court consists of at least seven of nine judges who can pretty much be guaranteed to vote a certain way on a case. If a Republican had been in office when Sotomeyer or Kagan were appointed, is there any doubt that recent cases would have had different outcomes?

I responded that there’s SOME doubt — look, for instance, at the critical moments when Roberts has helped out Obama, who voted against his confirmation — and in that doubt lies the hope for our country…

I just don’t assume anything with these people. For instance, I had been thinking that I very often agree with Roberts — and then he voted the other way on the Arizona reapportionment case that I wrote about earlier. That said, when I saw what Roberts and the other dissenters said in that case, I respected their reasoning. It doesn’t matter that I liked the outcome from the majority’s ruling — it’s not about outcomes. As I’ve said before, it should not BE about outcomes, if we respect the rule of law…

Doug said,

I put Roberts and Kennedy into the wild card group. The other seven march in lockstep with their partisan base. There’s an affirmative action case coming up. You want to lay bets on it being 5-4 or 6-3? It would seem like with “the law” that we should see more 9-0, 8-1 decisions if they only dealt with facts and precedents. We just shouldn’t pretend that the judges are impartial. They are biased.

And I responded that I don’t write justices off as “liberals” or “conservatives,” because I respect them. Yes, a certain justice may more often render judgments that the world regards as “liberal” or “conservative,” but it’s not like they’re stacking the deck. Their reasoning just happens to lead them that way, and I respect that. They don’t just come in and say, “I’m going to issue a liberal opinion on this, no matter what the facts or the law.” They work it out honestly, and that just tends to be where they end up. I don’t see any of them as hacks. I leave those insults to the partisans and ideologues, who tend to insult and dismiss justices who tend not to support their prejudices…

Back to Doug:

Pick a case, any case, that is contentious and show me where Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor disagreed or Scalia and Thomas disagreed. Take the gay marriage case… was there ANY doubt how those five would vote? Not for a second. They “work it out” according to a pre-disposed bias.

And Doug, being Doug, resorts to numbers and charts:

This chart basically shows exactly what I stated…there was a time when the views of the court were balanced across the liberal/conservative spectrum but now we basically have three groups of justices, each on the same track

Here’s the chart.

Well, I can’t refute that because I don’t have a year or two to go back and study every case this court has decided and then assign quantifiable values to each judge’s position (an act from which my conscience would recoil) and come up with a chart of my own.

Because for me, it’s not about these three decisions versus those five decisions or anything like that. Here’s how I arrive at my more optimistic view of the court: I see that the court has taken this or that position on an issue before it. I think, “How on Earth could they have come to a boneheaded conclusion like that?” And then I read the arguments. And while I still might disagree, I respect the reasoning. I respect the effort to arrive at an intellectually honest conclusion. (I did this with the dissent in the Arizona case. And in fact, I sort of think the dissent may have the stronger argument, even though I liked the outcome.)

Not every time. But often enough that I still respect the justices, and the job they do. There could come a day, and I hope it doesn’t, when I write off the Court as too far gone. I’m happy to say I’m not there yet.

Open Thread for Tuesday, June 30, 2015

aria150628_cmyk.ai04idrhwp2nk8sgkk4wsswkg.6uwurhykn3a1q8w88k040cs08.th

Some possible topics, and yeah, they’re mostly related:

  1. Governor issues record number of budget vetoes — Earlier, I wrote a post expressing my dismay that the governor was needlessly antagonizing lawmakers (“needlessly” in the sense of vetoing things she always gets overridden on) with the flag vote coming up. But you know what? I’m so concerned about not rocking the boat myself right now that I took it down, even though it was my only post today. THAT’S how hard I’m cheering for Nikki Haley right now. I didn’t want to create ANY negative waves, Moriarty.
  2. Greece fails to make key debt payment to IMF — You know what? After we get this flag thing done, maybe Nikki could go over and try to inject some fiscal accountability in Athens. There’s a country that could really use a leader who’s handy with budget vetoes. (And no, I’m not trying to get rid of her. She’s my girl now. I’m just saying they could use some of her attitude over there.)
  3. 462 people shot dead by police this year — Just to bring back up a subject that Clementa Pinckney cared a lot about. (If it seems like I can’t talk about anything right now without relating it to the Charleston massacre or issues related to it, well, I guess that’s the case.)
  4. Tillman statue vandalized — Well, again, I’m not for illegal acts that are likely to inflame passions at this delicate time. But you know, it’s Ben Tillman. I’m probably not going to sit up nights worrying about his stupid statue.
  5. KKK plans rally at State House — The KKK rally on July 18 gives lawmakers a nice, clear deadline by which to act on the flag. Present the Klan with a fait accompli
  6. Christie dismisses naysayers, launches long-shot 2016 bid — Don’t know where he stands on the flag, but I’ll let you know when I find out. Meanwhile… do y’all think he has a chance?

Anything else, y’all?

The end of gerrymandering? Depends how bad you want it…

You may have thought the Supreme Court did some big stuff last week.

Pshaw.

The ACA ruling? It maintained the status quo. Nothing changed, nothing to see. Move along.

The same-sex marriage ruling? Aw, who was really surprised by that?

Today, in the midst of several other rulings — the Court seemed to be tossing them out like Mardi Gras revelers throwing beads to the kids — the justices did something significant, something that could potentially solve most of the things that are wrong with politics in America:

A divided Supreme Court on Monday said voters concerned that partisan gerrymandering is creating unfair elections are entitled to take reapportionment away from state legislatures.

The court ruled 5 to 4 that the Constitution does not give legislatures exclusive control over congressional redistricting and said voters may vest the power in independent commissions by ballot initiative, where this option exists.

“The animating principle of our Constitution [is] that the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority….

If you don’t know what this means, I’ll tell you: No more districts drawn to serve political parties rather than the nation. No more parties getting more and more extreme because all incumbents have to fear is a primary opponent who is more extreme than they are, since general elections don’t matter. Maybe, maybe even no more creating one majority-minority district by drawing all the ones around it super-white (there are other barriers to changing that, though — I think).

Competitive elections between sensible centrists! How wonderful!

But wait! How does one take this power away from partisan legislatures? Oh… with a ballot initiative.

Dang.

So… you’re saying we have to kill representative democracy to improve it? Because that’s what government by ballot initiative amounts to. No, thanks. Dang.

Hey! Maybe, with enough pressure, lawmakers could be persuaded to give up the power themselves. Impossible, you say? Yes, well, I would normally say the same. But I just saw the political leadership of South Carolina decide to take down the Confederate flag, so pretty much anything is looking possible to me right now.

At least let me dream…

It does NO good for activists to remove flag unilaterally

two flags

You’ve no doubt seen this unfortunate news from yesterday:

The Confederate flag was removed from a pole on the South Carolina capitol grounds early Saturday morning by activists, but state employees returned the flag to its position not long after the incident.

An activist group claimed responsibility for taking the flag down. Witnesses said two people were arrested by authorities almost immediately after one of them scaled the flag pole on the north side of the State House grounds and pulled the Confederate banner down….

The state Bureau of Protective Services confirmed it had arrested two people at the State House about 6:15 a.m. Those arrested were Brittany Ann Byuarim Newsome, a 30-year-old Raleigh resident, and James Ian Tyson, a 30-year-old Charlotte resident, the protective services bureau said…

This kind of action does no good whatsoever, except for perhaps providing some sense of personal, self-congratulatory satisfaction to the individuals involved, one of whom was photographed grinning at the camera as she was arrested.

I say this not just because I believe in the rule of law, and this was an illegal act — although anything that lends even the slightest taint of illegitimacy to our cause is harmful.

I say it not because the perpetrators weren’t South Carolinians, although that is another problem. And I say that at risk of offending a new friend, Mariangeles Borghini, the Argentinian lady who started the ball rolling on last weekend’s flag rally, and bless her for doing that. Mari wrote on Facebook yesterday, “People complaining because neither me or Bree Newsome are from SC. Just get over it and move on!” Ah, but see, it would indeed be a problem if the only people agitating to get the flag down were from out of state. In fact, it would do no good at all. It could even do harm.

Finally, I’m not saying this because such a gesture is in the end ineffective, although it’s perfectly obvious that that is so. The authorities put the flag right back up there — as they were obviously going to do, since the law required them to do so. No more good was done than when “the Rev. E. Slave” climbed up there several years back.

But that’s not it. Even if the flag stayed down forever after those folks from North Carolina acted, it would not accomplish the thing that we need to accomplish; it would not achieve the higher purpose in lowering the flag.

There exists only one way to get the flag down that does any good whatsoever, that even has any point to it: South Carolina has to decide to take it down. We, the people of this state, acting through our elected representatives, have to repeal the unconscionable law that requires it to fly there, and order it to be removed. Otherwise, nothing is accomplished. Until they do this, the flag will fly, and the people of this state will continue to be collectively guilty of willing it to do so.

This is counterintuitive for a lot of people — especially, apparently, if they are young and impetuous. It’s a realization I was slow in coming to myself, at first — 21 years back, when I wrote the first of hundreds of editorials, columns and blog posts about the need to take the flag down. It’s something that I still have trouble explaining sometimes, although there are folks out there who understand it more readily than I did.

Something happens when you express opinions on controversial topics, knowing that hundreds of thousands of people will read your words and try to pick them apart — you think about those issues harder than you would have otherwise.

Initially, I would have been happy with any expedient that brought the flag down — a lawsuit, some tricky technicality, whatever. In fact, my first editorial on the subject (if I remember correctly; I don’t have it in front of me) urged then-Gov. Carroll Campbell to just take it on himself to remove it.

I was deeply frustrated when, not long after that — in response to quite a few calls to remove it, including my own steady insistence, over and over in the paper — the Legislature passed a law requiring that the flag fly, and making it illegal for anyone (including the governor) to remove it.

But gradually, I realized that that act of bad faith on the part of the majority of lawmakers was fine in a way — because only if the will of South Carolina, expressed through the deliberative process of representative democracy, was to bring down the flag would the action accomplish any higher purpose.

And what would that higher purpose be? It would be the one we saw evidence itself last Monday — a coming together in historic reconciliation, an act of grace and healing, an act of inclusion packed with legal, political and cultural power.

Last week, we saw our elected leaders respond to the powerful act of grace and forgiveness carried out by the families of the Mother Emanuel victims at the arraignment of Dylann Roof. This miraculous act engendered other miracles, including a consensus on removing the flag that was unthinkable two weeks ago.

This is about South Carolina setting aside division and embracing each other as fellow citizens, and not only not rubbing hurtful symbols into the faces of their neighbors, but — and here’s the real point — not wanting to.

This is not anything you can achieve with a lawsuit, or unilateral action, or a boycott, or anything that seeks to coerce or trick the flag down.

South Carolina has to decide to do it, so that South Carolina can grow, transcend its past and be a better place, for the sake of all its citizens.

That’s what’s getting ready to happen, I believe. That’s what all of us who want this transformative development need to push and speak and pray for — respectfully, reverently, in a spirit that does not disgrace the dignity of the dead, or interrupt the chain reaction of grace that we saw initiated in that courtroom, or disturb the solemnity of these funerals we are witnessing.

It’s a political act that we’re engaging in, but it’s also a spiritual one. And everything we do or say in the coming days needs to be worthy of it.

My granddaughter the scientist

experiments

Yesterday, when my youngest granddaughter and her little brother arrived at our house to spend the day, she got right to work, asking my wife, “What liquids do we have?”

The scientist at 5.

The scientist at 5.

So my wife gathered oil, vinegar, milk and other things together, and my granddaughter started meticulously measuring amounts, calling them out to my wife in milliliters, and mixing the liquids in different concentrations in little plastic cups.

My wife’s job was to write down the amounts and observations. My granddaughter would draw the results next to the notations, when she found them visually interesting.

She kept saying, “I love doing this! I love it!” My wife observed that that was a good thing, since she wants to be a scientist.

She’s five years old, and just finished 4K at the local Chinese-immersion charter school. So she also speaks Mandarin, and hasn’t started regular kindergarten yet.

Our girl’s wicked smart.

Thoughts on the funeral, and the president’s remarks?

eulogy

I’m watching and listening, as you probably are, too. Here’s a place where you can do that.

Here’s another

I’ll get back to you when the president is done speaking…

In the meantime, I’ll just note things he says as we go along…

He just said: “This whole week I’ve been reflecting on the idea of grace.” So have we all, Mr. President…

“For too long we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag caused…” Amen.

He just called Governor Haley “worthy of praise.” Amen again.

Taking down the flag not a dishonor to soldiers who fought and died, but “… an acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, is wrong…” Triple Amen.

“By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace…” Yes.

“For too long (for too long, comes the response)…”

“It would be a betrayal of everything Clementa Pinckney stood for… to go back to business as usual…”

“History… should be a manual on how to avoid the mistakes of the past…” AMEN! Too many in South Carolina see it as an altar before which to bow down.

“If we can tap that grace, everything can change…” And I think we’ve been seeing that in recent days.

I’ve never heard him sing before!

“May God continue to shed his grace on the UNITED States of America.” Absolutely.

Let the church say, AMEN.

Not only was the flag not always there; neither was the monument

monument

I say that not to suggest moving the monument. I just want to emphasize that the folks out there muttering darkly about how we’re trying to “erase history” by moving that flag that was put up in 1962 generally don’t know a lot about our postwar history.

I wrote this column to run on July 2, 2000 — one day after the old naval jack was removed from the dome, and the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia was placed behind the Confederate flag monument.

My purpose in writing it was to let it be known from the very moment of the compromise, that I was not satisfied with it, and saw it as by no means a permanent solution. There was very little appetite for continued debate on the subject at this moment, and I was acutely aware of that. People were flag-weary. But while most folks were celebrating, I wanted to signal that this wasn’t settled, and foreshadow the debate to come…

Here’s the column:

MONUMENT WASN’T ALWAYS IN CURRENT PROMINENT LOCATION

State, The (Columbia, SC) – Sunday, July 2, 2000

Author: BRAD WARTHEN , Editorial Page Editor

An important thing to remember about monuments: They aren’t set in stone.

OK, bad choice of words. They are set in stone, or concrete, or something along those lines. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t be modified or moved.

Take, for instance, the Confederate Soldier Monument on the State House grounds. For many of us who wanted the Confederate flag moved off the dome, that was probably the least desirable place of all to put its replacement. Unfortunately, if the flag or one like it was going to fly anywhere, that was probably the most logical location.

Why? Because so many groups that advocated moving the flag said to put it instead in a more historically appropriate setting. And what more appropriate place could there be to put a soldier’s flag than alongside the monument to the soldiers who served under it? It’s just too bad that that monument is in the most visible location on the grounds. There’s nothing we can do about that, is there?

Well, here’s a fun fact to know and tell: The state’s official monument to Confederate soldiers was not always in that location. In fact, that isn’t even the original monument.

I had heard this in the past but just read some confirmation of it this past week, in a column written in 1971 by a former State editor. When I called Charles Wickenberg, who is now retired, to ask where he got his facts, he wasn’t sure after all these years. But the folks at the S.C. Department of Archives and History were able to confirm the story for me. It goes like this:

The original monument, in fact, wasn’t even on the State House grounds. It was initially erected on Arsenal Hill, but a problem developed – it was sitting on quicksand. So it was moved to the top of a hill at the entrance of Elmwood cemetery.

The monument finally made it to the State House grounds in 1879. But it didn’t go where it is now. It was placed instead “near the eastern end of the building, about 60 feet from the front wall and 100 feet from the present site,” Mr. Wickenberg wrote.

But another problem developed: The monument kept getting struck by lightning. “The last stroke” hit on June 22, 1882, and demolished the stone figure.

At this point, if I were one of the folks in charge of this monument, I might have started to wonder about the whole enterprise. But folks back then were made of sterner stuff, and they soldiered on, so to speak.

At this point a new base was obtained, with stirring words inscribed upon it, and “a new statue, chiseled in Italy,” placed at the top. On May 9, 1884, the new monument was unveiled and dedicated in the same location in which we find it today.

So we see that the folks who lived in a time when “the Recent Unpleasantness” was actually recent – and burning in their personal memories – had to try four times before they came up with a way that suited them and their times to honor Confederate sacrifice.

In light of that, why should anyone assume that we’re finished deciding how to remember the Confederacy in our time?

Am I suggesting that we move the monument yet again? Not necessarily. I don’t think anybody’s ready for that battle yet. (Anyway, the Legislature doesn’t meet again until January.)

But I am saying that alternatives to the present arrangement exist. For instance. . . .

Remember the proposal that came up in the heat of the House debate to put the new Army of Northern Virginia battle flag within the context of a group of flags honoring S.C. veterans of other wars? The plan died partly because the details were sketchy and partly because House leaders didn’t want to consider anything new at that point.

Well after the present arrangement was safely passed and signed, that plan was resurrected – in an improved form – by Sen. John Courson, who had already done so much to bring the compromise to fruition over the past six years.

Sen. Courson’s resolution, co-sponsored by the 19 senators who, like him, are military veterans, would create a commission to “design and establish an appropriate monument to be placed on the grounds of the Capitol Complex to recognize and honor the accomplishments of South Carolina veterans who have served honorably, in peace or war, in any of the five branches of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.”

The monument would consist mainly of the official flags of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. Thereby all who served our nation – black and white, from the Revolution to Kosovo – would be honored the same way we are honoring those who served the Confederacy.

The plan leaves site selection to the new commission, but Sen. Courson says there is only one place left on the grounds that could easily accommodate such an addition – the same grassy area where the ANV battle flag was raised on Saturday.

The resolution was filed at the last minute and automatically died at the end of the session. But Sen. Courson introduced it anyway to give lawmakers something to think about between now and next January.

So you see, the present arrangement – with the Confederate banner sticking out so conspicuously by itself in a prominent place – really isn’t set in stone, in the metaphorical sense.

Sen. Courson has presented one viable alternative. There are no doubt others.

I was being generous there suggesting Courson’s idea.

The best proposal to emerge from the debates of that year came from Bob Sheheen — the former speaker, and Vincent’s uncle.

He suggested doing away with the physical, cloth flag altogether, and placing a modest bronze monument somewhere on the grounds to say that the flag once flew here over the dome, and giving some historical perspective.

Unfortunately, that proposal was never really given a chance. The infamous compromise came out of the Senate and then-Speaker David Wilkins allowed only one day — one day — for debate, thereby ensuring that no other proposal would have a chance to catch on and win support. Pressed for time, the House just passed the Senate plan, and moved on.

That day was one of the most frustrating of my professional life. This was before blogging, and The State’s online presence was pretty rudimentary. All day, I kept writing different versions of an editorial based on what was happening in the debate, hoping that Wilkins would allow the debate to continue another day, hoping to have some influence on the outcome — hoping for the chance to push for the Sheheen plan or something like it.

But they pushed on late into the evening, and I had to let the page go without any editorial on the subject, since I didn’t know what the facts would be when readers saw the paper in the morning.

So frustrating. Such a missed opportunity…

150th birthday of ‘The Conquered Banner’ (two days late)

flags Wed

Wait! Who unfurled that banner? And why?

As anyone with a knowledge of such things is aware, the “history” that the SCV and other neoConfederates wish to preserve by keeping the flag flying at the State House is, well, ahistorical.

The spirit and attitude of the people who actually experienced the Recent Unpleasantness, with regard to the flag, was captured most expressively by Father Abram Joseph Ryan, a Catholic cleric who was known as the “Poet-Priest of the South.”

His most famous work, “The Conquered Banner,” was first published on June 24, 1865. So, in honor of its 150th anniversary, I’m sharing it in its entirety, two days late:

THE CONQUERED BANNER by Abram Joseph Ryan (1838-1886)

Furl that Banner, for 'tis weary;
Round its staff 'tis drooping dreary;
  Furl it, fold it, it is best;
For there's not a man to wave it,
And there's not a sword to save it,
And there's no one left to lave it
In the blood that heroes gave it;
And its foes now scorn and brave it;
  Furl it, hide it--let it rest!

Take that banner down! 'tis tattered;
Broken is its shaft and shattered;
And the valiant hosts are scattered
  Over whom it floated high.
Oh! 'tis hard for us to fold it;
Hard to think there's none to hold it;
Hard that those who once unrolled it
  Now must furl it with a sigh.

Furl that banner! furl it sadly!
Once ten thousands hailed it gladly.
And ten thousands wildly, madly,
  Swore it should forever wave;
Swore that foeman's sword should never
Hearts like theirs entwined dissever,
Till that flag should float forever
  O'er their freedom or their grave!

Furl it! for the hands that grasped it,
And the hearts that fondly clasped it,
Cold and dead are lying low;
And that Banner--it is trailing!
While around it sounds the wailing
  Of its people in their woe.

For, though conquered, they adore it!
Love the cold, dead hands that bore it!
Weep for those who fell before it!
Pardon those who trailed and tore it!
  But, oh! wildly they deplored it!
  Now who furl and fold it so.

Furl that Banner! True, 'tis gory,
Yet 'tis wreathed around with glory,
And 'twill live in song and story,
  Though its folds are in the dust;
For its fame on brightest pages,
Penned by poets and by sages,
Shall go sounding down the ages--
  Furl its folds though now we must.

Furl that banner, softly, slowly!
Treat it gently--it is holy--
  For it droops above the dead.
Touch it not--unfold it never,
Let it droop there, furled forever,
For its people's hopes are dead!