Would SOMEBODY please tell us what’s going on with Harrell?

The Bobby Harrell investigation — or whatever it is, or was — continues to be as weird as ever.

Over the weekend, the speaker triumphantly announced that the grand jury investigation of him is over, and his nemesis, Attorney General Alan Wilson, is off the case.

Then, John Monk (who, as you’ll recall, first reported that Harrell was trying secretly to get Wilson kicked off the case) got “sources familiar with the matter” to confirm that the investigation is continuing, now being overseen by 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe rather than Wilson.

Pascoe isn’t commenting. Neither is Wilson.

So. We don’t really know what is going on. But I agree with the conclusion of an editorial in The State today that said at some point, somebody needs to tell us, the people, what’s going on:

But here’s what we do know: Now that the Grand Jury no longer is empaneled, it cannot be argued that there is a legal prohibition on releasing the SLED report. And if Mr. Harrell’s victory dance has any basis — if in fact whatever remains of the criminal investigation is merely pro forma — then there is no reason that Mr. Wilson or Mr. Pascoe or whoever has possession of the report should not release it. Immediately.

For that matter, we don’t understand what legal basis there could be for Mr. Wilson refusing to comment on the status of the case. But then, there has been a lot about this case whose legal basis we have not understood.

It’s understandable that Mr. Wilson wouldn’t want to speak in detail and that the report would remain hidden from the public if the criminal investigation is indeed continuing. But even that must end at some point.

Whenever it ends, and however it ends, the attorney general must give an accounting for the way he has handled the case, and the SLED report must be released to the public. Not just because the subject of the probe has been so adamant in demanding its release, but because the voters need to know who has been doing his job and who has been abusing his office: our attorney general, or the speaker of the House.

Burl Burlingame’s awesome second career

Actually, it’s not so much a second career as it is a continuation and expansion of one that he had always pursued.

Even in high school, Burl Burlingame was a Renaissance Man. He was a photographer, a musician, an actor, a cartoonist, a writer, an editor and a publisher, putting out his own underground newspaper at Radford High School, from which he and I graduated in 1971.

He was also really into airplanes and their history.

So while he was spending 35 years working for newspapers, he had a parallel career as a military historian specializing in the Pacific. He published on the subject, and became the leading expert on Japanese midget submarines. While working at the paper, he was a volunteer at a local aviation museum there in Honolulu.

Who could have predicted, in 1971, that among his many enthusiasms, the one that would be employing him in 2014 was his passion for building model airplanes?

But that’s the way it worked out, as Burl is now curator of the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor.

(By contrast, I was spending my 35 years in newspapers working 12-hour days so I had no time or energy for a outside pursuits, becoming expert in every aspect of the trade, innovating at every opportunity, leading the way on new technology, pioneering in blogging, leading other journalists, climbing the ladder to senior management — which led to nothing in the end. So let that be an object lesson to you, children.)

Anyway, since Burl is a regular here, I thought y’all might be interested in these video features about what he does, which seems to me like too much fun to get paid for. Above is an overall feature about his job and how he does it, while the clip below is Burl’s bio.

Watch, and envy him…

New Sheheen ad: Another attempt to get us stirred up about hacking scandal

Above is the latest Sheheen TV ad.

Here’s a release that elaborates upon it, contrasting the promptness with which credit card companies tell us when there’s been a breach, versus the two weeks it took Gov. Haley to let anyone know about the huge Department of Revenue breach.

The Sheheen campaign keeps plugging away at this, But I doubt it will catch fire with the public until someone, somewhere has actually been harmed by the hacking, and we hear about it…

Maybe the terrorist who killed Foley was a British subject, but there’s no way he was a ‘Westerner’

News reports such as this one challenge our convictions about citizenship and identity in a modern, pluralistic, liberal democracy:

The beheading of an American journalist at the hands of a London-accented extremist prompted deep reckoning among Britons on Wednesday over the particularly vicious role their countrymen are playing in the destabilization of the Middle East.

Security officials in London have been sounding the alarm for more than a year over the large number of foreigners in Syria, with the chief of Scotland Yard telling reporters last week that about 500 Britons are among the thousands of Westerners who have joined the fight….

I’ll confess right now that my first reaction is one that is unworthy of someone who prizes living in a pluralistic society. My first thought is, “That was no Englishman. That was a foreigner who had lived in England.”

But then, I have to correct myself: If Scotland Yard says there are “500 Britons” fighting for ISIS, then I have to take it to me that they hold British passports (I sincerely doubt that the Yard is referring to the old ethnic identity of Briton, as in the people who lived in Albion before the Angles and the Saxons showed up.)

And if they hold UK passports, then they are Brits. They are British subjects, with the same rights and privileges as Sir Paul McCartney or Hugh Laurie or David Cameron. That’s the way it is, and the way it should be. To say they are less English (or less British) than James Bond because they belonged to a culture that made them likely to become Islamist terrorists is to deny what separates us from the cultural fascists of ISIS.

However, all of that said… I still don’t see how they, or the 100 or so Americans among the terrorists, can be called “Westerners.” That implies a cultural orientation, one which these fighters categorically and viciously reject. Western culture is something they are against, presumably. They may hold passports from Western nations, but everything they are cries out against all that is Western — including our pious, correct insistence that legally, they are just as British as Monty Python.

Terrorists such as these challenge our vocabulary. We must choose our words carefully, as we are trying to define a new thing, a thing that if it had its way would kill us all. A decidedly unWestern thing…

Ginger, get the popcorn! Bryan’s got ‘West Wing’ on HIS blog

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You tell ‘im, Leo!

Well, maybe it’s not all that exciting to y’all, but it is to me.

Go check it out.

Wow, they looked so much younger then! Pretending to be in the White House really ages you, doesn’t it?

I also note that back then, Bartlet was itching to use military power. In the clip Bryan uses, he and Leo are on opposite sides of the same argument they’re having just before Leo’s heart attack.

Of course, Leo’s right in both instances. Leo’s always right. Leo’s the one who should have been president. As the clip below demonstrates.

Yes, I’m now in the sixth season, and yes, the quality has declined somewhat. But I’m still enjoying it.

One beef, though: You ever notice the way people or plot lines would just evaporate, without a word spoken as to what happened? For instance, what happened to Sam Seaborn? He went West for a very brief special election, expecting to lose, and then… what? He’s been gone for a season or more now.

Seems like they could have made the slight effort to explain his absence…

I know what, lads! Try walking the OTHER way now…

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Ran across the above image on Pinterest today.

Seems a bit off, doesn’t it? Here’s what they were reaching for.

The website the Pin linked to didn’t offer any information beyond the headline, “Abbey Road Album Cover Outtakes.” You’d think there be a word or two about the photographer, etc.

But no. In this increasingly image-oriented world, too often we only get the pictures.

But I went and found this info elsewhere:

Iain Macmillan was a freelance photographer and a friend to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He used a Hasselblad camera with a 50mm wide-angle lens, aperture f22, at 1/500 seconds.

Prior to the shoot, Paul McCartney had sketched his ideas for the cover, to which Macmillan added a more detailed illustration….

A policeman held up the traffic as Macmillan, from a stepladder positioned in the middle of the road, took six shots as the group walked across the zebra crossing just outside the studio.

The Beatles crossed the road a number of times while Macmillan photographed them. 8 August was a hot day in north London, and for four of the six photographs McCartney walked barefoot; for the other two he wore sandals.

Shortly after the shoot, McCartney studied the transparencies and chose the fifth one for the album cover. It was the only one when all four Beatles were walking in time. It also satisfied The Beatles’ desire for the world to see them walking away from the studios they had spent so much of the last seven years inside….

Of course, we are left to guess whether that’s accurate. But it sounds right. Notice how Paul was driving everything? By the end, he was the only one interested in doing things together as Beatles…

Is it too late for Hillary Clinton?

I say no. But then, I’m old school. I would have been happy being a liberal in the age of JFK, or conservative during the Eisenhower administration. But today’s “liberals” and “conservatives,” who strain the very meaning of the words, leave me cold.

Note that this isn’t about me being a grandfather. I’ve been disaffected this way for most of my adult life. You’ll note that my examples of what I prefer date from before I was old enough to vote.

What I like about Hillary Clinton is that she gets what the presidency is about. And on the issues that are most important to the job — foreign policy, and America’s role in the world — she is consistent with presidents throughout my lifetime. Despite the overheated rhetoric of left and right, there has been an essential consensus among those who actually make it to the White House, providing a consistency in our nation’s most important policies.

Hillary Clinton is at home in that continuum, probably because she’s been secretary of state and has been at the hub of executive decision-making for more than two decades. Other likely (or at least talked-about) candidates, from Rand Paul to Elizabeth Warren, are strangers in that land.

But some of these very qualities have caused some to deride Mrs. Clinton as an anachronism, as being out of touch, for instance, with millennials over such issues as NSA surveillance. As though being in touch with them on something like that were a good thing. Let’s see… would I want someone who is a grownup on national security, or someone who thinks Edward Snowden is a hero? Hmmm…

Anyway, for the opposite point of view, I point you to this piece, conveniently headlined, “Hillary Clinton is an anachronism.” Or consider recent comments from the kiddie corner, such as Rand Paul calling her “yesterday’s news,” or Marco Rubio calling her “a 20th century candidate.” (Of course, those of us who remember Walter Cronkite hosting “The Twentieth Century” still think the phrase invokes modernism, don’t we?)

Even a supporter, Howard Dean, says this to our old buddy Peter Hamby:

“Hillary, she has been on the scene since, what, 1992?” he said. “To elect Hillary, the country would have to do something we’ve only done once in my lifetime, with Reagan over Carter, which is the country would have to go back a generation. Usually, you don’t go back.”

Still, he said Clinton “might be a great candidate because of that.”

Hey, that’s what I think (that last part). I don’t think either party has produced any candidates worth writing home about during this century so far. OK, except for Barack Obama. But the bloom is kind of off that rose these days.

What do y’all think?

Iraq is a crisis for POTUS. So is Ukraine. Ferguson is not.

OK, I sort of said this, in an oblique way, back in this post (which I thought would lead to a great conversation, but which y’all completely ignored).

But I’m going to say it again because I got worked up on the subject over the weekend.

Saturday morning, as we were getting ready to go up to visit Old Salem over the weekend, by way of celebrating our 40th anniversary Sunday, I happened to read this piece in The Washington Post:

President Obama may receive more criticism for vacationing during a crisis

When President Obama emerged after a night of dancing, surf and turf, and partying in Martha’s Vineyard to address rioting and aggressive displays of police behavior in Ferguson, Mo., he said there is no “excuse for violence against police.” But, he added, “there’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests.”

That was enough to anger a group representing police across the country, which argued that Obama ought not weigh in on how the authorities are carrying out their legal duties more than a thousand miles away….

What do you mean, “vacationing during a crisis”? How is what is happening in Ferguson, MO, a “crisis” for POTUS. There’s no way that it is. It’s a state and local matter. If the Missouri National Guard were to fail to keep order there, and the unrest started spilling into other states, it could conceivably become a federal matter. But it wasn’t one when I was reading that on Saturday.

Then, moments later, I read this:

Ukraine forces destroy most of a column of Russian military vehicles, president says

 Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Friday that Ukrainian forces had attacked and destroyed part of a column of Russian military vehicles on Ukrainian territory, a step that, if confirmed, would represent a significant escalation of hostilities between Ukraine and Russia.

Poroshenko told British Prime Minister David Cameron that “the majority” of a column of Russian military vehicles “had been destroyed by the Ukrainian artillery at night,” his office said in a statement. The announcement came as NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday that the defense alliance had seen an “incursion” into Ukraine the previous night….

Now you see, an open shooting war between Russia and Ukraine — that is a crisis that is within the realm of what we have a president to deal with.

A crisis of even more immediate concern — or at least, more immediate involvement — is the U.S. military operations against ISIS in Iraq.

If I were inclined to criticize the president for going on vacation during a crisis (which I’m not), I would moan about him playing golf while American pilots are flying close air support for the Iraqi army.

Because, you know, I respect the division between federal and state and local responsibilities.

Increasingly in our world today, we think that because we see something in the news, thanks to modern communications technology, it is somehow our business — and therefore the president’s business.

But that’s not the way a republic with enumerated responsibilities for government officials is supposed to work.

The first and foremost reason we have a federal government is so that the United States, as one nation, can deal with foreign nations — war and peace, diplomacy, trade, immigration; those sorts of things.

I expect POTUS to concern himself with such things as those. And I expect anyone who wants to be POTUS to concern herself with those things — as Hillary Clinton does, and Rand Paul does not. Just to try again to get you interested in that previous post…

See how Conservation Voters scored SC lawmakers

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This came in this afternoon from Rebecca Haynes with the Conservation Voters of South Carolina:

Conservation Voters,

Do you know who is voting for or against protecting the natural resources that drive South Carolina’s economy? You do now. Check out our interactive 2013-2014 Legislative Scorecard. Based on the Conservation Common Agenda’s legislative priorities for 2013-2014, we score how House and Senate members vote on bills important to the conservation community.

Before the 2013 – 2014 legislative session, CVSC convened conservation groups across the state to agree upon collective priorities for the state legislature over the next two years. Our Conservation Common Agenda included fully funding the Conservation Bank, protecting wetlands and the coastal shoreline, upholding environmental regulations, opposing out-of-state waste and removing barriers to solar energy as the top “to-dos” at the State House.

We organized meetings with elected leaders and constituents and visited editorial boards prior to session. We were at the Capitol from January to June educating legislators across party lines about our priorities and calling upon South Carolinians to communicate support of or opposition to priority bills as they moved through the legislature.

Check out which bills were scored and how your legislator faired on the “Conservation Counts Scorecard” website at www.cvsc.org/scorecard.

Our conservation community is already hard at work on issues that failed to move forward such as surface water withdrawals, ethics and transportation spending reforms.

Here’s the page where you can look up each individual lawmaker’s score, and here’s a graphic about the State House overall.

Pope Francis says it’s OK to ‘stop’ the bad guys in Iraq

Breaking with a recent trend toward the Vatican disapproving of U.S. military actions in the world, Pope Francis says it’s OK to ‘stop’ aggressors in Iraq, while being a bit vague about how he believes they should be stopped:

“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” Francis said aboard the papal plane. “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”

When he says, “bomb,” however, he seems to be questioning the one means we’ve been using to stop ISIS.

And he also requires that actions to “stop” bad guys be multilateral, and particularly mentions the U.N.

The problem with that, from this Catholic layman’s point of view, is that sometimes — such as when you have thousands of men, women and children being starved out on a mountain — you can’t really afford to wait the three or four eons that it might take the U.N. to reach consensus. Sometimes Just War has to be waged in a hurry if it’s to achieve just aims.

But in any case, I’m glad to see a pope acknowledging that there is such a thing as Just War, even if he’s adding new prerequisites atop St. Augustine’s.

I appreciate that the pontiff wants there to be a high bar. Of course, it’s hard to find a higher one than one that will induce Barack “Red Line” Obama to take military action that doesn’t involve drones….

Hillary Clinton, goofing around with Frank Underwood

I was feeling pretty good about a Hillary Clinton candidacy the other day, but now that I see she’s so tight with Frank Underwood, I dunno…

I received this from the DCCC. And although the ostensible reason for it is to celebrate Bill Clinton’s birthday, I have a feeling that if you DO click on the invitation to “Sign President Clinton’s Birthday Card,” you’re going to get hit up for money.

Just call it an informed hunch…

Hill

A typical day, and then the one with the scorpion

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At the office this morning, a little dialogue box popped up on my laptop saying my daughter in Thailand is online on Skype.

Thinking she might be skyping with my wife, I decide to join the conversation and say hi. My daughter answers immediately, and asks whether her mother told her to call. I said no, then asked why.

Because she got stung by a scorpion today.

She didn’t know what it was at first, she just felt this intense pain radiating from her big toe up her leg, and looked down and saw a small gray scorpion skittering away. She got a ride to a medical clinic in her village, and they sent her to the hospital in the next town. They gave her a shot for the pain, then when that didn’t work, another in her hip. They wanted to keep her overnight, but the Peace Corps doctor she had reached on the phone said that wasn’t necessary. So they sent her home with an antibiotic to take.

I decided to call my wife to make sure our baby isn’t allergic to the med. She’s not. So we strongly urged her to take it, and to call us in the morning (this evening, for us).

That was today, which sort of has us vibrating with apprehension. Here, from her blog, is a more typical day. She posted this Friday:

6 am:  I wake up to the sounds of my neighbor calling for her cat, “JUNIOR!!! JUNIOR!!!!” and the clanking of pots and pans as my neighbors busy themselves preparing breakfast.  I reach for my headphones.

7 am:  The school across the street plays Pit Bull and KPop at a dangerous volume as my alarm begins to go off.  I change the alarm to 7:30.

7:30 am: Snooze.

7:35 am: Change alarm to 7:45.

7:45 am: I lay in bed, contemplating my past, present and future.

7:50 am: Run to the bathroom and throw buckets of water on my shoulders. Nevermind the tadpoles. Brush my teeth with a bottle of water.

8 am: Put on my most missionary-looking outfit.

8:10 am: Mix some bottled water with a scoop of instant coffee and stir.  Good thing I have all those years as a barista under my apron.  Review my lesson plans as I choke on the bitter elixir.

8:20 am: Put on some mascara and lipstick and smile at myself.  J

8:25 am:  Walk across the street to the school.  As I traverse the 15 feet, two different people on motorbikes will stop and ask if I need a ride, and then laugh because they remember I’m not allowed to ride a motorbike anyway.

8:30 am: Say “Sawatdi ka” and wai all of the elementary school teachers as the kindergarteners do the same to me, followed by them yelling English words at me,  “HELLO!” “THANK YOU!!” “1,2,3,5,7!”  I then go to prepare my classroom and wait for the students to trickle in.

8:40 am:  I greet my students.  One of them will yell, “STAND UP PLEASE”, and then as a group they will all say, “GOOD MORNING, TEACHER”.  No matter how I respond, they will continue with, “I AM FINE, THANK YOU, AND YOU?”  I normally try to stick with the script at this point because I can’t undo years of training and it’s good for them to feel confident greeting me in English, even if they really don’t know what they are saying.  My English class will then consist of some kind of active review game, followed by the introduction of a new conversational question and answer with new vocabulary, and then an activity to encourage the students to practice speaking. My students are typically very well behaved and adorable.  I really like them and am impressed with their big person personalities inside their little person bodies.

9:45 am:  I ride my bike to another school for another class.  On the way I grin at everyone I see and yell “Sawatdi ka”.  Most people do the same to me and ask me where I’m going, though occasionally I will so surprise someone with my Caucasian-ness that they can only stare at me with a hilariously confused expression, or utter “Oh! Farang!”

9:55 am: I continue riding my bike and as I feel my skin getting warmer in the sunshine and look around at the endless green meeting the endless blue I tell myself again not to forget how lucky I am to be alive.

10 am: Ride into another school and am greeted much the same way as at the first, except, what is this?  Why is everyone gathered outside, along with lots of villagers?  I notice a tent set-up near the field and am told as I walk towards the principal that this is Sports Day!  Wahoo!  The principal greets me and hands me a microphone, saying, “speak”.   He just laughs when I ask what I should say, so I start, (translated from Thai of course), “Hello, how is everyone today?  Today is Sports Day.  I am happy.” (Hundreds of people staring and taking pictures of me) “Umm…  I Iike soccer and dtacraw, but I cannot play.  Students at this school are good at volleyball. ”  (Someone in the audience asks if I have a boyfriend, and another if I can eat spicy food.)  “No I do not yet have a boyfriend and I can eat spicy food. Thai food is delicious.  Thank you.”  And then I try to run into the crowd but am intercepted and encouraged to sit at the obligatory VIP bench.

10:20 am:  A chubby little girl brings me some 3-in-1 coffee and a little green cake.  As she sets it down, a teacher yells at her to go do something else, turns to me, and says, laughing, “I make her run around because she is a fat girl. She needs exercise.”

10:30 am: SOOOO HOTTTTTT.

11 am: I am instructed to stand up and award the winners their medals, however, I am confused and think that I am being gifted an honorary aluminum foil.  I realize my mistake and only I laugh…

Noon:  Lunch time!  Today we are having Gang Fak Tong, a hearty potion of pumpkin, chicken, and God knows what else.  I am no food critic, I just know what’s good and it REALLY is.  I chat with the parents and teachers and ask them how to make it, which I understand a lot of but forgot all of.  Someone gives me a kanom wrapped in a banana leaf.  It consists of cream soaked sticky rice sculpted around candied peanuts.

12:30 pm:  Thank the principal for having me and make my way to another school to do Life Skills activities.

1 pm:  I have managed to find my co-teacher.  I explain to her my goals for the lesson and I think she understands.

1:20 pm:  We begin the guidance period about Leadership skills with about 20 14 year olds all dressed identically. I am astonished at how patiently they listen to me stumble over their language, and am again impressed by their insight when I pose introspective questions.

1:50 pm:  My co-teacher hands a student a camera to take pictures of us teaching together.  I try to smile and not forget what I was talking about.

2:30 pm:  I ride my bike to the SAO (Subdistrict Admistrative Office).  I greet everyone and tell them where I’ve been when they all say, “I haven’t seen you in forever”.

2:35 pm:  Someone grabs me and says we are going to the market.

3 pm:  We go to the District Office and I try to be charming.

3:30 pm:  We go to the post office.

4 pm:  We stop at a Wat where, I am told, over 500 monks will be arriving the next day for a lecture.

4:15 pm:  I entertain a large group of grandmothers hanging out at the Wat.  They tell me I have to come to the event tomorrow.

4:30 pm:  I am told to help make the Wat beautiful.  So I am handed a bag of big yellow flowers, walk around and find nooks inside of these big leafy plants to put them.  It really did look nice.  I then threaded flowers through the middle to make garlands.

5 pm:  We return to the SAO, having never made it to the market, and I get on my bike to ride home.

5:01 pm:  Dogs across from the SAO chase me, so I get off of my bike and walk for a while.

5:03 pm:  Everyone I pass asks me why  I’m walking, so I get back on my bike and ride home.  Where I put on some electronic or classical music and dance alone in my room.

6:00 pm:  I go to aerobics with a group of ladies from the village. Everyone tries to make me teach but I refuse. Afterwards someone will insist on accompanying me home.

7:30 pm:  I am hungry so I load up a bowl of deliciousness with rice and eat it while I watch Roseanne on Youtube.

8 pm:  I screw around on the internet, try to learn something about what’s going on in the world via BBC 1 Minute World News or Vice, or make collages with cut-outs from Thai beauty magazines.

9 pm:  Skype America or watch more Youtube videos.

10 pm:  At this point in the night I want to eat something sweet, so I go look in the refrigerator.  Sometimes I get lucky and there are little bottles of this sweet and sour fermented milk thing that I guess is kind of like yogurt.  I eat it and feel great about it.

11 pm:  I cut out my light and ask the Great Spirit to watch over my family and friends.  Then I fantasize about my future in the mobile sweetened milk product business until strange things start to happen, and then suddenly I hear my neighbor yelling at her cat again.

I prefer that she have more days like that. Without scorpions.

The Dude as a Senate candidate

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For this to make sense, you sort of have to know that some folks in Montana have been talking up the idea of Jeff Bridges running for the U.S. Senate.

Armed with that, you are more likely to get this item on The Fix yesterday, headlined “The Jeff Bridges Senate campaign, a play in one act.” An excerpt:

Scene 1: Interior, a large house in Montana. BRIDGES enters and turns on the light. He is grabbed by a pair of INTRUDERS, dragged to the bathroom, and his head is thrust into the toilet.

INTRUDER: You better run for Senate, Bridges.

BRIDGES: (gurgling sounds)

VOICE: Run for Senate, Bridges.

BRIDGES: (gurgling)

They pull his head out of the toilet. BRIDGES doesn’t recognize the pair, nor does he know what the “DSCC” on their name badges means.

BRIDGES: (sighing) Does this place look like I’m a f***ing politician?

The room is decorated in a marijuana leaf motif. One of the intruders looks at the decor, then at Bridges, and then looks at the rug.

In spite of it all, as The Dude says to the Narrator later in the script, “The Dude abides, etc.”

The Narrator lays some homespun wisdom on The Dude.

The Narrator lays some homespun wisdom on The Dude.

What?!? You don’t think people got THIRSTY in 1924?

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ADCO‘s clients sometimes wonder why we want to make sure to have our own Brian Murrell present on photo or video shoots to direct the proceedings.

This is why. Even the best photographers and videographers, sticklers for detail, can make a mistake. It helps to have an independent (and skilled) eye overseeing the proceedings.

This mistake is painful. You know that everybody concerned strained to get every tiny detail exactly right — the costumes, the hairstyles, the fireplace, the vases, the clock.

And they almost succeeded. But then later had to remove this photo, taken with such loving care to promote the upcoming fifth season, from “Downton Abbey’s” Facebook page.

All because somebody involved was thirsty…

Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul step out to appeal to very different groups of voters (guess which one I’m in)

Charles Krauthammer today noted how Hillary Clinton is reaching out to appeal to voters like me (and Krauthammer himself to an extent):

Leave it to Barack Obama’s own former secretary of state to acknowledge the fatal flaw of his foreign policy: a total absence of strategic thinking.

Yes, of course everything Hillary Clinton says is positioning. The last time she sought the nomination (2008), as she admitted before Defense Secretary Bob Gates, she opposed the Iraq surge for political reasons because she was facing antiwar Sen. Barack Obama in Iowa. Now, as she prepares for her next run (2016), she’s positioning herself to the right because, with no prospect of being denied the Democratic nomination, she has the luxury of running toward the center two years before Election Day.

All true, but sincere or not — with the Clintons how can you ever tell? — it doesn’t matter. She’s right…

Yes, she is right. And she deserves the respect she gets for it.

Meanwhile, Rand Paul has been getting a lot of respect over what he has said about Ferguson, Mo. The Fix says his op-ed on the subject in TIME makes him “the most interesting voice in the GOP right now.”

That’s because, when it comes to the behavior of the cops in Ferguson, there’s a consensus across the political spectrum, and that consensus in this case happens to be the libertarian position. That makes Paul look, momentarily, like a centrist.

This brings Rand Paul to the fore among voters who are more focused on domestic issues than on foreign policy. And among those people, Hillary Clinton has been criticized:

Hillary Clinton has had much to say of late about foreign policy, drawing a great deal of coverage for an interview in which she pointed out her differences with President Obama on how he has handled crises around the world.

Analysts suggest that she is signaling to a general election electorate where she disagrees with the currently unpopular Obama on issues important to them, should she decide to run for president in 2016.

Closer to home, however, Clinton has yet to say anything about the events in Ferguson, Mo., which has exploded into protests – both peaceful and violent – since the weekend shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American…

Elizabeth Warren has something to say about Ferguson, but not Hillary Clinton:

Which is one big reason why I prefer the Clinton view — either Bill’s or Hillary’s — to the Warren view, pretty much every time.

I’m one of these folks who believes the president’s chief job is dealing with foreign policy. That is, after all, what we have a federal government for.

I’m not one of those people who gets antsy waiting for the president — or someone who wants to be president — to opine about something that is clearly not part of the job. What’s happening in Missouri is clearly a state and local matter. The local folks weren’t handling it right, so the state stepped in. In a matter such as this, the role of the rest of us — including the president — is essentially that of a spectator (unless things deteriorate to the point that federal troops are sent in, which has yet to happen and seems unlikely to happen). We may have strong opinions about what we’re seeing (assuming that we’re watching it, instead of watching the deteriorating situations in Iraq and Ukraine), but we are not the ones expected or empowered to take action in that sphere.

This has been an important week, within the context of the 2016 presidential campaign. In each party, a leading contender (or in the case of Hillary Clinton, the contender) has stepped out to define a position that cements that contender status.

They did so in ways that don’t invite comparison — except in terms of noting how very separate their spheres of interest and focus are.

One of the MANY problems with political parties

Got this email today from the SC Democratic Party:

Brad-

We’ve got just three more hours until our 5 pm deadline, and we still need your help to hit our goal.

Hitting this goal will bring us one step closer to defeating Nikki Haley and Lindsey Graham this fall!

Are you ready to help? Chip in now!

If you’ve saved your payment information with ActBlue Express, your donation will go through immediately:

Donate $7 instantly >>>

Donate $35 instantly >>>

Donate $50 instantly >>>

Or donate another amount now >>>

Onward to victory!

Thanks,
South Carolina Dems

And my mind zeroes right in on this part: “… one step closer to defeating Nikki Haley and Lindsey Graham this fall.”

It doesn’t occur to them that there just might be people — quite a lot of people, actually — who would be right there with them on the “defeating Nikki Haley” part, but would stop short at the “and Lindsey Graham” part, and would therefore decide they don’t want any part of any of this.

It doesn’t occur to them because they are a political party, and they have a candidate running for Graham’s seat. And if you are a political party, then you have to buy in completely to the notion that all of your candidates are better than all of their candidates. The whole our and their thing is core to your being.

Which is not the way you think, if you are someone who thinks, and have not surrendered that faculty to a group.

This is the problem with parties. Well, one of the many problems with parties…

A little ditty to help get you psyched for your next webinar, yo!

And now, from the genre of comedy that gave you “Dilbert” and “Office Space”…

If you’re all about lead generation (and who isn’t, homey?), you need to check this out, yo.

I found this in my inbox today:

Do you know DJ Dave, the dude who did the Whole Foods Parking Lot song? Well this guy from Workaholics and Dave teamed up on this video that I think your readers are going to go bananas over! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

It’s one half marketing jargon and one half hip hop, one whole very funny video.

Check it out on the YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXRG0bJt7EA&feature=youtu.be

If you like it, it would be really awesome if you posted it or shared it.

As a bonus, I’ll throw in DJ Dave’s previous hit, “Whole Foods Parking Lot:”

The missing word in Cindi Scoppe’s column today

I refer you to the ending of Cindi Scoppe’s column today, which explains that while we do need to spend more to upgrade our roads, their condition is not the greatest contributor to traffic fatalities in our state. She lists some of the other factors:

… The biggest problem: The Legislature refuses to treat drunk driving the way it treats other highway safety laws and the way all the other states treat it. Rather than making it illegal per se to drive with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent, it practically begs jurors to conclude that a driver with a BAC of 0.08 percent, or higher, didn’t really look that drunk.

To understand how absurd our law is, imagine being clocked at 90 mph in a 55 zone but being found not guilty because you convinced a jury that you were in complete control of the vehicle the entire time. Our laws don’t even give you a chance to try that sort of defense — unless you’re charged with drunk driving.

Of course, drunk driving isn’t our only problem.

Distracted driving is a huge problem, but we don’t restrict cell-phone use — even among drivers who are so inexperienced that we don’t let them drive at night or with friends in the car.

Our death rates are high for motorcyclists, but we don’t require adults to wear helmets.

Elderly drivers are more dangerous than all but the youngest drivers, but we don’t require road tests or more frequent license renewals for older drivers. (We do require a vision test every five years, rather than the normal 10 years, but the 10-year standard is just asking for trouble for everyone.)

We prohibit the use of traffic and red-light cameras.

We don’t have particularly tough penalties for speeding in work zones.

And the list goes on.

It’s all an outgrowth of our resistance to anyone telling us what to do. And it all contributes, a lot more than the condition of our roads, to our deadly highways.

She left a word out of that penultimate sentence. She should have said, “It’s all an outgrowth of our childish resistance to anyone telling us what to do.”

Maybe she thought it would be redundant. Or maybe she didn’t want to unfairly malign children by using that modifier to explain the hard-headed, self-destructive, don’t-care-what-harm-I-do-to-others attitude that infects our politics, and keeps us from having sane, sensible laws that would help us be healthier, wealthier and wiser.

Why do I say “childish?” Because of my extensive experience with 2-year-olds, and then later with teenagers, whose insistence upon doing what they want to do, and doing it their way, without adult interference, is such a danger to them and others.

My grandson is 2, and up until know he has been a compliant child, receptive to adults’ caring influence. Now, he’s a sweet as ever, but his favorite word is “Me!” As in, he wants to fasten the straps on his car seat himself, which is worrisome. Fortunately, it hasn’t yet occurred to him to go without such a restraint — which makes him more mature than the sort of adult voter who keeps us from having reasonable laws in South Carolina.

ICYMI: None of these Benghazi allegations were true

This was reported almost two weeks ago (when I was on vacation), but I didn’t run across it until today, in a Dana Milbank column in the WashPost. An excerpt:

Now there’s a bipartisan report, adopted unanimously by the GOP-controlled House Intelligence Committee on July 31, awaiting declassification by the administration. It throws yet another bucket of cold water on the conspiracy theories. In a statement, the top Democrat on the panel, Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), said the report finds that:

“[T]here was no intelligence failure surrounding the Benghazi attacks.”

“[T]here was no ‘stand down order’ given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening, and no American was left behind.”

“[T]he talking points reflected the conflicting intelligence assessments in the days immediately following the crisis.”

“[T]here was no illegal activity or illegal arms sales occurring at the U.S. facilities in Benghazi.”

“And there was absolutely no evidence, in documents or testimony, that the intelligence community’s assessments were politically motivated in any way.”

The report is not yet public, and Republican sources indicate that there is more disagreement in the report than Ruppersberger’s statement indicates and that the report is not as exculpatory as he implies. But there has been no challenge from the Republican side to the accuracy of the findings Ruppersberger detailed in his statement.

Now that the truth is catching up to them, House Republicans will need to stay one step ahead. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the select committee on Benghazi, told CNN’s Deirdre Walsh last week that, despite what the Intelligence Committee found, “there is more work to be done and more to be investigated.”…

Such as what, Rep. Gowdy? What’s left?

But forget Gowdy. What is Lindsey Graham going to talk about on the Sunday talk shows – the weather? I just looked back through my filed email, and our senior senator hasn’t mentioned Benghazi since June 17! He hasn’t put out a release with “Benghazi” in the headline since May 15!

He’s got to be feeling a terrible void by now…