Do college football coaches deserve their pay?

Does Steve Spurrier actually earn, in any moral sense, the more than $4 million he is paid as an ostensible public employee? Or is the $7.2 million that Alabama coach Nick Saban pulls down justified?

Mr. Saban’s biographer, Monte Burke, says yes in The Wall Street Journal. A portion of his argument:

Former Alabama President Robert Witt (now the chancellor of the Alabama university system), once told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that Mr. Saban was “the best financial investment this university has ever made.” He has a point.NickSaban_LSU-AL-07t

Mr. Saban had an immediate financial impact on Alabama. In 2007 the school was closing a $50 million capital campaign for its athletic department. After Mr. Saban arrived, the campaign exceeded its goal by $52 million. Alabama’s athletic-department revenue the year before Coach Saban showed up was $68 million. By 2013-14 it had risen to $153 million, a gain of 125%. (The athletic department kicked $9 million of that to the university.) Mr. Saban’s football program accounted for $95 million of that figure, and posted a profit of $53 million.

Mr. Witt said Mr. Saban also played a big role in the success of a $500 million capital campaign for the university (not merely the athletic department) that took place around the time the football coach was hired. Mr. Witt also credited his coach with helping grow Alabama’s enrollment—which stands at more than 36,000, an increase of 14,000 students since 2007. The university managed the neat trick of actually becoming more selective during that time. The year before Mr. Saban arrived, Alabama accepted 77% of its applicants. It now admits a little more than 50%. Mr. Saban’s three national titles at Alabama have helped the university create a winning brand….

Of course such an argument can be mounted for anyone whose hand rests on the money tap that is college football.

But in a larger sense, it’s completely absurd to say that anyone earns that much money supervising a bunch of ostensible students in doing something that has nothing to do with their studies — playing a game. When I say “larger sense,” I mean the view from 30,000 feet — the distance I try (unsuccessfully) to maintain from anything having to do with college football.

But hey, let’s keep it on a simple dollars-and-cents level (as if anyone counts cents any more): Who earns that money that flows into the program’s coffers? The coach or the players? In the NFL, top players make more than the coaches — which makes sense, when you consider who is actually out there courting brain damage and other forms of permanent injury. But am I arguing, as many do, that college players should be paid in accord with the profits they bring in?

No, I’m not. College kids getting paid millions to play a game is more or less as absurd as the coaches getting paid that much. In fact, I have no suggestions, because the problem is far too pervasive, complex and systemic to lend itself to any workable solution.

The problem isn’t that colleges are wasteful in paying coaches this much. The problem is that football brings in this much money. In other words, the problem is that we live in a society in which people value college football to a degree that is far beyond the power of the word “absurd.” And the result is, as the headline I reTweeted a week ago says:

Who is to blame? Pretty much everybody I see when I look around me, a fact borne in upon me at this time of year with all the subtlety of that trash compactor in the Death Star, its walls moving in to impartially crush Luke, Leia and Han.

Which reminds me. You know how much Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are being paid to reprise their roles? Well, neither do I, but … Oh, never mind…

In defense of “The Great Escape”

About a decade or so ago, I persuaded one of my daughters to sit and watch “The Great Escape” with me. My motivation was that I wanted to share something that had been, without a doubt, my favorite movie when I was a kid.

Early on — I think it might have been the scene in which Steve McQueen’s character, Hilts, and his new Scottish friend Ives, are sent to the “cooler” for the first time — my daughter raised an objection: What’s with the light, sprightly music in the background? This is about men at war being held prisoner of the Nazis and risking their lives to escape. They’re being put in solitary confinement, a harsh punishment that can cause lasting psychological damage (and as we soon find out, has pushed Ives to the edge of cracking up). Why the cute music? Why does it seem the actors are playing it for laughs?

She knew that her grandfather had spent the rest of the war in such a camp after being captured in the Ardennes, and it was a sufficiently horrible experience that he never, ever wanted to visit Europe again.

I had never noticed that incongruity, because, well, I had first seen the film at the age of 10, and I thought it was awesome in every way, and had never questioned the out-of-place comical touches that, after all, made watching the film all that much more fun.

I tried to explain that films were different in the ’50s and ’60s — Hollywood tended to sugarcoat everything — and war films especially. The country had this hugely positive feeling about the Second World War, and over the past couple of decades had sanitized it to the point that, to kids of my generation, it looked at times like one great lark. I knew at least in theory of the cost of war — I used to look at those pictures of American bodies in the surf at Normandy and Saipan in the big Time-Life picture books about the war. Still, the fact that the war was something we all felt good about was something I didn’t question. For instance, I watched the film starring Audie Murphy in which he re-enacted the deeds that made him a hero, and nothing that I saw in the film prepared me for what I learned years later — that Murphy had a terrible time with PTSD after the war.

And I knew, by the time my daughter pointed out that problem, that the true story of The Great Escape had definitely received the Hollywood treatment. To begin with, Hilts was complete fiction, and although there were some Americans in the camp, their roles in this escape were fairly marginal. (I think. I’m finding some contradictory info about American David M. Jones.)

Still, even though I know all that, and even though the film doesn’t hold the exalted position that it did in my personal list of favorites, I got a little defensive this morning when I read about the death at 101 of the next-to-last survivor of the escape, Australian Paul Royle. This was the part that got me:

Paul Royle revealed last year on the 70th anniversary of the tunnel escape in March 1944 that he was no fan of the Hollywood interpretation of the story.

“The movie I disliked intensely because there were no motorbikes … and the Americans weren’t there,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp., referring to McQueen’s dramatic bid to outrun the Germans on a motorbike.

Gordon Royle said his father was angry that Hollywood would create an adventure out of soldiers doing their often tedious and dangerous duty of attempting to escape.

“He felt the movie was a glamorization of the tedium and the drabness of the actuality,” Gordon Royle said.

“The idea that they got on a motorbike and soared over a barbed wire fence is far from the reality, which was darkness and cold and terror,” he said….

First, Mr. Royle had a million times greater entitlement to an opinion on the film than I ever will have. That said, allow me to raise some objections to his criticism:

  • True, no Americans were involved in the escape, as they were moved to another part of the camp before the tunnel was ready. However, one author who wrote about the escape notes that earlier, “US airmen watched out for patrolling Germans during the tunnel’s construction.” Marginal, but participation nonetheless.
  • I accept service completely on the fact that Hilts was entirely a fabrication, from his cowboy insouciance to his baseball and glove. But I should point out that if you paid close attention to the film, you’d see that the three Americans depicted as being in the camp were not central to the escape effort, except for Hendley — and he had the fig leaf of technically being in the Canadian air force and therefore not officially an “American.” The fictional Hilts was a complete outsider, playing no part in the X organization. The essentially true story of the escape planned and executed by British officers with a few allied pilots thrown in was clearly told.
  • While the entire story was fictionalized, there was at least some verisimilitude between the central character, Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett, and his real-life counterpart, Squadron Leader Roger Bushell. Their stories are a fairly close match. Bushell had been captured and tortured by the Gestapo after a previous escape, and had developed an intense hatred of the Nazis by the time he became Big X in Stalag Luft III.
  • The central facts of the plan — the simultaneous digging of three tunnels, named Tom, Dick and Harry, and the discovery of Tom by the Germans — are accurately depicted.
  • The grimness of the experience was there, despite the veneer of jazzed-up adventure. There was Danny’s terror in the tunnel, Ives’ eventually suicidal despair, and the central fact of the murder of the 50 — the men to whom the film is dedicated — by the Gestapo. No reasonable person watching this would conclude that being a POW was fun.

    Ashley-Pitt demonstrates how they'll get rid of the dirt.

    Ashley-Pitt demonstrates how they’ll get rid of the dirt.

  • The film showed only three men making it all the way to freedom, and that’s how many did — even though in the film one of them was Australian, like Mr. Royle, and that was not accurate. (Two were Norwegian and one was Dutch, although all three had flown for the RAF.)
  • The role that Mr. Royle played — distributing dirt from the tunnels by releasing it from bags within his trousers and mixing it into the compound dirt with his feet — was clearly depicted. Although in the film that is most closely associated with naval officer Ashley-Pitt, played by David McCallum (whom our generation would later know as Illya Kuryakin), you see that a large number of men participated in that part of the operation. (And frankly, that’s always been one of the most amazing aspects of the escape to me. It’s astounding that they got away with it. How did the guards not notice something on that scale?)
As a kid, I had this poster on the wall in my room.

As a kid, I had this poster on the wall in my room.

In the end, it’s hard to defend the role Steve McQueen played in the film — except in this convoluted way: His jump over that fence at the Swiss border on that German motorcycle was the most exciting thing I had ever seen in a film to that point in my life, and the one thing that solidified it as my favorite. Yes, it was a complete lie. But it engaged my lifelong interest in the escape, and caused me to read books about the true story later in life.

So in that regard it served a purpose. Although I can easily see how a man who suffered through the actual experience would find it irritating in the extreme, and I’m sorry for that. He certainly has the facts, and all the moral weight, on his side. I just thought I’d speak up for something that meant a lot to me as a kid.

Open Thread for Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Washington Post unveiled a spiffy new browser interface today. Not sure I like it -- I think I could see more headlines on the screen with the old one.

The Washington Post unveiled a spiffy new browser interface today. Not sure I like it — I think I could see more headlines on the screen with the old one.

A few things to talk about:

  1. U.S. Stocks Close Sharply Higher in Global Rally — That’s the good news. Figured you could use some.
  2. Austria Finds Up to 50 Bodies in Truck Left on Side of Road — And all those Trump supporters think we have an immigration problem in this country. Take a look at this map showing all the ways people are flowing into Europe.
  3. Possible Biden run puts Obama fundraising network on high alert — Here’s the really fascinating fact in this report: Of the 770 fund-raisers who helped Obama’s 2012 campaign, only 52 are working for Hillary. Did you realize how much of the Democratic establishment wasn’t on board with Ms. Inevitable? Neither did I. So James Smith was right in what he told me. And Chris Cillizza kind of has egg on his face for having reported that “It’s too late” for Biden because “virtually every major fundraiser in the party — including many who were once Biden people — is now on Clinton’s team.” Assuming this report is the one that’s right. Very intriguing.
  4. Trump speaks to ‘silent majority’ in SC campaign stop — So now he’s Nixon? Did he bring Checkers with him? From what I’ve read of this report, what he had to say was all the usual stuff.
  5. Virginia shooting sparks renewed calls for gun control but old obstacles remain — In yet another example of how people in other countries just marvel over our tolerance for gun violence, this is leading The Guardian while U.S. media outlets have moved on.

Hillary, you should get to know who your SC supporters are

Just got around to looking at this release from yesterday:

Richland County Officials Announce Support for Clinton Following Launch of Hillary for Richland 


Columbia, SC — Following a successful “Hillary for Richland” kickoff with James Carville, 12 new local officials in Richland County announced their support for Hillary Clinton. Citing Hillary Clinton’s vision to boost middle class incomes to help South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead, the following local officials are joining the campaign and supporting Hillary Clinton:

  • City of Columbia Mayor Pro Tem Sam Davis
  • Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine
  • Mayor Mark Hugely of Forest Acres 
  • Mayor Geraldine Robinson of Eastover
  • Richland County Treasurer David Adams
  • Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson
  • Richland County Councilman Jim Manning 
  • Richland County Councilman Kelvin E. Washington Sr.
  • Former Richland County Councilwoman Bernice G. Scott
  • Former Richland County Councilwoman Kit Smith
  • Richland School District 1 Commissioner Aaron Bishop
  • Richland School District 2 Commissioner Dr. Monica Elkin-Johnson

Last week, Hillary for America Chair John Podesta visited Columbia to outline Clinton’s plans on issues like income inequality, health care, Social Security, climate change and college affordability.  In addition, former Governors Jim Hodges and Dick Riley announced their endorsements of Clinton.

A few weeks ago, Hillary for South Carolina kicked off “Mayors for Hillary” with the endorsements of Mayor Steve Benjamin and former Mayor Bob Coble following Clinton’s Mayors Summit in Columbia. During the summit, mayors and Clinton discussed education and infrastructure investments in cities along with plans to fight systemic racism and fight for criminal justice reform.

“Hillary acts like a good mayor – she innovates, improvises and solves problems. As a friend and partner to our nation’s Mayors, Hillary will work closely with our cities to tackle tough issues. She will fight everyday to listen and come up with solutions for our cities and states on issues like raising wages for working Americans, reducing racial disparities in our prisons, and providing quality, affordable health care to our residents,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia and President of the African American Mayors Association. 

“As we’ve seen in Columbia, good things happen when government and business collaborate, which is why we need an ally in the White House that will keep a laser focus on jobs, small businesses and economic development. In partnership with our Mayors, Hillary Clinton will work with cities both large and small to innovate and grow our economy,” said former Mayor Bob Coble of Columbia. 

“There are a lot of people who aren’t making ends meet, which is why we need Hillary Clinton’s tenacity to even the playing field and help hardworking South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead. It is far past time for us to embrace full diversity in our elected offices and I can’t wait to see Hillary in the Oval Office,” said Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine.

“Hillary Clinton listens to local leaders, which is why she’s the partner we need in the White House. She’ll work to make government efficient and find solutions to the problems facing local communities across the country,” said Richland County Treasurer David Adams. 

“Hillary Clinton is a champion for women and girls, and her leadership will help bring women into the 21st century on issues like equal pay and paid family leave” said Richland County Councilwoman and former Senate candidate Joyce Dickerson. “At a time our country faces new and emerging threats and challenges both at home and abroad, our country needs a strong leader. Hillary has a proven record of bold leadership as Secretary of State and a long record of providing support to our veterans and military families.”

“If we want to tackle tough issues facing women, children and families, we need a tenacious and courageous woman like Hillary Clinton in the White House. Hillary has spent her career standing up for what’s right whether it was advocating for children incarcerated in adult prisons in South Carolina or helping create the successful Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said former Richland County Councilwoman Bernice G. Scott. 

 
###

Now, I don’t have time to go down the list and check each and every one of these, but one of them jumped out at me.

I am not familiar with a “Mayor Mark Hugely of Forest Acres.”

Could they have meant Mayor Mark Huguley, not “Hugely,” of Arcadia Lakes — you know, the former SLED agent who is married to my old newspaper colleague Sally Huguley?

I don’t know. (I’ve emailed Mark to find out.) But the mayor of Forest Acres is named Frank Brunson.

That’s just Hugely embarrassing…

Are national media losing their respect for SC Republican voters’ ability to pick winners?

NBC's Ali Weinberg at the SC State House, August 2011.

NBC’s Ali Weinberg at the SC State House, August 2011.

I alluded to this in my last post, but decided this point was worth a separate headline…

By this time four years ago, NBC’s Ali Weinberg (daughter of the famous Max) was already a fixture in the local media scene. She was here for the duration to cover the SC primary.

Week before last, I got an email from Alexandra Jaffe of NBC that began: “I cover politics for NBC News here in Washington and I’m emailing because I’ll be heading down to South Carolina in December or January to cover the primary there, and was hoping to connect with you because I’m a fan of your blog…”

Alex Jaffe

Alex Jaffe

In December or January

When we spoke later on the phone, she confirmed that her bosses figured that, since SC blew the call in 2012, it wasn’t worth the resources expended on it last time around.

Four years ago, SC Republicans were still known nationally for their habit of always (at least, for a generation) picking the eventual nominee in their presidential preference primaries. That’s why we’ve grown accustomed to seeing so many national candidates — and so much media — trooping through here every four years. South Carolina picks winners. Or at least, it did.

But after SC Republicans had a fit and picked Newt Gingrich in 2012, some of the gloss went off the reputation.

And now, at least one major news organization is making real, dollars-and-cents decisions based on that one primary. Of course, with Trump leading a poll with 30 percent of the vote here, the Gingrich victory is looking less like a one-off…

Has SC gone mad? Trump at 30 percent? Really?

For some time, I’ve been assuring people of what I regard as a verity: Yes, Donald Trump is leading in polls. But you can dominate a poll with 20 percent support when there are 16 or 17 candidates. When it gets down to two or three candidates, 20 percent isn’t so great. And surely, surely, surely 20 percent is Trump’s ceiling.

That 20-percent assumption would seem consistent, for instance, with this bit of data that George Will cited in his Sunday column headlined “Trump’s immigration plan could spell doom for the GOP:”

A substantial majority of Americans — majorities in all states — and, in some polls, a narrow majority of Republicans favor a path for illegal immigrants not just to legal status but to citizenship. Less than 20 percent of Americans favor comprehensive deportation….

Yep. Makes all the sense in the world, except for this:

The 2016 Donald Trump phenomenon is not going away.

The New York real estate mogul holds a commanding lead in a poll released Tuesday of likely S.C. GOP presidential primary voters.

Trump received 30 percent support — doubling the second-place contender, retired surgeon Ben Carson, according to the poll from Monmouth University in New Jersey.

They are followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 9 percent, former executive Carly Fiorina at 6 percent, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at 6 percent and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 5 percent.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina each received 4 percent. The two had been vying for second place in spring polls….

Thirty percent. With 30 percent, Trump could still be in the running in a three-way race, much less with 17.

So, the question is: Has South Carolina gone mad? Was the fit of irrationality that led to Newt Gingrich winning the 2012 primary here more than a one-time thing?

This is a question with national implications. Already some of the gloss has worn off the reputation that the SC GOP had been earning for a generation, the one that has enabled Republican leaders to boast,: “We pick presidents (or at least, eventual nominees).”

Some in the national media have practically written off South Carolina as worth covering, based on that one slip…

Something like this latest poll showing Trump at 30 percent is not likely to restore our rep as a state that knows how to pick ’em…

Let’s not use the term ‘Trumpism,’ please. That gives it too much dignity

A piece by Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post today began:

We’re going to have Donald Trump around for a while, which prompts the question: What is Trumpism? Or, to put it more tartly, is there a coherent political philosophy underlying his candidacy?

Spoiler alert — no…

Please, let’s not use that word. “Trumpism.” It suggests that there is a system of thought lurking nearby, and that is an insult to everyone who values thought, or for that matter has ever had a thought.

Like Ferris Bueller, I don’t think much of -isms. But I think enough of them not to have them dragged down to this extent…

Open Thread for Monday, August 24, 2015

Biden at the Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting, way back in 2006.

Biden at the Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting, way back in 2006.

Some things to chat about if you’re so inclined:

  1. Markets down sharply after chaotic day — What does it all mean, Mr. Natural? I like this advice from the WSJ: Advice After Stock Market Drop: Take Some Deep Breaths, and Don’t Do a Thing
  2. Joe Biden Is Leaning Toward a 2016 Run — He keeps leaning a little more, and a little more… I hope he doesn’t fall over. And how about that meeting with Elizabeth Warren — who was courting whom, and what was being proposed? Don’t know about you, but I’d like to see him run. POTUS may not be too averse to the idea, either.
  3. U.S. train heroes get highest French honor for ‘lesson in courage’ — Enjoying this story. Very proud of these guys. Hollande gave them the Legion d’honneur.
  4. Abuse reports, cases spike at DSS — But the agency is still short-handed.

Or… whatever y’all would like to talk about…

‘They panickin’ out there; I can feel it…’

600 points

So this morning, my financial adviser called to see if I was doing OK.

Well, I had thought I was doing OK, but when you get a call like that…

But seriously, he was just checking to see whether I felt like I needed to do anything in light of what was happening in global markets. (He wasn’t urging me to do anything; he was just basically doing a pulse check with clients in light of all the alarming news out there.)

No, I didn’t. Want to do anything, I mean. This, of course, isn’t about me having nerves of steel. This is about me not thinking about money stuff at all, and not wanting to think about it. And to do something, you’d have to think about it, right? Most of the time, I forget that I have investments, because it’s money I’ve never seen — it was taken out of my paychecks before I ever had it — and which I won’t see for years to come.

Nevertheless, I did think about it a little, and the way I thought of it is this: So suppose some small portion of my retirement money is “exposed” in a class of stocks that is particularly hard-hit in the current situation. Well, I am the very opposite of a financial whiz, but it seems to me that that would be the very LAST situation in which you’d want to unload those stocks. I mean, why wouldn’t you wait until everybody was celebrating how awesome that sort of stock was, and clamoring for it, and then sell? (In fact, if I had any cash, which I don’t, I might want to buy a little more of it…)

That’s what I think anyway, when I think about it. I’m going to stop thinking about it now.

You?

Men are from paleo, women are from Engine 2

The Engine 2 guy, doing his version of the "I want to pump YOU up" routine.

The Engine 2 guy, doing his version of the “I want to pump YOU up” routine.

OK, so that’s not strictly true, since the Engine 2 diet was started by a fireman, who going by his pictures may be considered by some to be even more of a macho guy than I am (he’s also named “Rip”), even though he has been photographed wearing this.

But let’s just say he’s definitely a guy, and he invented Engine 2, and is therefore a traitor to his gender, and just leave it at that. Let’s set it aside, because I don’t want any actual facts interfering with my over-broad generalizations.

So, back to my point: Men are from paleo, women are from Engine 2. At least, it works that way in my house.

Several months ago, my wife and my daughter who works at Whole Foods started attending some cult meetings at that fine establishment, because they had decided to take the Engine 2 28-challenge, which describes itself this way:

The guiding principle is simple: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds give your body the fuel it needs to function at its best. When you fill your belly with these whole, minimally processed plant-based foods, you take charge of your health and become plant-strong®.

Although, of course, it’s really about what you do without:

  • Zero animal products
  • No added oils
  • 100% whole grains
  • Minimal added sugar, if at all
  • Less than 25% total calories from fat
  • 1:1 ratio of milligrams of sodium to calories, with the exception of condiments

You lost me at “zero animal products.”

This was all very well and good for 28 days — as long as it’s someone other than me doing it — but subsequently, my wife has continued to live this way. And she likes it.

Meanwhile, I have decided, since my pants are all too tight, to go back to my strict paleolithic diet — which means meat, as much as you can hunt down and kill (or purchase at the grocery, and then cook yourself since you’re the one who eats it). It also means you don’t eat any grains, or any peas or beans — which are where the plant-strong® crowd get most of their protein.

I felt great and went out and bought some skinnier pants last year when I was doing paleo pretty strictly and working out every day, and I want to get back to where I can wear some of those pants. Not to mention the new blue blazer that I had taken in at the time.

So basically, my wife and I a complementary pair, like Jack Spratt and wife, although we do overlap on some cruciferous vegetables and sweet potatoes.

So as I hunt and she gathers, more or less, our brains get retuned so that we notice different things. For instance this morning I noticed, was inspired by, and reached out to share with my spouse this important breaking story in The Washington Post:

Why salad is so overrated

…There’s one food, though, that has almost nothing going for it. It occupies precious crop acreage, requires fossil fuels to be shipped, refrigerated, around the world, and adds nothing but crunch to the plate.

It’s salad, and here are three main reasons why we need to rethink it.

Salad vegetables are pitifully low in nutrition. The biggest thing wrong with salads is lettuce, and the biggest thing wrong with lettuce is that it’s a leafy-green waste of resources….

It’s not just lettuce. Cucumbers, radishes, lettuce and celery are essentially just water, too. They are things that go crunch and fool people into thinking they are eating and not drinking.

My favorite line in the piece:

Lettuce is a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table….

Good one, huh? Well my wife read that, acknowledged that yes, lettuce is worthless (and it is to be noted that the salads she makes these days are made from more solid stuff), but then told me to take a gander at this:

Beef: The ”King” of the Big Water Footprints

When a Prince talks farming, you listen. This is nothing new for the GRACE food program folks, but as the “water guy,” that’s all I could think about shortly after reading Chris Hunt’s roundup (or “knowledge dump“) of the speakers and themes from May’s Future of Food conference. The “Prince” in question is sadly not his Purple Majesty but rather, Charles, the Prince of Wales, who issued a stern warning –and in the process stirred up a long simmering debate among Americans – that resonated with me because of its virtual water conservation message: Beef production and consumption are water intensive and a drain on our world water supplies.

According to His Royal Highness:

In a country like the United States, a fifth of all your grain production is dependent upon irrigation. For every pound of beef produced in the industrial system, it takes two thousand gallons of water. That is a lot of water and there is plenty of evidence that the Earth cannot keep up with the demand.

Quite resounding, old chap! While it’s a well-established fact that meat production requires more water than fruits, vegetables or grains, an average water footprint of 2,000 gallons per pound of beef is enormous indeed. You might be wondering how the water footprint of meat – using Prince Charles’s statistic – compares to the water footprints of other agricultural products…

I think she chose HRH as an authority because of my well-documented Anglophilia. (Right after 9/11, I put an American flag out by our front door, and I wanted to add a Union Jack, but she forebade it, on account of being Irish.)

But obviously, based on some of the choices he’s made in the past, the prince is not an infallible source.

That’s all I’ll say about that for now.

Governor, you should have hired ME to be your chief of staff. I am, after all, Leo McGarry

No, really, I am. I’ve been tested and everything.

I could have been the perfect chief of staff for our governor — the gruff, avuncular, no-nonsense guy who could look at the big picture and speak truth to power.

I suppose this Patel woman will do a fine job and all, but if only the governor had thought of me and known of my impeccable credentials, surely she’d have asked me to do it.

Don’t you think?

LM1

Virtual Front Page for Thursday, August 20, 2015

This is the Bangkok bomb site, the day after. Yes, those are Buddhist monks. I'm watching this with particular attention since three of my kids are about to go there to visit their little sister.

I’m told this is the Bangkok bomb site, the day after. Yes, those are Buddhist monks. I’m watching this with particular attention since three of my kids are about to go there to visit their little sister./photo by Michael Massey

Some headlines at this hour:

  1. Dow Hits 2015 Low on Growth Worries — Worst day in 18 months. Cut it out, Wall Street! I’m sick of y’all’s fits of anxiety and the malaise it causes the rest of us to live in. Give us a break!
  2. Gov. Nikki Haley opposes moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to SC — Interestingly (to me, since I didn’t know it), she’s joined in this by Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott (and Mark Sanford). Not that she wants the problem dumped on Kansas, either — which beyond professional courtesy to Sam Brownback, I don’t understand. Kansas not only has a long history of housing federal prisoners, it’s about as far from the madding crowd (such as Charleston’s tourists) as you can get. It’s the land of eight-man football, after all…
  3. Jimmy Carter Says Doctors Found Cancer on His Brain — He was to begin radiation treatment immediately, like today.
  4. Greek prime minister resigns, calls snap elections to shore up support — They just do not stop having instability over there.
  5. July was the hottest month in Earth’s hottest year on record so far — So, you know, if you thought it was hot last month, you were onto something. And oh, yeah — you can chalk up that drought out West to global warming.
  6. Jenner may face manslaughter charges for car crash — Because this saga wasn’t sensational enough yet. I wonder what the name will be in the charges. No, scratch that: I don’t want to know. In fact, if you have any news about anyone affiliated with the Kardashians, just don’t tell me. In fact, extend that to reality TV in general. Thanks.

Cindi’s good idea for Greenwood monument could be applied in a lot of areas

Cindi Scoppe had a good column about the absurd problem that the town of Greenwood faces. The town decided some time back that it wanted to revise the lists of dead from the world wars on local monuments so that they were no longer separated into “white” and “colored.”

But the Legislature’s execrable Heritage Act, which was passed years ago for the now-irrelevant purpose of protecting the unlamented Confederate flag on the State House grounds, forbids the town from doing so. Which is absurd and wrong on several levels.

And unfortunately, Speaker Jay Lucas’ Shermanesque statement that while he is speaker, no more exceptions will be made to the Act, period, means there’s no hope for what the town wants to do. (I can appreciate Lucas’ pragmatic desire, once the good work of lowering the flag was done, to get onto other issues without distractions, but this is a particularly unfortunate effect of his declaration.)

Anyway, I like Cindi’s solution:

We should all hope that once cooler heads prevail, the speaker will walk back his Shermanesque statement, and the Legislature will give the American Legion and the city of Greenwood control over their own property — and give all local governments and private entities control over their property as well, for that matter.

If that doesn’t happen, there’s a better solution than a lawsuit: The folks in Greenwood should take up a collection for a new sign, to erect next to the monument, that says: “These lists of Americans who gave their lives for our nation remain segregated in the 21st century because the S.C. General Assembly either opposes integration or refuses to let local governments make their own decisions or both.”

That idea could be applied in a lot of situations where the Legislative State ties the hands of local governments. For instance, signs could be posted at Richland County polling places saying, “You are waiting in such long lines because the Legislature, in its ‘wisdom,’ gives control of the voting process to the local legislative delegation.”

Given the many ways the Legislature reaches down to meddle in local affairs, the possibilities for applying this idea are practically endless…

 

All the President’s Songs

Obama playlist

Another pop culture post to get us through the Dog Days…

At first, when I heard President Obama had a personal Summer Playlist on Spotify, I was concerned: Surely they don’t mean this summer — because even if you apply no standards at all, it would seem impossible to glean from current releases enough songs for a playlist that a grown man could stand to listen to. (Unless that grown man is Doug, who claims to have the tastes of a teenage girl — not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

But 2015? I mean, if the summer were 1965, or 1969, or 1971, or 1985, maybe, but not a European swallow (oops, got my pop culture wires crossed there).

That would constitute a painfully obvious, and unconvincing, stab at pandering to the youth vote. And hey, young people today listen to old stuff in a way that would have been inconceivable when I was young. So it would be doubly stupid.

But as it turns out, it’s more of an All Time list (which to us chauvinistic moderns means “last few decades), like the Top Five lists in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Now that’s more like

Here’s the playlist.

It starts strong, with The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” but I’m going to have to take off points for its unfortunate associations with “The Big Chill.” Sorry.

No. 3, “Memories Live” by Reflection Eternal is a fine, non-obvious, more recent track that helps restore some of the cred lost to the Big Chill faux pas.

Then we are rewarded by Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues.” Can’t beat that. Perhaps the clincher for POTUS was this passage:

The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a fly
Saying, “Death to all those who would whimper and cry”
And dropping a barbell he points to the sky
Saying, “The sun’s not yellow it’s chicken”…

… which of course is a thinly veiled reference to the president’s drone program, exactly 50 years ahead of time. Dylan, the prophet…

That’s followed by some Marley, for those of you who like that sort of thing — and the president, who used to regularly get more than one toke over the line, does — followed by Coldplay, which means little to me beyond its association with a politically incorrect joke in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”

Some of the songs are too obvious, such as the Temptations tune. But POTUS redeems himself by choosing “Another Star” to represent Stevie Wonder, instead of, you know, something like “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Although I would have preferred “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)” (admittedly, because of its association with the film version of “High Fidelity.”

The Stones are represented, and not, say, The Beatles. Which is cool. But “Gimme Shelter?” No (although I confess that as I hear the guitar intro I feel elevated far above what has preceded it on the list). Completely off-base for a summer playlist. That was on the “Let it Bleed” album, which was released in December 1969, which is why everybody was listening to it that Christmas. Duh. The proper Stones song for a summer list is “Honky-Tonk Women,” which was released in July of the same year, and which I distinctly remember listening to while driving on Hwy 17 between Myrtle Beach and Surfside that summer and thinking, “This is the perfect driving song.” (Since I wasn’t yet 16 and just learning to drive, anything that could be associated with operating a motor vehicle was cool.)

But overall, not a bad effort. If there’s a flaw, it may be that there is too little from recent summers. He could have thrown in a “Call Me Maybe” or “Rolling in the Deep” or “Party Rock Anthem.” But he may have stayed away from them because of their prominent inclusion in another well-promoted summer playlist.

I don’t know. But it’s worth a listen, if only as an alternative way to get into the president’s head. Or, if you want to be cynical, the head of whoever put this together for him…

Jeb Bush on the Veterans Administration

This release from SC Democrats reminded me of the Jeb Bush event I attended Monday evening:

SC Dems: “Jeb Bush’s Plan to Privatize Veterans Health Care Services Would Be a Disaster
Columbia, SC—The South Carolina Democratic Party released a statement from Beaufort County Democratic Party Chair and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Blaine Lotz regarding former Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush campaigning in the Palmetto State today.
“Jeb Bush’s plan to privatize veterans’ health care services would be a disaster for South Carolina veterans. As Governor of Florida, Bush proposed a similar plan that was so disastrous, it was replaced shortly after he left office. Jeb Bush continues to support outdated policies that prove as President, he would look out for his wealthy donors and special interests over our veterans and military families.”

 

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What are they talking about?

Well, Bush had released several proposals with regard to veterans’ benefits on Monday, in advance of the Concerned Veterans for America event I attended over at Seawell’s. (I went basically to take my Dad there, who as a veteran was invited. We didn’t stay for all of it, which is one reason I didn’t write about it before now.) Here’s how Military Times described the proposals, in part:

Bush’s VA reform plan, to be unveiled later today in advance of an appearance with Concerned Veterans for America in South Carolina tonight, includes expanding “choice” options for care outside the department without cutting funding for VA hospitals and medical staff.

Instead, he promises that extra funds can be found through “cutting excess administrators (not caregivers)” and eliminating “billions of dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse.” That includes more competitive bidding for department contracts and firing poorly performing employees.

“Ample resources exist within the VA budget to improve the quality and scope of care,” Bush’s policy paper states. “In other government agencies, common-sense reforms have saved billions. The VA must get its house in order and send savings into improving veteran choice and veteran care.”

He’s also promising better online health care access systems for veterans, calling existing offerings too cumbersome and outdated….

The video clip above shows him talking about his proposals — not in any detail. I just share it to give you some flavor of the event…

Bush speaking to veterans. For those of you who notice such things, Sen. John Courson is in the red shirt on the left-hand side of the image; Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster is seen at the extreme right. McMaster is backing Lindsey Graham; I don't know where Courson stands.

Bush speaking to veterans. For those of you who notice such things, Sen. John Courson is in the Marine Corps red shirt on the left-hand side of the image; Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster is seen at the extreme right. McMaster is backing Lindsey Graham; I don’t know where Courson stands.

James Smith is among those waiting for Joe Biden to run

James Smith, shouting over the band in conversation with our own Lynn Teague at the second flag rally this summer.

James Smith, shouting over the band in conversation with our own Lynn Teague at the second flag rally this summer.

Bryan was dismissing the idea that a South Carolina Democrat endorsing Hillary Clinton was news, and I begged to differ — in South Carolina, there are a number of prominent Democrats waiting for Joe Biden to get into it.

After that exchange with Bryan, I picked up the phone to talk with one: Rep. James Smith.

James was quoted in The Wall Street Journal as someone urging the Veep to run just the other day, which was a change of pace, as it seems to me that the person most quoted on the subject by national media has been Dick Harpootlian. And of course, South Carolina was where Biden chose to get away from it all last week and ponder the matter. His ties to South Carolina, and not just to SC Democrats, are noteworthy.

As James told me, it’s not just about him and Dick. “We have a long list of Biden supporters… community faith leaders, business leaders and elected leaders.” And he said “We’re building an organization, on the chance” that he’ll jump into the race.

Why Biden? Smith starts with his broad experience, with issues both foreign and domestic. He said Biden is “the leader we need for these times,” someone “respected across the spectrum,” particularly in the Senate.

“The rest are just very polarizing figures, like something from a bad reality TV show.”

I could see why he’d say that about some of the GOP candidates, but Hillary Clinton, who will likely head up his party’s ticket next November? “She can be a very polarizing figure,” he insisted.

Smith said the time at Kiawah was “a very important week” for Biden, and he seemed hopeful.

But isn’t it too late for anyone to mount a serious challenge to Hillary’s inevitability? That’s what The Fix said yesterday, in a piece headlined, “It’s too late for Democrats to start rethinking Clinton’s 2016 viability.” Aren’t the important fund-raisers and others are taken now?

“I promise you that is not the case,” Rep. Smith said. He didn’t get into specifics, but implied that some fund-raisers have indicated their enthusiasm for a Biden candidacy.

So, there you have it — a South Carolina Democrat who is definitely not endorsing Hillary Clinton at this time. And he is not alone…

OK, let’s talk about guns in America

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson says he’ll introduce legislation to do the following in the wake of the Emanuel AME massacre and other recent mass shootings:

▪  Close a three-day loophole that allows some S.C. gun purchasers to buy and take home a gun before a background check has been completed. That rule, and errors in the federal background-checking system, allowed alleged Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof to buy a gun.

▪  Require background checks to be conducted through the State Law Enforcement Division and the federal system before a gun sale can be completed

▪  Ban assault weapons, defined as semi-automatic firearms designed and configured for rapid fire

▪ Require reporting of lost or stolen guns

▪ Require state registration and permitting of all guns…

In response to Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin’s statement that there is “no appetite” in the State House for gun control legislation — which you had probably guessed already — Sen. Kimpson “said the Charleston church shootings, which killed nine African-Americans including a state senator, ‘opened people’s minds to doing things in the State House that have never been done before.'”

Which is true enough. Whether that applies to this, however, remains to be seen.

On the same day that I read that, I received a graphic from someone with a blog called CrimeWire, urging me to share it.

Actually it doesn’t tell me a lot I didn’t know, but I share it for those of you who like infographics. It’s lighter on numbers than most such efforts. For instance, I doubt many minds will be changed by such an assertion as, “The Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that there’s substantial evidence that indicates more guns means more murders.” Oh, yeah, says Jim Bob, sittin’ with the boys around the cracker barrel. I bet they’s a heap o’ hunters up at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

For those who prefer text, the facts in the graphic seem to have come from a Washington Post story, headlined “11 essential facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States,” that ran the morning after the Charleston shootings.

As for my own views… As I’ve stated before, I think the problem in America is just that too many guns exist. Everybody talks about the rights of individual gun owners, but I don’t really look at who owns the guns. Ownership is something that can change easily, through burglary for instance. There are just too many of them in existence, and it’s inevitable that some of them will be in the hands of the wrong people at the wrong time.

It’s an economic problem: Too many violent people chasing too many guns.

But while I feel like I diagnose the problem correctly, I have no idea what to do about it. I just don’t see a solution. We are so far down this road, and nothing but the mass destruction of the overwhelming majority of guns that exist would back us up. And there are far too many Americans who adamantly oppose taking a single step back. I don’t see that changing.

So I’m not terribly hopeful that any legislation I’ve seen or heard of would have a chance of significantly reducing gun violence. Anything that passes constitutional muster just tinkers with the technicalities of how guns change hands and move around.

Oh, and before the more dedicated advocates for the 2nd Amendment start hollering, “Brad’s gonna round up all your guns and destroy them,” allow me to clarify: That is NOT gonna happen. Not in this country. No one can MAKE it happen. It’s a political impossibility. So stay cool. I only mention this to underline the fact that I see no workable solution to the problem of Too Many Guns.

I usually don’t say “I give up” on an issue. I usually try to suggest a solution. But I just don’t know where to go on this.

GunsAndAmerica_IG

Dick Riley endorses Hillary Clinton

This endorsement from such a respected quarter comes at a good time for the Clinton campaign (a time when some other South Carolinians, such as Dick Harpootlian, are hoping to see Joe Biden run). Of course, it’s no surprise: Gov. Riley, who served as Bill Clinton’s secretary of education, backed her in 2008 as well, unless my memory fails me:

Former Governor and Former Secretary of Education Dick Riley Endorses Clinton

Greenville, SC – Citing Hillary Clinton’s record as a tenacious fighter for hard-working Americans, former South Carolina Governor and former U.S. Secretary of Education Dick Riley announced his endorsement for Clinton for President.  Riley praised Clinton’s newly released higher education plan – the New College Compact – in a letter this morning.

“Hillary Clinton has spent a lifetime getting results for women, children and families.  She will spend every day as President working to help hard-working South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead.

“Hillary is smart, grounded and focused on the issues that matter most to South Carolinians.  Back in the 1970s, she came to South Carolina to help children.  As first lady of Arkansas, she and I worked together to reduce infant mortality rates in Southern states.  She wants to get things done and will fight for the underdogs – that’s the way she’s always been.”

Riley was Governor of South Carolina from 1979-1987 and U.S. Secretary of Education from 1993-2001.

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