Mrs. Landingham, we hardly knew ye


The West Wing by Habzapl

Wow. Last night, I watched the Season Two finale of “The West Wing” not once, but twice. It was one of the best episodes of any TV show that I’ve ever seen.

Just thinking about Mrs. Landingham telling Jed, for the second time in their long association, that if he didn’t want to proceed because he didn’t think it was right, fine, she could respect that, but if he didn’t try because it would be too hard, “Well, God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you”… well, I get goose bumps right now, just typing it.

On a previous thread, we were talking, in the context of the military, about what it means to live for a purpose greater than yourself. Well, this TV show is getting to me, and it’s on that level.

I’ve been watching this show nightly while working out, and loving it. (I never saw it when it was on the air.) It’s probably not good for my mental health, though, because I’ve become so very jealous of those characters and what they have together. I don’t always agree with the things they’re trying to do, but that’s beside the point. The fact is that they get to do it as part of a group of people just as committed to serving their causes as they are, that what they do actually has an effect on the world around them.

I mentioned that Ainsley, the young Republican lawyer who joins the staff, is possibly my favorite character (my second favorite may be Toby, although I really like Leo, too). She disagrees with this bunch of Democrats even more than I do, and is a wonderful foil for them. But she, too, is a member of the group; she feels the sense of mission perhaps more purely than they do — because she is there solely in order to serve her country, rather than the president’s party or anything like that.

It’s no accident that the episode I saw last night uses Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” to such effect. That’s the appeal of the show. These people are all brothers in arms, in a cause greater than themselves.

The show creates in me a longing. I couldn’t serve in the military for medical reasons. I’ll never be a senior adviser in the White House because, Ainsley aside, you not only have to be a partisan, but a professional partisan, to get there these days.

But I know there are people in this world who have something like what those characters have, and I’m deeply envious.

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Doug forms impression of Haley strength, Sheheen weakness

summit

Our own Doug Ross attended IT-ology’s Summit on Information Technology today, and this is his report:

Nikki Haley did the quick welcome speech to the crowd this morning.  Never had seen her before in person…   I was impressed with her energy and her ability to speak without notes.  She laid out what will probably be a theme for the next few months:  a growing economy built on encouragingcompanies to come to South Carolina.    What was more indicative of what’s in store for Vincent Sheheen was when Ed Sellers (Chairman BCBS – you probably knew that) got up after Nikki left and said that Haley and her team (Bobby Hitt and others) were the best administration  he had worked with in 25 years in terms of economic development.   Otis Rawl followed Sellers with more praise for Nikki.    If I were Vincent Sheheen, I’d drop out now… I don’t think he’s going to come as close as last time.
The mayor also spoke briefly and did a good job of selling Columbia as a place to grow technology business.   He was late so he wasn’t in the room when Haley was there.    My cynical self wonders if that was on purpose.

As I’ve said many times, Nikki makes a great first impression, and connects really well with a group of people.

I agree that Vincent’s in trouble, and not only because he’s not as good at connecting with a crowd. Four years ago, the state chamber (Otis Rawl’s organization) backed him, which was extraordinary for a Democrat. I had already seen indications that wasn’t going to happen again. This is another indication of that.

And when a guy like Ed Sellers goes that far in his praise, it’s important. But I suspect he really mostly appreciates Bobby Hitt.

Something is going to have to change for Vincent Sheheen to be as competitive as he was last time around, much less win. The incumbent has positioned herself well for another four years, even without the Year-Of-The-Tea-Party advantage she enjoyed in 2010.

Graham: Leave more troops in Afghanistan

Just now seeing this release that moved late yesterday:

Graham, Ayotte, McCain Issue Statement on Afghanistan

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), and John McCain (R-Arizona) today made the following statement on Afghanistan.

“We hope a recent press report that the White House is considering a post-2014 force in Afghanistan well below the recommendations of our military commanders is incorrect.

“After 13 years of sacrifice and investment, success in Afghanistan is now within our grasp. The last thing we should do in the coming years is increase the risks to our mission unnecessarily. We believe the recommendations of our military leaders represent sound military advice and would allow for continued U.S. support in the areas still needed by Afghan security forces. Maintaining several thousand additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan could mean the difference between success and failure.

“This is the lesson of Iraq. The administration ignored sound military advice and adopted a high risk strategy of withdrawing all U.S. troops. The result, tragically, is a resurgent Al-Qaeda, rising violence, and growing risk of renewed sectarian conflict. That fatal mistake in Iraq must not be repeated in Afghanistan.

“We stand ready to support a follow-on force that is consistent with the recommendations of our military commanders and that will end the war in Afghanistan with success.”

###

I generally agree. The total pullout from Iraq was a terrible move, and I’d hate to see it repeated. Too many have sacrificed too much to abandon Afghanistan to the Taliban.

Daily Beast: ‘The U.S. Military Is a Socialist Paradise’

Free health care.

Free health care.

Often, when talking to people who are horrified, appalled, mortified at the notion of a single-payer health care system — or who show contempt for the very notion that the government can do anything constructive — I speak of the way I grew up as a Navy brat during the Cold War.

I spent relatively little time in the cocoon of the military base — a couple of years in the run-down old Navy base in New Orleans (few amenities; most of the WWII-era buildings were boarded up), a couple more at MacDill Air Force Base, a place I only ever had to leave to ride the bus to my high school (my brother attended an elementary school on-base). The Army and Air Force, with their large garrison communities, always seemed to have the best recreational facilities and other amenities. The Navy’s focus was at sea.

But whether I lived on- or off-base, I had access to certain basics, such as free health care. My Dad gave his service to his country, including going to war, and in return he and his were taken care of. It made sense, and it worked.

Well, I see that Jacob Siegel at The Daily Beast has taken it to another level, with a piece headlined, “The U.S. Military Is a Socialist Paradise.” An excerpt:

It probably comes as a surprise to many, but the army may have more in common with Norway than Sparta.

The U.S. military is a socialist paradise. Imagine a testing ground where every signature liberal program of the past century has been applied, from racial integration to single-payer health care—then add personal honor, strict hierarchy, and more guns. Like all socialist paradises, the military has been responsible for its share of bloodshed, but it has developed one of the only working models of collective living and social welfare that this country has ever known….

It’s not a terribly original idea, and I think he takes it a bit far. And does pure socialism have, as he notes, a strict, chain-of-command hierarchy? Is it informed by personal honor and devotion to duty? I suppose it could be, but those concepts suggest something other than an economic system to me. And there’s a good bit of Sparta in the life, for the active-duty people.

Anyway, I thought I’d share the proposition with you…

College of Charleston play flap draws national attention

Washpost

At this moment, the centerpiece story at the WashPost site is this one:

CHARLESTON, S.C. — More than 750 people packed into a city auditorium here this week for a sold-out production of “Fun Home,” a musical by a New York-based troupe about a woman coming to terms with her closeted gay father’s suicide. The crowd rose in a standing ovation before the show even began.

The emotional reaction was part of a worsening political battle between South Carolina’s public universities and conservative Republican lawmakers, who argue that campus culture should reflect the socially conservative views of the state.

The state’s House of Representatives recently voted to cut $52,000 in funding for the College of Charleston as punishment for assigning students to read “Fun Home,” the graphic novel that formed the basis for the play. House lawmakers endorsed a similar budget cut for the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg for using a different book with gay themes in its reading program.

Republican lawmakers also helped pave the way for the appointment of a controversial GOP state official as the College of Charleston’s next president, sparking campus protests.

The fights serve as a reminder that rapid national shifts on social issues — particularly gay rights — are hardly universal and remain hotly contested across much of the Deep South. The views of people in South Carolina carry particular weight given the state’s early presidential primary, which gives voters here the power to help shape the GOP ticket every four years….

You had probably heard about most of this. I hadn’t heard about the play angle.

It seems like WashPost regards this as a pretty big deal, on account of our early primary. I hadn’t thought of it that way until now.

Remember how, early in 2012, I worried about the way Kulturkampf issues were being used to divide us in that election? Here we go again, y’all — two years early…

Open Thread for Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do, so y’all find something, or somethings, to talk about.

Some suggestions:

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens calls the court’s recent campaign finance rulings “a giant step in the wrong direction,” which have created a situation in which “The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate. It’s really wrong.” Discuss.

New leadership in the Midlands. I was intrigued by this piece pointing out how many new people are in leadership positions in Columbia, in both the private and public sectors. Will it make a difference? Let’s hope so. (Blast it! I can’t find the story at thestate.com! Well, here’s a picture of it from my iPad that should be legible. The above link is to the mobile version, which is a bit confusing since the pictures aren’t paired with the corresponding text.)

With Stone brewery likely lost, lawmakers are working to change SC law to make it easier to recruit the next Stone — and maybe even this one. FYI — for some reason, this Greenville News story waits until the 23rd graf to tell you what the legislation will do, which is to allow brewpubs to produce up to 500,000 barrels per year instead of being limited to 2,000.

And in the big news so far of the day — which I’m tempted to hold in case I do a VFP, but what the hey – Michigan’s ban on affirmative action is upheld.

But go ahead and choose your own topics…

On social media, politics and maturity

Now that I’m an oh-so-sophisticated purveyor and consumer of social media — one of the Twitterati, no less — I find myself embarrassed whenever I look back at a post I wrote in 2006 about Andre Bauer.

The post went like this:

Andre Bauer is coming in for his interview at 4. I’m reviewing a few questions for him between now and then. I’m curious: What would you ask a lieutenant governor who:

  • When stopped speeding down Assembly Street, charged so aggressively at the cop that he felt threatened enough to draw his weapon?

  • When driving 101 mph on a wet highway, got on the police radio frequency to tell the patrolman pursuing him that “SC2″ was “passing through,” and when he was stopped anyway, asked, “Did you not hear me on the radio?”

  • Lying to reporters about that incident, then saying you “forgot” about it when confronted with the evidence?

  • Showed up to negotiate with the Department of Transportation a price for land he owned — with a member of the transportation commission in tow?

  • Has his own Myspace site?

  • Seems almost certain to win the GOP nomination again?

The problem is that penultimate item. It was, for me at the time, sort of shorthand for someone who was too juvenile to play with adults. Of course, I was redeemed somewhat later by the fact that Myspace came to be seen as sadly out of it. But I would have said the same thing about a Facebook page. I just saw it as something kids did.

That was the year — 2006 — that social media came into its own, when serious businesses started seeing that they had to be on FB and, a bit later, Twitter (Twitter wasn’t even launched until several months after I wrote that item). This was also, not coincidentally I think, about the time that the bottom sort of fell out of advertising revenues for newspapers. (The post was written June 7, 2006, and there was a precipitous drop in MSM advertising over the course of that summer.)

By the time I really became a Twitter fiend in 2009, I was pretty embarrassed for having seen social media as not for grownups.

But now… I’m starting to wonder whether maybe I had a point. Not about Twitter. Twitter is the best news-bulletin service I’ve ever seen, among other things. But beyond posting pictures I want to share with friends and family, I continue to harbor doubts about Facebook.

And our governor is the source of a lot of those doubts.

Nikki Haley has shown a marked preference for Facebook over communicating through the MSM. Like many lesser-known people, she sees it as empowering that she doesn’t have to go through editors to say what she’d like.

And yet, time and again, she has demonstrated why everybody needs an editor. A search of “Haley” and “Facebook” on this blog yields:

The other day, Kathryn took exception to my use of the term “Girl Fight” to call attention to the Haley-Shealy contretemps. But did it not strike you as more girlish than womanly, as lacking in a certain dignity? It did me. But then, I’m the guy who made fun of Anton in 2006…

 

I’m taking little white pills and my eyes are still itchy

pills

And I write that headline with apologies to Dave Dudley. (You know, “I’m takin’ little white pills and my eyes are open wide…“)

How are y’all doing with the pollen? I’m not doing so great.

Of course, I take my usual double-adult dose of Zyrtec every night (my allergist decided years ago that 10 mg wasn’t enough for me), plus the Singulair that I take to keep asthma away but which I also find has an antihistaminic effect (I tried to quit taking it a couple of years back, and my nose was like Niagara Falls).

But at times like this, I have to get over-the-counter reinforcements, which in our house we just refer to as “little white pills.” Every drug store sells a house-brand version. They’re these generic tablets of chlorpheniramine maleate (antihistamine) and phenylephrine HCL (decongestant — and not the one you can make meth from). Essentially the same two drugs as in Alka-Seltzer Plus, minus the aspirin.

I find that they help admirably most of the time, but usually not until I’ve taken them every four hours for a day or so. After that, I can taper off some. Yesterday, I had been taking them at the prescribed intervals for quite a few days, and started having pretty bad symptoms again after only a couple of hours. And I’ve found in the past that sometimes if you push the envelope a tad — taking another dose after only three hours, just once or twice — you can get back on top of it. So, I tried that once or twice.

None of the tricks were working last night. Today, I’m feeling the effects of overwhelming hay fever and maybe a little too much of each of these drugs in my system, plus a largely sleepless night probably brought on by both of the first two factors. Then there’s the caffeine that I’ve tried to keep myself going with today. There’s nothing like feeling a little jittery from too much coffee while still having trouble keeping your eyes open and putting one thought in front of another…

I’m sure I’ll be better tomorrow, though. Right?

That’s me. How are y’all doing?

Cockfighting and meth — nothing like a traditional Easter weekend

meth

Glancing at the homepage of thestate.com looking for blog fodder just now, I saw the main focal point of the page was a couple of mugshots with the headline,

Sheriff: Two arrested in record setting meth bust in Kershaw County

Then, immediately below that, I saw:

SC deputies arrest nearly 50 in cockfighting bust

Wow. Not exactly an appealing couple of snapshots of life in the Palmetto State. What is this, the Wild West? Actually, that may not be fair to the Wild West…

Special Saturday Open Thread, April 19, 2014

Special because it’s on Saturday, not because there’s any world-shaking news going on. I just figured since I didn’t post all day Friday (busy taking care of grandchildren), I should provide a forum today.

From my perspective, the topical pickings are slim, but maybe there’s something on your minds. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Clemson considers total tobacco ban — As you may recall, USC already instituted one. I liked Harris Pastides’ communitarian approach to enforcing the ban: “This isn’t about how many people we catch,” he said. “It’s about how many behaviors we could change.” Lots of times libertarians don’t want to ban things because enforcement can’t be perfect, or because trying to enforce perfectly would require an unwise reallocation of resources. But it’s best to look at these things in terms of the gain — in this case, less smoking going on than previously — rather than in terms of absolutes.
  • Amid crisis in Ukraine, U.S. to deploy troops to Poland – And if that doesn’t worry you enough, NATO moves to ease mounting worries in Baltic. Cold War 2.0 is getting kind of hairy. (I keep seeing that construction, “Cold War 2.0.” Somehow, that feels really late-90s to me. The kind of expression that would have seemed cool back during the dot-com bubble. Kind of retro now. Anyone agree?)
  • U.N. envoy: Palestinian Christians kept from holy site – Just to give you something kind of Easter-weekend related.

But as usual, talk amongst yourselves about whatever…

Open Thread for Thursday, April 17, 2014

Some possible topics:

Or, as always, pick your own topics…

OK, tell me again how direct, popular election of POTUS would make candidates more interested in SC

The queue at my polling place, November 2008.

The queue at my polling place, November 2008.

I’m directing my question at Bud and others who believe we should abandon the electoral college and choose the president directly, by popular vote.

I read this piece yesterday in The Slatest that tells of another movement to bring that about, or as Slate says in its headline with its usual sober impartiality and self-restraint, “U.S. Takes Small Step Toward Having System of Electing Its President That Actually Makes Sense:”

The best case for passing the law might be this map from the National Popular Vote group, which shows how many 2012 presidential campaign events were held in each state between the party conventions and the election:

screen_shot_20140416_at_3.25.59_pmNational Popular Vote

You’ll notice that the majority of states never saw Romney or Obama at all, because their electoral votes were already foregone conclusions. And when a president can get elected by basically ignoring the specific needs and interests of most of the states in the country, that is, like, pretty messed up.

So here’s, like, my question: How would this make candidates want to spend more time in SC?

I mean, I get why Democrats would like it personally, because it means that their votes would actually count in the general election for the first time in a generation.

But would candidates actually be much more interested in coming here during those few weeks between the conventions and Election Day? When it’s all about the national total, wouldn’t they concentrate most on the heaviest concentrations of population — the Northeast, California, Florida?

Sure, every vote they got here would matter, would count toward the total, whereas now Democrats know there’s no point in trying to win here, and Republicans take us for granted. So time here wouldn’t be wasted from the candidates’ point of view, but would it really be the best use of their time? And wouldn’t they prefer to spend their extensive, but finite, media dollars in New York and Chicago than Columbia? (Or would they only buy national media? I’m not sure what would be more cost-effective for them.)

Maybe the answer is obvious, and my head’s just so full of antihistamines today that I’m not seeing it. So help me out.

 

Why compartmentalization didn’t work with Snowden

OK, now I’m back to being serious about Edward Snowden…

Way back last year when we first heard of him, there was a lot of frantic head-scratching in the intelligence community because espiocrats didn’t see how this low-level employee of a contractor had access to so many different subject areas. Given the way information is normally compartmentalized in intelligence organizations to prevent such broad leaks, he just shouldn’t have known most of that stuff.

The authors of an article in Vanity Fair tell NPR’s Terry Gross of “Fresh Air” how it happened:

The NSA now tells us they’re able to explain why Snowden was able to roam so free through the computers — including many niches he should not have otherwise been able to access. And it turns out, the NSA tells us, it was because they had given Snowden a different assignment, a unique assignment if you will, just because he was in Hawaii.

Hawaii is at the end of a long, long tagline with Washington and it’s not necessarily always up to date on the latest procedures and things that should be gotten from Washington. Further, if there’s ever any type of disconnect between Fort Meade and Hawaii — technically or communications-wise — Fort Meade, the headquarters of the NSA, was very concerned that somehow they would not be able to reach Hawaii: literally [would be unable to] communicate with them in the event of, I don’t know, a nuclear problem or an earthquake or something.

What Snowden was doing was downloading and copying and backing up hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of pages of documents to make sure Hawaii had it all in case something went wrong. … What no one realized at the time, of course, is that he was also making copies for his own reasons…

When I was a student at Memphis State and had a part-time job at the library, I was assigned at one point to haul older periodicals down to the basement and stack them on a vast number of metal shelves down there. The library subscribed to what must have been hundreds of fascinating, esoteric publications. I remember in particular a journal called Conradiana, devoted completely to the study of Joseph Conrad. It sticks out in my mind because I read in it an article from an English teacher I’d had during my one-semester sojourn at USC.

Not until the Worldwide Web came along would I have the opportunity to surf such a wealth of little worlds of arcane knowledge. I would head down with a load of old magazines, and not re-emerge for hours. I didn’t mean to slack off; I would give those publications a glance while filing them, and I would just get lost in them. For me, it was like being Scrooge McDuck, diving into his vault full of money.

Anyway… the moral of the story is, you need to keep an eye on the kid down in the basement with access to all the info…

What, were all Obama’s drones broken that day?

Slate brings this to my attention:

A new video apparently released by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism analysts scrambling. The video, which had been circulating on jihadist websites and was brought to light by terrorist watchdog group Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC), shows what appears to be the largest gathering of al-Qaida militants in years, and is one of the more brazen al-Qaeda propaganda pieces to be released in some time.

Appearing front and center in the video is AQAP leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi. Known as al-Qaida’s crown prince, al-Wuhayshi is second within the group’s global power structure….

His appearance in the video is especially notable given that the meeting seems to be out in the open, running counter to speculation that AQAP leaders had gone underground and were communicating solely by courier. …

Huh. That’s not good. Al Qaeda feeling free to have company picnics.

Of course, I was being facetious about the drones. Something people miss is that, amazing as modern surveillance is, it doesn’t see everything.

But this does represent an intelligence failure, apparently.

I blame Edward Snowden. Not that I have any reason to do so; I just choose to blame him. The way Democrats blamed Bush for everything, and Republicans blame Obama for everything. I blame Snowden. Call it Snowden Derangement Syndrome… Some of y’all have already accused me of something like that, so I might as well roll with it…

Cindi Scoppe’s rather devastating column this morning on Bobby Harrell and the SC House

A few days ago, Kirkman Finlay, who is facing re-election to his House seat, started following me on Twitter.Finlay egg

I immediately saw that he could probably use some help with social media. His avatar is still, as Valentine Michael Smith would say, only an egg.

He could probably also use some help explaining to voters his bill, H.4453, which seems designed to help out Speaker Bobby Harrell by making the illegal things he’s been suspected of doing legal.

That bill suddenly started getting acted upon in the House as it became apparent that Harrell’s attempt to secretly toss Attorney General Alan Wilson off his case was doomed to fail.

But that’s just the beginning. You really need to read Cindi Scoppe’s remarkable column today, which tied together a web of House initiatives that seem reminiscent of the way Silvio Berlusconi’s legislative allies kept legislating him out of trouble, by making the illegal legal.

As I said, H.4453 is only the beginning:

Then, in the most audacious move to date, 85 House members last week filed H.5072, which would empower the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct State Grand Jury investigations into the attorney general and other “constitutional officers.” One of the initial sponsors — Wilson campaign attorney and Democratic Rep. James Smith — said that term also covers legislators, which means it would allow the speaker and president pro tempore to stop any attorney general investigations of legislators.

Of course the bill wouldn’t actually accomplish that because our state constitution names the attorney general as “the chief prosecuting officer of the State with authority to supervise the prosecution of all criminal cases in courts of record.” So the sponsors — led by Kris Crawford, against whom Mr. Wilson’s predecessor, Henry McMaster, brought tax-evasion charges in 2010 — also filed H.5073 to remove that language from the constitution.

If that passed, not only would the speaker and president pro tempore be able to stop any attorney general investigations, or initiate investigations into the attorney general, but the Legislature would be free to strip attorneys general of all power. The House unanimously agreed to bypass the committee process for both measures and place them on the calendar for immediate debate, an extraordinary thing to do for anything other than congratulatory resolutions and local legislation.

Let’s recap: I count five attempts in a year by Mr. Harrell’s friends to intimidate the attorney general or else quash first a SLED investigation and now a Grand Jury investigation. Which seems like a lot for someone who insists he hasn’t committed any crimes — or even violated any non-criminal provisions of the ethics law….

Wow, huh? (The boldface emphasis is mine.)

John Monk did good work recently revealing the move to get Wilson secretly tossed off the case. But this masterful column paints a picture of a pattern far more sweeping, and more disturbing, than that. It’s the kind of thing that reminds us why we have a First Amendment.

Good job, Cindi.

They shall fight them on the beaches…

This release from Conservation Voters of South Carolina provides yet another measure of how things don’t change in South Carolina:

Friends,

This is urgent. Last week we asked you to call your Senator, but we still need your help.

A bill before the S.C. Senate this week, S.890, would allow a special exemption to rebuild seawalls on our coast for the first time since 1988.

S. 890 was originally written to implement the recommendations of the DHEC-appointed Blue Ribbon Committee on Shoreline Management, but a small group of beach-front property owners is pressing for an amendment that would exempt their beach—DeBordieu—from laws that apply to every other beach-front property owner in South Carolina.

This exemption would set an awful precedent, rolling back meaningful protections against hardened structures and seawalls. We oppose seawalls because they don’t work, and increase erosion at neighboring beaches and communities along the coast.

Please email or call your Senator and urge them to oppose this special interest exemption and support South Carolina’s precious coastline—and the tourism it supports.

Thank you,

Rebecca Haynes
Director of Government Relations
Conservation Voters of SC

The Beachfront Management Act of 1988 was maybe the first really sweeping pieces of legislation to pass the Legislature after I came to work at The State in 1987 as governmental affairs editor. It was supposed to mandate a retreat from the beach, keeping structures from being built that would both exacerbate erosion and be vulnerable to the surf themselves.

I thought it heralded a new dawn of rational coastal development. Then came Hurricane Hugo the next year, which took out a lot of existing structures along the coast — all of which, it seemed to my inexpert eye, got rebuilt. Which made me think the legislation had been pretty ineffective.

But according to the CVSC, the law was at least effective in preventing the construction of seawalls that help with erosion in one spot, but exacerbate the situation elsewhere. Until now.

So here we are again, 26 years later…

Open Thread for Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Talk amongst yourselves about whatever you like. If you have trouble thinking of a topic, here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Tax Day. The WSJ provides a look at where all that money goes. Meanwhile, I have a question: How many of you actually wait until today? We paid ours last month… (This is really, truly a case of me trying to suggest a topic that will interest others, because as you know, paying taxes bores me rather than getting me worked up. I’ve always been reconciled to the fact that there’s a price for living in civilization.)
  • Boston bombing, one year later. Here’s coverage of the anniversary from The Boston Globe, which won a Pulitzer yesterday for its coverage of the Tsarnaevs’ attack.
  • Ukraine starts military operations to retake areas seized by pro-Russian forces. And the world watches with bated breath.

The Cartographers for Social Equality

The other night, continuing to make my way through “The West Wing” (which I never saw when it was on) while working out each evening, I saw the one in which the Cartographers for Social Equality were allowed to make a presentation on Big Block of Cheese Day.

I enjoyed it. It reminded me of the time, maybe a quarter-century ago, when I visited my friend Moss Blachman in his office, and saw his map of the Western Hemisphere with south at the top and north at the bottom. As someone who lived in South America as a kid and who has long thought my fellow gringos give Latin America short shrift, I got a kick out of it. Because, of course, the practice of putting north at the top and south at the bottom is totally arbitrary (an obvious fact that sort of blew C.J. Cregg’s mind).

I enjoy things like that which cause us to look at things in fresh ways.

Of course, the political conclusion that the cartographers draw from the way the Mercator distorts the world is rather silly. I’ve always known Africa is way bigger than Greenland, and that Africa is thousands of times more significant in world affairs. But I also know that Africa doesn’t derive its importance from being bigger; it derives it from the fact that there are multitudes of nations and cultures and geographic and biological diversity in Africa, and it is not mostly a frozen waste. Population of Greenland: 56,840. Population of Africa: 1.033 billion. Duh.

If I were stupid enough to think the significance of nations and continents were a function of size, I’d conclude that England has been of no account whatsoever in world history. Which I don’t. And I can’t think of anyone who does.

But I enjoyed the scene anyway, because it is good for the brain (and pleasurable as well) to flip things around and look at them from unaccustomed angles. And if there are people who did make foolish assumptions about the world based on the usual depiction, and their eyes are opened, then great. But I wouldn’t attach a lot of importance to that.

20120227-peters-world-map

Rand Paul for president (yes, this is satire)

I added the parenthetical because I was briefly, briefly alarmed when I saw the headline, “Rand Paul for President,” atop one of the three opinion pages in The Wall Street Journal this morning.

But then I was reassured, and entertained, when I read the column by Bret Stephens. An excerpt:

Republicans, let’s get it over with. Fast forward to the finish line. Avoid the long and winding primary road. It can only weaken the nominee. And we know who he—yes, he—has to be.

Not Jeb Bush, who plainly is unsuited to be president. He is insufficiently hostile to Mexicans. He holds heretical views on the Common Core, which, as we well know, is the defining issue of our time. And he’s a Bush. Another installment of a political dynasty just isn’t going to fly with the American people, who want some fresh blood in their politics….

No, what we need as the Republican nominee in 2016 is a man of more glaring disqualifications. Someone so nakedly unacceptable to the overwhelming majority of sane Americans that only the GOP could think of nominating him.

This man is Rand Paul, the junior senator from a state with eight electoral votes. The man who, as of this writing, has three years worth of experience in elected office. Barack Obama had more political experience when he ran for president. That’s worked out well….

Stephens goes on to have some fun with the fact that Paul is going around telling conservatives how they need to reach out to minority voters, while his friend, former aide (until last July) and co-author Jack “The Southern Avenger” Hunter once published a column on his blog headlined “John Wilkes Booth Was Right.” An excerpt from that:

"The Southern Avenger"

“The Southern Avenger”

This Wednesday, April 14th, is the 139th anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Although Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth’s heart was in the right place, the Southern Avenger does regret that Lincoln’s murder automatically turned him into a martyr. American heroes like Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee have been unfairly attacked in recent years, but Abraham Lincoln is still regarded as a saint. Well, he wasn’t it – far from it. In fact, not only was Abraham Lincoln the worst President, but one of the worst figures in American history….

But I digress. Mr. Stephens concludes his column in the WSJ thusly:

This man wants to be the Republican nominee for president.

And so he should be. Because maybe what the GOP needs is another humbling landslide defeat. When moderation on a subject like immigration is ideologically disqualifying, but bark-at-the-moon lunacy about Halliburton is not, then the party has worse problems than merely its choice of nominee.

Governor’s school gets national recognition

I’ve had some exposure to our two Governor’s schools — my oldest attended the one for science and math, my youngest the one for the arts — and it’s nice to see them get some national recognition:

Science and Mathematics Governor’s School Named Top-Performing U.S. School by The Washington Post

Tuesday, April 15, 2014, Columbia, SC - The South Carolina Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics (GSSM) has been named one of “America’s Top-Performing Schools with Elite Students” by The Washington Post. GSSM was the only South Carolina school included in the list.

The 23 schools, listed in alphabetical order, were described as “non-neighborhood schools with SAT or ACT averages above the highest averages for neighborhood schools nationally.”

GSSM is a two-year, public, residential high school in Hartsville, SC, specializing in the advanced study of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with a special emphasis on economics and entrepreneurship. GSSM can serve as many as 300 high school juniors and seniors annually from across the state. The current student body represents 96 high schools and 32 counties.

Beyond its distinctive curriculum, GSSM offers unique learning opportunities including the nationally recognized Summer Program for Research Interns (SPRI), the Research Experience Scholars Program (RESP) and January Interim. These innovative programs provide students with mentored, graduate-level internships, study abroad experiences and options to explore non-traditional courses. The School is also educating the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders through theBlueCross BlueShield Economics & Finance Institute and the next generation of creative engineers through the Duke Energy Engineering & Innovation Institute.

While there are 12 specialized, public residential schools across the country, only five were included inThe Washington Post’s list. The average SAT score for GSSM students (1989) is 553 points higher than South Carolina’s average. GSSM students’ average ACT score (30.3) is nearly 10 points higher than the state’s average.

“We appreciate The Washington Post publishing this list, and we are honored to be included among other top achieving schools,” said Dr. Murray Brockman, GSSM president. “We do not participate in the rankings of traditional high schools because we don’t fit the traditional mold. Our courses begin at the AP level, which is where most schools end. GSSM students are selected after a long and rigorous application process. It is not a fair comparison.”

See The Washington Post’s full list here. 
Learn more about GSSM by visiting www.scgssm.org.

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Again we’re reminded that SC can do education right. We just don’t do as well with disadvantaged students who are not the sort who would do well anywhere…