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…

Once, 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.

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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.

###

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…

Sheheen’s plan for DSS

Vincent Sheheen and the Democrats have been slinging stones at the governor over the problems in DSS, as you may have noticed.

In this release this morning, Sheheen shifts to saying what he would do differently:

Sheheen Releases Plan of Action for Children & Families

Gubernatorial candidate lays out plan to address problems at DSS that have led to children dying and being kept in danger in order to lower the agency’s numbers

Camden, SC. – Today, Sen. Vincent Sheheen released his plan of action for children and families in South Carolina to address the crisis at the Department of Social Services (DSS). The plan lays out a course of action to prevent any more children from dying or being put in danger as a result of misplaced priorities, arbitrary quotas, and failed leadership at DSS.

Sen. Sheheen’s plan to protect children includes immediate steps that he will begin work on in the State Senate, and actions he would take as Governor of South Carolina.

In the coming weeks, he will introduce legislation in the Senate to institute whistleblower protections for social workers, sponsor legislation to have coroners send child fatality cases to state law enforcement, and fight for adequate funding to support staff and increase training at DSS during the budget debate. As governor, he will re-focus priorities on child safety, and start by appointing a competent department head who will be transparent and accountable.

This plan of action comes on the heels of Sen. Sheheen’s series of roundtable discussions with women around the state, where voters repeatedly raised the problems at DSS as major concerns and were frustrated with the lack of leadership from the governor’s office on this issue.

View Sen. Sheheen’s plan of action for children and families as well as his other ideas for how to improve leadership and accountability in South Carolina at www.vincentsheheen.com. His book, “The Right Way: Getting the Palmetto State Back on Track” is free and also available online, here.

Leadership for South Carolina’s Children & Families

Right now too many children across South Carolina are growing up without loving homes, and what’s worse – they are being abandoned by the state when they are most in need. Shuttled between foster homes, placed with relatives ill-equipped to handle the challenges of parenting, or sent back to an abusive home without support system to protect them, our state is doing wrong by these children. Why? Because of misplaced priorities and failed leadership at the Department of Social Services under the Haley administration.

Over the past several months, investigations have turned up disturbing reports: Children are dying and being left in dangerous situations as a result of incompetence at the Department of Social Services and the push to lower the agency’s numbers. Children who should be protected after multiple reports of abuse are being ignored and moved out of the system in order to make numbers in a government report look better.

As a prosecutor, Vincent saw what families and victims went through as the result of abuse or crimes and fought to hold abusers accountable. In his private practice he’s seen it even further in the fight to protect children and mothers from abuse. And as the father of three boys in South Carolina, the thought that even one child could be killed as the result of government dysfunction and incompetence is unbearable.

Our state’s children need decisive leadership from the top of state government through the ranks of our state agencies to ensure that child safety is our top priority. The people of South Carolina deserve real accountability from their governor. They deserve a leader who won’t defend a failed appointee who has allowed children to die and be kept in danger in order to meet artificial quotas. It’s time to act.

Vincent’s plan of action:

Re-Focus on Child Safety

  • Double the size of SLED Special Victims Unit, which investigates child fatalities.
  • Ensure that allegations of abuse and neglect are investigated by DSS within 24 hours.
  • Improve & increase training for DSS staff to ensure cases aren’t being ignored
  • Expand services and programs for children in foster care: support mentoring programs for children aging out of foster care and transitional housing options for young adults.
  • Build support for in-state adoptions through public service announcements, partnerships with non-profits to increase community awareness.

Increase Accountability

  • Institute whistleblower protections for social workers at DSS.
  • Appoint a qualified leader to head DSS, who will increase transparency and prioritize child safety.
  • Require a full audit of DSS to get the real numbers of children and families in need, and the actual caseload statistics at DSS.
  • Treat cases being handed off to consultants or partner organizations as open cases at DSS and set benchmarks for checking in on progress.
  • Increase consistency in law so that coroners are sending child fatality cases to SLED.
  • Utilize public-private partnerships so that when services can be better provided by a non-profit or faith-based entity, they are allowed to partner with the government to do so.
  • Improve training and resources for foster and adoptive parents to keep kids placed in safe and loving homes.

View this document online, here.

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Russia now spends more of GDP on military than we do

In Putin's worldview, a small price to pay to recapture former glory...

In Putin’s worldview, a small price to pay to recapture former glory…

That’s attention-grabbing, but it shouldn’t be all that shocking, given that a), the Russian economy is smaller than ours and b), the United States itself spends less of GDP on the military than it did for most of my lifetime.

But still, as things ratchet up in Ukraine, this is worth taking note of…

Oh, and what’s my source for this? Is it some warmongering neocon publication, trying to drum up sentiment for increased U.S. military spending? Nope, it was The Guardian, which is hugging itself with delight today for winning a Pulitzer for aiding and abetting Edward Snowden. So there.

An excerpt:

Russia spent a higher proportion of its wealth on arms than the US last year for the first time in more than a decade, according to figures published on Monday by a leading international research body that highlights Moscow’s resurgent military ambition as it confronts the west over Ukraine.

Western countries, including Britain and the US, reduced defence budgets, but Russia increased arms spending by 4.8% in real terms last year to almost $88bn (£52m), devoting a bigger share of its GDP to the military than the US for the first time since 2003, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri)….

Han Solo takes the Fifth on Greedo killing

The Washington Post should be ashamed of itself. Not because it won a Pulitzer for helping Edward Snowden achieve his goals, but because it led readers of its The Switch blog to believe that it was going to finally clear up the raging controversy over whether Han Solo or Greedo shot first.Greedo

That didn’t happen.

But in the course of not answering, Harrison Ford demonstrates a callousness regarding the question that seems consistent with the classic Han-Solo-as-rogueish-antihero-who-would-shoot-first interpretation, as opposed to the revisionist he-was-just-standing-his-ground-in-self-defense view.

That’s how I see it, anyway.

Baby-Face Musa beats murder rap in Pakistan

I’ve looked at a couple of versions of this story, and have not yet found one that really explains why authorities were initially planning on charging a 9-month-old baby boy with attempted murder and obstructing a public official.

Police have now withdrawn the charges. But before you turn away from this story, be sure to check out the picture of little Musa being fingerprinted. He didn’t like it. He appears to be saying something like, “You flatfoots’ll never pin this on ME!”

You know, the news is full of crazy-sounding stuff happening in this country. But you see something like this, and it all looks a little saner by comparison…

Open Thread for Monday, April 14, 2014

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Some possible topics:

  • Fresh pro-Russian attack in Ukraine. More than that, I’m worried that the Ukrainians are taking military steps now to confront this provocation. Not that they don’t have every right to — in fact, I’ve been wondering when the new government would step up and defend its interests, starting with its territorial integrity. But I worry — how well do you think regular Ukrainian troops are likely to do against Spetsnaz? But wait — the new Ukrainian president now says he’s open to more secessionist referenda. Which is worse — war, or caving in to Putin’s latter-day Anschluss?
  • Authorities say hate motivated Kansas shooting. Do ya think? It certainly was more than mild dislike. But I mention this to object yet again to the whole idea of “hate crimes.” Anti-Semitism is one of the nastiest impulses in human history. But in this country, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Departed,” we don’t prosecute people for holding disgusting ideas. Murder is enough. Punish the crime, not the opinion.
  • According to research by Pew, most Americans agree with methey don’t think of Barack Obama as “black” either.

I tried to find something local, but it’s looking kinda slow around here. I think we’re all stupefied by antihistamines. I certainly am.

But you know what? It’s not my job to come up with topics for an Open Thread. That’s up to y’all…

‘Hosanna hey sanna, sanna, sanna, ho…’

Awaiting the distribution of the palms before Mass Sunday.

Awaiting the distribution of the palms before Mass Sunday.

Well, yesterday was Palm Sunday, so that means it’s time to listen to “Jesus Christ Superstar” over and over, at least for a week.

I don’t think that is an actual, formal, official thing in the liturgical calendar, but it’s long been a habit of mine, as you can tell from such posts as this one and this one.

Last year — or was it the year before — I finally broke down and bought the album (the original cast album of course) from iTunes. This was good because, since I no longer have a working turntable for my vinyl (I have one that connects to my computer so I can make MP3s, but no way to play straight to a speaker), and listening to my “Jesus Christ Superstar” station on Pandora meant listening to extraneous stuff as well.

So Saturday, I was working in the yard, listening to it on my iPhone, and trying to remember not to starting dancing about to the livelier parts of “This Jesus Must Die” — an appalling notion that I hesitate even to write, but the song is infectious.

“Superstar” has loomed large in my legend since the original album was out, and it has always dwelt in this confusing area where the sacred and the profane intersect. I first listened to it in a beach house at Barber’s Point in Hawaii in the spring of 1971. Or rather, I sat watching Mary Riley as she lay on her back on the floor with her head between the stereo speakers and her eyes closed, listening to it. She was transported; I was transported. All sorts of things were mixed together in the moment.

“Superstar” portrayed Jesus and his followers as a sort of itinerant hippie commune that really knew how to rock. And that made a certain sense to me. We were about long hair and faded jeans and other expressions of naturalness. (Later, I would have trouble with my kids wanting to dye their hair unnatural colors and cut it in strange ways, in part because it just seemed uncool to me.)

There was this small poster I saw one time in the early ’70s up on the top floor of the Gay Dolphin in Myrtle Beach that seemed to capture well this intersection between Jesus and the counterculture. It showed a smiling Jesus, depicted in the traditional Sunday school kind of way, with a caption that went something like, “You guys can wear your hair as long as you like. Tell them I said so.”

My hair wasn’t all that long when I acted and sang in a community production of “Superstar” in the early 80s, although it was still a good bit longer than now. And I grew out a nice, full beard for the occasion. I was an apostle. It was my first play, and the director didn’t have the confidence to put me in a larger role. But I enjoyed singing “What’s the Buzz?” and “Look at all my trials and tribulations” and so forth. If I were ever to audition for such a production again, I’d go out for Pilate. The songs are within my range, and it’s a meaty role.

Now, as a lector and Eucharistic minister in my church, the liturgy reminds me of the rock opera, and the rock opera of the liturgy. And I manage to reconcile Holy Week and Jesus Christ Superstar Week occurring at the same time every year, like Passover.

Below is a snippet from the procession with palms at Mass yesterday at my church. It’s not “Hosanna, Hey sanna,” but I like it. One of the many singable tunes our Spanish choir does at the noon Masses.

Open Thread for Friday, April 11, 2014

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Y’all seem to enjoy these, so have at it.

Some possible topics:

Or pick your own danged topics…

The Republican take on the same education bill

Sen. Peeler, in a 'man of action' photo from his website.

Sen. Peeler, in a ‘man of action’ photo from his website.

OK, now Sen. Harvey Peeler has put out a release touting his portion of the combined bill that included Vincent Sheheen’s 4K expansion proposal:

Read to Succeed legislation clears Senate

PEELER PLAN WOULD ENSURE EARLY READING PROFICIENCY

Columbia, SC – April 10, 2014 – The state Senate today passed on third reading the Read to Succeed bill, a plan introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler to help ensure South Carolina’s children are reading on grade level.

Read to Succeed is the first substantive piece of education reform passed by either chamber of the General Assembly in several years, and is premised upon the idea that proficient reading is the foundation of all future learning in school. Peeler’s plan recognizes this, and starts by ending social promotion for third graders who are not yet reading on grade level.

“There’s a reason that the old song about the three R’s puts reading first,” Peeler said. “Children across the state are making it way too far in our school system without having this building block for success in place. It’s time we fix that, so we’re not setting these kids up for failure later in their educational journey.”

Peeler also noted, “I want to specifically thank Governor Haley for efforts to support and promote this initiative. The Governor’s Executive Budget funded $29.5 million for reading coaches, which was a tremendous catalyst to get things clicking this year. By providing a dedicated funding source, she brought focus to the Read to Succeed proposal, and led the House to adopt it in its budget.”

Among the bill’s provisions:

• beginning in 2017-2018 – a 3rd grader not reading on a 3rd grade level will be retained

• there will be a state reading plan and a district reading plan (to be approved by the State Department of Education)

• beginning with school year 2014-2015, provides a readiness assessment for 4K and 5K, as teachers need to know how far along a child is when they first come to school

• gives school districts flexibility to provide summer reading camps, with a minimum of 6 weeks, 4 days per week, and 4 hours per day

• transportation to summer reading camps will be provided at no cost to the parents

• districts who have trouble finding summer reading camp teachers will be allowed to work with other districts – or contact for services

• if a child has been found to need the summer reading camp — at any grade level —  there will be no cost

The legislation also creates a statutory phase-in of a statewide 4-year-old Kindergarten program, which will be implemented based upon availability of funding.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

###

This is confusing, having these two proposals jammed into one bill. But maybe having the Republican leader’s strong advocacy will help both proposals in the House. Maybe. I haven’t followed this closely enough to know…

Congratulations to Stephen Colbert!

Well, it’s official — South Carolina’s own Stephen Colbert will replace David Letterman. From the CBS release:

     The CBS Television Network today announced that Stephen Colbert, the host, writer and executive producer of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning “The Colbert Report,” will succeed David Letterman as the host of THE LATE SHOW, effective when Mr. Letterman retires from the broadcast. The five-year agreement between CBS and Colbert was announced by Leslie Moonves, President and CEO, CBS Corporation, and Nina Tassler, Chairman of CBS Entertainment.

Letterman, the legendary, critically acclaimed host of the CBS late night series for 21 years, announced his retirement on his April 3 broadcast. Colbert’s premiere date as host of THE LATE SHOW will be announced after Mr. Letterman determines a timetable for his final broadcasts in 2015.

Specific creative elements, as well as the producers and the location for the Colbert-hosted LATE SHOW, will be determined and announced at a later date….

Colbert has released a statement:

“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career. I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead. … I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”

Does it seem to anyone else like this decision was made awfully quickly? Seems to me that when generational changes have occurred at The Tonight Show, for instance, the selection process has taken months.

Will this more-or-less snap decision pay off? I hope Colbert succeeds in this job. I wouldn’t have pictured him in it before the rumors started last week, so I’m a little concerned on that point. But he’s a smart and talented guy who thinks well on his feet, and I’m optimistic.

Bright blesses Graham’s heart — I’m glad Southern courtliness still survives to that extent

bless heart

Had to smile at the latest release from Lee Bright. As nasty as things get in politics these days, it’s nice to see that even a Tea Party guy (and you know how angry they can be) can express himself with civility, Southern style.

Yes, it’s a condescending expression, but it’s a sweet condescending expression. And that counts for something.

As for the content of the release — well, I didn’t read it. I saw it was another of those “Obamacare, yadda-yadda” things that those folks are forever churning out…

Sheheen’s kindergarten initiative moves ahead

Here’s the Sheheen press release:

Sheheen Bipartisan Leadership Moves 4k Forward for At-Risk Kids

 

Columbia, SC – Today, Sen. Sheheen’s seven-year-long effort to implement universal 4-year-old kindergarten took yet another step forward as the Senate passed a bill to further expand coverage to all at-risk children in South Carolina.

 

“Early childhood education is key to improving the quality of education for our students, and I am proud that we’re taking this next important step forward,” said Sen. Sheheen. “We know that the earlier you invest in a child’s education, the better equipped that child is for success and the more bang for the buck the taxpayers get — that’s a recipe for success for South Carolina. We can make great changes for the people of South Carolina, all it takes is leadership and hard work to get things done.”

 

In a win for bipartisan leadership, Democrats and Republicans supported Sen. Sheheen’s proposal to expand 4-year-old kindergarten once again today. Last year, Senator Sheheen worked across party lines last year to expand pre-kindergarten programs to 17 additional counties around the state, helping an estimated 8,400 more 4-year-olds gain access to kindergarten this year.

 

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And here’s the news story.

This is kind of a big deal. I was sort of surprised it didn’t get bigger play. The paper led with meaningless Kulturkampf “referenda” on the Republican and Democratic primary ballots, and this was relegated to halfway down the page on the Metro front.

Of course, it has a long way to go to become law — and to get funded. So there’s that to justify the paper’s not getting excited…

4K