Meanwhile, in Syria, Russia attacking by air, land and sea

Perhaps it’s just as well that we our hands full with immediate problems here in South Carolina. Otherwise, I’d really be stressing about Putin’s new adventure in Syria.

  • Day after day, his air assets are attacking our allies — the Syrian rebels to whom we have been providing aid as a balance against both Assad and ISIS. And lying about it. The one silver lining in this is that they are presumably attacking the forces Assad, their buddy, sees as the most immediate threats. Which indicates that maybe our aid to these rebels is actually having an effect.
  • Now they have a battalion-sized ground force in place, including their most advance tanks. Sure, a battalion isn’t all that huge, but it’s a start.
  • Russian ships have entered the fray. For once, the BBC’s practice of putting everything any nation says in quotes is justified (“Russia ‘hits IS in Syria from Caspian’“), there being such a gap between what Putin is doing and what he says he’s doing.

This is a serious problem, people. I’m having trouble remembering any time in the Cold War that the Soviets moved this boldly, outside of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, which they considered their own turf. Sure, they advised the North Vietnamese, but how many Russians actually went into combat there?

That’s because the Soviets weren’t nearly as reckless as Putin.

He’s playing with both matches and gasoline, and doing so right next to some of our people…


Is this THE stupidest premise you ever heard of or what?

Just a very brief one here, while most of us are dealing with more serious stuff…

I got an email last night from Netflix urging me to watch a new series called “iZombie,” and here is the premise:

A medical student-turned-zombie tries to retain her humanity by eating brains at the morgue and finds she has an uncanny new gift for solving crimes. More Info

Yeah… I’m gonna skip that, because I’m afraid that watching something that stupid would eat my brain…

The Saluda River is now back to within its banks!


At least, it is at Quail Hollow, which is all I can testify to for sure. (The Congaree, which I crossed a couple of times today, still looked fairly high — no doubt thanks to the Broad.)

The above photo was taken at 5:31 p.m. today from approximately the same angle as the one below, taken at 10:41 a.m. Monday.

See? I told you there were tennis courts under there…

full flood


Tenenbaums find refuge at hotel in Lexington

File photo: Samuel Tenenbaum at the HQ of Columbia's operation to help Katrina evacuees in 2005.

File photo: Samuel Tenenbaum at the HQ of Columbia’s operation to help Katrina evacuees in 2005.

Concerned about this Facebook message from Inez Tenenbaum, as of Monday evening:

Our home on the Saluda River is flooded and the renovations will probably take six weeks or more. If any of my Facebook friends know of a place we can rent (with two dogs and four cats) please let me know! Thanks so much.

I called and talked with Samuel. I knew how close their house was to the river. You know those pictures I keep showing of the pool and tennis courts at Quail Hollow? They’re like that close — although the house is on stilts.

Samuel says they’re doing OK. They’re in a Quality Inn Suites in Lexington that takes pets, which I found amazing. There are plenty of other flooded-out folks with pets staying there. The dogs are with them. The cats, who as we know fend for themselves, are back at the house with plenty of food — and Samuel is anxious to get back to check on them.

They evacuated on Sunday, just minutes before the Lake Murray floodgates were opened. Good call, since they are very close to the dam — they live in a rural area off Corley Mill Road.

There was already five feet of water in their driveway — not from the river, but from nearby creeks feeding into it. The water was moving too swiftly for a boat to come alongside to pick them up, so Samuel put Inez and the dogs into a kayak and pulled them, wading through the water himself. He told himself while doing so that any snakes in the water had already had the sense to abandon the area.

“Now I know what it’s like to be homeless,” he said — if only temporarily.

This is especially ironic because Samuel ran Columbia’s response to Hurricane Katrina 10 years back, heading up the operation to accommodate refugees from that disaster.

As he sees it, he’s following that protocol: “We established the plan 10 years ago. We put people in motels.” And that’s where he, Inez and the dogs are.

“It’s a bummer, it’s emotional. Here you are, 72 years old” and you have to deal with this. But he’s dealing with it with typical aplomb: “It’s a bummer, it’s emotional. “My name is Noah T-baum,” he’s telling everyone.

As for longer-term rental accommodations, the Tenenbaums have a line on a couple of places, although nothing is set in stone. So pass on any tips you have…

Time to think more broadly about infrastructure?

That’s what the Conservation Voters of SC think:

Dear Conservation Voter,

The extraordinary weather we’ve just experienced tested our resilience and our strength as South Carolinians. The pictures of waves crashing over Charleston’s battery and the flooding in Columbia make me think that it’s time to enlarge our conversations about infrastructure. When state elected leaders talk about how to fund the repair of roads and bridges, we should also talk about how to invest in resilient infrastructure.
Not only do we need to invest in mitigation and adaptation plans to reduce the impacts of rising sea levels along our coast, but we also have challenges with stormwater and dam safety, and concerns about the integrity of Pinewood and other waste sites when exposed to extreme weather.
Before we begin those conversations, we are sending a special thank you to our first responders, elected officials, and to all who in one way or another extended a helping hand over the weekend. Help the recovery efforts, with a donation through the Central Carolina Community Foundation, of if you are close to Columbia, sign up to volunteer through the United Way.

Ann Timberlake, Executive Director

We might start with Gill’s Creek.

Or maybe the 800-million-ton gorilla hovering over us all, Lake Murray. We beefed up the dam a few years back, but still had to open the floodgates and cause tremendous flooding downstream. I saw a story Since I live a block from the Saluda, I’d like as many reassurances as you can give me…

Drone pictures of Lake Murray dam with gates open

dam 1

I thought these were pretty cool images shared by the National Weather service yesterday evening, which I just saw. Here’s the caption info:

Drone images of the Lake Murray Dam Spillway. These floodgates have not been used since 1969. Photos courtesy of Ebben M Aley.

Technically, have those floodgates ever been used? Wasn’t the dam rebuilt a few years back? Of course, maybe the floodgate part is original equipment; I don’t know.

Finally, I can see the thing that caused the flooding in my area.

Here’s hoping letting off that pressure did the trick, and the dam remains strong.

Speaking of which, in my household we got to contemplating this passage in The State this morning:

SCE&G operates the lake originally built for hydropower 85 years ago but now a major source of recreation and drinking water for the Columbia area….

Which raises the question — are those good enough reasons to have those millions of tons of water poised over us? Couldn’t we get drinking water some other way?

Needless to say, you and your recreation seem kinda low priorities to me at the moment.

drone dam

Saluda River recedes to late-Sunday levels

recedingWell, this is encouraging.

I went down to check the river this morning (8:53 a.m.), and the water had receded to about where it was Sunday evening. The Quail Hollow pool was now visible, although full of filthy river water, and garbage bins that had been floating on Monday were on dry land. Well, not dry land, but merely soggy land.

I apologize for the dimness of the pool and surrounding area. There was this strange yellow thing in the sky that was too bright to look straight at, giving off an intense radiation that caused a backlighting problem.

Anyway, things are looking up in Quail Hollow.

Meanwhile, I’m working from home today. The twins are here because their school is out, and I just didn’t want to spend the day on the other side of the river from them and J. I don’t think there will be further trouble, but who knows. The edges of the road into our subdivision doesn’t look too great…

Now, the Quail Hollow pool is completely inundated

Monday morning, 10:38.

Monday morning, 10:38.

Here’s how I’m keeping track of the rising water…

There was the picture I took of the Quail Hollow pool — which is normally right next to the Saluda River — at 1:09 p.m. Sunday.

Then there was the one I took at 5:18 p.m. Sunday.

This morning at 10:38, the pool was no more to be seen.

Now, let me put this in perspective — especially for my kids in Thailand, who are worried about us: This represents a rise of a couple of feet in about 17 hours. It would still need to rise two or three yards to reach the street, which is the lowest-lying road in Quail Hollow — which is what, 50 feet or so from the high ridge that we are on.

So we’re fine. Our neighbors who spent the night with us because they were told to evacuate checked on their house this morning and there’s no water anywhere near it.

We’re fine.

In fact, watching this slow rise of the river through these images is sort of reassuring. If not regular and normal, it as least has a slow, plodding predictability to it. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

The Saluda River is still rising at Quail Hollow

The Quail Hollow pool, which is right next to the Saluda River, at 5:18 p.m.

The Quail Hollow pool, which is right next to the Saluda River, at 5:18 p.m.

Remember this picture (shown below) from earlier in the day?

Well, the Saluda has continued to rise steadily through the day. At 5:20 (above), it only needed to rise another couple of inches before it would get into the neighborhood pool, which is right next to the river.

The same view at 1:09 p.m.

The same view at 1:09 p.m.

Flooding in my neighborhood, Quail Hollow

These are the tennis courts at Quail Hollow in West Columbia on Sunday a little past midday.

They’re right next to the Saluda River, which you can see rushing in the background. I guess technically, all of this is now the Saluda River.

That loud buzzing is an alarm coming from a transformer that’s right next to me. I don’t know what it means, but I’m being careful not to touch the water.

Our house is one block from the river, but way up a steep hill.

We drove around the neighborhood a bit more, and then, as we returned to the house at 1:30, the sun came out. Don’t know whether that means the worst is over, or not.

More pictures below…

“Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline…”

We were talking about good songs for this rainy, flooded weekend on the last post, and no one mentioned the most appropriate song of all, Randy Newman’s magnificent “Louisiana 1927.”

This one’s got it all — Newman’s irony mixed with pathos and sympathy for the common man, his orchestral sensibility, history, and his inimitable touch with lyrics. This is, of course, from his wonderful “Good Old Boys” album, which kicks off with the one truly brilliant Newman song that you will never, ever hear on the radio in this country — “Rednecks.” (If anyone overhears you listening to that one, and that person lacks a sense of irony, watch out. But I do recommend it, long as you’re not one a them college boys from LSU who went in dumb, come out dumb too.)

I prefer the original album version, which is below, but I used the one above for the pictures.

The song, of course, is about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which Wikipedia calls “the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States” — although we seem to be trying to give it a run for its money this weekend.

That’s not a real Beatles album, you morons

Every once in awhile, I click on one of those quizzes that social media is always offering as clickbait, and occasionally I find them rewarding — such as when it was scientifically confirmed that I am, of course, Leo

But boy, was this one stupid.

I clicked on this Beatles quiz (“How big a Beatles fan are you?“) because I figured I’d get 100 percent and have a small ego boost from it on my birthday, and the first question was so ridiculously easy that I almost didn’t go on. It said something like, “The Beatles were started in…” And at first, thinking they wanted a date, I was worried. Are they counting the Silver Beatles, or the Quarrymen, and didn’t John have a skiffle group that I can’t remember the name of, and when was that?

But the options were: “Liverpool,” “London,” and so forth. I snorted in contempt. Is there anyone on the planet who could not answer that?

But then, the third question was this:

stupid question

Oh, come on! That’s completely illegitimate to any self-respecting fan! That’s not a Beatles album! That’s some stupid repackaging of old songs concocted LONG after the Beatles ceased to be, aimed at people who didn’t already own all those songs on the real albums. Why not offer compilations from K-Tel while you’re at it?

So I stopped right there. Stupid, stupid quiz…

Face it: The Pope is an equal-opportunity meeter

And now today, folks are making a fuss over this story:

Pope Francis met with a friend who is gay, and his partner, while in D.C.

A longtime friend of Pope Francis who is openly gay said Friday that he and his partner met with the pontiff during his recent trip to Washington, adding a new layer of fodder for Americans who are riveted by this pope and are scrutinizing his words and actions for affirmation of their own views….

Earlier, everyone was going on about the Pope meeting with the Kentucky clerk who didn’t want to sign off on same-sex marriages. Like that meant something. Even though the Vatican says it didn’t:

While conservative opponents of same-sex marriage have hailed the Francis-Davis meeting as validation of their cause, the Vatican said Friday that the encounter was not meant as an endorsement of all of Davis’s actions and views.

“The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” a Vatican statement said….

Face it, the guy likes people. He meets with them. From old friends to fallen-away Catholics such as Kim Davis.

That said, while I fully understand why the pontiff wanted to hug his gay friend, I don’t know why he met with Kim Davis as opposed to the millions of other people he could have had short private meetings with. Perhaps, as some conspiracy theorists have it, he was duped into it. Although I doubt that. This pope doesn’t do what he doesn’t want to do.

And he likes people. Including people you, or I, would rather he not meet with.

Personally, I was a little disappointed that he met with Ms. Davis, and not exactly for the same reasons that those who think people who oppose same-sex marriage are “haters” were. Every gesture makes a point (and this Pope is a genius of gestures and what they communicate), and any useful point to have been made by meeting with the clerk — re religious freedom — was made far more effectively and appropriately in his meeting with the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The Little Sisters are clearly in the right in their assertion of religious freedom — speaking from a Catholic perspective. And you know, while a lot of people who want him to be something else tend to forget it, the Pope is Catholic. They are a private, religious entity that the government is trying to force to do something against their beliefs.

Kim Davis, by contrast, is an elected public employee, with an obligation to perform her duties in complete accordance with the law as it exists, not as she would wish it to be. If she wishes to avoid conflict with her conscience, she can resign her public office. Big difference between that and being a private actor, like night and day.

Although it occurs to me that the difference between public and private, so obvious to those of us who live with and embrace the 1st Amendment, may not seem quite as stark to an Argentine of Italian abstraction. I don’t know. In any case, if he did meet with Ms. Davis to make a point, it likely would have been more about standing up for your principles than about same-sex unions or even contraception.

(Although, that said, his willingness to meet with dissidents here, in a free country, makes it seem even worse that he didn’t meet with Cuban dissidents in that oppressive country. I have a theory about that: He’s trying hard to open up Cuba to the Gospel, and doesn’t want to push too hard while the Castros are being so welcoming. The stakes are higher there, and gestures can have more severe consequences, especially upon those very dissidents, once the Pope leaves. He was, after all, a guest in both countries — and this country is infinitely more tolerant of in-your-face political gestures than Cuba is.)

Anyway, people shouldn’t overreact to these things. We get these extremes. The Pope meets with Kim Davis, and they’re all like, “He hates gay people!” Instead of concluding that, unlike a lot of people, he just doesn’t hate Kim Davis.

Then he meets with his gay friend, and they’re like, “He loves gay people!”

Well, of course he does. He always has, and always will. He’s that kind of guy. He loves everybody…

The Little Sisters of the Poor are all about love, too.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are all about love, too.

The president’s challenge to DO something about gun violence

POTUS is fed up, as would be any national leader who’s had to make far too many of these statements, and doesn’t want to make any more of them.

And we know how futile all of the words he’s said in the past have been, in terms of providing actual leadership toward solutions to the problem.

As I’ve said over and over, I’m not sure what we can do about the problem of gun violence, because the problem is that there are just too many guns. It doesn’t matter who has them at a given point in time, or how careful we are about who makes the initial purchases, there are just so many of them that lots of them are inevitably going to fall into the wrong hands.

And I don’t know of anything we can do about that that has the slightest political chance of being enacted in this country. I mean, you want to see violence in the streets? Try implementing the worst apocalyptic nightmare of the gun lobby — try rounding up the guns. Not that we’d ever get to the point of starting such a program, because it’s politically impossible.

But I certainly share the president’s frustration, and I’m glad that the entire country doesn’t look at me expecting me to say something meaningful every time one of these things happens…

Open Thread for Thursday, October 1, 2015


Topics available out there at the moment:

  1. Multiple Deaths Reported in Shooting at Oregon College — I’ve seen an indication that the shooter is dead; details still coming in.
  2. There’s been no calendar week without a mass shooting during Obama’s 2nd term — Interesting observation from The Fix. Now watch: Some Republican will say, “I told you the country would go to hell if he were re-elected.”
  3. Russia defends Syrian airstrikes as claims mount of blows to U.S.-backed rebels — This situation is just getting more and more dangerous. They’re in-theater, we’re in-theater, and there’s shooting going on…
  4. Man charged in Forest Acres officer’s death waives bond — Yeah, if I were that guy, I don’t think I’d want to be out on the street, either.
  5. Investigating Clinton Email Server, FBI Says It Doesn’t ‘Give A Rip About Politics’ — Well, that’s… good, I suppose.

Oh, and finally, I liked this little slice-of-life anecdote from the night before Boehner made his announcement:

Great idea! Maybe I’ll become a Republican. Or a Democrat.

Had to smile when I saw this a moment ago:

An excerpt from the story:

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell joked that he identifies as a Republican to annoy the GOP’s right-wing.

“Yes, I’m still a Republican,” he said about his party affiliation during the Washington Ideas Forum in Washington, D.C., according to the Daily Mail.

“I want to continue to be a Republican because it annoys them,” Powell quipped to host Walter Isaacson.

“I think the party has shifted much further right than where the country is and it should be obvious to party leaders that they cannot keep saying and doing the things that they were doing and hope to be successful in national-level election in the future, not just in 2016,” he added.

Powell said a small faction in the GOP is alienating voters with their rhetoric on immigration.

“I think most Republicans understand that we need immigration, we are an immigrant nation [and that] it is in our best interest to do it,” he said….

I think I’ll follow his lead and become a Republican. And a Democrat.

Oh, I know! I’ll become a Libertarian! That would drive them nuts

Personally, I don’t believe in probabilities

That is, I don’t believe in assigning numerical values to them. That practice seems to me a mendacious attempt to quantify the unquantifiable.

This came up because of this email from a friend today:

When I was in high school, I once wondered whether a 50% chance of rain meant: A. there is a 100% chance that it will rain on 50% of the city or B. there is a 50% chance that it will rain on 100% of the city.  I think the real answer is that there is a 50% chance it will rain at least somewhere in the city (which is actually less than a 50% chance that it will rain in any one place).  It’s painfully obvious that my chances at a STEM major in college were much lower than 50%!

For my part, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a 50 percent chance of rain, period. I don’t mind someone saying, “I have as much reason to believe it will rain today as I have reason to believe it won’t.” But don’t insult me by attaching a number to it. You don’t know enough to attach such precision to the matter.

You want to assign a numerical value to the likelihood of rain on Thursday? Here’s my advice: Wait until Friday. Look back, and if it rained on Thursday, there was a 100 percent chance. If it didn’t, there was a 0 percent chance. The rest is nonsense.

Trey Gowdy for majority leader? Of the U.S. House? Really?

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot…

Trey Gowdy

Trey Gowdy

I almost ran off the road this morning when I heard someone on NPR saying that the crazies who ran John Boehner out of the House were wanting Trey Gowdy to be majority leader. Of the Unites States House of Representatives. And I don’t think they were joking.

Oh, I’m sure Mr. Gowdy is a fine fella, kind to children and dogs and so forth, but No. 2 man in the House?

Apparently, Boehner himself was also promoting this

This is a guy who:

  • Hasn’t even been in the House five years.
  • Was elected over Bob Inglis, one of the finest, most principled people to be elected from South Carolina in a generation, and one of the most sincerely and ostentatiously conservative, because Inglis wasn’t right-wing enough in the Year of the Tea Party.
  • Owes whatever national reputation he does possess entirely to chairing the House’s Benghazi sideshow. True, he’s in good company, in that Lindsey Graham also has a Benghazi obsession — but at least Graham is known for other stuff as well.
  • Is not, lest you be confused, Curt Gowdy. That would be pretty cool. But wrong Gowdy.

And don’t even get me started on the haircut, which makes him look like a cross between Stan Laurel. and Oswald Cobblepot on “Gotham.” Not that that sort of thing should matter.

Anyway, to put it more mildly, I was surprised…

SC public backs leaders’ decision to bring down Confederate flag

THE moment -- the flag starts coming down.

THE moment — the flag starts coming down.

In case you had a creeping feeling at the back of your mind that were it not for the fact that we are, thank God, a republic instead of a direct democracy, the Confederate flag would still be flying…

I offer this reassuring news:

Two-thirds of South Carolinians agreed with the General Assembly’s decision in removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds this summer after the Charleston church shootings, a Winthrop University poll released Wednesday found.

Less than a year ago, just one-third of South Carolinians thought the Civil War icon should come down after flying at the state’s most prominent public building for five decades.

That was before an African-American pastor, who also was a state senator, and eight of his parishioners were gunned down at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in June. Authorities brought hate crime charges against the accused killer, who is white.

Slightly more than half of white respondents thought lawmakers made the right decision in taking down the Confederate flag, the Winthrop survey found. More than nine in 10 African-Americans backed the decision….

At least, I find it reassuring to know that, while I still praise our elected officials (starting with Nikki Haley) for courage and leadership in bringing the flag down without waiting around for polls, even if they had, the result would have been the same.

So South Carolina really has grown up, finally, and put the flag behind it.

That is wonderful news.

Forest Acres officer shot, killed at Richland Mall

The fallen officer, Greg Alia.

The fallen officer, Greg Alia.

Horrible news travels so fast these days.

By the time I got a news alert from WACH telling me that a Forest Acres officer had been shot and killed at Richland Mall this morning, the flags at City Hall were already at half-mast:

And more astoundingly, my friend Mary Pat Baldauf had already contributed to a memorial fund for him:

It’s like we don’t even get a moment anymore to absorb the news, to say, “Oh, my God. How terrible…”

So consider that to have been said by me. Perhaps I’ll have more to say later.