Open Thread for Wednesday, May 27, 2015

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A few potential topics:

  1. Costa Pleicones elected S.C. Supreme Court chief justice — That development sort of snuck up on me. I knew it was his turn and all; I just hadn’t realized they were voting on it so soon…
  2. U.S.: Indictments are just the start of FIFA scrutiny — Hey, who around here cares? Let me know when they go after American football. And speaking of the world of sports…

  3. Clemson’s Swinney cancels appearance with anti-gay marriage organization — I was surprised to see that the coach was surprised at the controversy. It seems that sports figures can be as ignorant of politics as I am about sports.
  4. Nebraska Lawmakers Pass Bill Abolishing State’s Death Penalty — Not something that happens every day. At least not around here.

Or, whatever y’all want to talk about…

Hillary Clinton’s first visit to SC since 2008 campaign

Hillary Clinton

The presumptive Democratic nominee came back to South Carolina today wielding a middle-class-populist message (is it populist if it’s middle-class, or merely “popular”?).

She kept telling us besieged members of the bourgeoisie that she was going to “go to bat” for us. She used other metaphors for what she would do, but I’m very happy to report that I didn’t hear her say that she would “fight” for us. She may have and I missed it, but I was listening for it, because I hate it so.

So I guess that’s one way in which she’s distinguishing herself from the populism of Elizabeth Warren, while still trying to go after the same segment of the party — so as to, you know, keep what’s-her-name out of it.

Maggie Haberman of the NYT reported that Hillary’s “southern twang is back,” but I certainly didn’t hear it. Maybe you had to be from New York to pick up on it. Nevertheless, the candidate traced her experience with SC back to when she worked for Bennettsville’s Marian Wright Edelman at the Children’s Defense Fund, and later attended Linda and Phil Lader’s Renaissance Weekends down in the Lowcountry.

The candidate’s best-received line was when she said, after noting how much the White House ages presidents, “I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I have one big advantage… I’ve been coloring my hair for years.” She promised we wouldn’t see her go gray in the job.

Beyond that, here are most of my Tweets from the event:

The Jack Kuenzie thing was out of sync. It was before the event, but got held up for some reason.

By the way, you know that item where I said “Weird situation after speech. Her people won’t let us near her, and won’t let us leave…”? Twitter kinda went ape about it. It went in a modest way. There were 33 direct reTweets and 11 favorites, and lots of reTweets of reTweets. I lost count.

Which made me kind of insecure. I had not tried to leave the hall at that point; I had just heard we couldn’t from another media type. Specifically, on the first of three times I got pushed back by Clinton staff, I told Dianne Gallagher, who was headed toward the candidate, that they weren’t letting us near her. Dianne said something to the effect of that put is in a fix, because they weren’t letting us leave the room, either.

After people made such a big deal about that Tweet, I wrote to Dianne to make sure I had heard her right. She replied, “Oh yeah. They said we had to wait. Wouldn’t open the door for us.”

I was relieved to have heard her right the first time.

It was no big deal, as one Tweeter had the good sense to note. But a lot of people seemed to think it was a metaphor for something…

Maybe Obama should try LISTENING to one of his Defense secretaries sometime…

… instead of his staff scrambling to “clarify” what the SecDef said.

This is in the WashPost today:

President Obama has not had an easy time with his secretaries of defense.

Two of his defense secretaries wrote books critical of his administration after they left office, and his third was essentially fired. On Tuesday, the White House scrambled to clarify remarks by Obama’s fourth defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, who said over the weekend that Iraqi forces who collapsed in their defense of Ramadi lacked the “will to fight” Islamic State militants.

Carter’s pronouncement, unusual for its bluntness, angered senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad and seemed to suggest that the president’s strategy, built around supporting Iraqi forces with training and airstrikes, was failing. “Airstrikes are effective, but neither they nor really anything we do can substitute for the Iraqi forces’ will to fight,” Carter said in an interview with CNN. He added that the Iraqi government force, which “vastly outnumbered” the Islamic State attackers, simply refused to fight in Ramadi.

Asked about Carter’s remarks, White House press secretary Josh Earnest pointed to some of the successes Iraqi forces had earlier this year in retaking the cities of Tikrit and Baghdadi from the Islamic State. In both battles, a multi-sectarian force of Iraqi fighters backed by U.S. air power and under the central command of the Iraqi government won relatively quick victories. And he praised the leadership of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

“It’s very clear what our strategy is, and it’s clear that strategy is one that has succeeded in the past,” Earnest said….

Yeah… right… (imagine me saying that as Dr. Evil would). What seems “very clear” is that the facts of the situation fit the Defense secretary’s version, rather than Mr. Earnest’s…

Best scene from ‘The Wire’ (so far in my watching)

Rawls McNulty

Excuse me for writing about another show that’s been off the air for years (like “The West Wing”), but hey, we’re in a new TV world, in which when something was on the air is pretty much irrelevant. Today, you see a show for the first time when you see it.

And I just wanted to share the best scene I’ve encountered on “The Wire.” It was in episode 11 of the first season, titled “The Hunt.” (I’m now on the second episode of the second season.) YouTube won’t let me embed it, but you can see it here.

Even if you haven’t watched the show at all, you can sort of appreciate it with a little setup, if you can abide the intense, concentrated, rapid-fire use of cusswords — which is so over the top that it adds a slightly comic touch to this deadly serious scene. But you don’t want your kids hearing it. Or your parents.

Anyway, the anguished guy in the muted red polo shirt with blood on his face is Jimmy McNulty, the protagonist — a singularly insubordinate, know-it-all cop who is extremely upset because a colleague and friend just got shot. This is the first time you’ve ever seen McNulty at a loss, doubting himself. The guy in the suit “consoling” him is his erstwhile boss, the head of homicide, who — as you may notice — hates McNulty’s guts. And not just in the usual, cliched, “I’m tired of defending your shenanigans to the commissioner” way that we’re accustomed to in ranking cops on TV.

And yet, in his own furious, about-to-blow-his-stack way, he’s trying to make McNulty feel better. And does so pretty effectively.

Interesting leadership style. Impressive, yet… do you really want this guy as your boss?

Capt. Furillo

Capt. Furillo

In the early 80s, when I was in my first management position, running the news coverage of a small daily in Tennessee, I used to watch Captain Frank Furillo on “Hill Street Blues” and aspire to be exactly that kind of firm-but-fair, graceful-under-fire boss that he was.

But Capt. Furillo was a Sunday-School teacher compared to this guy, who makes you re-evaluate the whole tough-but-fair thing.

Anyway, I love it when a scene tells you something new and unexpected about a character in a way that is completely believable (instead of the contrived way that is too common on most TV shows — see “24”).

Good writing, good direction, great acting.

Is President Obama follow-worthy?

It’s up to Elaine Benes to decide whether POTUS is sponge-worthy. My concern is more G-rated.

As you may have read, “they” have finally allowed the president to have his very own personal Twitter feed, which he in theory posts on himself, as opposed to the @BarackObama feed that’s been out there since March 2007 and is written by the Organizing for Action staff.

Now, himself is supposedly Tweeting @POTUS. His first Tweet, on May 18:

… which is where I got the mysterious “they” reference from.

So, all well and good, except there’s a bit of a two-edged sword here (and since this is POTUS, it’s probably made from Valyrian steel). It’s been eight days now, and he’s only Tweeted seven times! And his last Tweet was yesterday.

I generally don’t follow people if they don’t Tweet more often than that. Unless, when they do, Tweet, what they have to say is pretty awesome. Which, alas, the president’s are not. They’re pretty vanilla. Like something, you know, staff-written. Also, I wonder at the professional-looking photos of himself that are not selfies. Who’s really doing this?

A pretty lame and infrequent feed so far.

On the other hand, if he were Tweeting like mad — at the rate I usually do, or someone even more obsessed with the medium — then we’d all be saying, rather pointedly, Doesn’t the president have something better to do with his time? Anyway, I’m going to give him a probational follow. Out of respect for the office. But if he doesn’t liven it up, he’s going on the dustbin…  

Open Thread for a Tuesday that feels like Monday, May 26, 2015

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Some tidbits from here and there:

  1. British pub’s ‘Ye Olde Fighting Cocks’ name challenged by PETA — Get this: “they want the pub to change its name to Ye Olde Clever Cocks, ‘in recognition of society’s growing compassion for animals and in celebration of intelligent, sensitive chickens.'” Really. So help me out: Where’d we get the term, “birdbrain?”
  2. China to Expand Navy Amid U.S. Tensions — Just FYI, y’all.
  3. Charter Agrees to Acquire Time Warner Cable — Just in time for the death of cable as we know it. By the way, speaking of companies time has passed by, did you know that MapQuest still exists, and is profitable?
  4. RNC rolls out mini-mockumentary video ahead of Hillary visit — OK, I laughed, a little bit, just because at the moment I’m waiting to find out whether I’ll be approved as one of the few media types allowed to cover her appearance her Wednesday. Here’s hoping posting this doesn’t knock me out of the running, right?

‘Le mort du guerre’

manicured

Reading various editorials and such about Memorial Day, I’m reminded of our time in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, where so many suffered so much as prisoners of the Japanese during what is referred to locally as “the war of 1939-1945.”

Specifically, I’m reminded of how deeply impressed I was by how beautifully maintained the cemetery for British and Dutch POWs was.

Yes, I know this is American Memorial Day (known in SC, at least until recently, as “Yankee Memorial Day”). But this is what I thought of. And there is an American angle to this mostly British story.

monument

The monument says 356 Americans died building the railway; Wikipedia says 133. I don’t know which is right.

You’ve seen the picture of me standing in front of The Bridge on the River Kwai. Well, that was taken by the Thai wife of one of a trio of American veterans I ran into next to the bridge. It was hard to miss them — two middle-aged white guys and a black guy busily painting and restoring the monument at right. Even though two of them were wearing the proverbial Asian conical hat.

They were from an American veterans’ lodge in Bangkok. They had come to spruce up the one monument I saw in the town to the 133 Americans who died building the Death Railway or Burma Railway connecting Bangkok to Rangoon for the Japanese.

I asked them how to find the cemetery where the POWs lay (thinking at this point there would be Americans there among the Brits). They gave me rough directions — too rough, it would turn out — and an idea of how long it would take to walk there. I thanked them for their service, got my picture taken, and hiked back upriver to our resort.

When I got there, we decided to go see the cemetery before dark, which was coming on soon. So we headed out in the general direction on the Maenamkwai Road. Maenamkwai ran parallel to the river, and was something of a party district, as evidenced by the signs in front of pubs offering such experiences as “Get Drunk for 10 baht” — which seemed both a fiscal and physical impossibility, 10 baht being just under 30 cents, but I don’t know because I didn’t test it. Those kinds of places were a bit… unsavory. Quite a few of the patrons were white men about my age — some Brits, some other nationalities — who could occasionally be seen groping the pretty young Thai girls.

We began to despair of finding the cemetery based on the veterans’ directions and the insufficiently detailed map we’d obtained at our resort. Finally, we decided to ask directions of a typically seedy-looking white guy we encountered coming out of a Tesco Express. He wasn’t, as I’d hoped, a Brit. He was French, and had no English. I was enormously proud that, though I think of myself as having no French, I managed to come up with “le mort du guerre” in my effort to tell him what we sought. (Google Translate says I should have said “les morts de la guerre,” but whatever — he seemed to understand). However, he was much confused by our map and perhaps by his own whereabouts — I suspected that he’d spent at least 10 baht at one of the local establishments — and his directions were decidedly vague.

But we carried on, and eventually found it, a few blocks further.

As I said, I was deeply impressed by what we found. Not just the sheer number of graves — almost 7,000, according to Wikipedia — but how meticulously they had been cared for. One section was cordoned off, where someone was putting in new sod so as the improve upon the near-perfection. I was astounded that a graveyard so far away from the families these men left behind was maintained to this extent. (I noted the plaque saying the land was the gift of the Thai people, but I learned later that the graves are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.)

When we arrived we were accosted by a couple of young Thai women. One of them explained that her friend was studying English, and had come here hoping to find someone to practice with — which impressed me with her initiative and desire to learn (if only that Frenchman had had such an ambition). So we chatted a bit along the lines of “Hello, how are you?” Then I excused myself because the light was failing and I wanted to explore the cemetery.

My aim was to find the Americans, but there were none. I kept walking from section to section, thinking that the next one would be the American grouping. No luck. I would later learn that the American remains had been repatriated. Eventually, I gave up on my chauvinistic impulse, and appreciated what I found. Most were from the Commonwealth, although there was a big Dutch section with 1,896 graves.

All these mostly young men, who died under such horrific conditions, at the hands of an enemy that regarded and treated them as less than human, under that generation’s twisted version of the Bushido code. All those families that would never even be started back home, on the other side of the world.

As we headed back, we passed Beata Mundi Regina War Monument Catholic Church, which was founded by some Carmelite nuns who located there to care for the graves. I don’t know whether they are still the ones who do that work, under the aegis of the commission, but whoever does does so lovingly.

That night, I purchased The Bridge on the River Kwai from iTunes — I wanted my daughter to have some idea of what had happened there — and tried to watch it on my iPad, but the wi-fi had trouble handling it. I would finish watching it after I got home, and also order the DVD of “The Railway Man” from Netflix.

But of course, there’s no way I will ever fully appreciate what those men experienced there.

 

You’ve Got Mail: ‘Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi!’

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Well, some of her emails have been released:

The State Department on Friday released nearly 900 pages of e-mails on Libya and the Benghazi attacks from the private account Hillary Rodham Clinton used while she was secretary of state.

The messages have been turned over to a select House committee investigating the Sept. 11-12, 2012, attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, in which the ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed.

Few of the e-mails deal directly with events leading up to the attacks or their aftermath, according to those who have seen them. Many contain administrative details, press accounts, speech drafts and other information exchanged between Clinton and her senior aides.

But the messages, some of which were published this week by the New York Times, capture the concerns of Clinton and other officials about the political chaos that engulfed Libya during and following the 2011 NATO air attacks that facilitated the overthrow and death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi later that year….

If you want to read them instead of just read about them, click here.

Open Thread for Thursday, May 21, 2015

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Talk about what you like, but here are some suggestions:

  1. Savannah minor-league team moving to Columbia — It’s going to be single-A, part of the New York Mets organization. Sally League. Didn’t we have the Mets’ single-A team before, or am I remembering that wrong? I mean, I thought that team went to Greenville. Maybe y’all can ‘splain it to me.
  2. ISIS Takes Full Control of Palmyra — First Ramadi (which POTUS terms a “setback”), now this. Our team’s not doing so good, people.
  3. Senate votes to advance Obama trade legislation, fast-track authority — Which sounds like progress to me, but then, I’m not Elizabeth Warren.
  4. Boy Scouts President Calls for End to Ban on Gay Leaders — That would be Robert Gates, ex-head of Defense and the CIA. There’s no actual proposal; he seems to be just testing the waters.
  5. The Man Who Lost $14 Billion in One Day — Bummer. As my friend Dennis Boone used to say, that’s more than I make in a year.

And whatever else y’all bring up…

Thoughts on the end of David Letterman’s 33-year run?

Just thought I’d put this up in case anyone had any observations about the close of David Letterman’s extraordinary 33-year run.

Personally, I didn’t see the last show, but I did read this blow-by-blow description of it.

And in fact, I didn’t see him all that much over the years, either. When he started out, I was already a dad with young kids and a pretty intense job that started at 7 a.m. every weekday.

But I’ve seen him enough to appreciate his brand of humor, which one of my favorite books of the 80s, “The Catalog of Cool,” described (I think; I don’t have my copy at hand) as “Perry Como on mescaline.” (Actually, according to a Google search, that description may have come from TIME magazine.)

The Top Ten List. Stupid Pet Tricks. Paul and the band. There’s a lot to remember. Share, if you’re inclined to…

Perhaps Kathryn can translate this for me

salon

When I saw the above sub-headline, I said, “say what?”

Then I said it again when I started reading it, then a few more times as I made my way through it, then once more when I was done.

So, since Kathryn’s always getting on me about my “privilege blindness,” and this writer does the same, maybe she can ‘splain this to me.

Because it made NO kind of sense. An excerpt:

White people, even well-meaning and thoughtful ones, have the privilege of looking at deadly acts of mass violence of this sort as isolated local incidents, particular to one community. They do not look at such incidents as indicative of anything having to do with race or racism. But everything from the difference in law enforcement response to media response tells us what we need to know about how white privilege allows acts of violence by white people to be judged by entirely different standards than those of any other group. If a Black motorcycle gang had engaged in a shootout in a parking lot, any honest white person will admit that the conversation would have sounded incredibly different.

Frequently in conversations that I have observed or participated in with white people about race, the claim is levied that it is Black people “who make everything about race.” But this incident in Waco gives lie to that claim. It turns out that when white privilege is in clear operation, white people are invested in making sure that we don’t see race in operation. Charles Mills, a philosopher of race, has a term which I think applies here: epistemology of white ignorance. By this means, he means that white people have created a whole way of knowing the world that both demands and allows that they remain oblivious to the operations of white supremacy, that white people remain “intent on denying what is before them.” Thus even though three gangs have now attacked each other in broad daylight and killed or injured 27 people, there is no nagging, gnawing sense of fear, no social anxiety about what the world is coming to, no anger at the thugs who made it unsafe for American families to go about their regular daily activities without fear of being clipped by a stray bullet, no posturing from law enforcement about the necessity of using military weapons to put down the lawless band of criminals that turned a parking lot into a war zone in broad daylight. More than that, there is no sense of white shame, no hanging of the head over the members of their race that have been out in the world representing everything that is wrong with America.

That kind of intra-racial shame is reserved primarily for Black people.

Most white citizens will insist that this was just an isolated incident, even though the gangs were already under surveillance for consistent participation in criminal activity. And this studied ignorance, this sense in which people could look at this set of incidents and simply refuse to see all the ways in which white privilege is at play — namely that no worse than arrest befell any the men who showed up hours later with weapons, looking for a fight — returns me to the words of Malcolm X. For many Americans, this is just good ole American fun, sort of like playing Cowboys-and-Indians in real life. As Malcolm reminded us, “whites idolize fighters.” So while I’m sure many Americans are appalled at the senseless loss of life, there is also the sense that this is just “those wild Texans” doing the kind of thing they do.

White Americans might also deny the attempt to “lump them in” with this unsavory element. But the point is that being seen as an individual is a privilege. Not having to interrogate the ways in which white violence is always viewed as exceptional rather than regular and quotidian is white privilege. White people can distance themselves from their violent racial counterparts because there is no sense that what these “bikers” did down in Texas is related to anything racial. White Americans routinely ask Black Americans to chastise the “lower” elements of our race, while refusing to do the same in instances like this. Yes, white people will denounce these crimes, but they won’t shake a finger at these bikers for making the race look bad. It won’t even occur to them why Black people would view such incidents as racialized.

Such analyses are patently unacceptable. And they are possible because white bodies, even those engaged in horrendously violent and reckless acts, are not viewed as “criminal.” Yes, some police officers referred to the acts of these killers in Waco as criminal acts and them as criminals, but in popular discourse, these men have not beencriminalized. Criminalization is a process that exists separate and apart from the acts one has committed. It’s why street protestors in Baltimore are referred to as violent thugs for burning buildings, but murderers in Waco get called “bikers.” And if thug is the new n-word (and I’m not sure that’s precise), then “biker” is the new “honky” or “cracker,” which is to say that while the term is used derisively and can communicate distaste, it does not have the devastating social effects or demand the same level of state engagement to suppress such “biker-ish” activity as we demand to suppress the activities of alleged “thugs” and “criminals.”

OK, let’s review.

  • She’s right that I see this as a local incident, just as I see the violence in Baltimore as a local incident, the product of local conditions. Yep, there are loads of people out there who nationalize such incidents, rightly or wrongly, but in my experience black observers are at least as likely to do that — seeing a national racial morality tale in, for instance, events in Ferguson — as white ones are.
  • She’s right again that I don’t see anything racial in a bunch of white thugs killing each other. I SORT OF see her point that cops didn’t think they needed riot gear, but was this actually a riot, spreading across a city? Wasn’t it a gang battle, contained to one place and with a specific, limited set of victims, as nasty and bloody as it was? Was it not focused inward, rather than outward? To what extent did it need to be contained?
  • I guess I’m not an “honest white person,” because I don’t see how “If a Black motorcycle gang had engaged in a shootout in a parking lot… the conversation would have sounded incredibly different.” A bunch of thugs killing each other is a bunch of thugs killing each other. Where’s the difference?
  • And who, pray tell, does not consider these thugs to be thugs?

Near the end, she writes, “there is something fundamentally dishonest about a society that revels in the violence of one group while demanding non-violent compliance from another.”

Say WHAT? Who is reveling in what violence?

A weird piece. But this is, after all, Salon, which also today offers us this elevating gem:

,,, a Tweet that, let’s face it, doesn’t even make grammatical sense…

Hillary: ‘I want those emails out!’ I’ll bet she DOES…

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Hillary Clinton has broken a month’s media silence with a brief, but testy, exchange of questions with reporters that saw her demand the swift release of her personal emails and defend money received by her family.

The former secretary of state called on the department to “expedite” the release of the records from her time in office after news that it might take until January to publish the cache recently turned over by her office….

Now, before you scoff, let me say that I take her at her word. When I read that the State Department was planning on dragging its feet until at least January, my very first thought was that this was very bad news for Hillary.

Think about it: If you’re she, would you rather have it all come out now, when there’s time to explain and then let people forget, or right as the primaries are starting?

So I believe her.

Come see me make a fool of myself tonight

Repeating what I said in a comment a few days ago:

By the way, y’all…

Next week at Capstone, we’ll have a debate on issues related to my Brookings piece, sponsored by the Policy Council. I’m on the panel along with our own Lynn Teague, Rick Quinn and Ashley Landess. Charles Bierbauer will moderate.

I was invited to this by Barton Swaim, thusly:

Did you happen to see Ashley’s op-ed in the WSJ on Saturday? If not, here it is: http://on.wsj.com/1DDDHDS

I’m hoping you vehemently disagree with it, because we’re holding a public debate on the topic of whether 501c3 groups like ours should have to disclose their donors and I’m looking for something to take the YES ABSOLUTELY position. You’re the first person I’ve asked, because you take contrary positions on just about everything!

It’s moderated by Charles Bierbauer, and it’s happening on Tuesday, May 19, from 6 to 8 p.m.

I hope some of y’all can come…

Here’s the Eventbrite info on it.

Actually, it turns out that Charles Bierbauer will not be moderating. Bill Rogers of the SC Press Association will take his place.

I agreed to do this even though I don’t have strong opinions on campaign finance law in general. But I do not believe, as the Policy Council appears to do, that spending equals speech. I do not believe that, as Ashley Landess says, it is “burdensome” for an advocacy group to have to disclose where its money comes from if it hopes to affect elections or policy.

And with me, that’s about as far as it goes. I’ve devoted basically no time to studying individual bills addressing the subject, or court cases on related issues. Because, you know, it’s all about money, and you know how money bores me.

But fortunately, I’ll have our own Lynn Teague on my team. The other “side” will be represented by Ms. Landess and Rep. Rick Quinn.

I’m assuming that all three of them know far more about this than I do (I know Lynn does), and will do the heavy lifting when it comes to filling those two hours.

Lynn and I talked the debate over at breakfast this morning. That’s the extent of my preparation, aside from a few emails back and forth with Barton Swaim, who got me into this.

So if you’re interested, come on out, because I’m sure the other three will have interesting things to say. And if I see the opportunity to make one of my 30,000-foot-view points, I will. Of course, I’m likely to misspeak in my ignorance of the minutiae on this issue. Which you might find entertaining, but I won’t…

If nothing else, a professor should be able to WRITE better than that

Self-described Duke professor Jerry Hough has stepped into deep don’t-don’t with his comments on a New York Times editorial headlined “How Racism Doomed Baltimore.” If you click on this link, you’ll see his comments.

What he said has been called racially “noxious.” And he’s taken a lot of heat for it.

I’ll let others judge whether Dr. Hough is, in his heart of hearts, a racist. One thing I know for sure is that he has a very poor command of the English language, to the extent that he lacks the skill to avoid sounding like a racist.

For instance, he doesn’t seem to get it that, if he’s going to make offensive (and extremely trite) generalizations comparing the experiences of Americans of Asian and African extraction, one does better (a little better, anyway) to refer to “blacks” and “Asians” than “the blacks” and “the Asians.” I mean, who doesn’t know that? Who is that tone deaf?

Dr. Hough has been castigated, unsurprisingly, for saying “Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration. Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration.”

I mean, let’s set aside the fact that I’d like to make the prof a bet that not “every” Asian student has a name like “John.” It’s the WAY he said it. Folks who are not racists have done a great deal of hand-wringing over the fact that if you have a “black-sounding” name such as “Tyrone,” you’re less likely to get a job interview than if your name is, say, “Bradley.” (Ahem.)

This is a point that can be, and often is, made in a non-offensive manner. Dr. Hough mentions it in a way that condemns “the blacks” as a group for not wanting to play well with others.

Anyway, here are his comments in their entirety:

This editorial is what is wrong. The Democrats are an alliance of Westchester and Harlem, of Montgomery County and intercity Baltimore. Westchester and Montgomery get a Citigroup asset stimulus policy that triples the market. The blacks get a decline in wages after inflation.

But the blacks get symbolic recognition in an utterly incompetent mayor who handled this so badly from beginning to end that her resignation would be demanded if she were white.The blacks get awful editorials like this that tell them to feel sorry for themselves.

In 1965 the Asians were discriminated against as least as badly as blacks. That was reflected in the word “colored.” The racism against what even Eleanor Roosevelt called the yellow races was at least as bad.

So where are the editorials that say racism doomed the Asian-Americans. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves, but worked doubly hard.

I am a professor at Duke University. Every Asian student has a very simple old American first name that symbolizes their desire for integration. Virtually every black has a strange new name that symbolizes their lack of desire for integration. The amount of Asian-white dating is enormous and so surely will be the intermarriage. Black-white dating is almost non-existemt because of the ostracism by blacks of anyone who dates a white.

It was appropriate that a Chinese design won the competition for the Martin Luther King state. King helped them overcome. The blacks followed Malcolm X.

Wowee. I hate to show disrespect for “the old people” by saying this, but at 80, maybe the prof has lost a little zip on his fast ball in terms of being able to set out ideas in a way that he is heard, rather than making people want to shut him out. His writing is a blunt instrument that repeatedly taps on the sorest of spots, and does so with a startling lack of originality. Duke professor? He sounds more like Joe Blowhard in the local tavern after too many brewskis.

Of course, maybe he’s just racist. There’s always that possibility. But one expects even a racist Duke professor to express his views better…

There is no ‘wall’ between church and state

First, I agree with Unitarian Rev. Neal Jones that if our governor is going to invite us to a day of prayer, she ought to invite everybody, and not just Christians.

And in the video above from the website of the upcoming event, she does seem to invite everybody. Unfortunately, Rev. Jones received a letter from the governor that seemed to imply a more restricted invitation, in that it said “this is a time for Christians to come together to call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles.”

Rev. Jones felt left out because Unitarian-Universalists are not what you would call Christians. Instead, they firmly believe that… um… ah…. Well, they’re not, strictly speaking, what you would call Christians.

So if the governor meant to stiff-arm his congregation, and Jews, and the Sikhs in her own family, then that’s not good. If she really meant to do that.

But… I have to object to the fact that in making the argument that Nikki Haley should not have done such a thing, Rev. Jones repeated a popular misconception, and I feel the need to correct him:

So I will not be attending the governor’s day of prayer, because she didn’t actually mean to invite me, as I am the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia. But even if she had, I would not attend. I am not against prayer, but I am for the Constitution, the First Amendment of which establishes a “wall of separation between church and state,” to use Thomas Jefferson’s famous phrase. That wall protects the integrity of both government and religion. It prevents religious zealots from using the power and purse of the government to force their beliefs and practices on the rest of us, and it prevents overreaching politicians from intruding into religious affairs. Each institution does better when it minds its own business — when ministers pray and politicians pave roads….

You see the error, right?

The First Amendment does not establish a “wall of separation between church and state.” That oft-repeated quote was Thomas Jefferson — who was not involved in drafting the Constitution or the Bill of Rights — expressing his opinion regarding the effect of the actual amendment. It was in a letter he wrote as president to the Danbury Baptist Association explaining why he, unlike his predecessors and some who followed him, refused to proclaim days of fasting and thanksgiving. The operative passage:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state…

Jefferson was on solid ground when he said the amendment provided that the Congress “should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But he ventured into opinion, and for his part wishful thinking, when he added “thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”

(Interestingly, after rhetorically erecting this wall and standing firmly on the secular side of it, he closed his letter with these pious words: “I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and creator of man…”)

By the way, I place more store on the opinion of James Madison that there should be a “total separation of the church from the state.” But it must be noted that Madison did not insert such language into the amendment itself, and no amendment with that wording was ever ratified or adopted.

Too many folks continue to believe that what Jefferson chose to believe the amendment said is actually what the amendment says.

When it isn’t.

We are not to have an established church, and the government may not interfere with anyone’s particular religious beliefs or practices. This is not the same as having a wall of separation; it’s not even close.

In Jefferson’s day, a lot of folks wanted there to be such a wall, and he was among them. A lot of folks want there to be such a wall today, and furthermore sincerely believe the Constitution provides for one.

But, again, it does not.

Rev. Jones concludes:

I realize that in South Carolina, indeed across the South, it is tempting for politicians to overstep their civil authority and meddle in religious matters. Southern politicians win lots of votes by making a public display of their piety. The next time Gov. Haley prays, she might consider praying for the strength to resist that temptation … for her own spiritual health and for the health of our constitutional democracy….

Rev. Jones may find it distasteful when “Southern politicians win lots of votes by making a public display of their piety.” I might, too, depending on the circumstances and the nature of that display. Not because the civic realm is damaged by mentions of God, but because God is blasphemed by having His name yoked to an individual politician’s aims.

Many of my readers might be offended in far more instances than I would. But when politicians thus offend, they generally do not “overstep their civil authority.”

‘Hillary’ campaign gets a home in SC

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Hillary Clinton hasn’t been to South Carolina since 2008, but her campaign is about to have a home, right here in river city:

Hillary for South Carolina Announces First South Carolina Office in Columbia
Opens Office with Wednesday Phone Bank  

Columbia, SC — The Hillary for South Carolina campaign announced that its first office in the state will open with a grassroots phone bank on Wednesday, May 20th at 6:00 PM. The office is located in Columbia at 1529 Richland Street in the historic Robert Mills District. Clinton will be visiting South Carolina on Wednesday, May 27th.

The campaign will hold a formal open house reception with supporters and neighbors on June 2nd at 6 PM.

“Hillary will work hard to earn every vote in the First in the South primary and not take anything for granted. Our growing grassroots campaign will continue sharing her vision and tell their stories on why Hillary is the right champion to help South Carolinians get ahead and stay ahead,” said Clay Middleton, South Carolina State Director for Hillary for America.

Since Clinton announced, there have been thousands of pledges to volunteer as part of this grassroots campaign. In the coming weeks, the campaign will hold a dozen neigborhood parties from the Lowcountry to the Upstate, the Pee Dee region through the Midlands. Neighborhood parties will happen in Charleston, Spartanburg, Columbia, and Rock Hill this upcoming week.

Supporters can sign up at hillaryclinton.com/volunteer/south-carolina/ to receive more information on and other events happening in South Carolina.

WHAT:        Grassroots Phone Bank at New Columbia Office
WHEN:       Wednesday, May 20th at 6 PM
WHERE:     Clinton campaign office at 1529 Richland Street in Columbia, SC

On an unrelated, or very tangentially related, note…

It’s sort of a relief, and makes life simpler, that her campaign is formalizing the process of referring to the candidate by the very informal “Hillary.”

That’s the easiest way to refer to her and make one’s meaning clear. You say “Clinton” to me without context, and I think “Bill.” Or the town where Presbyterian College is located. But Hillary is quick, economical, and states the case.

It’s good to know that no one’s going to get offended (or at least, if they do, I have a great defense) if I refer to the candidate merely by her first name in headlines — either Hillary defenders, who would object to the one woman in the race being thus designated, or Hillary detractors who think it sounds too chummy.

And I hereby grant Hillary permission to call me “Brad” if she so chooses. I won’t harrumph or anything…

So how come the Baltics aren’t going ape over maneuvers?

My eyebrows went up when I saw this in Foreign Affairs:

In March, a U.S. Army convoy rolled 1,100 miles across six countries in Europe. The convoy, which included over 500 U.S. military personnel and 120 vehicles making their way through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and the Czech Republic and back to their base in Germany, was the longest that Europe had seen since the Battle of the Bulge, in 1944.

This operation, Dragoon Ride, was a compelling bit of showmanship for a world rocked by the crisis in Ukraine. But the operation also demonstrates the strengths and pitfalls of American commitments to European security, and offers a glimpse into how the conflict in Ukraine has forced NATO to reexamine its purpose and future….

So… if that happened, why aren’t folks in the Baltics going nuts, obsessing over a U.S. military takeover?

I’ll tell you why: Because none a them li’l no ‘count countries can hold a candle to Texas when it comes to being crazy paranoid. Not to pick on Texas. It’s a huge phenomenon in much of the rest of the country as well. No… actually, Texas may take the prize…

Gender aside, who would YOU rather see on the $20 bill?

After reading this piece by the wonderfully named Feminista Jones, arguing that putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill would actually undermine her legacy, I got to thinking: Who would I rather see on the double sawbuck in place of Andrew Jackson?

I mean, you know, demographics aside. Me not being all that big on identity politics and all.

The simple answer is “just about anybody,” including Harriet Tubman and whoever the also-rans were behind her in the Women on 20s contest.

Jackson’s not my fave president. I’ve always sort of seen his electoral victory over the vastly more qualified John Quincy Adams as a moment, if not the moment, when American politics went off the rails. I mean, good one on the Battle of New Orleans (even though the war was over), but just not one of the greats, to my way of thinking. Also, Davy Crockett was my hero when I was a pre-schooler, and Davy (who split with Jackson over the Trail of Tears), if anything, thought less of him than I do.

So whom would I pick to replace him? This is an occasion for another Top Five List:

  1. John Adams — My favorite Founding Father. I have long believed that history gave him short shrift. Everybody remembers Jefferson for writing the Declaration of Independence. But there would have been no declaration without Adams. He’s the guy who tirelessly rammed it through the Continental Congress, while Jefferson sat there like a bump on a log. In fact, it’s likely that it was Adams’ decision to have Jefferson draft the actual document, because he knew the Virginian had a way with words. But Adams was far more the author of our liberty than Jefferson. You say Washington is the Father of our Country? Well, Adams was the one who set him up to become that, by pushing him as the guy to lead our army. For that matter, Adams was the one who proposed that there be a Continental Army to begin with. Then there were his significant contributions as a diplomat in Paris and London during and after the war, which did a lot to make our victory possible. Sure, his presidency wasn’t anything to brag on, but you don’t even have to have been a president to be on a bill. Ask Franklin and Hamilton.
  2. Franklin D. Roosevelt — Led us through the greatest crises in our history, outside of the Civil War — and Lincoln’s already on the five. And he did it with such elan. Who else in our history could have bucked us up and kept us going through the ’30s and early ’40s? No one. And yeah, he’s already on the dime, but he still comes in second — or even first, making Adams second — on my list.
  3. Martin Luther King — After you mention Lincoln and Roosevelt, whose spoken words stirred the American spirit with more power? He inspired us to be the kind of country we always meant to be. We’re still working on that, and he still inspires us.
  4. Harriet Tubman — For all the reasons she won the recent competition to come up with a woman to put on the list. And not just because she’s a twofer — y’all know I don’t go in for such things. Did I ever tell you that when my wife spent a year up in Pennsylvania with our youngest daughter, while the daughter was training at a ballet school, they lived in an antebellum house that had been part of the Underground Railroad? True story. So I must confess to that personal connection.
  5. John Glenn — I’ve always found the first American to orbit the Earth one of the more admirable people of my lifetime. Also, I wanted to have at least one surprise nominee in my five, and Bryan got me to thinking again today about how much I love “The Right Stuff.” And while he’s a nonpresidential nominee, he was my favorite candidate in 1984, even though he didn’t make it. Godspeed, John Glenn.

Whom would you choose?

 

Open Thread for Thursday, May 14, 2016

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Kind of a slow news day, but here’s what we’ve got:

  1. Amtrak driver says he cannot remember deadly crash — I find this quite credible. I don’t remember how I hit my head that night last summer. When even mild concussion is involved, amnesia is fairly common, I believe.
  2. Obama’s trade agenda clears a key hurdle in Senate — Looks like we MAY have a rational result out of all this.
  3. Jeb Bush Tries to End Storm on Iraq Remarks — Hey, I thought what he said initially was fine — but I would, right? Particularly since to me, Iraq wasn’t primarily about WMD. And he reflected my views when he criticized the way the aftermath of combat was totally botched. I found Jennifer Rubin’s “Nine ways to answer the Iraq question” interesting. I think Bush has tried something like four of them so far, and none are really working for him.
  4. Tom Brady lodges appeal against four-game Deflategate ban  — Not because I’m interested, but because I told y’all I’d give you more sports.

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