Once again, photographic proof that Mike Miller and I are two completely different people

Mike and me

That’s me on the left. Not my left, YOUR left…

Here we go again, y’all.

Last night, I stopped by the First Thursday event on Main Street, partly because I wanted to drop by Kyle Michel‘s law office and rummage through the discs he was prepared to part with. Kyle, the son-in-law of my old boss Tom McLean, is the Rob Fleming of Columbia, and much of the space in his office is taken up by his amazingly extensive record collection. Each First Thursday, he puts a couple of tables out on the sidewalk in front of his office, laden with boxes full of LPs he’s prepared to sell. (Last night, I came away with a mono LP of Trini Lopez’ greatest hits.)Trini-Lopez-Greatest-Hits---S-504697

Crossing the courtyard of the art museum on my way toward Main Street, I heard my name called, and it was Mike Miller, standing chatting with Tim Conroy — yes, he’s one of those Conroys, brother of Pat — and Phill Blair, co-owner of The Whig (and one of my elder son’s best friends).

Mike immediately reported that it had happened again. Just minutes before in a shop on Main Street, a woman had mistaken him for me. He did his best to persuade her that he was this whole other guy who had also worked at the newspaper, and she allowed as how yes, she recalls there was a Mike Miller who wrote about the music scene for the paper, but she had felt certain that the man in front of her was Brad Warthen.

This is ridiculous, people.

This happened to me — being mistaken for Mike, I mean — three times in one week back in 2012, in the wake of Mike’s run for city council. I have since posted photographic evidence that we are not the same person. That should have settled it, right?

Evidently, that photo wasn’t persuasive enough. So I asked Tim Conroy to take a picture of us together, right then and there, to put an end to the persistent rumors that Clark Kent — I mean, Mike Miller — and I are the same person. He obliged.

Please share this with your friends and neighbors, so we can clear up this misunderstanding. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

OK, there’s ONE reason I might prefer Hillary to Joe Biden

vp_clinton_being_biden_2013

Generally, I’ve been happy, even a little excited, to hear that Joe Biden might challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Part of it is the unsavory side of the presumed front-runner that her email mess reveals, day after day. Actually, not so much “reveals” as “reminds us of.” We are reminded of the control freak, the Nixonian figure who can’t see legitimate criticism as anything other than another attempt by her enemies in the “vast right-wing conspiracy” to trump up a way to do her in.

Whereas I’ve always liked Joe. He was my fave on the Democratic side in the 2008 campaign until he dropped out. It’s hard not to like Biden; he’s just so chock-full of the best kind of Joe-ness. (What is Joe-ness? Oh, it’s many things. One example: Earlier this morning I was talking to Samuel Tenenbaum, and told him to say hi to Inez and tell her I want to talk with her about Biden. That caused Samuel to tell me about Biden calling him to wish him a happy birthday a couple of weeks back. They got to talking about books they had read recently. Samuel, who loves to share books with friends, mentioned he had wanted to send a book to the veep but couldn’t get past his staff. According to Samuel, Biden said, “My staff and the Secret Service can be a pain in the ass.” That’s one type of Joe-ness.)

However it turns out, I’ll be happy to see him get into it, if he does.

But… all of that said, I read a column this morning in The State that reminds me of at least one reason I might prefer Hillary as a commander-in-chief.

It was by Doyle McManus of the L.A. Times. In part, it said:

Biden and Clinton aren’t far apart when it comes to domestic issues, but that’s decidedly not true when it comes to international affairs.

Clinton was on the hawkish side of Obama’s team. She supported a big surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan in 2009; Obama opted for a smaller surge, with a time limit. In 2011, she called for U.S. military intervention in Libya; Obama went along. In 2012, she urged him to send military aid to Syrian rebels; Obama resisted (after Clinton left office, he changed his mind).

Biden was on the opposite end of all three debates. He didn’t think adding U.S. military force in Afghanistan would solve the country’s problems. He didn’t think Libya was central enough to U.S. interests to justify airstrikes. And he was skeptical about the idea of arming Syrian rebels.

The two even disagreed over whether the president should launch the secret 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Clinton “concluded that this was a rare opportunity and believed we should seize it,” then-CIA Director Leon Panetta wrote in his memoir. “Biden argued that we still did not have enough confidence that Bin Laden was in the compound [where the CIA believed he was living], and he came out firmly in favor of waiting for more information.”

There’s a clear pattern here. Each time, Clinton argued in favor of U.S. intervention. Each time, Biden was a skeptic, warning Obama that the risks outweighed the potential gains….

This piece reminds me that one of the thing I’ve always liked about Hillary is that she is on “the hawkish side of Obama’s team.” It’s not that I’m such a hawk, as many of you believe. It’s just that I’m definitely, without question, to the hawkish side of the current POTUS. More than that, she understands America’s role in the world, that the United States is, as Madeleine Albright used to say, “the indispensable nation.”

And Joe even tried to put the brakes on the Abbottabad operation? OK, it wasn’t unreasonable to want to be more certain about Osama bin Laden being in that compound. Anyone would. Certainty is a nice thing to have. But as it turned out, Obama made the right call in going ahead, and it stands as one of the wisest decisions of his presidency.

So where do we stand here? Definitely, I prefer Joe on a personal level — he passes the “would you want to have a beer with him” test with flying colors. But there’s a lot to be said for Hillary’s approach to national and collective security — which is, you know, kinda important when picking a POTUS.

The bin Laden mission: Biden was the cautious one.

The bin Laden mission: Biden was the cautious one.

‘Black Lives Matter?’ Absolutely. After that, what?

The “Black Lives Matter” movement has sort of been hovering out there, an amorphous thing that no one seems entirely comfortable with.

Not Republican presidential candidates, certainly (some less than others). But not their Democratic counterparts, either.

And our governor is pretty adamant in her disapproval.

Conservatives are uncomfortable with it, and some liberals seem dismissive:

Black Lives Matter demands “freedom for Black bodies, justice for Black lives, safety for Black communities, and rights for Black people,” but it will have to overcome skepticism from fellow progressives to create lasting political change.

Self-identifying members of the left are comparing the movement to Occupy Wall Street, which stormed the American political discourse in 2011, but in 2015 feels like a historical relic.

Adolph Reed, a professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s political science department, told IJReview on August 12 that he had:

“been joking with some friends in the last few days we should call it Blackupy because it is the same kind of thing.”

Of course, I’m taking IJ’s word for it that this Prof. Reed is a liberal. I don’t know.

But I know the Democratic Party has an uneasy relationship with it. The party has been sticking up for it, and today I got a DP release drawing attention to a NYT editorial defending the movement:

The Republican Party and its acolytes in the news media are trying to demonize the protest movement that has sprung up in response to the all-too-common police killings of unarmed African-Americans across the country. The intent of the campaign — evident in comments by politicians likeGov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina,Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin andSenator Rand Paul of Kentucky — is to cast the phrase “Black Lives Matter” as an inflammatory or even hateful anti-white expression that has no legitimate place in a civil rights campaign….

The “Black Lives Matter” movement focuses on the fact that black citizens have long been far more likely than whites to die at the hands of the police, and is of a piece with this history. Demonstrators who chant the phrase are making the same declaration that voting rights and civil rights activists made a half-century ago. They are not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. They are underlining an indisputable fact — that the lives of black citizens in this country historically have not mattered, and have been discounted and devalued. People who are unacquainted with this history are understandably uncomfortable with the language of the movement. But politicians who know better and seek to strip this issue of its racial content and context are acting in bad faith. They are trying to cover up an unpleasant truth and asking the country to collude with them.

But the movement itself resists efforts by the liberal establishment to defend it:

The following is a statement is response to the Democratic National Committee resolution expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and can be attributed to the Black Lives Matter Network, including our 26 chapters nationwide.

“A resolution signaling the Democratic National Committee’s endorsement that Black lives matter, in no way implies an endorsement of the DNC by the Black Lives Matter Network, nor was it done in consultation with us. We do not now, nor have we ever, endorsed or affiliated with the Democratic Party, or with any party. The Democratic Party, like the Republican and all political parties, have historically attempted to control or contain Black people’s efforts to liberate ourselves. True change requires real struggle, and that struggle will be in the streets and led by the people, not by a political party.

More specifically, the Black Lives Matter Network is clear that a resolution from the Democratic National Committee won’t bring the changes we seek. Resolutions without concrete change are just business as usual. Promises are not policies. We demand freedom for Black bodies, justice for Black lives, safety for Black communities, and rights for Black people. We demand action, not words, from those who purport to stand with us.

While the Black Lives Matter Network applauds political change towards making the world safer for Black life, our only endorsement goes to the protest movement we’ve built together with Black people nationwide — not the self-interested candidates, parties, or political machine seeking our vote.”

####

Assuming that statement is in any way legitimately representative of it, the movement, like Occupy and the Tea Party before it, is… prickly — particularly with regard to efforts to co-opt it.

Like those predecessors, especially Occupy (which foolishly had a deep ideological objection to hierarchy), it’s a little hard to focus on because it “is a decentralized network, and has no formal hierarchy or structure.” That is, no one is in charge.

Also, it has arisen from disparate events in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Charleston and elsewhere. To someone like me, I see those as discrete occurrences and draw different conclusions from them. To Black Lives Matter — I think; as I say, it’s hard to pin down — they are all part of a clear pattern.

All I know is that whenever I hear “Black Lives Matter,” I think, “Of course they do.” Beyond that, when I look at the movement’s clashes with various people, including those you would assume would be sympathetic, I don’t know what to think.

You?

Scoppe: Lawmakers have more constructive things to do than go off on Kulturkampf chase

And she’s right. From her column today:

Last week, the committee voted to distract itself from the intensive reviews it has pledged to complete this year of the huge Transportation Department and nine other state agencies, adding an investigation into the relationship between Planned Parenthood and four state agencies.

Now, there are circumstances under which it might be a good use of the panel’s time (or at least not a bad use) to jump into the political firestorm that has been raging nationally since the release of secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials talking cavalierly about harvesting and selling aborted fetal tissue to medical researchers.

It certainly would make sense, for instance, to add that line of questioning if the panel already were reviewing the agencies it plans to call in for questioning: the Medical University of South Carolina and the departments of Health and Environmental Control, Health and Human Services and Social Services. But it’s not.

It might even be a worthwhile question for the panel to pursue if no one else was examining whether any fetal tissue was being harvested in South Carolina, and whether any state funds were supporting that. And if there were anything to suggest that what we know has happened in California and Oregon might be happening here. And if the committee weren’t already overloaded.

But none of that is the case….

Cindi and I disagree on the abortion issue, if I remember correctly. But I could be wrong about that; we never really got into it, as an issue for the board to address. Why? For the same reason I moan when I see our public conversations careening off into Culture War territory: At least here on the state level, such issues do little beyond dividing us into irreconcilable camps. Nothing is resolved, and everyone is so embittered that there is no appetite for seeking consensus on other issues that we could, conceivably, agree on.

For similar reasons, we stayed away from such things as the same-sex marriage debate (and of course, when I was on the board, so did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.) Now some would say that issue has been resolved, this latest mini-drama in Kentucky notwithstanding. Of course, a lot of folks think Roe v. Wade settled the abortion issue. It did not. But I do think the gay-marriage issue is different. We’ve moved much closer to consensus on that, and the issue is not the sure-fire source of pointless division that it was not long ago.

Abortion, of course, is as divisive as ever.

And it’s distressing to see our lawmakers, who have only recently started getting serious about providing oversight of state agencies, to waste energy on something that accomplishes nothing beyond giving members a chance to signal on which side of the irreconcilable divide they stand.

The death penalty for Roof?

Thoughts on this?

A South Carolina prosecutor says she will seek the death penalty for an alleged white supremacist, Dylann Roof of Columbia, who is charged with killing nine black churchgoers in June in Charleston.

“This was the ultimate crime, and justice from our state calls for the ultimate penalty,” 9th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson told a group of reporters shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday….

To state what I’ve stated many times before, if I thought the death penalty was right, this would certainly be a case in which I would apply it.

But I don’t, so I wouldn’t.

I found this particularly intriguing:

In recent weeks, Wilson has met with families of the nine victims. At her Thursday press conference, she told reporters that some family members agreed with her decision and others did not. But in the end the decision was hers, she said….

Often, prosecutors will cite the wishes of victims’ families as reasons to pursue a particular charge or penalty. Which is, of course, wrong in a nation of laws and not of men. The prosecutor is right: It is her decision to make.

That said, do you think she has made the right one? Particularly in this case, when our state was pulled together so dramatically by the gestures of forgiveness by the families.

(I had breakfast this morning with Mark Lett, executive editor at The State. As we were leaving, he asked whether I had ever thought South Carolina could come together like that, so quickly, to remove the flag. I said I certainly had not imagined such a thing. I told him that when I ran into Aaron Sheinin at that first flag rally after the shootings, he and I got to talking about how the very earliest anything could happen would be January. And then I said, “Of course, our governor could call on lawmakers to come back into session especially to take the flag down,” and we both laughed in the cynical way that ink-stained wretches of the press tend to do. And then, two days later, it actually happened. It was a miracle — it was a whole raft of miracles to see those people standing together for such a purpose — and it was brought about by those exhibitions of forgiveness. Which gives us additional reason to regard what the families did with awe and reverence.)

Of course, I suppose there’s a school of thought that you can personally forgive someone, but still believe that person should face the consequences of his actions. And this is a consequence for which our laws provide.

I would say that death is not the right way to go. But that’s what I always say. You?

Open Thread for Wednesday, September 2, 2015

North to Alaska: POTUS checks out some fjords.

North to Alaska: POTUS checks out some fjords.

It’s been a busy day for me, but here are some topics to discuss amongst yourselves:

  1. Obama secures votes to clinch Iran victory in Congress — We’ve seen this coming for a couple of days, but before that, it would have surprised me. How did we get here? It seemed like all Republicans and some Democrats were against it, so… what happened? ‘Splain the math to me…
  2. Chinese Navy Ships Operating in Bering Sea Off Alaska Coast — Fascinating development. I heard a story on the radio yesterday about how the Russians are using their icebreaker fleet to open shipping routes to Europe through the Arctic (the Northwest Passage!), and now this. All this as Obama becomes first sitting president to travel north of the Arctic Circle. It’s “Ice Station Zebra” time.
  3. U.S. Stocks Regain Footing — Now that’s more like. This is the kind of story I want to read, if forced to read financial news. Don’t give me any more of that junk like yesterday. Got that?
  4. Draft Biden super PAC hires SC staff — Meanwhile, Inez Tenenbaum and Gerald Malloy will be state co-chairs of the effort.
  5. Trump: Jeb Bush Should Be ‘Speaking English’ — Because he hadn’t said anything truly outrageous all week, so he was due.

 

Virtual Front Page for Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A few topics to chew over:

  1. Stocks Tumble on China Worries — WSJ— Looks like the WSJ got confused and posted a headline from last week.
  2. U.S. using secret drone campaign to hunt ISIS leaders — WashPost — This kind of warfare is more Obama’s style. Washington Post exclusive.

  3. 13 USC fraternities suspended from recruitment — thestate.com — Speaking, as we were earlier, about people who have odd priorities when it comes to higher education… I’m curious: Were any of y’all in fraternities or sororities? Why?
  4. Special Report: How U.S. police turn drivers into moving targetsThe Guardian — British news outlets find American gun violence endlessly fascinating. Oh, speaking of which…
  5. Columbia policeman fired after off-duty shooting incident — thestate.com — They say he managed to shoot himself as well, which is at least a new wrinkle.
  6. Idris Elba, Daniel Craig and Bond: Can the Man, and Franchise, Change? — WSJ — Before I can picture this, I need to see him play someone other than Stringer Bell.
He's cool, but is he, specifically, BOND cool?

He’s cool, but is he, specifically, BOND cool?

Check my back, OK? I think there’s a Russian following me…

IMG_0874

OK, yeah, I know; I shouldn’t make jokes about people’s nationalities.

It’s just that this guy started following me sometime in the last 24 hours, and I tend to click on new followers to see who they are, and I was intrigued by (what I take to be) the Cyrillic text on his feed. (In fact, he may not be Russian at all. I’m too ignorant to tell. Can you tell?)

Then I tapped on his avatar (this was on my iPad), and got this super grainy, black-and-white image that immediately reminded me of the blurry surveillance image of Karla that George Smiley kept on the wall of his office.

And then, the image moved. It stretched and distorted itself to become more blurry, then popped back into shape, then did it all again. I checked; it wasn’t a GIF. It was a PNG. Can PNG’s do that?

I’m not making this up. Look at his feed and watch the avatar on one of his Tweets, just for a few seconds. See it jump? Roll your mouse pointer over it. Does it do it now?

So who is this guy? According to Facebook, he’s a cipher, a complete question mark — unless I ask to be his “friend.” Yeah, right — I do that, and next thing you know I show up on his expense reports to Moscow Centre as a new agent. Then, the next defector we get tells the boys at Langley or MI6 that they’ve turned me, and I’ve got a permanent cloud over me. I’m not falling for that.

And what’s that background image on Twitter? Is that a raven? Is it saying, “никогда больше?”

Again, sorry. I’ve just started reading The Art of Betrayal: The Secret History of MI6, by Gordon Corera, and I’m in the chapter about Vienna right after the war, when everybody was trying to recruit everybody else, and so I’m, well, I’ve got this sort of thing on the brain.

Sorry. (If I say “sorry” a couple more times, I think I’ll have established my cover as a Brit.)…

artem

A trip through the Wayback Machine

wayback

While working on a presentation later this week on the subject of blogging, I went back and looked at some of my early efforts.

Specifically, I went back to January 2008, my peak blogging month ever.

Looking back, I’m fairly impressed.

If you want to go back and explore, just click on the image above, you’ll go back in time, and you’ll find the links work (or at least SOME of them do) and everything.

Enjoy.

Do college football coaches deserve their pay?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In defense of “The Great Escape”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Thread for Thursday, August 27, 2015

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

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

A few things to talk about:

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

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

Just got around to looking at this release from yesterday:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
###

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

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

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

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

That’s just Hugely embarrassing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Jaffe

Alex Jaffe

In December or January

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2016 Donald Trump phenomenon is not going away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoiler alert — no…

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

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

Open Thread for Monday, August 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

600 points

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

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

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

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

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

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

You?