So why can’t a hallucination be an actual message?

Unfaithful

 

First, a confession…

Sometimes in Mass, my mind wanders. This is not entirely my fault. I love St. Peter’s and its architecture, but the acoustics have always been terrible. Everything said from the altar or the pulpit bounces around in the dome above it, so that the last thing a speaker said is competing with what he or she is saying after that. This is particularly bad for me with my Meniere’s problem, because it causes me to have particular trouble separating speech clearly from background noise. Add to that the fact that the Mass I attend is in Spanish, and while my pronunciation is good, my understanding isn’t what it was 50 years ago when I lived in Ecuador. Even when I can hear it clearly, I have to work hard to catch enough words to get the drift.

Put all that together, and I have a lot of trouble following what is being said. So my mind wanders. Frequently. And when it wanders, I often think of religious-themed posts for the blog. But then, by the time the Mass is over, and I go home and have lunch and, if I have my druthers, have a nice Sunday afternoon nap, I’ve forgotten about it. So Sunday posts remain rare.

But here’s the one that was going through my head in Mass yesterday…

The night before, I watched on Netflix an episode of House, from Season 5, titled “Unfaithful.”

It opens with a weary, dissolute-seeming young priest (Greene’s “whiskey priest” in The Power and the Glory seems to be a literary antecedent) who has just taken off his collar and is trying to relax in his dingy cell, located in the charity that he runs for the homeless, by knocking back a whiskey or three.

A few moments before, a homeless man had knocked, seeking a warm coat, which the priest gave him. Now, someone is insistently knocking again. Reluctantly, grimly, he drags himself to the door, opens it, and before him is a bloody Christ, with fresh stigmata, scourge wounds all over, and the crown of thorns.

The priest says, “That’s not funny, freak.” The figure before him answers, “No one is laughing, Daniel.” The priest looks down and sees that the figure’s nail-pierced feet are hovering several inches from the ground.

This, to say the least, freaks him out.

The priest immediately turns himself in to the hospital where “House” works — because, of course, he was hallucinating. He leaps to that conclusion because, after being hounded from parish to parish by a false sexual abuse charge leveled at him by a young man several parishes back, the priest has no faith left.

So to him, as to the atheist House, the only explanation for such an incident is that there is something wrong with his brain. It’s a symptom, not a message from God — a diagnosis with which the writers of the show clearly agree.

The next day, thinking about this in Mass, it occurred to me that there’s something wrong with the logic underlying the show’s premise. To follow me, I ask my unbelieving readers to suspend their disbelief for a moment. Stipulate — just for the sake of this discussion — that there is a God and that He does try to tell us things from time to time.

So, if we accept that… why would the incident being a hallucination mean that it wasn’t an actual message from God? Mind you, I can’t tell you what the message in this case would be, beyond shocking the priest out of his faith slump.

But what about a hallucination makes it an invalid form of perception, within the context of faith? Think about this: The Bible is filled with instances of people receiving divine messages through dreams, from the original Joseph of the many-colored coat to Joseph of Nazareth. No one says, “It can’t be a real message because it was just a dream.”

And what is a hallucination except a waking dream?

We mortals have a wide variety of methods of communication. We can speak to people face-to-face, or tell them what we’re thinking with sign language. There’s writing, smoke signals, Morse code, email, videochat, texting — some of which are more “virtual” than others, but all seen as genuine communication. And let’s not forget movies with special effects — do such effects mean that they can’t communicate a serious message? (Not that CGI-rich films tend to be heavy on ideas, but they can be, just as any other film can.)

The hallucination, or the sleeping version, seems to be a favorite mode of communication of the Almighty.

And you don’t have to be a believer to find meaning in dreams, to see them as powerful communicators of important ideas. Ask a Freudian. Absent God, it could be your superego is trying to tell you something.

We empirical moderns like to think that something isn’t real if it can’t be independently confirmed — which seems rather narrow and limited of us. If someone else looking out his window at the moment the priest was having his waking dream did not see the crucified figure hovering there, then the priest didn’t, either. Except that he did. And if anyone could make him see something that his neighbor didn’t  — encoding the message for him alone to see, which is not a radical concept — an all-powerful God who knows everything about how every individual is made would be the one. Again, you have to believe in God to follow this, but if you do, why would you think the Deity couldn’t do that?

A photograph taken at the time wouldn’t show the Jesus figure. There would be no drops of blood on the sidewalk. But then, there was no physical evidence of Moses’ burning bush experience, either. The scripture specifically notes that although it was burning, the bush was not consumed.

So while you might not believe, if you do believe, why is this priest’s vision automatically less legit than that of Moses, or the dream in which Joseph was urged to go ahead and marry Mary?

There are some belief systems that are all about hallucination, even about deliberately inducing them — I think of shamans who treat peyote as a sacrament.

Have you ever read any of Carlos Castaneda’s books? They’re all about achieving greater enlightenment by inducing hallucinations, and actually entering into those hallucinations and taking action within them. The Separate Reality is as legitimate, within the context of that system of thought, as one that concrete thinkers see as the only reality.

So, given all that, what’s the justification for seeing a hallucination as just a hallucination, and therefore automatically devoid of meaning? That seems a very shallow, and at the least unimaginative, explanation.

Anyway, that’s what I got to thinking about during Mass when I was supposed to be paying attention…

Regarding Scotland, I add my cheers to Friedman’s

Friday night, I ran into our own Phillip Bush at the Greek Festival. He had a pint of beer in hand, which he had obtained at the craft beer stand next to the main tent, where Greek-flavored music was being performed. I asked if he would recommend one of the beers. He said that, Anglophile that I am, I should get a Skunk Cabbage ESB, to celebrate the Scots’ rejection of separatism.

Which I did. And I congratulate the local brewers — I liked it better than the legendary Fuller’s ESB.

But I congratulate the Scots even more heartily. And I share this Tom Friedman column, which Samuel Tenenbaum brings to my attention:

Three Cheers for Pluralism Over Separatism

MADRID — THIS was an interesting week to visit Britain and Spain — first to watch the Scottish separatists push for independence and then to watch Basque and Catalan separatists watching (with disappointment) the outcome of the vote. One reaction: I’m glad a majority of Scots rejected independence. Had they not, it would have clipped the wing of America’s most important wingman in the world: Britain. Another reaction: God bless America. We have many sources of strength, but today our greatest asset is our pluralism — our “E pluribus unum” — that out of many we’ve made one nation, with all the benefits that come from mixing cultures and all the strengths that come from being able to act together.

As I’ve asked before: Who else has twice elected a black man as president, whose middle name is Hussein, whose grandfather was a Muslim, who first defeated a woman and later defeated a Mormon? I’m pretty sure that I will not live long enough to see an ethnic Pakistani become prime minister of Britain or a Moroccan immigrant president of France. Yes, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., reminds us that we’re still a work in progress in the pluralism department. But work on it we do, and I’ll take the hard work of pluralism over the illusions of separatism any day….

This turnip isn’t giving YOU any blood, anyway

I knew the Democrats were in trouble this year, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until I saw this email appeal today from Nancy Pelosi:

Dear Brad,

What’s the main difference between Republicans and us?

Them: They rely on the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, and outside interests to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy elections for them.

Us: We rely on grassroots support from Brad…

Wow, y’all really are hard-up.Turnip_2622027

I mean, first, you can’t get blood from a turnip. And second, even if this turnip had blood to give, he wouldn’t be giving any to you or any other political party.

So you might want to review your strategy. Better do what the Republicans — and you — have long done. Turn to George Soros, Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and the rest of your “outside interests.” (And while you’re at it, take a good look in the mirror at the beam in your eye.)

Oh, but speaking of blood — I have an appointment this afternoon to give again at the Red Cross over on Bull Street.

This time, I’m doing something new. I was all set to do my usual double red-cell donation, but then on Friday, they called to say that right now, they need platelets even more. So I’m going to do that.

I don’t even know what that entails. I’ll tell you later…

Graham, McCain blame Obama for not stopping ISIL earlier

This is from an op-ed piece by the two senators in National Review:

President Obama cannot avoid his share of responsibility for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). As dangerous as ISIS is now, its rise was neither inevitable nor unpredictable. Time after time, President Obama had the opportunity to act when U.S. engagement could have made a decisive difference, and in pulling back from America’s traditional leadership role, he left a vacuum for other, more dangerous actors to fill. As a result, the situation in Iraq and Syria has descended into a crisis that poses a direct threat to the United States. Worse yet, our options for countering this threat are fewer and far worse than they were just a few years ago.

At least four of President Obama’s key decisions stand out…

Boiled down, the four are:

  1. The “failure to leave a residual force in Iraq in 2011.”
  2. In 2012, “when President Obama’s entire senior national-security team — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA Director David Petraeus, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey — identified the threat posed by radicalization in Syria and recommended a proposal to arm and train elements of the moderate Syrian opposition.”
  3. “President Obama’s decision not to strike the Assad regime in September 2013 after Assad crossed the president’s own red line…”
  4. “Finally, in the fall of 2013, President Obama refused to launch targeted strikes against ISIS in Iraq when some U.S officials and Iraqi leaders were urging him to do so…”

Hindsight is indeed 20/20, but in this case, a lot of people were seeing trouble back then, and trying to tell the president. Of the four, I continue to find No. 2 the most startling. That wasn’t about the president’s political opponents second-guessing him. It was about him ignoring his whole team.

What IS this thing I found on the street today?

Thing 1

This morning, as usual, I parked my car in a metered space along the median on Assembly Street, just north of Gervais. As I got out, I almost stepped on the pictured item.

When I first saw it, it was on its side with the hollow bottom was pointed toward me, and I thought it was a particularly heavy-duty thimble. Which was odd enough.Thing 3

But then I picked it up, and I don’t know what it is.

The round thingy on top makes it look like a charm for a charm bracelet. But it’s way too heavy for that. A woman with seven or eight of these dangling from her wrist would find ordinary use of her hand rather tiring.

As you see, it’s shaped like a helmet of some kind. Like a cross between those worn by a “Star Wars” storm trooper, Iron Man and those guys dressed as ancient hoplites who were wandering about the Greek Festival over the weekend, posing for pictures with the public.

It seems to be made out of pewter. And as I said, it’s heavier than it looks.

It must be of value to somebody. I debated whether to leave it there on the pavement, or bring it with me and publicize on the blog that I had it. This way seemed slightly more likely as a means of getting it back to its owner.

But before I give it back, I need you to satisfy my curiosity by telling me what on Earth it is

Thing 2

Haley really needs you to feel good about SC economy

Dems are heavily pushing the idea that Haley's ecodevo success story is "smoke and mirrors."

Dems are heavily pushing the idea that Haley’s ecodevo success story is “smoke and mirrors.”

Did you see Andy Shain’s piece in The State over the weekend, digging into just how good a job Nikki Haley has really done on economic development? A key excerpt:

Some of Haley’s economic claims and numbers are inflated, The State newspaper found in an analysis of jobs announcements and federal data:

  • While political scientists say most voters think the 57,000 jobs that Haley mentions in speeches have been filled, only a little more than half of the jobs announced in 2011 and 2012 exist, according to a survey by the newspaper of major economic development announcements made during Haley’s first two years in office.
  • Haley’s 57,000 announced-job figure also includes businesses that never opened, or opened and then closed, based on a list provided by the S.C. Department of Commerce this summer. Her tally also includes 4,350 jobs — nearly 8 percent of the total — for stores planned by Wal-Mart. Low-paying retail jobs typically are not part of economic development tallies.
  • And contrary to a Haley claim, South Carolina has not had the East Coast’s fastest-growing economy since 2011, according to revised federal data.

I don’t know, quite honestly, what to think after reading that. I mean, would we have seen the same thing under previous administrations — total jobs not equaling the announced number, two or three years later? Yes, I think so. This has been a constant refrain for a lot more years than Nikki Haley has been in office — boosters make excited predictions, which aren’t always borne out in the end.

Of course, if you want the state’s economy to grow, you do tout announcements and make a big deal of them because you’re trying to create a bandwagon effect — giving the impression that your state is attracting growing businesses, because you want other growing businesses to see SC as a happening place. And you’re not lying, or even exaggerating — you’re passing on the numbers offered by the growing or moving businesses themselves. Big plans don’t always pan out. Doesn’t mean anyone was lying.

But these numbers are particularly important in the case of Nikki Haley, as is pointed out later in the story:

Political observers said they are not surprised Haley is focusing on her economic record as her strong suit for her re-election bid.

“What else is she known for?” said Neal Thigpen, a retired Francis Marion University political scientist. “It may be her only biggest suit.”…

Ignore the odd wording in that quote (“her only biggest suit?”) and think about that. Really, what else does Nikki Haley have to point to? I mean, when you hear the idiotic narrative from some of her supporters, you have to laugh — that because she did the books for her parents’ small business (a business that had trouble paying taxes on time) she is some kind of business mogul, with all kinds of real-world experience that a “trial lawyer” lacks. Never mind that through his law practice, Vincent Sheheen has been a considerably more successful businessman than Nikki Haley ever dreamed of being.

She really needs to be seen as an ecodevo powerhouse in office, because her record is otherwise so thin on accomplishments, both before and after she became governor.

This is her main accomplishment, ever. So it’s natural that she would make a big deal about it — and that Democrats would go to such lengths to question it. And while political opponents often pose such questions, such challenges are particularly critical in her case, because the numbers loom so large in her legend.

It’s International Talk like Robert Newton Day

Some call it “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” but I’ve often wondered where we get the silly notion that pirates went around saying “ARRRH!” and growling in a West Country burr.

I assumed it came from the movies.

Apparently, it came primarily from character actor Robert Newton, who played Long John Silver in the ’50s. This was brought to my attention by the Slatest.

So, if you didn’t know before, now you know…

Robert Newton

Sheheen’s new education ad

This ad doesn’t strike me much one way or the other, but I thought I’d put it up to see what y’all thought…

Here’s the release that went with it:

NEW TV AD: “Futures” Contrasts Sheheen Vision for Education with Haley Record of Cuts
“A strong economy depends on great schools – and South Carolina deserves both.”
Camden, SC – Sheheen for South Carolina today released a new television ad contrasting Nikki Haley’s repeated vetoes of school funding and teacher pay raises with Sen. Sheheen’s long-standing record of support for public schools and plan to expand four-year-old kindergarten and increase teacher pay. The spot, “Futures,” is part of a substantial six-figure statewide TV buy beginning today.
“Nikki Haley’s veto pen has hit education harder than any other area, and she’s spent three years standing against pay raises for teachers while she increased her own staff’s pay — that’s not leadership we can trust,” said Andrew Whalen, Sheheen’s campaign manager.  “Vincent Sheheen has spent his career fighting for public schools, expanding four-year old kindergarten, and has worked across the aisle to achieve results. South Carolinians deserve honest leadership and accountability from a governor who understands that our children’s future and our economic well-being depends on great schools – that’s Vincent Sheheen.”

And below is supporting material (provided in the email I received, but for some reason not with the version on the website) for the assertions in the ad:

AD BACKUP:

Claim Backup
My mom was a teacher, and my sons go to the same public schools I did.
We know education builds futures.
Image of NH over shot of empty school hallway w headlines/quotes.CG: Nikki Haley

CG: Cut Over $100 Million From Schools

“SC governor’s veto pen has hit education hardest,” Adam Beam, The State, 6/27/2013Of the nearly 200 budget vetoes Gov. Nikki Haley has issued during her three years as governor, no government service has been struck more than public education.
A review of the governor’s budget vetoes shows the first-term Republican has vetoed $110 million worth of public education programs and services since 2011, vetoes that account for more than a quarter of the $419 million she has vetoed in state spending since 2011.
But Nikki Haley cut millions from our schools… “SC governor’s veto pen has hit education hardest,” Adam Beam, The State, 6/27/2013Of the nearly 200 budget vetoes Gov. Nikki Haley has issued during her three years as governor, no government service has been struck more than public education.
A review of the governor’s budget vetoes shows the first-term Republican has vetoed $110 million worth of public education programs and services since 2011, vetoes that account for more than a quarter of the $419 million she has vetoed in state spending since 2011.
Image of NH over shot of empty teacher desk w headlines/quotes.CG: Nikki Haley

CG: Raises for her staff

…and vetoed both teacher pay raises “Gov. Haley Vetoes $10 Million for Teacher Raises,” Robert Kittle, WSAV, 7/6/2012:Gov. Nikki Haley has vetoed 81 items from South Carolina’s budget, including $10 million for local school districts to give teachers raises.
and four year old kindergarten. “Haley, in veto, says early childhood nonprofit needs a closer look,” Jamie Self, The State, 6/12/2014:Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed a bill that supporters say would improve a nonprofit that distributes public money to private pre-kindergarten providers.

 

Image of NH over shot of empty school auditorium w headlines/quotes.CG: Nikki Haley

CG: Raises for her staff

“Gov. Haley sets premium staff pay,” Jim Davenport, Associated Press, 1/13/2011 

COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley will pay her chief of staff $125,000 per year, a salary that eclipses her own pay and is $27,000 more than former Gov. Mark Sanford paid his chief of staff, according to records obtained today by The Associated Press.

While giving her own staff twenty five percent raises. 

That’s not leadership we can trust.

“Gov. Haley sets premium staff pay,” Jim Davenport, Associated Press, 1/13/2011 

COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley will pay her chief of staff $125,000 per year, a salary that eclipses her own pay and is $27,000 more than former Gov. Mark Sanford paid his chief of staff, according to records obtained today by The Associated Press.

VS talking to elementary school kids / talking to teacher in busy school hallway.CG: Vincent Sheheen

CG: Restore School Funding / Raise Teacher Pay

As governor, I’ll restore school funding, and raise teacher pay.
Because a strong economy depends on great schools – and South Carolina deserves both.

Open Thread for Thursday, September 18, 2014 — Special Scottish Referendum Edition

Today, I’ll offer you two choices:

  1. Discuss the independence referendum in Scotland, results of which will come in over the next few hours.
  2. Discuss whatever you like. I mean, if the Scots can do whatever they like, including committing economic suicide, then why shouldn’t my fellow Americans say what they please? (Within reason, and my civility rules, of course. Because this blog isn’t a bloody democracy. Harrumph.)

I see that YouGov has the Scots deciding to stay in the UK. If that’s correct, they haven’t gone completely mad. Or, if you prefer, they haven’t gone totally radge.

As to why I oppose Scottish secession, I do so for the same assorted reasons I oppose the Confederacy, Quebec secession, the disintegration of the Balkans, the Anschluss and Putin slicing off a chunk of Ukraine on the grounds of protecting ethnic Russians. Throw in my Anglophilia and my affinity for the Special Relationship, which causes me not to want to see Britain divided and weakened.

Also, I think the Union Jack is one of the most beautiful flags ever. By comparison, the St. Andrew’s Cross alone seems rather sad…

1200px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg

If you MUST read about Mark Sanford, don’t miss these columns

You probably already saw Kathleen Parker’s column about Mark Sanford — and, as long as she was at it, Thomas Ravenel — since it was in The State today.

If you missed it, here’s a highlight:

“What is it about South Carolina?” is a question I’m frequently asked. From the former governor’s mindless meanderings to the recent assault of the reality show “Southern Charm,” starring former state treasurer Thomas Ravenel, this baffling state seems determined to besaint the besotted and magnify the man-child….

Ravenel, who comes from an old, well-regarded Charleston family and made a fortune on his own, is inexplicably trying to unseat the soon-to-be venerable Sen. Lindsey Graham. (He isn’t quite old enough yet.) Ravenel doesn’t stand a chance of winning because, among other things, he’s not a serious person. Just watch the show, if you can stand it.

And then there’s that thing about Ravenel serving 10 months in prison after a drug conviction.

Thus one wonders, why run? The answer can only be to try to fill that bottomless trough of narcissistic need…

Then there’s Gail Collins’ column in The New York Times, which mentions Ravenel, but concentrates more on Sanford:

Now he’s the Facebook Congressman, who announced his breakup with his Argentine-squeeze-turned-fiancée in a 2,346-word posting that was mainly a whine about his ex-wife, the divorce settlement and visitation rules. “I think I owe you my thinking on this personal, but now public matter,” he told the world. Which most definitely had not asked for the information.

This is precisely the sort of thing his constituents should have been dreading when they gave the 54-year-old Republican another chance in a special House election last year. Sanford’s problem is less his libido than his remarkable, garrulous self-absorption. The man can’t stop sharing. Returning from his Argentina foray, he gave an interview to The Associated Press, in which he philosophized about the “sex line” that set his mistress, María Belén Chapur, apart from other women for whom he’d lusted.

And he held an endless press conference, perhaps the only moment in American political history in which a politician talked about his illicit sex life so much that everybody got bored with the subject. (“I’ll tell you more detail than you’ll ever want. …”) This was the same appearance in which he made the memorable announcement: “I spent the last five days crying in Argentina.”…

You can read the rest of it here.

SC Club for Growth endorses Democrat. In related news, temperature in Hades drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit

This had social media buzzing this morning:

Columbia, SC – The South Carolina Club for Growth, a network of fiscal conservatives, made history today by endorsing its first statewide Democratic candidate – Ginny Deerin – who is running for Secretary of State.Headshot_Ginny_Deerin_color_SM

“We are endorsing Ginny Deerin for three reasons,” said SC Club for Growth Chairman Dave Ellison. “First, her plan to cut the budget, cut the fees and cut regulations in the Secretary of State’s office compellingly aligns with our commitment to fiscal conservatism.”

“Second, her opponent – the 12-year incumbent – has allowed the Secretary of State’s office to become a bloated bureaucracy that wastes taxpayers’ money and makes doing business in our state more cumbersome for South Carolina companies and charities.”

“Third, Ginny Deerin wants to make our state government more efficient, not only by cutting the budget, fees and regulations in the Secretary of State’s office but also by making the Secretary of State an appointed office, rather than an elected one.”…

The SC Club for Growth, up to now, was best known as Mark Sanford’s most reliable cheerleaders. While he was governor, the organization seemed to exist primarily for that purpose. It has from the start been the champion of the kind of airy, theoretical, ivory-tower, Ayn Randian libertarianism that Sanford represented (as opposed to the more populist, down-home, nitty-gritty, anti-intellectual Tea Party libertarianism that Nikki Haley represents).

So yeah, this is kind of a milestone. While the Club certainly has not loved all Republicans in the past — just as Mark Sanford never did (and the Club went after the ones he really didn’t like) — but this is the first time it has been sufficiently down on a Republican as to endorse a Democrat instead. So I guess that makes Mark Hammond a bit of a record-breaker, too.

Not sure what kind of an impact, if any, it will have — partly because I’m not sure how many of those folks who will vote for anyone or anything with an “R” after its name have even heard of the Club for Growth.

But it’s interesting…

By the way, my first instinct when I saw the news was to be a wise guy about it:

But I see that she’s posted some of the social media buzz about the nod on her website. And well she might: If not for this, you might have gotten to Election Day and beyond without ever having heard of her. So even if it’s just because of the novelty of the thing, this helps.

Deerin 2

Sen. Gregory makes the case for gas tax increase

Meant to post this yesterday, but got sidetracked.

On the same day that Tom Ervin was telling me how he had changed his mind and was now pushing for a gasoline tax increase to address the state’s road needs, Sen. “Greg” Gregory, R-Lancaster, had an op-ed piece in The State in which he used numbers to demonstrate why such an increase is needed.

An excerpt:

4: South Carolina’s rank among 50 states in miles of state-maintained roads.

41,460: The number of those miles.

47: Where S.C. fuel tax ranks among the states.

1: Recent ranking of Rock Hill for the nation’s cheapest fuel.

16.75 cents: South Carolina’s fuel tax per gallon.

1987: When the state’s fuel tax last was increased.

7.8 cents: Purchasing power of the tax today compared to 1987.

33 cents: What the per-gallon tax would be today if it had been adjusted for inflation since 1987.

6 cents: S.C. fuel tax in 1937, when paving began on many of what were then farm-to-market roads.

36.5 cents: North Carolina’s fuel tax.

$560 million: Transportation Department’s revenue from state taxes this fiscal year.

$451 million: Portion of that revenue derived from taxes on fuel.

62 percent: Increase in the number of vehicle miles traveled in South Carolina since 1987.

14: Average mpg for new cars in 1975.

33: Average mpg for new cars today.

54: Mandated average mpg for 2025…

And so on. The numbers made it pretty plain that for a number of reasons, the current tax is inadequate for providing roads that can stand up to today’s traffic.

My only beef is that he copped out slightly at the end, partly invoking some of the magical thinking that has informed the statements of other pols on the subject:

Inflation has reduced the purchasing power of our fuel tax by more than 50 percent since it was last increased in 1987. Higher-mileage vehicles have decreased it by another 25 percent. These trends are irreversible. These facts mean that South Carolina must increase funding for our roads if only to stave off further decline. From where should it come? Some say an increased fuel tax. Others say from growth in the state’s general fund. Both are correct.

“Growth in the state’s general fund,” as in Nikki Haley’s “money tree,” as in Vincent Sheheen’s proposal to rely on the revenue growth that occurs every year as a result of inflation and population increases. I refer you to the way Cindi Scoppe eviscerated that Sheheen plan:

If our Legislature decided next year to divert all the revenue growth to infrastructure, it wouldn’t be able to hire those 200 caseworkers that the Department of Social Services says it needs — and Gov. Haley says she supports — to get staffing up to pre-recession levels, and maybe keep a few kids from being killed by their parents.

And just as with the individual, it’s not merely a case of being unable to do anything new. Diverting all the revenue growth to roads and bridges means there’s no money to cover inflation — much less population growth.

We wouldn’t just be unable to hire those additional case workers; we’d have to further reduce the number we have, even as the number of families who need DSS supervision grows. We wouldn’t just be unable to expand 4K and hire reading specialists; we’d have to lay off teachers, even as the number of students increases.

No, you don’t necessarily have to cut government programs if you divert all the new revenue — for one year. But by year two, you have to start making some cuts. By year 20, well, you probably don’t want to think about how big those cuts would be. And you’d still have half the job left undone.

We do NOT have to further cannibalize the other, badly underfunded, essential services of state government in order to fix our road system. We have a mechanism for that, an eminently fair system that charges the most to those who use the roads the most.

It’s called the gasoline tax.

Arrrggghhh! Sheheen ad appropriates one of Haley’s most clueless tropes

Doug Ross brought this to my attention with the words, “You’re not going to like this… Sheheen using Haley-speak to bash Haley.”

Boy, was he right.

As I said just yesterday in a comment on the importance of civics education:

… I’d like our electorate to be sophisticated enough that no one who says “I want to run government like a business” (which shows a lack of understanding of both government and business) would ever get elected. I’d want every voter to understand the basic, profound ways in which government and business are different and SUPPOSED to be different….

The link was to a previous post that referred to how, even back in the days when we used to endorse her for the House, it drove me nuts to hear Nikki Haley repeat that phrase.

So imagine my dismay to see this ad, in which a Sheheen surrogate says, without a trace of irony or suggestion that he is mocking the opposition:

I think government should run like a business and be accountable.

The addition of “and be accountable” is intriguing, and interesting twist. Because one of the chief differences between a business and government is that government is expected to be accountable in ways that a private business most assuredly is not.

So one is tempted to hear that as, “I think government should be run like a business, but still held accountable, like a government.” Unfortunately, he doesn’t mean it that way.

The speaker cites an incident in which the head of a corporation — Target — stepped down when hackers breached credit-card customers’ information.

Well, that’s not a case of someone in business being HELD accountable by anyone other than himself. In government, it’s different. This election is about whether the present governor will be held accountable by the voters. Government has that mechanism, and business does not. Customers of Target do not get to vote the CEO out of office. See the difference?

The fact that voters don’t always vote wayward politicians out of office is one of the messy facts of democracy that makes business owners — who run their own businesses the way they see fit, and see that as the natural way to run anything (when it most decidedly is not the way to run a government in a republic) — think government should run more like a business.

When it shouldn’t.

My very gratifying conversation with Tom Ervin, who now favors a gas tax increase

This morning, I was on my way out of having my breakfast at the Capital City Club, and saw today’s WSJ on the sideboard by the door to the grill, and paused to pick it up and glance over the front page.

Then I hear someone say “Brad,” and look up and it’s Liana Orr, and she’s got someone in tow — a guy about my age dressed in a yellow polo shirt. As she’s introducing me, I see that it’s Tom Ervin, the independent candidate for governor.

He’s a pleasant and personable guy, and as he smiles and tells me that he enjoys my blog, I’m thinking, “Yeah, and you probably say that to all the bloggers, but thanks…”

But then he says something to let me know that he’s read the blog at least once.

Back on July 3, I wrote a post headlined “Tom Ervin won’t say how HE’D pay for roads, either.” It took him to task, along with Nikki Haley and Vincent Sheheen, for ducking the simple fact that if we want more money for roads, we already have a mechanism for that — raise the state tax on gasoline.

Today, Ervin tells me that I was right and he was wrong, and now he’s advocating for a gas tax increase. And of course, he makes sure I realize that he is the only candidate for governor who dares to do that.

So I congratulate him on his new position, and thank him for sharing it with me, and walk around the corner, and immediately whip out my notebook. My friend Roscoe Wilson started to say something to me, but I said, “Wait! I have to write something down.” I wanted to get the exact words that Mr. Ervin had said to me, to wit:

You were absolutely right. You were right to call me out on it.

Because those are words that one might normally put in the “Things no politician said to an editorialist, ever” category.

And yeah, he was flattering me and being disarming and all, but the fact is that when I Googled it, I found that six days after my post, this headline appeared in The Greenville News: “Ervin says he’d raise gas tax to fix roads.” From that story:

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has vowed to veto any proposal to raise the gas tax, while her Democratic opponent, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, says he won’t endorse a gas tax hike but is willing to talk about it.

Neither Haley nor Sheheen have a realistic plan to fix roads, “and that’s irresponsible,” Ervin told The Greenville News. “Both of these career politicians should be ashamed for not being truthful to the people and telling them straight up.”

Budget surpluses won’t do the trick, Ervin said, and fees can’t be raised enough to meet all the needs, which a state task force projected to be $29 billion over 20 years.

“Nobody likes a tax increase,” said Ervin, a former judge and state legislator from Greenville. “I don’t like it because I’m constantly on the road, too. But we want our highways to be safe. And we also want to continue to attract quality industry to our state, and you can’t get products to market when the highways are falling apart.”

I don’t know how I missed that. Maybe it didn’t get picked up down here. If I’d read it earlier, I would have written something congratulating him.

Anyway. I may not agree with Tom Ervin on everything, but I definitely appreciate his position on this.

Nothing schools do is more important than teaching civics

I applaud this initiative, because there’s nothing schools do that is more important than teaching young people to be well-informed citizens:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

September 17, 2014                                                                                           Contact: Camille AndersonCamille@CivicsEducationInitiative.com

801-874-6497

 

Three Former SC Governors Join Other State Leaders Announcing South Carolina Civics Education Initiative

State Legislative Effort Supported By Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Carl Bernstein, & Award-Winning Actor Joe Mantegna

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA – Honoring the anniversary of U.S. Constitution, signed on this date in 1787, former South Carolina Governors Dick Riley, Jim Hodges and James Edwards joined state business leaders today in announcing the South Carolina Civics Education Initiative.  This state legislative effort aims to ensure all South Carolina high school graduates have a basic understanding of American civics and history.

“It is absolutely critical that all South Carolina students have a sound knowledge of civics,” said state co-chair Governor Riley, who also served as U.S. Secretary of Education from 1993-2001. “This is not a partisan issue.  It is an American issue.”

According to the Pew Research Center, only about one-third of Americans can name the three branches of the United States government, much less say what each does.  Studies of high school students in Oklahoma and Arizona showed less than a four percent passage rate on the Unites States Citizenship Civics test – the test all immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship must pass.  According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which administers the civics test as part of the naturalization process, 92 percent of immigrants who take the test pass it on their first try.

The South Carolina Civics Education Initiative will promote an active and engaged citizenry by requiring all South Carolina high school students and those seeking general educational development (GED) study and take the 100-question USCIS Civics Test.

The legislation, which supporters plan to have introduced during the next session of the General Assembly in January, will award students making a minimum score of 60 with extra credit toward graduation. Students will be allowed to take the test as many times as necessary and will allow individual schools to administer the test in a way the school deems adequate.

“Understanding basic civics and how our government works needs to be a priority,” said Columbia businessman and Honor Flight of SC Chairman Bill Dukes, also a state co-chair. “Civic education will enable us to sustain our constitutional democracy.  Our citizens must be informed and responsible.  Our free and open society cannot succeed if our citizens don’t understand the fundamental values and principles of democracy.”

The USCIS Citizenship Civics test consists of 100 basic questions about American civics and history, such as:

What is the name of the President of the United States now?

Name one branch or part of the government.

What is the capital of your state?

What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?

“It is significant that the Civics Education Initiative is a politically non-partisan effort that understands the critical importance of teaching civics to students who will be stewards of our constitutional republic,” said state co-chair Karen Iacovelli, former member of the SC Education Oversight Committee and long-time education activist.

Its initial stages the SC Civics Education Initiative has enjoyed enthusiastic and broad support. State Co-Chairs include, in addition to Governor Riley, Mr. Dukes, and Mrs. Iacovelli, Governors James Edwards and Jim Hodges, Charleston developer Buck Limehouse, and South Carolina homebuilder Stewart Mungo.

One of the more popular aspects of this effort is the fact that there are no development costs for the test and little to no costs to develop study materials because the test itself and a wide range of study materials are available on the internet for free.

Six other states today are announcing similar state legislative efforts including Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, South Dakota and Utah.  The goal of the Civics Education Initiative is for every state in the nation to pass this legislation by September 17, 2017 – the 230th anniversary of the Constitution.  

The Initiative’s national board of directors includes former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, and actor Joe Mantegna who has been nominated for both Golden Globe and Emmy awards.  (National Board Video Message)

The Civics Education Initiative is an affiliate of the Joe Foss Institute, which was founded to educate American youth on the importance of our country’s unique freedoms, and to inspire them to public service. Joe Foss was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, former governor of South Dakota, and first commissioner of the American Football League.

For questions contact Camille Anderson at Camille@civicseducationinitiative.com or 801-874-6497.

http://civicseducationinitiative.com

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By the way, if you’d like to take a civics quiz like the one offered by USCIS to prospective citizens, click here.

I did, and got 100 percent, even though the test included trick questions such as the one below. Obviously, the correct answer is “The Recent Unpleasantness,” but that wasn’t offered as an option. So I had to choose a second-best answer. They graded it as though it were the correct one.

civil war

 

Yes, says the general: Ground troops may be necessary

Here’s today’s lede story for The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal:

Dempsey opens door to combat troops in Iraq

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff raised the possibility Tuesday that U.S. troops could become involved in ground attacks against the Islamic State, despite repeated pledges to the contrary from President Obama.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that U.S. military advisers are helping Iraqi government forces prepare for a major offensive to reclaim territory seized by the Islamic State in recent months. Although the advisers have been assigned primarily to assist with planning and coordination, Dempsey for the first time suggested that they eventually could go into the field on combat missions.

“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [Islamic State] targets, I’ll recommend that to the president,” he testified….

Maybe we can degrade and destroy ISIL with only air power. But as I’ve said before, we don’t know that we can — which is why it is ill-advised, sinking to the level of “doing stupid (stuff),” to rule out using ground troops on the front end. (Saying you don’t want to do it is one thing. Saying on the front end that you won’t is another matter.)

Ground combat troops could become necessary. Which is why a senior general officer, who must have plans for all contingencies, would say what Gen. Dempsey said. And why the president shouldn’t have said what he said.

Going into a fluid military situation, you can’t know that it won’t become necessary to resort to ground combat. You just can’t.

Cindi Scoppe’s litany of the trouble Bobby Harrell is in

After crushing Bobby Harrell’s explanation that he just wrote down some wrong dates on his spending disclosures, Cindi Scoppe, in her column today, went into this litany of trouble the ex-speaker is in, even if you do swallow his “wrong date” defense:

If in fact he “did travel in his private airplane on a personal trip, transporting himself, family and friends to Florida for a high school baseball tournament” and then paid himself nearly $3,900 from his campaign account, as the indictment alleges, that’s not careless reporting.

If in fact he “used his campaign account to pay credit card debt and to pay for goods and services for his home, family and friends,” that’s not careless reporting.

If in fact he “concealed this unlawful payment scheme by … changing and altering the entries in his pilot log book,” that’s not careless reporting.

If in fact he “concealed this unlawful payment scheme by … creating schedules of flights in order to justify payments from his campaign account, when in fact some of the listed flights did not occur or were personal and not related to any official or campaign purpose,” that’s not careless reporting.

If in fact he “concealed this unlawful payment scheme by … misinforming law enforcement officers about the purposes and circumstances surrounding expenditures,” that’s not careless reporting.

If in fact he “concealed this unlawful payment scheme by … misinforming the House Ethics Committee about the reason he reimbursed his campaign account,” that’s not careless reporting.

If in fact he did all that, I’m not sure why there weren’t more chareges. Much of that sounds a lot to me like obstruction of justice. Sort of like that ominous reference to his paying himself nearly $300,000 “in untaxed income” sounds a lot to me like state and federal income tax evasion…

‘Doctors for Sheheen,’ and more on the Medicaid expansion that wasn’t

This release came over the transom last night:

Sheheen Campaign Launches “Doctors for Sheheen”
Doctors want an honest leader like Vincent Sheheen who puts South Carolinians ahead of personal political gain 
Camden, SC – Today, Sheheen for South Carolina launched “Doctors for Sheheen,” a grassroots effort uniting Democratic and Republican doctors and medical professionals from around the state who want a governor to put politics aside, do what’s right for the people, and use tax dollars responsibly and honestly.
Rural hospitals are struggling and closing because of Nikki Haley’s decision to block South Carolinians’ own Medicaid tax dollars from coming back to the state. A study shows that expanding Medicaid would create 44,000 jobs, and help hundreds of thousands of working families. Medical professionals are standing with Vincent Sheheen to restore common sense and honesty to the state’s leadership.
Tonight, Sen. Sheheen will kick-off “Doctors for Sheheen” with a state-wide launch call for supporter in the medical field. Through this grassroots effort, Sen. Sheheen will work with medical professionals on hearing solutions to improve our healthcare system, addressing the financial struggles in rural hospitals, bringing our hard-earned tax dollars back to South Carolina to not only provide coverage to children, veterans and senior citizens, but will also end penalties on local businesses, and keep billions of dollars in revenue in South Carolina.
Medical professionals across the state are joining Doctors for Sheheen and showing their support for Vincent:
Dr. Donna Miller Potts, Anderson County:
 “As a free clinic volunteer, I come across too many hardworking people every day who don’t receive coverage from their employer, and don’t qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private health insurance. They often feel backed into a corner with no options available to them and Governor Haley just doesn’t get it. She allows our federal tax dollars meant to fund local hospitals go to other states. We need Vincent as our governor because we need a governor who actually cares about South Carolina.”
Dr. Theresa Alderson, Kershaw County:
“The biggest problem with the health care debate is too many leaders are worried about the politics instead of being worried about the people. Nikki Haley’s refusal to expand Medicaid in South Carolina makes no sense. Nikki Haley is hurting our economy — leaving tens of thousands of new jobs on the table, and sending billions of our hard-earned tax dollars to other states. This isn’t a matter of political ideology, it’s a matter of common sense. As a doctor, as a Republican, and as a South Carolinian, I believe we need an honest and logical leader who gets it.”
Dr. Charles Rittenberg, Charleston County:
“There are over 200,000 South Carolinians from working families who are going without healthcare because of Governor Haley’s refusal to expand Medicaid. Some of those working South Carolinians or their children could die because Haley has allowed our federal tax dollars, which we’ve already paid, to go to other states. Vincent Sheheen will work with our legislature to correct this problem and, according to a study from the University of South Carolina, the Medicaid expansion with create 44,000 jobs in South Carolina not just in the big cities, but all over the state.”
Dr. Elizabeth Mack, Richland County:
“Throughout my career, working to save children’s lives has been the ultimate privilege. But in recent years, it’s become increasingly difficult to take care of patients. When South Carolina did not accept our Medicaid expansion, insurance premiums spiked for many people. As a result, many patients could not get access to health care. This affects us all. South Carolinians deserve better.”
###

You know, of all the sins that her critics have tried to pin on Nikki Haley, her deliberate refusal to allow Medicaid expansion is the one in which she most clearly, deliberately and with malice aforethought did the wrong thing.

Seems we’d hear more about it from Sheheen.

And perhaps we will. This morning, the S.C. Democratic party put out this release in that same vein:

Today with Chris Christie, Nikki Haley will claim South Carolina’s economy is booming — but don’t be fooled by her smoke and mirrors. She’s proven time and again that she cannot be trusted.

 

The truth is: Nikki Haley is sending $11 billion of South Carolinians’ federal tax dollars to states like New Jersey, and she’s blocking 44,000 jobs here at home just because of politics.

 

Nikki Haley is refusing to  create 44,000 jobs. She’s forcing SC residents to pay Federal taxes that will only help other states. Instead of helping working South Carolinians, she’s opposing the Charleston Chamber and economic interests of MUSC. Here’s your daily reminder of the economic reality for South Carolinians over the past three years, which Nikki Haley has been sweeping under the rug:

 

Medicaid Expansion in South Carolina would create 44,000 jobs. “By 2020, the total annual economic impact of the increase in federal funding due to the ACA Medicaid expansion on the state of South Carolina will total approximately $3.3 billion in economic output, $1.5 billion in labor income, and support nearly 44,000 new jobs for South Carolinians. Approximately one – third of these jobs (15,000) are projected to occur outside of the health care industry due to the economic multiplier effect.” [USC Moore School of Business Report December 2012, accessed 03/07/13]

 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: “We Are Putting People First” – Not Expanding Medicaid Would Send Taxpayer Dollars Elsewhere. “‘[R]efusing these federal dollars would not mean that they wouldn’t be spent. It just means that they will be used to expand health-care access in New York, Connecticut, Ohio or somewhere else. … It’s simple. We’re putting people first.’” [NPR, Political Junkie, 3/4/13]

 

Head of S.C. hospital group says politics blocking Medicaid expansion. “There is a lot of ideology and politics in this debate — it is not just a financial question,” said Thornton Kirby, the state hospital association’s president and chief executive officer. He said South Carolina and other Republican-leaning states “don’t want anything to do” with a federal health-care reform initiative championed by President Barack Obama. [Independent Mail,03/04/13]

 

Charleston Chamber to Gov. Haley: accept Medicaid expansion. “There are two options,” said Bryan Derreberry, president and CEO of the local Chamber. “South Carolina can accept the Medicaid expansion and receive 90 percent of costs from the federal government, or reject the plan and absorb 100 percent of the costs and lose revenue from Washington, D.C.” [The Examiner, 03/07/13]

 

Editorial: Expanding Medicaid in SC. “The only conceivable reason to reject the expansion of Medicaid would be to make a hollow political statement in opposition to Obamacare. But that is political grandstanding at the cost of losing billions of federal dollars to other states and denying health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured South Carolinians. And that, we think, would be impossible to justify.” [Rock Hill Herald, 03/02/13]

 

 

See through Nikki Haley’s smoke & mirrors, read more at www.HaleysSmokeAndMirrors.tumblr.com

No, Americans are just weary of HEARING about war…

NYT page

When I saw the above headline on the NYT’s homepage, I couldn’t help Tweeting the following:


My point, in case it isn’t clear, was that I keep hearing all this talk about how war-weary Americans are, when the overwhelming majority of them haven’t experienced a minute of it.

So what is it that they’re weary of? Hearing about it? That seems really — superficial, for want of a better word.

I’m glad polls are showing that the president has backing for his limited plan for dealing with ISIL. But I am disturbed that American public opinion can be so flighty with regard to such weighty matters.

One day, they’re all “We don’t want any more war! Don’t talk to us about war! We’re going to make loud noises and repeatedly cover and uncover our ears until you stop talking about war! WAH-uh-WAH-uh-WAH-uh-WAH-uh…”

The next day, they’re all “We gotta stop ISIL! The president wants to bomb ‘em! Go for it! Bomb ‘em! (Then, maybe we don’t have to hear about them any more!)”

The day after that, they’re all “Are we still bombing ISIL? We’re tired of that! We don’t want to hear about that any more! We’re war-weary! What time does ‘American Idol’ come on?”

And what’s bad about that is that our elected leaders respond to those impulses. No matter what sacrifices are made on the battlefield by the few, politicians will pull out before the aims are achieved if the people get fed up — which they do very, very suddenly.

Anyway, those are the thoughts that go through my mind when I see headlines such as that. And for a brief moment, I don’t want to commit military forces to any cause ever in the future, if it’s going to be fought with politicians’ fingers in the wind.

But then, I think, Well, regardless of all that, out in the real world, we really need to stop ISIL

If I were Sheheen, I’m not sure I’d WANT more debates

Just got this release from Vincent Sheheen’s campaign:

Sheheen Calls for Four Additional Debates
Democratic gubernatorial candidate confirms participation in both Post & Courier debates, works with Myrtle Beach Area Chamber to push for Grand Strand, Midlands, Aiken & Rock Hill as well.Sheheen crop
Camden, SC – Today, Sen. Vincent Sheheen called for open gubernatorial debates in the Grand Strand/Pee Dee, Midlands, Rock Hill, and Aiken areas after working with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to resolve their debate scheduling conflicts with the Charleston Post & Courier.
“Honest leadership means looking people in the eye and telling them what you’d do as governor — I can’t think of a more appropriate way to accomplish that than by debating in every region in the state,” said Sen. Vincent Sheheen. “The people of South Carolina deserve the opportunity to hear directly from their candidates for governor, there are plenty of days left until the election do the right thing. I urge my opponents to immediately agree to at least three more debates to cover all regions of the state.”
Last week, The Post and Courier announced their intention to hold a debate in Greenville on October 21st, a date previously requested by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and several of their local media partners. After conversations with the campaign, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce has stated their willingness to find an alternative date for their proposed debate, and as such, Sen. Sheheen confirmed his participation in the Post and Courier/WLOS-TV/WMYA-TV debate in Greenville on October 21st.
“The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is committed to holding an open forum for honest debate between all the candidates about how to build a stronger state economy,” said Brad Dean, President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. “We are willing to accommodate schedules, because voters deserve to hear directly from those who are running for the state’s highest office.”
Sen. Sheheen also urged all the other gubernatorial candidates to participate in at least four other debates – in Myrtle Beach, the Midlands, Rock Hill, and Aiken – to ensure that South Carolinians in all parts of the state have the opportunity to see and hear their gubernatorial candidates.
###

Yes, I know the Sheheen campaign needs a shot in the arm, but I’m not sure more debates give him that boost.

There’s one area in which Nikki Haley just walks all over Vincent Sheheen — public speaking. She almost always makes a good impression when standing before a group — while Sheheen underwhelms, and when he tries to ramp up his presence (which he’s been doing lately), it looks like he’s trying. She connects well with an audience. I’m not sure I’d want to give her more such opportunities, were I Vincent.

Maybe he doesn’t realize how much better she comes across, or how diffident and offhand he seems. or maybe he’s just willing to try anything at this point.

Frankly, I’ve always sort of doubted the value of debates, especially given how much emphasis we tend to place on them. Should a potential governor, or president, or legislator be judged on stage presence, like a beauty pageant contestant?

I’ve had extensive exposure over the years to both of these candidates, and I have no doubt that between the two, Sheheen is the policy heavyweight, not only in theory, but in terms of getting things done. As for the theory, here you can find video proof of his depth of understanding of issues. But while he’s the heavyweight, that’s also the way he comes across in front of a group — as heavy.

Whereas Nikki tends to dazzle. Until you stop and really analyze what she’s saying, and compare it to the reality that you know — assuming you know it, which is expecting a lot.

It took me awhile to get to that point with her — like, years. Voters aren’t going to get to that point in five debates.