Why don’t I write like that any more?

For my entire career, whenever I look back at what I wrote a year or two in the past, I think, “Why don’t I write like that anymore?”

This is, I hope, a twist on the “grass is always greener” phenomenon. Either that, or my powers as a writer have been declining for four decades, which means that by this time, I should be incapable of putting a noun and a verb together in an intelligible order.

Anyway, today I had that experience again today. I accidentally ran across this post from four years ago, in which I had a little fun mocking the way Republicans talk in South Carolina:

As I’ve said from Day One I’m a conservative a true conservative my daddy was a conservative daddy my mama was a conservative mama I’m a bidnessman meet a payroll don’t take bailouts lazy shiftless welfare takers the key is to starve ‘em before they reproduce 100 percent rating from conservative conservatives of America my dog is a conservative dog I don’t have a cat because cats are effete I eat conservative I sleep conservative I excrete conservative I got conservative principles a conservative house and conservative clothes take back our government from the socialists even though we don’t really want it because who needs government anyway they don’t have government in Somalia and they’re doing alright aren’t they National Rifle Association Charlton Heston is my president and Ronald Reagan is my God I will have no gods before him I go Arizona-style all the way that’s the way I roll I will keep their cold dead government hands off your Medicare so help me Ronald Reagan…

That was prompted, of course, by my being fed up at hearing Republicans who are unable to complete a sentence without using the word “conservative” at least once, and preferably multiple times. In case, you know, you missed it the first time. It is mind-numbingly monotonous, and I needed a little comic relief. I thought we all did.

That got me sufficiently charged up that I turned and made fun of Democrats, saying that just once, I’d like to hear a candidate for office in South Carolina say the following:

Actually, I’m a liberal. A liberal all the way. I drive a Prius, I love wine and cheese parties with the faculty, I think America is a big bully in the world and no wonder people hate us (I’d be a terrorist, too, if I didn’t abhor violence so), and I never saw an abortion I didn’t like. My spouse and I have an open marriage, so scandal can’t touch us, because to each his or her own. I’m a white, male heterosexual and the guilt just eats me alive; I wish I belonged to a group that was more GENUINE, you know? The first thing I’d do if elected is raise taxes through the roof, and spend every penny on public education, except for a portion set aside for re-education camps for people who now home-school their kids. Then, if we needed more money for excessive regulation of business and other essential government services, we’d raise taxes again, but only on the rich, which is defined as YOU or anybody who makes more than you. Probably the best word to describe my overall tax plan would be “confiscatory.” And my spending (OH, my spending! You’ve never seen spending until you see my spending!) would best be termed “redistributive.” If elected, my inaugural party will have music by the Dixie Chicks and the Indigo Girls, and then we’ll all bow down to a gigantic image of Barack (did you know it means “blessed”?) Obama, the savior of us all, and chant in some language other than the ultimate oppressor language, English. French, perhaps. Or Kiswahili….

I had fun reading that. Why don’t I write like that anymore?…

Sheheen’s bold stand is the ONLY way the flag will come down

Vincent Sheheen’s call to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds isn’t some here-today, forgotten-tomorrow campaign gimmick.

It’s a game-changer. But only if he somehow manages to win the election.

Sheheen was paraphrased in The State today as saying that this is an issue best addressed by a governor. Sure, he could have introduced a resolution to have it removed every session, only to have it die in committee, as did Cleveland Sellers’ one such attempt as a freshman House member. One or two lawmakers might be willing to stick their necks out, but there aren’t enough others willing to go along with them to make the effort viable. Knowing that, lawmakers see little point in making enemies over a lost cause — they have other things they want to accomplish.

But a governor has the bully pulpit to raise the issue so it can’t be buried or ignored.

That said, not just any governor would have the political leverage to overcome the General Assembly’s profound inertia on the issue. It would take a governor who campaigned on the issue, and got elected. A governor who does that would have political juice, and moral authority, unlike any we’ve seen in our poor state, which has been so sadly short on political courage for the generation that I’ve covered it.

So that raises the issue, does this move hurt or help Sheheen’s chances of getting elected? I truly don’t know. His chances were slim as it stood, barring something to shake up the equation. And I’d rather see it shaken this way — by Sheheen doing something right and good and visionary and courageous — than by some new scandal or other disaster befalling Nikki Haley.

Some think it’s automatic political death for a governor or gubernatorial candidate to embrace this issue. They’re wrong. They point to what happened to David Beasley, who stirred up the Angry White Men of his party with his abortive, half-hearted attempt to take action on the flag. Yeah, a few more neoConfederates may have voted against him. But Beasley had also alienated those of us on the other side of the issue, by so quickly reversing himself and giving up on the issue when he experienced the white backlash. Even to people who, unlike me, didn’t care about the flag, it made him look weak, wishy-washy and ineffective.

(I had only contempt for his surprised, shocked and weak reaction to the angry calls and letters. I, and to an even greater extent my colleague Warren Bolton — flag defenders got especially angry at a black man who dared to say the same things I was saying — had experienced the same phenomenon every single time we published another editorial or column on the subject. That means we had experienced it hundreds of times since I had joined the editorial board and started writing on the subject in 1994. Beasley couldn’t take a few days of it.)

And there were other reasons for Beasley’s loss.

In Sheheen’s case, not only is this likely to galvanize voters who would likely have supported him anyway — motivating them to get out and vote and urge their friends and neighbors to do so — it elevates him as someone willing to lead among many who might have been on the fence. Say, business leaders. If you’ll recall, the state Chamber backed Sheheen last time, and this time (thanks in large part to the rise of some Haley allies on the Chamber’s board), it went for Nicky. Business people can be favorably impressed by someone who is willing to lead, and to lead us in a direction that sweeps away such atavistic nonsense, such unnecessary barriers to progress, as flying that flag.

People who were dispirited by Sheheen’s lackluster, take-no-chances campaign thus far will be willing to step forward and put out some effort to get him elected.

I believe it’s at best a wash, and could be helpful to his chances.

But win or lose, he’s doing the right thing. And it’s been far too long since we’ve seen anyone who would lead us do that.

SHEHEEN: TAKE DOWN THE CONFEDERATE FLAG

Well, this is welcome news. In fact, the most welcome news I’ve seen out of the rather lackluster Sheheen campaign this year.

Vincent Sheheen is stepping out and taking a stand on something that speaks to the essence of who we are, who we have been and who we aspire to be as a state and as a people:

Democratic candidate for governor Vincent Sheheen tried to shake up the governor’s race in South Carolina on Wednesday, calling for the removal of the Confederate flag that flies on a pole in front of the Statehouse.

Sheheen, who is lagging in the polls, is the most prominent political voice to call for the removal of the flag — a somewhat quixotic attempt that would need a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate at a time when few others in the state are publicly demanding it.

The two-thirds vote requirement was included in a compromise 14 years ago that moved the flag from atop the Capitol dome to a place just a few feet south of a monument honoring Confederate soldiers on one of the state’s busiest streets.

The state senator from Camden has proposed replacing the Confederate flag at its new location with an American flag. The American and South Carolina flags still fly over the Statehouse.

“I want South Carolina to be celebrated not as the state that left America, but as the best state in America,” Sheheen said….

As Bryan Caskey observed to me via email, Sheheen must have been listening to Doug Ross, who has repeatedly urged him on this blog to take this stand. Perhaps — although Doug won’t be satisfied until Sheheen also comes out “for gay marriage, legalized marijuana, and casinos in Myrtle Beach.”

That’s Doug. Me, I’m just glad to see Vincent do this. He’s taking a stand. A quixotic one to be sure, the way the Legislature has rigged the deal. But it’s the right stand. And it offers a clear contrast, if you’ll recall the way Nikki groveled before neoConfederates four years ago.

Let me clarify a couple of points here. First, the Legislature didn’t just codify the flying on the flag in the 2000 “compromise.” They did that back when the GOP first took over the House in 1995, shortly after I started writing extensively (my detractors would say obsessively) about the issue.

Second, this is not a new contrast between Sheheen and Haley. Sheheen indicated his openness to removing the flag four years ago. What he’s done now is shift from that passive stance to an active one, and put forth a specific plan.

I tell you what I’d like to see now: I’d like to see Joe Riley and others who have shown courage on this issue in the past get enthusiastically and visibly behind this effort, rallying the forces — in business, church, civil rights and other leadership circles — that came together in 2000 to get the flag off the dome.

It’s time to rally around the cause of putting this issue behind us forever, placing it in the museums and history books where it belongs. So we can move forward as South Carolinians, as one people, without this nonsense dividing us.

Some will say — as they have said after each of the hundreds of times I’ve called for removing the flag — that this is a distraction, that it is not a serious or core issue. But I assert that if we are not a state that can muster the courage and good sense to dispense with this flying of a divisive relic on our state’s front lawn, then we are not equal to tackling any of the challenges before us.

In my last column for The State, I wrote about South Carolina’s unfinished business — the need for reform in government, in education, in taxation. All of the things I wrote about were complex issue that would take a lot of heavy policy lifting, except for two, which I mentioned at the end:

Some of these things are tough; others are less so. But they are all essential to getting our act together in South Carolina. To help us warm up for the harder ones, I suggest we do the following immediately:

Raise our lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax by a dollar, bringing us (almost) to the national average, and saving thousands of young lives.

Remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.

While those last two are easier to implement, they are essential to proving to the world and ourselves that we are serious about building a better South Carolina. The reasons that have been offered not to do those two, simple things are not reasons in any rational sense, but rather outgrowths of the mind-sets that have held us back since 1865.

Which is long enough.

We sort of halfway addressed the first of those two easy, no-brainer actions. It’s far past time to address the other.

In the Line of Ire: Secret Service chief quits

A guy climbing the fence and running wild in the White House and some aggressive reporting by The Washington Post have led to the following:

Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, resigned Wednesdayfollowing a series of security lapses by her agency, including a recent incident in which a man with a gun was allowed on an elevator with President Obama.secret service

Obama “concluded new leadership of the agency was needed based on recent and accumulating accounts” of performance problems within her agency, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a news briefing.

Pierson’s departure from her post came just 24 hours after a congressional oversight hearing about a growing number of security breaches. She appeared evasive, gave conflicting accounts of a recent incident involving a man who jumped over the White House and got deep inside the building, and said she learned some things about her agency by reading accounts in the Washington Post.

That growing list of security failures, many first reported in the Washington Post, had put the president and his daughters in potential danger. Some of the details of the lapses, including the service’s fumbled response to a 2011 shooting at the White House, were unknown to Congress and the president before they were reported ….

It usually takes a little longer than this for someone in Washington to fall this hard. But fall she did.

And yeah, I partly posted this just to use the headline…

I’d also like to say that while I don’t subscribe to the school that holds that the ultimate measure of a journalist is the number of public officials’ scalps on his or her belt, the Post has done some fine work ferreting these stories out, and making a compelling case for quick action.

That said, a resignation solves nothing. The work of addressing these problems needs to begin now.

Another year of notices about sex offenders, I guess

Just got this notice from CSID today:

We are excited to inform you that the State of South Carolina has partnered with CSID to offer an additional year of identity theft protection to you for free. Since you’ve already enrolled, your service will automatically renew for another year through October 31, 2015, and no additional action from you is necessary. We hope you are enjoying your identity monitoring service from CSID and are taking advantage of all this service has to offer.

Any of y’all get that?

I don’t know what this means, other than I suppose I’m going to get another year of alerts about sex offenders living in the area. That’s all I’ve ever gotten from this service. You? And frankly, I don’t know what that has to do with ID security.

Here’s an odd thing that I hesitate to mention, but I found it interesting. On the CSID homepage, the focus is on a very attractive young woman of what appears to be Indian extraction. And I couldn’t help wondering if that was supposed to be some sort of subliminal nod to Nikki Haley. Or something…

No, I know it isn’t, but that did pop into my head…

csid

You ever notice how much Jed Bartlet aged in office?

Once, he was so young and vigorous.

Once, he was so young and vigorous.

Well, there’s not much “West Wing” left.

As I was working out this morning, Leo McGarry — now Matt Santos’ running mate — was sweating over debate prep, and Josh and the rest of the campaign were leaking how badly he was doing, to lower expectations.

One by one, President Jed Bartlet’s key staffers have pulled away. Sam Seaborn just sort of fell off the face of the Earth when he went West to run for Congress (the way he faded away, without any mention of what happened to him, is one of the few weaknesses in the writing of the show). Leo stepped down after his heart attack, but is now “jumping off the cliff” again with Santos. Josh is running the Santos campaign. Toby is — well, you know what happened to Toby — and if you don’t, I’m not telling you.

The Bartlet administration is winding down. This was episode 10 of the 7th and final season. Only 12 episodes left.

And if you think the presidency of Barack Obama has aged him, have you ever compared pictures of Jed Bartlet from season one and season seven? Being a TV president can be pretty rough, too, apparently.

Of course, the transformation is more startling to me than it was to folks who watched the show the first time around. I saw my first episode at the start of this year.

As you know, I have loved this show. I don’t want to lose it, and have to go back to the horrible real-life politics. Or to vastly inferior television, for that matter. I try to cling to it. I get excited when someone else out there writes about how much he or she loved the show, and I nod enthusiastically. When a young woman asserted in the WashPost that “I’m the biggest ‘West Wing’ fan you’ll ever meet,” I protested, “No, you’re not.”

I’ve started following “Leo McGarry,” my favorite character, on Twitter. A sample:

All this fanboy behavior is pitiful, I know, but then my plight is truly pitiable: I’m about to run out of West Wings. And I fear there’s nothing out there that I haven’t seen that is as good as this.

Showing his age, with Leo in Season 7.

Showing his age, with Leo in Season 7.

WashPost reveals pattern of White House security failures

Frank Horrigan would REALLY be ticked if he heard these stories...

Frank Horrigan would REALLY be ticked if he heard these stories…

The Washington Post has really been digging into the recent fence-climber incident at the White House, and previous incidents, and what it has been finding doesn’t make the Secret Service look all that great.

Yesterday, the paper revealed that in 2011, four shots were fired at the White House, and it was days before the Secret Service realized it had even happened:

Secret Service officers initially rushed to respond. One, stationed directly under the second-floor terrace where the bullets struck, drew her .357 handgun and prepared to crack open an emergency gun box. Snipers on the roof, standing just 20 feet from where one bullet struck, scanned the South Lawn through their rifle scopes for signs of an attack. With little camera surveillance on the White House perimeter, it was up to the Secret Service officers on duty to figure out what was going on.

Then came an order that surprised some of the officers. “No shots have been fired. . . . Stand down,” a supervisor called over his radio. He said the noise was the backfire from a nearby construction vehicle….

It took the Secret Service four days to realize that shots had hit the White House residence, a discovery that came about only because a housekeeper noticed broken glass and a chunk of cement on the floor….

Then today, the Post reports this disturbing story:

The man who jumped the White House fence this month and sprinted through the front door made it much farther into the building than previously known, overpowering one Secret Service officer and running through much of the main floor, according to three people familiar with the incident….

After barreling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family’s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses.

Gonzalez was tackled by a counter-assault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.

Secret Service officials had earlier said he was quickly detained at the main entry. Agency spokesman Edwin Donovan said the office is not commenting due to an ongoing investigation of the incident….

This is not Clint Eastwood’s Secret Service, folks…

 

Benjamin seeks help naming baseball team

19L

This release just came in from Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin’s office:

It’s Time to Name Our Team

New Professional Baseball Team in Columbia Needs Help of Fans.

A new chapter of baseball in Columbia will begin on Opening Night in April, 2016.  For the first time in more than a decade, professional baseball will be played in Columbia and in a spectacular new venue that will anchor the redevelopment of Columbia Common, the former State Mental Health Campus on Bull Street. 

Before the future stars of Major League baseball can lace up their spikes and take the field, they need a name. A name that speaks to, from and about our City with pride. Columbia’s team needs an identity that is uniquely Columbia, and we’re counting on the community to help us identify the moniker that will resonate throughout the Midlands.

Suggestions for the name of our new professional baseball team are now being accepted online at ColumbiaProBall.com. Fans are invited to suggest a name, along with a short explanation of their suggestion, from now until October 15th.

In the coming weeks, representatives of the team will spend time in Columbia conducting research, interviews, focus groups and discussions to help them better understand the community and select the new name.  Once the “Name Our Team” process concludes, team ownership and staff will synthesize the information and suggestions to develop an identity for Columbia’s team.

The winning name, along with the team’s logo and colors, will be unveiled in the Spring of 2015. The fan whose submission leads to the team’s new name will have the honor of throwing out a ceremonial first pitch on the Opening Night of the ballpark.  That fan will also receive a prize package that will include an official team cap and jersey and tickets to Opening Night. (If more than one fan submits the winning name, one of those fans will be chosen at random.)

“The team and venue will be great additions that will provide great entertainment and enhance the quality of life for residents of the Midlands,” said Jason Freier, Chairman and CEO of Hardball Capital and managing owner of the team.  “We are excited to begin the process of crafting an identity that is uniquely Columbia and that fans and the community at large can be proud of and call their own.”

Fans are also invited to join the conversation regarding what to name Columbia’s new team on social media. Be sure to “like” Columbia Professional Baseball on Facebook and follow @ColumbiaProBall on Twitter. Use #NameOurTeam to share your ideas.  Note that all official Name Our Team entries must be submitted online atcolumbiaproball.com.

“Through this process, we will come to better understand what makes Columbia so special and unique,” said Abby Naas, the team’s Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations, who will be moving to Columbia from Hardball Capital’s highly successful team in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  “We know from our experience re-branding our team in Fort Wayne that this can really be an opportunity to build an identity that the community can rally around.  The TinCaps brand is beloved in Fort Wayne and recognized nationally as one of the great monikers in Minor League Baseball.  We will work hard to achieve the same results in Columbia.”

For more information on the team and venue, and to enter your submission for the #NameOurTeam Contest, visit ColumbiaProBall.com.

I imagine that the mayor is likely to get a few names he’d rather not hear, given the raw tempers that were aired as the new ballpark was being debated.

But in case y’all have some serious suggestions, I thought I’d give you a heads-up.

Anybody want to give some platelets with me (or FOR me)?

This was what they needed last week. I'm not sure what all they need now, beyond platelets.

This was what they needed last week. I’m not sure what all they need now, beyond platelets.

As I told y’all, I had been scheduled to give red cells last week at the Red Cross, but at the last minute they called and asked if I’d give platelets instead, because there was a dire need. I had never been asked to do this, in all the years I’ve given blood, so I figured it MUST be dire, and said OK.

So I did. And learned to my surprise that this is a way more time-consuming process than giving whole blood, or even double red cells. From the time you start pumping until you stop, it’s 90 minutes. Not counting the interview and blood test and other preliminaries.

Not only that, but while you have to wait 16 weeks to give double red cells again, you can give platelets every week.

And sure enough, they called me today, and I agreed to go in and donate tomorrow. I said, “You sure you don’t want whole blood, or double red?” They said no, this need is quite urgent — regular donors have been out sick, so they really need me to do this.

So I will, assuming I don’t come down with something in the next 24 hours.

But now, I’m thinking it would be good to share some of this warm, self-congratulatory glow that I get from being such a good guy. I’m thinking maybe some of y’all should give, too. Because it’s needed.

And because, frankly, I don’t think I can find this much time to do this every week. I need some backup. I don’t mean to complain, but it’s just a matter of practicality — this burden needs to be shared.

How about it, folks? I’ll be glad to help set you up…

Is the Special Relationship getting a little less special?

Halcyon days of the Special Relationship.

Halcyon days of the Special Relationship.

See this news today?

Britain, Belgium and Denmark on Friday joined the U.S.-led coalition of nations that are launching airstrikes on Islamic State group militants in Iraq, committing warplanes to the struggle against the extremists….

Good for them, but what took so long? The French have been with us from the outset. The French! Plus Saudi Arabia and other countries in the neighborhood.

Apparently, the PM had to do some heavy lifting to bring this about:

British Prime Minister David Cameron made a passionate plea that spelled out the consequences of inaction in drastic terms – noting that the militants had beheaded their victims, gouged out eyes and carried out crucifixions to promote goals “from the Dark Ages.”

“This is about psychopathic terrorists that are trying to kill us and we do have to realize that, whether we like it or not, they have already declared war on us,” he said. “There isn’t a ‘walk on by’ option. There isn’t an option of just hoping this will go away.”

Cameron told a tense House of Commons in a more than six-hour-long debate…

Why would debate have taken six minutes, much less six hours? Yeah, I know — Iraq. The same electorate that tossed out Churchill after WWII turned on my man Tony Blair over Iraq, and they’re still kind of cranky over it.

Sigh. All’s well that ends well. The vote was 524-43 for action, so that’s something.

And remember Kosovo?

And remember Kosovo?

Mia gives her perspective on delegation’s election board vote

Mia McLeod is still giving the “Old Guard” hell over the Richland County elections board:

Will we ever get it right?Once again, the Old Guard  (OG) has put personal loyalties, friendships and agendas above your fundamental rights. Haven’t the voters of Richland County suffered enough?  Here we are a little more than a month away from the November elections, and your Richland County Legislative Delegation has not only taken its sweet time meeting to vote on County Election Commission candidates, but delegation leaders purposely postponed our meetings until the OG was absolutely sure it had the votes to get at least one incumbent reappointed.
So much for restoring integrity, public trust and confidence to the voting process…Now, with the November elections looming, four of the five appointees have been seated, while one has been denied confirmation by the Governor’s Office.  It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the Governor or Richland County Election Commission incumbents.  And the fact that our delegation leaders have remained steadfast in their efforts to keep pertinent information from voters and certain delegation members, while insisting upon this appointment override, is just more proof (not that we need any) that the OG continues to play by its own self-serving, manipulative rules.If I seem frustrated, here’s why:

May 2014 – Delegation members were asked to submit their written votes/ballots for County Election Commission candidates before the House adjourned. Those ballots were supposedly our “official” votes, although several of us requested (and were denied) a full/formal, publicly noticed delegation meeting

June/July 2014 – No appointments were made, no follow-up provided and no meetings of the legislative delegation were scheduled, despite several requests

August 2014 – No appointments were made, no follow-up provided and still, no meetings

September 5, 2014 – The Richland Delegation finally met to vote in person (approximately 2 months before the General Election) to fill 5 Election Commission seats, with no discussion/disposition of the May ballots

Obviously, that May ballot thingy was yet another “shady,” unofficial OG poll/ploy to determine whether they had enough votes to reappoint the incumbent.  Despite the OG Senators’ secret weapon (a.k.a. – “weighted voting”), the numbers still didn’t quite work, so what’s the OG to do?

Take no public action/votes until the numbers do work…in their favor, of course…not yours.

Waiting four more months puts new appointees at a severe disadvantage before a major general election, but that’s not their fault.  It’s the delegation’s.  And alas…the OG got the one incumbent it had been holding up and holding out for.

I know. Shocking, isn’t it?

Here’s where it gets a little tricky…er.  Turns out, after the Governor’s Office conducted the requisite screenings, only four of the Delegation’s five appointees could be confirmed and that 5th one just happened to be the 5th highest vote-getter…you guessed it, the OG’s only incumbent appointee.

Now, I don’t know why this appointee wasn’t confirmed and that’s not my issue.  I’m more concerned about whether we have a fair, transparent process so that our delegation’s OG loyalty and lack of leadership won’t cost you your vote again this November.

Knowing your vote counts is just as fundamental as the right itself.

And yet some of our delegation members have chosen to submit a letter of support, which effectively “overrides” the Governor and the procedural safeguards that are in place to protect voters–without any public input, deliberation or discussion.

Gotta give it to em…the OG gets what it wants–unequivocally and unapologetically. “The system” is set up that way.  By strategically diverting attention away from the truth and pouncing on anyone who doesn’t support its agenda, the OG successfully:

  1. reappoints incumbents over standard procedural screenings/safeguards
  2. makes it “personal” by falsely accusing dissenters of character assassination

Truth is…not too long ago, I was accused of assassinating the character of yet another member of the OG’s protected class–former Director McBride.

How’s that for déjà vu?

For me, it’s always about the process—never personal.

But as I’ve told you many times before…we can’t change the message until we change the messengers.

You shouldn’t have to worry about whether your vote counts in this upcoming or any other election, but the sad truth is…until the OG is no longer running the Richland Delegation and County Elections, you’d better worry.

For Richland County voters, it doesn’t get any more personal than that…

Why DO Americans freak out so over single-payer?

One recent morning, I watched another episode of “The West Wing” while on the elliptical trainer. It was the one titled “Drought Conditions,” the 16th episode of Season 6. It’s the one you might remember best from the scene when Josh and Toby actually get into a fight, right there in the West Wing, and Toby gets a nasty cut on his cheekbone. (See above.)

At this point in our story, Josh has left the White House to manage Matt Santos’ bid for the Democratic nomination for president. His candidate has done better than expected in New Hampshire, but Josh is worried about another candidate who has come out of nowhere to start grabbing support that should go to Santos. This new candidate, Rafferty, is using language that Toby once wrote for Bartlet in favor of a single-payer health care system. Toby admits he’s been collaborating with Rafferty. This is what precipitates the fight.

Anyway, there are two or three conversations about this, and we pick up on the fact that, way back before they won the White House, everybody else had to talk Toby (and presumably President Bartlet) down from their politically unpalatable position.

This was so familiar to me. This episode aired two years before I wrote my column asking why no presidential candidate, even in the Democratic field, dared to say “single-payer,” other than fringe extremists such as Dennis Kucinich. Barack Obama certainly didn’t dare say it. My attitude was much the same as Toby’s: What’s the point in even having Democrats, if they can’t stand up for something so obvious, so commonsense, so entirely accepted in the rest of the advanced world — and so in their wheelhouse ideologically?

Anyway, I finished watching the episode just as I finished with the elliptical trainer. (I do 40 minutes, which is almost perfect for watching American “hour-long” commercial TV shows.)

While doing my crunches and stretches after, I put on a few minutes of a “30 Rock” that I’d started watching previously. It’s the one when Jack and Avery have their baby, reluctantly, in Canada after failing to get back across the border before she gave birth.

Which leads to this exchange, which interrupts a phone call Jack is having with Liz Lemon:

Avery: This woman is trying to tell me that we don’t have to pay for any of this.

Woman: Right. The Canadian health care system…

Jack: Oh, no you don’t. We will not be party to this socialist perversion. You will take our money.

Woman: I’m sorry, sir, I can’t do that.

Liz (on the other end of the phone): Oh, this is gonna be good.

Jack: Avery, can you walk yet?

Avery (rising from her bed, holding the baby): I am right behind you, Jack.

Jack: Let’s go find a Canadian who will take our money.

That is played for laughs, and it is hilarious, particularly Jack’s hyperbolic crack about “socialist perversion.”

But what it’s making fun of isn’t funny. Why DO Americans freak out so over something that Canadians and Brits take for granted?

Y’all know me. I’m a center-right kind of guy (if you must place me on that stupid left-right spectrum), and on some things a neocon. I want the federal government out of things it has no business in, such as education (which means, by the way, that I would never vote for the fictional Matt Santos — he comes across like he’s running for school board rather than POTUS).

But putting everybody into the same risk pool and eliminating profit from the payment system just seems like common sense, not radical at all. Paying my premiums (or if you prefer, taxes) for coverage that I can never lose, no matter where I go to work in the future, also just makes sense to me. Having something simpler than either the patchwork of private coverage or the complex maze of Obamacare just makes sense to me.

I don’t get why it doesn’t make sense to other people — and in fact, freaks them out so. I mean, intellectually I understand that some people have a sort of religious horror of the government being involved with anything. I accept that they are that way. But I have trouble understanding why they’re that way. Why do Americans get so worked up about something that other people who are so like us culturally — such as the Brits, and the Canadians — take for granted, as a matter of course?

Some of y’all have tried to explain it to me in the past. Maybe you should try again. Maybe I’ll get it this time. Then again, maybe not.

The thing is, I can probably recite all of the objections. The words I know. What I don’t get is the passion, the horror at the idea. It’s the emotion that eludes my understanding…

Headlines about Eric Holder

As a former front-page editor, I found the different approaches taken by three great newspapers in announcing the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder mildly interesting:

  1. Holder to Resign as Attorney General — The Wall Street Journal takes the plain, unadorned approach.
  2. Holder, Liberal Voice, to Quit as U.S. Attorney General — The New York Times throws in some analysis, bordering on making an editorial judgment. Interesting choice. Of course, this being the Times, we might see that as an honorific.
  3. Eric Holder, first black attorney general, to resign — The Washington Post charts a middle ground. They wanted to say more than the WSJ was saying, but didn’t want to venture into subjectivity. So they point out something about him no one can argue with. Of course, if I’m Holder, I’d prefer the NYT approach. I’d be thinking, “That’s it? That’s all you think of when you see me?”

    Yeah, I know. It seems like I think about these things too much. Well, I used to get paid to do that, and it’s hard to stop…

 

Sheheen calls Haley some more names

The drumbeat is pretty steady from the Sheheen campaign, calling Nikki Haley all kinda mean, nasty, ugly things.

One wonders when he’ll use some of these ads to push what he will do if elected. He has plenty of proposals, as well as accomplishments to tout. It would be nice to see him emphasize some of them.

Even in an ad when he does talk about his plans, he can hardly get to them for complaining about Haley. In this one last week about education policy, he spends more time complaining about what the governor has or has not done than saying what he would do. In the whole 31 seconds, these are the only words he speaks that describe his plans:

As governor, I’ll restore school funding and raise teacher pay….

It takes him 3 seconds to say them.

Anyway, here’s the release that went with this new video:

NEW TV AD: “Unethical” Calls Out Nikki Haley’s Repeated Ethics Violations
“No wonder, Nikki Haley has been called ‘unethical, perhaps even corrupt.’ We just can’t trust Nikki Haley.”
Camden, SC – Sheheen for South Carolina today released a new television ad addressing Nikki Haley’s repeated ethical violations and her secretive, dishonest behavior. The spot, “Unethical” is part of a substantial six-figure statewide TV buy which began last night. “Unethical” is the fifth television ad Sheheen for South Carolina has run in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
“From using the state plane for political events to taking the state car to pick up campaign cash, Nikki Haley has repeatedly violated ethical standards for her own personal benefit and then covered up her bad behavior,” said Andrew Whalen, Sheheen’s campaign manager.  “South Carolinians deserve honest leadership and real accountability from a governor they can trust. With all her unethical behavior, it’s clear we just can’t trust Nikki Haley.”

AD BACKUP:

Ad Backup
The South Carolina State Ethics Commission has opened an inquiry into the campaign finances of Republican Governor Nikki Haley. Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox News, 4/10/2012
We thought we could trust Nikki Haley to look out for us.
But Haley used the state plane to fly to political events – and was forced to repay taxpayers. 

CG: Used State Plane for Political Events

 

CG: Forced to Repay Tax Payers

 

“Gov. Nikki Haley reimburses state for plane usage,” Seanna Adcox, Associated Press, 10/8/2012COLUMBIA — South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has repaid about $10,000 for using state planes to attend news conferences and bill-signings, after The Associated Press informed her of a rule against that.

 

Haley’s spokesman said her office was unaware legislators put a clause in the budget last year that added the restrictions. She returned $9,590 on Friday to the state Aeronautics Commission, which operates the state’s two taxpayer-funded planes. The reimbursement covers flights taken across the state over seven days since last July.

Nikki Haley used an official state car to get to an out-of-state political fundraiser… 

CG: Used State Car for Political Fundraiser

“SC Gov. Haley unhurt in previously undisclosed June wreck,” Andrew Shain, The State, 8/27/2013:Haley, her political adviser Tim Pearson and political fundraiser Marissa Crawford were riding in a state-issued Chevrolet Suburban driven by SLED agent Kenneth Williamson to a political event at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro on June 27, according to an incident report from the N.C. State Highway Patrol….

 

Haley was visiting Greensboro to attend a retreat for a political group run by backers of Republican N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory.

 

“Unreported fender-bender involving Nikki Haley leads to questions about her ethics,” Paul Bowers, Charleston City Paper, 8/30/2013:

But as the governor gears up for a 2014 re-election campaign against likely Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen, the previously unreported car accident raised questions about whether Haley uses state-owned vehicles to travel to campaign fundraising events. The vehicle and the driver are provided to the governor through the Executive Protection Unit, which according to SLED spokesman Thom Berry includes “a number of different vehicles from a number of different agencies.” According to a spokesperson from the Department of Public Safety, which owns the SUV, the repair expenses were paid from the state Highway Patrol budget.

 

The accident took place just outside the Grandover Resort, a conference center and golf resort in Greensboro, N.C. According to an article in the Charlotte Observer, supporters of N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory hosted a $5,000-per-person retreat at Grandover on June 27 and 28, and Gov. Haley was scheduled to appear on the 27th for a reception, dinner, and forum. The article noted that the event was “expected to draw 100 to 150 corporate representatives and wealthy donors.”

 

“SC Gov. Haley agrees to pay state for campaign expenses,” Andrew Shain, The State, 10/8/2013:

More than a week after the wreck was revealed, the governor’s campaign announced it would start paying mileage for state-owned vehicles taken to campaign events.

 

The campaign has reimbursed the S.C. Department of Public Safety and SLED $1,178 for mileage dating back to Haley’s start in office in January 2011, spokesman Rob Godfrey said. The campaign already has reimbursed the state $7,610 for out-of-state travel.

And then she didn’t tell us when the car was wrecked.  “SC Gov. Haley unhurt in previously undisclosed June wreck,” Andrew Shain, The State, 8/27/2013:SLED did not report the accident when it happened because it was minor, agency Chief Mark Keel said Tuesday.

 

“Unreported fender-bender involving Nikki Haley leads to questions about her ethics,” Paul Bowers, Charleston City Paper, 8/30/2013:

But as the governor gears up for a 2014 re-election campaign against likely Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen, the previously unreported car accident raised questions about whether Haley uses state-owned vehicles to travel to campaign fundraising events. The vehicle and the driver are provided to the governor through the Executive Protection Unit, which according to SLED spokesman Thom Berry includes “a number of different vehicles from a number of different agencies.” According to a spokesperson from the Department of Public Safety, which owns the SUV, the repair expenses were paid from the state Highway Patrol budget.

 

The accident took place just outside the Grandover Resort, a conference center and golf resort in Greensboro, N.C. According to an article in the Charlotte Observer, supporters of N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory hosted a $5,000-per-person retreat at Grandover on June 27 and 28, and Gov. Haley was scheduled to appear on the 27th for a reception, dinner, and forum. The article noted that the event was “expected to draw 100 to 150 corporate representatives and wealthy donors.”

 

“SC Gov. Haley agrees to pay state for campaign expenses,” Andrew Shain, The State, 10/8/2013:

More than a week after the wreck was revealed, the governor’s campaign announced it would start paying mileage for state-owned vehicles taken to campaign events.

 

The campaign has reimbursed the S.C. Department of Public Safety and SLED $1,178 for mileage dating back to Haley’s start in office in January 2011, spokesman Rob Godfrey said. The campaign already has reimbursed the state $7,610 for out-of-state travel.

 

 

No wonder, Nikki Haley has been  called “unethical….Perhaps even corrupt.” 

CG: The State 8/10/2014

CG: “…her actions were unethical. Perhaps even corrupt.”

 

 

“Scoppe: There were signs then; there are signs now,” Cindi Ross Scoppe, The State, 8/10/2014 

Even if then-Rep. Nikki Haley was acting within the confines of the law when she tried to turn votes at the State House and turn around the bureaucrats at DHEC on behalf of the hospital that was paying her a six-figure salary for a job for which she had no apparent qualifications, her actions were unethical. Perhaps even corrupt. Ditto accepting more than $40,000 in consulting fees from a government contractor who hired her for her “good contacts.”

We just can’t trust Nikki Haley.

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They have an odd sense of ‘longtime’ in Kansas

roberts

Or at least, at The Washington Post.

I was struck by the above headline on the Post’s iPad app this morning. I immediately thought, “Longtime? Well, Pat Roberts wasn’t a U.S. senator when I was in Kansas, working as the news editor of the Wichita paper. The senators then were Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum. Or am I remembering it wrong.”

No, I was right. And while I admit my stint in Kansas was a  “long time” ago, he wasn’t elected to the office until many years after I left there, in 1996.

Which means he has served three terms. LIndsey Graham is running for a third term, and by South Carolina standards, he just got there. He replaced a man who served in the office from 1954 to 2003 (with a brief respite in 1956 when he resigned and was immediately re-elected to the office). Fritz Hollings was still our “junior senator” when he had been in office for 37 years!

Kansas just seems terribly fickle by comparison. People come and go so quickly there

Obama trying to sound tough, even resorting to the use of B-movie cliches and poor grammar

I heard a clip of this portion of the president’s speech to the United Nations today, referring to ISIL:

There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.

First, I cringed a bit at the B-movie cliche, as in, “dis is the only language dese creeps unnerstand.”

Then, I cringed again at the grammar. Of course, it should have been “killers such as these.” I can forgive the improper use of “like” instead of “as,” but the number disagreement was a bit much.

Do you suppose he did that intentionally, to sound more like the tough guy? Cuz, ya know, tough guys don’t do grammar…

So are things hunky-dory, or are we all gonna die?

I was struck by this contrast in The State this morning…

First, from a David Brooks column:

Widening the lens, we’re living in an era with the greatest reduction in global poverty ever — across Asia and Africa. We’re seeing a decline in civil wars and warfare generally.

The scope of the problems we face are way below historic averages. We face nothing like the slavery fights of the 1860s, the brutality of child labor and industrialization of the 1880s, or a civilization-threatening crisis like World War I, the Great Depression, World War II or the Cold War. Even next to the 1970s — which witnessed Watergate, stagflation, social decay and rising crime — we are living in a golden age.

Our global enemies are not exactly impressive. We have the Islamic State, a bunch of barbarians riding around in pickup trucks, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, a lone thug sitting atop a failing regime. These folks thrive only because of the failed states and vacuums around them.

I mention all of this because of the despondency and passivity and talk of unraveling that floated around this summer. Now there is a mood of pessimism and fatalism evident in the polls and in conversations — a lack of faith in ourselves.

It’s important in times like these to step back and get clarity….

Then, from this feature from Carolyn Click about Rosh Hashanah starting tonight:

Jews mark the beginning of the High Holy Days at sundown Wednesday with the observance of Rosh Hoshanah, entering a time of personal reflection that comes amid a backdrop of fighting in the Arab world, a deadly Ebola outbreak in Africa and other world calamities.

“I think everyone is feeling the drumbeat of war in their ear,” Rabbi Jonathan Case, leader of Beth Shalom Synagogue on Trenholm Road, said Tuesday.

Older members of the congregation, those who lived through World War II, “feel that they have been in this place before,” Case said, “that the world seems to have gone awry. There is no doubt that people are scared.”…

Maybe Brooks is being a bit of a Pollyanna, but it would seem the Rabbi — or the people he’s referring to — are getting a tad overwrought. WWII? The Holocaust? Compared to now?

I think maybe Brooks and some of the folks at Beth Shalom should get together and compare notes…

Sheheen’s latest ad attacking Haley over DSS deaths

I almost posted about this yesterday when it came out, but I wasn’t that interested, because there was so little new in it.

Watching the ad, I had the strong sense I’d seen it many times before. And I don’t mean it was like deja vu. It was more like I really had heard it all before.

But I share it in case y’all want to comment.

Here’s the release that came with it:

 Sheheen Blasts Haley on Lying & Ignoring Problems as Children Died 

 
NEW AD: “Every child deserves better than this. We can’t trust Nikki Haley to protect our children.”
Columbia, SC – Sen. Vincent Sheheen today criticized Nikki Haley for repeatedly refusing to address the crisis at her Department of Social Services as children died due to mismanagement. Sen. Sheheen rolled out a new ad to raise public awareness about Governor Haley’s actions and unveiled his updated plan of action to protect children who have been ignored by Nikki Haley.
“Because Nikki Haley refuses to be honest, more children have died,” Sen. Sheheen said. “Honesty and accountability in leadership matters and it’s never more important than when children’s lives are at stake. Under Nikki Haley, these children have been ignored. That’s a disgrace and it’s time to fix it.”
The spot, “Ignored,” is part of a substantial six-figure statewide digital buy, and will begin running today. Watch the video here:  http://youtu.be/YEfdO_e33nY
“As leaders, it’s our job to do two things: tell the truth of what’s going on to raise awareness, and put forth our ideas for how to move forward and fix the problem,” Sheheen continued. “Last April, I released my plan to reform DSS while Nikki Haley stonewalled, lied, and refused to take action. Now, months later, she’s done next to nothing to address the problem and children are still at risk. It’s time for honest leadership and real accountability.”
Sen. Sheheen laid out several new ideas to reform DSS and to help immediately address the crisis:
  • Ask retired DSS social workers to return to work on a temporary basis
    • These seasoned professionals can address the need until new case workers can be hired and trained.
    • If they do not want to work in the field, they can take on the administrative functions to free up caseworkers’ time, or serve in a mentoring and advisory role for new caseworkers.
  • Hire temporary workers to take on administrative functions for case workers until caseloads are reduced.
  • Create a task force of former and retired DSS caseworkers to mentor and regularly check in with current caseworkers around the state.
    • This will help address the morale issue and begin to change the toxic culture.
    • Will also free up time for management to help them determine what’s most needed and allow social workers to talk to a respected peer about what’s needed without fear of retribution.
  • Begin training social workers earlier & recruit caseworkers right out of school
    • Students about to graduate can learn on the job training while in school, just like we do with student teaching.
    • This will provide some immediate help to existing case workers, and create a pipeline of young and invested talent to DSS.
These proposals are additions to the plan of action Sen. Sheheen laid out earlier this year to truly reform DSS and right the wrongs that have allowed children in danger to be ignored under Nikki Haley.
Read Sen. Sheheen’s full plan of action for South Carolina’s children and families, which he rolled out in April, here:  http://vincentsheheen.com/news/leadership-for-south-carolinas-children-families/
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