Author Archives: Brad Warthen

Gorgeous movie star picked to head DHEC! What? I thought you said Katherine Heigl…

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So of course, when I read this, I immediately pictured the woman from “Knocked Up” — you know, the one who was way too hot, smart and together for Seth Rogen, or for anyone else you can name for that matter:

Catherine Heigel of Greenville, a corporate lawyer who has worked for utilities and state agencies, was chosen Friday as the new director of the state agency that oversees health and environmental protection.

The selection by the board for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control came after closed-door interviews with some of the 99 applicants for the post.

Their selection goes to the State Senate for confirmation….

But apparently, it’s not the same person. So I’m less excited now…

Jeb Bush also seeking the Grownup Party nomination

In a headline today, The Washington Post posed the question, “Can Jeb Bush win the GOP nomination . . . by praising President Obama?

Here’s what they’re referring to:

Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush supports President Obama’s trade deal, praises his management of the National Security Agency and agrees that Congress should have moved faster to hold a vote on new attorney general Loretta Lynch.

And that’s all since last week.

It’s an unusual approach for Bush to take in seeking the nomination of a conservative party that mostly loathes the current president. The former Florida governor has gone out of his way at times to chime in on issues where he agrees with Obama — bolstering his attempt to be a softer-toned kind of Republican focused on winning a majority of the vote in a general election.

But the strategy also carries grave risks for a likely candidate who is already viewed with deep suspicion by conservatives, many of whom have little desire to find common ground with Democrats. Tea party leaders are already warning that Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, is alienating conservatives….

There’s a flaw in the headline. He’s not praising the president. What he’s doing is addressing issues according to their merits, not according to who favors or opposes them.

Which means he’s thinking and acting like a grownup, rather than like a choleric child.

Too many in both parties, and particularly in the Tea Party fringe of the GOP, demand that candidates speak and act childishly. And if they don’t get what they demand, they throw tantrums.

In the GOP, those people call themselves “conservatives.” They are anything but. In this situation, Bush is the conservative, the person speaking thoughtfully and carefully about issues, with respect for the political institutions we have inherited from our forebears, rather than engaging in a competition to see who can denounce the other side more vehemently.

If, because of the tantrum-throwers, Bush fails to get the Republican nomination, I might have to give him the nod from my Grownup Party. But he’ll have to get past Lindsey Graham first…

Of course Graham voted for Lynch, and good for him

When I saw the Post and Courier headline, “Loretta Lynch confirmed as attorney general today; S.C. senators split,” I didn’t have to read further to know that Graham had voted “aye,” and the other guy did the knee-jerk GOP thing and voted against.

That’s because of what Lindsey Graham says, believes and lives by — the principle that elections have consequences. A president gets elected, he should get to pick his team. The Senate should only refuse to confirm if the nominees is obviously, clearly unqualified — not just because the nominee might not share the senators’ respective political views.

As he said following the vote:

I also believe presidents should have latitude in picking nominees for their Cabinet, and Ms. Lynch is well-qualified for the job. My goal is to have a Republican president nominate the next Attorney General so we will not be forced to choose between Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch.

He’s not the only one who says this. John McCain says the same. But Graham practices the principle more consistently. (Graham voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court; McCain voted against.)

And of course, he’s right to do this. It shows he understands the proper roles of the president and the Senate under the Constitution.

If you want someone else for the job, work to elect someone else president. But if your candidate loses, you don’t spend the next four or eight years sulking and obstructing the process of governing.

We’re lucky that one of our senators understands that, and in fact understands it more thoroughly than most people in Washington.

Western hostages killed in drone strike

I don’t have time to say much about this now, but thought some of y’all might, so I’m posting it:

A U.S. drone strike in January targeting a suspected al Qaeda compound in Pakistan inadvertently killed an American and Italian being held hostage by the group.

The killing of American development expert Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto is the first known instance in which the U.S. has accidentally killed a hostage in a drone strike.

The mishap represents a major blow to the Central Intelligence Agency and its covert drone program in Pakistan, which President Barack Obama embraced and expanded after coming to office in 2009….

My first thought — other than a very brief pondering of the WSJ’s choice of the word “mishap” — is to think, Why are we hearing this now? It happened in January. Why now? Why not earlier — or, if there was a good reason bearing on security to hold off, why not even later? Why this moment?

I’ll admit to some suspicion on that point when I read this part of the story:

In addition to the hostages, U.S. intelligence agencies believe American-born al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn was killed in January in a separate incident. U.S. intelligence analysts believe he was likely killed in a CIA drone strike that took place after the one that killed Messrs. Weinstein and Lo Porto….

Remember in the past when an American was deliberately killed in a strike, and it generated a good deal of discussion and controversy? Well, this one will be less noticed, tucked in with the admission of inadvertently killing hostages.

Anyway, have at it…

A sorta, kinda Virtual Front Page on a mushy news day

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This is one of those in-between kinds of days in which there’s no really overriding news. So you get the weird phenomenon of all of these news entities having completely different lede stories. Which might not be interesting to you, but is to me.

Here they are, in no particular order — since they’re all ledes, right?…

  1. Russian Energy Giant Finds Kremlin Links Cut Both Ways (NYT) — Which is all about EU going after Gazprom. This is after the EU went after Google. But I think that’s kinda different, don’t you?
  2. Google Unveils Wireless Service Called ‘Project Fi’ (WSJ) — Of all these stories, I may be the most interested in this one. But as an editor, I don’t consider it the most important, and would lede with it. And when I read that it won’t work with iPhones, I lose personal interest as well…
  3. S.C. agency changes policies after lawsuit by transgender teen (The State) — Lemme explain this to you: It seems that she… I mean, it seems that he… well, I lack the vocabulary. I tell you what, though: Cases such as this are a good argument for bringing back the inclusive “he.” They still do it in Spanish, after all…
  4. Senate OKs Human-Trafficking Bill, Paving Way For Attorney General Vote (NPR) — Actually, it’s a little hard to tell from the NPR site what they consider to be the lede, but I think this is it. On second thought, I doubt that they even think about it at NPR.
  5. Italy ‘at war’ with migrant smugglers (BBC) — This ongoing story, of course, gets bigger play over across the pond.
  6. Pentagon races to move inmates at Guantanamo (WashPost) — I think “from” probably says it better than “at” — but it wouldn’t have fit in this three-deck hed.

How’s that for a Smörgåsbord?

A big weekend for SC Policy Council in the WSJ

I just received an email that reminded me of something…

This past weekend, there were not one, but two opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal written by folks affiliated with the S.C. Policy Council.

The first wasn’t at all surprising, as it was written by Communications Director Barton Swaim, who is a regular contributor to the Journal, as well as to the Weekly Standard and other such publications. Barton is an erudite young man and a fine writer. His piece over the weekend put forth a modest proposal for a partial acceptance of the excessive use of the random “like” in common speech. All who love the language should read it, assuming they can get past the pay wall: “Managing the Decline of, Like, a Great Language.”

The second piece was by Policy Council President Ashley Landess, and it had this attention-grabbing headline: “The South Carolina Way of Incumbency Protection.”

You’d pretty much have to think exactly like Ashley to figure out what the piece was about based on that hed. For most people, that would be a leap. Basically, she argued against legislation making its way through our Legislature that would require groups that spend money to affect elections to disclose their donors, claiming ominously that this was some sort of plot by incumbents to silence political criticism.

Which, as I say, is something of a stretch. But a stretch you are motivated to attempt if you are the head of the Policy Council. And a message that would appeal to the editors of the Journal.

Anyway, I was reminded of both these pieces by an email from Barton this morning saying:

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

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

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

Think about it?

Barton

  1. Thanks for tweeting my eccentric little op-ed. I appreciated you calling me “our own.”

So I had to stop and actually read Ashley’s piece, and decide what I think of it…

Well, “vehemently” is a bit strong. But no, I don’t agree with her.

First, campaign finance has never been a thing I’m that passionate about (it’s about, shudder, money, which bores me, which is probably why I don’t have any). But when forced to think about it, I have tended to say “no” to spending limits, “yes” to disclosure.

The Constitution protects our right to stand up and speak out, not our right to secretly pay other people to speak for us. And a group that pushes transparency as the Policy Council does sets a bad example by wanting to be secretive. Ashley’s piece sort of rings hollow as I read it.

I’m slightly ambivalent about this. For instance, up to a point, I allow people to comment anonymously on my blog. But I restrict what they say more than I do people who are open about their identities. I don’t let them, for instance, criticize others anonymously.

So, given all that, I suppose I could be on a panel. But I’m not nearly as passionate or committed on this as Ashley.

I’ve asked for a few more details…

A Pulitzer for Charleston, more staff reductions at The State

From our media watch beat…

Doug Pardue just wrote the first line of his obituary, and I mean that in a good way. The Post and Courier just won the holy of holies among journalism prizes, the Pulitzer Public Service gold medal, for their “Till Death Do Us Part” series, which told “tales of domestic abuse survivors and of the 300 women in the Palmetto State who have been shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, bludgeoned or burned to death by men during the past decade while legislators did little to quell the bloodshed.” Not only only did the paper address a critical, urgent issue that has long brought shame upon their state, but the series was followed by serious action in the Legislature.

The series was written by Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff. But I mention Doug in particular because I know him — he used to be in charge of investigative reporting at The State, a couple of decades back.

So way to go, Doug! And the rest of y’all, too.

As that news was spreading yesterday, my friends and colleagues at The State received another kind of news — more staff reductions are coming. The process will begin with voluntary buyouts. My sources say staffers will have the opportunity to volunteer to leave in exchange for a severance package. There’s no stated goal in terms of number of people who will lose their jobs, but there is apparently a monetary goal in mind.

What happens if the total salaries of those volunteering don’t add up to the goal? That apparently has not been stated. But we know what has happened in the past. I was laid off in one of several waves over the last few years.

I’m very sorry to hear this on a number of levels. I care not only because The State continues to be my newspaper, but because South Carolina desperately needs a vital, vibrant, dynamic capital city newspaper. Here’s hoping the reductions will be minimal.

(I learned of this when a respected colleague called me this morning. And no, that source probably isn’t one of the first ones you would guess, so there’s no point in guessing.)

Who didn’t know these things about ‘American Pie?’

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As long as I’m going on about the days of my youth…

I was flabbergasted by this piece in the WSJ over the weekend:

Earlier this month, one of the greatest mysteries in rock ’n’ roll was finally solved. The unnamed “king” and “jester on the sidelines” in Don McLean’s iconic 1971 song “American Pie” were revealed to be Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan, respectively….

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hang on! Greatest mysteries?

Who did not know, soon after the song’s release in the fall of 1971, that “the king” was Elvis and the “jester” was Dylan?

Nobody! At least, nobody who was old enough to take a consuming interest in listening to the radio and who had time on his hands to talk endlessly about such drivel. In other words, nobody who was in college then.

I checked, and I was right — the columnist who wrote that was 3 years old when the song came out. So… maybe this was a big revelation to her, but not to Rob, Barry, Dick or me.

It’s hard to believe it even made headlines. Oh, I see why — McLean just sold the lyrics for $1.2 million. OK.

You know what? Now that I think back, I’m hard-pressed to explain how we knew all that stuff that we knew about the song. There were social media. There was no Wikipedia. And mass media were firmly in the hands of the older generation, which didn’t care and didn’t engage such topics. Did we get it from DJs on the radio? From Rolling Stone? I don’t remember how we knew; we just did. Or thought we did, anyway…

Counterculture heroes, or, Back when radical was chic

Ginsberg

I think Ginsberg was sitting among us in the amphitheater waiting to be introduced here.

 

Several years ago, my wife gave me a scanner with an attachment for scanning negatives and slides. I had wanted this in order to start digitizing my vast stash of 35mm film from several decades of personal and professional photography.

I’ve never really undertaken the task systematically. The idea of trying to match up separate strips of film in glassine envelopes even to the point of getting them together in their actual rolls, much less trying to assign dates to each roll to get them in chronological order, is just too Herculean. Especially since scanning a single exposure at sufficient resolution to ensure good enlargements takes a couple of minutes.

But I do leaf through my negatives randomly from time to time and blow up a forgotten image from long ago. I was doing so over the weekend, and ran across these images from about 1973 or ’74.

Here you see two counterculture heroes of that generation, both of whom were participants in a speaker series at Southwestern at Memphis, now known as Rhodes College. We have Allen Ginsberg of “Howl” fame, and Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers. This was when my wife and I were students at neighboring Memphis State University, now known as University of Memphis. (What is it about Memphis and constantly changing the names of colleges?)

At least this shot of Ellsberg was in focus.

At least this shot of Ellsberg was in focus.

No, I don’t think Southwestern had a rule that your name had to end in “sberg” for you to speak there. But both were very much counterculture heroes at the time — Ginsberg as a writer and (more importantly) as the biggest surviving light of the Beat Generation, Ellsberg as the antiwar activist and forerunner of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

Not that they were heroes to me, mind you. But I was a student journalist, and they were big newsmakers. So I showed up, with my camera. (Also, my wife reminds me, the young woman who was our maid of honor in our wedding had been involved in bringing Ginsberg to the campus. I don’t know whether she was involved with Ellsberg.)

Also, the Beats loomed large the legend of my wife and I getting together. We met at a party (at Southwestern, actually) that my wife and the future maid of honor were having for mutual friends who were getting married. During the party, J and I discovered that she was reading a Jack Kerouac biography even as I was reading On the Road for the first time. And the rest is history. (I had had that copy of On the Road for a couple of years, but had waited until that moment to read it.)

By this time, Kerouac and Cassady had been dead for years, so Ginsberg was the best we could do.

Anyway… I got to thinking about these photos this morning when I was reading this interesting review of a book, Days of Rage, about the violent fringes of American radicalism during that period. If you can get past the WSJ’s pay wall, you might want to check it out.

No, there’s no one-to-one comparison here. Compared to the likes of Bill Ayers (the Obama buddy!), Bernardine Dohrn and Terry Robbins, Ellsberg and Ginsberg were relatively tame. I mean, they didn’t want to blow anybody up or anything. What we had on that Memphis campus was more like “Days of Mild, Trendy Disaffection” than “Rage.”

But it still reminded me of these pictures, so I thought I’d share…

When I shot this, I thought I had an awesome picture -- I had caught Ellsberg looking RIGHT AT ME in the wings. Only later did I see that he was out of focus. Ah, the limitations of real film and manual-focus SLRs...

When I shot this, I thought I had an awesome picture — I had caught Ellsberg looking RIGHT AT ME in the wings. Only later did I see that he was out of focus. Ah, the limitations of real film and manual-focus SLRs…

 

Americans concerned about crime used to favor gun control. Not so much now…

People used to say "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword," Ned Stark being a case in point. Today, they seem to think that if you outlaw swords, only outlaws will have swords...

People used to say “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword,” Ned Stark being a case in point. Today, they seem to think that if you outlaw swords, only outlaws will have swords…

You know, today would be a good day to just let Bryan take over the blog, the way he did while I was out of the country. I’d suggest that, but I’ve been binge-watching “Game of Thrones” via HBO NOW, and if there’s anything to be learned from that, it’s that it can be dangerous to leave someone else in charge of your kingdom.

Here’s the second topic today suggested by Bryan. He alerted me to this report from the Pew Research Center, which is summed up in this lede:

For most of the 1990s and the subsequent decade, a substantial majority of Americans believed it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun owners’ rights. But in December 2014, the balance of opinion flipped: For the first time, more Americans say that protecting gun rights is more important than controlling gun ownership, 52% to 46%….

I think this is related to what’s been happening in the GOP the last few years.gun poll

Increasingly, “conservatism” is really libertarianism in disguise, and is related to anti-government feeling in the country. People who once upon a time would have wanted just the cops to have guns don’t trust cops that way any more. It’s a two-edged blade — distrust of government on one side, a libertarian view of the 2nd Amendment on the other.

Also, as the Pew report notes, people have an exaggerated sense of the prevalence of crime. They think the streets are more dangerous than they are, and since they don’t trust government to protect them from all that imagined mayhem, they want to pack heat….

In case you weren’t worried enough about our future…

I share this video from Texas Tech that Bryan Caskey shared with me.

The only thing I can say in defense of these appallingly ignorant young people is that a similar man-on-the-street canvass of their elders would likely produce similar results. I don’t know that; I just suspect it.

Graham is Rubin’s kind of conservative (mine, too)

The Washington Post‘s house conservative, Jennifer Rubin, knows that Lindsey Graham has next to no chance of winning the GOP presidential nomination, but she’s a fan of our senior senator, and thinks he has some things to teach the more likely candidates.

So it is that she has posted “Eight things to learn from Lindsey Graham.” Here are three of the items:

4. He is living proof that a conservative in a deep red state can win reelection while supporting immigration reform. He knows that an arduous path to citizenship or to legalization with penalties, payment of back taxes and other requirements is not “amnesty” and will be necessary unless we create a police state to round up 11 million to 12 million people….

7.  He knows that the NSA is not reading the content of your e-mails or listening to your phone calls without individualized suspicion and the 4th Amendment does not apply to the data on calls equivalent to that which appears on your phone bill. He can also speak to the necessity of the program.

8. He knows precisely the state in which President George W. Bush left Iraq, the recommendations at the time, the Obama-Clinton determination to remove all troops and the consequences on our ability to maintain stability and redirect then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki away from sectarian activities (suppression of the Sunni) and toward inclusive government.

At long last, the House stands up to the governor on roads

Finally, the House has done what it always had to do if it were to act rationally on financing road construction — raise the tax designed for that purpose, which had been kept ridiculously low:

The South Carolina House passed a bill Wednesday to pay to repair the state’s crumbling roads by increasing the state’s gas tax by 10 cents a gallon.

The proposal, which would raise roughly $427 million a year, passed 87-20, a large enough margin in the GOP-dominated House to survive a veto threat by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.

State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-York, said the “strong vote” shows House members are serious about fixing S.C. roads….

Here’s hoping House members continue to stand up against the governor’s nonsensical stance, and that the Senate acts reasonably as well.

So far, the governor has reacted in a predictable manner, demagoguing on Facebook rather than engaging lawmakers.

At Pearl Harbor, a vision out of South Carolina

C-47

Burl Burlingame is still posting pictures of fantastic sunsets over Pearl Harbor and tagging me with them, making me wish I could still be there — as if I needed such prompting. There’s nothing like a Pacific sunset.

Anyway, this morning I was looking for something unrelated among my pictures from my recent trip, and ran across this one that I had failed to share when I wrote about visiting Burl’s aviation museum on Ford Island.

It was a touch of home, one rivaling those sunsets in pulchritude.

On a display next to a C-47 — something that fills me with nostalgia, since it’s the first aircraft I ever flew on (in South America, over the Andes, when I was about 9 or 10) — there it was: The most popular pinup of South Carolina model Jewel Flowers Evans, whose face and figure was made famous by artist Rolf Armstrong.

Her obituary in The State in 2006 called her “probably the number one pin-up girl of all time.” Whether she was or not, she gets my vote. Here are some other images of her, including this photo that is apparently from the same session in 1941 that produced the one on the nose of that plane.

Anyway, that very same image ran on The State‘s obit page when she died, something that startled me sufficiently that I wrote about it on my then-young blog.

It was a nice surprise to see her again while visiting old haunts in Hawaii…

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Open Thread for Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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Some possible topics. Feel free to add your own…

  1. Anybody have anything to say about Tax Day? – I certainly don’t, but I thought I’d ask.
  2. Japan Tops China as Largest U.S. Bondholder — Hmmm. I wonder if this has anything to do with the major financial transaction I pulled off recently in Japan. Probably not… In any case, what does it really all mean? That we’ll start resenting the Japanese more than the Chinese?
  3. EU accuses Google Shopping of search ‘abuse’ — Why do these furriners kept pestering our mega-corporations?
  4. David Chase explains ‘Sopranos’ ending — again. Can we stop asking him about it now? — Hey, it’s more interesting than international financial news, right?
  5. This CEO raised all his employees’ salaries to at least $70,000 by cutting his own — I’d like to work for THAT guy — but I don’t want to move to Seattle
  6. Hey, that’s my granddaughter at thestate.com — For several days now, a photo of my eldest granddaughter — she’s 18 now — has been on The State‘s main page, under “Top Photos.” That’s her on the far right, Jennifer Garner on the far left. If you click on it, it doesn’t have my granddaughter’s name. It says “Tiffany Jaspers” instead. My granddaughter took her place at the last moment — and then was honored as the top model of the night! She’s a dancer, and has a LOT of stage presence.

top model

Mayor Bob alert after being rushed to hospital

Here’s hoping Mayor Bob gets better quickly:

Doctors are performing tests, including a catheterization, to check for heart blockages after former Columbia Mayor Bob Cable was rushed to a local hospital Wednesday afternoon.

Coble was alert and in good spirits, with family and friends by his side, about 4:30 p.m., said Kevin Floyd, communications manager with the Nexsen Pruet law firm, where Coble works.

John Sowards, the firm’s chairman, said Coble was “feeling poorly in the morning at some committee hearings and that did not get better.” As the day went on, he checked in with State House healthcare staff and, as a precaution, they summoned an ambulance.

That was about 2 p.m.

NYT: ‘You Don’t Have to Tell a Clinton Twice’

Interesting piece in The New York Times, about the Clintons, and specifically about a certain pattern that has become familiar in their long political career: “what their admirers call grit and critics deem shamelessness can overshadow another essential element of the Clinton school: a willingness to put on the hair shirt of humility to regain power.”

When he tried to regain the governor’s office in Arkansas in 1982, Bill told voters, “My daddy never had to whip me twice for the same thing.” Hillary has never been as folksy, but this story goes into the ways she determinedly puts her mistakes behind her:

When she used a video message to enter the Democratic presidential race in early 2007, she sat alone on a couch, used some variation of “I” no fewer than 11 times and proclaimed an uninspired theme: “I’m in it to win it.” This time, she started with a film featuring miniature portraits of an array of voters, appeared on-screen only after 1 minute 18 seconds, and emphasized “your vote” and “your time.”

In 2008, she was at times criticized for being detached from voters, insulated in a bubble of staff and security and avoiding spontaneity. She began her 2016 campaign by riding 16 hours in a van from New York to Iowa, making unannounced stops at gas stations and fast-food restaurants, before arriving for what were billed as a series of low-key conversations with a handful of voters.

Her first campaign was characterized by a contentious relationship with the news media; she recently spoke at a banquet celebrating political journalism and brought on a new cadre of news-media-friendly aides who held olive-branch get-togethers for reporters days before Mrs. Clinton declared her candidacy….

And so forth.

Still… the recent contretemps about her email illustrates that there are some lessons she does have to get whipped for more than once, such as the need to be transparent.

And while it’s convenient to lump them together as “the Clintons,” I don’t know that she has quite the capacity that is second nature to her husband, the quality that makes him willing to do anything to get folks to love him.

As I said in a comment yesterday, Bill will go into a restaurant and shake hands with everybody in the place because he wants to, because it scratches an itch deep within him. Hillary will go in and shakes hands with everybody because someone has persuaded her that she has to….