Author Archives: Brad Warthen

No hate-crimes law? That’s actually a good thing…

The state Chamber of Commerce and other backers of hate-crimes legislation at a recent presser.

The state Chamber of Commerce and other backers of hate-crimes legislation at a recent presser.

I just saw this story in the Post and Courier about the legislative session ending without a South Carolina hate-crimes law being passed.

Well, that’s a good thing — although I’m sure my relief will be short-lived. It’s only a matter of time before pressure from peers and well-intended others — we’re one of only two states without such a law — will have the effect I oppose.

Yes, I know that the motives of those who want such a law are generally kindly, and the motives of many (if not most) people opposing it are abhorrent.

Nevertheless, I’ve opposed the idea as far back as I can recall — here’s a post on the subject from 2007 — and I believe my reasoning is as sound as ever.

This is America, a country where we don’t criminalize thought. We punish actions, not attitudes. There’s a very important reason why all those seemingly different concepts — freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly — are squeezed together into the very First Amendment to our Constitution. They all assert one thing: They say the government can’t interfere with our freedom of conscience. We get to believe what we want and say what we want and write what we want and hang out with whom we want. And we have a legitimate gripe against the government if it sticks its nose in.

I know that many people feel strongly that such a law is needed. But their arguments don’t add up to anything that outweighs the values expressed in the First Amendment.

I’ve written about this a number of times in the past. I summed up my position fairly succinctly in this comment back in 2009 (which I later elevated to a separate post):

Such things should not exist in America. That’s one of the few points on which I agree with libertarians. Punish the act, not the thought or attitude behind it.

Oh, and I assure you that when I agree with libertarians on anything, I strongly doubt my conclusion, and go back and reexamine it very carefully. But this position has stood up to such scrutiny.

Perhaps you can offer something that will shake my certainty, although at this late date it seems doubtful. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard all the arguments, and while I’ve often admired the sentiment involved, I end up shaking my head at the logic.

But have at it…

Do you ‘ache’ for these ‘cesspools?’ If so, why?

cesspools

Here I go again asking whether you yearn to get out there amongst ’em — however you define “’em.”

And trying to understand it.

See the headline above. The picture — which I loved when I saw it a couple of weeks ago (the guy with his fist in the air seems to think he’s Henry V or something — once more unto the breach!) — is of a particularly silly event that many seemed to enjoy. Here’s the original story about it, from late April.

Anyway, the event and the apparent enjoyment it provided inspired one Galadriel Watson to wonder why: “What do we get out of them that’s worth exposure to hundreds or thousands of strangers?”

I read it today because I can’t imagine. I have no pacifistic objections to battling over the name “Josh,” particularly with pool noodles. I just don’t know why anyone would want to get out into any crowds, at any time, for any reason — concerts, street protests, eating out, what have you. Not that I haven’t willingly done it myself — I have no crippling fear of crowds. But when I have, the presence of the crowd is usually a strong argument against attending the event — one that must be overcome by a stack of positive considerations that overcome it — not a favorable feature.

Knowing that many people feel otherwise — and “feel” is the proper word, since I can’t imagine thought being involved in this impulse — I read it in part looking for a passage saying “not everyone feels this way,” and looking for the explanation of that, as a way of answering the subquestion, “What’s wrong with me?”

And sure enough, she mentions introverts, but the “expert” she quotes gets it wrong:

It doesn’t even seem to matter if you’re an extrovert or introvert. Tegan Cruwys is an associate professor of psychology at the Australian National University and a clinical psychologist. She said, “Personality might affect the kinds of events and social groups that appeal to you — for example, music festivals versus gaming conventions — but there is no evidence that these social phenomena only apply to extroverts. Introverts are not asocial.”

I beg to differ, based on actual, personal experience. It’s not that I’m asocial, or antisocial. I am, after all, a communitarian. At least in the abstract, I love the whole community. That doesn’t mean I want to be packed in with the whole crowd like a sardine.

I go into a crowd the way one enters a survival course — as an ordeal to get through. What is my exit strategy? Where are the bathrooms? (No, real bathrooms; not port-a-potties.) Is there food that I can eat, or will it be the usual junk one finds at such dubious gatherings? This is sort of perverse, but I’ve been known to approach some crowds willingly as a challenge, as a way of testing myself. For instance, I have this thing about liking to go shopping at Harbison on Christmas Eve, just to take pride in my ability to avoid the traffic as much as possible, walk from convenient parking rather than wait an hour to park at the mall itself, etc. And then congratulating myself upon arriving home the same day.

Yeah, I know that’s weird. But I think wanting to go into crowds in general is weird.

Anyway, this article did not reassure me about the motives for liking such gatherings being positive. It said things like:

  • “As a human, you have ‘a very primitive desire to feel like you’re a part of a larger collective’…” Yeah, I’ve noticed. That’s what gives us all this insanity of people seeing political parties or movements as their tribes. Very primitive, indeed.
  • “Large events also reinforce our sense of identity…” Yeah. Exactly. It’s so heart-warming to find yourself in a crowd of like-minded white supremacists, for instance. This is a portal into my dislike of Identity Politics, but I’ll close it and move on…
  • “This idea of ‘us’ also provides a sense of security. ‘I’d be more inclined to look out for you…'” Sure. Because you’re one of my “tribe.” To hell with those “other people…”

And so forth. None of which feels uplifting or ennobling to me, or even like fun.

Maybe y’all can give me reasons why it’s good to get out in a crowd, and make me feel like a selfish jerk who lacks something important that should connect him to other people — which is a position into which I sometimes talk myself.

But this article didn’t do it.

Anyway, have at it. Good luck…

The departure of Caslen, the return of Pastides

Image from USC's "MEET OUR PRESIDENT: BOB CASLEN" page.

Image from USC’s “MEET OUR PRESIDENT: BOB CASLEN” page.

Well, I was planning to post something about General Caslen and his troubles, but now he’s gone.

So I thought, before I sit down to dinner, I’d post something to give y’all a chance to comment.

No great hurry since this isn’t a news blog. It’s an opinion blog. Trouble is, unlike most of South Carolina, I’ve never had very strong opinions about the guy — from the time of the brouhaha over his hiring until now, I was just watching and trying to make up my mind. Then these three things happened:

  • In a graduation speech, he called USC “the University of California.”
  • Also in a graduation speech (I’m not sure which one of the many he delivers), he plagiarized something Adm. William McRaven had said. After this, it was reported that he had offered his resignation to the trustee board chair, but that it was declined.
  • Then, we learned that the interchange between him and the board chair had occurred without the other members of the board knowing about it. And from what I read about that over the last day or so, some were kind of ticked about it.

I wouldn’t have fired him — or demanded his resignation, or whatever — over his confusing us with Berkeley. People make mistakes. It was a pretty weird mistake, but not a firing offense. But it was not a good thing. And as I collected information toward forming my impression of Caslen, that definitely went into the “bad stuff” pile.

And this was not a guy who could afford to have a lot of stuff in that pile, given the squirrelly way he was hired, and the fact that in the last two weird years, I hadn’t tossed anything, that I can recall, into the “good stuff” pile. So, not a good omen.

Nor would I completely abandon him over the plagiarism thing. I mean, you know, I love Joe Biden, so I’m sort of obliged to be open-minded about that. Still, it was something for the “bad stuff” pile.

At this point, I’m really wondering when he’s going to give me some stuff for the other pile.

The worst thing, for me, was the business about the board not being consulted before the chairman went through the whole “I surrender my sword/No, sir, I do not accept it!” routine. Of course, that’s not really on Caslen, is it?

That takes us back to the days when his hiring was being protested. Many of the most passionate people were calling for changing the governance structure.

Well, we just got a huge reason to seriously consider that. Because this board appears to be a mess.

My position on that is unchanged since about 1991 — back then, I advocated doing away with these medieval fiefdoms governed by their own, separate courts. I think we should do away with the USC trustees, the Clemson trustees, all those separate little kingdoms, and have one board governing higher education in the state. Make it a real state system, rather than competing private businesses. (Oh, and also restore state funding so they really ARE state institutions.)

That’s never come remotely close to happening, apparently too big a pill for too many, but we need to do something other than having all these little fiefdoms and princelings.

I’d be interested to see a real discussion about that, or about something other than what we have.

Meanwhile, I welcome back Harris Pastides, for however long the interregnum lasts. He’s a good guy…

 

 

 

I see the GOP just did an amazingly shameful thing. Again.

cheney

This is a screenshot from video of Rep. Cheney speaking after the vote, which you can watch by clicking on the image.

That’s essentially what I said on Twitter this morning about the Liz Cheney thing, and started to move on to other topics.

But perhaps we should pause on that one for a moment, seeing how I may have been a trite too dismissive of the significance of this moment in American political history.

Perhaps we should contemplate what Tom Friedman had to say in his piece, “The Trump G.O.P.’s Plot Against Liz Cheney — and Our Democracy.” He wrote it before what happened this morning, but with full knowledge of what would happen. And as ominous as it sounds, he may have been on the money:

One of America’s two major parties is about to make embracing a huge lie about the integrity of our elections — the core engine of our democracy — a litmus test for leadership in that party, if not future candidacy at the local, state and national levels.

In effect, the Trump G.O.P. has declared that winning the next elections for the House, Senate and presidency is so crucial — and Trump’s ability to energize its base so irreplaceable — that it justifies both accepting his Big Lie about the 2020 election and leveraging that lie to impose new voter-suppression laws and changes in the rules of who can certify elections in order to lock in minority rule for Republicans if need be.

It is hard to accept that this is happening in today’s America, but it is.

If House Republicans follow through on their plan to replace Cheney, it will not constitute the end of American democracy as we’ve known it, but there is a real possibility we’ll look back on May 12, 2021, as the beginning of the end — unless enough principled Republicans can be persuaded to engineer an immediate, radical course correction in their party….

Indeed. Let’s focus on that bit about these twits saying that this action against the one prominent person among them willing to speak the obvious truth is crucial to “winning the next elections for the House, Senate and presidency.”

Not for long, though. I only have this to say about it: If that’s what they believe and assert — which they have done in the last few days, in a Orwellian effort to “justify” what they’re doing to Rep. Cheney — well then none of them should ever be elected to anything, ever again. As you know, I’m willing up to a point to accept certain behaviors by elected officials that are meant purely to get them elected or re-elected, if they are worthy people otherwise. Because if you don’t get elected, you can’t do any good for anyone.

But sometimes, the thing you’re willing to do proves that you are not a worthy candidate. For instance, Lindsey Graham struggled for years to keep the yahoos from tossing him out so that he could stay in office and push hard for sensible immigration policy, or for dialing back the partisan madness that was undermining our method of selecting federal judges. But when you just give up completely, and commit yourself with slavish devotion to the worst person ever to hold high office in the country, you completely abandon any argument that the nation is better off with you than without you. Obviously, you should no longer hold office.

And any Republicans who want Donald Trump to have anything to do with their party, and are willing to embrace his outrageously destructive Big Lie in order to achieve that, are people who should not only lose the next election, but the one after that, and every election to come.

Friedman’s column continues with the ways Republicans are, across the country, trying to undermine our electoral processes so that no one can ever trust them again. In our Identity Politics era, much of the attention has been on the GOP’s efforts to discourage voting by People of a Certain Color. As dastardly as that is, it’s hardly the whole story. Writes Friedman:

There are also the new laws to enable Republican legislatures to legally manipulate the administration and counting of the votes in their states….

We’re talking about new regulations like the Georgia law that removed the secretary of state from decision-making power on the State Election Board, clearly aimed to curb the powers of the current secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, after he rejected Trump’s request that he “find” 11,780 votes to undo Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia….

As Stanford University democracy expert Larry Diamond summed it all up to me, while we’re focusing on Liz Cheney and the 2020 elections, Trump’s minions at the state level “are focused on giving themselves the power to legally get away with in 2024 what the courts would not let them get away with in 2020.”…

I’m probably close to getting in trouble with the copyright attorneys at the NYT, but I assure you I’m not trying to steal anything; I’m trying to help Friedman spread the alarm. I strongly urge you to go read the whole thing (and everything else you can find from honest, knowledgeable sources), and if they want you to pay for it, by all means pay. As I do.

It’s important because Friedman predicts that once Republicans complete the task of rigging the electoral system in their lying, malodorous favor, “both Democrats and principled Republicans will take to the streets, and you can call it whatever you like, but it is going to feel like a new civil war.”

Because what else is there to do, when our civilization is no longer held together by the rule of law, reference for the truth and profound respect for, and confidence in, fair elections?

Friedman, who covered the collapse in Lebanon, doesn’t use the term “civil war” either “lightly or accidentally.” He saw a civilized country fall apart, which is “what happens when democratically elected politicians think that they can endlessly abuse their institutions, cross redlines, weaken their judiciary and buy reporters and television stations — so that there is no truth, only versions, of every story.”

Dismiss it as alarmism if you like. Bask in the warmth of having an honest, decent, qualified president who is doing his best to serve to the betterment of his country, and enjoys high approval ratings as a result.

But keep in mind that the people who ousted Liz Cheney today have something very different in mind. They are eager to pull us all into the darkness…

More people will be openly carrying guns in SC. Does that make you happy?

Great_train_robbery_still

You may have seen this news a couple of days ago:

COLUMBIA — Trained South Carolina gun owners will likely soon be able to carry pistols openly in public after the state Senate fast-tracked, prioritized and ultimately approved a bill to expand the rights of concealed weapons permit-holders.

After multiple days of debate, the Senate voted 28-16 late in the evening May 6 in favor of the bill. They rejected attempts by some conservative Republicans to transform it into a more expansive bill, known by supporters as “constitutional carry,” to let all legal gun owners carry openly without a permit….

This was something of a surprise to Micah Caskey, who had co-sponsored the bill and played a significant role in herding it through the House. He had predicted that it wouldn’t make it through the Senate this year. But it did.

He also had predicted that the separate bill that would have simply granted everyone who isn’t specifically barred by law from having a gun to carry without a CWP or anything would not pass, either. He was right about that, but just barely. The Senate nearly passed that measure, called “constitutional carry” — a very puzzling piece of legislation that I’ll come back to later, if I remember.

Remind me if I don’t. I’ve been writing this in chunks today because I’ve had to run a bunch of errands today, and tomorrow is Mother’s Day and promises to be busy, and I’m determined to get it written this weekend. Finally.

I’ve got kind of a complex about this post because I called and talked to Micah about all of this three weeks ago. It was on the Friday, April 16. I couldn’t get it written that day, but I was sure I’d write it over the weekend. Then on Saturday, I tore my hand up, and couldn’t type for more than a week. And then when I could type, I was catching up on stuff I had to get done, and not too worried about getting this done, since I didn’t expect the Senate to act on it this year. But as I mentioned, they did.

I had called Micah because I wanted to ask him a question, which went kind of like this: “I could use some help understanding what it is that persuaded you that people didn’t have sufficient right to carry guns about, and that that needed addressing…”

As y’all know, I’m about out of Republicans I can vote for. I’ve mentioned previously that Micah — my state rep — is about the only one left that I might have the opportunity to vote for in the foreseeable future. He didn’t have opposition in 2020, so I didn’t vote for him. But if someone opposes him in ’22, I probably will.

In spite of this. I definitely oppose what he and his caucus are doing here, but hey, there’s not anyone on the planet I agree with about everything. Not Joe Biden. Not James Smith. Not even Joe Riley, although in his long career he came closer than anybody. I’m not even sure I’d have agreed with Abraham Lincoln about everything, especially back in his Whig days.

He’s wrong on this gun thing, but I wanted to hear what he had to say about it. If he’d given me any of that “God-given rights” garbage like that Shane Martin guy that Jamie Lovegrove quoted, I’d be down to ZERO Republicans I can vote for. (If God really saw it as essential that I go about armed, why wasn’t I born with a Smith & Wesson in my hand? That could have saved a lot of money. Guns are pricey these days.)

But Micah didn’t, and I didn’t expect him to. He was reasonable as always. Just wrong — about this.

Here’s the way he laid it out to me…

As mentioned before, there are two House bills: 3094 and 3096. The second one was the crazy one — my word, of course, not Micah’s. The other one was the more moderate option — basically not changing much except that people who now have Concealed Weapon Permits would no longer have to, you know, conceal them. The reassuring thing for someone like me, Micah explained, is that 3094 was there to give more moderate Republicans an opportunity to demonstrate their great fealty to the “There aren’t enough guns out there!” crowd, without going whole-hog crazy (again, that’s me, not Micah).

About that “someone like me” phrase… It’s not that Micah is some gun nut and I’m someone who would sweep away the “God-given rights” that so concern Sen. Martin. No. In fact, I’ve never been much of a gun-control advocate. Not that I wouldn’t snap my fingers and have all the guns in private hands disappear. It’s just that I’m not likely to have that power at any point, and here in the real world, I don’t see how any control measure that would ever stand the slightest chance of passing would solve the real problem.

And what’s “the real problem?” It’s that so incredibly many guns exist and are out there in private hands. Those God-given rats (there he goes, sneaking in another “Gettysburg” reference) that certain people fuss over — you know, the “taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens while criminals have them” stuff — is an irrelevant point. It’s not about this or that person’s supposed moral superiority or greater entitlement. It’s that the virtue or lack thereof of the gun owner doesn’t mean a thing.

That’s because there are 390 million guns in private hands in this country, and only 328 million people live here. So pretty much everybody who really wants a gun has one, whether he is a hero or a villain. In fact, he most likely has several, because so many people don’t want guns and don’t have them. According to Gallup, only about 32 percent of Americans, no doubt out of a feeling of obligation to follow the will of the Almighty, actually arm themselves. That’s about 105 million people. That means they own an average of about 3.7 guns apiece.

That means if there is a criminal out there somewhere — you know, an undeserving sort, a bad guy, a thorough wrong ‘un — who for some reason does not yet have a gun, he can easily go out and obtain one. Or two, or three. Because, you know what criminals do — they steal stuff. And this is made easy for them because there are so damned many guns out there. (Go ahead and give me an extended sermon about how securely you store your guns. Well, plenty of people do not.)

One more point, and this one may distress the folks who are most concerned with the “rights” question: The world is not as neatly divided into “good guys” and “bad guys” as they would like. Occasionally, a good guy has a bad day. Or worse, his children find the handgun.

(A brief note of apology to Micah and other Marines out there — in these figures I’m citing, I’m afraid I am including rifles within the category of “guns.” I do know the difference — so I don’t need a drill sergeant to send me about the boot camp declaiming upon the subject with my pants undone. I am simply doing so for convenience, and getting away with it because I am not a boot. Fortunately, in a moment I’ll return to the subject of House bills 3094 and 3096, which I think only concern actual guns, since qualified South Carolinians already have the right to carry their rifles openly.)

So anyway, I’m not terribly optimistic about, say, stricter background checks solving the problem of, say, mass shootings in America. Oh, it might keep this or that gun out of the hands of the wrong person — or the “right” person on a bad day. And for that reason, were I to be a member of a legislative body and had the opportunity to vote for such a marginal measure, I would. I just wouldn’t have great hope of it solving the problem, which is the existence of too many guns in the private sector.

What I most assuredly would not do would be to vote for a completely unnecessary bill that addresses some vague problem that simply does not exist. It’s kind of like what we just saw in Florida. The state just ran as flawless an election as we’re ever likely to see in this sin-stained world, and Florida lawmakers still passed legislation to solve the nonexistent “problem.” This is the same deal, only with deadly weapons.

Which brings us back to 3094 and 3096. (See, I did get back to them.)

As you recall, I asked Micah, “What is it about the current situation in our state and country (on the day of the third mass shooting of the year in Indianapolis) that makes you or anyone else think: We don’t have enough people carrying around guns? Secondly, what makes you think current law doesn’t LET people carry guns around enough?”

To the latter, he responded, “There is an express prohibition on openly carrying a handgun now.” True enough. Why this is a problem remains unclear to me. And as I said, I’ll get back to the subject of 3096 — of “constitutional carry.”

As to why either bill is there and being voted upon, Micah mentioned that he is chairman of the general laws subcommittee of House Judiciary. He suggested, or at least implied, that this imposes certain obligations upon him.

He noted that in the 2020 elections, Republicans were “given even larger majorities.” He added that among Republicans, “Some say we haven’t been given sufficient exercise of our 2nd Amendment rights.” Those people say, “We want to be able to do this.” Which places a certain obligation upon him as a Republican subcommittee chairman, that being what so many constituents want.

OK, another digression: As I’ve said many times, I like having Micah as my representative. (You may recall that I actually briefly considered running for the position myself, on the UnParty ticket, but when I met Micah and spoke with him at length I decided I’d just as soon vote for him. And the only way he’s going to get to represent the district in which I live, and continue to do so, is if he runs as a Republican. And that means certain things, including things I don’t like.

It’s the same with Democrats. Vote for them, and they’re likely to be pushing something else I don’t like — such as, say, hate crime laws. (No, they’re not quite the same thing, but I’m pretty strongly opposed to them, too.)

So Micah is doing the will of many, many constituents when he does this. Nor does he have to misrepresent himself to advocate for these measures. He can quite honestly say that the change of the “open carry” provision is fairly minor — people could already carry the weapons, just concealed.

As for “constitutional carry,” he is able to just as honestly say that “I do tend to take the view that the 2nd amendment doesn’t have a permit requirement in it.”

Here’s where I get back to 3096, and the fundamental logical problem with it, apart from whether we think it to be wise legislation. The South Carolina General Assembly does not have the power to declare, with legal effect, what the U.S. Constitution says and what it does not say. That is a power and obligation reserved to the federal courts. If you want a constitutional provision to be interpreted a certain way, you take the matter to court.

And as soon as I said that to Micah, which I did, I realized why some want to pass a bill such as 3096. Like so much that South Carolina Legislature does under Republican control, voting for this bill is not about having an effect on the real world. It’s about signaling to the Trumpian base that you are on their side. If a court does it, thereby having an effect on the real world, you don’t get any credit for it.

Once you know that, you understand what the Legislature is doing, on issue after issue.

The other day, I was exchanging email with a longtime friend who was thinking about not going to the State House next week because she has a super-busy week, but at the same time, “I hate to miss the last week of the regular session.”

This caused me to harrumph about how back in my day, the Legislature didn’t quit work this early. You know, people advocated for shortening the session for many years before they succeeded a few years back. And I always argued against it, because even when they stayed until June, the session was never long enough. They would always go home with so much important state business undone. You know, important stuff like what I used to write about all the time at the paper.

But then, because of these bills and so much else, I thought, if you’re not going to do anything useful to anyone, and just spend time doing things to pose and posture for your base, might as well go home early.

Anyway, in the future, I’d like to see my representative and those other people do something actually helpful and worthwhile, something South Carolina needs. Whether it’s improving public health or education or roads or doing the kind of wonkish stuff I like, it would be nice to see again. And I know Micah and some other folks have good ideas like that…

M&R Photography

Lots and lots and lots of guns. This was at the Houston Gun show at the George R. Brown Convention Center in 2007.

What Tim Scott said about race in America

Tim Scott

As I told you previously, such is my complacence with regard to the national government now, with Joe Biden as our president, that I forgot to watch his address to Congress last week.

Consequently, I certainly didn’t watch Tim Scott’s Republican “response.” You recall that I take a dim view of this “tradition” that we’ve had since 1966. It’s rather idiotic. First, it’s not a “response,” because it is written before the president’s address is delivered. It’s basically just a recitation of party talking points, with networks providing free air time. (And now, any national news outlet with a website providing live streaming.)

Here’s the thing: The Constitution requires the president to give Congress an update on the state of the union “from time to time.” He can do it with a scribbled note if he chooses to. But modern presidents have been happy to deliver it in person with much pomp. Fine. Let them do that, and I’m glad the networks are willing to broadcast it when they do. But if the other party wants such a platform as well, they should have to win the next presidential election. Democrats should have no expectation of free air time when the president is named Nixon, Ford, Reagan or Bush, and Republicans should have to sit it out when we have a chief executive named Carter, Clinton, Obama or Biden. Issue all the releases, tweets, etc., you want, and you will get some coverage. But expect no more.

Anyway, this wasn’t a State of the Union, technically.

But on to Tim Scott…

I’ve never had much occasion to say much about him. For one thing, I don’t know him — he rose to statewide prominence after I left the paper, and I’ve never met him, much less sat and talked extensively with him. Secondly, and more to the point, he hasn’t done much to attract attention, until quite recently. For years, I had trouble remembering his name, because it didn’t come up much. When people said “Senator Scott,” I tended initially to think they were speaking of John. Him I know.

It always seemed to me that Tim Scott was sort of maintaining as low a profile as possible — which of course set a stark contrast with our senior senator. South Carolina had elected him (after Nikki appointed him) when he hadn’t done much to attract attention, so he was sticking with the formula. All those white voters seemed pleased to have a black Republican senator, so they could tell everyone “See? We’re not racist!” And that was the sum of his effect on state politics. Why rock that boat by doing or saying anything that drew attention?

That has changed recently, starting with his appearance at the GOP convention last year. For me, it was almost an introduction to Tim Scott. Not only had I never met him, I’d never heard him speak for several minutes at a time.

I formed two impressions:

  1. He seemed like a good and decent man, quite sincere.
  2. He was undermining, even canceling out, all that decency by using it to support the reelection of the man who was by far, by light years, the worst person ever to hold the office.

Anyway, as I said, I missed his recent “response” speech (although I’m listening to it as I type this). But I saw some of the responses to it, which seemed to all center on this passage:

When America comes together, we’ve made tremendous progress. But powerful forces want to pull us apart. A hundred years ago, kids in classrooms were taught the color of their skin was their most important characteristic. And if they looked a certain way, they were inferior.

Today, kids again are being taught that the color of their skin defines them, and if they look a certain way, they’re an oppressor. From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress at all, by doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal.

You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination. And it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present….

I read, for instance, two views in The Washington Post.

The first was actually a step removed from Scott and what he had said. It was headlined, “Kamala Harris has to walk a tightrope on race. This time, she slipped.” This was in response to the vice president having agreed with Sen. Scott on the point that seemed to disturb “woke” Democrats the most. She said “No, I don’t think America is a racist country.” The writer of the column — one Karen Attiah, whom I had to look up because I wasn’t familiar with the name — tried to make excuses for the veep, but nevertheless she “slipped,” leading the writer to conclude:

And especially for women of color, it is exhausting to watch Harris have to walk on the all-too-familiar tightrope of race and gender. Perhaps, in time, Harris will get more space to shine as the administration progresses. Until then, we are all holding our breath.

Yeah, OK. The other piece was by South Carolina’s own Kathleen Parker, and it was headlined, “Liberals just cannot handle a Black conservative,” employing the Post‘s unfortunate recent style of capitalizing references to people’s race. OK… Such an assertion seems more like something that you’d hear on Fox than from such a normally sensible woman as Kathleen. But I suppose that is one way of putting it, since people were calling him “Uncle Tim” on social media. An excerpt:

This, my friends, is (also) what racism looks like in America today.

Let a Black man speak for the GOP; let him defend conservative values that were once considered mainstream; let him challenge the current orthodoxy of systemic racism that pegs Whites as oppressors — and he will feel the wrath of those for whom, as Scott said, belief in racism is essential to political power….

There’s that capitalizing-race thing again. I’ll post about that some other day. (“Capitalizing “Black” bugs me, and capitalizing “White” is just plain offensive. It’s like we’re back to separate restrooms, and they want to make sure the labels pop out so nobody goes into the wrong one.)

For the time being, I responded to the Attiah piece with this tweet:

If she hadn’t answered that way, I think we’d need to have a long conversation about it. But she did, as anyone a heartbeat away from the presidency should. And I see that Jim Clyburn also spoke in agreement with what Scott said.

So, nothing to see here, folks.

As for the Parker piece, I just tweeted it out.

What are your thoughts?

Bishop Barron talks about the Rabbit Hole problem

barron video

As I went walking today, I checked my phone but didn’t see any really good NYT podcasts — as you know, there are several of those I generally enjoy — and just wasn’t in the mood to catch up on the latest news via NPR One. Then I had an idea.

Having not gone physically to Mass in more than a year, we’ve experimented around with different approaches via the web. We’ve joined our own church’s Masses via Facebook, and lately we’ve been checking out the ones from the National Shrine in Washington. Since the ones we’ve watched — from the “Crypt Church” at the basilica — are shorter than what we’re used to (under 30 minutes), we’ve added on the practice of listening to that week’s sermon from Bishop Robert Barron. And I’ve really been impressed by them. Here’s a recent one.

So today I thought, “Doesn’t HE have a podcast?” Yes, he does, I found it. And I listened to this recent one, headlined “Catholics, Media Mobs, and the Culture of Contempt.” It’s also available in video form.

It was good. Basically, it tied together my two most persistent recent obsessions: The political/cultural divide between Catholics, and the Rabbit Hole.

As for the Catholic part… the bishop talked about how back in the double-naughts, when the New Atheism was so active online, he got some pretty fierce comments from the followers of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, et al. He found some of it pretty rough going.

But that was nothing compared to the flak he’s received lately from both sides of the Catholic culture war. He said he’d take the atheists any time over these fellow Catholics. The atheists were way nicer.

Then he got into what was causing this, the Rabbit Hole problem, although he didn’t call it that. He mentioned The Social Dilemma, which I’ve mentioned recently in that context. And he explained how the algorithms — in the interest of keeping you on the sites and in reach of their advertising — are written to pull you into the hole, deeper and deeper.

Anyway, whether you’re Catholic or not, I recommend the podcast. (Actually, it’s really a recent recorded virtual speech he gave.) That’s because he goes beyond wringing his hands over the Rabbit Hole the way I do. He offers advice on what to do about it, how to free yourself from it, and stop being such an a__hole (my bleeped word, not his). Of course, his solutions are grounded in the faith. If you don’t like that because you’re an unbeliever, go yell at the bishop about it. He likes that better than hearing from us crazy Catholics.

OK, I was going to mention some of my favorite parts of the speech, but I’m too tired right now. I’ll just give you this quote that comes right at five minutes in: “I’m talking about this toxic, poisonous, fetid quality, to much of the social media dialogue — and I’m sorry to say it, but to a lot of Catholic social media in particular.”

He had me at “fetid.” Other really good bits are at 28 minutes, 35 minutes, 37 minutes and 40 minutes.

DeMarco: Anderson, I’d Like Conservative Backlash for $1600

The Op-Ed Page

Picture3

Editor’s note: What, Paul again already! Well, yeah. He actually sent me this one before I’d actually posted the one on the statues. I didn’t read this one until after I’d done that. I should have posted this one first, because it’s more perishable. The statue one was pretty evergreen. Oh, well. I’m making up for it by going ahead and posting this now.

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

And the answer is: the Daily Double! It was bound to happen; now even “Jeopardy!,” perhaps the least offensive television show on the market (in a tie with “Bubble Guppies”) is in the crosshairs of our ever-expanding culture wars.

At the beginning of the show that aired April 27, three-day champion Kelly Donohue did something heinous. He (get ready) held up three fingers and tapped his chest. Scandalous. In the usually awkward opening montage, most contestants stare directly into the camera with a stale smile as they are introduced. Donohue did a little business after each of his three wins, holding up one, then two, then three fingers on successive nights. (I know, can you believe this guy?)

The position of his hand (commonly known as the “OK” sign) has until recently had positive connotations. In 2017, some white supremacists began using the gesture as a white power symbol – the three extended fingers are the “W” and the middle finger plus the index finger/thumb circle are the “P.” It would be interesting to know how widely known the malevolent interpretation of the “OK” symbol is. I suspect it would be less than the majority. I first learned about it in December 2019, when several Naval Academy midshipmen and West Point cadets were falsely accused of flashing the sign during ESPN’s broadcast of the Army-Navy football game (turns out they were playing the circle game).

In response to Donohue’s gesture, a harshly critical letter was posted the next day (the next day!) on Medium that has now been signed by almost 600 former “Jeopardy!” contestants. I have reprinted parts of the letter with my comments in italics. It reads in part, “(His) gesture was not a clear-cut symbol for the number three (only if you wanted to see something different)… This, whether intentional or not (your intent, no matter how benign, matters less than my thin-skinned interpretation), resembled very closely a gesture that has been coopted by white power groups… People of color, religious minorities, and other marginalized groups already live in a United States and a Canada that have structural and institutional racism, sexism, antisemitism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia embedded into their history and function (you have mistaken his gesture for a white power symbol. But don’t miss a chance to connect him with multiple OTHER forms of discrimination)… These people deal with microaggressions nearly every day of their lives (So let’s fight a perceived microaggression with an 1,176-word macroaggression to make ourselves feel superior)… We cannot stand up for hate… Is the production team of Jeopardy! prepared for… the backlash and ramifications should one of those moments ever become tied to real-world violence? (I’m envisioning an army of white supremacists hitting the books so they too can qualify for “Jeopardy!” and influence the masses with coded symbols. And when you play the tape backwards, you can faintly hear the “14 Words.”)… We would like to know whether a sensitivity and diversity auditor is involved in the show’s writing (Sigh…).”

Listen my “Jeopardy!” friends, I’m on your team. America is engaging in a long-awaited racial reckoning. So much good is happening. Faces long ignored are being seen and celebrated; voices long silenced are being amplified and uplifted. Black women and men are finally coming to center stage, to full citizenship. It is, in my view, an unequivocally marvelous development. I am nothing but grateful for and supportive of honoring the achievements of people of color as well as an unflinching look at our history and the obligations that history engenders.

But many white Americans are not yet comfortable with this new consciousness. They want to marginalize the participants in this movement as a “woke leftist mob.” My sense as a white ally is that most people, black and white, who support the new Civil Rights movement are even-tempered and sensible. But the untethered assumptions, anger, and lack of charity conveyed in this letter do not reflect well on them and do not help our effort.

If you, “Jeopardy!” letter writers, were concerned about Donohue’s gesture, why not just reach out to him quietly and personally. His story is certainly believable. He was making the number “3” with his fingers after having made “1” and “2” on previous days. He has the zeitgeist on his side; the iPhone still includes an “OK” hand emoji. It takes a conspiratorial mind to assume that his motive for appearing on “Jeopardy!” was to win three games and flash a white power symbol.

We who want to advance racial justice should understand that it’s a hearts-and-minds effort. Think of how much more effective you would have been if you had reached out to Donohue and he had written a Facebook post beginning “It’s been pointed out to me that….” What if he didn’t say anything? Then you don’t say anything. You let this one go, because an objective observer would tell you he didn’t mean anything by it.

We would do well to exercise a little restraint. If you want to be a civil rights advocate, pattern yourself after the young John Lewis. He and other students underwent rigorous training in non-violence to prepare for lunch counter sit-ins. They knew they were right so they sat down and said nothing. That silence was more important than anything they could have spoken.

Remaining silent is, of course, not always the most effective option. We must speak when real injustice is being done. But you are playing a self-righteous game of “Gotcha,” and hurting our cause.

Your letter has convinced no one to come over to the movement. You have only given fodder to the conservative media outlets such as Fox and the Wall Street Journal to rightly lampoon you. The WSJ’s May 2 editorial defending Donohue and castigating your “manic search for racial guilt” is entitled “Jeopardy: Mass Hysteria for $2,000.” Hey, you say, you plagiarized your headline from them. Nope, as Brad is my witness, I titled my piece the day before the WSJ piece. The response to this kind of foolishness is deservedly predictable.

More dishearteningly, you have alienated some of those who were leaning our way. You have humiliated Donohue, who based on his Facebook post was an ally. Cudgeling Donohue has no effect on true racists. They are usually unreachable. Ignore them. Focus on the fair-minded who are feeling threatened but could be convinced that America still has much work to do before we reach the Promised Land.

Our fair-minded opponents must be respected and not treated as enemies. When they see you treating an ally in this manner, they have no reason to come over to our side.

Picture2

SC has enough problems without these folks joining us

Henry vax

I don’t watch TV news, but my wife does. And yesterday, finding this a bit hard to believe, she called me into the room to witness it.

Basically, it says anti-vaxxers are moving to South Carolina because they see Henry McMaster as their kind of guy.

Once, governors — Henry included — labored mightily to be perceived as people who attracted jobs to the state. Now look where we are.

This new South Carolinian WIS interviewed thinks Henry is the bee’s knees (there’s something about Henry that invites to use of archaic slang) because, in reference to people who objected to their children being required to wear masks, he said, “Those parents are exactly right…”

“I think that was a big thumbs up for him,” says a friend of Rebekah Schneider on video.

Ms. Schneider lived in Connecticut for 38 years before moving here to be more accepted for her views. Apparently, based on several things she says, she has a “religious” objection to vaccines. As is the case with so much of the careless reporting we see these days (and not just on TV, but in the skeletonized newspapers), this is not explained. Is she a Christian Scientist? I don’t know.

But I’m looking at the math here. With only 32 percent of South Carolinians being fully vaccinated at this point, far short of what is needed for herd immunity, and too few showing interest in getting vaccinated, we are unlikely ever to become safe from COVID. And that’s without following idiotic policies that make anti-vaxxers want to move here.

Ms. Schneider moved here because her former governor pursues policies to protect public health. WIS says, “According to the Associated Press, he also told reporters he did a lot of his own research before signing the bill into law.”

Henry does “research,” too. He thinks, “How will the Trump loonies feel about this?”

He may have missed the mark this time. As much as Trumpistas are associated with “What, me worry?” approaches to COVID in general, the ones who oppose vaccines are not alone in this.

Have you ever heard of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.?

Must give Henry pause…

 

Live your life so Google doesn’t remember you this way

crazy

How did I get on this topic? The usual, roundabout way. I was skimming through Twitter this morning and ran across this:

… which got me thinking, what are they doing in California now? I had heard about the recall thing, but I paused to think, So what’s their beef with Newsom? I had no idea. I tried to remember whether I knew anything unsavory about him, and I thought of one thing: There was that bizarre woman with whom he was once connected, bizarre enough that it would certainly cause you to question his judgment.

But of course, I couldn’t remember her name. So I asked Google, using the only other thing I knew about her.

Into the search field, I typed: crazy woman who spoke at gop convention.

And I didn’t mean “crazy” in a pleasing, tuneful Patsy Cline sort of way. But Google understood me perfectly.

And you see what I got. Out of all the women it could have picked — such as, say, this one — Google knew exactly what I was looking for.

Having her name, I then looked her up on Wikipedia to confirm that she had been affiliated with Newsom, and found that they had actually been married. I had been thinking maybe they dated once or twice, but he married her?

Well, that would give any voter pause…

Anyway, there’s a life lesson here. Think about posterity. Try to live in a way that you are not remembered this way by Google — and therefore by the rest of the world. Just stop and think before you act. If invited to have a screaming fit during prime time at a national nominating convention of either major party, think very hard before you accept…

red

DeMarco: Why Confederate Statues Should Come Down

The Op-Ed Page

statue in Marion

By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there remain more than 700 statues in our nation honoring Confederates. I pass one regularly in my hometown of Marion. It is by far the most impressive statue in the county. The city of Marion website gives its dimensions: a seven-foot bronze replica of a Confederate soldier and a 22-foot Winnsboro blue granite base.

Paul and statue

Paul DeMarco with the statue.

Like many similar statues, the statue was purchased with funds raised by the local chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy. When it was erected in 1903, it was located in one of the intersections of Marion’s small business district. It was moved out of the intersection to its current location near the public library in 1952.

Legend has it that is was moved after being struck by more than one wayward (and as related by some wags, drunk) drivers. The website offers a much less interesting reason – to make way for new traffic lights. Whatever the motive, the soldier retreated southward only a few dozen yards, but he remains north-facing, gazing tirelessly at the horizon for the reappearance of Yankee invaders.

As far as I know, there has been no public discussion of whether to remove Marion’s version of Johnny Reb from his high perch.  Both sides would have their proponents. Some, including former President Trump, argue against removal. In a campaign speech in June 2020, Trump said “This cruel campaign of censorship and exclusion violates everything we hold dear as Americans. They want to demolish our heritage so they can impose a new oppressive regime in its place.” Trump has argued that the fight to save the statues “is a battle to save the Heritage, History, and Greatness of our Country.”

Many Americans, some of whom are black, have a less bombastic anti-removal argument: The statues serve as an important part of our collective memory. They assert that we should leave the statues up to remember who we as a people were, including the terrible mistakes we have made. Even if the statues glorify Southern politicians and military men who supported the enslavement of blacks, remembering these men is a way of inoculating ourselves against that kind of hatred creeping back into our national psyche.inscription

While I appreciate those arguments, I come down on the side of removing Confederate statues. I would argue that statues are not raised to teach history. That is the job of families, schools and universities. History is too broad, too nuanced, and too complex to be taught with public monuments.

Rather than teaching history, statues are erected to reflect our shared values. We carefully select the people and events from history that best represent who we are and enshrine them for generations to come.

The city of Marion’s Confederate statue was erected at a time when racial oppression was ironclad. I think it can be accurately seen as symbolizing and perpetuating the white supremacist society that blacks were forced to endure during the Jim Crow era. The inscription on the plinth gives it away. It says in part, “To the memory of those valiant souls who went forth from Old Marion to yield up their lives in patriotic devotion to the South and all that the South stood for.”

Remove the euphemism “all that the South stood for” and chisel in less-vague descriptions of the racial reality at the turn of the twentieth century. Take your sculptor’s mallet and mentally carve “oppression,” “persecution,” “brutality” and “terrorism.” Then the inscription is revealed for the propaganda that it is, propping up the lie that the Civil War was fought for something other than the preservation of black subjugation.

Confederate soldiers should be memorialized. They were men with families that loved them. They had lives before, and, if they survived, after their service to the Confederacy. Their living descendants can decide how that should best be done in the cemeteries in which they lie. The National Park Service maintains 17 Civil War battlefields, and states maintain many more. Multiple opportunities for reenactments still exist for those who are captivated by that conflict.

I wish I had a foolproof algorithm for whether a statue should be removed. The central question for me is, “What was the primary legacy of the person memorialized?” That approach, in my mind, disqualifies the political and military leaders of the Confederacy, a failed attempt to fracture the Union for the purpose of maintaining slavery.

But I don’t think owning slaves alone necessarily disqualifies a historical figure, particularly the Founding Fathers. Their role in establishing a new country dedicated to the ideal of freedom is their overarching legacy, even though many of them owned slaves.

To that point, there is only one other statue of a historical figure in the city of Marion. Located on the courthouse square, it is a likeness of Revolutionary War Brigadier General Francis Marion, known as the “Swamp Fox.”  It was dedicated in 1976 as part of our town’s celebration of America’s Bicentennial. Marion was a slaveholder. But his part in the Revolutionary War effort and his later service in the South Carolina General Assembly make him an inspirational, if flawed, figure. I would argue his statue stays.

Once a Confederate monument is removed, many communities struggle with how to choose its replacement. In Marion County that choice would be easy: Clementa Pinckney, the South Carolina state senator and senior pastor of Mother Emmanuel who was murdered along with eight of his parishioners in 2015. Pinckney had family in Marion County and is buried here. His life and legacy represent the values and hopes of Marionites in a way that a Confederate memorial never could.

Bringing back the Op-Ed page, sort of…

A random NYT Op-Ed page: Monday, April 12, 1993.

A random NYT Op-Ed page: Monday, April 12, 1993.

I don’t know whether you saw this mentioned anywhere, but the original op-ed page just died.

The other day, the current editorial page of The New York Times announced that the paper was retiring the term. There will no longer be an “op-ed page” at the Gray Lady. You may not see why this is a big deal. Op-ed pages have disappeared all over the place. The State hasn’t had one in years. In fact, The State no longer has a true “editorial page” for an op-ed page to be “op” to.

But the NYT invented the modern op-ed page, and the first one ran on Sept. 21, 1970. Of course, since five years was a long time back then, by the time I graduated J school in 1975, such pages seemed an old establishment, and every real newspaper had to have one.

A word about the term. A lot of people don’t understand it. The Times EPE explains:

It was so named because it appeared opposite the editorial page and not (as many still believe) because it would offer views contrary to the paper’s. Inevitably, it would do that, too, since its founders were putting out a welcome mat for ideas and arguments from many points on the political, social and cultural spectrums from outside the walls of The Times — to stimulate thought and provoke discussion of public problems…

Some people, I have noticed, even misunderstand it to mean “opinion-editorial” and particularly got confused when we used the term “op-ed” to refer to an individual piece that appeared on the page. As in, “I wrote an opinion-editorial for The Daily Bugle.” Well no, I’ve explained many times. You didn’t write an “editorial” of any kind. That’s impossible, since you’re not a member of the editorial board, and you weren’t expressing the official position of the newspaper. What you wrote was a guest column for the op-ed page.

This always produced an effect: A blank, uncomprehending stare. Well, I knew what I meant, and the distinction mattered to me. But life goes on.

Anyway, I mourn the loss of the “op-ed page” at the Times, even though I think the reasoning is sound. As the editor said:

In the digital world, in which millions of Times readers absorb the paper’s journalism online, there is no geographical “Op-Ed,” just as there is no geographical “Ed” for Op-Ed to be opposite to. It is a relic of an older age and an older print newspaper design…

Anyway, all that aside, I’m today reviving the concept, at least symbolically. And I’m starting with Paul DeMarco.

Some of you blog old-timers may remember Paul. He’s a physician who lives in Marion. He was one of our more thoughtful, civil commenters in the early days — the wild days when I had no civility code, never barred or deleted anything, and the unruly rambles would go on and on, hundreds of comments a day.

Paul stood out in that jostling crowd. So I was sorry to see him sort of drift away from the blog, and by the time I ran into him at a campaign event in 2018, I almost didn’t recognize him with his hat on (see below). Of course, I was so harried in those last days of the election that I was doing well to recognize anyone.

Anyway, a few days Paul wrote to me with an idea. He’d been thinking about writing guest columns for the Florence paper. And he wanted to see if I’d be interested in running some of his pieces on the blog. He sent me a sample piece, which you will see appear on the blog a few minutes after this explanation does.

I thought about it for a moment, and said sure, let’s give it a try. This was uncharacteristic of me — I’m always turning away unsolicited offers of copy by saying, “I write my own stuff.” I did this for a couple of reasons: I don’t post myself as often as I’d like these days, so this can supplement what I do offer. (Although it’s not a substitute for my own copy, as I think you’ll clearly see when I comment disagreeing with Paul’s positions.)

But I also made some caveats clear to Paul, including:

  • This is not a commitment on my part. I’m not going to run everything you send me. Even with Cindi and Warren and the other full-time, paid writers at the paper, I didn’t run everything they wrote. I didn’t run all of Robert’s cartoons. This used to confuse some people, I’m sure, but sometimes I would reach out and ask someone in the outside world to write something for us (for free) and submit it, but I would always add, “not that I’m promising to run it. I have to see how it turns out first.” An editor must always reserve the right to say “no.”
  • I’m going to edit you. Respectfully, and not capriciously. I’ll just make routine changes for style and clarity (I won’t bother to discuss replacing “over” with “more than”), and when I think you’re making an unclear, illogical or inaccurate point, I’ll discuss it with you, and it will be up to you whether to make that more substantive change.
  • I need some pictures to go with it. Which as you will see, Paul was happy to go out and shoot.

So we’re proceeding, with those rules — necessary rules on an “op-ed page” — in place.

And we’ll see how it goes.

Now, the obvious question: Will I run others on this “page?” Perhaps, now that we have this precedent. But no, I haven’t opened the gates to anyone who wants his or her own posts. I approved this plan because Paul is a good guy and I think it will be good to have him back, and he made a good pitch. So we’ll see how it goes.

I hope y’all enjoy it….

The last time I ran into Paul Demarco -- at a campaign barbecue in Florence,

The last time I ran into Paul DeMarco — at a campaign barbecue in Florence, Oct. 30, 2018.

 

How about that Joe Biden, huh? You go, Joe: Do it!

Joe Speaks

How relaxed have I become since Joe Biden became my president? This relaxed: I forgot to watch his speech last night.

I had intended to watch it. But then I had a busy day, getting my stitches out and all, and ended up working pretty late — until well after 9 p.m. Finally I turned on the tube about 10 — intending to stream something, but the TV input happened to be set on broadcast — and there was Joe, in the chamber, shaking hands with people! I had missed it!

I was disappointed, but it was OK. I was sure whatever he had said was fine, and I could read all about it in the morning. Which I did. And if you need to catch up, here’s a transcript.

As you know from last year, I wasn’t all that interested in what Joe would do once in office. As I’ve said so many, many times in the past in many contexts, I don’t like campaign promises, and don’t want to hear grand plans (which kind of eliminated Elizabeth Warren right off). What I want is character. That, and solid experience. You don’t know, can’t know, what the big issues will be during an upcoming term (although in this case, we knew covid had to be dealt with). So I want someone I trust to cope with whatever happens competently, and decently. Someone who I believe will do the right thing both in terms of effectiveness and morality.

And Joe fit that bill perfectly.

Of course in this case, it was also about replacing the malevolent, clueless lunatic who had occupied the office for the past four years. Once that was done and covid was competently dealt with, I’d be happy.

What I didn’t reckon on — in fact, practically no one did — was that once in, Joe would be this ambitious. I didn’t know he would come in and try to accomplish more than any president since LBJ, if not FDR.

But hey, that’s fine with me. Pretty much everything he’s trying to do makes sense, and I’m on board. And pleased. What Joe is doing is saying, “These are the things government ought to do. Let’s get them done.”

One thing I’m seeing people say about him — and they’re right — is that he’s not content to just undo the damage done by Trump. He’s looking to roll back all that Republicans have done — in terms of alienating the American people from their government — since Reagan.

It had never occurred to me that that could be done — returning us to being the kind of confident country, with faith in each other and our way of governing ourselves, that we were before Reagan, before Watergate, before Vietnam. The country of FDR, Truman, Ike (Mr. Interstates!), JFK and LBJ (pre-credibility gap). The country whose leaders said, “Let’s do this!” and we just went out and got it done.

Will it be easy? Not at all. There are 50 people in the Senate determined to stop him from doing anything he tries to do. If the Republicans had a party platform — which they don’t; the sick personality cult of Trump doesn’t need one — Joe could try to accomplish everything on their list, and they’d oppose it because it’s him trying to do it. In a situation like that, you might as try to do the right thing instead. Especially if you’re Joe.

Obviously, Joe is more of a visionary than I am. And I bless him for it. We’ve needed this, for such a long time…

There are things we should do. Let's do them...

There are things we should do. Let’s do them…

I’ll think about that when you open an Apple Store here

apple

That’s all I want to say, in response to this email come-on today.

The nearest Apple Store is in Augusta.

You know, in Georgia.

Augusta has an Apple Store, and we do not. So do Greenville and Charleston, last time I looked. For all I know, so does Florence by now.

And no, I don’t know what they mean by “2-hour delivery.” I turned away in disgust when I saw the Apple Store part.

Let me know when you remedy this absurd situation. Don’t send me any more ads until you have done so…

 

Hey, I got my stitches out!

bandaged

More than that, I’ve been typing for a couple of days now (instead of dictating to my computer or phone), and — hallelujah! — operating the mouse with my right hand.

They want me to remain very careful, and wear the splint that the occupational therapist molded for me (see below) whenever I’m up and moving about. And it’s still going to be a while before I can resume the project on the deck that caused this to happen.

But I’m making good progress. And yes, they took out the stitches today. I had my doubts about that, since the injury had bled a little when I took a shower this morning (a tricky process), and it bled a slight bit more as they were removing the stitches. But the orthopedic surgeon said it was normal for “a drop,” as she put it, to leak out while removing stitches, and now was the time. And I shouldn’t be alarmed that it looked like the cuts were trying to gap open in places — that was good; what was happening was that it was healing from the inside out.

Here’s a picture, for the strong of stomach, of what it looked like once the stitches were out. And here’s a bonus: an Extreme Close-up, as Wayne and Garth would say. (By the way, my nails are not technically dirty. That’s stubborn dried blood that’s going to take more scrubbing than I have had the nerve to do. Maybe I should soak them in Palmolive first. That’s what Madge would recommend.)

Anyway, I’m feeling good about it, considering how this started. I actually typed, with both hands, that Cunningham post last night, and now this. So who knows what I’ll accomplish next?…

splint

I generally only put this on when I’m sleeping or leaving the house or such — or taking this picture.

Joe Cunningham says he’ll run for governor. Huh…

As I said, I ran into him a couple of times. This was the last Saturday night of the 2018 election.

As I said, I ran into him a couple of times. This was the last Saturday night of the 2018 election.

… which is my way of saying I’m not sure what I think about it yet. Might have to ponder for awhile.

Of course, I’m very interested in having someone other than Henry McMaster be our governor. I spent more than four months of my life working very long, hard hours trying to bring that about not long ago, but as Mark Twain would say, we got left.

So there’s that.

There’s also the fact that I don’t have anything against Joe, which is something I can’t say about all that many people in politics. So that’s good. And it seems like Joe would have a better shot than most Democrats who might run. And it will have to be a Democrat — you can’t rely on Republicans to come up with anyone more desirable than Henry. They tried hard in 2018, and nearly did it. But I didn’t see anything good to say about the options offered then, and in the Year of our Lord 2021, I look around and think that if they ever managed to dump their incumbent, it would most likely be with someone Trumpier than he is.

I think Henry sees that, too, which is why he runs about saying such stupid things.

On the other hand, I don’t know of much to say for Joe, because he’s so new to public life. In fact, I just watched his announcement video, and when he started talking, I didn’t know it was him. I thought it might be one of those commercials that come up on YouTube before your video. Then I realized it was him, and right after that, I realized I was completely unfamiliar with his voice. I ran into him a couple of times in 2018 (see the pics above and below), but I don’t remember hearing him speak. And as y’all know, I don’t watch TV, and I don’t remember hearing him on NPR.

At my age, 2018 — when I first heard of Joe — feels like about five minutes ago, if that. And when I saw in the Post and Courier that he was planning to run, I got to thinking — what do I know about him before that? Well, not much. So I checked Wikipedia, which has a page about anyone who has served in Congress. Here’s what it said:

Cunningham was born in Caldwell County, Kentucky, and grew up in Kuttawa, Kentucky.[2] He graduated from Lyon County High School in 2000. Cunningham attended the College of Charleston for two years before transferring to Florida Atlantic University in 2002, where he obtained his Bachelor of Science in ocean engineering in 2005.[3][4][5]

Cunningham became an ocean engineer with a consulting company in Naples, Florida, and was laid off after about five years.[3] He spent some time learning Spanish in South America,[4] enrolled in law school at Northern Kentucky University‘s Salmon P. Chase College of Law in 2011, and graduated in 2014.[3][5] He then worked as a construction attorney for Charleston firm Lyle & Lyle and co-owned the Soul Yoga + Wellness yoga studio with his wife before campaigning for political office.[6]

And then, in 2017, he announced he was running for Congress.

So he graduated law school in 2014. And to think, I had thought James Smith was young. Cindi Scoppe wrote about this in 2018:

The three of us chatted about the race, and the family, and I wrote a few paragraphs about it for the next day’s paper. It was the only time I actually referred to Rep. Smith in print by the nickname his now-communications director Brad Warthen and I used privately throughout Brad’s time as The State’s editorial page editor: “young James.”…

After he was elected to the House in 1994, during my first year on the editorial board, I did call him that for quite a few years. Young James was such a kid in those early days — but we watched him grow as a lawmaker, and liked what we saw. (By the way, as James has many times reminded me, we did not endorse him in that first run. We liked him, but we went with his opponent, who was also his first cousin — Republican Robert Adams.)

And no, I didn’t call him that while I was his press guy. Maybe I should have. Maybe we would have won.

We certainly should have won. James had distinguished himself during his 24 years in the House, where he was the minority leader for awhile. Also, he was a war hero, with an amazing backstory. There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate, but he came awfully close. And among the many people who knew him, Republicans as well as Democrats and independents, he was far better respected than the do-nothing Trump lover, Henry McMaster.

But here’s the awful thing about politics: As widely known as you may be, and as deeply respected, that large number of people is a tiny, infinitesimal percentage of the number of people who vote — most of whom don’t know you or much else. They vote more and more by tribal loyalty, and Henry had the imprimatur of the dominant tribe. So that was that.

So would Joe fare better? I dunno. I’m looking for evidence of that, which will give me hope. Of course, conventional wisdom would hold that yes, because “He won on the same day that your James Smith lost.”

Yeah, but I’m not that impressed that he won the 1st District that day. We won in that district, too. So which was it? Did we help him, or did he — and the upswing across the country that day for moderate Democrats running for Congress — help us? I can see good arguments either way.

But I’m going to be looking for signs that Joe can win. Looking eagerly.

The Post and Courier reports that “he plans to fight for policies such as expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage and passing police reform.” OK, well, we ran on the first one. The other two have become popular since then — among Democrats. Who are, as you know, a minority in our state. Of course, I’m not crazy that he also promised to pursue term limits, and promises, as George Bush did in 1988 (before reversing himself in office) not to raise taxes.

But I can agree with him completely when he says:

“Gov. McMaster has spent the last year checking off his partisan wish list instead of tackling the real problems in our state. South Carolina desperately needed a strong leader over the last year, but all we had was a weak politician with messed-up priorities.”

We said things like that, too, of course. Anyway, I’ll be watching, listening and hoping I see and hear good things going forward…

Here was the other time I remember -- the day the OTHER Joe campaigned with us in Charleston, Oct. 13, 2018.

Here was the other time I remember — the day the OTHER Joe campaigned with us in Charleston, Oct. 13, 2018. By the way, there’s at least one other person in these pictures I’d RATHER see run. But you can’t always get what you want.

Turning the clock back to 1691…

William III, by grace of God king of South Carolina?

William III, by grace of God king of South Carolina?

Hey, y’all, I’m super-busy today, but just to give you something to chew on, Jeffrey Collins over at the AP posted this yesterday, sort of riffing on the new census figures:

That started a little bit of conversation on Twitter (our own Lynn Teague joined in). For my part, I responded, “What on Earth would be the motivation for combining two such strikingly unlike states?”

Coming back at me, Jeffrey quickly explained, “Just an observation — certainly not an endorsement. I will say the separation 300+ years ago probably accelerated the differences between the Carolinas.”

Quite likely, I agreed. And of course, I understood it was merely an observation, which others took up and enjoyed discussing. But I couldn’t resist adding: “A technical point: If we went to the status quo ante of 1691, would Elizabeth II be our sovereign? Or would we say it was William III?”

Anyway, I saw Bud mentioned something about the new census figures on a previous post, and I thought y’all might enjoy kicking this around.

So, should SC and NC merge and become one? Talk amongst yourselves…

linda richman

It’s the EM-50 — the Urban Assault Vehicle!

And remember what Sgt. Hulka said: "this ain't no glamour detail we're on."

And remember what Sgt. Hulka said: “this ain’t no glamour detail we’re on.”

In a recent comment, Bob Amundson promised to send me a picture of his new Urban Assault Vehicle, a la “Stripes.”

True to his word, he did, and here’s what he had to say about it:

I’ve been meaning to email you since you posted with a mention of the movie Stripes. Attached is a photo of a REAL EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle, which I own. The FMC Motorhome has an interesting lineage; FMC is the acronym for Food Machinery Corporation. FMC started in 1883, kept adding mechanized products, and eventually started producing amphibious vehicles for the military. During a lull in its military vehicle contracts as the Vietnam War ended, FMC turned its sights towards recreational vehicles; FMC coaches were manufactured from 1973-1976. The well-made and pricey coaches that sold for between $27,000 and $54,500 (about the same price as an average home of that era) were popular among upscale Motorhome buyers, including race car drivers Mario Andretti and Parnelli Jones; and entertainers Clint Eastwood, Carol Burnett, Pat Boone and James Brolin. But the most famous FMC owner was CBS reporter Charles Kuralt, host of the popular news feature On the Road With Charles Kuralt. By 1975, FMC had a contract to produce the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and in September 1976 converted all tooling in its factory to the manufacture of tanks. The final tally for the FMC was slightly more than 1,000 units; there is believed to be 7-800 units still out there.

Ours is a 1975 – it is built like a military vehicle, especially the 4 wheel independent suspension and 440 turbocharged MOPAR engine. This vehicle actually has a bullet hole in it – the story is that the vehicle was confiscated at the US-Canadian Border after a gun battle between Border Police and Drug Runners. It has a fiberglass body, so for it’s size, it is relatively light. I am going to make it into an Urban Assault Vehicle; “wrapping” the fiberglass body to mimic the Stripes UAV. Throw in a few machine guns, probably a rocket launcher. We will completely renovate the interior – state of the art, top of the line, small, efficient. Once that is done, wife Joan and I will take a trip. Maybe TV? Marketing will lead to renting the UAV – I just need to figure out how much I can charge!

The ”REAL” EM-50 UAV was a GMC Motorhome, and about 36,000 of those we made. I think my find is cooler, and I found it less than a mile from our RV Park. Another time I’ll tell you about the classic 1965 Airstream Travel Trailer I bought from the Park’s neighbor. It has a “GRIMM” story.

Heal soon!

So it’s almost ready to roll, and as I look around at you people, I’m thinking, “These are exactly the kind of go-getters I want working on my EM-50 project in Italy!”

Is anyone actually watching the Oscars tonight? If so, why?

Why don't I watch the Oscars? Because this.

Why don’t I watch the Oscars? Because this.

I know that the awards show is on, because I’ve seen signs of it on social media. Also I’ve been reading about the Oscars in various newspapers for the past week, and that’s always a warning sign.

I used to love the Oscars, but I haven’t followed them in more than 20 years. I think it was 1998 when they gave the best picture statuette to “Shakespeare in Love.” That was an amusing, fun little light entertainment. But to choose that over such a masterpiece as “Saving Private Ryan,” or such a jewel as “Life is Beautiful,” was obscene. (The other nominees were junk, so I don’t care about them.)

Everything that is wrong about the Academy Awards was brought out on that night, particularly Hollywood’s absorption with itself. Hey, a fun movie about actors! Bound to win, right? That Harvey Weinstein had something to do with this travesty, of course, makes it much worse.

I wrote a column about it at the time which I’ve not finding a link to. But here’s a blog post where I summarized my indignation. (I think I’ve moaned about it several times here, but that was the first such instance I found.)

Perhaps you feel differently. Perhaps you actually care who won what in this year that no one went to the movies. Perhaps you’d like to share your views. And maybe you can help restore some of the enthusiasm I once had for these events.

Probably not, but please give it a shot. I’d like to be able to enjoy this stuff again…

Open Thread for Wednesday, April 21, 2021

ncam_flight10000000.pbin_

Since I’m dictating, not typing, I won’t have too much to say. but I thought I would give y’all a place to comment on the passing parade.

  1. Justice for George Floyd – The jury delivered the best verdict it could have done. Of course, they couldn’t REALLY provide justice to George Floyd. But they did what could be done. Meanwhile, Merrick Garland says the Justice Department will investigate Minneapolis.
  2. Second Amendment sanctuary community – Sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it? But apparently, Greenville County council spent a good bit of time discussing whether to become one of those.
  3. NASA flies a helicopter on Mars, the first time an aircraft has flown on another planet – Which is a pretty neat trick, huh? Unfortunately , unlike with the first flight on this planet, there was no human on board. But there are pictures. See above.
  4. Why Trump Is Still Their Guy – This is another lengthy thinkpiece by Thomas Edsall, well researched as always. But it never arrives at a satisfactory why. Nothing as good as my Rabbit Hole thesis, anyway. (Not really my thesis, but I have embraced it.) Interesting stuff, though. References to such things as “ontological insecurity” and “egocentric victimhood.” You might find it interesting.

Well, I said I wasn’t going to say much, and that took me awhile, so I’ll stop there. I’ll just mention that I went to the orthopedic surgeon today. She agreed that there doesn’t seem to be tender nerve damage. Movement is pretty limited , probably because of swelling. I got a new splint, and I go back next week.