Author Archives: Brad Warthen

And so it begins: Walk for Life 2014!

Walk2013

With six weeks to go until the event (Oct. 18), I’ve set up our Walk for Life team for this year — so it’s time to sign up and start raising some money to fight breast cancer in the Midlands!

We have a reputation to live up to, you know — our team came in 9th in total fund-raising last year, with a total of $3,651.44 raised.

The lion’s share of that was raised by MVPs Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross. Doug always makes a strong showing in fundraising, but Bryan topped the charts last year with an email appeal that is still talked about with awe over at Palmetto Health Foundation. It began, “Cancer: Are You For It or Against It?” and then worked the word “boobs” into the second graf.

How we’re going to top that this year I have no idea, but that’s what we’re going to do.

You’ll be hearing a lot from me about all this this year, as Palmetto Health Foundation has signed me up to be a brand ambassador for the event, or as they have dubbed it, a “Pinkador.” On account of my alleged social media prowess. So I intend to have a lot of fun with that, while at the same time flogging potential donors to boost our team’s contributions.

Watch for more in this space. And go ahead NOW and sign up for the bradwarthen.com team. And then get busy hauling in the moolah. If anyone hesitates, mention boobs. It worked for Bryan

Our team's actual walkers last year: yours truly, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross.

Our team’s actual walkers last year: yours truly, Kathryn Fenner, Bryan Caskey and Doug Ross.

Hollywood, you’ve got to give me a reason to keep watching

Over the weekend at my house, we started to watch two films nominated for Best Picture Academy Awards in the past year.

After 10 minutes or so each, we quit watching them. I have no desire to resume. Neither film gave me the slightest promise that there would be anything worth seeing if I would only waste more time on them.

First, we tried “American Hustle.”

It opens with a bloated Christian Bale going through a personal grooming ritual that is so odd that it takes a moment to realize what he is doing. And what he is doing is laboriously pasting a hunk of black hair to the top of his pate as filler, and then elaborately pasting a combover on top of that, at gravity-defying angles.

Then there is a scene with Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner. Bradley Cooper has a ridiculous permanent, and is dressed in clothes meant to give the spectacularly ugly duds on Bale a run for their money. In case you may be trying to ignore the clothes and the hair, Amy Adams points out how much Cooper is dressed like Bale. Or someone does. I’m not going to watch again to check.

Then enters Renner with a pompadour that would have embarrassed Elvis in the depths of his Vegas decadence. My wife points out, “Who wore a pompadour in 1978?” No one, I replied.

Then ensues a confusing argument in which every other word starts with F. Then, the film turns to flashback, showing us how Bale and Ms. Adams got together. You didn’t want to know, and as they tell you, you want to know less. There is nothing appealing about these people. Even Ms. Adam’s celebrated, exaggerated décolletage is off-putting after a couple of moments.

The film depicts these people as so ugly, so sad, so tawdry, so flawed, so tacky, so off-putting that every moment of watching them is painful. Oh, and I was an adult during this era. Yeah, the fashions were tacky. But this film wallows in ugliness to a point far, far beyond invoking an era. Our clothes were sometimes ridiculous, but beneath them we were still real people, people as fully, appealingly human as anyone today, or at any other time in human history. We were not the sum of off-putting fashions. As it seems everyone in this film is.

My wife was first to say she had seen enough. So I popped it out and tried “Nebraska.”

The very first gritty, windy, black-and-white image of a pathetic old man walking down a highway was decidedly unappealing, but I said, look — I expected this to be kind of a downer. But I’m hoping it’s leavened with some stuff that makes it rewarding to watch.

It wasn’t. Everyone in it, every single situation depicted, was completely depressing. No one had a reason to embrace or even, seemingly, to endure life. Even the usually delightful Bob Odenkirk was a complete bummer.

As with “Hustle,” the film seemed to be daring me to keep watching — slapping me in the face and saying, “Can you take it? Huh? Can you? Here’s some more! Slap!”

And I have no reason to take that.

I feel the alienation, but I will keep watching -- and be rewarded for it.

I feel the alienation, but I will keep watching — and be rewarded for it.

For some reason, irrelevantly, I started thinking about “The Graduate.” Remember the beginning? A depressed, almost catatonic Benjamin sitting on the plane, then riding the moving sidewalk in the terminal on his way to pick up his baggage, with “Sounds of Silence” playing? It was hip. It was arty. It was ironic. It was all about alienation. You were meant to sense Benjamin’s disconnection from his dispiriting surroundings.

But… you wanted to keep watching! There you were, stuck in the theater — you’d bought your ticket. Mike Nichols could have assumed that he had you for the whole 105 minutes. But he didn’t abuse that. He made you want to keep watching, and see what happened to Benjamin. Maybe it was just the Simon and Garfunkel — but you wanted to keep watching. And you were richly rewarded for doing so.

But the directors of these two films I gave up on over the weekend aren’t going to stoop to seek my approval, or even my submissive cooperation. Even though I’m sitting there in my TV room with four remotes at hand, with cable and Netflix streaming and iTunes and Amazon and all sorts of alternatives at my complete command, not to mention my not inconsiderable DVD collection — they just keep slapping me, poking me in the eye, trying to make me go away.

Well, they succeeded.

I don’t see how police body cams will help with this problem

shooter

Normally, I find Nicholas Kristof’s columns to be models of calm reason. They tend to add up nicely.

So I was disappointed with this one from last week, which you may have seen in The State today.

First, I was disappointed because I thought both Kristof and I had written before about this first-person-shooter test, which gauges the extent to which we — regardless of how enlightened we may be on the subject of race — are more likely to shoot first at a black man than at a white one. But I couldn’t find where I wrote about it before. If anyone can point me to it, I’ll be grateful.

Anyway, according to Kristof, here’s what the test continues to find:

Joshua Correll of the University of Colorado at Boulder has used an online shooter video game to try to measure these unconscious attitudes (you can play the game yourself). The player takes on the role of a police officer who is confronted with a series of images of white or black men variously holding guns or innocent objects such as wallets or cellphones. The aim is to shoot anyone with a gun while holstering your weapon in other cases.

Ordinary players (often university undergraduates) routinely shoot more quickly at black men than at white men, and are more likely to mistakenly shoot an unarmed black man than an unarmed white man.

I’m typical. The first time I took the test, years ago, I shot armed blacks in an average of 0.679 seconds while waiting slightly longer — 0.694 seconds — to shoot armed whites. I also holstered more quickly when confronted with unarmed whites than with unarmed blacks.

In effect, we have a more impulsive trigger finger when confronted by black men and are more cautious with whites. This is true of black players as well…

I tried taking the test (again) this morning. I don’t think it was working right. It kept throwing scenarios at me well past the five minutes it was supposed to take, so I just quit after awhile, and therefore didn’t get graded.

I found the interface rather glitchy. Many times I would press either the J key (to shoot) or the F key (to holster) and it wouldn’t register. I’d be told I was dead, or merely out of time. But then, even when it did register, I was very often too late. That’s the crux of the test, you see — not to give you time to think. If I were a cop in a real situation, I would take that second to think. Maybe I’d be dead as a result, but I would take the second.

I did accidentally shoot a “good guy” at least three times — about the same number of times that I holstered when the guy had a gun, meaning I was dead. On a couple of the innocents I shot, I noticed before the image was gone that my victim was black. But that points to another flaw with the test: I tended to see the gun before I saw the guy. Several times, I would shoot, be told I’d made a good shot, and then the picture would be gone before I could look to see if the guy was black or white.

As for that quick-holstering thing — why would a cop holster his gun, when unthreatened, as quickly as he’d fire it if threatened? The natural reaction would be to keep the gun out, keeping options open, for a bit longer — wouldn’t it?

Anyway, the sad thing is that, assuming there is bias in our shooting tendencies (and as I said, I never got my test results), how are we supposed to be reassured by this:

There’s some evidence that training, metrics and policies can suppress biases or curb their impact. In law enforcement, more cameras — police car cams and body cams — create accountability and may improve behavior. When Rialto, Calif., introduced body cams on police officers, there was an 88 percent decline in complaints filed about police by members of the public….

OK, maybe. But how does that help with the shoot-don’t shoot equation? If that is reflexive, and tends to play out even when we know we’re being tested on it, what good does the body cam do? Seems to me there is still a marginally greater chance that black suspects will be shot. The only difference is that with a body cam, there’s more likely to be huge community outrage over it.

Right? Or am I wrong? My point is, either these atavistic impulses are reflexive — in which no amount of supposed “accountability” will stop bad things from happening — or they are not. Which is it?

HERE’s a strategy for dealing with ISIS: Let’s do them the way the Aggies did the Gamecocks

tan suit

And oh, yeah — what’s with the tan suit?

Yes, that headline is my way of admitting that I don’t have a strategy for dealing with ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State/QSIS. I don’t even know how to solve the confusion over what to call them.

But then, I’m not POTUS. And the man who is is taking a lot of flak for his honest admission yesterday that “We don’t have a strategy yet.” (Possibly the worst such gaffe since Toby Ziegler said C.J. Cregg could go to Ramallah to “swat at suicide bombers with her purse.”) Which he perhaps deserves, for having made some of the decisions that led to the metastatic growth of the former al Qaeda in Iraq that has turned into that new thing, a self-financing, blitzkrieging army of bloodthirsty terrorists.

But having left Iraq without any sort of residual force to act as a counterbalance to instability, and having ignored the advice of his entire national security team three years back when there was still a chance to prop up some moderate alternatives in Syria, I’m not entirely sure what the president should do, what we should do, now.

Which is why you might see me indulging myself in irrelevancies, with the rest of the ADD brigade, over such trivia as the president’s tan suit. Sorry about that. But truly, I’m at a loss for more helpful observations to offer.

And, oh, yeah — Russia is invading Ukraine with impunity. (At least the president is visiting Talinn to express support for a nervous NATO ally, for what that’s worth. I’m not sure how reassuring that will be. They’ll probably be on pins and needles hoping he doesn’t say the words, “red line.”)

Any ideas, folks? I’ll be glad to pass them up to the White House.

Seriously, I’m glad the president wants to get his ducks in a row and have a strategy, instead of the fits and starts of our actions thus far, which have had a “what are we actually trying to do?” feel about them. Although driving them from Mosul Dam was encouraging, as was rescuing the Yazidi. But we need something a little more thought-out, and effective, than a #bringbackourgirls type of reaction to outrages.

And I hope this administration is up to it. A lot of people — including, I saw this morning, Maureen Dowd and Eugene Robinson, not your usual Obama-hating suspects — seem to have their doubts these days.

This is it! The only ‘Game Day’ post you’ll get from me…

Kent Babb

I was pleased, in skimming through my Washington Post app this morning, to run across this profile of Steve Spurrier, to which the Post gave prominent play. Pleased not because I wanted to read about the coach, but because it was written by Kent Babb, one of the finest sportswriters to pass through The State‘s newsroom during my years at the paper.

It begins:

 August 27

 College football’s biggest troll, to use the parlance of our times, is 69 years old and doesn’t have a Twitter account, which is probably for the best. He likes to play golf in his downtime and, if it’s hot enough outside, will take off his shirt in public and stand barefoot on the grass under a floppy hat.

He is from east Tennessee, likes cheap beer and NASCAR, but maybe the only thing he enjoys more than football is sharing his opinions on football — its coaches, its issues, its current and future welfare. He thinks college players should be paid, and, well, here he comes, sitting in front of a microphone in a meeting room at Williams-Brice Stadium.

“The media boys picked us to win the East,” South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier said of reporters’ Southeastern Conference predictions, and what the so-called “media boys” think — including that, before Thursday night’s opening game against Texas A&M, the Gamecocks are the nation’s ninth-best team — is meaningless but worth mentioning. Everything, to Spurrier, is worth mentioning. A good team gets Spurrier excited, and that means he talks more, trains his sights tighter on his preferred targets…

You should read on. I’m sure it’s good. Anyway, I Tweeted to Kent that it was great to have him back in town, and he responded:

Football-related festivities actually got rolling yesterday afternoon, near as I could tell. I had an afternoon meeting in the Vista with folks from Palmetto Health Foundation about Walk For Life (more on that very soon), and the “entertainment district,” as it is called these days, was crawling with Aggies already.

And already, traffic tempers were frayed. As I walked from Pearlz up to the Capital City Club, there was something of a jam at Assembly and Gervais. One guy in a gargantuan pickup truck with no fewer than four Gamecock flags flapping from the roof was in the left-turn lane, southbound on Assembly, and incessantly honking at the poor woman in a sedan in front of him. She had nowhere to go, because the Gervais traffic to her left was backed up into the intersection, and still the folks northbound on Assembly were trying to flow into it.

But this bundle of hostility just kept honking, until the woman pulled over toward where she wanted to go and waited with her rear end out in the intersection. And the truck guy pulled up a few feet and sat there right where the woman had sat, of course, because there never had been anywhere for him to go.

What gets into these people? Steroids? What?

Anyway, I rode up to the club for our monthly chairman’s reception, and on the elevator with me was a little girl in a Gamecock cheerleader costume, holding a stuffed animal (a snow leopard, I think). Then I remembered — Cocky was coming to the reception. A good time was had by all, even those of us who are less than enthusiastic about the hoopla.

Early this afternoon, I found myself in Shandon, and on my way back to the office, I kept passing people who were loading up their cars, like evacuees. I kept thinking, better them than me.

Although, you know who I’m really feeling bad for today? A couple of days ago I got an email promotion from Rosewood Market & Deli, the locally-grown natural food store hanging on within the orbit of Earth Fare and Whole Foods, announcing the following:

Sidewalk Farmers’ Market
Thursday Aug 28
4-7pm
at Rosewood Market

I’m kind of thinking that’s going to run into some traffic problems. Hope I’m wrong.

Speaking of which, I’m going to pack up my laptop and get out of the downtown area.

One of my daughters is there tailgating with friends now. I hope she’s drinking plenty of water. She said she would…Cocky

Touring USC’s new Darla Moore School of Business

Peggy Binette of the USC media office threw a poor blogger a bone and invited me on the official media tour yesterday of the fancy new ultra-modern, artsy, green, hyper-energy-efficient Darla Moore School of Business.

I’d have posted about it Wednesday, but was tied up the rest of the day.

The tour was like old home week. I ran into, let’s see… six people I used to work with at The State, two of whom actually still work there. So it was nice to catch up with them.

The building was really nice, too, although it will look better when the trees and plants come in, and they get some artwork up on the walls. I’m assured the architects have a plan for decorating the oceans of beige, but they’re not putting anything up until all construction is finished.

And it mostly is, or so it seemed. The building is fully in use, with students coming and going and faculty moved in to offices, but it will probably be awhile before it feels lived in.

In the video above, you hear Dean Peter Brews speak, with his South African accent, about the reaction of students to the new facility. He said they were saying it is “sick… which I gather is a positive thing.” For my part, I didn’t know the kids were still saying that.

For the basics, here’s The State‘s story from the tour. The messages for the day were:

  • This is a banner day for the Moore School, putting business education at USC in an enviable position in terms of facilities and capabilities.
  • The beauty, functionality and energy-efficiency of the building.
  • Collaboration. Over and over, we heard how faculty and students from different disciplines who never saw each other in the old, vertical building are already interacting to an unprecedented extent, which is expected to lead to all sorts of good things.

And, yes, the fact that the building is where it is to act as “a gateway for the University of South Carolina leading into the Innovista district.” Beyond that, I’ll let pictures tell the story…

Graham gives Rubio a big pat on the head in SC

I sort of missed this event up in Anderson yesterday, but U.S. News and World Report was there:

Lindsey Graham Calls Marco Rubio ‘Son of Ronald Reagan’

South Carolina’s senior senator offers high praise of his colleague.

ANDERSON, S.C. – Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., “the son of Ronald Reagan when it comes to national security” Monday night at a barbecue gathering of nearly 1,000 conservatives in the upstate.

South Carolina’s senior senator also dubbed Rubio “a rising young star” in the GOP “who you will see a lot,” a nod to his colleague’s White House aspirations in 2016.

The high praise comes from one of the Senate’s biggest foreign policy hawks at a time when the country is confronting how to deal with the unraveling violence and chaos in Iraq being caused by the radical Islamic State….

Not to mention, it comes as certain Republican stars are championing isolationism.

I don’t know whether this is just Lindsey being polite to the visiting fireman, or maybe he’s getting on the Rubio bandwagon. This bears watching.

When you think about it, who is coming along in the next generation to carry the national security torch in the GOP? Also, I suppose Graham and McCain appreciate the help they got from young Master Rubio on the ill-fated immigration bill — which frankly was the first time I took favorable notice of him.

DGA tries linking Haley to Perry on ethics front

Artwork from a fundraising appeal timed with this release...

Artwork from a fundraising appeal timed with this release…

This seems like a bit of a stretch — Nikki Haley has a history of ethical challenges, but no indictments — but I guess this is what parties do:

MEMORANDUM

To: Interested Parties

From: DNC and DGA Communications
Date: August 27, 2014
Re: Haley, Perry & the Ethically-Challenged Governors of 2014

Rick Perry and Nikki Haley have a lot in common – they’re both GOP governors from the South whose administrations have been plagued by ethics scandals. And they both eye higher office while struggling to execute their current jobs.

But while they campaign across the Palmetto State, they won’t be able to dodge questions about their ethical lapses.

Sure, Perry was recently indicted by a grand jury on two felony counts of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official but Haley has had enough scandals during her first term to make even the most ethically-challenged Republican Governor blush.

Haley has time and again put politics ahead of being Governor.

Her administration has been rocked by a scandal at the Department of Social Services that allowed children to suffer in in unsafe and even deadly situations. Rather than take decisive action to address her administration’s inexcusable failures, Haley and her administration appear to be more focused on obstructing the investigation and covering up their failures.

And of course, that wasn’t the first time the Haley administration has tried to cover up her incompetence – millions of South Carolinians had their personal financial information hacked and children have been put at risk from a tuberculosis outbreak in public schools.

Haley has also misused taxpayer-funded resources for political and campaign travel.

As Haley and Perry campaign around the state, Governor Perry’s indictment, serves as a reminder to voters of Haley’s scandals, coverups and incompetence.  Governors Perry and Haley are just two of the many Republican Governors who find themselves under investigation or otherwise mired in scandal.

Below please find a rundown of the other GOP Governors scandals that have surfaced this cycle:

Branstad, Terry (Iowa): The Branstad administration is under investigation about whether administration officials were fired for political purposes.

Brownback, Sam (Kansas): The FBI is currently investigating potentially illegal lobbying of the Brownback Administration by former members of his inner circle.

Christie, Chris (New Jersey): Christie and his Administration are currently being investigated by no less than four separate local, state and federal agencies: the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation’s inquiry into Bridgegate and surrounding events.

Corbett, Tom (Pennsylvania): Gov. Corbett continues to receive serious scrutiny for taking thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts from corporations, lobbyists and other special interests who have received big state benefits, and a political action committee set up to help Corbett win re-election received a donation of nearly a million dollars that potentially violated state law.

Deal, Nathan (Georgia): The state of Georgia was forced to pay nearly $3 million to settle lawsuits with whistleblowers at the state ethics commission who were allegedly fired for investigating Deal’s 2010 campaign. It has now come to light that the state’s ethics commissioner director claims she was threatened and pressured by the Deal administration in the summer of 2012.

LePage, Paul (Maine):  According to reports, Governor LePage met with individuals affiliated with an organization categorized by the FBI as a domestic terrorist movement, and in those meetings, it appears LePage joked with the group about “hanging” Democratic legislators. This extreme, dangerous rhetoric has no place in politics.

Snyder, Rick (Michigan): The Snyder administration allegedly favored corporate benefactors and his family over Michigan citizens by not only shielding a state contract that benefited his cousin from budget cuts but even doubling it to $41 million.

After Rick Snyder’s administration eliminated a criminal background check program for home care workers, the state hired nearly 3,800 individuals with criminal histories to take care of disabled adults on Medicaid, including over 500 violent felons and 285 convicted of sex crimes.

Walker, Scott (Wisconsin): Walker has been engulfed in not one, but two massive investigations:

  • The first John Doe investigation resulted in six of Walker’s associates have been convicted of wrongdoing, four of whom have been sentenced to prison ranging from felony theft from charities intended to benefit wounded veterans and the families of fallen soldiers, to misconduct in public office, to doing official campaign work on county time.
  • The second John Doe investigation is ongoing and is currently on appeal. In this case, prosecutors allege that Walker himself was at the center of a nationwide “criminal scheme” to illegally coordinate with outside conservative groups. Documents released last week show Walker personally solicited millions of dollarsfor a group that supported him during his recall election.

BONUS Massachusetts Republican Gubernatorial candidate – Baker, Charlie: Baker has been at the center of controversy over whether he violated federal and state pay-to-play laws when a venture capital firm where he is a partner received a multi-million dollar New Jersey pension contract only months after Baker contributed to Chris Christie’s party committee.

DOUBLE BONUS Former Virginia Governor – McDonnell, Bob: Sure, he’s a former governor now, but he was in the same class of governors hailed as reformers. He is now on trial over accusations that he accepted over $170,000 in gifts and loans from a donor in exchange for using his office to promote the donor’s business. McDonnell and his wife have been indicted on 14 counts of corruption, obstructing an investigation and accepting bribes.

ISIS, the Black Hole of Evil

Flag_of_The_Islamic_State.svg

If Iran, Iraq and North Korea once constituted the Axis of Evil, what is ISIS?

It’s the Black Hole of Evil. It’s growing rapidly in mass, sucking in territory throughout the regions of the Tigris and Euphrates, and sucking in people — the sort who flock to evil and wish to be a part of it — from across the globe. You’ve probably already seen the statistic that there are more British Muslims in the jihadist force now than there are serving in the British military.

By comparison, al Qaeda is the Quaint Mom-and-Pop Shop of Evil, tut-tutting on the sidelines as its onetime offshoot grows and grows and grows, committing atrocities at which bin Laden’s old organization blanches.

I was inspired to this observation by Richard Cohen’s reflection today on the Islamic State as an expression of evil:

I used to not believe in evil. When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “the evil empire,” I thought it was a dandy phrase but also a confession of ignorance. The word itself connotes something or someone diabolical — bad for the sake of bad. The Soviet Union was bad, I conceded, but not for no reason. It was bad because it was insecure, occupying the flat, inviting, Eurasian plain, and because it had a different system of government that it dearly wanted to protect. Reagan had it right, though. The Soviet Union was evil.

Now we are facing a different type of evil. The Islamic State, in whose name Foley was beheaded, murders with abandon. It seems to love death the way the fascists once did. It is Sunni, so it massacres Shiites. It is radical Sunni, so it eliminates apostates. It is Muslim, so it kills Yazidis, a minority with a religion of its own, and takes as plunder their women as concubines. Men are shot in graves of their own making.

The Nazis are back — differently dressed, speaking a different language and murdering ostensibly for different reasons but actually for the same: intolerance, hatred, excitement and just because they can. The Islamic State’s behavior is beyond explication, not reacting as some suggest to the war in Iraq — although in time it will try to settle some scores with the United States — but murdering and torturing and enslaving because this is what it wants to do. It is both futile and tasteless to lay off blame on others — the West, the colonialists of old or the persistent Zionists — or to somehow find guilt in the actions of the rich or powerful because they are rich or powerful. You can blame the victim. You can even kill him….

Cohen was in turn inspired by this essay by Martin Amis in the Financial Times over the weekend. I’m still plowing my way through that. More observations may be forthcoming in this space…

Other causes envy the viral success of the ice-bucket challenge

Top staff at the Sisters of Charity Foundation, accepting the challenge last week.

Top staff at the Sisters of Charity Foundation, accepting the challenge last week.

On a previous thread, Silence expressed how tired he was of “everyone’s stupid ice bucket challenge videos.”

He’s not alone in that. Even this laudatory article (“The Perfect Viral Storm“) on an advertising industry site notes the meme’s “somewhat annoying ubiquity.”

That aside, there’s no denying that this is the best thing to happen in the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease since, well, Lou Gehrig. (Even if, as Silence also pointed out, Gehrig may not have had ALS.)

Samuel Tenenbaum, head of Palmetto Health Foundation, made that very observation to me yesterday in a breakfast meeting in which he and I and Ashley Dusenbury were discussing the promotion of this year’s Walk for Life (watch for more coming on that very soon, teammates!). The Walk has been hugely successful, and they already have some mechanisms in place to make it even more successful this year, but Samuel stands ready to have ice dumped on him if it will make it more successful yet.

Then, over in the world of political advocacy, I received this yesterday from Conservation Voters of South Carolina:

Climate Challenge

Folks, here’s a challenge that doesn’t involve ice buckets.

When local officials, citizens and natural resource managers are meeting to prepare for sea level rise, wouldn’t you think it’s time for us to pay attention?  I challenge you to learn more about the public workshopsin Bluffton and St. Helena Island sponsored by the Beaufort County Planning Dept, Sea Grant Consortium and USC’s CISA.

When veterans talk about “climate security” and the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events to “critical infrastructure at home,” shouldn’t we take note? I challenge you to read Clay Middleton’s letter to the editor of The State.

When the Washington Post announces a series of climate editorials and observes that “despite ups and downs in the polling, a solid majority of Americans favors action to curb greenhouse emissions,” we are reminded of Governor Sanford’s warning in an op ed to that paper in February, 2007: “If conservatives cannot reframe, reclaim and respond to climate change with our principles intact, government will undoubtedly provide a solution, no matter how taxing it may be.”  I challenge you to ask Governor Haley to tell us where she stands on climate. Click here to send her a message

Yeah, she has a completely different point, but you can read in that lede a certain envy, a wish that her challenges might acquire the “somewhat annoying ubiquity” of the ALS phenomenon.

Success has that effect.

This job sounds even more vulnerable to layoff than ‘editorial page editor’

Hey, I’ve been known to yell “stop the presses” a few times. Well, not yell, really. More like run down to the press room or call the foreman on the phone and say it in an urgent tone.

But I’ve given the order a few times, back in my newsroom days, before I moved to the more sedate world of editorial.

However, it never occurred to me that there might be a guy whose whole job was just stopping the presses. Which appears to be the case with this job posting I saw today:

Press Brake Operator needed in Columbia, SC

Working Hours: Monday-Friday 6:30am-4:00pm
Location: NE Columbia, SC
Pay: $10.00 / DOE

1-2 years experience in Punch Press, Lasers, and/ or Turret Punch.

Looking for hard working employees with reliable transportation.
Steel toed boots required
Drug testing required
Background screening required

NEED ASAP!!!!!!

Hey, that last line was uttered with a certain urgency, don’t you think? Must be an editor somewhere who really, really needs those presses stopped.

But it seems to me that a job that consisted entirely of stopping the presses sounds a tad, well, specialized. Makes you wonder why someone else, with other duties, can’t just step over and put the brakes on at the appropriate moment. Seems like, if that were my whole job, just stopping the presses, I’d really be looking over my shoulder worried that the bosses might figure out that someone else could do the job cheaper.

But I’m being facetious. This job title is probably a little misleading; the person who fills the position no doubt has other stuff to do the rest of the time when he or she isn’t stopping the presses. I was never in charge of the production division, so the intricacies of titles in that department may be going over my head.

But I just got a smile out of it, reminiscing…

The new penitence: Using the ice bucket challenge to wash away one’s political sins

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected. The guy in the video is a candidate in Colorado, not Texas. Hence the picturesque mountains in the background.

Corey Hutchins brought this to my attention this morning via Twitter.

We have a self-described “right-wing Christian minister” running for the state House in Colorado who has accused a Democratic congressman of essentially being no better than the ISIS rebels who behead Christians (and others) in Iraq and Syria.

And above you see his video “apologizing” for his statement. Never mind that the “apology” is a passive-aggressive opportunity to repeat his points about the differences between himself and an “openly gay” Democrat. Never mind the problems with this passage:

I would never compare you to the ISIS rebels who behead Christians, right? Of course, you would never go in for something like that.

When a) he just did make that comparison, and b) the construction “you would never go in for something like that” bluntly reminds hearers just what the congressmen does go in for, nod, wink.

And forget the imputation that the only reason he has to “apologize” is that “some Democrats do not have a sense of humor”… about ISIS and beheadings of innocents.

What interests me about it is the way he uses the ice-bucket challenge as a sort of ecumenical-secular mode of baptism to wash away the political sins of which he apparently does not fully repent.

Wow. This meme is just insinuating itself into everything, isn’t it?

Note that he's baptizing HIMSELF, rather than having someone else administer it. Must be some fundamentalist Protestant thing...

Note that he’s baptizing HIMSELF, rather than having someone else administer it. Must be some fundamentalist Protestant thing…

STILL no victims of Department of Revenue breach

When an alert reader brought this to my attention, I thought that maybe I’d been wrong about no one yet being harmed by the huge SC Department of Revenue security breach. In other words, maybe Vincent Sheheen was in “luck,” in that there was a rich vein of wronged taxpayers out there ready to channel resentment at Nikki Haley:

Calls pour in to ID theft unit

South Carolina’s tax agency hacked in October 2013

By Tim Smith

Staff writer tcsmith@greenvillenews.com 

COLUMBIA — The incidents are an all too familiar and scary part of modern life: a monthly statement shows someone has been fraudulently using your credit card; a store where you’ve never shopped sends you a notice demanding repayment of charges you’ve never made; a laptop be­longing to a government agency with your personal data has been stolen.

Two years after a hacker broke into South Carolina’s tax agency and took data belonging to 3.6 million taxpayers, the in­cidence and threats of identity theft are so pervasive that a four-person state unit reg­ularly handles calls about the subject.

In fact, since October 2013, when the identity theft unit for the state Depart­ment of Consumer Affairs began operat­ing, more than 3,300 people have called to talk about identity theft or some type of scam, some of which are attempts at iden­tity theft, said Juliana Harris, a spokes­woman for the agency. “I definitely know that calls are up,”she said….

But then, I got to this line, way, way down in the story (the 27th graf; not many news stories these days even have 27 paragraphs):

After the Department of Revenue breach, she said she stayed on the phone constantly all day, with every one of her lines lit up. She said she might have talked to 100 people per day following the revenue department hacking.

No one has come forward since the breach saying it has caused their identity to be stolen, she said. 

So. We have yet to see our first victim of the huge hack at DoR. I mean, we’re pretty much all of us “victims” in that our data were stolen. But who has been harmed by that yet?

By the way, you might want to read Cindi Scoppe’s column today on how Sheheen is emphasizing the wrong things in his criticisms of the incumbent — but also how he has little choice, since the right things are so hard to explain…

One thing education does not need is political parties

I’m hoping this quote from Bruce Smith’s story about the state education superintendent candidate debate in Myrtle Beach Sunday was just out of context:

“Party matters” in public education said Democrat Tom Thompson, a former dean of graduate studies at South Carolina State University who bested three other Democrats in the primary.

“You can have the state superintendent of education say one thing but the party behind that person has to be consistent with what the state superintendent says,” he added, in a comment directed at Republicans, some of whom favor taxpayer vouchers for private school students….

The problem, you see, is not having officials who are Republicans. The problem is having officials who want to take money from public schools and pay them to parents for withdrawing their kids from public schools. Doesn’t matter to me whether the people wanting to do that Republicans, Democrats (and sometimes they are) or Zoroastrians. The idea is the problem, not the letter after the name.

The problem with Mick Zais isn’t that he’s a Republican. He could have been a Republican and been just fine. The problem is that he so firmly embraces bumper-sticker ideology. Which frankly was a shock to me. I expect retired military officers to be above that nonsense. I expect them to be pragmatists. So Zais was a surprise to me.

And I liked what Molly Spearman said right after that in the story:

Spearman, meanwhile, said the way to improve education is for people to work together.

“The job and our efforts are too important for us to squabble and not get along,” she said. “I have worked hard over my career never to burn bridges.”…

And adhering closely to a party line, to the exclusion of other ideas, is one sure way to burn bridges. In fact, that’s sort of what it’s for.

There was one thing in that party from which I can draw some comfort: The first candidate quoted was American Party candidate Ed Murray. Not that I can support the American Party, either, but I applaud the fact that Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace are at least trying to promote a Third Way in South Carolina. And the attempt is drawing some positive attention, it seems…

I do not think Hemingway would do listicles, do you?

Hemingway

At first, I was pleased to see that Ernest Hemingway was following me on Twitter. It made me feel good, in the way that thing that are clean and true make a man feel when he is a man.

But then I perused the feed, and felt less good.

There were things that were true and right, such as:

But then there were the things that ruined it. You know the kind of things I mean. Things such as:

I do not believe the real Hemingway, the true Hemingway, would post such things. Do you?

Little-noticed fact: Sheheen has had a stellar legislative year

I don’t disagree with any of the “experts” who say Nikki Haley is the favorite to win the gubernatorial election this year.

But I do take exception to this observation:

The panelists stopped short of criticizing Sheheen, whom Winthrop University political science professor Scott Huffmon called “a great candidate” because he came so close to knocking off Haley last time. But when asked by Bierbauer what Sheheen has done in the past four years to strengthen himself as a candidate, they mostly kept silent….

That silence suggests something that we frequently hear here, particularly from Doug: That Sheheen hasn’t been a leader in his job as state senator.

Sheheen has done little to  tout his successes as a lawmaker.

Sheheen has done little to tout his successes as a lawmaker.

Actually, in terms of being a guy who gets things done in the Legislature, Sheheen has done quite a lot.

In the past year, significant progress was made on two things that Sheheen has been pushing vocally and visibly: The elimination of the Budget and Control Board and 4k expansion.

Argue how much of that was Sheheen if you’d like. For instance, his opponent had identified herself strongly with the restructuring initiative. But the fact is that Sheheen was pushing this bill, and working on his colleagues to promote it, since well before Nikki Haley ever decided to run for governor. (Which is kind of how long it takes for a good idea to seep into the heads of a majority of lawmakers.)

Those aren’t his only accomplishments. He was a significant player in the ban on texting-while-driving. The first two are much more impressive to me, however, as reflecting the kinds of strategic, fundamental changes that we need for South Carolina to progress.

What puzzles me is that we don’t see Sheheen touting these successes as a reason to vote for him. Instead, we see money and effort wasted on repeated attempts to get folks angry at the incumbent about the Department of Revenue hacking.

I don’t know why…

A chance to volunteer for new party, if you’re so inclined

Just got this release from Sue Rex on behalf of the news SC American Party:

To:  All interested individuals in the American Party of SC from Sue Rex

 

So much continues to develop with the American Party every day!  Jim and Oscar continue to work hard informing the public about the Party and about the four outstanding candidates who will be on the ballot in November:

 

 

Jill Bossi is running for US Senate against incumbent (appointed)  Tim Scott and Joyce Dickerson                                                                                               bossi4senate.com

 

Ed Murray is running for State Superintendent of Schools against Molly Spearman and Tom Thompson        

edmurrayforeducation.com

 

Emile DeFelice is running for Commissioner of Agriculture against incumbent Hugh Weathers 

emile defelice for sc commissioner of agriculture 2014                                                                                                                               

Donna McGreevy  is running for House Seat 74 against incumbent Todd Rutherford                                                                                                 donnamcgreevy.com

 

 Some of us will be working the tailgate venues with candidates before the USC  home games and we will have a booth again at the SC State Fair October 8th-19th.  Since the election is November 4th, it is important to be as visible as possible during September and October.                                                                                                                             

The policy at the Fair is that all booths must have someone present at all times.  We could REALLY use your help!!  Please consider being with us for one or more shifts.   This year I have divided each day into three shifts. ( 10:00 AM-2:00PM;  2:00-6:00 PM;  or 6:00-10:00 PM)   If you could look at your calendar and give me the dates and times that work best for you, it will be greatly appreciated!!    rexjs@truvista.net    or call me at 803-417-3736

 

I have American Party t-shirts to wear at the Fair, or you can wear a white shirt and you can put one of our stickers on.  I will try hard to have someone meet you at the entrance with a free pass.  Also, we will continue to try and share the limited parking passes that are provided to each booth.

 

These last two months before the election are critically important for the Party and its candidates.  This historic opportunity to provide our fellow citizens with a new way forward in American politics is dependent on both effort and resources.  Any dollars that can be given or collected for the Party and its candidates will likely make the critical difference in the November election. Signs, literature, radio and tv time are all essential for our candidates.   Please consider helping assure that their efforts will be rewarded on November 4th!!

 

American Party address is: 

 PO Box 156 

Great Falls, SC   29055

 

American Party checks should be made out to American Party SC or go to our website (americanpartysc.com) and give on-line.

 

Each candidate’s website (see above) gives information regarding donations.

Thank you so much for your support !  

 

Hope to see you at the South Carolina State Fair.

As you know, the new party falls far short of what I want as an alternative to the Big Two, but maybe some of y’all — particularly those of you enamored of term limits — would care to take part.

Would SOMEBODY please tell us what’s going on with Harrell?

The Bobby Harrell investigation — or whatever it is, or was — continues to be as weird as ever.

Over the weekend, the speaker triumphantly announced that the grand jury investigation of him is over, and his nemesis, Attorney General Alan Wilson, is off the case.

Then, John Monk (who, as you’ll recall, first reported that Harrell was trying secretly to get Wilson kicked off the case) got “sources familiar with the matter” to confirm that the investigation is continuing, now being overseen by 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe rather than Wilson.

Pascoe isn’t commenting. Neither is Wilson.

So. We don’t really know what is going on. But I agree with the conclusion of an editorial in The State today that said at some point, somebody needs to tell us, the people, what’s going on:

But here’s what we do know: Now that the Grand Jury no longer is empaneled, it cannot be argued that there is a legal prohibition on releasing the SLED report. And if Mr. Harrell’s victory dance has any basis — if in fact whatever remains of the criminal investigation is merely pro forma — then there is no reason that Mr. Wilson or Mr. Pascoe or whoever has possession of the report should not release it. Immediately.

For that matter, we don’t understand what legal basis there could be for Mr. Wilson refusing to comment on the status of the case. But then, there has been a lot about this case whose legal basis we have not understood.

It’s understandable that Mr. Wilson wouldn’t want to speak in detail and that the report would remain hidden from the public if the criminal investigation is indeed continuing. But even that must end at some point.

Whenever it ends, and however it ends, the attorney general must give an accounting for the way he has handled the case, and the SLED report must be released to the public. Not just because the subject of the probe has been so adamant in demanding its release, but because the voters need to know who has been doing his job and who has been abusing his office: our attorney general, or the speaker of the House.