Category Archives: Blogosphere

Special Saturday Open Thread, April 19, 2014

Special because it’s on Saturday, not because there’s any world-shaking news going on. I just figured since I didn’t post all day Friday (busy taking care of grandchildren), I should provide a forum today.

From my perspective, the topical pickings are slim, but maybe there’s something on your minds. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Clemson considers total tobacco ban — As you may recall, USC already instituted one. I liked Harris Pastides’ communitarian approach to enforcing the ban: “This isn’t about how many people we catch,” he said. “It’s about how many behaviors we could change.” Lots of times libertarians don’t want to ban things because enforcement can’t be perfect, or because trying to enforce perfectly would require an unwise reallocation of resources. But it’s best to look at these things in terms of the gain — in this case, less smoking going on than previously — rather than in terms of absolutes.
  • Amid crisis in Ukraine, U.S. to deploy troops to Poland – And if that doesn’t worry you enough, NATO moves to ease mounting worries in Baltic. Cold War 2.0 is getting kind of hairy. (I keep seeing that construction, “Cold War 2.0.” Somehow, that feels really late-90s to me. The kind of expression that would have seemed cool back during the dot-com bubble. Kind of retro now. Anyone agree?)
  • U.N. envoy: Palestinian Christians kept from holy site – Just to give you something kind of Easter-weekend related.

But as usual, talk amongst yourselves about whatever…

Open Thread for Thursday, April 17, 2014

Some possible topics:

Or, as always, pick your own topics…

Open Thread for Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Talk amongst yourselves about whatever you like. If you have trouble thinking of a topic, here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Tax Day. The WSJ provides a look at where all that money goes. Meanwhile, I have a question: How many of you actually wait until today? We paid ours last month… (This is really, truly a case of me trying to suggest a topic that will interest others, because as you know, paying taxes bores me rather than getting me worked up. I’ve always been reconciled to the fact that there’s a price for living in civilization.)
  • Boston bombing, one year later. Here’s coverage of the anniversary from The Boston Globe, which won a Pulitzer yesterday for its coverage of the Tsarnaevs’ attack.
  • Ukraine starts military operations to retake areas seized by pro-Russian forces. And the world watches with bated breath.

Open Thread for Monday, April 14, 2014

Some possible topics:

  • Fresh pro-Russian attack in Ukraine. More than that, I’m worried that the Ukrainians are taking military steps now to confront this provocation. Not that they don’t have every right to — in fact, I’ve been wondering when the new government would step up and defend its interests, starting with its territorial integrity. But I worry — how well do you think regular Ukrainian troops are likely to do against Spetsnaz? But wait — the new Ukrainian president now says he’s open to more secessionist referenda. Which is worse — war, or caving in to Putin’s latter-day Anschluss?
  • Authorities say hate motivated Kansas shooting. Do ya think? It certainly was more than mild dislike. But I mention this to object yet again to the whole idea of “hate crimes.” Anti-Semitism is one of the nastiest impulses in human history. But in this country, to paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Departed,” we don’t prosecute people for holding disgusting ideas. Murder is enough. Punish the crime, not the opinion.
  • According to research by Pew, most Americans agree with methey don’t think of Barack Obama as “black” either.

I tried to find something local, but it’s looking kinda slow around here. I think we’re all stupefied by antihistamines. I certainly am.

But you know what? It’s not my job to come up with topics for an Open Thread. That’s up to y’all…

Open Thread for Friday, April 11, 2014


Y’all seem to enjoy these, so have at it.

Some possible topics:

Or pick your own danged topics…

Open Thread for Monday, April 7, 2014

OK, after a nice, lively discussion at the end of last week, comments are thin on the ground today.

So maybe I’m not giving you what you want. Pick a topic and have at it.

Some possibilities:

  1. The movement to have Russia take over ever more of Ukraine continues apace, as Russian troops kill a Ukrainian soldier in Crimea.
  2. Columbia City Council will take its final vote on the baseball contract tomorrow.
  3. The NYT remembers that 20 years ago, experts were saying society was disintegrating to the point that we were headed toward an era of ultraviolence committed by teenaged “superpredators.” But it didn’t happen.

Or whatever you choose…


Your Virtual Front Page, Monday, March 31, 2014

Not a huge news day, but just to acknowledge what’s going on out there:

  1. Russia in ‘partial’ border pullout (BBC) — So… what’s he leaving in place? I’ll bet it’s still a threat to Ukraine.
  2. Health Website Failures Impede Signup Surge as Deadline Nears (NYT) — A blast from the past on Obamacare’s big day — more website trouble.
  3. U.S. considers release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard (WashPost) — I generally try to keep up with espionage news, but I still have trouble understanding why we were holding someone who spied for an ally in prison. Edward Snowden is still running around loose (sort of) and making appearances at SXSW, and this guy’s been in prison for 27 years? Something is askew here.
  4. Koreas Trade Fire Amid North’s Drills (WSJ) — All we need…
  5. Suspect arrested in Five Points shooting ( — What are we going to do about this stuff, folks?
  6. Guinea faces huge Ebola epidemic (The Guardian) — News to shudder at. Even a tiny Ebola outbreak should be enough to send chills down the spine.Just in case the Ukraine and Korea stories didn’t worry you enough…

My very first Tweet was (allegedly) a sinful one

Twitter is celebrating its 8th birthday, and in connection with that has set up a website where you can find your very first Tweet ever.

Allegedly, this is mine:

first Tweet

First, I remember that Tweet. Weirdly, I was thinking about it during Mass this past Sunday. I was thinking about how it takes willpower to refrain from Tweeting during Mass, and I suddenly remembered a time when I gave in to the temptation. I sort of remembered where I was sitting. I also remembered that I had been to Starbucks that morning, and was still feeling a very nice first-cup buzz at the time. And I remembered that I mentioned that I was in Mass in the Tweet. (And the timestamp, 12:37 p.m., places it smack in the middle of the Mass I attend most weeks. And I checked — May 24 was a Sunday.)

Second, it seems highly unlikely that that was my first Tweet. I seem to recall rather clearly first trying out Twitter during the week, while sitting in my office in the Byrnes Building at USC. This was when I was on that 90-day consulting contract with Harris Pastides, right after I was laid off at The State. I had been talked into trying Twitter after a meeting in which some other consultants had given the university president and members of his communications team a presentation on social media. Tim Kelly talked me into it. I was reluctant to try Twitter, but he persuaded me that it would be a great tool for promoting my blog.

I remember trying it, sitting there in that office, and almost immediately becoming hooked on it. Which surprised me. I thought I would hate it.

It seems highly unlikely that I would have waited until Sunday, while I was in Mass, to try my first Tweet. For one thing, if I hadn’t Tweeted before, how would I know that it was something I enjoyed doing, and therefore be tempted into doing it at such an inappropriate moment?

Still, it was interesting to suddenly have that indiscretion thrown at me today. It’s both a pleasant blast from the past, and a cause for a wave of guilt. But then, as Yossarian said to Chaplain Tappman, “I wouldn’t want to live without strong misgivings. Right, Chaplain?”

My exchange with Barton Swaim of the SC Policy Council

This morning, I had this email from the SC Policy Council’s Barton Swaim about yesterday’s math problem:

“They have tightly contained the growth in funding sources that they control.”

So you think the legislature doesn’t control the federal portion of the budget? Or the fines/fees portion, which has consistently climbed upward?

So I responded:

The fines and fees, yes. But in making a philosophical argument about the “size of government,” you can’t hold legislators responsible for federal appropriations. Doesn’t make sense. If you want to talk about federal money, talk about Congress.

And he responded:

btsThey have to approve almost every federal dollar. With only a few exceptions, “no agency may receive or spend federal or other funds that are not authorized in the appropriations act” (state law, 2-65-20 [5]). The fact that lawmakers completely neglect oversight in this area – except to advocate for more federal money and change state laws per federal demands in order to draw it down – does not alter the fact that they do, in fact, have the power to control it. Indeed, they actively encourage more federal spending so that Washington can pay for basic state government services (roads, social services, etc.) and the legislature can blow more and more state money on bogus stuff like corporate welfare and tourism marketing….

Incidentally, I’m not a libertarian. I don’t even “lean libertarian,” as some people say.

And I responded:

You sound pretty libertarian to me. When the objection isn’t to raising taxes (or fees, if you like), but to spending at all, wherever the money comes from, that’s pretty much a blanket negation of the value of government.
And by “corporate welfare,” do you mean incentives for economic development? I’m sort of neutral on those. If they seem likely to pay in the long run, I’m for them. Otherwise, not.
And why wouldn’t we do tourism marketing, since tourism is such a big piece of our economy? I can see debating it, case by case, but dismissing the whole notion as “bogus” seems to be going too far.
Do you mind if I post our conversation on my blog?

And he responded:

No problem about posting the conversation, just take out … [which I did]….

In the cases of both tourism marketing and corporate welfare, there’s no way to prove that either “work.” With incentives (both tax favors for specific companies and outright cash for the same), the only way the state keeps track of their success is a series of press releases sent out by the governor and Commerce department boasting on the number of jobs “recruited.” Whether these jobs ever become actual jobs, nobody knows.

On tourism marketing, how would you know if it was working or not? An increase in tourism – which you would get in any case when the economy improves? Come on. When you see a commercial saying “Virginia is for lovers” or whatever, do you think, “You know, Virginia would be a nice place to take the family for a vacay”? Well I don’t. What I think is, “Looks like Virginia’s tourism department had some leftover money they needed to blow so they wouldn’t have any left over at the end of the fiscal year and they could as the House of Delegates for more.” Similarly, nobody needs to be told that South Carolina has nice beaches and that it’s less expensive to vacation here than Florida. They know that already. And if they don’t, they ain’t gonna be persuaded to change their summer plans after watching some hokey commercial.

I ended with:

Well, since I’m working in the marketing biz these days, don’t expect me to agree that it’s a waste of money. :)
Thanks for the exchange.

Hey, State paper! I took that picture!


I called up this story over at, about how Mike Campbell is going to run for lieutenant governor (again), and Henry McMaster might, too.

Imagine my surprise to see a photo I shot of Campbell years ago — during his last run for the same office.

It was taken in the board room, and with the little Canon camera I used to use. It had a tilting viewscreen, so that I could hold it down on the table, unobstrusively, and glance down at the screen to aim and focus the shot. You can see me doing it in this photo of me with Barack Obama.

I miss that little camera, which quit working after a photo session with the twins in the surf at the beach. I haven’t been able to find another in that price range with the handy tilting window, which allowed for candids I couldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Not sure how The State had that picture, since I always kept the photos on my laptop. I must have used it in a print edition one time. (Normally, my photos only appeared on my blog, as did this one.)

Anyway, it looks like my contributions to the paper continue, despite my absence…


Your Virtual Front Page, Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Just a quick overview:

  1. Ukraine to Pull All Its Military From Crimea, Conceding Loss (NYT) — I was in a meeting with someone who, on a work-related subject, said, “The heavy-handed approach never works.” I pointed out that it has worked quite amazingly well for Putin.
  2. Boeing 787 Dreamliner Is Safe, FAA Team Concludes (NPR) — Which is good news for SC, since we want to keep on making ‘em.
  3. Lourie, Sheheen want DSS chief to go ( — This comes “after hearing testimony alleging fear and intimidation at the state agency and concerns from coroners overseeing child-death investigations.”
  4. FBI ‘aids search for missing plane’ (BBC) — The BBC is funny about putting quotation marks around things they have every reason to believe are true. They trust no one, and therefore attribute everything.
  5. Scientists find freakish, 11-foot birdlike dinosaur (WashPost) — It’s been dubbed the “chicken from hell.” Somebody really screwed up not getting that into the headline.
  6. Lots of tea party candidates are running. But, they’re not winning. (The Fix) — Interesting. A poll shows the Tea Party having lower approval ratings than everyone but Vladimir Putin. But you know, it’s not about charming a minority — it’s just about being able to raise hell in GOP primaries. So it seems soon to count out these fringe folk yet.

Your Virtual Front Page, Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014

And you thought I wasn’t going to post today. It’s kind of a weird news day today. The WSJ, the NYT, the BBC and the WashPost all have wildly different lede stories at this hour (respectively, they led with Obamacare, HIV babies, Ukraine and the SAT). There’s a lot going on, but everything seems to be of about equal weight. In my book, the Beeb got it right. Here ya go:

  1. ‘Tough’ Ukraine talks to continue after Paris summit (BBC) — Meanwhile, the EU offers up $15 billion to help.
  2. SLED Report: Santiago didn’t tell investigators everything ( — I tell you what — this CPD thing is getting to be about as hard to follow as the hacking scandal in Britain.
  3. Report: Marine to become 1st South Carolinian to receive Medal of Honor since Vietnam (thestate,com) — Something for SC to be proud of.
  4. Obama Gives Health Plans Added 2-Year Reprieve (WSJ) — OK, how many reprieves is that now? Anyone keeping score?
  5. SAT to lower top score to 1600 in revised test (WashPost) — The Post is actually leading with this at the moment.
  6. Second Success Raises Hope for a Way to Rid Babies of H.I.V. (NYT) — This is wonderful, but I find it hard to read — even thinking about babies being in such a horrific predicament.

Are things that ‘trend’ on Twitter really trending?

A blog over at The New York Times notes that making decisions on the basis of what’s trending on Twitter can sometimes miss what’s actually happening:

download (1)The greatest challenge of Big Data — especially social media — is separating the signal from all the noise. A study by the Pew Research Center, for example, found that Twitter users are more often than not negative. The study, which examined reactions on Twitter to news events, including Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential race, discovered that “for both candidates, negative comments exceeded positive comments by a wide margin.” More disturbingly, that reaction is not representative: “The reaction on Twitter to major political events and policy decisions often differs a great deal from public opinion as measured by surveys,” Pew reported. That is due, in part, to the fact that “Twitter users are not representative of the public”: They are younger and more likely to lean toward the Democratic Party. It turns out that what’s “trending” on Twitter may not really be “trending” at all.

Of course, some of us might say that Twitter users are swarming around what the rest of the public will be talking about in the future. But we won’t. In the meantime, be forewarned — to mine the wisdom of crowds requires some wisdom, some discernment regarding which data to study, and what conclusions to draw from them.

Your Virtual Front Page, Thursday, February 27, 2014

Here’s what we have going at this hour:

  1. West warns Russia amid Crimea threat (BBC) — Ukraine isn’t sorted out; not by a long shot.
  2. No bond for teen facing murder charge in Dutch Fork student’s death ( — As mentioned previously, attorney Todd Rutherford said his client will seek to invoke South Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
  3. Chairman of Richland’s election board gives up seat ( — In that he won’t seek re-election to the post. Not normally front-page fodder, but with the way things are going with this group… Meanwhile, lawmakers are seeking candidates for two open seats. Hey! Where’d everybody go…?
  4. British Spies Reaped Millions of Webcam Images, Some of Sex (NYT) — Apparently, James Bond’s sex life has now been reduced to watching other people on webcams.
  5. After shutdown, lawmakers donated more than $465K (WashPost) — I thought you could use a sorta, kinda feelgood story about members of Congress. Of course, they CAUSED the mess to begin with, so this could sort of go under the heading of purchasing indulgences…
  6. First lady unveils food label reforms (The Guardian) — The thing I like about this is that serving sizes will be adjusted upward, to reflect how much we actually eat (really, who eats only half a cup of ice cream?). So we’ll see how many calories we’re really getting.

A few glimpses of the human cost of Syrian war


Our own Bryan Caskey brings our attention to some stunning pictures (maybe not as technically arresting as the Ukraine ones from the other day, but the content and framing make up for it) in The Daily Mail, with these comments:

Not sure if you’ve seen this or not:


Normally, I’m kind of down on journalists, but in this instance, a photographer has truly done the “picture is worth a thousand words” thing with the first photo. I’m not making a political point. I just thought this photograph was extremely evocative of the scale of human suffering in Syria.


So this is one of those times that I’m giving journalists some praise. Since you’re a journalist (or at least a former one) I thought that you would appreciate it.

I hope all concerned consider my showing you the image above to fall within the realm of Fair Use (seeing as how I can’t afford to pay for it). There would seem little point in this post if I didn’t at least show you that. I urge you to go to the site itself and see all of the pictures, and if you are so inclined, to subscribe to the Mail and give your custom to their advertisers.

Congratulations to the photographers involved, whom the Mail, unfortunately, does not name. Especially the one who shot the image above, which is the most dramatic (the cutline: “Residents of Syria’s besieged Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, south of Damascus, crowding a destroyed street during a food distribution led by the UN agency”). We whose comfortable behinds stay in more convenient parts of the world depend on those who go there and do good work to tell us what the rest of the world is like.

As for Bryan’s illiberal asides regarding journalists (I wouldn’t know he was down on us if he hadn’t mentioned it), you’d think a lawyer would be wary of casting aspersions at entire professions (right, Juan?). But we like him anyway.

Your Virtual Front Page, Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just a quick one:

  1. US plans full Afghanistan pullout (BBC) — Interestingly, both the Beeb and The Guardian are leading with this, but U.S. outlets are not…
  2. No charges in Columbia police probe ( — But will we ever know what happened between those top cops?
  3. House GOP tax plan would lower rates but add surtax (WashPost) — MEGO, but I suppose it’s important.
  4. Infighting Hurts Ukraine Efforts to Form a Government (NYT) — Man, it sure would be nice if things would settle down over there. And in Venezuela. And in Thailand, where my daughter is
  5. Bitcoin Site Mt. Gox Halts Transactions (WSJ) — You know, I’d ‘splain this to y’all, but first I’d have to be surer than I am that I understand what bitcoin is and how it works. Money, of course, is an abstraction based on aggregations of belief regarding value. Bitcoin seems to be more so. But I get lost after that…
  6. Bill blocking abortions after 20 weeks heads to SC House ( — So I guess we’re headed for a big Kulturkampf fray.

I don’t know why I’m getting these ads on Facebook

OK, so I’m a guy. I get that. You’re trying to market to lowest common denominators, and there is no lower common denominator among heterosexual guys than their interest in… what you’re showing me.risque ads

But this does not sum me up. It doesn’t even fit my Internet habits. Yeah, I may have paused to enjoy YouTube clips such as this one, but I thought that was kind of cute and harmless, and Google is leaping to conclusions when it thinks that’s the only kind of video I want to see. (Which it does sometimes, suggesting things such as these.)

I look at my Chrome history, and I see all sorts of topics, from breaking news to multiple attempts to find a quote I half-remembered from Catch-22; from Netflix (to remind me where I stopped in watching “House of Cards”) to the news that ADCO won more ADDY awards than anyone at the 2014 gala over the weekend.

There are no outrageously buxom or nearly nude women, no photographic representations of the Elvis Costello line, “You want her broken with her mouth wide open/’Cause she’s this year’s girl.” Although if you look far enough back, you might find where I looked up some Elvis lyrics.

I’ve mentioned this phenomenon before — in fact, I showed you one of these very ads. It was one of several that seemed to draw a connection between large breasts and learning a foreign language.

But the collection above really seems to have brought this trend down to a new level. Some of these things don’t seem to be just offering French lessons, if you know what I mean.

I suppose I could learn more by clicking on these come-ons. But that would seem to justify them; wouldn’t it? And who knows what kinds of ads I’d start getting…

By comparison, my browsing history startlingly bland...

By comparison, my browsing history is startlingly bland…

Cindi and Warren jump into blogging

Cindi Scoppe and Warren Bolton of The State are succumbing to the pull of the blogosphere.

They’ve just launched a new blog called “And another thing…,” subhed “Opinions and observations we couldn’t fit in the paper.”

The first item is an “I told you so” post noting that the S.C. Tobacco Collaborative has found that the effect of raising the cigarette tax in SC has been just what we predicted it would be:

Key findings include the following changes since 2007:

A 19 percent decrease in the high school smoking rate (from 19.1 to 15.4 percent);

An 8 percent decrease in the state adult smoking rate (from 19.2 to 17.7 percent);

A 47 percent decrease in the middle school smoking rate (from 9 to 4.8 percent); and

A 32 percent decrease in per capita cigarette pack sales (from 96.4 to 61.9 packs per capita)….

Basically, it looks like they’re going to use the blog for the same purpose for which I started mine — to let readers in on all the stuff that lay behind our opinions, but couldn’t fit into the limited confines of the print medium.

Here’s hoping they can find the time to stick to it. If they do, it will be the paper’s first active opinion blog since a certain party got laid off. This is something, I believe, that the paper and its readers need. But I would think that, wouldn’t I?

Welcome to the ‘sphere, y’all…

That Cindi is just all business, even on Twitter

Had to smile when I noticed that Cindi Scoppe had posted something in Twitter seconds before I did this morning, so that we had back-to-back Tweets:

cindi twitter

That Cindi has always been all business. I use Twitter for serious purposes, too, but I also like to have fun. Which is why I Tweet a lot more than she does (about 10 times as much, so far — but I had a head start).

As for the serious business, by all means go read her piece about other reform measures that would take us a lot further down the line that the one just passed doing away with the Budget and Control Board. It’s stuff I could recite in my sleep, since we started advocating for these things in 1991, but it’s important.

As for my Tweet… You know what I’m talking about, right? After the guy says, “You’re WHAT?!?!” (At 3:37 on this video), I had always heard the response to be, “Ennnn ROUTE… Russss.”

But I was never sure I had it right. So when the song came on the radio this morning, I flipped on my SoundHound app while waiting at a red light, and the lyrics that came up said that the line was… “Tin roof, rusted.” (And no, I wasn’t driving while I Tweeted. I waited until I was seated at breakfast.)

If that’s right, it’s a disappointment. I thought my version sounded kind of off, but it’s more logical as a response to “You’re WHAT?” Because, you know, much of the song has to do with traveling TO the Love Shack. So you might naturally tell someone you were en route.

But you don’t care, do you? I can see that. So go read Cindi’s piece. Edify yourself.