Category Archives: Blogosphere

Aw, Jeez, Edith! Not with the Culture Wars again…

Corey Hutchins must have seen my post a couple of days ago worrying that we’re getting cranked up again on the Kulturkampf stuff two years ahead of the presidential election.

Or maybe he just remembers me bemoaning the use of issues that serve only to divide us, to separate us into camps of “us” versus “them,” back in 2012.

In any case, he tormented me today by sending a link to this item:

Speaking to GOP gatherings in the early presidential primary state of South Carolina this week, Rick Santorum had a message for Republicans running this year: the culture wars still work as a message….

“Folks, the economy is important, but you know what’s more important? The culture. Look at the culture in America. Look at what’s happening to families in America. Look at what’s happening to marriage, to children. Look at the culture. It’s disintegrating in front of us. And as a result people are insecure….”

All I could say in response was to quote Archie Bunker: “Aw, Jeez, Edith!”

But on second thought, I did like the rest of that quote:

“…And as a result people are insecure. They’re afraid … and when people are afraid, the last thing they want to hear is ‘And we’re going to cut this, and we’re going to cut that, and we’re going to take them away from these people who don’t want to work.’ Not the kind of message that’s going to win you a lot of folks who are a little nervous — I’m not talking about the 47 percent —I’m talking about all of their friends and neighbors who feel that they are close to being part of that 47 percent.”

If he’s saying that maybe Republicans should give all the “shrink government to a size that you can drown it in a bathtub” stuff a rest, and stop demonizing people who actually depend on the “safety net” that Reagan used to speak of… well, that would be a positive thing.’

But must it come at the cost of more Kulturkampf?

Open Thread for Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do, so y’all find something, or somethings, to talk about.

Some suggestions:

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens calls the court’s recent campaign finance rulings “a giant step in the wrong direction,” which have created a situation in which “The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate. It’s really wrong.” Discuss.

New leadership in the Midlands. I was intrigued by this piece pointing out how many new people are in leadership positions in Columbia, in both the private and public sectors. Will it make a difference? Let’s hope so. (Blast it! I can’t find the story at thestate.com! Well, here’s a picture of it from my iPad that should be legible. The above link is to the mobile version, which is a bit confusing since the pictures aren’t paired with the corresponding text.)

With Stone brewery likely lost, lawmakers are working to change SC law to make it easier to recruit the next Stone — and maybe even this one. FYI — for some reason, this Greenville News story waits until the 23rd graf to tell you what the legislation will do, which is to allow brewpubs to produce up to 500,000 barrels per year instead of being limited to 2,000.

And in the big news so far of the day — which I’m tempted to hold in case I do a VFP, but what the hey – Michigan’s ban on affirmative action is upheld.

But go ahead and choose your own topics…

On social media, politics and maturity

Now that I’m an oh-so-sophisticated purveyor and consumer of social media — one of the Twitterati, no less — I find myself embarrassed whenever I look back at a post I wrote in 2006 about Andre Bauer.

The post went like this:

Andre Bauer is coming in for his interview at 4. I’m reviewing a few questions for him between now and then. I’m curious: What would you ask a lieutenant governor who:

  • When stopped speeding down Assembly Street, charged so aggressively at the cop that he felt threatened enough to draw his weapon?

  • When driving 101 mph on a wet highway, got on the police radio frequency to tell the patrolman pursuing him that “SC2″ was “passing through,” and when he was stopped anyway, asked, “Did you not hear me on the radio?”

  • Lying to reporters about that incident, then saying you “forgot” about it when confronted with the evidence?

  • Showed up to negotiate with the Department of Transportation a price for land he owned — with a member of the transportation commission in tow?

  • Has his own Myspace site?

  • Seems almost certain to win the GOP nomination again?

The problem is that penultimate item. It was, for me at the time, sort of shorthand for someone who was too juvenile to play with adults. Of course, I was redeemed somewhat later by the fact that Myspace came to be seen as sadly out of it. But I would have said the same thing about a Facebook page. I just saw it as something kids did.

That was the year — 2006 — that social media came into its own, when serious businesses started seeing that they had to be on FB and, a bit later, Twitter (Twitter wasn’t even launched until several months after I wrote that item). This was also, not coincidentally I think, about the time that the bottom sort of fell out of advertising revenues for newspapers. (The post was written June 7, 2006, and there was a precipitous drop in MSM advertising over the course of that summer.)

By the time I really became a Twitter fiend in 2009, I was pretty embarrassed for having seen social media as not for grownups.

But now… I’m starting to wonder whether maybe I had a point. Not about Twitter. Twitter is the best news-bulletin service I’ve ever seen, among other things. But beyond posting pictures I want to share with friends and family, I continue to harbor doubts about Facebook.

And our governor is the source of a lot of those doubts.

Nikki Haley has shown a marked preference for Facebook over communicating through the MSM. Like many lesser-known people, she sees it as empowering that she doesn’t have to go through editors to say what she’d like.

And yet, time and again, she has demonstrated why everybody needs an editor. A search of “Haley” and “Facebook” on this blog yields:

The other day, Kathryn took exception to my use of the term “Girl Fight” to call attention to the Haley-Shealy contretemps. But did it not strike you as more girlish than womanly, as lacking in a certain dignity? It did me. But then, I’m the guy who made fun of Anton in 2006…

 

Cockfighting and meth — nothing like a traditional Easter weekend

meth

Glancing at the homepage of thestate.com looking for blog fodder just now, I saw the main focal point of the page was a couple of mugshots with the headline,

Sheriff: Two arrested in record setting meth bust in Kershaw County

Then, immediately below that, I saw:

SC deputies arrest nearly 50 in cockfighting bust

Wow. Not exactly an appealing couple of snapshots of life in the Palmetto State. What is this, the Wild West? Actually, that may not be fair to the Wild West…

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

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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

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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

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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 (thestate.com) — 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!

Campbell

I called up this story over at thestate.com, 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…

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Your Virtual Front Page, Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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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 (thestate.com) — 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 (thestate.com) — 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

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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 (thestate.com) — 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 (thestate.com) — 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

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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: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2568251/UN-calls-Syrian-warring-sides-allow-aid-flow.html

 

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 (thestate.com) — 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 (thestate.com) — So I guess we’re headed for a big Kulturkampf fray.