Category Archives: Character

Han Solo takes the Fifth on Greedo killing

The Washington Post should be ashamed of itself. Not because it won a Pulitzer for helping Edward Snowden achieve his goals, but because it led readers of its The Switch blog to believe that it was going to finally clear up the raging controversy over whether Han Solo or Greedo shot first.Greedo

That didn’t happen.

But in the course of not answering, Harrison Ford demonstrates a callousness regarding the question that seems consistent with the classic Han-Solo-as-rogueish-antihero-who-would-shoot-first interpretation, as opposed to the revisionist he-was-just-standing-his-ground-in-self-defense view.

That’s how I see it, anyway.

Kevin Fisher missing Mayor Bob. Really.

Mayor Bob, during an editorial board interview in 2008.

Mayor Bob, during an editorial board interview in 2008.

This was published several days ago, but I just saw it, so I’m sharing with others among you who are just as slow on the uptake.

I enjoyed this column by Kevin Fisher in the Free Times. An excerpt:

Where have you gone, former Mayor Bob? A city turns its troubled eyes to you, woo, woo, woo. What’s that you say, Cola Citizen? Gentle Bob has left and gone away, hey, hey, hey …hey, hey, hey.

First, my apologies to Simon and Garfunkel. And also to Mayor Bob, if he’s offended. I hope not, because it’s meant as a compliment.

Indeed, we could use a little Mayor Bob about now. Can you imagine him fighting with council members in public? With concerned citizens? With anyone? Of course not. As I wrote about Bob upon his retirement: “Coble was eminently approachable as mayor, making each person feel worthy in their opinions and welcome to share them.”

While I disagreed mightily with him on a wide range of policy and management decisions (or the lack thereof), I always liked the way Bob conducted himself both personally and in his role as the city’s elected leader. Council followed suit, as the mayor sets the tone. And therein lies a lesson that Steve Benjamin needs to learn….

Those of you who remember Kevin running against Bob several years back may be surprised at these comments, but you shouldn’t be. Kevin can be an irascible critic — and has gotten under Mayor Bob’s skin a little over the years — but he’s fair-minded, and he’s given former Mayor Bob his due before. Back at the outset of that 2006 campaign, he said of the mayor, “He’s a really nice guy, and much nicer than me.”

But he also saw that as a weakness. He criticized Coble for “waiting for consensus” to lead, and for not being tough enough to say “no” to bad ideas.

Now, Kevin — and probably others — are missing that “waiting for consensus” stuff. That’s not Mayor Benjamin’s style.

Basically, the two mayors have complementary upsides and downsides. With Bob, you really could go nuts waiting for him to step out ahead of the rest of council. He really wanted that consensus. Steve is too impatient for that, so you get a lot of action. But after four years of his impatience, he’s created enough irritation on council that the action is increasingly one-sided, and little gets done.

Although it does seem like the ballpark’s going to go through, it will do so at serious cost to the mayor’s remaining political capital. There are more rough waters ahead — waters upon which Bob Coble would have poured oil…

Glenn McConnell, president-elect of College of Charleston

MoncksCorner

The trustees of the College of Charleston went for political clout over the weekend, unanimously electing Glenn McConnell to be their new president.

It was the smart move, and the best for the public college’s future, to pick the longtime parliamentary master of the State House.

Yes, he has an affinity for all things Confederate. There’s the flag, which still flies in front of the State House because of the “compromise” he and a few other senators crafted when it became inevitable that it would no longer stay up on the dome. There’s the Hunley, the raising and preservation and study of which has been a pet project of his. There’s the memorabilia shop he owned (I don’t think he owns it anymore, but I could be wrong about that). There’s the 17 or 18 re-enactor uniforms he has in his closet.

Then there’s the fact that, as the most powerful and knowledgeable defender of the Legislative State, he has resisted substantive reform for decades.

That’s the bad stuff, which is all detractors have focused on. And you can see how they would.

But those who have worked with him in the State House mostly just respect the guy — and not just because he understands how the system works better than they do. He’s a hard worker who can be relied upon to do what he says he will do. And that has benefited South Carolina, from the judicial selection reforms (keeping selection in the hands of the Legislature, but making it much more merit-based) of the ’90s to his conscientious efforts on behalf of the elderly as lieutenant governor.

He earned a huge amount of that respect with the way he gave up his Senate power to accept the lowly job of lieutenant governor when that seemed to him the most honorable course, and rather than mope in the corner, got out and took his responsibility as head of the Office on Aging (lawmakers had put a former lieutenant governor in charge of the office just to give him something to do) seriously.

Those are the kinds of factors that led a couple of young Democrats to issue glowing praise of him on Twitter in response to the news over the weekend.

  • Sen. Thomas McElveen Tweeted, “Congrats to Glenn McConnell on being named @CofC ‘s 22nd president. His statesmanship, pragmatism & steady hand will be missed in the Senate.”
  • Former Rep. Boyd Brown wrote, “Very proud of Glenn McConnell and CofC, and wish both great success. Any entity should hope to have such an honorable and fair leader.”

Brown went further, arguing with the critics in two subsequent Tweets:

  • “Some of the folks manufacturing outrage over Glenn McConnell being tapped to lead CofC have clearly never met the man…”
  • “…Sure, McConnell is an easy target if all you know about him is ‘Civil War buff/politician.’ But as a leader, he’s in a class all his own.”

I’ve spent a lot of time on the opposite side — the losing side, of course — from Glenn McConnell on important state issues. I could get pretty indignant about it. But that has generated respect, and I know what these guys are on about.

As I said, the trustees made the right call. The smart call, certainly. But near as I can tell thus far, the right one, as well.

So are you truly, unambiguously going to support this guy?

This is a good day to be Nancy Mace or Det Bowers. Because they are the only two of the crowd of people running against Lindsey Graham in the GOP primary who did not just sign a pledge to support the guy who called the senator “ambiguously gay.”

Here’s the money quote, which caused enough of a splash that Chris Cillizza of The Fix retweeted me when I mentioned it yesterday, leading to 17 other retweets and 8 favorites:

Feliciano said, “It’s about time that South Carolina (says) hey, We’re tired of the ambiguously gay senator from South Carolina. We’re ready for a new leader to merge the Republican Party. We’re done with this. This is what it’s about, all of us coming together and saying, one way or the other, one of us is going to be on that ballot in November.”

It was said by the (formerly) most obscure of the candidates, the suddenly-famous Dave Feliciano of Spartanburg, at a presser in which he and three others — Bill Connor, Lee Bright and Richard Cash — signed a pledge promising to support any one of their number who gets into a runoff with Graham.

Dave Feliciano, in an image from his campaign website.

Dave Feliciano, in an image from his campaign website.

Put another way, Bill Connor, Lee Bright and Richard Cash just pledged to support Dave Feliciano over Lindsey Graham.

Just when you thought they couldn’t take ideology far enough…

After the presser, Connor and Cash both denounced Feliciano’s characterization of the senator, but both confirmed they would still stick to the pledge, according to The State. Bright reportedly left the event before Feliciano spoke, which shows he’s not named “Bright” for nothing.

I wrote to Bill Connor via Facebook a few minutes ago to ask him again, “would you really support this Feliciano guy over Sen. Graham?” Because I still find that hard to believe. But then, I find the attitude of the kinds of Republicans who would oppose Graham sort of hard to believe, so this is not surprising.

Bright goes out of his way to make Graham look good

To reasonable people. You know, people who would think that a member of a loyal opposition would want to help the secretary of state with a difficult matter bearing on a huge international crisis.

Here’s the release from Lee Bright:

Offers Aid to Ultra Liberal Who Embarrassed Himself Last Week

If there were any doubt that Lindsey Graham sees himself as the Senate Republican who helps liberals defeat conservatives in Congress, it was all removed yesterday as an open mic caught Graham in an awkwardly candid moment – offering political help to Secretary of State John Kerry. This is the same John Kerry who displayed an infantile view of the world last week with his “19th century” comments regarding Vladimir Putin and the Ukraine.

In a moment eerily reminiscent of Obama’s unfortunate open mic moment with Dmitry Medvedev – then President and now Prime Minister of Russia – Graham whispered to Kerry to “let me know what I can do to help you with Boehner,” indicating that the S.C. Senator would strong arm the Republican House Speaker.

“I don’t know what it is about Lindsey Graham, but he’s never seen a chance to work with liberals to sabotage his own party that he didn’t take,” said Lee Bright, the Tea Party candidate challenging Graham in the June Senate Primary. “And in this case, he was channeling his inner Obama, trying to work with a Secretary of State who just a week ago made a fool of himself on the international stage. When he knows the microphone is on, Graham pretends to be this big conservative. We see the real Lindsey exposed in this instance. Then again, I think a lot of South Carolina voters already know the real Lindsey Graham.”

###

How about that weird touch, implying that the reason likely GOP primary voters wouldn’t want anyone to help Kerry is because of some faux pas he committed last week. You would think that all he would need would be to say “John Kerry,” because the SecState is, after all, John Kerry. Given his rep among Republicans, of course, the “ultra-liberal” tag is redundant, but this is coming from a segment of the GOP where redundant constructions are all the rage (how about that weird one I keep seeing, “left liberal”?).

Is the release written this way because Bright thinks his likely supporters aren’t very, you know, Bright? Why else would he have to over-explain who John Kerry is, right down to the non-sequitur about something he said last week? Does he think they can’t remember as far back as 2004?

As for what Graham said…

That is exactly the kind of behavior we should expect of our elected representatives of both parties. It was reminiscent of the collegiality that was once so common in the Senate, and which made the deliberative process possibly under difficult circumstances. It was a moment in which an honest lawmaker said, “Look, all partisan B.S. aside, you’re dealing with a difficult foreign policy situation, and I’m an American, and I’m here to help.”

Good for Lindsey. It’s good that we have at least one Senator in Washington who still understands that the idiocy is supposed to stop at the water’s edge.

On Haley and Sheheen on the ethics bill

This could be a moment to pause and celebrate something. Not the ethics bill that passed the state Senate yesterday (I’ll let Cindi Scoppe tell you about its inadequacies, as she did in this column and this one), but the fact that both candidates for governor are vocal in calling it inadequate:

COLUMBIA, SC — An update to S.C. ethics laws – more than a year in the making – passed the state Senate on Thursday only to be blasted by Gov. Nikki Haley and her likely Democratic challenger for governor in November, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, as not being good enough.

In particular, the two rivals faulted the proposal for not including an independent body to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers.

“Let’s be clear, what the Senate passed tonight wasn’t ethics reform – it’s an income-disclosure bill, and while that’s a positive step forward, it’s really only a half-step,” Haley spokesman Doug Mayer said….

Unfortunately, there’s a sour note in this duet:

“Some reform is better than no reform, but this bill is pretty close to nothing,” Sheheen said, before turning his criticism toward Haley. “In order to have open and accountable government, we need full income disclosure, an independent body to investigate ethics violations, and to finally put an end to the governor’s continued misuse of the state plane and vehicles for campaign activities.”…

In defending Sheheen from criticism from our own Doug, I’ve said that a challenger needs to define what’s wrong with the incumbent, in order to give the voter reasons for replacing that incumbent.

But Doug has a point, and once again, Sheheen’s criticism of Haley is coming across as grating. I don’t know how much of it is the content, and how much of it is just a matter of this tone not being natural coming from Vincent Sheheen. This drip, drip, drip of talking points about Nikki feels like the work of consultants; it’s just not the way Vincent naturally speaks. He’s a more affable, get-along-with-people kind of guy.

It would be far better if Sheheen said something like this:

It may not always feel like it, especially when the Senate drops the ball this way on a needed reform, but we’re slowly making progress in South Carolina. Both the incumbent governor and I are taking the same position, which is that our state politicians need to be held to a higher ethical standard. When those who would lead this state are unanimous in calling for more ambitious reform, that’s progress; we’ve moved in the right direction. Now, you’ve heard me say in the past that the incumbent governor has through her own lapses helped illustrate why we need ethics reform. I stand by that, and the record stands for itself. If I thought she did everything right, I’d be voting for her instead of running against her. But today, I want to thank the governor for her leadership in trying to make sure lawmakers don’t commit such lapses in the future, and are held accountable if they do. Whatever she’s done in the past, she’s taking the right position on this now. And I will stand squarely beside her and help with the heavy lifting of trying to move us further forward, and pass real ethics reform. And if I am elected to replace her, I hope she will continue to support this effort. Because all of us who understand the problem — and I think both of us do now — need to work together to overcome the inertia of the status quo.

OK, that’s a little wordy — if I were writing a statement for him I’d tighten it up — but that’s the tone I think he should be striking…

The local messes are really piling up, feeding on each other, with no solutions in sight

There are several festering issues on the metro front that I have neglected to write about in the last few days, probably because of an old prejudice of mine: I don’t like to write about problems for which I can’t think of a good solution.

But at least I can take a moment to catalog the local snafus, and note the way I think they all add to a general lack of confidence in local government, even a feeling of hopelessness on the part of those who wish for something better in the Midlands.

Let’s start with a few points about the Richland County election commission — which, of course, is not a county board at all, since it derives its authority from state legislators who represent portions of the county (but who have rendered themselves powerless to guide the board), something that no doubt confuses folks from more sensible parts of the country, and still makes us South Carolinians, as used to it as we are, want to bang our heads against something. Some of the recent developments on this mess that keeps on giving:

  • The board chose one of its own to be the new interim director — which one wag on Facebook described as “Selph-serving.”
  • The firing of the theoretically permanent director, apparently for, among other things, firing employees he deemed incompetent.
  • The ex-director’s claim that he was warned not to fire an employee because said employee was the brother-in-law of Sen. Joel Lourie.
  • The ex-director’s claim that when he tried to hire a replacement for that employee, the board’s first question about his choice for the job was about the candidate’s race. He also said the board didn’t want to hire a black candidate for the position — which would be a twist on the perception among some in the county that the agency is a sort of black patronage mill.
  • The fact that Lillian McBride still has a job with this public body. Unless I missed some startling news.

OK, I’m running short of time. So instead of doing similar lists of developments on the other local problems, I’ll just list the other local problems:

  • The ongoing mess that is the Columbia Police Department. There will be no charges filed after the lengthy corruption investigation. There will also, apparently, be no answers as to what really happened among ranking cops to lead to the bizarre allegations to begin with.
  • The fact that the process to hire a new chief is sufficiently embroiled in discontent and multidirectional accusations that we hold out little hope of a new broom setting things right any time soon.
  • The possible cost to taxpayers resulting from city Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine’s handling of a federally funded loan.
  • The continuing fallout from Richland County Council’s mishandling of the awarding of a contract to manage the roadwork to be funded by the new penny tax. The council seems to have gone out of its way to maximize public distrust on an issue where public trust most needed to be courted and reinforced.
  • All the hoo-hah over Bull Street and the ball park, which… well, I’ve lost track of where all that is. I just know that something that should be about a big shot in the arm for the community seems to be leaving a bad taste in more and more local mouths.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things. But this list will do for starters.

Any thoughts about a way out of this thicket?

We lose Maurice Bessinger and Harold Ramis on the same day

bill_murray-stripes1981-1040

Which means nothing, of course — I mean, the fact that they died on the same day means nothing; obviously their respective deaths mean a great deal to their families — but it struck me as an odd juxtaposition.

Maurice Bessinger, purveyor of yellow barbecue and “South Will Rise Again” tracts was 83. The man who gave us Egon “Print is Dead” Spengler and Army recruit Russell Ziskey (and as a writer and director, such gems as “Groundhog Day” and “Analyze This”) was only 69. And yes, my very first thought on the latter’s passing was that maybe collecting spores, molds and fungus was not the healthiest hobby. I mean that fondly, and intend no disrespect.

In Maurice’s behalf, I’ll note that his barbecue was my youngest daughter’s favorite. As the baby of the family, she had trouble understanding why the rest of us preferred not to give him our custom while that flag was flying at his restaurants. But now my daughter is off in Thailand with the Peace Corps, so I don’t think her BBQ preference limited her horizons or worldview any.

As for why the juxtaposition is notable, well… Maurice was a man who went out of his way to stand up for outmoded ideas, a man who insisted on pushing a discredited worldview even when it drove customers away. Ramis, on the other hand, was a harbinger of a new ironic meme in our popular culture, the smirking wise guy who poked gentle, mocking fun at our social foibles. One insisted on respect for ideas that had never deserved it; the other urged us not to take ourselves so seriously.

For what that’s worth…

Slate writer sticks up for Tim Scott

William Saletan, over on Slate, defends Tim Scott from the scurrilous things that the head of the NC NAACP said about him in Columbia recently:

Let’s set aside, for the moment, the policy disputes between Democrats and the Tea Party. You may think, as I do, that most of the Tea Party is wrongheaded, and that much of it is unhinged. But that’s not the point here. The point is that William Barber has never met Tim Scott. And none of Barber’s reported comments address Scott’s legislation or his career.Tim Scott

To put it in terms any NAACP leader should understand, Barber has prejudged Scott. He has prejudged him as a puppet based on the senator’s color and his party. This prejudgment fits a long tradition of epithets: Uncle Tomhouse negrooreo. The fact that these epithets tend to be used more by black people than by white people doesn’t change what they add up to: a racial stereotype.

We can argue all day about the Tea Party, Republican policies, and what Martin Luther King would have stood for today. To me, the core of his message was the right to be treated as an individual. His dream was, in his words, a nation in which his children would be judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Tim Scott has that right, too…

Saletan is completely right.

But even if he weren’t, I’d sit up and take notice, because of the relative novelty of reading such an opinion on Slate. It would mean even more if he were a typical Slate writer, rather than sort of being their house iconoclast (he calls himself a “liberal Republican”). Because any reasonable person — left, right or (best of all!) UnParty — should be fair-minded enough to stick up for Scott’s right to be considered as an individual.

Russell Brand on his addiction, and that of others

russell-brand-get-him-to-the-greek-son-620x397

Russell Brand comes across as a multi-car pileup of a human being, seemingly indistinguishable from the out-of-control character he played in “Get Him to The Greek.”

But he has a good mind, and he writes really well, so as I drive by him, I can’t help rubbernecking.

Today, The Guardian published this piece in which he reflects, as the world contemplates another prominent life lost to heroin, on the challenges of staying clean and sober. Excerpts:

The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday….

I had to take immediate action. I put Morrissey on in my car as an external conduit for the surging melancholy, and as I wound my way through the neurotic Hollywood hills, the narrow lanes and tight bends were a material echo of the synaptic tangle where my thoughts stalled and jammed.

Morrissey, as ever, conducted a symphony, within and without and the tidal misery burgeoned. I am becoming possessed. The part of me that experienced the negative data, the self, is becoming overwhelmed, I can no longer see where I end and the pain begins. So now I have a choice.

I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralising pain. It transforms a tight, white fist into a gentle, brown wave. From my first inhalation 15 years ago, it fumigated my private hell and lay me down in its hazy pastures and a bathroom floor in Hackney embraced me like a womb.

This shadow is darkly cast on the retina of my soul and whenever I am dislodged from comfort my focus falls there.

It is 10 years since I used drugs or drank alcohol and my life has improved immeasurably. I have a job, a house, a cat, good friendships and generally a bright outlook.

The price of this is constant vigilance because the disease of addiction is not rational….

He fully understands why you might not have sympathy for people like him:

Peter Hitchens is a vocal adversary of mine on this matter. He sees this condition as a matter of choice and the culprits as criminals who should go to prison. I know how he feels. I bet I have to deal with a lot more drug addicts than he does, let’s face it. I share my brain with one, and I can tell you firsthand, they are total f___ing wankers. Where I differ from Peter is in my belief that if you regard alcoholics and drug addicts not as bad people but as sick people then we can help them to get better….

He says there’s only one solution: “Don’t pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time.”

Very simple, but very hard — without support. So, after fantasizing about how great it would be to just give up and score some drugs, he reaches out, and someone is there:

Even as I spin this beautifully dreaded web, I am reaching for my phone. I call someone: not a doctor or a sage, not a mystic or a physician, just a bloke like me, another alcoholic, who I know knows how I feel. The phone rings and I half hope he’ll just let it ring out. It’s 4am in London. He’s asleep, he can’t hear the phone, he won’t pick up. I indicate left, heading to Santa Monica. The ringing stops, then the dry mouthed nocturnal mumble: “Hello. You all right mate?”

He picks up.

And for another day, thank God, I don’t have to.

2014 Winter Weather Wimp Award goes to… SC Legislature

Aiee! A snowflake! Run away; run away! /Flickr photo by Pen Waggener

Aiee! A snowflake! Run away; run away! /Flickr photo by Pen Waggener

Dang, I hate it when this happens!

This morning over breakfast, I saw a Tweet that said the Legislature was canceling the whole week’s sessions because of “the possibility of snow,” or “the probability of inclement weather,” or something along those lines.

So on my way to my laptop, I came up with Winter Weather Wimp Award, and I dug the alliteration (especially that sneaky last “W” in “Award”), and I couldn’t wait to sit down, go grab that Tweet, and mercilessly mock it.

And I can’t find it. Either I misremembered it, or someone realized how ridiculous it sounded and took it down.

But in any case, the Legislature is shutting down for the whole week, even though not a flake has fallen.

So I’m giving them the award anyway. They earned it. And there was plenty of competition. Why, even the U.S. Army has surrendered at the threat of a flake — most of Fort Jackson will be closed.

And to think, just over 69 years ago (wow — has it been that long?), the U.S. Army was living in frozen foxholes in the Ardennes during the coldest European winter on record, and a previously unsuspected German army just rolled right over the 106th Infantry Division (capturing both my father-in-law and Kurt Vonnegut)… but did the Army quit? No. They cut off the advance and knocked the remaining Nazis right back into Germany, fighting them and the ice and snow at the same time.

That’s when men were men, even with frozen toes. Of course, I must confess, it was before my time. Me, I’ve got my L.L. Bean snow boots out in the truck, waiting to put them on and go crunching through the snow when it arrives, pretending that I’m hardy and indomitable…

An iconoclastic ode to grubby politics

This is a fascinating piece, good because it dares to be iconoclastic. (We’re not supposed to say, or even think, such things in the post-Watergate world.) I want to quote the whole thing, and you should go read the whole thing, but here are key passages:

Having governed by intimidation, punishment, cronyism, patronage, and legal forms of corruption, Christie is now unmanned. He has renounced Satan and all his works, given up his ability to kneecap and to bribe.

And that’s a shame, because Chris Christieism is not the main problem with American politics these days, or even a problem at all. American politics is a broken horror, particularly at the national level, not because politicians are too dirty, but because they’re not nearly dirty enough. Children need to eat dirt to develop immunological resistance that protects them from allergies and disease as they grow up. Something similar is true in politics: Minor forms of corruption—votes bought with earmarks, traded favors—create a political flexibility that keeps the entire system from collapsing in moments of crisis.

But excessive hygiene is rampant in Washington….

A case in point is the House ban on earmarks, a proud achievement of the Boehner majority for the past four years. Grubby and inefficient, earmarks decorate the country with misplaced bridges and idiotic museums. But evidence suggests they also make political compromises possible. The less than 1 percent of federal spending that went to earmarks bought goodwill and dealmaking that lubricated Washington. Earmarks—a bribe, essentially—gave politicians cover to vote against their political interests, in support of someone else’s agenda. Think of President Obama buying support for his stimulus with a $10 billion pet project for Arlen Specter, or LBJ’s entire quid pro quo presidency. On the flip side: The earmark ban made it impossible for Democrats to buy enough votes to pass last year’s gun bill.

Democrats and Republicans rail about the corruption of Washington, about backroom deals and “Chicago-style” politics. But there are no backrooms anymore, just green rooms….

Petty corruption isn’t necessarily in the public interest. Not every act of political thuggery is in the service of passing the Civil Rights Act. Christie, in particular, seems to have doled out punishment for political reasons, rather than in pursuit of major policy goals.

But done right, corruption helps create a government that gets things done. Americans aspire to clean politics. But clean politics has given us a national government that doesn’t work. We need to get a little bit grubbier.

OK, so he uses language meant to put you off. But I think he’s getting at something that speaks to why I hate to see Christie go down over this lane-closing thing.

He seems like a guy who’d get things done in Washington because he’d be focused on getting it done, rather than playing the usual games. He would hug a Democrat (even that awful Obama person who gives Republicans the heebie-jeebies) or give the back of his hand to a Republican if it helps accomplish a governing goal (such as, say, getting the feds to hop to it with Sandy relief). And vice versa.

What’s awful about the lane-closing thing is not so much that his people sought to retaliate against a pol who didn’t cooperate, but that they punished the people of New Jersey. That was both deeply wrong, and deeply stupid.

As I say, this guy deliberately uses provocative language. I mean, I’m not about to endorse corruption. But he is sort of exploring the edges of something that has long concerned me.

All through my career writing about politics and editing other people who wrote about politics, I’ve often gotten impatient with our obsession with ethics, as ethics are dumbed-down in our political culture. We obsess over whether someone has filed the proper disclosure forms by the proper date, rather than whether that person is doing something that is really, truly good or bad. I always cared about whether pols had implemented the right policies, rather than whether they had crossed the right Ts or dotted the right Is.

You’re probably not following me. I’ll use an example that I’ve used before (bear with me). In fact, I’ll just save myself a lot of typing by quoting myself:

I remember a lot of folks getting really concerned about David Beasley accepting plane rides from folks associated with the Barnwell nuclear waste dump, from whom he had also received campaign contributions. People went on and on about these plane rides, like they mattered. (Folks who get worked up about ethics laws have a particular obsession with plane rides, as we’ve seen recently.)

Me, I was more concerned about the fact that Gov. Beasley had thrown careful interstate negotiations out the window in a reckless bid to overturn years and years of bipartisan effort to get some state other than South Carolina to be the region’s nuclear toilet for awhile. Mind you, he had already done this before all the hoo-hah about the plane rides. I kept trying to explain to anyone who would listen that the plane rides were only significant in that they might point to a cozy relationship with the dump people, which could portend that the governor might do something in the interest of the dump people rather than the interest of the people of South Carolina. But folks, he had already done the worst thing he could have done along those lines. This worrisome indicator (the disclosure of the plane rides) was superfluous and after the fact, and it interested me not in the slightest. It was a matter of straining at gnats.

It struck me as particularly dumb that Democrats were making a huge deal over the plane rides, and to my mind never made enough of the trashing of our nuclear waste policy (if Jim Hodges had run on that instead of the state lottery, he still would have won).

Actually, I could have just given you this short explanation: I care more about the substance than I do the appearance….

Too often, our discussions of “ethics” concerns plane rides, rather than opening our state to other people’s trash.

But I’m digressing. Basically, I just found that Christie piece more thought-provoking than a lot of stuff I’ve seen on the subject…

The end of civilization as we know it: The lifestyle of Thomas Ravenel, as entertainment for the masses

This is so low, so base, so degrading to all of us who belong to the same species, that I’m just going to make you aware of it, and comment no further. This is from an item about the new Bravo reality show “Southern Charm,” which stars Thomas Ravenel and several other decadent slackers:

Paternity drama, lots of sleeping around and black tie functions? How scandalous! Bravo describes the cast as “Southern bachelors who suffer from ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ by refusing to settle down; and the women in their lives who challenge them to grow up.”

Look for the series to chronicle political careers, businesses, and of course love lives while trying to protect their family names “Because in Charleston, you’re only as good as your last garden party and one social screw-up can taint generations to come.”

Southern Charm debuts Monday, March 3 at 10 p.m. on Bravo.  A half-hour preview special airs Monday, Feb. 3 at 11:30 p.m….

Maybe when they were casting this thing, they saw this picture from Ravenel’s Facebook page.

And yeah, we elected this guy treasurer once. My newspaper even endorsed him.

Mark Sanford’s contribution to the rhetoric of regret

After Chris Christie’s lengthy presser the other day crying the blues about how wrong his staff had done him, someone at the NYT had the bright idea of piecing together a bunch of recent (well, not all so recent), similar such moments into a sort of all-purpose mea culpa (or they-a culpa) speech.

Here’s the opening:

I rise today to deliver a very difficult speech. I’ll lay it out. It’s going to hurt. And we’ll let the chips fall where they may. I join you keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago. In recent weeks, serious questions have been raised about my conduct in office. … I welcome any and all appropriate investigations. I want the American people to know all the facts, and I am not afraid of having independent people go in and check the facts, and that is exactly what they did.

Anything sound familiar? Yep, the second, third and fourth sentences are classic Mark Sanford, from June 24, 2009.

The feature at the NYT is interactive — scroll over a section of the speech, and you see the source. Go check it out, if you like to wallow in that sort of thing…

 

If not Christie, then who? I’m serious here…

TonySoprano

I’ve had this image in my head of a strong, pragmatic New Jersey-style leader. Oops, wrong image…

If Chris Christie is truly knocked out of the running for the GOP nomination in 2016, then who will take his place?

No, that’s not a setup for a list. I was wondering whether y’all had anybody in mind. I can think of only two categories:

  1. Unbending ideological extremists.
  2. People most of us, possibly including me, have never heard of.

Regarding that second category: You may say that there’s somebody great out there that I’m not thinking of. But in my book, someone I haven’t heard of has next to no chance to gain my confidence between now and 2016. When it comes to doling out (more or less) extreme executive power, trust is a cumulative process with me. It takes time for me to be able to see someone as president.

I was feeling pretty good there looking at a Clinton-Christie matchup, as it meant the choice would be two people I felt moderately good about. That is to say, I wouldn’t have seen the election of either as a disaster, which gave me a small measure confidence about the nation’s future. After her four years as SecState, I felt better about Hillary than I did in 2008. And after watching Chris the last couple of years, I thought I saw the kind of pragmatic governor that I like.

In any case, he was the only Republican I could think of that I felt kinda OK about (while Hillary is kinda the only Democrat I can think of, good or bad).

So… if he’s knocked out… what happens?

Mia stirred up again, this time over what she sees as pseudo-religious hypocrisy

The latest release from the often-indignant Rep. Mia McLeod:

Must we be hypocrites about everything in this state?   I mean…since we wanna wear the “Bible Belt” like a badge of honor, shouldn’t some of our actions reflect it? As we head into the 2014 legislative session one week from today, I pray that our elected leaders will one day practice what they preach.While browsing through countless Christmas cards from my colleagues, complete with Biblical scriptures and picturesque family poses, I was reminded that God can’t be pleased when “the majority” claims to be Christians in one breath and deliberately defies His very essence in the next.
Too many legislative decisions are calculated, self-serving and hypocritical.  We wanna separate church and state, but only when it’s politically expedient…pushing God out of our schools, our workplaces, our thoughts/decisions…while hiding behind our self-righteous, self-proclaimed “Christian” labels to push our own destructive political agendas.Think about it…Your lawmakers love to protect fetuses in the womb. Why? Because the gift of life is one of God’s most precious, of course. But there’s nothing Godly about our refusal to assist or help protect that same precious life, once it is manifested outside of the womb. In South Carolina, when the umbilical cord is cut, so is the concern and compassion.  Funny how one goes from being God’s chosen to society’s forgotten by simply passing through the birth canal.

We love to flaunt our state’s sordid “heritage.”  And we’ll fiercely defend that good ole divisive, oppressive and offensive confederate flag at all costs.  Now tell me, where is God in all of that, again?

We relish our attention on the national stage. From being #1 in domestic violence homicides to being hailed as one of the most corrupt states in the nation, we’re last (or first at being last) and lovin’ it.

Add to that our newest designation as “most idiotic state” in the country because of one so-called leader’s flagrant dishonor of Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy, and it’s easy to see why we’re the laughing stock of the nation.

And when I receive legislative emails from “Christian” coalitions that spew hatred for others in His name for their own political purposes, I can’t help but wonder what “God” these people serve.

Surely not mine…

We love talking the talk.  We just hate walking the walk.  And we do our “dirty” work openly, unabashedly,…without flinching, without feeling and without fail.

But my Bible reminds me that “whatever you’ve done unto the least of these… you’ve done unto Me (Him).”  So how do we justify denying 300,000 South Carolinians access to healthcare coverage?  More proof that in our “great” state, partisan politics trumps “Christianity” not just any day, but every day.

And “you lie!” if you even think we’re interested in accepting or supporting “anything Obama.”  It just ain’t happening. No way.  No how.  Not here. Why?  Well…according to Rep. Kris Crawford, it’s not (politically) popular for the Republican Party to even try to work with the black man in the White House.

Yep, that’s good ole pure, unadulterated racism…just one of many “elephants” in the room.

So tell me…where is (your) God in all of that?

Saying we’re Christians is one thing.  Behaving like Christians is another.  Deliberately disenfranchising voters, denying healthcare, equal educational and economic opportunities to certain South Carolinians, refusing to pass tougher gun laws and failing to protect our state’s most vulnerable are just a few examples of ways in which God’s will has been preempted by power-hungry, good ole politicians who carelessly and callously hide behind His to invoke their own.

Don’t be confused.  Our Governor and lawmakers are much more adept at “playing God” than acting Godly.

I believe God is love.  And if you ask most of my colleagues, they’ll say they do too.  So why are our legislative agendas and priorities saturated with hatred, intolerance and indifference? I’m not a theologian.  But even if I weren’t acutely aware of who God is… it wouldn’t take long in the SC Legislature to figure out who He isn’t.

My fervent prayer for the 2014 legislative session and beyond is that the hypocrisy will end and lawmakers will decide to represent all of the people of South Carolina, in word and in deed.  If that happens, you’ll soon begin to see more of His will in our legislative decisions and actions and much less of ours.

I know who my God is.  The question is…do they?

McConnell to step down from elective office

By all accounts, he has really thrown himself into the work of running the Office on Aging as lt. gov.

By all accounts, he has really thrown himself into the work of running the Office on Aging as lt. gov.

Wow, it’s kind of hard to imagine the State House without Glenn McConnell.

He was, for so many years, arguably (that being every journalist’s favorite hedge word) the most powerful person in state government, for good or ill.

He’s the guy who was the biggest defender of the Legislative State and barrier to reform, yet led a significant improvement in the way South Carolina chooses judges.

He was the champion of limited government and spending ceilings, yet managed to come up with all that dough for the Hunley.

He was, finally, the man who liked to dress up as an Old School Southern gentleman, who then acted like a real gentleman by giving up power for a point of honor (when he agreed to give up his position in the Senate to occupy the low-status job of lieutenant governor, rather than trying to engineer a way around the rules).

Now he’s giving up that job, for a shot at academe:

COLUMBIA — S.C. Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell will not seek another term and instead push to become president at his alma mater, the College of Charleston.

McConnell has said he wanted to make a decision since the college’s presidential search timetable conflicts with the June primary. A new president to succeed George Benson will not be named until around March.

“Any effort to pursue both goals at the same time is simply not an honorable path,” McConnell said in statement Monday. “It would not be fair to good candidates who may want to seek this office. Most of all, it would not be fair to the voters of South Carolina to ask them to support me for lieutenant governor if there is even a chance I might not remain in the campaign. For those reasons, I have decided I will not be a candidate for re-election. And I will instead formally offer my name for consideration to the College of Charleston.”…

The State House is losing a true original…

No hard feelings between Clowney, cops

BcgxqiHIYAAhvG2

Not sure what to make of this, beyond concluding that Jadeveon Clowney is a good-natured young man.

He Tweeted out the above picture today with the words:

We in here me and my boys lol

I’m not sure that being charged with going 110 mph is an LOL matter, but that’s probably because I’m a sour-natured, buzz-killing alter cocker.

Nikki got her gun, and she wants you to know it

Image from Nikki Haley's Facebook page.

Image from Nikki Haley’s Facebook page.

Anyone who has seen her display her unarmed-defense skills may understand why Nikki Haley might want a gun — that is, if they forget for a moment that she has an armed escort, provided at state expense.

But say she didn’t have protective detail. Say she actually felt a need to defend herself.

Why would she brag to the world that she now has a nice, new Beretta 9mm?

See, I wouldn’t. I’d prefer to keep the bad guys guessing. I would neither want to advertise to potential assailants that if they came at me, they’d better use deadly force (and shoot first), or to tell them that I had a valuable item on me that it might be worth shooting me in order to steal.

Nor would I want to let my kids know that I had a handgun, because I’d worry that they’d do what I always did as a kid — find my Dad’s, wherever he’d hid it, and get it out and play with it. (Yes, I always made sure it was unloaded before practicing my quick-draw — something that was easier to do with a revolver than with a semi-automatic, which takes more skill and wariness in order to remember to check the chamber.)

But that’s me. To me, a gun is just a gun. It’s not something I feel I have to flash on Facebook in order to curry favor with a political base…

Vatican press officer’s persistent cough replaced by laughter

I liked this passage in James Carroll‘s piece in The New Yorker about Pope Francis, headlined, “WHO AM I TO JUDGE? A radical Pope’s first year:

Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., was appointed the director of the press office of the Holy See near the start of the pontificate of Benedict XVI, so he has been explaining Vatican policies for more than seven years. Early in his papacy, Benedict gave a speech that insulted Islam. He reinstated the Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, brought back a Good Friday ritual that includes a denigrating reference to Jews, and issued a list of “more grave crimes” that seemed to equate the ordination of women with sexual abuse of children by priests. The Vatican was often having to clarify its positions.

Fr. Lombardi

Fr. Lombardi

I met Lombardi in a spartan room in a grand Mussolini-era building just outside St. Peter’s Square. Lombardi is a dark-eyed, silver-haired man of seventy-one, who looks as if he could be an Italian film director. I asked what his life had been like since Benedict stepped down. Lombardi broke into a broad smile. Then he said, “We experienced for years—and for good reason, also—that the Church said, ‘No! This is not the right way! This is against the commandments of God!’ The negative aspect of the announcement . . . this was in my personal experience one of the problems.” Father Lombardi and I are almost the same age. In his earnest good will and kindliness, he struck me as the priest I would have liked to become. He said, “The people thought I always had a negative message for them. I am very happy that, with Francis, the situation has changed.” He laughed. “Now I am at the service of a message . . . of love and mercy.” He laughed again.

A member of the press corps in Rome told me that during the Benedict years Father Lombardi, when addressing reporters, was bothered by a persistent nervous cough. The cough is no longer in evidence….