Category Archives: In case you wondered

No comment from Sheheen on refugee children

File photo.

File photo.

On Saturday, July 26, while on vacation, I posted “The pettiest thing I’ve ever heard Nikki Haley say,” which referred specifically to this comment about the refugee children from Central America being billeted in South Carolina:

“You want me to educate them, right? And you want me to pay their health care, right? It does cost us something”…

We had a moderately lively discussion of the matter here on the blog, and it got more buzz on social media than weekend items usually get.

Anyway, as I was writing that, I put in a phone call to the Sheheen campaign, seeking his thoughts on the matter.

I tried Phil Bailey, who works for Senate Dems and can usually put me in touch. He suggested I call Kristin Sosanie, the state party spokeswoman, who has been working closely with the campaign. I tried to call her a couple of times. Then I moved on…

I only went to that much trouble, on a Saturday on vacation, because I thought it was really worth knowing whether he took a different position from the governor’s, and no one in the MSM seemed to be asking him about it. But I figured two or three attempted calls from the coffee shop of a Barnes & Noble was above and beyond. I went on to write another, unrelated post and went back to my family and my vacation.

But after being reminded of it late last week, I reached out again to Kristin, reminding her of my previous call. She responded, “Yes, sorry we were on the road that day and I dropped the ball. Will talk to him and let you know, thanks!”

I bugged her about it again this morning, and received this response:

We don’t have any comment for you in this, sorry!

Which is disappointing.

When I mentioned last week my initial unsuccessful attempt to get a response on the subject, Doug Ross — ever the cynic — responded:

It’s another issue he has to avoid (like gay marriage) to try and hang onto Republican votes. If he says anything, it will be through a mouthpiece and be sufficiently obtuse as to not be clear what he thinks.

He’s trying to win an election, not be open and honest. I can picture the campaign meetings where consultants tell him what he can and cannot say in order to appease crossover Republicans.

I responded that I would hate to think that’s why I didn’t hear back, but the possibility did occur to me.

Anyway, I told y’all I would try again to get a response, and so I’m sharing what I got back. I told Kristin I was sorry to hear that they weren’t going to respond. And I am.

Here’s how the scar is coming along…

scar

Doug, or someone (I can’t seem to find the email now) said I should give y’all an update on how the Red Badge of Stupidity is coming along.

I was reminded again this morning when Pat Littlejohn of the SC Center for Fathers and Families told me I had kind of a Frankenstein thing going on.

The doctor who took out the stitches assured me it would make for a real “tough guy” scar, since it’s vertical, and doesn’t blend in with the wrinkles when I furrow my brow, which you see me doing above in an effort to look at the camera. Sort of like the mark you’d get from someone breaking a bottle on your head in a barroom brawl in an old Western. Except it the Westerns, no one ever had any marks on them in the next scene…

As for other effects, I’m still kind of scatterbrained, but no one will think that’s out of the ordinary…

France isn’t anti-Muslim, just anti-religion. Feel better?

Oh, I miss my Economist subscription, which the newspaper used to pay for.

But fortunately, the magazine did allow me today to read the piece promoted by this Tweet:


And here, basically, is the answer to the question:

France adheres to a strict form of secularism, known as laïcité, which is designed to keep religion out of public life. This principle was entrenched by law in 1905, after fierce anti-clerical struggles with the Roman Catholic church. Today, the lines are in some ways blurred. The French maintain, for instance, certain Catholic public holidays, such as Ascension. But secular rules on the whole prevail. It would be unthinkable in France, for example, to hold a nativity play in a state primary school, or for a president to be sworn in on a Bible.

Over the past 30 years, in response to a growing assertiveness among the country’s 5m-6m Muslims, the focus of this effort to balance religious and secular needs has shifted to Islam. After a decade of legal uncertainty over the wearing of the headscarf in state schools, the French government in 2004 banned all “conspicuous” religious symbols, including the Muslim headscarf, from public institutions such as state schools or town halls. This was followed in 2010 by what the French call the “burqa ban”, outlawing the full face covering in public. Critics accuse France of illiberalism, of curbing freedom of religious expression, and of imposing a Western interpretation of female oppression. Amnesty International, for example, called the recent European court ruling “a profound retreat for the right to freedom of expression and religion”. For the French, however, it is part of an unapologetic effort to keep religious expression private, and to uphold the country’s republican secular identity. Interestingly, many moderate Muslim leaders also back the ban as a bulwark against hard-line Islam….

So now you see. The French aren’t anti-Muslim. Just anti-religion. Sorta.

That will make some of you feel better, and some worse…

Frankenstein selfie: I’m doing fine now. Really…

phiz1Shot this selfie over the weekend, when I was airing out the stitches.

It looks worse than it feels. The black eye looks a little worse than above since I shot this (see below, from today), but it’s going to be fine, too.

I’m back at work today, anyway, and have had a busy day. I might still wait a couple of days before working out again…

shiner

Why compartmentalization didn’t work with Snowden

OK, now I’m back to being serious about Edward Snowden…

Way back last year when we first heard of him, there was a lot of frantic head-scratching in the intelligence community because espiocrats didn’t see how this low-level employee of a contractor had access to so many different subject areas. Given the way information is normally compartmentalized in intelligence organizations to prevent such broad leaks, he just shouldn’t have known most of that stuff.

The authors of an article in Vanity Fair tell NPR’s Terry Gross of “Fresh Air” how it happened:

The NSA now tells us they’re able to explain why Snowden was able to roam so free through the computers — including many niches he should not have otherwise been able to access. And it turns out, the NSA tells us, it was because they had given Snowden a different assignment, a unique assignment if you will, just because he was in Hawaii.

Hawaii is at the end of a long, long tagline with Washington and it’s not necessarily always up to date on the latest procedures and things that should be gotten from Washington. Further, if there’s ever any type of disconnect between Fort Meade and Hawaii — technically or communications-wise — Fort Meade, the headquarters of the NSA, was very concerned that somehow they would not be able to reach Hawaii: literally [would be unable to] communicate with them in the event of, I don’t know, a nuclear problem or an earthquake or something.

What Snowden was doing was downloading and copying and backing up hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of pages of documents to make sure Hawaii had it all in case something went wrong. … What no one realized at the time, of course, is that he was also making copies for his own reasons…

When I was a student at Memphis State and had a part-time job at the library, I was assigned at one point to haul older periodicals down to the basement and stack them on a vast number of metal shelves down there. The library subscribed to what must have been hundreds of fascinating, esoteric publications. I remember in particular a journal called Conradiana, devoted completely to the study of Joseph Conrad. It sticks out in my mind because I read in it an article from an English teacher I’d had during my one-semester sojourn at USC.

Not until the Worldwide Web came along would I have the opportunity to surf such a wealth of little worlds of arcane knowledge. I would head down with a load of old magazines, and not re-emerge for hours. I didn’t mean to slack off; I would give those publications a glance while filing them, and I would just get lost in them. For me, it was like being Scrooge McDuck, diving into his vault full of money.

Anyway… the moral of the story is, you need to keep an eye on the kid down in the basement with access to all the info…

Another beautiful day at Hobcaw Barony

estuary

At about this point, some of y’all are wondering, “What happened to Brad?”

The answer is, nothing. I just had a busy weekend, and then was traveling today.

We had a meeting down at Hobcaw Barony, a fascinating client of ADCO’s. Our meeting wasn’t that long, but we spent most of the day traveling. Before leaving, I wanted to go out and see the unspoiled inlet that forms a significant part of the property, where USC’s Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences does research.

It was beautiful. We had endured rain all the way down, and were to do so much of the way back, so this was a nice break.

Anyway, that’s where I’ve been…

Pride and Prejudice and Skeeters

Monday was our first night with lights. In this scene (still sans costume), the Bennets get to know Mr. Collins better than they'd like to.

Just to remind y’all that one reason I’m not blogging as much as usual these days is because of rehearsals for “Pride and Prejudice,” seven days a week.

Over the weekend, we further prepared our state of mind with Karen Eterovich’s (mostly) one-woman Jane Austen show at Drayton Hall. Just days before those performances, I was asked to play a small supporting role in that. Master Thespian that I am, I quickly mastered my three lines, which were as follows:

  1. “No.”
  2. “Yes.”
  3. “YES!”

Moving on from that triumph… Sunday night, we moved to Saluda Shoals park, where we open Friday night, which I believe is starting to freak everybody out just a bit.

Sunday night, we experienced rain. We moved inside to a very small room, and did a hurried run-through, which directors Linda Khoury and Paula Peterson said were our best performance yet. It was certainly… intimate. In a dance scene, one of the actresses and I ran into each other via our posteriors. It occurred to me that this was unexplored cultural ground: I had just done “the Bump” with Miss Jane Bennet. Lydia I could see, but Jane?

Then last night, there was a challenge of outdoor theater I had never anticipated, as we stood at the edge of woods damp from the rain, waiting to go on: Mosquitoes. As I waved and slapped at them, I took solace from Marty Feldman’s immortal words: “Could be worse. Could be raining…”

Three more nights…

At the edge of the woods, waiting to go on: Mr. Darcy (Gene Aimone) and my daughter, who plays Lady Lucas.

The demonstrators chanted, ‘Free Libya, Terrorists Out’

Perhaps I’m the last one to know this — other people regularly consume news sources that I don’t often see — but in case there are others who also missed it, I pass on this perspective on what happened in the streets of Libya last week:

Sept. 11 is now a date that signifies a national tragedy for Libya as well as the United States. The attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, has upset the delicate political transition from dictatorship to democracy that was unfolding here. It also has obscured parliament’s prudent selection Wednesday of Mustafa Abushagour—a moderate Islamist and respected technocrat—as prime minister. Yet spontaneous street demonstrations throughout the week denouncing the attack and seeking to pressure the government to act against its perpetrators suggest that Libyans are determined to build an inclusive society, free from fear…

On Wednesday night in Tree Square in Benghazi, we witnessed crowds expressing heartfelt disappointment, shouting slogans like, “Free Libya, terrorists out!”…

Based on our dozens of interviews in Benghazi, most Libyans are appalled by the consulate attack. One female medical student at a Benghazi demonstration captured the mood: “The Americans are guests in our country and Islam requires us to treat them well.”

According to a recent Gallup poll, Libyans hold a more favorable attitude toward Americans than they do even toward Canadians. As days have passed since the attack, Libyan popular condemnation has increased. A meeting took place on Thursday evening at the Shbelia Hotel to coordinate citizen action against the militants…

That’s not the whole story, of course. The authors of that oped piece also witnessed anti-American demonstrations. But from their perspective, the opposite attitude is more common.

Just FYI in case you missed it…

Will you lose access to the Internet today?

Let’s hope not, because that could put a serious crimp in your enjoyment of bradwarthen.com. Which would be awful.

Fortunately, The Washington Post has provided a handy guide to the threatening virus, and what to do about it if it you have it.

You should probably go check now, since it’s harder to cure after it strikes than before:

To see if you have the virus, you can head to any number of checker Web sites such as the DNS Changer Working Group or theFBI itself to either enter your IP address or simply click a button to run a check against addresses known to have problems. With any luck, you’ll be free and clear and won’t have to worry about the problem any further.

If you are infected with the virus, then you’ve got a longer — but not impossible — process ahead of you. According to the DCWG, those infected with the virus should first back up any important files. You can do that fairly easily with an external hard drive or even a thumb drive.

From there, you can run one of several trusted tools to get rid of the virus. Again, the DCWG has a list of them on its site, which includes programs such as Microsoft Windows Defender Off line, Norton Power Eraser and MacScan, all of which have updated their definitions to include this particular virus.

Here’s hoping you, and I, enjoy a virtual disease-free Monday.

General guide for mazes, crowds: Always turn left

Did you know this? I didn’t, until Andrew Sullivan told me:

Corn mazes are designed to trick participants, and studies have shown that most humans will naturally, when confronted with a fork in the road, turn right; the hour I spent last night testing this on satellite images of corn and hedge mazes absolutely proves that clever maze-makers love to play on your instincts. (Side note: I’ve heard that that turning-left tip is also a good strategy for avoiding long lines at amusement parks.)

Here’s a passage from the second link he refers to above:

Ok, MrMoonPie, here’s the one, time-tested, don’t-ever-forget-it rule regarding success at Disney World: every time you are presented with a choice, GO TO THE LEFT. I’m serious. Any time a line splits, or you have a choice of entrances, or you’re deciding which part of the park to explore next, GO TO THE LEFT. Many have scoffed, but many more have proven that this trick – simple as it is – actually works.

(I remember reading somewhere that this is due partially to Americans driving on the right side of the road and partially to a preponderance of people being right-handed. I have no idea why this works, but I have been to Disney World literally dozens of times, and I swear to you it does.)

It almost makes me want to go to Disney World again, to try it out.

Here’s some more info on the phenomenon.

By the way, I don’t think there’s a political message here. Certainly not coming from Sullivan.

Who is Mallory Factor? “He’s a funny guy,” said Thomas Ravenel back in the day

No, I’m not posting this to poke fun at my former newspaper for the ungrammatical lede headline (of course, it should be, “…says he didn’t tell Loftis whom to hire…”). What drew me was how often the question, “Who is Mallory Factor?,” has been asked over the years.

In fact, I started a post in 2006 with those very words:

Who is Mallory Factor, whose guest column appears on the op-ed page today? And no, he’s not a character from a Douglas Adams novel, even though the name may remind you of “Ford Prefect.” (It did me, anyway.)

He’s a really, really conservative rich guy from New York who recently moved to Charleston. He’s also increasingly into politics. And, like Howard Rich, he’s increasingly into South Carolina politics.

On a bit of a whim, I asked Thomas Ravenel, another really, really conservative rich guy, if he knew Mallory Factor. I kind of had a hunch they might have managed to get together. And sure enough, they had. Here’s what Mr. Ravenel had to say. (Sorry about the way it cuts off too soon; that’s as much as will fit on a clip with my little camera — I still thought it was interesting. Especially the part about going to a roast for the guy who invented the Laffer Curve. You’ve really got to be a supply-sider to get invited to those kinds of parties.)

You have to watch the video. It features Thomas Ravenel talking about what “a funny guy” Mallory Factor is.

What I almost said in Key West

Last night it occurred to me that I wrote out a lengthy opening statement for the panel discussion down in Key West over the weekend, and never used it. And I hate writing stuff without it going to some purpose…

As I told y’all previously, I had written out this whole argument about why Romney was inevitable in SC, and then got the jitters after seeing Gingrich gaining in the polls, and scrapped the whole thing. I decided to wing it instead, which in the end worked much better. I don’t speak well from notes.

So while I have no idea at this point what I actually said, I can at least share with you what I was gonna say. I still believe most of it, including the fact that Romney’s gonna win.

Here it is:

Senate Presidents’ Forum
January 14, 2012
Brad Warthen opening remarks

My home state, South Carolina, is an awkward size by comparison with its aspirations.

In 1860, hearing that his native state and mine had just seceded from the union, James L. Petigru famously said, “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” Often in its history, including quite recently, the state has seemed to be trying to be one or the other, and sometimes both at the same time.

We are… interesting.

Jon Stewart adores us, and Stephen Colbert is very proud to be a native of the Palmetto State. But it’s not just that we’re funny. For my part, I started blogging six years ago because there just wasn’t room on a daily editorial page to say everything that needed to be said about our politics. Now that I’m not with the paper, I still blog, and the only challenge is that I never have enough time to write about it all.

Now, all of that said and fully acknowledged, I want to say this: We’re not really as crazy as y’all think we are.

The last few days, I keep reading and hearing about how NOW it’s gonna get down and dirty and wild and woolly and all sorts of overdone hyperboles. Because supposedly, South Carolina is where civility and decorum and all rationality end. In the last few days, I’ve seen the word “dirty” used to describe South Carolina politics in website headlines from CNN, NPR, CBS, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Time magazine. Huffington Post, to be different, used the phrase “bloody mess.”

And indeed, it will be interesting. This is last-ditch time. The end of the line for the also-rans from Iowa and New Hampshire, if they can’t put a serious dent in the Romney juggernaut. If Romney wins in South Carolina as big as he did in New Hampshire, I’m going to feel sorry for the folks down here in Florida, spending all that money on a foregone conclusion.

And yes, it’s possible that something unseemly will happen. You know the stories. In 2000, someone accused John McCain of fathering an illegitimate child of mixed race (something Strom Thurmond actually did, by the way, but that was a long time ago). Then there were those Christmas cards that went out in 2007 with pictures of the Romney family and controversial quotations from the Book of Mormon. These things have a way of happening in South Carolina, even though Lee Atwater is long gone.

But… when all is said and done, when the last skull has been cracked and the barroom brawl is over, you know what you’re going to have? A coronation of the official, duly-appointed Establishment candidate.

That’s what we do in South Carolina. Very early in the process, and often with little regard to what has happened in Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina annoints a candidate, and then the Republican Party goes ahead and nominates that guy. It’s been happening ever since 1980. Ronald Reagan wasn’t the establishment candidate when the process started in Iowa – George H.W. Bush won, in fact. But it was his turn, after 1976. And ever since then, there has been this moment, every four years, when South Carolina Republicans all settle down and pick the most palatable, most presentable candidate. The one that other Republicans across the country will eventually embrace as inevitable.

The respectable candidate. The one whose turn it is.

This has happened every presidential election for that last 32 years. You can set your clock by it. Or your calendar, at least.

Now, that said, I was afraid that the pattern was going to be broken this year.

After the loss in 2008 – when many, such as our own Jim DeMint, were convinced that the GOP lost because it wasn’t conservative enough – South Carolina Republicans have spent some time wandering in the wilderness.

And the definition of conservative was rapidly changing. This had happened before. In 1992, Bob Inglis seemingly came out of nowhere to unseat incumbent congresswoman Liz Patterson, which marked the rise to power of religious conservatives in the state party. That marked a shift from the state GOP being dominated by economic-development types such as Carroll Campbell to the values faction.

Less than a generation later, in 2010, Bob Inglis would be CRUSHED by a Tea Party candidate, for the sin of not being conservative enough. Which, if you know Bob Inglis, is rather startling.

That wasn’t the most startling thing that happened that year. The most startling thing was that a little-known, untested legislative back-bencher won the Republican nomination for governor over several far more established candidates.

The nation is amazed that an Indian-American woman is South Carolina’s governor. South Carolina is more amazed that Nikki Haley came out of nowhere to run right over Henry McMaster and Gresham Barrett.

That Republicans would pick her so recently made it seem very difficult to predict what would happen next in Republican politics in South Carolina.

That uncertainty continued, with regard to the presidential primary, until a month ago. As late as Dec. 14, one month ago today, I wrote on my blog that I had no idea what was going to happen. There were a number of things that were odd about this year, aside from not being able to gauge what sort of sway the Tea Party still held:

–     As measured by traffic on my blog, interest in the primary had peaked in August, when I had more than a quarter of a million page views. That was the month when Rick Perry announced in Charleston, and initially there was a lot of excitement about him. But over the next couple of months, as he faded, my traffic dropped off. That was in contrast to what happened four years earlier, when blog traffic increased steadily leading up to the primary itself.

–    During the last few months, likely primary voters staggered in confusion from Perry to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich, according to polls. There was such a lack of a discernible pattern that I began to think that maybe South Carolina was so unsettled that maybe it wasn’t going to go with the establishment candidate this time, the candidate whose turn it was. And if that happened, we probably weren’t going to pick the eventual nominee. And that meant that four years from now, the nation wasn’t going to be nearly as interested in South Carolina as it customarily is.

But then, over the holidays, things started to shift. It wasn’t a change in the polls that first made up my mind about what was going to happen. Nor was it the results in Iowa or New Hampshire.

I had been getting a feeling, nothing more, that the stars were lining up for Romney. But I really figured out what was going to happen on Dec. 31, when I read that Warren Tompkins had decided to support Romney – for free. Warren is sort of the gold standard of political consultants in South Carolina. All the other politicos who usually pick the winner had committed to other candidates early on – a surprising number of them [McMaster, Courson, Campbell, Alan Wilson] for Huntsman, and some [Harrell, Wilkins] for Perry.

But Warren waited until he was sure. Until he was seeing what I was seeing, and a lot of stuff that would be invisible to me. That was it. What happened over the next couple of weeks in polls, and in Iowa and New Hampshire, just confirmed what I already knew, which is that Warren had called it.

Nothing this side of the grave is certain. And in fact, Newt Gingrich has been rising fairly quickly in polls released the last couple of days. American Research Group has him within striking distance, and Rasmussen not far behind that. So maybe all that superPAC money is paying off.

But I think Romney pretty much has it sewn up. Maybe Gingrich will win the coveted second spot. Or maybe someone else will.

But you know what? I don’t think it matters much who’s in second. Because after South Carolina, Romney will have it sewn up.

How do Occupiers eat? Here’s how…

Just in case you, like our governor, are sitting up nights wondering whether how the Occupy Columbia protesters are getting nutritious, sanitary meals, here’s an explanation from Maris Burton, a member of the Occupy Columbia Food Committee:

Dear Budget and Control Board members,

It has come to my attention that the storage and cooking of food is being used in an attempt to demonstrate the need for emergency regulations to protect the public health.

I have been involved with supplying and arranging delivery of food to the Occupiers.  I have taken part in several discussions regarding how to safely handle food and how to provide nutritious cooked meals. People are not living on the State House grounds; they are Occupying the grounds as a form of protest.

Since the eviction from the State House grounds on Nov 16, 2011 and the subsequent temporary restraining order that allowed the use of tents and a 24 hour occupation as part of our right to free speech, we agreed to lessen our footprint and to focus on having non-perishable items such as individually wrapped snack packets of crackers and nutrition bars, and water available to the Occupiers.

Dry goods are kept in a sealable plastic tub, not accessible to wildlife. We have a rotating food schedule of volunteers who prepare hot meals off site and bring them to the State house. We have one cooler on site that is kept supplied with ice and sometimes contains yogurts, cheese or packaged sandwich meats or creamer for coffee.  Food is brought at set times and cleared away promptly.

Any used dishes are collected each evening and washed at a volunteer’s home and then returned to the State House.

There have been no incidents of food related illnesses, and there has not been a problem with any wildlife coming near the food.

I welcome any questions you may have.

Such things are mildly interesting to me, because of my own strong aversion to living in the open. I’ve always thought, for instance, that the hardest part about serving in combat infantry would be the bivouac thing. Storm Omaha Beach, with the Germans having presighted every square inch and ready to rain lead and high explosives on me? Yeah, OK, just as long as I get a warm dinner and comfortable, dry bed that night, preferably back in England. To me, the real horror stories of war are those about the defenders of Bastogne getting frozen, literally, into their foxholes every night for a month during the coldest winter in Europe in a century, or the extremely gross conditions on Okinawa, living in a muddy soup of human waste and decomposing bodies. The fighting, by comparison, seems far less objectionable.

But I see even optimal outdoor living conditions to be less than desirable. I am not what you’d ever call a Happy Camper. By definition: If I’m camping, I’m not happy. Comparatively, anyway.

So it’s interesting to know how they’re managing over at the State House.

The few, the proud, the 23 percent

On a comment thread recently, we had another one of our periodic discussions of who (among political types) served in the military when and who did not, with all the attendant side comments about how those fellas on the other end of the political spectrum (whichever end you happen to be on) are a bunch of duty-shirking cowards, etc.

At some point, of course, I got into the thing about how I never had the chance to serve because of the rather minor problem of chronic asthma (for which I’m taking prednisone again this week, and it’s working fine, thanks).

I was reminded of this today, because Maj. Gen. James Milano spoke to the Columbia Rotary Club, and he once again mentioned a statistic that boggles his mind and seldom fails to impress others…

What percentage, he asked Rotarians, of Americans aged 17-24* can meet the basic qualifications to serve in the U.S. Army today?

The answer: 23 percent. “And we’re not looking for astrophysicists and Olympic athletes,” he elaborated.

So… more or less, that means that 77 percent of young Americans are what previous generations described as 4-F.

We have an all-volunteer military, and with the economy the way it is, the Army can kind of pick and choose among recruits, but only 23 percent are up to snuff.

He didn’t break it down in terms of how many were due to this or that cause, although he listed some disqualifiers:

  • Asthma. (So no point in my stepping forward.)
  • Having been on anxiety medications.
  • Basically, being on any medications as of the day you report. If you can’t do without, you can’t join the Army.
  • Criminal record (which the general broadened, saying “any type of immoral behavior,” but no one asked for an elaboration and he didn’t offer one).
  • Lack of a high school diploma. The Army was taking GEDs before, not now.

Bottom line, he seemed mostly worried about general lack of physical fitness. You can be 4 percent over the weight limit when you show up for basic, because they’ll work that off of you with little trouble. But beyond that, forget it.

Once the Army’s got you, you’ll probably make it, though. The general said recruits are treated these days like professional athletes in training — zero fried foods, with drill instructors looking at what you put on your tray and letting you know if you’re not picking the right items in the chow line. Physical trainers work to prevent injuries, and help soldiers overcome them when they occur. Consequently, there’s only about a 7 to 8 percent washout rate due to physical problems.

The general worries a great deal about our out-of-shape country, sitting around eating at least one fast-food meal a day, watching TV, gaining fat and losing bone density. Among 12-19 year olds today, he said, one out of five are obese and soon it will be one in four. In 1970 (when, ahem, yours truly was in that demographic group), it was one in 20. “What are we doing? Where are we going? What are our priorities, here?”

He also worries about the fact that more than half of kids today are born to single moms. He was careful to say he wished to cast no aspersions, but he worries about it. Over a third of his female drill instructors being single moms themselves (and 7 percent of the male DIs having sole custody of children), and the Fort operating a child care center from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, he’s had plenty to worry about.

Anyway, there’s a sampling of what’s on the mind of  the modern major general.

* Kathryn and others who were there: I wrote down 17-24 percent, but later, when he talked about taking people up to 35, I wondered whether I had misheard, and maybe it was supposed to be 17-34. What did you hear? In any case, a lot of out-of-shape young folks.

How does this happen? I’ll tell ya…

This being a family blog, one doesn’t usually find this sort of thing here. But since I’m told that it actually appeared in a South Carolina newspaper — it was all the talk at the round table of regulars at the Capital City Club this morning — I suppose I should deal with it.

The above image is purportedly from The Greenville News, and The Village Voice wonders about it:

How does that even happen?

We’ve reached out to the Greenville News copy desk, who hopefully will be able to chime in on how the most hilarious copy editing mistake of the year came to be.

Jim Romenesko spoke to a reporter there who said that the paper was getting complaints already (from people who are apparently no fun) and apologizing to them.

Well, I’ll tell ya…

  • First, someone appears to have violated a cardinal rule — don’t put anything, in any way, shape or form, into copy, however temporarily or intended for internal consumption, that you wouldn’t want to see in the paper. Ever. It’s tempting to share sarcastic asides between reporters and editors, but get up and walk across the room to do it. Don’t ever put it in the copy, because the chance of this happening is too great. (When I supervised reporters, I told them not even to make the slugs — the internal names — of their stories — anything embarrassing. Because, back in the pre-pagination days, it was way too easy for that stray piece of type at the top to get stuck to the page after it was trimmed off in the composing room.)
  • Second, the page didn’t get proofed. At all. By anyone. There are a lot of ways this can happen in understaffed newsrooms, but here’s the most merciful scenario: The page was proofed, and “corrected” type was sent through, and somehow had this word in it (perhaps it was the initial response of a stressed editor who had thought that page was gone already), and no one looked at the page again after it was put on there.

But basically, there is no excuse that serves.

It’s easy to blame this, as Romenesko does, on the extreme practice at newspaper companies of having copyediting done off-site. But basically, with this sort of error, if it’s going to happen, it could happen anywhere. The reason having copyediting done off-site is phenomenally stupid is that it increases the chance of an error that no local person would make, and only a local person would notice. And if mid-size to small papers are not locally authoritative, they are nothing.

By the way, something like this happened at The Jackson (TN) Sun when I worked there back in the 70s. We were in that interim stage between linotype machines and front-end computer systems. Copy would be edited and then output onto a rolled-up strip of punchtape. The tape would be fed into a typesetting machine that would roll out the copy on photographic paper. Occasionally, the tape would hang up while being fed through the machine. The result would be a stutter, and a letter would be repeated over and over until the kink worked its way through.

The initial error would not be human. But it was up to humans to catch it and correct it before the page was let go.

One day, that failed. The punch tape on an obit — an obit, of all things, the holy of holies — snagged briefly while going through the machine. Instead of saying that services would be held at the funeral home, it came out, “services will be held at the fukkkkkkkkkk home.”

It was caught partly through the press run, but some papers had already gone out. Including the one that went to the bereaved family.

Our publisher — or was it the executive editor? — personally delivered a corrected copy to that family, along with the most abject of apologies.

Is Walid Hakim a leader? He says no…

Today on their website, Occupy Columbia insists that Walid Hakim — who was arrested last night along with 19 others — is not a leader of their group. They were rather vehement about it:

An article was circulated by FitsNews.com proclaiming that Occupy Columbia has a leader, as they stated an unofficial leader.

This is NOT the case!

This article was taken completely out of context.

Occupy Columbia is and always will be a LEADERLESS movement.

Contact them and DEMAND a rewrite!!!

I could understand how Will would have gained that impression. I did, too, as you can see in the above video.

For me, Walid has been the spokesman — he’s always at the fore and available, he’s confident and articulate, he seems to know what’s going on. He’s the guy you see ostentatiously pacing at the back of the crowd talking on a cellphone as the governor’s press conference breaks upon, seeming to coordinate things. He always does things a little bigger than the others — holding his sign higher, wearing the more visible attire (a keffiyeh, a Marine Dress Blues blouse). He’s got the Days of Rage hair, the whole nine yards. News people gravitate to people like that — in a chaotic situation with no one officially in charge, you look for the guy who seems the least dazed, and start asking questions.

More traditional (if you’ll allow me this ironic use of the world) street protest leaders such as Brett Bursey have been in the background, by comparison with Walid.

But the main reason I always talk to Walid is that I know him. He and I serve together on the board of the Community Relations Council. Below you see him (just left of center) seated at one of our meetings earlier this week, in yet another incarnation, with blazer and khakis. (Yeah, I know it’s blurry, but I wasn’t planning on using it for publication. I was just fiddling with my iPhone during the meeting.)

I realize that to these folks, it’s a really, really important principle not to have leaders. But here’s my prediction: They’ll either get some leaders, or never really accomplish anything much beyond making headlines and getting arrested.

E.J.’s here — y’all come on out and hear him

Just to let you know — I collected E.J. Dionne from the airport earlier this afternoon, and left him in the custody of Charles Bierbauer.

So he made it to town. Now, y’all do your part. Come on out to hear him at 6 p.m. over at Capstone at USC.

Here’s the info again.

Occupy Columbia got press releases!

Not sure whether this represents a significant stage of evolution, but now I’m getting press releases from “Occupy Columbia:”

Occupy Charleston to Join Occupy Columbia at the State House

Sunday, October 23rd at 6:00pm

Last night, Occupy Columbia sent a small team to travel the state and connect with the other Occupy groups. We have just been informed by these emissaries that Occupy Charleston voted this morning to join us at the State House, beginning Sunday at 6:00pm. Here is a picture of their vote:
With Solidarity,

– Will with Occupy Columbia, a member of the 99%

The end (almost) of violence

In my previous post, I referred to the “peaceful times” in which we live. That’s counterintuitive for many people, for two reasons: First, modern communications make them aware of far more, and more widely spread, instances of violence than they would have known of in previous eras. And second, those things grab our attention — indeed, they are reported in the first place — because they stand out as exceptions to the peaceful rule.

There’s a very good piece in The Wall Street Journal today (there are always so many wonderful pieces in that paper on Saturdays — the only day I take now, after my subscription price more than doubled) taking the long view, and explaining why “we may be living in the most peaceable era in human existence.” None of what it says is surprising or new — except perhaps for the statistics — but it’s nice when someone takes a moment and pulls it all together.

In “Violence Vanquished,” Steven Pinker describes six major declines in violence through human history. The first is one that our friends who believe that government is the worst plague ever visited upon mankind should contemplate:

The first was a process of pacification: the transition from the anarchy of the hunting, gathering and horticultural societies in which our species spent most of its evolutionary history to the first agricultural civilizations, with cities and governments, starting about 5,000 years ago.

For centuries, social theorists like Hobbes and Rousseau speculated from their armchairs about what life was like in a “state of nature.” Nowadays we can do better. Forensic archeology—a kind of “CSI: Paleolithic”—can estimate rates of violence from the proportion of skeletons in ancient sites with bashed-in skulls, decapitations or arrowheads embedded in bones. And ethnographers can tally the causes of death in tribal peoples that have recently lived outside of state control.

These investigations show that, on average, about 15% of people in prestate eras died violently, compared to about 3% of the citizens of the earliest states. Tribal violence commonly subsides when a state or empire imposes control over a territory, leading to the various “paxes” (Romana, Islamica, Brittanica and so on) that are familiar to readers of history…

Since those days, violent death has shrunk to less than 1 percent, even if you factor in war-caused disease and famine. Oh, and we’re not just talking about good or benevolent government. Even the plunder economy of the Romans had its positive effect:

It’s not that the first kings had a benevolent interest in the welfare of their citizens. Just as a farmer tries to prevent his livestock from killing one another, so a ruler will try to keep his subjects from cycles of raiding and feuding. From his point of view, such squabbling is a dead loss—forgone opportunities to extract taxes, tributes, soldiers and slaves…

And this is not just about pointing out how wrong the Tea Party is (although deeply wrong it certainly is). Some of our other friends on the left view commerce as though the taking of profit itself were inherently evil and destructive to mankind. Quite  the contrary; it is a civilizing force just as is a well-ordered government (which is why the haters of government and the socialists are both wrong):

Another pacifying force has been commerce, a game in which everybody can win. As technological progress allows the exchange of goods and ideas over longer distances and among larger groups of trading partners, other people become more valuable alive than dead. They switch from being targets of demonization and dehumanization to potential partners in reciprocal altruism.

Finally, back to that matter of perception. If you wish to be simplistic, you can say it’s “the media’s fault,” for always telling you about the bad things rather than the good. If you ever spent, say, a month having to make decisions for a media outlet, you would realize how foolish that is. Even when times were flush, a newspaper’s or television station’s resources, and claim on your time, were finite. If you’re a town crier, your job is to tell people about the one house that’s on fire, so they can rise up and do something about it. You are useless if you instead say, “99.9 percent of the houses in the village are fine.”

That’s not to say I don’t decry the effect. In the grand scheme, media have had a devastating effect on society simply by playing their rightful role as government watchdogs. Over time, readers have come to the shockingly erroneous conclusion that government is nothing but crooks and waste, and the ability of government to be that civilizing force has been seriously weakened. As for violence — one of the most distressing developments of recent years in media is the rise of 24/7 TV news, which creates unlimited time that has to be filled. Consequently, violent crimes that would have been purely local stories 30 years ago are now thrown in the faces of the world constantly. There’s always something bad happening somewhere. This type of coverage creates the impression that it’s happening everywhere all the time.

If you can gain access to the full piece, it’s worth reading. So might be Mr. Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

Did she move and change her name, or what?

Somehow, on a previous post, we got onto a tangent about persistent Democratic claims that Al  Gore actually won the 2000 election, which he didn’t, as media recounts after the court case demonstrated.

Anyway, in trying to find that link above, I went to Wikipedia, and ran across the name of Katherine Harris, and suddenly pictured her in my mind, and thought, Hey, wait a minute

I’ve been thinking since she emerged on the scene that Michele Bachmann looked familiar, like someone I hadn’t seen since…

And now the mystery is solved. For me, anyway.

What do you think?