Category Archives: Marketplace of ideas

Revisiting an intriguing proposition: Hillary Clinton as LBJ (rather than MLK or JFK)

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I was interested to read, in today’s excerpt of Jim Clyburn’s book in The State, the congressman’s account of his disagreement with the Clintons just before the 2008 SC presidential primary:

That charge went back to an earlier disagreement we had about Sen. Hillary Clinton’s suggesting that, while Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had done an excellent job promoting the issues of civil and voting rights for black people, it took a sensitive president such as Lyndon Baines Johnson to have the resolution of those issues enacted into law. In a New York Times article referencing an interview Mrs. Clinton had with Fox News on Monday, Jan. 5, 2008, she was quoted as saying “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

The article went on to say that Mrs. Clinton thought her experience should mean more to voters than uplifting words by Mr. Obama. “It took a president to get it done,” Mrs. Clinton said.

It was an argument I had heard before while growing up in the South, even from white leaders who supported civil rights reform. It took black leaders to identify problems, but it took white leaders to solve them, they said. I had accepted that argument for a long time; but in 2008 it seemed long outdated, and it was frankly disappointing to hear it from a presidential candidate. When the reporter called to ask my reaction, I did not hold back…

Actually, Clinton is misrepresenting what Hillary Clinton had said. I don’t think he’s doing so intentionally. I believe he truly remembers it that way, in those black-and-white terms.

But then-Sen. Clinton didn’t really put it in terms of black leader vs. white leader. Basically, she put both Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy in one category — that of the inspirational figure — and Lyndon Baines Johnson in the contrasting role of the less-inspirational leader who nevertheless follows through and gets things done.

I found her proposition intriguing at the time. She was posing the question, What do you want — inspiration or results? I wrote a column about it at the time, which ran on Jan. 20, 2008, just six days before Barack Obama won the SC primary.

Now that we’ve had several years in which to evaluate the kinds of results that Mr. Obama has produced as president, and as we look forward to a 2016 election in which the Democratic nomination is Mrs. Clinton’s for the taking, I think it’s interesting to revisit that column. So here it is:

By BRAD WARTHEN
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
BARACK OBAMA and Hillary Clinton decided last week to put their spat over MLK, JFK and LBJ behind them. That’s nice for them, but the rest of us shouldn’t drop the subject so quickly.
Intentionally or not, the statement that started all the trouble points to the main difference between the two front-runners.
And that difference has nothing to do with race.
Now you’re thinking, “Only a Clueless White Guy could say that had nothing to do with race,” and you’d have a point. When it comes to judging whether a statement or an issue is about race, there is a profound and tragic cognitive divide between black and white in this country.
But hear me out. It started when the senator from New York said the following, with reference to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.:
“Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done.”
The white woman running against a black man for the Democratic Party nomination could only get herself into trouble mentioning Dr. King in anything other than laudatory terms, particularly as she headed for a state where half of the voters likely to decide her fate are black.
You have to suppose she knew that. And yet, she dug her hole even deeper by saying:
“Senator Obama used President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to criticize me. Basically compared himself to two of our greatest heroes. He basically said that President Kennedy and Dr. King had made great speeches and that speeches were important. Well, no one denies that. But if all there is (is) a speech, then it doesn’t change anything.”
She wasn’t insulting black Americans — intentionally — any more than she was trying to dis Irish Catholics.
To bring what I’m saying into focus, set aside Dr. King for the moment — we’ll honor him tomorrow. The very real contrast between the two Democratic front-runners shows in the other comparison she offered.
She was saying that, given a choice between John F. Kennedy and his successor, she was more like the latter. This was stark honesty — who on Earth would cast herself that way who didn’t believe it was true? — and it was instructive.
Lyndon Baines Johnson was the Master of the Senate when he sought the Democratic nomination in 1960. If he wanted the Senate to do something, it generally happened, however many heads had to be cracked.
LBJ was not made for the television era that was dawning. With features like a hound dog (and one of the most enduring images of him remains the one in which he is holding an actual hound dog up by its ears), and a lugubrious Texas drawl, he preferred to git ’er done behind the scenes, and no one did it better.
Sen. Johnson lost the nomination to that inexperienced young pup Jack Kennedy, but brought himself to accept the No. 2 spot. After an assassin put him into the Oval Office, he managed to win election overwhelmingly in 1964, when the Republicans gave him the gift of Barry Goldwater. But Vietnam brought him down hard. He gave up even trying to get his party’s nomination in 1968.
But he was a masterful lawmaker. And he did indeed push the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act into law, knowing as he did so that he was sacrificing his party’s hold on the South.
He brought into being a stunning array of social programs — Medicare, federal aid to education, urban renewal, and the War on Poverty.
So, on the one hand, not a popular guy — wouldn’t want to be him. On the other hand, President Kennedy never approached his level of achievement during his tragically short tenure.
You might say that if Sen. Obama is to be compared to President Kennedy — and he is, his call to public service enchanting young voters, and drawing the endorsement of JFK’s closest adviser, Ted Sorensen — Sen. Clinton flatters herself in a different way by invoking President Johnson.
They are different kinds of smart, offering a choice between the kid you’d want on your debating team and the one you’d want helping you do your homework.
Sen. Obama offers himself as a refreshing antidote to the vicious partisanship of the Bush and Clinton dynasties. That sounds wonderful. But Sen. Clinton has, somewhat less dramatically, formed practical coalitions with Republican colleagues to address issues of mutual concern — such as with Lindsey Graham on military health care.
Sen. Clinton, whose effort to follow up the Great Society with a comprehensive health care solution fell flat in the last decade, has yet to live up to the Johnson standard of achievement. For that matter, Sen. Obama has yet to bring Camelot back into being.
As The Washington Post’s David Broder pointed out, in their debate in Las Vegas last week, the pair offered very different concepts of the proper role of the president. Sen. Obama said it wasn’t about seeing that “the paperwork is being shuffled effectively,” but rather about setting goals, uniting people to pursue them, building public support — in other words, about inspiration.
Sen. Clinton talked about managing the bureaucracy and demanding accountability.
Sen. Obama offers a leader, while Sen. Clinton offers a manager. It would be nice to have both. But six days from now, South Carolinians will have to choose one or the other.

Hillary

Mrs. Landingham, we hardly knew ye


The West Wing by Habzapl

Wow. Last night, I watched the Season Two finale of “The West Wing” not once, but twice. It was one of the best episodes of any TV show that I’ve ever seen.

Just thinking about Mrs. Landingham telling Jed, for the second time in their long association, that if he didn’t want to proceed because he didn’t think it was right, fine, she could respect that, but if he didn’t try because it would be too hard, “Well, God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you”… well, I get goose bumps right now, just typing it.

On a previous thread, we were talking, in the context of the military, about what it means to live for a purpose greater than yourself. Well, this TV show is getting to me, and it’s on that level.

I’ve been watching this show nightly while working out, and loving it. (I never saw it when it was on the air.) It’s probably not good for my mental health, though, because I’ve become so very jealous of those characters and what they have together. I don’t always agree with the things they’re trying to do, but that’s beside the point. The fact is that they get to do it as part of a group of people just as committed to serving their causes as they are. And what they do actually has an effect on the world around them.

I mentioned that Ainsley, the young Republican lawyer who joins the staff, is possibly my favorite character (my second favorite may be Toby, although I really like Leo, too). She disagrees with this bunch of Democrats even more than I do, and is a wonderful foil for them. But she, too, is a member of the group; she feels the sense of mission perhaps more purely than they do — because she is there solely in order to serve her country, rather than the president’s party or anything like that.

It’s no accident that the episode I saw last night uses Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” to such effect. That’s the appeal of the show. These people are all brothers in arms, in a cause greater than themselves.

The show creates in me a longing. I couldn’t serve in the military for medical reasons. I’ll never be a senior adviser in the White House because, Ainsley aside, you not only have to be a partisan, but a professional partisan, to get there these days.

But I know there are people in this world who have something like what those characters have, and I’m deeply envious.

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Daily Beast: ‘The U.S. Military Is a Socialist Paradise’

Free health care.

Free health care.

Often, when talking to people who are horrified, appalled, mortified at the notion of a single-payer health care system — or who show contempt for the very notion that the government can do anything constructive — I speak of the way I grew up as a Navy brat during the Cold War.

I spent relatively little time in the cocoon of the military base — a couple of years in the run-down old Navy base in New Orleans (few amenities; most of the WWII-era buildings were boarded up), a couple more at MacDill Air Force Base, a place I only ever had to leave to ride the bus to my high school (my brother attended an elementary school on-base). The Army and Air Force, with their large garrison communities, always seemed to have the best recreational facilities and other amenities. The Navy’s focus was at sea.

But whether I lived on- or off-base, I had access to certain basics, such as free health care. My Dad gave his service to his country, including going to war, and in return he and his were taken care of. It made sense, and it worked.

Well, I see that Jacob Siegel at The Daily Beast has taken it to another level, with a piece headlined, “The U.S. Military Is a Socialist Paradise.” An excerpt:

It probably comes as a surprise to many, but the army may have more in common with Norway than Sparta.

The U.S. military is a socialist paradise. Imagine a testing ground where every signature liberal program of the past century has been applied, from racial integration to single-payer health care—then add personal honor, strict hierarchy, and more guns. Like all socialist paradises, the military has been responsible for its share of bloodshed, but it has developed one of the only working models of collective living and social welfare that this country has ever known….

It’s not a terribly original idea, and I think he takes it a bit far. And does pure socialism have, as he notes, a strict, chain-of-command hierarchy? Is it informed by personal honor and devotion to duty? I suppose it could be, but those concepts suggest something other than an economic system to me. And there’s a good bit of Sparta in the life, for the active-duty people.

Anyway, I thought I’d share the proposition with you…

College of Charleston play flap draws national attention

Washpost

At this moment, the centerpiece story at the WashPost site is this one:

CHARLESTON, S.C. — More than 750 people packed into a city auditorium here this week for a sold-out production of “Fun Home,” a musical by a New York-based troupe about a woman coming to terms with her closeted gay father’s suicide. The crowd rose in a standing ovation before the show even began.

The emotional reaction was part of a worsening political battle between South Carolina’s public universities and conservative Republican lawmakers, who argue that campus culture should reflect the socially conservative views of the state.

The state’s House of Representatives recently voted to cut $52,000 in funding for the College of Charleston as punishment for assigning students to read “Fun Home,” the graphic novel that formed the basis for the play. House lawmakers endorsed a similar budget cut for the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg for using a different book with gay themes in its reading program.

Republican lawmakers also helped pave the way for the appointment of a controversial GOP state official as the College of Charleston’s next president, sparking campus protests.

The fights serve as a reminder that rapid national shifts on social issues — particularly gay rights — are hardly universal and remain hotly contested across much of the Deep South. The views of people in South Carolina carry particular weight given the state’s early presidential primary, which gives voters here the power to help shape the GOP ticket every four years….

You had probably heard about most of this. I hadn’t heard about the play angle.

It seems like WashPost regards this as a pretty big deal, on account of our early primary. I hadn’t thought of it that way until now.

Remember how, early in 2012, I worried about the way Kulturkampf issues were being used to divide us in that election? Here we go again, y’all — two years early…

The Cartographers for Social Equality

The other night, continuing to make my way through “The West Wing” (which I never saw when it was on) while working out each evening, I saw the one in which the Cartographers for Social Equality were allowed to make a presentation on Big Block of Cheese Day.

I enjoyed it. It reminded me of the time, maybe a quarter-century ago, when I visited my friend Moss Blachman in his office, and saw his map of the Western Hemisphere with south at the top and north at the bottom. As someone who lived in South America as a kid and who has long thought my fellow gringos give Latin America short shrift, I got a kick out of it. Because, of course, the practice of putting north at the top and south at the bottom is totally arbitrary (an obvious fact that sort of blew C.J. Cregg’s mind).

I enjoy things like that which cause us to look at things in fresh ways.

Of course, the political conclusion that the cartographers draw from the way the Mercator distorts the world is rather silly. I’ve always known Africa is way bigger than Greenland, and that Africa is thousands of times more significant in world affairs. But I also know that Africa doesn’t derive its importance from being bigger; it derives it from the fact that there are multitudes of nations and cultures and geographic and biological diversity in Africa, and it is not mostly a frozen waste. Population of Greenland: 56,840. Population of Africa: 1.033 billion. Duh.

If I were stupid enough to think the significance of nations and continents were a function of size, I’d conclude that England has been of no account whatsoever in world history. Which I don’t. And I can’t think of anyone who does.

But I enjoyed the scene anyway, because it is good for the brain (and pleasurable as well) to flip things around and look at them from unaccustomed angles. And if there are people who did make foolish assumptions about the world based on the usual depiction, and their eyes are opened, then great. But I wouldn’t attach a lot of importance to that.

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Someone tell Tyler Durden: Marketers have appropriated ‘Fight Club’

Brad-Pitt-fight-club-body2

Back when I was in college, I read James Michener’s book Kent State: What Happened and Why, which came out the year after four students were shot and killed there by the Ohio National Guard. This was a time when memories of the event were still pretty raw. That one semester I attended USC before transferring to Memphis State, I used to wear a T-shirt (I forget where I got it) with a big target on the back under the word “Student.” It was less a political statement than me just being edgy, ironic and immature.

Michener’s book went into a lot more than what happened that day in May 1970. It painted a portrait of student life at that time and in that place. At one point, he interviewed a campus radical who was complaining about how the dominant white culture kept appropriating and mainstreaming, and thereby disarming, countercultural memes, particularly those that arose from African-American culture. (I would say he was making some point vaguely related to Marcuse’s “repressive tolerance,” but I’ve always tended to understand Marcuse as meaning something other than what he meant. By the way, my version makes sense; Marcuse’s didn’t.)

Anyway, to make the point that there was no limit to the dominant culture’s ability to absorb culture from the edge, he said, “I’ll bet that within two years Buick will come out with full-page ads claiming that the 1972 Buick is a real motherf____r.”

Well, that still hasn’t quite happened. But I saw something today that comes close. I got an email from the travel site Orbitz with the headline:

The first rule of Flight Club is – Columbia deals from $200 RT

Wow. Think about it. “Fight Club” was all about characters who were utterly, savagely rejecting mainstream consumer culture and everything that went with it. But now the best-known line from the film is being appropriated to sell airline flights. Are you digging the irony here?

It doesn’t even make sense, since the first rule of Fight Club is that you do NOT talk about Fight Club. Presumably, Orbitz would like us to talk about this deal.

But the line got me to look — and that was the point.

I can’t wait to see how next year’s Buicks are marketed.

I think Ainsley may become my favorite ‘West Wing’ character

I never saw “The West Wing” when it was on the air, for a number of reasons, not the least of which the fact that I wasn’t watching all that much television in those days. I basically had a TV for watching movies, and didn’t get into watching actual TV programming regularly until AMC started its string of must-watch shows (“Mad Men,” the first few episodes of “Rubicon,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead”…).

There was one reason, though, that I particularly avoided “The West Wing.” I had heard, I suppose from a Republican, that it was a fantasy show for liberal Democrats, a picture of the way they would want the world to be. I was finding Democrats particularly tiresome — that is to say, more tiresome than usual — when the show went on the air in 1999. Most of the angry readers I was dealing with in that period were Democrats, between admirers of Bill Clinton (we were tied, I think, for being the first newspaper in the country to urge him to resign) and of Jim Hodges (the show premiered at a moment right in between his election, which we opposed, and our all-out fight against his signature issue, the lottery).

I just didn’t need to hear any more about how members of that party thought the world ought to be.

But I started watching it on Netlflix during my nightly workouts on the elliptical trainer (they’re almost the perfect length for a 40-minute workout), and the first thing I have to tell you is that what I had heard was a most unfair description of the show. Sure, there will occasionally be an instance in which the liberal position is treated briefly as the only one that’s right and true. For instance, as I mentioned the other day, I was pretty irritated when all the main characters acted like a potential judicial nominee who said there is no blanket right to privacy in the Constitution (there is none, whatever the Supremes may say) had said the Earth was flat.

But you’re just as likely to hear characters ably represent other points of view — such as the early episode in which several staffers point out why “hate-crime” laws are inconsistent with liberal democracy. For every red-meat moment such as the one in which President Bartlet humiliates a thinly disguised Dr. Laura using a rather trite liberal device (asking whether she was for literally applying everything in Leviticus), there’s one in which a conservative view wins out, or is at least fairly considered.

The best example of that so far was the episode I watched last night, the fourth in the second season, titled “In This White House.”

It started with an obnoxiously overconfident Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) going on a political talk show to push an education bill. He is demolished on the air by a little blonde girl with a deferential Southern manner who looks to be about 16.

This causes a sensation in the White House. A delighted Josh runs to tell Toby, “Sam’s getting his ass kicked by a girl!” Toby — the Eeyore of the executive branch, a guy who is thrilled by nothing — comes running, saying breathlessly, “Ginger, get the popcorn!” (The good part of the above clip starts at about 2:20.)

But things really get interesting when the president — and Jed Bartlet really is everyone’s idea of a perfect president: wise, fatherly, kind, thoughtful, fair, idealistic, practical and always human — decides to hire Ainsley Hayes.

Enjoying Sam discomfiture at being humiliated by Ms. Hayes is one thing. Bringing the conservative Republican on board is another, and the idea causes much consternation on the staff.

But I think she’s going to be a great addition. As she goes through the throes of deciding whether to take the job, she becomes, if not exactly the voice of the UnParty, a lens for focusing on everything that is wrong in modern partisanship. She reprimands both sides for their destructive habit of demonizing their opponents. When Sam (his ego still bruised from his first encounter with her — he keeps thinking women on the staff are mocking him when they’re not) says defenders of the Second Amendment aren’t about freedom and protection; they’re just people who like guns… she settles his hash yet again by saying:

Yes, they do. But you know what’s more insidious than that? Your gun control position doesn’t have anything to do with public safety, and it’s certainly not about personal freedom. It’s about you don’t like people who do like guns. You don’t like the people. Think about that, the next time you make a joke about the South.

(I remembered what she said when I saw this predictable Tweet from Slate today saying “This is what gun ownership looks like in America.” Be sure to check the picture.)

Then, in the episode’s penultimate scene, Ainsley meets two of her GOP friends in a restaurant. They think she has turned the job down, and they can’t wait to hear about the look on Chief of Staff Leo McGarry’s face. As she sits there looking thoughtful, her friends engage in the sort of rant that we hear too often from both sides.

“I hate these people,” says her friend Harriet.

“Did you meet anyone there who isn’t worthless?” adds Bruce.

“Don’t say that,” Ainsley says softly.

Bruce continues, “Did you meet anyone there who has any-?”

Ainsley lights into him:

I said don’t say that. Say they’re smug and superior, say their approach to public policy makes you want to tear your hair out. Say they like high taxes and spending your money. Say they want to take your guns and open your borders, but don’t call them worthless. At least don’t do it in front of me.

Her friends look stunned. She chokes up as she continues:

The people that I have met have been extraordinarily qualified, their intent is good.
Their commitment is true, they are righteous, and they are patriots.

And I’m their lawyer.

And she walks out.

Wow. If she didn’t look so extremely young, I’d be in love at this point. I think I’m really going to enjoy this character….

How McConnell is playing nationally

In one venue, at least…

Slate runs a fairly even-handed (despite the Slate teaser, “IS A MAN WHO DRESSES LIKE A CONFEDERATE GENERAL UNFIT TO BE A COLLEGE PRESIDENT?”) piece that first appeared in Inside Higher Ed. There are no surprises in it. I just find it interesting to see how our controversies in SC play elsewhere, particularly in a case in which the protesters claim that McConnell’s selection will hurt out-of-state recruitment and the value of a College of Charleston education.

An excerpt:

Trustees at the College of Charleston are facing heat from faculty and students for picking South Carolina’s lieutenant governor as the college’s next president. In the process, critics say, the trustees brushed aside warnings that Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell’s promotion of Confederate history could damage Charleston’s reputation and turn away prospective students and donors.

In picking McConnell, the public liberal arts college’s trustees reportedly ignored the school’s own search committee, which did not recommend the politician—who has never worked in higher education—for president.

Backlash has been swift. Students rallied against McConnell’s selection Monday in the largest campus protest in recent memory. “This is 2014 NOT 1814,” one sign read. On Tuesday the student government voted no confidence in the college’s trustees. …

As you see, not much new. I just thought I’d share.

Would you have locked Hitler away forever?

Andrew Sullivan brought this to my attention the other day, under the suitable headline “Time and Punishment,” and I’m just getting around to sharing it. Ross Anderson interviewed philosopher Rebecca Roache on the moral implications of life-extending technologies. An excerpt:

Suppose we eventually learn to put off death indefinitely, and that we extend this treatment to prisoners. Is there any crime that would justify eternal imprisonment? Take Hitler as a test case. Say the Soviets had gotten to the bunker before he killed himself, and say capital punishment was out of the question – would we have put him behind bars forever?

Roache: It’s tough to say. If you start out with the premise that a punishment should be proportional to the crime, it’s difficult to think of a crime that could justify eternal imprisonment. You could imagine giving Hitler one term of life imprisonment for every person killed in the Second World War. That would make for quite a long sentence, but it would still be finite. The endangerment of mankind as a whole might qualify as a sufficiently serious crime to warrant it. As you know, a great deal of the research we do here at the Oxford Martin School concerns existential risk. Suppose there was some physics experiment that stood a decent chance of generating a black hole that could destroy the planet and all future generations. If someone deliberately set up an experiment like that, I could see that being the kind of supercrime that would justify an eternal sentence.

So, just to carry the absurdity a bit farther… Would the rest of us be around when he got out, having had our own lives extended? Would any of us be Holocaust survivors? Would we have to watch him walk out, a free man? After millions of lifetimes, would anyone care, or would we have been changed over time in ways we can’t even imagine. If one of us shot him as he walked out, what would our sentence be?

Bottom line, only God gets to hand out eternal sentences. It’s probably a good thing that we lack the ability to usurp that authority…

If ‘crazy’ is called for, Obama’s not your man

Thought this clip of David Brooks talking about what it might take to stop Putin in Ukraine — since the usual stuff (sanctions, etc.) isn’t working — rather interesting:

DAVID BROOKS: I’m also thinking, sometimes you just have to do something a little crazy. Putin did something a little crazy. And we’re all, ooh, let’s not get in front of that guy.

Obama is like the least likely person you’re ever going to meet to do something crazy. He’s prudent, thinks thing through? But sometimes you just got to strike a little fear…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Like what? I mean, what would be…

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I’m beginning to think we’re going to get to a spot, if this continues to escalate, and it’s clear — well, it seems clear that Putin is — just wants to — if Ukraine wants to go West, he will dismember Ukraine.

And it seems to me that arming, not getting involved, us, in Ukraine, but arming Ukraine for some deterrent effect to keep the Russians out of there is a useful thing to start to think about. And I think we’re probably going to end up having a serious debate about that…

Yeah… You’ve got that right. Barack Obama just doesn’t do crazy.

Now, George Bush, he would do crazy. And as you know, I thought it one of his virtues. (I didn’t think he had many, but I granted him that one.) The invasion of Iraq would have been a wonderful deterrent to rogue, or merely problematic, regimes — if Bush could have maintained the impression that he would be willing and able to do something like that again.

The invasion of Iraq scared the stuffing out of Moammar Qaddafi, who immediately gave up his attempt to get nukes. There were signs of nervousness across the region, as oligarchs and dictators thought, “If he’ll take out Saddam, just like that, he could come after me next. He’s crazy…”

But then Bush lost public support over Iraq, and it became clear he didn’t have the capital to do anything like that again, and everybody calmed down…

No chance of that happening with President Obama. Even when the other kids — France, Britain — volunteer to go first, he’s not going to get crazy. He was elected pretty much on an anti-crazy platform.

My exchange with Barton Swaim of the SC Policy Council

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

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

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

So I responded:

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

And he responded:

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

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

And I responded:

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

And he responded:

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

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

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

I ended with:

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

That Cindi is just all business, even on Twitter

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

cindi twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

SC House Democrats come up with a solid plan for remaining the minority party

This just in from the SC House Democratic Caucus:

SC House Democrats Release 2014 Legislative Priorities
Columbia, SC – South Carolina House Democrats released their list of 2014 legislative priorities on Tuesday. House Democrats will focus on six main issues this session including more funding for education and teacher pay, establishing a state-mandated minimum wage, Medicaid Expansion, road funding, and early voting. The caucus will also propose legislation addressing immigration, workplace discrimination, and higher education this session.
2014 House Democratic Caucus Legislative Priorities:
1. Raise teacher pay to the national average
2. Restore cuts to base-student-cost.
3. Establish a state-mandated minimum wage.
4. Bring home our tax dollars by expanding Medicaid
5. Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges
6. No-excuse early voting
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said 2014 was the year to get serious about funding our priorities.House Dems
“House Democrats are serious about tackling the issues that face our citizens each and every day,” said Rep. Rutherford. “Our hard-working teachers deserve a raise and their students deserve a fair shot at success. We will never be able to be competitive with rest of the country if we continue to underfund our schools and underpay our teachers. Democrats understand that a thriving K-12 school system is directly tied to a thriving economy – we can’t have one without the other.”
“When it comes to finding a stable and responsible funding solution for our crumbling roads, all options must be on the table,” said Rutherford. “And Governor Haley’s ‘money tree’ is neither stable nor responsible.”
“South Carolina is one of only four states in the nation without a state minimum wage,” said Rutherford.” In order to compete in the 21st century economy we have to do away with 19th century ideas that are holding us back. We need to modernize all areas of South Carolina’s economy. We cannot compete in a global world or even with our neighbors without an adequate minimum wage structure.”
“We refuse to be silenced when it comes to bringing our federal tax dollars home to reform and expand Medicaid, said Rep. Rutherford. “Many Republican Governors across the country have put aside partisan politics and embraced Medicaid Expansion. We will continue to ask Governor Haley and House Republicans to stop playing national politics with the health of South Carolinians and to stop wasting our tax dollars on silly political games. Refusing this money is fiscally irresponsible and morally indefensible.”
####

Let’s zero in on those six priorities:

  1. Raise teacher pay to the national average
  2. Restore cuts to base-student-cost.
  3. Establish a state-mandated minimum wage.
  4. Bring home our tax dollars by expanding Medicaid
  5. Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges
  6. No-excuse early voting

There’s nothing wrong most of those goals, taken individually. Except maybe the minimum wage. I’ve always thought the conservatives had a pretty good argument when they say raise the minimum wage, reduce the number of jobs at that end of the spectrum.

Oh, and the early-voting thing. I don’t hold with that at all. People should take voting seriously enough to go to a little trouble to do it. And that includes standing in a queue (unless, of course, you do have a good excuse).

A case can be made for each of the other four items — taken by itself. The fact that this state refuses to accept the extremely generous Medicaid deal the feds are offering is nothing short of insanity. Concentrate on that — something you could get a lot of business leaders to support you on, and you might get somewhere. But include it on this list, and you just sound like you’re offering Obama Light.

When you say “This is it; these are our priorities,” you give political independents, much less wavering Republicans, no reason even to cooperate with you on things you agree on, much less come over to your side.

By saying these are THE things that matter most to you, you’re establishing yourself firmly as the Political Other to the majority of SC voters. You’re saying, We don’t even stop to think about issues; we just buy into whatever the national Democratic Party puts out as this year’s talking points.

Which is not going to get you far in South Carolina.

Out of those six priorities, there is one item that you might be able to get the broad center behind: “Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges.” And the Dems fail to be bold enough on that to say what that funding solution would be.

You could get, once again, considerable business support for an increase in the gas tax for infrastructure, if you had the guts to stand up for that. With support like that, you could actually expand your support base a bit, and have a real chance of accomplishing one of your priorities. Nikki Haley’s “money tree” is a ridiculously unstable basis for something as important to economic development as our road system. But you give it the same weight as raising the minimum wage, and it’s like you’re just taking marching orders from the national party.

As this list of priorities stands, it is a formula for going nowhere, a sermon to read to the choir, a map to staying in a political rut.

Fisher ticked off about the wrong end of the penny tax contracting debacle

File photo of Kevin Fisher as a candidate.

File photo of Kevin Fisher as a candidate.

In Kevin Fisher’s latest column, he expresses ire over the episode in which Richland County Council first gave the contract for managing hundreds of millions worth of roadwork to the out-of-state contractor ICA Engineering, then yanked it back.

But instead of being indignant that in initially awarding the contract, the council utterly blew off the concerns of the citizen panel appointed to be a watchdog over the spending of the penny tax, Kevin is mad that council responded to public outrage by calling for a do-over:

Indeed, while our local government is now conducting the people’s business in a manner that would make Vladimir Putin proud, the citizens of Richland County, S.C., USA should be ashamed.

Again.

I’d like to say we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, but we always take it. I don’t know why that is, but it is. It’s an unusual civic tradition.

In the case of the award/unaward of that $50 million engineering and construction contract, I would love to have seen the winner/non-winner (ICA Engineering) take Richland County straight to court. However, the company has instead chosen to swallow hard and bid again, and if that is their business judgment I respect it and wish them well.

But I can assure County Council that if they had done the same thing to me, aggressive attorneys would have already been hired, a massive lawsuit filed and a legal colonoscopy would be underway on them both individually and as a public body….

First, an aside… I have to confess that I’m sort of unclear about what Peter Finch’s character was so mad about, or why it struck such a chord among the viewing public, in “Network.” Maybe it was clear to me when I saw it back in 1976, but I never liked the film enough to see it again, and it’s slipped my mind…

End of digression…

I’ll agree with Kevin that this is not the way public contracting usually goes. But then, public bodies seldom act with such disregard to a body created to make sure the public will is followed. Frankly, I don’t think the creation of such a body should have been necessary. But it was part of the deal that gave the council these funds to disburse, and a deal is a deal, as Kevin would apparently agree.

Kevin’s column was brought to my attention by Luther Battiste, who had a strong interest in having the bidding process start over, as a member of the local team that had scored higher than ICA, but didn’t get the contract. He wrote this to Kevin:

Mr. Fisher : I  read with great interest your column particularly because of my 15 years on Columbia City Council.  I actually agree with you much of the time and believe you raise the issues that need to be contemplated and discussed. I am part of the team that finished second in the voting for the contract to manage the ” penny tax” funds.  Our prime contractor is local and our team was local, diverse and extremely qualified. I think you missed the ” issue” in your recent column.  CECS followed the dictates of the Request for Proposal and was rated number  one by staff in their rating of the groups. ICA which is actually and out of state firm was rated third thirty points below CECS.  Richland County Council after receiving legal advice decided that there were problems with the process of awarding the contract.  I think you probably did not have all the facts when you reached the conclusion that ICA was mistreated and should pursue legal action. I hope you take my comments as constructive.  I look forward to reading future columns.

Thoughts?

 

 

Cumulative voting might be worth trying…

… but it’s not a complete cure to extremism in politics.

Michael Rodgers made a reference to Cindi Scoppe’s column earlier in the week advocating cumulative voting as a cure to the extremism that single-member districts tend to foster.

The problem is this: Lawmakers draw safe districts for themselves — or rather, for members of their own party. They draw them so safe that the general election becomes meaningless. The primary of the dominant party becomes the election. That puts the loudest, most passionate elements in that one party in the driver’s seat. From that point on, representatives who want to get elected are constantly kowtowing to the more extreme elements in their own party, and couldn’t care less about what moderates in their own party, or independents, and certainly not members of the opposition, want them to do.

And so we get entire bodies of elected officials — Congress being the most extreme example of the sickness — who are there not for the good of the country, but as agents of the most extreme elements in their respective parties. Instead of a deliberative process, you get a perpetual mudball fight, and government becomes dysfunctional.

(Cindi traces the problem back to the race-based districting that was the unintended consequence of the Voting Rights Act. That, too, is a problem, in that it trains representatives to think of themselves as representing only constituents of a particular race. Which can indeed lead to a type of extremism, and has done so in South Carolina. But a system in which drawing districts to protect incumbency is allowed by the courts is a broader problem. In any case, when legislators go through the process of choosing their constituents, which is what redistricting has become, they do both of those things — choose by race and by party.)

Cindi has long favored a creative solution to the problem:

The key is to return to multi-member districts — the norm before the Voting Rights Act essentially outlawed them because they shut out minority voters — but with a twist that prevents the dilution of minority voting strength while reclaiming the centrist, community-focused effect of the old multi-member districts.

Let’s take the Richland County Council for an example of how this would work. Under cumulative voting, candidates for all 11 council seats would run countywide. Voters would get 11 votes, like they did in the old multi-member districts. But they could divide the votes any way they wanted — casting one in each race, giving all 11 votes to a single candidate or doling them out in any other combination. Under a modified version called limited-transfer voting, voters would have just one vote, to cast in whichever race was most important to them. In other words, voters could work together across the county to essentially create the “district” they lived in.

It wouldn’t be practical to have statewide races for legislative seats, but we could make Richland County a four-seat Senate district, Lexington County a seven-seat House district. We could even make Richland and Lexington county an eight-seat Senate district.

These modified proportional systems have been promoted for years as a way to stop fixating on race in our elections and our government, but they also would empower all voters and give us a greater sense of ownership in our government, because elected officials wouldn’t dare to write off those they consider the partisan or racial or ideological minority in their district. The fact that county residents could vote for incumbents or challengers for any or all of the seven House seats in Lexington County means the representatives would need to appeal to all of them….

I’ve always thought the solution sounded a bit confusing. But I think it would be worth trying.

That said, cumulative voting would not solve all of our problems with extremism in SC. It would do nothing, directly, to address one of the examples Cindi cites in her column:

A Theatre de l’Absurde production starring a U.S. senator who could easily win a general election, no matter who his opponent, being seriously challenged in his party primary by obscure opponents who can most charitably be called political outliers…

Even without districts of any kind, radicalism has long been a feature of SC politics. The only cure for Lindsey Graham’s problem would be a reform that would have little chance of being enacted: Repeal the 17th Amendment, and have U.S. senators elected by the Legislatures again, as the Framers intended (House members were supposed to be elected by the people; senators were supposed to represent states, not bodies of voters). But of course, that would only work reliably after you do something to make the Legislature more moderate — something like what Cindi suggests.

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.

How the media contribute to political, governmental dysfunction

Meant to mention that I liked the point (in boldface) made in this piece in the WSJ yesterday, headlined “Obama Is No Lame Duck“:

There are more than 1,000 days until the 2016 elections, about as long as the entire Kennedy administration. But you’d never guess it from today’s political discourse. How badly will Bridgegate damage Chris Christie’s race for the Republican presidential nomination? Will Republican opposition research undermine the narrative of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton‘s forthcoming memoirs? These are the “issues” that dominate the conversation.

A lengthy new profile of President Obama in the New Yorker feeds this tendency by adopting a distinctly elegiac tone. As New Yorker editor David Remnick puts it, “Obama has three years left, but it’s not difficult to sense a politician with an acute sense of time, a politician devising ways to widen his legacy without the benefit of any support from Congress. . . . And so there is in him a certain degree of reduced ambition, a sense that even well before the commentariat starts calling him a lame duck he will spend much of his time setting an agenda that can be resolved only after he has retired to the life of a writer and post-President.”

Call me naïve and old-fashioned, but I object to this entire way of thinking. Policy debates may bore the press, but that’s no excuse for defaulting to horse-race coverage. Only journalistic complicity can allow the permanent campaign to drive out concern for governance. For their part, elected officials should understand that they cannot afford to leave the world’s greatest democracy on autopilot for the next three years. When it comes to advancing a national agenda, surely there’s a midpoint between grandiosity and resignation….

Yep, that’s what the media do — and have long done. And the press are almost as guilty as the broadcast people.

News people tend to treat politics like sports, because it’s simple — it fits into the idiotic binary view of the world, where there are only two teams and two choices, such as winners and losers — and because it’s easy, and fun. You don’t have to think very hard about who’s going to win the next election. So you write about that and write about it and build up this pitch of excitement like the buildup to the big game, and then you cover the election, and extensively cover the aftermath of the election.

And then, you start writing about the next election. And everything that happens, from events to scandals to policy debates, are couched in terms of how they will affect candidate’s chances in the next election. (James Fallows wrote an excellent book on this subject back in the early ’90s, called Breaking The News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy. I reviewed it at the time. Nothing has gotten better since he wrote it.books

And so we get this foolishness of treating a president as a lame duck from the moment he wins a second term, because hey, he has no election coming up — which means all too many reporters just can’t come up with a reason to be interested in what he does. If it doesn’t have an impact on his electoral chances, it has no meaning to them. Oh, they’ll try to work up enthusiasm about the unrelated subject of how his party will do in the next election, but their simple little hearts just aren’t really into it.

(I say “unrelated” because it’s unrelated, and decidedly uninteresting, to me. But in their simplistic, dichotomous worldview, one member of a party’s fate has tremendous meaning to other members of that party, because there are only two kinds of people in the world, rather than six billion kinds, and only two ways of thinking.)

Anyway, this is the media’s big contribution to the sickness in our political system, and the dysfunction of our government. By taking this either-or, column A or column B, approach (when in reality there are thousands, millions, an infinity of possibilities in each policy question), they make it difficult for Americans to frame political questions in any way other than hyperpartisan terms.

Making ‘Citizens United’ hip, glib, funny and nonthreatening

I just got around to this video from yesterday celebrating the Citizens United decision four years and one day ago.

Yes, I said, “celebrating.” As in, “Yippee!,” as opposed to what I usually hear about it, which is more in the Egon Spengler range, as in, “Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.”

Here’s the release about it:

Group Recognizes Citizens United v. FEC Anniversary with Video
Center for Competitive Politics Releases Video by Noted YouTube Artist GoRemy

For Release: January 21, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, VA - 
Today the Center for Competitive Politics marked the fourth anniversary of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling by releasing a video about the decision by noted YouTube artist GoRemy.

The video examines five common misconceptions about the Citizens United that many critics of the decision tend to gloss over, such as the government’s argument that they should be able to ban books and that the decision did not create the concept of corporate personhood.

What the Citizens United decision did do was overturn blatantly unconstitutional parts of a law designed to prevent freedom of association among individuals with the purpose of speaking out about politics. And, despite repeated assertions that the decision would lead to the corporate takeover of our democracy, we’ve had some of the most competitive elections in our nation’s history.

At its core, Citizens United was about whether the government could ban a nonprofit corporation from distributing a movie about a political candidate. The decision did not “reversed a century of law to open the floodgates – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections,” as President Obama famously chastised the Supreme Court. Rather, the decision allowed organizations to do what wealthy individuals have always been able to do: make independent expenditures advocating for or against a chosen candidate.

Now why am I posting this? Because I agree with it, or because I wish to rip into it? Neither. Basically, it attracted my attention because on the thumbnail for the video, I saw the very same mug shot of Nick Offerman in the role of Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation” that one of y’all — I want to say Silence Dogood — used to use as an avatar. So I thought at least one of y’all would enjoy it on that basis. Yes, I know that’s a thin premise, even though I cannot measure how thin it is.

I decided to go ahead and post it after seeing it, because I was intrigued by — whatever you think of the message — how slick it was.

Starting with the choice of pitchman, who I am told is “noted YouTube artist GoRemy.” OK, whatever. I’m just impressed by how well-chosen he was to make people think more kindly of the idea of corporations being people and such.

If you have an “Occupy Wall Street” picture in your head of the people who celebrate Citizens United, then you expect the spokesman to be somebody like Robert Stack, or Charlton Heston, or Peter Graves, or some other old, dead, establishment-looking white guy. (You may object that a dead guy couldn’t shoot a video, but we’re not talking about reality; we’re talking about the way Occupy Wall Street sees the world.)

This guy is like the opposite of that, only in a cool way, so you’re not beaten over the head with it.

According to Wikipedia, GoRemy is Remy Munasifi, “an Arab-American stand-up comedian,[1] parody musician and video artist who became an Internet celebrity after his production of comedic sketches based on Arabs under the name “GoRemy” on YouTube. His videos had gained over 78 million views as of late 2010.”

He’s hip, he’s young, he’s glib, he’s of nonspecific ethnicity, he’s nonthreatening, he’s not dead, and he most assuredly is not Robert Stack — not even the funny, ironic Robert Stack in “Airplane!

Perhaps a little too glib. I have to say I was a bit offended at having the Plessy vs. Ferguson case dismissed with a funny picture of a baby with a perplexed expression and the caption, “WHO VS. WHATNOW?”

Or at least, I would have been, if it hadn’t all gone by so quickly that I had to back it up and freeze frames in order to see what the baby was supposedly saying.

The point of the video is to make your brain dance lightly along to the tune of the fun wordplay, and then wander away humming to itself and thinking, “That Citizens United isn’t so bad after all…”

citizens

What it would cost to make public college tuition-free

My daughter, who by the way earned a free ride through college through merit scholarships, brought this to my attention today, from a recent piece in The Atlantic:

Here’s Exactly How Much the Government Would Have to Spend to Make Public College Tuition-Free

A mere $62.6 billion dollars!

According to new Department of Education data, that’s how much tuition public colleges collected from undergraduates in 2012 across the entire United States. And I’m not being facetious with the word mere, either. The New America Foundation says that the federal government spent a whole $69 billion in 2013 on its hodgepodge of financial aid programs, such as Pell Grants for low-income students, tax breaks, work study funding. And that doesn’t even include loans.

If we were we scrapping our current system and starting from scratch, Washington could make public college tuition free with the money it sets aside its scattershot attempts to make college affordable today.

Of course, we’re not going to start from scratch (and I’m not even sure we should want to make state schools totally free). But I like to make this point every so often because I think it underscores what a confused mess higher education finance is in this country…

Huh…