Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sometimes you just gotta sleep

My three year old son, Henry, was really excited about flying back home today. He loves airplanes, so actually riding on one is a big thrill. I mean, seriously. AIrplanes are a big deal to him.

Unfortunately for him, our flight back departed at 6:00AM, which meant we had to wake up substantially earlier to get dressed, get to the airport, and go through all the hoopla before boarding.

Despite the early morning, he was fired up. He actually didn’t mind going through TSA because there was the payoff of getting to ride in an airplane waiting for him afterwards.

Getting on the plane was fun, and he’s very compliant when I tell him that buckling up and sitting still is an order from the pilot. He was really excited about just getting on the plane. Taking off was the highlight, but as soon as we took off, he was fast asleep.

Henry Asleep

I didn’t have the heart to wake him. Sometimes you just gotta sleep.

Virtual Front Page: Monday, March 23, 2015

 

                        Last Rays of Sunlight, Early Spring in San Antonio – Onderdonk

I’m still in Texarkana, TX visiting with my wife’s grandfather who is very ill. He is in his mid 90s and has congestive heart failure and lung cancer. He’s just had in-home hospice set up, so we wanted to come out and see him with our children (his great-grandchildren) while there was still time.

I’ve finally gotten a few moments to catch up on things, so here’s your Virtual Front Page for today:

1. Ted Cruz announces his Presidential candidacy: He’s making an already crowded field even more crowded. I doubt he’ll get much traction, but this doesn’t really surprise me. The odds of him winning the nomination are pretty low and he’d probably be a disaster in the general if it ever came to that. Personally, I’m looking forward to liberals suddenly discovering freshmen Senators aren’t experienced enough to be President and conservatives discovering they are.

2. SCOTUS upholds Wisconsin’s Voter-ID law: The law will be fully in effect for the 2016 election, and in general, this is a big blow the Obama administration’s efforts to fight voter-ID laws in other states.

3. The USC women’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16: They are looking like the team to beat right now. Could Columbia see another National Champion?

4. Columbia Police Chief is not in a rush to re-open the drug lab: I guess SLED will continue doing it for the foreseeable future.

5. William Shatner is 84: He turned 84 yesterday, but I thought this merited a position in our VPF today. Here’s a video of him “singing” Rocket Man in 1978. Enjoy.

Saturday Open Thread

Well folks, it’s been fun to be the guest blogger here for a few weeks while Mr. Globe-Trotter has been out seeing the world. I’ve actually had to take a last minute to Texarkana for a family emergency.

Accordingly, I may or may not have another post for you today. I apologize for not having one yesterday, but I was shlepping suitcases and two kids through the Charlotte airport yesterday.

Since I don’t even really know what’s going on in the news, I’ll just leave you with this for now. I may have some more time later.

Looking Down Yosemite Valley (1865) – Albert Bierstadt

Starbucks encourages its baristas to chat with customers about race relations

Hi, welcome to Starbucks! Would you like your coffee black, or privileged?

Beginning on Monday, Starbucks baristas will have the option as they serve customers to hand cups on which they’ve handwritten the words “Race Together” and start a discussion about race.

You’ve got to be kidding me. People don’t come to Starbucks to chat it up with the person making them coffee. They come to…wait for it…get coffee. That’s it. These people have become masters of the absurd. Do they realize how utterly ridiculous they appear to normal people?

Just serve the coffee.

Experts Give Advice on How to “Fix” SC State Problems

Good thing we’ve got some “experts” on the S.C. State case, because it seems they’ve figured out the solution:

They say South Carolina’s only state-funded historically black public college needs:

•  Well-connected leaders capable of stabilizing the Orangeburg school

•  More financial support from alumni and the state, especially to escape its $17 million deficit

•  To find its financial bottom

•  To identify academic niches that create a demand among students

•  To be transparent about what it is doing

Oh, is that it? Just hire good leaders, raise more money, figure out how big the financial problem is, create more demand for students, and be open in business dealings. No problem. Good thing we’ve got these experts to help us out.
Yeah, S.C. State is doomed.

Virtual Front Page for Friday, March 13, 2015

Happy Friday the Thirteenth, everyone. By the way, I was reading a bedtime story to my son last night. The story was about pirates, and don’t all three year old boys like pirates?

Anyway, there was a little section at the end that was essentially “Fun Trivia About Pirates”. One interesting one was that pirates considered black cats to be good luck. Interesting, no? Just thought that might be something of note on this unlucky day. Anyway, I digress. Here’s your Virtual Front Page for today:

1. Despite Internal Dissent, ISIS Is Still on the Attack: Eventually, somebody is going to have to deal with those people. Also, they’ve joined forces with Boko Haram, or something. It’s like they’re trying to be the Axis of Barbarity.

2. The St. Pat’s Celebration in Five Points is Tomorrow: I haven’t been to this in eight years, and I’m not planning on going this year. I’m too old for all that nonsense.

3. Gov. Haley “calls out” Sen. Leatherman: Honestly, I haven’t been following this, so I’m not real sure what this is all about. Maybe someone can drop some knowledge here.

4. We’re about to hit the “Debt Ceiling” Again: This thing again? I feel like we do this couple of months. It’s like Groundhog Day, but Phil never gets any better.

5. South Carolina Gamecocks Baseball hosts Kentucky this weekend: Should be a good series if they can get the games in.

Enjoy the weekend.

Disney is going to make a sequel to “Frozen”

This is Olaf. He’s kind of a big deal around my house.

This is big news for anyone with children under 12.

“Frozen” made nearly $1.3 billion at the box office and inspired masses of toys, clothing and other merchandise as well as a devoted following of young girls.

Even boys are kind of into Frozen. My son is three, and he really likes singing the songs. Mostly he likes the snowman, Olaf.

To paraphrase some litigators enjoy who ending their letters with a certain line: If you have young children, govern yourselves accordingly.

Secret Service March Madness

Every March, college basketball fans across the country start looking at brackets for the NCAA basketball tournament and try to select which team will come out on top. As you can see, even our President gets in on the action. It’s a wonderful competition, where the options are “survive and advance” or “lose and go home”.

Accordingly, the Secret Service has decided to take part in this annual event by having their own friendly intramural competition  to see which agent (or team of agents) can commit the dumbest, most outrageous stunt that brings shame on the Secret Service. We’ll be breaking down the top seeds here:

Team Hookers and Blow: The first entry came in strong. They are the Secret Service agents who were partying with whores in Colombia. They showed good teamwork in organizing the party, demonstrated lack of foresight with possibly compromising classified information, and have strong lack of character. They were looking good.

Team No Defense: That is, Team Hookers and Blow were looking good until the entry from Team No Defense came in – allowing a guy to jump the fence at the White House and score an easy layup in the East Room. You really have to give this top-seed consideration, here. Not only did this team display lack of home court advantage, their perimeter defense was penetrated on a dribble-drive to the East Room, where the big men down low just watched the guy go right by them. There are some questions about their inability to have character problems, but they make up for it with their lack of professionalism. These guys looked like the top seed until this week.

How do you top the entry that allowed a security breach at the White House? Well, obviously, you try to breach security yourself, rather than letting someone else do all the work. I mean, if you’re gonna do something egregiously stupid, you’ve got to do it yourself.

Team Alcohol Fueled Car Crash: Just this week, with a late entry into the tournament, two secret service agents decided that instead of simply allowing some one else to breach security, they got drunk and crashed their car into one of the barricades at the White House. If you’re gonna have someone breach security, you might as well do it yourself, right? They get points for having an up-tempo offense, involving drinking and driving, and using their siren/lights as they came down to the White House barricade. Their teammates demonstrated wonderful unity in letting the drunk officers go without any questions, so we’ve got a strong spirit of corruption here.

How is your bracket looking?

Not exactly Paul Bunyan, but pretty good for me

In addition to lawyering, shooting things, and running Brad’s blog while he’s off gallivanting, I try to do a little manual labor every once in awhile. Sitting at a desk all day is not good for me, and I enjoy work that produces a tangible product at the end of the task. Lawyering, while a noble profession does not produce tangible work product in the sense of something you can sit back and say “I did that”.

A few months ago, our own Kathryn Fenner was kind enough to provide me with the scrap wood from a massive oak tree that she had to take down. Since she didn’t need the wood, she was kind enough to let me have it. Accordingly, a giant dump truck dropped off the wood in my driveway and drove off – leaving a lot of wood. I mean just look at it:

Logs

Accordingly, I donned the protective gear (eye protection, ear protection, and protective clothing) fired up my chainsaw, and cut the logs into appropriate sized rounds for splitting, which look like this:

Rounds

At this point, I could carry the rounds (or roll the heavy ones) in to my backyard were I could really go to work on them. For the actual splitting, the sole tool used was my trusty eight-pound splitting maul, which is pictured in the foreground of the picture below. The resulting firewood makes a lovely background, I think.

Firewood

What you’re looking at is roughly three feet wide (it’s two pieces of wood deep) by about four feet high, by about twenty feet long. That will season up nicely over the summer and by next winter, it will be nice and dry for use in my wood-burning fireplace.

It’s also had an unexpected rebirth- as a bird feeder. The reason that Kathryn had to take down the tree (I think) is because it was starting to rot a little bit, so there were some creepy crawlies inside some of the more rotten pieces. Splitting the pieces open exposed all the bugs to the world, and the birds in my backyard have been feasting all over and around the woodpile. There was even a time when they would be fairly close to me while splitting, just waiting for me to toss the wood on the pile…kind of like how you see seagulls trailing shrimp boats, just not to that extent.

In any event, thanks to Kathryn for her generosity in allowing me to recycle her tree into a bird-feeder, allow me to get some exercise, and eventually heat my home for a long time to come.

Unable to Implement Actual Gun Control Legislation; Executive Branch Decides to, Get This, Start Making Things Up

I’ll preface this with the disclaimer that if Brad were running this blog, you wouldn’t see this story. He’s not a gun person (and chances are that you aren’t either) so this story wouldn’t really even be on his radar. However, Brad’s not home. So I’m going to talk about the ATF’s illegal ban on M855 ammo. But let’s start at the beginning. What is M855 ammo, you ask?

M855 ammunition is a 5.56 x 45mm cartridge, which is the round originally chambered in the M-16, and the civilian variant – the ubiquitous AR-15.

When the M-16 was originally designed, the 5.56 ammo for it was all-lead, or what is commonly referred to as “ball” ammunition. After the Vietnam war, soldiers reported some issues with the all-lead design, and wanted a round that would have more energy at longer ranges. Essentially, they wanted a heavier round.

In response, the M855 round was developed. The difference in the M855 round is that it has a steel-core, just at the tip. The steel doesn’t deform as much as the lead, so there’s better accuracy over long distances, and better stability when the round hits clothing or glass. Now, this cartridge isn’t designed to be “armor piercing”. It’s just a more effective rifle round at range than an all-lead round.

Nowadays, the US Army has since moved on to a newer round, but there’s a ton of surplus M855 ammo that is popular with target shooters because it’s accurate over long distances compared to “ball” ammo…and it’s relatively cheap because it’s military surplus.

So, along comes the ATF and now they say that because this round has “armor piercing” capability, it can be banned under the existing law. The New York Times, loves the idea. Except, get this, the New York Times doesn’t know anything at all about the M855 round. They just know that they don’t like guns or the things that go inside guns. And they really don’t like the scary looking guns.

The fact is, almost all rifle cartridges can pierce standard body armor. Even the original all-lead 5.56x45mm cartridge easily penetrates standard body armor. That’s because standard body armor isn’t intended to stop shots from rifles – it’s intended to handgun rounds, which are comparatively lower powered. To take the ATF’s reasoning to it’s logical conclusion, you’d have to ban most center-fire rifle ammo. The ATF knows this, but it’s doing it anyway, using the helpful idiots at the New York Times to promote this myth of police officers needing this ban for safety. There’s only one factual little problem with this reason: the Fraternal Order of Police says that an M855 cartridge ban is not necessary to protect police officers.

To say that the M855 round should be banned because it’s “armor piercing” is dumb, because almost all the other rifle rounds out there, available at every Wal-Mart are also “armor piercing” under this silly definition. Banning M855 ammo would do next to nothing to lower crime rates or police fatalities, because it’s hardly ever used in crimes.

But hey, actual facts don’t matter to gun control advocates, the ATF or this White House. They want to use every excuse possible to get what they want, and when they got stopped with the legislative path, they just decided to use administrative action to accomplish their policy objectives – and stretching beyond the bounds of the law to do it.

See, I told you Brad wouldn’t have posted this. :)

I’m really, really ticked off at WordPress right now

I had just finished writing a lengthy, complex post with all sorts of links and such in it, and before looking for a video clip to add to it, decided to save as a draft, upon which I got one of those “retry” error messages. Which usually means I have to hit “back” a couple of times to get to my work before I can copy and paste it somewhere to save it from this technological hiccup.

But I went back, and back, and my work wasn’t there any more.

I haven’t had this happen in years.

Anyway, I blame WordPress. It recently upgraded, and I think this is a glitch of the upgrade. And I’m really, really ticked about it…

Stephen Colbert, Catholic Sunday School teacher

File photo -- Colbert in Columbia in 2007

File photo — Colbert in Columbia in 2007

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across something that made me want to look further. It was about John McCain’s appearance on one of the last shows of “The Colbert Report”:

He also forgot that Colbert teaches Sunday School, and got schooled on Bible verse.

I vaguely knew that Colbert was a fellow South Carolina Catholic, but I didn’t realize how involved he was with his faith. So I did some Googling, and among other things, I found this item cataloging six times when the real Colbert broke through the character and talked about his faith:

  1. The Time He Talked about Faith and Tragedy with The New York Times
  2. The Time He Explained Hell on NPR
  3. The Time He Embarrassed a Guy that Suggested God Caused Evil
  4. The Time He Argued for Christ’s Divinity
  5. The Time He Discussed the Importance of Humor in Faith
  6. The Time He Used the Bible to Advocate for Immigration Reform at Congress

As an example, here is one of those items:

Stephen Colbert is not a fan of Bart Ehrman. The religious scholar came on The Colbert Report to promote his book Jesus, Interrupted which questions the credibility of the Gospel and the divinity of Christ Himself. It got brutal. For nearly 7 minutes, Colbert deftly explained seeming contradictions in the New Testament, showed how Scripture supports Christ’s divinity and intellectually embarrassed the scholar in Zimbardo fashion. You can watch the entire exchange here.

I had no idea that Colbert was so serious about his faith, or indeed such a defender of Catholic orthodoxy. I thought his fans among you would be interested. And so, during this Advent season, when people of faith are supposed to be reflecting on such things, I share this.

Should all SC cops have to wear body cameras?

Or, to put it another way, should every county and municipality in South Carolina have to pay to buy and maintain body cameras for every cop in the state?

Two lawmakers think so:

South Carolina Senators Malloy and Kimpson File Body Camera Legislation

Senators Malloy and Kimpson will pre-file legislation tomorrow requiring all law enforcement officers in the State of South Carolina to wear body cameras that can record any and all contact with persons in the performance of the law enforcement officers’ official duties.

“As chair of the Criminal Task Force, Sentence Reform Commission, Sentencing Oversight Commission and author of numerous bills in the criminal arena, my experience informs me that police officers should be collecting more evidence all the time,” stated Senator Malloy.  “History has demonstrated that eyewitnesses are not always the most reliable form of evidence.  It is time for South Carolina to invest in common sense technology.  This investment is critical to preserving the integrity of our system of justice.”

“Disputed facts are often an issue in encounters with law enforcement as we’ve seen with the incident between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri,” stated Senator Kimpson.  “Right here in Charleston, there remains a dispute about what happened to Denzel Currnell.  It is important to note that while a dashboard camera did not stop South Carolina highway trooper Sean Groubert from shooting Levar Jones, it did lead to the officer’s firing and arrest.  Body cameras would provide everyone a clearer picture of the facts,” continued Kimpson.

Representative Wendell Gilliard plans to introduce a similar bill in the House when pre-filing opens on December 11th.  “I applaud Senators Malloy and Kimpson for filing this legislation.  Over the summer, I met with many representatives of the law enforcement community and neighborhood leaders who indicated that they would welcome this legislation.  Statistics confirm increased use of body cameras tend to reduce the number of confrontations,” said Representative Gilliard.

I suppose as reactions to Ferguson go, this is preferable to chaos in the streets. And indeed, we’ve had our share of problematic uses of force right here at home in the past year.

But I have to wonder whether this is overdoing it…

Black is the new orange

orange invert

I found this piece, end of last week, intriguing:

It sounds like a radical idea: Stop incarcerating women, and close down women’s prisons. But in Britain, there is a growing movement, sponsored by a peer in the House of Lords, to do just that.

The argument is actually quite straightforward: There are far fewer women in prison than men to start with — women make up just 7 percent of the prison population. This means that these women are disproportionately affected by a system designed for men….

Essentially, the case for closing women’s prisons is the same as the case for imprisoning fewer men. It is the case against the prison industrial complex and for community-based treatment where it works better than incarceration. But there is evidence that prison harms women more than men, so why not start there?

Any examination of the women who are in U.S. prisons reveals that the majority are nonviolent offenders with poor education, little employment experience and multiple histories of abuse from childhood through adulthood. Women are also more likely than men to have children who rely on them for support — 147,000 American children have mothers in prison….

I don’t know how practical the idea is, but I like that somebody’s thinking about it. We lock up way too many people in this country, period. I don’t think anyone who is not a danger to others needs to be incarcerated; it serves little useful purpose.

Of course, a certain percentage of male inmates are a danger; but very, very few women are. They’re more likely to be in for writing bad checks than for armed robbery.

So, let’s explore this…

orange

John Oliver discovers the big ‘secret’ that legislatures exist

Another thing I talked about on the radio last night was my increasing peevishness that we call these “mid-term elections,” which underlines our unhealthy national obsession with national politics over local, and presidential politics über alles.

And this morning, I was treated to another bit of evidence of the problem:

“Look, state legislatures are hilarious. There’s only one problem,” the HBO host began. “Increasingly, they’re the places where most legislation is actually taking place.”

While the U.S. Congress has only passed 185 laws this session, the satirist pointed out that state houses have passed over 24,000 bills.

Oliver then launched into an extended lecture on the influence of the local lawmakers on issues from abortion rights to environmental policy to gun control.

One additional player is the notorious “conservative bill mill,” the American Legislative Exchange Council….

Notice anything odd about that piece? Yeah, it’s the implied presumption that government should not be going on on the state level, that there’s something sneaky and nefarious about that.

I’ll set aside the considerations of ALEC for another time. My point here is to say that yes, we do have local and state governments, and guess what? We’re supposed to.

But Mr. Oliver is right about one thing. Too often, “Americans aren’t watching.” That’s because we allow our views of politics to be formed by Mr. Oliver, and Jon Stewart, and CNN and MSNBC and the rest, and all they tell us about is national politics. Obsessively and excessively.

This has been a problem my whole life. I can still remember when I came out of college believing that national politics was what was important, and the rest was a distraction. It took me awhile — and some time covering state and local governments — to be disabused of that simplistic notion.

Unfortunately, I worry that too many still see the national as all that matters. And they’re wrong.

Oh, and it’s not state governments’ fault that you’re not watching. That’s your fault.

 

No blog for you! My laptop’s dead…

Here I am at a Barnes and Noble where I came to do a little blogging, and… my laptop won’t turn on. (I’m typing this on my iPad.)

I turned it off fully charged and put it in my bag two days ago, so the battery can’t be dead. And even if it IS, it’s plugged in to the wall. So the battery’s status shouldn’t matter. But it’s cold, and dead. No lights come on. No sound. No response whatsoever.

Allow me to indulge in a bit of British-style understatement: This is distressing.

Nikki Haley’s meek assurances to the neoConfederates

I wrote about this and posted it four years ago, and referred back to it yesterday.

But today, when the Sheheen campaign sent it out for the benefit of those who previously missed it or have forgotten, it occurred to me that they have a point: For the sake of clear comparison to Sheheen’s stand, it’s probably worth posting again.

Aside from her meek assurances that no, she won’t try to get the flag down, and no, she won’t succumb to “pressure” to change her mind, there are a number of bits that sort of make the flesh crawl — such as when her questioner (in a voice that even Hollywood might think sounded TOO stereotypical; it’s in the Strother Martin range) asks whether she realizes that “we do have the power to oust someone” if she misleads them, and that David Beasley “learned that the hard way.” Whatever the issue, you will seldom hear a political threat uttered in such naked terms. That part starts at 6:15.

Almost everything objectionable about flag defenders is on display here, such as the laughable conceit that they somehow have the monopoly on true knowledge of history. Hear the voice ask Rep. Haley (at 5:44) whether she understands that the Emancipation Proclamation, which “is supposed to be such a great document,” only freed slaves in states in a state of rebellion. It’s apparent that this guy thinks this is not only some great revelation (as though any student of history wouldn’t know it), but that he thinks it somehow delegitimizes the Union cause, and excuses the Southern one.

Nikki nods and smiles through all that. To her credit, I think I sense a little bit of, “Oh my God, what have I let myself in for here?” in her eyes.

But then she humbly assures these folks that she will do their bidding in office. And that’s the point here.