Category Archives: Words

Today’s evidence that everybody needs an editor

climate change

Bryan Caskey brought this headline to my attention, confessing that “I had no idea there were people out there who supported climate-change.”

Well, yeah. And believe me, you really do have to “spend big” if you want to effect change in an entire planet’s climate, so give that copy editor a break…

Plagiarism flap in the Lowcountry

Tyler Jones, spokesman for SC House Democrats, brings this to my attention:

BREAKING NEWS!
GOP Legislator Busted for Plagiarism
On Monday, Berkeley County GOP Rep. Samuel Rivers, a Tea Party activist and pastor, published an op-ed in the Post and Courier that discussed new EPA proposals in Congress.
The only problem?
He didn’t write it. 

According to Hutchins’ story, Rep. Rivers published an op-ed in the Charleston Post & Courier on Monday, July 21st under the byline of Samuel Rivers Jr.
Hutchins quickly found this exact same editorial was recently published out west by a cattleman’s association group.
———————————–
Compare Op-Eds:
 —————————–——
How similar are the op-eds? Have a look for yourself:
Excerpts from the Cattlemen’s Association Op-Ed:
“In 1972, the CWA created a regulatory permitting system to control discharges (discharge includes dirt, manure, fertilizer, litter, pesticides, etc.) into “navigable waters.” The term “navigable waters” is defined in the CWA as “waters of the United States” and nothing more. This absurdly vague definition has provided the implementing federal agencies – namely EPA and the Corps – with the loophole they needed to systematically gain more and more regulatory authority over smaller and less significant “bodies of water” – a term used loosely – over the past 40 years.”
“How did they do it? Through vague terms such as “neighboring,” ill-defined terms like “floodplain,” and expansive definitions such as “tributary.” Not to mention the agencies extremely broad definition of what is considered a “significant nexus” between isolated waters and downstream waters. The agencies also leave most of these important key terms up to the “best professional judgment” of the federal regulator. These legal terms give the regulatory agencies the loopholes they need to find your pond, puddle or ditch to be a “water of the U.S.” and leave landowners with more confusion than ever before.”
Excerpts from Rep. River’s Op-Ed:
“When passed in 1972, the Clean Water Act created a regulatory permitting system to control discharges (including dirt, manure, fertilizer, litter, pesticides, etc.) into “navigable waters.” The term “navigable waters” is defined in the CWA as “waters of the United States,” and nothing more. This vague definition has provided the implementing federal agencies (namely EPA and the Corps) with the loophole they needed to systematically gain more regulatory authority over smaller and less significant “bodies of water” over the past 40 years.”

“This is done through vague terms such as “neighboring,” ill-defined terms like “floodplain,” and expansive definitions such as “tributary,” not to mention the agencies’ extremely broad definition of what is considered a “significant nexus” between isolated waters and downstream waters. The agencies also leave most of these important key terms up to the “best professional judgment” of the federal regulator. These legal terms give the regulatory agencies the loopholes they need to find your pond, puddle or ditch to be a “water of the U.S.,” leaving landowners with more confusion than ever before.”

As you can see, almost all of Rep. Rivers’ op-ed was lifted verbatim from the Cattlemen’s Association op-ed.

Confronted with the facts, Rep. Rivers doubled down telling Hutchins, “Those are my words with the information that was provided to me, let me put it like that.”
It’s bad enough to plagiarize someone else’s work – present it as your own – and publish it in the state’s largest newspaper. But it’s even worse to lie about it after you’ve been caught.
The voters of District 15 deserve a representative who will be open and honest with them about the issues confronting our state. Not someone who will copy and paste someone else’s work and claim it as their own. The voters deserve an apology and an explanation from Rep. Samuel Rivers.
Sincerely,
Tyler Jones
Political Director
SC House Democrats
P.S. Don’t forget Rep. Rivers has a Democratic opponent, Marian Redish, in the November elections. You can make a contribution to her campaign by visiting her website – www.MarianForHouse.com.

Tyler had asked me for my thoughts on this earlier, and so had Corey Hutchins. Both wanted to know what I would have done had such a piece run in The State when I was EPE. Corey just wanted to know what I thought off-the-record, but you know me, I don’t mind sharing what I told him…

The truth is that first, I don’t know exactly what I would have done. That sounds like a cop-out, but it’s the opposite of a cop-out — it’s me taking the question seriously.

And one thing I’ve learned over the years is that it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll do in a given situation until you’re in it, and dealing with the very specific facts and dynamics of the situation, and consulting with your colleagues about it. (While I have never been shy about making unilateral decisions, I learned to my greater humility that as smart as I may have thought I was, I was always smarter after a serious discussion with my fellow members of the editorial board. And sometimes I made a different decision as a result.)

If you hold a gun to my head, I’ll speculate that under such circumstances I MIGHT write a column about it, as it’s an interesting situation that sheds light on the piece that we ran, and also into the editorial process, which I always liked to do….

If I didn’t want to spend a column (a decidedly finite resource) on it, I might do a blog post about it. But then I would feel some obligation to let print-only readers know the controversy existed. Maybe a brief blurb leading people to the blog post.

But that’s first-blush. As I say, in the actual situation I might do something different…

So I don’t like to second-guess what another editor did or didn’t do. Speaking of which, it appears that what Charleston did do was take the piece off their website. An update from Corey:

UPDATE, 7/25: Rivers’ op-ed appears to have been pulled by The Post and Courier. The link to the commentary now goes to a page that reads, “Error 404 – This page is either no longer available or has been relocated.” A search for phrases from the op-ed on the paper’s site yielded no results.

Charles Rowe, the editorial page editor, didn’t have much to say when asked earlier today if the paper had any update on the situation. Rowe did not immediately respond to another inquiry this afternoon, after the op-ed disappeared.

Rivers, however, hasn’t been quiet. He has repeatedly posted to his Twitter account a letter that indicates he had permission—from a lobbyist—to use industry-written material in his op-ed. …

How could Huck Finn not top any list of Great American Novels?

Thomas Hart Benton's depiction of Huck and Jim

Thomas Hart Benton’s depiction of Huck and Jim

A piece in The Washington Post this morning on the new book about living next door to Harper Lee mentions the status of To Kill A Mockingbird as a, if not the, Great American Novel — and casually links to a list.

The list isn’t explained. I don’t know who compiled it, or what the criteria may have been.

But of course I’m drawn in. The list extends to 358 books (which requires straining the definition of “great”), but let’s just examine the top ten:

  1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  3. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  4. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  5. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  6. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
  7. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  8. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
  9. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  10. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

OK, first, it’s just not right for Steinbeck to get three out of the 10. Especially since — confession time — I’ve never read the first two. The Grapes of Wrath is one of those novels I’ve meant to read for most of my life, and I will (my wife finds it utterly incredible I still haven’t). East of Eden, not so much.

And, to confess further, despite having started it again to great fanfare, I’ve still never finished Moby Dick. It just seems to start to drag after they go to sea. (Yeah, I know that’s pretty early in the book.) Which is weird, because that’s when seafaring tales generally get good.

I think all the other works are deserving of the top ten, although I might move up some of my faves from the second ten (On the Road, The Sun Also Rises, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Fahrenheit 451).

But my main beef is this: How could any list of the Greatest American Novels not start with Huckleberry Finn? Hemingway famously said, ““All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.” And I agree, except that I would delete the word, “modern.” It’s superfluous. All American literature, period.

It’s THE American novel. It’s episodic, picaresque structure is quintessentially American. Huck Finn, the freest character in literature, untainted by the history or culture of the Old World, couldn’t be more American. Huck can be anyone he wants to be, and slides in and out of identities throughout. And the central conflict in the novel is about the deepest, most profound issue of our history — in the sense that it has a central theme. Remember the author’s warning:

PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

Which is a very American sort of warning — notice in no uncertain terms that pretension will not be tolerated.

Even the novel’s weaknesses are very American. Such as the uneven tone — starting out with farcical comedy that is an extension of Tom Sawyer, moving to tragedy with the Graingerfords and other incidents, the slapstick and menace of the Duke and the Dauphin, and ending with the broad comedy of Tom’s insistence on throwing flourishes from literature into Jim’s escape from the Phelps farm — itself a deadly serious matter, which nearly leads to Tom’s death, and does result in Jim’s recapture (as a result of his own selflessness).

Sorry, that was a confusing sentence. But you see what I mean. The novel was no more constrained by a particular tone than life itself. Very free, very American. And certainly great.

OK, off the top of my head, my own list:

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  2. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  3. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
  5. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
  6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
  7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  8. All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
  9. The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane
  10. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Some runner-ups:

  • The Chosen, by Chaim Potok
  • Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
  • City Boy, by Herman Wouk
  • The Natural, by Bernard Malamud
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain
  • Goodbye, Columbus, by Philip Roth
  • The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper
  • The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
  • God’s Little Acre, by Erskine Caldwell
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

Better stop there, as my quality was slipping a bit at the end there (Heinlein is fun, but is it literature?).

I’ll come back and explain those choices a bit another day. Gotta run now…

Suarez takes public apology genre to new depths

Speaking of having a way with words

Just so you know that politicians have no patent on the use evasive language in public apologies, you’ve got to check out this one from footballer Luis Suárez:


Somewhere, Mark Sanford and Bill Clinton are envious. And Ronald Reagan’s “mistakes were made” just seems amateurish compared to the towering passivity of “suffered the physical result of a bite.” That’s just poetry by comparison…

That Monica Lewinsky just has a way with words

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monica Lewinsky, on what she terms the worst day of her life — when Ken Starr released a report on her relationship with the president:

I was a virgin to humiliation of that level until” the day the report was released, Lewinsky said. She added: “To have my narrative ripped from me and turned into the Starr report and things that were turned over or things they delved out of my computer that I thought were deleted — I mean, it was just violation after violation.”

Emphasis added by me.

Some people need an editor, just walking around talking…

Barton Swaim on Sanford and the public apology meme

Two recent posts — this one about Mark Sanford and this one about a public apology — remind me that a couple of weeks back, I meant to mention this book review in the WSJ, written by Columbia’s own Barton Swaim.

Yeah, I know — you click on the link and can’t read the review. I have the same problem, ever since my subscription ran out and the WSJ has refused to offer me terms anywhere near as reasonable as those they offered me in the past. (By contrast, I recently took advantage of an awesome, one-day deal offered by The Washington Post — $29 for a year of total access across all platforms, including the most important, my iPad. I’ve been enjoying it. The WSJ, unfortunately, wants almost that much per month.)

Anyway, it’s a review of Sorry About That by Edwin L. Battistella. It’s about public apologies, and I started reading the review with Mark Sanford in mind. Because I’ve heard more such apologies from him than from anyone. (While I’ve seen nothing that looks like actual contrition, no indication that there is anything that he did that he is truly sorry for.)

So I was startled when I got to this paragraph:

Apologizers’ attempts to avoid naming their offense, says Mr. Battistella, often make their apologies sound inauthentic and self-exculpatory. Instead of repeating or even paraphrasing the unwise remarks that prompted the apology, they will refer to “a careless, off-handed remark” or “insensitive words”; embezzling funds becomes a “mistake,” adultery a “poor decision I deeply regret.” I have a vivid memory of my former boss, Mark Sanford, in the days after his adulterous affair was revealed to the public. (Mr. Battistella devotes a brief section of his book to the governor of South Carolina, as he then was.) He would often refer to the affair in a grammatically bizarre way: “that which has caused the stir that it has.”…

Voldemort was He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Sanford’s long-lasting lapse was “The-Sin-That-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

You know what? Bemused, jaded-wounding observations like Barton’s cause me to have the following thought: I’m not sure that anyone who worked for Mark Sanford as governor forgives him to the extent that he, Mark Sanford, believes he should be forgiven.

When you play villains as well as Oldman, you HAVE TO apologize this graciously, and then some

Would you accept an apology from this guy?

Would you accept an apology from this guy?

Gary Oldman has apologized abjectly, completely and graciously for offensive comments he made about Jews in a Playboy interview:

I am deeply remorseful that comments I recently made in the Playboy Interview were offensive to many Jewish people. Upon reading my comments in print—I see how insensitive they may be, and how they may indeed contribute to the furtherance of a false stereotype. Anything that contributes to this stereotype is unacceptable, including my own words on the matter. If, during the interview, I had been asked to elaborate on this point I would have pointed out that I had just finished reading Neal Gabler’s superb book about the Jews and Hollywood, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews invented Hollywood. The fact is that our business, and my own career specifically, owes an enormous debt to that contribution.

I hope you will know that this apology is heartfelt, genuine, and that I have an enormous personal affinity for the Jewish people in general, and those specifically in my life. The Jewish People, persecuted thorough the ages, are the first to hear God’s voice, and surely are the chosen people.

I would like to sign off with “Shalom Aleichem”—but under the circumstances, perhaps today I lose the right to use that phrase, so I will wish you all peace–Gary Oldman.

I don’t know whether Oldman or a publicist wrote that apology, but it’s a good one. It holds nothing back, unlike many other public apologies we’ve seen (such as the Mark Sanford “I’m sorry, but I’m like King David, and God forgave King David, so you’ve gotta forgive me — what, do you think you’re better than God?” approach).

Of course, when you play villains as chillingly convincingly as Oldman does, you’ve got to go all-out, because a lot of people wouldn’t consider it a great leap to picture him as a neo-Nazi. And even when you DO apologize, they’re quick to point out that you didn’t apologize to other groups you may have offended.

All of that said, what person with any class does Playboy interviews any more? What does he think this is, 1970?

... or this one?

… or this one?

This is why you make sure it fits on Twitter FIRST

I’m feeling bad for Nikki Haley today, because she was trying to do the right thing, and say the right thing, but the medium got in the way.

Below is an image of what appeared in her Twitter feed yesterday morning:

09-nikki-haley-tweet.w1058.h704

The problem, of course, was that she posted on Instagram, and when that autoposted to Twitter, it cut her off in mid-thought. What she actually said was:

South Carolina made history this year by passing education reform. We will no longer educate children based on where they are born. Through reading coaches, technology investments, and expanding charter schools we just confirmed that we want our children to be the future workforce for our growing high tech jobs! #ItIsAGreatDayInSC

And we should all be able to agree with that, even the Democrats who won’t give her credit for actually meaning it. (Well, they might not go for the charter schools part, but the rest of it…)

Here’s the corrected version of her Tweet:

Moral of the story: If you’re going to post to a medium that automatically posts to your Twitter feed, always write it for Twitter, and make sure it fits there first. Otherwise, it’s just too tricky to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

People pay me to tell them stuff like that these days. Consider this a freebie, and don’t ever say I never gave you anything…

The statement that the NRA had to walk back

The NRA's Chris Cox, walking it back.

The NRA’s Chris Cox, walking it back.

The NRA got in trouble with its fans for suggesting that perhaps some of its adherents were engaging in behavior that was a bit… off:

[A] small number have recently crossed the line from enthusiasm to downright foolishness… Recently, demonstrators have been showing up in various public places, including coffee shops and fast food restaurants, openly toting a variety of tactical long guns… Yet while unlicensed open carry of long guns is also typically legal in most places, it is a rare sight to see someone sidle up next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slung across his chest, much less a whole gaggle of folks descending on the same public venue with similar arms. Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weirdand certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary

After that drew a great deal of heat from the membership, the NRA’s Chris Cox walked it back, saying:

There was some confusion, we apologize, again, for any confusion that that post caused… Now, the truth is, an alert went out that referred to this type of behavior as weird, or somehow not normal. And that was a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened. I’ve had a discussion with the staffer who wrote that piece, and expressed his personal opinion. Our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners.”

Lindsey Graham could have warned these guys: Saying stuff that makes sense can get you into a heap of trouble with your base.

Cox further reinforced his position by blaming the whole contretemps on “the media.” Nothing like the old standby tactics…

Snowden wasn’t a spy before. But NOW he is (sort of)

The double-naught spy, in the popular imagination...

The double-naught spy, in the popular imagination…

There’s a little confusion over terms going on in the news the last day or so.

First, Edward Snowden says he wasn’t some “low-level analyst,” but a sure-enough, double-naught spy.

Susan Rice denies it, saying he was no such thing.

Not that she’s necessarily a reliable witness on such things, but she must be in the right of it.

That’s because, even if Snowden actually was, as he claims, an American sent abroad under a cover to collect intelligence, he wasn’t a spy, and certainly not an agent.

“Spies” and “agents” are the people recruited by CIA intelligence officers to collect intelligence, usually regarding their own country. A spy, generally speaking, isn’t someone like James Bond or George Smiley. A spy tends to be someone who is working for someone other than who he claims to be working for.

Kim Philby was a spy — not because he worked for Britain’s MI6, but because while pretending to work for MI6, he was actually working for the Soviets. Burgess and McLean, Jonathan Pollard, Aldrich Ames and Whittaker Chambers were spies.

Yes, it’s a malleable term. When Snowden says, “I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word,” I think what he means is “in the popular sense of the word,” as opposed to the technical one.

Of course, my impression of what the word means is based mostly on spy fiction, so I could be wrong, too. (And occasionally, even in le Carre, the word is used loosely to mean “someone engaged in the intelligence world”). But I don’t think I am.

I’m also a bit puzzled that he believes being a field officer is automatically higher-ranking than an analyst. True, there’s more cachet to being a field man than a desk man; it’s way cooler. (As Jethro Bodine knows, or thinks he knows, they get to do all that “fightin’ and lovin’.”) And Len Deighton’s Bernard Samson held desk men in contempt. And sure, there are certainly analysts who are lower in the organization than senior field people, particularly when they are contractors rather than career officers. But who is higher-ranking, Jim Prideaux, a.k.a. Jim Ellis, out in the cold in Czechoslovakia or George Smiley back at the office in London? Obviously, Smiley. (Not that George didn’t still have some great tradecraft if forced into the field himself, as in Smiley’s People.) It’s sort of like with newspapers. Reporters may have the fun, but editors decide what goes into the paper. Field officers may be posted to romantic, exotic places, but the analysts more directly affect the policies that result from intel-gathering.

Anyway, if Snowden had ambitions of being a spy, he should rejoice, because that’s what he is now. He took American secrets with which he was entrusted and revealed them to the nation’s enemies. Of course, he revealed them to everybody else as well, which kind of blows the whole secrecy thing that we associate with spies. But he should comfort himself that he’s now as close to being a spy as he’ll ever be.

Battle over the Washington Whatevers escalates

I raise this in case any of y’all would like to weigh in. I’ve never felt inclined to, on account of this being about, you know, football, and it is my firm belief that far, far more than enough words get spent on that subject on a daily basis.

But in case you want to discuss it, here’s the latest:

WASHINGTON — Fifty members of the Senate have signed a letter to the N.F.L.to urge its leadership to press the Washington Redskins to change the team name in the aftermath of tough sanctions against the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers for racially charged comments.

The position embraced by half of the Senate, and the willingness of the lawmakers to sign a formal request to Commissioner Roger Goodell, escalated the fight over the name and represented an effort to put increasing pressure on the league, which receives a federal tax break, and the ownership of the team.

“The N.F.L. can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,” said the letter, which was circulated by Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, and endorsed by Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, the majority leader. “We urge the N.F.L. to formally support a name change for the Washington football team.”

Cantwell said that “we are going to find out if the N.F.L. can act against this kind of discrimination as quickly as the N.B.A. did.” She said she considered the Senate letter an important milestone….

I will say this: I do have a bit of trouble following the logic in the statement that what the NBA acted on earlier was “this kind of discrimination.”

I mean, let’s stipulate that both are instances of discrimination. The point can be argued, but let’s say they both are. By what logic could they be seen as the same kind of discrimination?

In one case, you got a befuddled, besotted old man spouting outrageous things during an argument with his mistress. At least, I think they were outrageous things. He was so incoherent it was kind of hard to tell. (How is it that people who can’t explain their way out of a wet paper bag can get to be so rich?) It was a sudden revelation of a surprising conversation.

In the other, you have the public, avowed, official, legal name of a team, one that it has never made any secret about. No one has been “caught,” or “exposed.” There’s nothing new or startling. Just a slow, gradually mounting tide of dissent against a name that the team has been known by since 1933, when it was still in Boston.

One was a startling incident revealing the character of a man. The other was a gradual, tectonic shift in consensus about the connotations of a word.

So basically, while “Redskins” may or may not be a name that a team should go by, what happened with that basketball team owner doesn’t bear on this one way or the other. The league might take action in this case as well, but the probability of their doing so doesn’t follow from what happened in a very different case.

I don’t know. I’m just in a pedantic mood today…

“Be more splendid.” Who says stuff like that?

BnIsIrKCAAAp4WW

Apparently, Oprah does.

Don’t know why, but when I saw those words on one of those insulator cuff things at Starbucks yesterday, the exhortation seemed remarkably goofy.

Like something Bill and Ted, they of the Excellent Adventure, would say. You know, like “Be excellent to each other.” Or “Bogus. Heinous. Most non-triumphant. Ah, Ted, don’t be dead, dude.”

Like that.

Aw. Maybe you should have added “Mom,” “Apple Pie,” and “George Washington” to the bill’s name

Why not throw in George Washington?

Why not throw in George Washington?

This happened in Washington this morning:

The House passed a bill Thursday aimed at reforming the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records, a policy that came to light due to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The bill, known as the USA Freedom Act, would shift responsibility for retaining telephonic metadata from the government to telephone companies. Providers like AT&T and Verizon would be required to maintain the records for 18 months and let the NSA search them in terrorism investigations when the agency obtains a judicial order or in certain emergency situations. The bill passed on an 303 to 121 vote.

But privacy advocates, technology companies and lawmakers warned that the version of the bill passed by the House was watered down to the point where they could no longer support it.

“This is not the bill that was reported out of the judiciary bill unanimously,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee who was a co-sponsor of the initial version of the bill. “The result is a bill that will actually not end bulk collection, regrettably.”…

Aw. Gee. Too bad. Although not really, since there was never anything wrong with bulk collection to begin with.

Maybe the problem is with the way you framed the bill, starting with the name. Maybe “USA” and “Freedom” didn’t give it enough oomph. Maybe you should have added “Mom” or “Apple Pie.” Or “George Washington,” or “Fourth of July.”

Do people have no shame whatsoever in naming these things? In what way is “USA” or “Freedom” descriptive of this bill? Yeah, I know the privacy worrywarts consider mining metadata to be a threat to their liberties, yadda-yadda. But a bill designed to do the opposite could make just as good a case that they are the ones defending liberty.

Of course, their “just as good a case” would still be lame and wrong. When we talk about national security or defense, we often say it’s in the service of “freedom,” as a sort of catchall term for “something in the service of the country.” But often, these things that we justify in the name of “freedom” are perfectly justifiable in the names of other completely legitimate, and actually descriptive, aims. Such as, you know, security. And defense.

Take the “Patriot Act.” It was a counterterrorism bill. You could have called it a lot of things, including an anti-compartmentalization bill, as it scrapped some traditional security measures limiting the flow of information in the name of avoiding another 9/11. But that wouldn’t have been very catchy.

But why not come up with something catchy that actually has something to do with the bill? Like the “Remember 9/11 Act.” And if you’re one of the privacy advocates who favors this more recent legislation, why not call it the “Big Brother Act?” Or, I suppose, “Anti-Big Brother Act.” Since you hold to the ridiculous, hyperbolic notion that this program goes beyond 1984 levels of intrusion. Or name it the “Snowden Act,” since that’s whose wishes and worldview you’re kowtowing to.

Or simply, the “Privacy Act.” That should be a big seller.

As for “USA” — every act that comes out of the Congress is a “USA” act, sort of by definition. How generic can you get?

Anyway, I’d have more respect for some of these bills if they showed more respect for the language…

There’s nothing wrong with being a politician, per se

I just have one brief reaction to this email from Mia McLeod:

I’m a public servant, not a politician. There’s a difference.

One is committed to public service; the other, to that which is politically expedient.

And although I didn’t create the term, “OG,” you’ve gotta admit…when it comes to describing the corrupt, self-serving practices of the Old Guard…the glove definitely fits. And they’ve got their hands in it…from the Governor’s mansion…to the State House…and everything in between…all of these good ole boys and gals wanna do the deeds, but none of them want the “label.”
Fortunately, the voters of House District 79 didn’t send me to the State House to make new friends or become a willing participant in a corrupt “system” of governance that isn’t accessible, accountable or beneficial to the people it purports to serve. That’s “the system” I encountered when I was elected to the SC House four years ago, and that’s “the system” that I fight every single day.

And since so many members of the OG seem to question the definition and whether they’re appropriately “labeled,” please allow me to clarify for them what you and I already know…

The “OG” is defined by a self-preserving mindset and self-serving behavior, not age. There’s a difference.

Truth is…the OG is a very diverse group. Representing every age, race, ethnicity, gender, discipline and party affiliation, they are masters of deception and rhetoric. Why? Because if they can convince you to trust and believe what they say, you won’t pay close attention to what they do.

But if you’re still in doubt, just check these out. They’re some of the OG’s proudest moments:

Governor Haley’s ethics charges, although legitimate and substantiated, are unabashedly “dropped” by her OG colleagues…some of whom now stand with her in front of every camera they can find, “demanding” ethics reform

Former Richland County Elections Director recklessly disenfranchises thousands of voters in 2012, but is endorsed, elevated, insulated and just a few weeks ago, reinstated by the OG over the objections of outraged voters

Richland Two’s School Board Chair publicly confirms his support for the divisive, self-serving OG practices of the Superintendent, while they continue to disregard the voices of the majority, diminish the District’s diversity and discreetly plot to put even more of their cronies into high-paying positions at the District Office (“DO”)

Yeah…the OG is a narcissistic and seemingly invincible force, alright…united by greed and loyal only to that which strengthens and preserves their power.

Never principle. Never people.

Not surprisingly, I’m OG Enemy #1. Among their “faves” are threats to “take me out” (of this House seat) by finding and supporting an opponent who will advance their agenda. Self-preservation is always rule #1 in the OG’s handbook. Anyone who exposes their dirty deeds becomes their number one target.

And after two years of trying, looks like the OG has found me a “doozie” of a primary opponent…one that’s obviously in sync with their core mission. Disbarred for almost a decade, publicly reprimanded for “misusing” his clients’ money…now, that’s their kinda politician.

But before they get too excited, here’s a newsflash…

I write my own stuff…every word. My voice is not attached to or contingent upon “this seat” in the SC House. Neither is my ability to fight for what’s right. So whether I’m fighting “the system” at the State House or relaxing in the comfort of my own house, I won’t be bullied. I refuse to be silenced. And I definitely ain’t scared.

By now, even they realize…that’s the difference.

On June 10th, tell the OG they’ve got to GO! Vote to re-elect Mia for House District 79!

And my reaction is this: You may be right that the people of your district didn’t “didn’t send me to the State House to make new friends or become a willing participant.” But presumably they did send you there to be effective, and that means playing well with others and not being a constant irritant so that no one wants to work with you. Which I’m not saying Mia is. But her emails can really come across that way.

It’s understandable to take pride that “I write my own stuff…every word.” But maybe she could use a good editor.

Bottom line, there’s nothing wrong with being a politician. Yeah, they can be smarmy and phony and off-putting, but only if they’re not good at it.

You can have all the principles and dedication to public service in the world, and if you lack basic political skills, you’re not going to be much good to the public, or to anyone. I’d like to have seen someone with Jimmy Carter’s principles have the skills of Bill Clinton, or Ronald Reagan.

Richard Nixon was a guy with some decent policy ideas, but was dragged down by his many character flaws, including among them an inability to interact with other human beings in a way that wasn’t off-putting.

A politician is a person who is good at working with other human beings to get things done. And that’s not a bad thing to be, in and of itself.

Bright blesses Graham’s heart — I’m glad Southern courtliness still survives to that extent

bless heart

Had to smile at the latest release from Lee Bright. As nasty as things get in politics these days, it’s nice to see that even a Tea Party guy (and you know how angry they can be) can express himself with civility, Southern style.

Yes, it’s a condescending expression, but it’s a sweet condescending expression. And that counts for something.

As for the content of the release — well, I didn’t read it. I saw it was another of those “Obamacare, yadda-yadda” things that those folks are forever churning out…

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.

Around the nation, or across it?

What’s the news across the nation?
We have got the information
in a way we hope will amuse… you.
We just love to give you our views:
La da de da!
Ladies and Gents, Laugh-In looks at the news!

— “Laugh-In”

Just a little verbal peeve I need to get off my chest.

This may be my imagination, but it seems to me that starting, I don’t know, maybe 10 years ago, I started seeing stuff like this:

In two-dozen interviews, the denizens of Wall Street and wealthy precincts around the nation said they are still plenty worried about the shift in tone toward top earners and the popularity of class-based appeals. On the right, the rise of populists including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still makes wealthy donors eyeing 2016 uncomfortable. But wealthy Republicans—who were having a collective meltdown just two months ago—also say they see signs that the political zeitgeist may be shifting back their way and hope the trend continues.

“I hope it’s not working,” Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and major GOP donor, said of populist political appeals. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

Yes, as Slate, which called this passage from Politico to my attention, says, this is a billionaire comparing people concerned about income inequality to Nazis. I suppose. Frankly, I find what he’s saying a little hard to follow, based on that snippet.

But that’s not what I’m concerned about. I leave the class warfare to others. I’m bothered by that phrase, “around the country.” I suppose it’s pretty harmless, but it still bugs me that increasingly, it seems, people say it when they mean “across the country.”

“Around the country,” to me, suggests an area that runs along the inshore parts of the Atlantic from Maine to Florida, runs around Key West and comes up along the Gulf coastline to the southern tip of Texas, then up the Rio Grande and through the northern states of Mexico, runs up the Pacific past Seattle, then passes through the southern territories of Canada, back to Maine.

Whereas “across the country” involves the physical land mass of the country itself. New York, L.A., St. Louis, Kansas, New Orleans, Chicago, Nashville, Wyoming, etc.

Yeah, I know we’ve always said “around town” and understood it to mean here and there within the town, and not just its perimeter.

And I also realize that “around the country” may be an attempt to say here, there, and everywhere in the country, rather than just hopping across the country from one coast to the other, leaving out “flyover country.” They’re trying to say that the country is more than just a straight axis drawn from one point to another. Or something.

But it still seems awkward to me, and almost as though it were something being said by a person whose first language isn’t American English. It’s not, to my ear, the accepted idiom. Or it wasn’t. That seems to have been changing lately.

Is this just me? Probably…

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Feliciano, in an image from his campaign website.

Dave Feliciano, in an image from his campaign website.

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

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

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

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

Krauthammer: ‘Ya gotta love’ Graham for adding fuel to Democrats’ fire

Charles Krauthammer is getting a kick out of Lindsey Graham’s reaction to Dianne Feinstein’s accusation that the CIA has been spying on the Senate.

On FoxNews last night, the columnist said the following:

What I like the best about this is that Lindsey Graham, a Republican, comes upon the brawl, and he says that if true, the Congress should declare war on the CIA.

Interestingly, we haven’t declared war on anybody since Pearl Harbor.

Lindsey comes across a fight and he hands out Molotov cocktails to all the participants.

Ya gotta love that guy.

You can see the video above. Graham has said “This is dangerous to a democracy. Heads should roll, people should go to jail if it’s true,” and that “this is Richard Nixon stuff…”

That is a twist. You’ve got Democrats in the Senate flinging accusations at a Democratic administration, and a Republican eggs them on by saying it’s as bad as Nixon. One gathers that Republicans like watching a fight between Democrats the way schoolboys like seeing a couple of girls come to blows on the playground. (I can see Lindsey yelling down the hall, “Democrat fight!”)

Oh… and apparently Graham is enjoying the fact that Krauthammer is enjoying it. The Krauthammer clip was brought to my attention by Graham’s office.