The unraveling of Todd Kincannon

I’ve never known quite what to think, much less say, about local attorney, former state GOP director and social media provocateur Todd Kincannon.

Some of his detractors on the Web have less trouble labeling him, although they sometimes seem to be trying too hard, I suppose in an effort to match his own vitriol. The characterizations come across as strained: “chinless monster,” “Tea Party troll,” “‘Family Values’ Lunatic,” “‘Pro-Life’ Sociopath,” and so forth.

Not that he hasn’t asked for it (in fact, he has seemed to relish the attention).

The couple or three times I’ve met him, he’s seemed a contained, respectful young man, although eager to be heard — not very different from most ambitious young white men one finds in the background of the GOP these days. Of course, I haven’t seen him in a while. The last time was when we appeared together on Cynthia Hardy’s talk show on WACH-Fox, and that was several years back.

But the Todd Kincannon who has roamed the internet with marked aggression in recent years has been something else — a disturbing figure, a sort of poster boy for the phenomenon whereby social media bring out the very worst in some people.

He’s been banned from Twitter, his weapon of choice, twice for such eruptions as:

zulus ebola

And, if you’ll forgive me for repeating it, his most infamous utterance:

todd1

This seems a good time to make a point about words and the way they are abused in our political discourse…

A lot of people, particularly on the left, have a penchant for calling people they disagree with “hateful.” I’ll see the word “hate” used, and I’ll compare it to the comment or position that it’s applied to, and it just doesn’t match up.

Those Tweets from Todd Kincannon? Now those are hateful, even if he’s only doing it to get attention. Just for future reference, this is the standard for the word.

Back to our topic…

Todd is in the news again:

A former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party arrested Monday for charge of criminal domestic violence has been released on a $5,000 bond.JJTKINCANNONMUG

James John Todd Kincannon, 33, who is also an attorney, was arrested in connection with an earlier incident that caused his wife to tell deputies she was fearful for her life, Lexington County Sheriff Lewis McCarty said in a statement released Monday.

Ashley Griffith stated to deputies that on March 26 she was involved in an altercation with her husband who became angry with her after the two left an event, an arrest warrant alleges. According to the warrant, Griffith told deputies that Kincannon yelled at her and used profanity while driving near Irmo. Griffith also said that she lowered her window and yelled at passing motorists to help her while she pleaded with Kincannon to stop the car.

Griffith said Kincannon began driving the motor vehicle erratically and avoiding traffic lights while driving at a high rate of speed, the arrest warrant alleges. Griffith then tried to exit the car but Kincannon grabbed her arm in order to stop her…

For his part, Kincannon blames his behavior on the prescription, non-narcotic antitussive benzonatate: “I’d never taken it before, and took it for the first time last night. Basically, I went completely crazy after taking it.”

Folks, I’ve taken benzonatate. I took a LOT of it early this year, when I was having trouble functioning because of a cough I couldn’t get rid of. For a couple of weeks, I took it every eight hours. It helped some. It did not make me violent, or lead to any sort of out-of-control behavior. Yes, drugs affect different people different ways — the old prescription asthma medication Tedral used to make me paranoid if I took it with caffeine. I really thought people around me were deliberately trying to upset me. But I didn’t do anything about it, because I knew the reaction was irrational.

Benzonatate

Benzonatate

Of course, he does claim that he did the ONE thing you are never supposed to do with benzonatate: bite down on the capsule and break it before swallowing it. As Wikipedia warns, “Excessive absorption of benzonatate will occur if the gelcaps are chewed or allowed to dissolve in the mouth. This may lead to an overdose of the drug. Overdose of benzonatate may manifest as central nervous system side effects, such as mental confusion and hallucination, restlessness and tremors.”

Still, I don’t find benzonatate to be a persuasive explanation. It seems a bit too neat. It suggests that he’ll be fine if you keep him away from cough suppressants. And social media (was he on benzonatate when he posted those Tweets? no, because he said this was the first time he’d had it). And, I suppose, red kryptonite.

Here’s hoping Todd Kincannon gets it together, and soon. What we’ve seen over the last couple of years is the spectacle of a man unraveling. Now that it’s gotten to the point of violence, it’s pretty scary…

Burl posts picture that says ‘eat your hearts out!’

schooners

Burl Burlingame posted today on Facebook a better shot of a sunset from Schooners, the restaurant right on Pearl Harbor where he took us to dinner after giving us the tour of Ford Island. In this shot, Ford Island (where Burl “works”) is between us and the sun going down behind the Waianae mountains. Off to the left is the causeway out to the island. To the right is McGrew Point Navy officer housing, where my family lived briefly just before I left for college.

Sigh…

He said he was there celebrating National Beer Day. Probably with a Newcastle, I’m guessing.

My second greatest regret from our time on the island (the greatest being that we couldn’t stay longer) is that I didn’t get a Primo. I had never had Primo. During my very brief time as a legal drinker in the islands (that week or so I was there over Christmas vacation, 1971), I never had a Primo. It was considered cooler to drink Olympia, so I did. Nor did I ever eat poi, strangely enough.

I rectified that, at least. The last thing we did before heading to the airport to leave was to have lunch at Ono Hawaiian Foods, a wonderfully downhome, unpretentious, authentic eatery. We had da kine pig and poi, and it was great. Pictures of the food and the place are below.

No, not as beautiful as what Burl posted, but it was good. We ordered and shared the Combination Plate — kalua pig and laulau, pipikaula, lomi salmon, haupia, and poi. (The poi is the purplish-gray stuff in the blue bowl.}

Ono

poi

It’s not THAT unusual in SC for white cops to be charged with shooting unarmed black men

post shoot

That’s kind of a two-edged headline, isn’t it? On the one hand, it suggests that it’s not that unusual for white cops to shoot unarmed black men in SC. And indeed, The State recently reported that police have shot at people more than 200 times in the past five years.

But my point was that the charges against North Charleston cop Michael Thomas Slager for shooting and killing motorist Walter Scott are not unique.

That was in my mind last night when I was sort of surprised to see the story leading the NYT. But I was in a rush, and my laptop was taking an absurd amount of time to perform the most basic operations, so I didn’t stop to look up the recent incidents that were at the back of my mind.

But this morning, when I saw the Washington Post story (which The State led with) that characterized the charge as “what seems to be an unprecedented move in South Carolina,” I thought I should take a moment to do some basic research. I was further spurred by this quote from my old friend Joe Darby, also in the Post:

“I am surprisingly and gratifyingly shocked because to the best of my memory, I cannot think of another occasion in which a law enforcement officer was actually prosecuted for something like this in South Carolina,” said the Rev. Joseph Darby, first vice president of Charleston’s NAACP branch.

Warming to his subject, Joe further spread his rhetorical wings:

“My initial thought was, ‘Here we go again. This will be another time where there will be a cursory investigation. It will be the word of law enforcement versus those who are colored as vile perpetrators. People will get very mad, but at the end of the day nothing will change.’ This kind of changed the game,” Darby said of the video and Slager’s arrest.

When Joe says he cannot think of another case ” in which a law enforcement officer was actually prosecuted for something like this in South Carolina,” I believe him. But his memory is dead wrong.

Just in the last few months, there have been at least two such cases, which I found in just a few moments this morning:

  • State Trooper Sean Groubert was fired and charged with a felony, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, after his dashboard video showed him shooting Levar Edward Jones in the Columbia area. Groubert’s trial has not yet been held, but Jones  has received a nearly $300,000 settlement from the state.
  • Former Eutawville police chief Richard Combs was charged with murder in the May 2, 2011, shooting death of Bernard Bailey. A mistrial was declared in the case when the jury deadlocked in January.

Now, let’s be clear: As The State reported, no cop of any race has yet been convicted in any of those 209 shootings in the past five years.

And these three cases seem to be unusual in that there was video evidence in two  cases, and the other took place right in front of the courthouse in Eutawville. So this should certainly add fuel to the national movement to have cops wear body cameras at all times.

But it’s plain that these charges were not “unprecedented,” and that Joe Darby’s memory is lacking. And maybe the world’s press got excited over this “unprecedented” case for the wrong reasons. (Based on modern news standards, it’s still a good story, because of the video causing the authorities to reverse themselves. The horrific video itself — which you can see below — is enough for such a story to go viral. But it’s not man-bites-dog.)

Finally, I just noticed that the Post has corrected itself. Its current version of the story no longer contains the unwarranted speculation that the situation is “unprecedented.” But the story still leads the Post’s site. More to the point, thestate.com is still leading with the old, erroneous version.

SC shooting case leading the NYT

NYT homepage

I thought this was interesting. This story is leading the New York Times website at the moment:

A white police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing him shooting and killing an apparently unarmed black man in the back while he ran away.

The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, had said he feared for his life because the man took his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man fled. The North Charleston mayor announced the state charges at a news conference Tuesday evening.

The shooting in North Charleston comes on the heels of high-profile incidents of police officers using lethal force in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere around the country. The deaths have sparked a national debate over whether police are too quick to use force, particularly in cases involving black men.

Why? I suppose because the editors consider a situation in which South Carolina is prosecuting a white cop for shooting a black man a man-bites-dog situation, in light of stories that have made national news elsewhere in the past year.

Hey, we could be making headlines for a lot worse reasons than that. And we have.

So this is improvement.

Speeding up baseball: A good idea, or an offense against all that is Right and Good?

Would THESE guys tolerate changes to the game? No way...

Would THESE guys tolerate changes to the game? No way…

We have a new baseball season. A cause for celebration.

We also have a new baseball commissioner. A cause for… concern.

Because the new commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred, has a mandate from the owners who appointed him: Speed up the game, or else.

When I first read this, I was greatly alarmed:

This isn’t about tinkering with the playoffs to make a few extra dollars from the television networks. The 30 team owners have ordered the new commissioner to modernize baseball and make it appeal to an audience that is increasingly weary of the game’s slow pace. There will of course be cries of sacrilege from traditionalists about putting the national pastime on a clock. Many players are resisting, too. But they are unlikely to slow the transformation….

Arrrggghhh! Sacrilege is too soft a word, I thought! I’ve seen the stories about how younger generations were turning away from baseball (I’ve been reading them for decades, it seems.) But the very idea that the game itself would be changed to meet the frenetic expectations of kids raised on video games and the kinds of cartoons that give me a headache from the next room was an outrage! Alla you kids, get outta my ballpark!

… until I continued reading, and found nothing of the kind:

What drove these wealthy titans over the edge were moments like these: David Ortiz at the plate, endlessly rubbing his hands and adjusting his batting gloves; or David Price, the game’s most deliberate hurler, taking his usual 27 seconds between each pitch.

National television ratings have plummeted as the average game last season stretched beyond three hours, or more than 30 minutes longer than the average in the 1970s. This is despite the fact that run-scoring, which usually produces longer games, is at a 33-year low….

Oh. OK. So basically, we’re saying that we’re not only respecting tradition, we’re trying to return baseball to those halcyon days that all good people remember with great warmth and respect. To take it away from those prima donnas capriciously holding up the game, and making about people who came to play ball! I can live with that.

So how will this be accomplished?

This season will bring clocks that count down a newly specified two minutes 25 seconds between half-innings (2:45 for nationally televised games). A hitter will have to keep a toe in the batter’s box throughout an at-bat, stepping out only after he swings or calls timeout. In recent years, countless batters took to stepping out after every pitch. Baseball operations executives will closely monitor pitching habits, with warnings and fines for the most egregious dawdlers. A too-long-ignored rule says pitchers must throw every 12 seconds. The game’s rulers say it remains a kind of guidepost and they won’t be as stringent as the rule book allows them to be, but they have promised severe measures for excessive violations….

OK. OK…. if we’re just talking about Rules That Are Already In Place and Not Being Obeyed, then it is high time, etc.

Yes, the commissioner is considering some measures that Go Too Far, such as limiting catcher-pitcher conferences on the mound. THAT would be meddling with the essence of the game, and completely unacceptable. Catchers should and must be free to spend as much time as they see fit calming their pitchers down. Without that, it’s not baseball.

But I think I can live with rules that say, if you’re getting paid to play ball, get into the batter’s box and stay there until the job is done. That’s what Pop Fischer would tell them to do.  I think that’s within the spirit of the game.

Changing baseball is and always will be unacceptable, going back to the outrage of the lively ball (yeah, I’ve read a lot of Ring Lardner — so?). But changing it back — why, that sounds like a good thing to me.

What say you?

Open Thread for Monday, April 6, 2015

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Here are a few items for consideration; feel free to add your own…

How ’bout them Lady Gamecocks? — I may be a bit late with the congratulations, now that the ride has ended, but what a ride, huh?

The horrific campus rape story that wasn’tRolling Stone admits to the most fundamental journalistic failures, although no one will be fired. How did it happen? Not because the magazine lied, but because Rolling Stone so wanted it to be true. Further investigation would have spoiled it. A lawsuit is in the works.

The end of baseball cards? — Yet another indicator in the long, slow slide of what to me is still the proper national pastime.

Rand Paul seems to stray from libertarian roots as he courts GOP base — Interesting piece in the WashPost today. So, Doug, does this make him a phony like all the rest?

Or, anything else y’all want to talk about.

I don’t watch ‘an awful lot’ of TV — or maybe I do. How about you?

Turn-S1-Launch

“TURN: Washington’s Spies” — fictionalized, but at least the models for these people actually existed…

 

For whatever reason, our regular commenter Barry said this over the weekend:

One thing I have learned about Brad- he watches an awful lot of television.

Sounds awful.

At which I bridled.

Moi? Watch a lot of idiot box? Never!

Or maybe sometimes…

No, I really don’t — at least, not by American standards.

But you know, I think I probably watch more of it than I used to — mainly because of Netflix, and to some extent AMC. For the first time in my life, if I feel like vegging out in front of the tube (or working out in front of it, I hasten to add), I can always find something that interests me. And that was bound to increase my screen time.

Oddly, I don’t even get AMC any more. We subscribe to a below-basic level of cable that simply ensures that we get the local broadcast stations clearly, and nothing else. (And I don’t really watch those, except for an occasional “Masterpiece” series on ETV.) But I can watch all of the AMC shows a bit later, on Netflix, and that’s generally good enough for me.

Here’s what I have watched on the tube over the past year or so. It may sound like a lot, but compared to most people’s viewing habits (with the Tube always on, with sports and “news” shows and Reality TV), it’s actually fairly contained. I’m listing everything I can recall watching, including shows I’ve lost interest in:

  • Turn: Washington’s Spies — I JUST started this, because it just arrived on Netflix. My interest increased when I realized that Abraham Woodhull, Anna Strong, Caleb Brewster and Ben Tallmadge were all real people, although this is obviously fictionalized. Don’t think the show’s been quite fair to Robert Rogers.
  • Bluebloods — Got belatedly hooked on this about a month ago. It’s now my standard show to watch while working out in the mornings. My parents have loved this show for years, and I think I probably enjoy it for the same reasons.
  • Better Call Saul — As with the last season of “Breaking Bad,” I couldn’t wait on this one, and went ahead and bought the season via iTunes. But I fell three episodes behind while abroad, and haven’t caught up. Not quite as riveting as the original series, despite having Mike Ehrmantraut.
  • “The West Wing” — Y’all already know how crazy I was about this last year, watching all seven seasons while working out in the mornings. But now it’s gone, and while I’ve watched some favorite episodes two or three times, I need to wait a while (a few years, I think) before watching it all the way through again.
  • Endeavour — Very engaging prequel to the Inspector Morse series. It’s hard to beat a well-made series set in Britain circa 1964. Guess I’ll never get over the brainwashing effects of the British Invasion. That’s when I really fell in love with that island. Also, having spent a few days in Oxford in 2011, I’m drawn toward anything set there.
  • Inspector Morse — Didn’t get very far into it. Not as engaging as either its prequel or its sequel, “Lewis” — which I haven’t watched lately only because there have been no new episodes.
  • House of Cards — The American version. I watched three or four episodes of the third season, but haven’t gotten back to it.
  • Foyle’s War — Love it. My main complains it that the war ended too quickly, owing to the British habit of two few episodes per season, and the show basically following a sort of real-time format.
  • Grantchester — Very enjoyable, while it lasted.
  • Father Brown — The original, of which “Grantchester” is a Protestant imitator. I’ve only watched two or three of these, but my wife is really into it.
  • Orange is the New Black — Only watched a couple of episodes of the most recent season, then we lost interest.
  • Outlander — Over the weekend I watched part of the first episode, because the disks were at my house. Lost interest pretty quickly. Like a slower-moving, chick-flick version of “Life on Mars,” which I loved. This Sassenach woman should have stayed in England.
  • Hawaii Five-0 — Watched a couple of episodes of both the old and the new series before and after visiting Hawaii, for the scenery. Both series are deeply flawed in different ways. The newer one, with its all-young-and-sexy cast (Kono as a hot young girl? Really?) and hyper-action, is the more ridiculous of the two, although production values are much better. But the scenery is awesome. As with the Oxford mysteries, it’s fun to get to visit faraway places that I’ve visited and enjoyed. What we need now is a good drama set in Thailand…

That’s about all I can think of.

Oh, wait! Last night, I passed on the first episode of Wolf Hall because it was on too late on a work night. But I plan to watch it tonight via PBS app on the Apple TV. I’ve really been looking forward to this one. Maybe it will spur me to go ahead and read Bring Up the Bodies, which has been awaiting me on my bookshelf…

How about y’all? What are your viewing habits, if any? How have they changed, with our liberation from the TV schedule and explosive increase in platforms and options?

wolf-hall

Hoping to enjoy ‘Wolf Hall’…

 

Virtual Front Page for Thursday, April 2, 2016

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I haven’t done one of these for awhile, out of laziness. I’ll start to do one, but I can’t find six stories that I think are worth a front. So I cop out and do an Open Thread instead. But were this an actual newspaper, I’d have to come up with six (OK, given the demise of the broadsheet, more like five, or even four) whether they were worthy or not.

So as a matter of discipline, I’m going to make myself do this. Fortunately, we do have a serious lede story today:

  1. Nuclear ‘framework’ reached — And no, I don’t know what to think of it. Not enough information. Not even Lindsey Graham knows what he thinks yet. But the link is to the WashPost story, and they’ve got a bunch of sidebars you can read. Here’s the NYT version and here’s the WSJ and here’s The Guardian. Have at them. They all appear to have extensive reports.
  2. 147 DIE IN KENYA UNIVERSITY ATTACK —  Shabab militants claimed responsibility, because they’re the kind of twisted ____s who would be proud of something like this.
  3. Belk department stores considering selling — This was the biggest thing I saw locally. It’s been slow.
  4. Two New York women arrested for trying to build homemade bomb — Their being women raises it to front-page level. Case of woman-bites-dog, you might say.
  5. At Boeing, Innovation Means Small Steps, Not Giant Leaps — A WSJ piece looking at the company that now looms so large in the SC legend.
  6. A fighter pilot helmet with 360 degrees of sky – Speaking of aviation… for those who enjoyed reading about Burl’s museum… a gee-whiz story about the $400,000 helmet that comes with the F-35.

My worlds are colliding! Doug and Burl meet

image

Well, this is cool…

Some of y’all may know that Doug Ross and family are in Hawaii right now. They arrived a few days after we left.

Anyway, I’d been trying to get Doug and Burl Burlingame together. And a little while ago, about an hour after I put up the previous post about the time spent with Burl in Hawaii, Burl himself sent me this photo in a text.

In the photo above, Burl is apparently teaching the “shaka” sign to Doug, who seems to be picking up on it pretty well. The same back at you, bruddahs!

I’m glad they got a chance to meet, and I hope Doug and the fam have a great time in the islands!

Touring Ford Island with our own Burl Burlingame

On Ford Island, in the middle of Pearl Harbor, with Burl Burlingame.

On Ford Island, in the middle of Pearl Harbor, with Burl Burlingame.

There are so many things I’d like to share with y’all from our trip to Thailand, but I don’t know where to start. My thoughts of how to approach it have ranged from trying to write a day-by-day account, in installments, or just throw in a travelogue piece now and then as the opportunity occurs.

Those of you who followed me on social media during the trip already have a rough idea of where we went and what we saw, but I need to get something down in greater depth before I forget. If only days on vacation could be 48 hours long — 24 to experience it, and 24 to write about it.

Anyway, today I thought I’d share something from near the end, since it involves a regular on this blog — Burl Burlingame, my high school classmate. He and I graduated from Radford High School in 1971. I was only there for a year, but cherish fond memories of the time.

You may or may not know that Burl, who was a real Renaissance Man in high school (writer, photographer, musician, cartoonist, actor and all-around wag), also spent a lengthy career in newspapers. Except Burl stayed in Hawaii to pursue his craft, while I returned to the Mainland. Another big difference — on the side, Burl earned a reputation over the years as an authority on military history.

So instead of his newspaper career ending with his being laid off, Burl left under his own power — to become curator, and later historian, at the Pacific Aviation Museum, which is located on historic Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor.

It’s now physically easier to get to Ford Island. In my day you had to go onto the Navy base and catch a ferry. Now, there’s a causeway so you can drive out there — but you still have to get past the Marines on sentry duty, and these days they’re dressed and armed for combat, rather than wearing the blue dress “C” uniforms that I remember. (The causeway is featured frequently on the reboot of “Hawaii Five-O” — in the pilot, you can see the main characters driving out to Ford for no particular reason beyond the fact that the scenery is awesome.)

So to save us security hassles, Burl met us at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and drove us out in his car. Then he gave us the VIP tour, introducing me around as a big-time blogger from the mainland. Then he used us as guinea pigs. He’s thinking of adding a tour of the whole island as one of the museum’s features, so he took us on the route he’s been thinking of, let us stop and get out whenever we wanted, and timed it to see how long it would take (about an hour, as it happened with us).

Then he took us to dinner at a place overlooking Pearl, and finally we went downtown to meet his wife, Mary, who is still an editor at the paper and had Saturday night duty.

Below are some images, with cutlines, from what we saw.

Should college athletes get paid (more than the generous compensation they already receive, that is)?

If the ancient Greeks had allowed their athletes to be paid, maybe they could have afforded some clothes.

If the ancient Greeks had allowed their athletes to be paid, maybe they could have afforded some clothes.

One or two of y’all really appreciated Bryan raising sports topics in my absence, so here goes: Should college athletes get paid?

Here’s the summary section of the bill that would provide for that:

A BILL TO AMEND CHAPTER 101, TITLE 59 OF THE 1976 CODE, RELATING TO COLLEGES AND INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING GENERALLY, BY ADDING ARTICLE 5, TO PROVIDE THAT PARTICIPATING INSTITUTIONS IN THIS STATE SHALL ANNUALLY AWARD STIPENDS TO STUDENT ATHLETES WHO PARTICIPATE IN AN INTERCOLLEGIATE SPORT AND MAINTAIN A GOOD ACADEMIC STANDING DURING THE PREVIOUS YEAR, TO PROVIDE CONDITIONS FOR RECEIPT OF STIPENDS, AND TO DEFINE NECESSARY TERMS; TO AMEND CHAPTER 101, TITLE 59 OF THE 1976 CODE, RELATING TO COLLEGES AND INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING GENERALLY, BY ADDING ARTICLE 6, TO PROVIDE THAT PARTICIPATING INSTITUTIONS IN THIS STATE SHALL CREATE A STUDENT ATHLETE TRUST FUND AND FUND THE TRUST WITH A PERCENTAGE OF THE INTERCOLLEGIATE SPORT GROSS REVENUE GENERATED FROM CERTAIN SOURCES, TO PROVIDE THAT FOR EACH YEAR A STUDENT ATHLETE MAINTAINS GOOD ACADEMIC STANDING, FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS WILL BE DEPOSITED INTO THE FUND ON HIS BEHALF AND THE TOTAL TRUST FUND AMOUNT MAY NOT EXCEED TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS PER STUDENT ATHLETE; TO PROVIDE THAT AFTER FULFILLMENT OF ALL ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS FOR GRADUATION AND COMPLETION OF A STATE-APPROVED FINANCIAL LITERACY COURSE, THE PARTICIPATING INSTITUTION SHALL PROVIDE A ONE-TIME PAYMENT TO EACH STUDENT ATHLETE IN THE FULL AMOUNT DEPOSITED IN THE FUND ON THEIR BEHALF, TO PROVIDE CONDITIONS FOR RECEIPT OF THE TRUST FUND PAYMENT, AND TO DEFINE NECESSARY TERMS.

I say no. And when you say that college athletes are providing services worth millions to their schools, and that (even though those on scholarship are provided with a free college education if they are willing and able to take advantage of it) they can easily be exploited, chewed up and spit out by such a system…

Then I say we need to change the system, not the status of the athletes. Step it back from being a big business. Move it back toward something more akin to intramural sports among actual students.

Of course, I know I’m speaking wishfully. This situation arises from a sort of mass psychosis in the general population, a society that for reasons that continue to baffle me places an absurdly high value on the outcomes of games. Actually, not only the outcomes, but on every bit of minutia in any way connected to these games.

And that’s the problem. I admit I don’t know how to change that. But I don’t think paying players is a solution to the problem. Seems to me it would take us even deeper in…

I can’t give blood for a year, because Kanchanaburi is on a list

Bridge

Well, I went to give platelets at the Red Cross yesterday, and I answered “yes” to the question about whether I’d been out of the country in the past three years, and that led to a long discussion about just where I had been.

Turns out, it wasn’t a problem that I was in Thailand per se. The Red Cross breaks it down much more locally than that, and the problem was that one of the many places we visited in Thailand was listed as posing a risk of malaria.

That was Kanchanaburi. Those of you who were following me on social media may have already seen the above picture of me taken in that town. I’m standing in front of “the” Bridge On the River Kwai, which while it’s not the one from the movie (the movie was fictional, based on a novel inspired by the real-life Death Railway), actually is where the still-active rail line first laid by slave labor (Allied POWs and civilians) under the Japanese crosses the Kwai.

As you can see, I’m looking pretty grubby. If the Red Cross knew everything I’d done that day, they really would have worried. I had spent most of the day with elephants — feeding them by hand, bathing them in the river, and riding them. Taking a midday break from elephant care, we had floated down the Kwai, way out in the country, for 40 minutes, without a boat. Just life vests. Very refreshing.

(We were at this really neat place a few miles out of town that rescues elephants from the logging industry and from begging in the streets, and enlists tourists to help in their daily care. This was the thing my daughter had most wanted to do while we were with her in Thailand, and it did not disappoint.)

Then, on the way back to the resort in Kanchanaburi, I realized we were passing close to the Bridge, which I had only seen in the dark, the night before. So I asked someone to rap on the back of the cab of the songthaew we were riding in, and hopped off alone to go check out the bridge.

I ran into three American veterans from Bangkok who were painting the base of a memorial to the Americans who had died building the railway. The wife of one of them took the above picture.

But I digress. The point is, I can’t give for a year. So some of y’all will have to take up the slack…

Here I'd feeding bananas to a rather elderly elephant named Wasana. She's about 65 years old and a fairly slow eater for an elephant -- so it took a little patience.

Here I’m feeding bananas to a rather elderly elephant named Wasana. She’s about 65 years old and a fairly slow eater for an elephant — so it took a little patience.

Open Thread for Tuesday, March 31, 2015

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Kind of a slow news day. But here are some possible topics:

1. Darius Rucker tells ‘Today’ Hootie & the Blowfish will reunite — If you’re a Midlands resident of a certain age, this has got to be kind of exciting, right?

2. Airline admits it knew of co-pilot’s depression in ’09 – I’m really glad that I’m not in charge of crisis management at this airline.

3. Comedy Central stands by new Daily Show host Trevor Noah — Wow, that didn’t take long. I mean, how about letting a guy at least get into the room before you jump him?

4. Iran Nuclear Talks Deadline Will Be Extended By A Day, U.S. Says — And will that make all the difference? Will another day cause Iran to change its mind about wanting to be a nuclear power?

… or whatever y’all want to talk about…

All hope is lost? You sure? THEN STOP BOTHERING ME.

hope

I think the hyperbole machine at the DCCC has outdone itself this time.

I mean, after “all hope is lost,” what’s left in the way of rhetoric designed to instill panic in the saps who give you money to crank out this pooge?

You can’t top this…

I’ve noticed that these emails have been slightly more hysterical than usual, since I’ve been back. One the other day was just totally freaking out because the Republicans had passed a budget. And I was like, Yeah, that’s what you’re supposed to do when elected to Congress. You’re supposed to pass a budget. I realize this is a new concept to you…

Jon Stewart’s replacement, Trevor Noah

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Any thoughts on Jon Stewart’s announced replacement, Trevor Noah?

I mean, beyond the purely superficial sort of hail-the-Obama-of-talk-show-hosts observation?

I don’t know what I think, because the clips I’ve seen today meant to explain who Trevor Noah is have been kind of light and limited. Perhaps he has the comedic range and ironic take on American politics that make him a good replacement. But I haven’t seen it.

We knew what we were getting with Jimmy Fallon (a guy I used to not like, but who had grown on me by the time he took over the Tonight Show). We know what we will be getting when Stephen Colbert takes over for Letterman, although some might wonder a little as to what he’ll be like as himself.

The president of Comedy Central said, “You don’t hope to find the next Jon Stewart — there is no next Jon Stewart. So, our goal was to find someone who brings something really exciting and new and different.”

So, I suppose we’ll see what that something different will be.

On a completely unrelated note, I ran across this quote today from Stewart, which was new to me:

I view America like this: 70 to 80 percent [are] pretty reasonable people that truthfully, if they sat down, even on contentious issues, would get along. And the other 20 percent of the country run it.

Good one. If Comedy Central had given me a vote, I’d have voted to hire somebody who will come up with more quotes like that, whoever that might be…

Didn’t we all have a right to know Lubitz’ condition?

Right now, it’s leading most national and international news reports:

Which got me to thinking….

In our society, we make quite a fetish of medical privacy. Which makes me wonder — if we were all more open about our health conditions, including our psychological conditions, and didn’t have a legal climate that made disclosing patient information a cardinal sin for providers, might it prevent tragedies such as this one?

I’m not saying I have any idea how to bring that about — it’s so ingrained in us as a significant value. And true, it’s not every day that a pilot deliberately flies a plane full of people into a mountain.

It’s just an idle thought, and probably a complete non sequitur

Should we move toward a consumption-based tax system?

You may or may not recall that our own Fritz Hollings has long been an advocate of a VAT tax on the federal level.

Well, Fritz is probably pleased by this story in the WSJ today:

U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle increasingly are finding appeal in an ambitious concept for overhauling the nation’s income-tax system: a tax based on consumption, a tool long used around the world.

The tax-writing Senate Finance Committee is giving new consideration to the consumption-tax idea with the hope that its promised boost to economic growth would ease the way to a revamp.

As lawmakers have examined a tax overhaul, “it becomes extremely difficult to see a political path to accomplish it” within the confines of the current income-tax system, said Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), co-chairman of a Finance Committee working group negotiating a possible overhaul of business taxes.

As a result, the idea of a consumption tax “is getting a great deal more respect, and it is in the discussions,” he said.

Mr. Cardin introduced legislation last year to create a type of consumption tax known as a value-added tax and at the same time lower business taxes and scrap income taxes completely for lower-income Americans….

What do y’all think?

Former lawmaker McMaster charged with burglary

I’m seeing several news reports out there about Joe McMaster, brother of Henry, being arrested and charged with burglary.

Joe McMaster

Joe McMaster

Here’s The State‘s version.

I was struck by the fact that none of the reports so far have mentioned that Joe is not just the brother of a politician. Joe himself served in the Legislature a few years back. He briefly held a House seat — I want to say just one term — before being defeated for re-election by Joel Lourie in 1998.

He represented District 78, the same seat held today by Beth Bernstein.

I wasn’t positive at first that he was the McMaster brother who held the House seat until I saw the mug shot released by the county jail, and thought, yep, that’s Joe. A little worse for wear, mind you, but that’s Joe. (In his defense, I should probably say what the character Ives said when a German remarked negatively on a POW ID photo of him: “I’d like to see one of you under similar circumstances.”)

Anyway, I thought that detail was worth taking note of…

That’s a trilby, not a fedora. And that’s not charcoal gray

trilby

Yes, I know I’m being absurdly pedantic — after all, the cutline doesn’t claim, specifically, that the picture shows what is being described.

But I like to find fault with the people who still get paid to work for newspapers (especially prestige publications such as the NYT), and don’t do the job as well as I would in their place. Which is not a trait I’m proud of, but what are you gonna do?…

Also, did Don Draper ever wear a fedora? Seems like he’s more of a trilby man all the way, although he could have worn a broad-brimmed hat some time, and I’ve just forgotten…

DEA trying to make Secret Service look well-behaved

That's one for the DEA!

That’s one for the DEA!

Very recently, it looked like the Secret Service had the whole Outrageous Behavior by Feds with Guns Sweepstakes wrapped up. It was, as Bryan wrote during my absence, an entirely intramural competition, and it was fierce.

But now, suddenly, coming up on the outside, it’s the DEA, and they’re neck and neck!

Drug Enforcement Administration agents allegedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels overseas over a period of several years, according to a report released Thursday by the Justice Department’s watchdog.

The report did not specify the country where the parties occurred, but a law enforcement official familiar with the matter identified it as Colombia.

Seven of the 10 DEA agents alleged to have participated in the gatherings — most of which took place at an agent’s “quarters” leased by the U.S. government — admitted to having attended the parties, the report found. The agents, some of whom had top-secret security clearances, received suspensions of two to 10 days.

Former police officers in Colombia also alleged that three DEA supervisory special agents were provided with money, expensive gifts and weapons from drug cartel members, according to the report….

Colombia? Hey, that’s our turf, the Secret Service agents cry…

I don’t know what the Secret Service guys (yes, I know there are women in the Secret Service, but this sort of behavior is definitely something guys are better at) are going to do to top that. Taking gifts from drug lords? The Secret Service equivalent to that would be taking gifts from would-be assassins. And that they won’t do, I feel quite certain.

So what will they do to uphold the dishonor of their storied agency? We wait with bated breath, and considerable apprehension…