Nice, informative piece about Jaime Harrison

Matt Moore, me and Jaime Harrison in 2015.

Matt Moore, me and Jaime Harrison in 2015.

A couple of weeks back, I got a call from Daniel Malloy, formerly of the Atlanta paper, who was writing a profile of former state Democratic chair Jaime Harrison for OZY. It ran over the weekend.

Why a profile of a former state chairman? Because Jaime’s a next-generation up-and-comer, a guy who — in Jim Clyburn’s own estimation — could replace him in Congress one day. Democrats don’t have much of a bench, and Jaime’s got qualifications that are rare among young Dems.

Much of that experience has been out of our sight up in Washington, such as when he was floor director for the House majority whip before he was SC party chair.

Daniel called me to see what I thought about Jaime’s optimism for the party in SC’s future. I wasn’t encouraging. I said a lot of positive things about Jaime, though, as well as about his counterpart, former GOP state chair Matt Moore.

As I say, I said a lot of things, but I kind of knew what he was going to use as soon as I said it. It was something I’d already said to y’all, and Democrats who read the Malloy piece will no doubt groan once again:

From a small state party office suite in downtown Columbia, South Carolina, Harrison expresses optimism for Democrats in South Carolina, Alabama and other crimson states. Starting in October, the DNC will send $10,000 per month to every state party and launch an additional $10 million innovation fund for states.

Some national Democrats have argued for more selective spending, and South Carolina hardly seems primed for a blue comeback. Brad Warthen, a PR consultant and former editorial page editor for Columbia’s The State, quips that after a string of bearded professor types, he’ll know Democrats are serious about winning when their candidates start shaving. “We will have to have a revolution — something akin to the constitutional convention in 1787 — to start seeing more Democrats elected to the [U.S.] House in South Carolina,” Warthen says.

Despite his facial hair, South Carolina Democrat Archie Parnell nearly pulled off a shocking special congressional election win in June with comparatively little national money. Harrison says more early investment in ground staff could have tipped the low-turnout race. With most of the U.S. political map drenched in red, there will be plenty more opportunities to test his theory.

Y’all should go read the whole thing, though.

Open Thread for Monday, September 11, 2017

Part of a tree has fallen across my neighbor's driveway. That's all I've seen, I'm happy to say.

Part of a tree has fallen across my neighbor’s driveway. That’s all I’ve seen, I’m happy to say.

I decided to stay home today. You? Here are some possible topics:

  1. Anything to report about Irma? — My parents have no power at their house. They were told about 6,000 homes are in a similar situation. And there’s that tree across my neighbor’s house above. You?
  2. Irma knocks out power to more than 6 million in Florida — Which, I suppose, puts our 6,000 into perspective.
  3. Desperation in Caribbean: ‘All the Food Is Gone’ — And then, farther south, things are worse than that. Which is usually the case.
  4. From Sept. 11 To The Beatles’ British Invasion: How We Remember Our First News Events — It seems incredible to those of us who were stunned by JFK’s assassination, but there are actual, technical adults walking around for whom 9/11 was the first huge news event they can recall. For others, it’s smaller events such as the death of Princess Diana.
  5. Pope Francis: If Trump is ‘pro-life,’ he should extend DACA — You bet.

Open Thread for Friday, September 8, 2017

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Not much going on beyond weather:

  1. Irma likely to hit Florida as ‘a dangerous major hurricane’ — Yeah, I’ve been hearing that. Meanwhile, we may be out of the woods — or are we?
  2. USC cancels classes for Hurricane Irma — This surprised me a little, Here’s a story about other closings.
  3. House sends $15 billion Harvey aid package to Trump despite boos, hisses from Republicans — Well, just as long as they behaved like grownups, right? Anybody besides me had it with these absurd people?
  4. Spicer, Priebus, Hicks among six current and former top White House aides Mueller will likely seek to interview — Is it just me, or are headlines getting longer these days?
  5. Should they stay or should they go? Two Floridians on their choice — I only included this to set up the video below…

Nikki Haley on the cover of TIME

59b14d153e9e8.image

Are you ready for this, folks?

This morning, Phillip said:

evidently there are rumors that we may be getting a Madam (Haley) Secretary soon…

To which I could only react by saying, it’s astounding how far a person can get just with poise and social graces. But let’s give Nikki some credit for having some assets: What’s even more amazing than that is how far someone can now get without those things — as proof of that, we have her boss.

Nikki looks good, very good, standing next to the administration that she serves in. It doesn’t mean she’s ready to be secretary of state by any stretch of the imagination. Then again, I’m not convinced that Rex Tillerson was, either. While he may know a good bit more about the world than our ex-governor, he does lack those social skills — and astonishing self-confidence — that our Nikki possesses in abundance. And while I’d like to see some actual foreign policy credentials, at least those qualities are assets in diplomacy.

Now, to digress…

Did you see that list of women? Could they not come up with a more, um, current list? The headline is WOMEN WHO ARE CHANGING THE WORLD — “are,” not “were,” or “did decades ago.”

And yet we have… Barbara Walters, who made a splash back in what, the ’70s? Aretha Franklin, who is certainly awesome, but had her heyday even earlier? Hillary Clinton — the splash that didn’t happen. And I’m a Madeleine Albright fan, but what has she done since the ’90s?

Perhaps the magazine will tell us. But given the shallowness of the few things I’ve read in TIME in the last 20 years, I don’t have my hopes up.

What about — I don’t know — Angela Merkel? Or Theresa May, despite her recent troubles? Or somebody current.

At least Nikki is busily storming the foreign policy establishment right now. But that’s not, apparently, TIME‘s reason for putting her on the list. Instead, they’re still celebrating her for being “First Indian-American woman to be elected governor.” Really — it happened in 2010, and they’ve just caught on to it! At least Newsweek did it when it was news. In fact, they kind of jumped the gun on it.

I mean, come on! I haven’t exactly been a cheerleader (except on her greatest moment, getting the flag down), but the woman’s done more that that! Show some respect — if not to her, then to us as readers!

I dunno. There are magazines out there that are more engaged and relevant than they’ve ever been. I’d put The New Yorker in that category. But TIME, the first magazine I ever subscribed to (when I was in high school), seems to have given up on offering us anything worth our time.

You want to read something that matters about Nikki Haley? Go to that Foreign Policy piece Phillip brought up, where you’ll read:

Haley’s high profile on pressing international issues, including Iran and North Korea, raised fresh questions about the influence and political future of the secretary of state. Tillerson has been strangely absent from the public spotlight, even amid mounting tensions with North Korea, and Haley has stepped in to fill the void….

… instead of news from 2010.

I do NOT like the looks of this…

IMG_1314

The maps I’ve been seeing today are pretty disturbing.

If Irma makes landfall in South Carolina south of Charleston, and the eye then passes to the west of Columbia, we could be seeing damage and storm surges worse than Hugo — a lot worse, it seems to me.

I’m no meteorologist, nor yet a physicist, but it seems that the counterclockwise winds of the storm would his these population centers much harder than what we experienced in 1989.

And remember, Hugo came ashore as a category 4. This is a Category 5, and then some. The only reason it’s not a Category 6 is that there is no Category 6.

The only solace this course offers South Carolina is the probability of the storm using up a lot of its energy running up the Atlantic coast of Florida.

Which is cold comfort if you live in Florida….

By the way, as you can see, these are screenshots from my Washington Post app, updated at 9:27 a.m. and 2:19 p.m. today…

IMG_1315

Tom Davis bows out, won’t run for governor

This release moved a little while ago:

BEAUFORT, S.C. – South Carolina State Senator Tom Davis released the following statement regarding our state’s 2018 gubernatorial race:

“I had promised to announce what my plans would be for the 2018 gubernatorial race right after Labor Day, so I am – though I feel a bit self-conscious making such a political statement at a time when so many South Carolinians are terrified of Hurricane Irma and the havoc it might bring.  In that regard, I will continue to do whatever I can to assist others in preparing for that storm and be prepared as I have in the past to help them recover from whatever it might bring.

Sen. Tom Davis

Sen. Tom Davis, from Facebook

“As for the 2018 gubernatorial race, I want to start by thanking all of the people from across the state who took the time in recent weeks to offer a word of support or advice; I am truly humbled and honored. But I’ve concluded the timing simply isn’t right for me to run a statewide campaign.  From a family standpoint, a business standpoint and a personal standpoint, I’m just not in a position to undertake an endeavor of this magnitude.  This became evident to me during conversations with my family, friends and constituents over the past few days.

“From a political standpoint, in thinking about this, I’ve tried to be honest about where and how, at this particular point in time, I can do the most good for our state. And the answer to that lies in this: South Carolina government is dominated by the legislature, and recent history has shown that reform-minded governors without legislative support can’t get much accomplished.

“I don’t want to tilt at windmills; I want to get things done, and I’m in a unique position in the State Senate to impact public policy on behalf of individual liberty and free markets – in some cases to a greater degree than if I were in the governor’s office. The role I played in shaping the recent debates on pension reform, the gas tax, and highway spending is evidence of that.

“I think there’s an argument to be made that taxpayers are better served right now by having me exactly where I am, especially if we can get more reform-minded lawmakers elected in 2018 and 2020.  And so that’s where I will be for the foreseeable future. There’s a lot of hard work ahead for all of us, but together we can get it done.”

I like Tom Davis a lot; he’s a good guy. But this is good news. The run-of-the-mill Republicans are quite libertarian enough, thank you very much. We don’t need another governor this doctrinaire….

Open Thread for Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Bad news is, a hurricane's coming. Good news is, the cool sign language dude is back!

Bad news is, a hurricane’s coming. Good news is, the awesome sign language dude is back!

Things continue to be weird out there:

  1. Trump sides with Democrats on debt ceiling, throwing GOP plans into chaos — Golly, it almost makes my post yesterday about the way he and Dems sometimes agree seem prophetic. Almost. In any case, I guess he really was ticked off at the GOP leadership…
  2. Hurricane Irma Churns Across Caribbean With Lashing Winds — It hit Barbuda as a Category 5.
  3. Irma’s approach prompts McMaster to order state of emergency — But I mentioned that already….
  4. Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals — This is an exclusive by The Guardian (which is why it’s spelled “fibre”). You know what? As soon as I read that, it hit me that sometimes when I drink tap water, it kind of smells like molten plastic…
  5. How Red Sox Used Tech to Steal Signs From Yankees — An interesting baseball story, which I offer in another vain attempt to distract y’all from football. The BoSox supposedly used Apple Watches and other tech to steal signs. Makes me sort of nostalgic for the days when players cheated with a little Vaseline stored under the bills of their caps.
Forget about the curve ball, Ricky. Give him the heater!

Forget about the curve ball, Ricky. Give him the heater!

Breathing a sigh of relief over Hurricane Irma

175630_5day_cone_no_line_and_wind

That headline may seem jarring, given that our governor has just pre-emptively declared a state of emergency in anticipation of a storm that may or may not make landfall in South Carolina days from now.

We are, it seems, at “OpCon4.”

But last night, the Category 5 hurricane passed north of the island of Dominica, where my daughter lives and works for the Peace Corps.

She and other Peace Corps personnel went through several days of uncertain waiting to find out whether they’d be evacuated to another island. Then, with the path reducing the threat to Dominica to tropical-storm level, they were simply gathered together in a hotel and stayed on the island.

The weather is fine now, she reports, but Peace Corps officials are having them stay where they are another night, until it’s certain that roads are clear.

Quite right, too. I’m all for caution.

As for the threat to SC, well, I’m concerned, of course. And the effects could be terrible, as we saw last week in Texas. But we live on a biggish landmass, and at the moment I’m less worried than I was the last couple of days…

John Ashbery: He was a poet, and I didn’t know it

Ashbery

The other day, I showed a screenshot from my NYT app in which everything visible on the page was about Hurricane Harvey. Well, that’s not the only thing the paper covers thoroughly.

A couple of days back, poet John Ashbery died, and the Times went pretty big with it — as you see, four separate headlines.

And this made me feel dumb, and out of it.

It got me to thinking: Aside from that anthology of Yeats (which I’ve had since college) that sits on a shelf in our upstairs bathroom, which I may glance at once or twice a year, when do I ever read poetry any more at all? (And let’s be really honest here: When I do pick up the Yeats book, I don’t read anything new — I turn either to “The Second Coming” or “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death.”)

Can I even name a living poet? I mean, I sort of think of Elvis Costello as a poet, and some people might cite rappers, but here I’m using a more restrictive definition: Can I name any living people who just write verse without being known for anything else, full-time poets like Yeats and Keats and Coleridge and e.e. cummings, or, I don’t know, Edwin Arlington Robinson (who I had to look up to add to the list, even though I do remember one of his poems)?

No, I cannot. As much as I was immersed in such in school, it’s like poetry was a thing that ceased to exist after graduation, as much a thing of the past as knights in armor. And I’m a guy who’s always made his living with words! If there’s a latter-day belle dame sans merci, or a goat-footed balloon man still out there whistling far and wee, I am unaware of it.

Apparently, this John Ashbery was a major deal. He won every poetry prize there was, and lived to be 90 without my being aware of him.

Were any of y’all as ignorant as I?

Here’s one of his poems:

This Room

The room I entered was a dream of this room.
Surely all those feet on the sofa were mine.
The oval portrait
of a dog was me at an early age.
Something shimmers, something is hushed up.
We had macaroni for lunch every day
except Sunday, when a small quail was induced
to be served to us. Why do I tell you these things?
You are not even here.

So now you can say you read some poetry today. How often can you say that?

Modest demonstration last night for ‘Dreamers’

DACA 2

You know how Facebook is always putting events on your calendar, whether you want it to or not? Well, it does that to me.

Anyway, for once it put something on there that I was interested in attending — or perhaps I should just say, “checking out.”

It was a “Vigil for DACA and Immigrant Dreamers,” described on Facebook this way:

Tuesday, September 5th is the deadline set by a group of Attorneys General to sue the federal government over DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). DACA currently protects nearly 7,000 young undocumented immigrants in South Carolina and nearly 800,000 nationally.

Because DACA is at risk, join us Tuesday at 6pm in front of the State House to show our support for DACA youth and to pray for moral strength and guidance of our political leaders to come together and pass the bi-partisan DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would provide safety and security through a pathway to citizenship for these aspiring citizens.

Speakers include faith leaders from local Catholic, AME, United Methodist, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist congregations, as well as DACA recipients and local immigration advocates.

Bring friends, prayers, and visual signs of support — signs, posters to support Dreamers and banners/flags/stoles/clothing that represent your various faith traditions or secular beliefs.

As this is a vigil, we hope that the nonviolent intent of this action is clear. Everyone participating in this Event will be required to abide by all applicable laws and lawful orders of authorities. This Event will be nonviolent and will not involve any civil disobedience or other violation of law.

And that’s pretty much the way it was.

It was a modest, but respectable-sized, crowd. Very low-key while I was there. Kind of a usual-suspects crowd — nothing that would cause the GOP pols who run our state to say, “Golly, my constituents are up in arms! I’d better take a stand against Trump.” But everyone meant well, as it seemed to me.

And that’s all I have to say about that…

Alan Wilson did drop the threat of joining in the challenge to DACA. But he didn’t do it because of these folks and their vigil. He did it because good ol’ Donald Trump made it unnecessary:

DACA 1

Who can be as foolhardy and reckless as Trump? The Democrats…

900px-Flag_of_South_Korea.svg

Here’s an excellent example of why it won’t be the Democrats who save us from Trump.

At least, not these Democrats.

Possibly the most foolish thing Trump has done in the last few days (and yeah, I know there are a lot of exciting entries in a crowded field) is this, at the very moment we’re facing an increased threat from North Korea:

President Trump has instructed advisers to prepare to withdraw the United States from a free-trade agreement with South Korea, several people close to the process said, a move that would stoke economic tensions with the U.S. ally as both countries confront a crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Withdrawing from the trade deal would back up Trump’s promises to crack down on what he considers unfair trade competition from other countries, but his top national security and economic advisers are pushing him to abandon the plan, arguing it would hamper U.S. economic growth and strain ties with an important ally. Officials including national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn oppose withdrawal, said people familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

Although it is still possible Trump could decide to stay in the agreement to renegotiate its terms, the internal preparations for terminating the deal are far along, and the formal withdrawal process could begin as soon as this week, the people said….

You know why those top aides don’t want him to do this, especially now? Because they have brains. They know that free-trade agreements bind nations closer together, aside from producing more wealth overall.

This is absolutely no time for slapping allies in the face in that part of the world — or anywhere, of course.

But fortunately, there’s a loyal opposition out there poised to the save the country from this nonsense, right?

Uhhhh… no (imagine I said that in a Butthead voice). This was in the Post the same day as the above:

 Democrats facing reelection next year in states President Trump won are seizing on trade at this early stage as a crucial issue and a Republican vulnerability.

But rather than jeer Trump’s protectionist positions, Democrats are echoing them and amplifying them, arguing that Trump has failed to fulfill his dramatic campaign promise to rip apart trade deals.

“When we say renegotiating NAFTA, we mean a transformation, something substantial, not just going through the motions,” Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) told union leaders recently, referring to the administration’s talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

For Democrats, Casey’s pitch signals a wholehearted revival of their labor roots and a sharp departure from the free-trade tilt of the past two Democratic presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton….

So, according to these Dems, the trouble with Trump is that he’s not Trumpy enough.

Notice how eager they are to repudiate the views of the last two Democrats who won presidential elections?

Brilliant, just brilliant….

Mind you, the folks on ‘The West Wing’ aren’t perfect…

In this scene from the episode, Leo should be saying, "Who forgot to pay the light bill?" Folks, I've been in the West Wing. It's not this dark.

In this scene from the episode, Leo should be saying, “Who forgot to pay the light bill?” 

This morning while working out, I watched an episode from the first season of “The West Wing” (so early in the show that they hadn’t figured out yet that the “Mandy” character just didn’t work at all).

The overriding plotline of the episode, “The Short List,” was the nomination of a new associate justice to the Supreme Court. Everybody starts out excited that they’ve settled on Peyton Cabot Harrison III, a painfully stereotypical WASP with all the right credentials — Exeter, Harvard, editor of the law review, etc. (The moment you know for sure that he’s not actually going to get the job is when he finds himself alone in a room with Charlie, and says Charlie looks familiar, and Charlie says yeah, I used to caddie at your club.)

But just as they’re about to announce their pick, with all the absurd excess of ceremony that attends such nominations, a paper written by the judge three decades earlier surfaces. And in this paper he noted the fact that there is no blanket right to privacy guaranteed in the Constitution.

Which, of course, there isn’t, Griswold notwithstanding.

At this point, Harrison looks so much better to me, even though he is filled with pompous self-regard. But for White House senior staff, this is a deal-killer — so much so that, after months of deliberation that led them to Harrison, they decide, during one five-minute meeting with another guy from the short list, to offer him the nomination.

This is a happy ending on so many levels. Not only is the new nominee, Roberto Mendoza, Hispanic, but he went to public schools and came up the hard way. A very Capraesque ending. All the main characters are lined up outside the Oval Office to applaud as Mendoza exits — even though they couldn’t possibly have known that he would be offered the job in that meeting. (In fact, I think Harrison may still be waiting in another room of the White House, unaware that he’s no longer the guy.)

But it bugs me that the clincher for Mendoza was that he affirmed his belief in the “right to privacy.” Such faith is necessary since only faith gets you there — since there is no such right spelled out in the Constitution.

Apparently trying to enlist a larger share of the audience in applauding the decision, Sam Seaborn says:

It’s not just about abortion, it’s about the next twenty years. The twenties and thirties it was the role of government, the fifties and sixties it was civil rights, the next two decades are going to be privacy. I’m talking about the internet. I’m talking about cell phones. I’m talking about health records and who’s gay and who’s not. Moreover, in a country born on the will to the free, what could be more fundamental than this?

Well, several things, Sam. The right to freedom of conscience repeatedly affirmed in the First Amendment, for one.

Of course, you could say Sam’s completely right. He arrived at that conclusion before the Patriot Act (something that never happened in “The West Wing’s” 9/11-less universe), or the hysteria engendered by Edward Snowden.

But if he is, well, I suppose that helps explain that sneaking suspicion I sometimes have that by some cosmic accident, I was born into the wrong era…

Anyway, I think I’ve noted before how wistfully painful it can be to watch shows such as this, and, say, “Madame Secretary,” which assume that all the people running the country are serious, experienced, knowledgeable people earnestly striving to do the right thing.

Episodes such as this one, though, remind us that, as wonderfully lovable as the cast of “The West Wing” was (which was why Mandy had to go; she just didn’t meet that prerequisite), they weren’t perfect.

Still, I’d definitely take them over what we’ve got, in a skinny minute…

A word to overwrought football fans: Lighten up, Francis

I just saw the above promo, and I’ve seldom seen anything more absurd in my life.

If this is the way you feel about football, let me make a suggestion: Turn it off. Step away from the TV. Take a cold shower, and maybe a Valium.

Lighten up, Francis.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Americans. Maybe it’s because we ended the draft, so that most men haven’t experienced military service, much less combat. So they think of football as war, and say idiotic things suggesting that it’s just as life-and-death, the outcome just as critically momentous.

Note some of the language in this ad:

Every Saturday’s an attack, an ambush, an air raid…

They’ll show you hate and disrespect unlike anything you’ve ever seen….

You’re wearing that uniform, and you’re the enemy. You must be eliminated…

They want you to lose more than they want to win…

The biggest game, the only game, is the one you’re playing…

EVERY GAME IS EVERYTHING

That’s the tagline of this promo campaign from Fox: “EVERY GAME IS EVERYTHING.”

Seriously?

The ad revels in the violence of the game. The instant when an opposing player smacks into a quarterback (see image at the bottom of the post) comes as the announcer says with relish, “It’ll make your ears ring…”

Which brings us to George Will’s latest column, in which he optimistically predicts that, with all we now know about the damage the game — yes, it’s a game, not a thing we need anyone to do — does to human bodies, especially to human brains:

CTE is a degenerative brain disease confirmable only after death, and often caused by repeated blows to the head that knock the brain against the skull. The cumulative impacts of hundreds of supposedly minor blows can have the cumulative effect of many concussions. The New York Times recently reported Stanford University researchers’ data showing “that one college offensive lineman sustained 62 of these hits in a single game. Each one came with an average force on the player’s head equivalent to what you would see if he had driven his car into a brick wall at 30 mph.”

Boston University researchers found CTE in 110 of 111 brains of deceased NFL players. In 53 other brains from college players, 48 had CTE. There was significant selection bias: Many of the brains came from families who had noticed CTE symptoms, including mood disorders and dementia. A Boston University researcher says, however, that a 10-year NFL linebacker could receive more than 15,000 sub-concussive blows….

Here, by the way, is the difference between a normal brain and one with advanced CTE:

Chronic_Traumatic_Encephalopathy

Given that I find the trumped-up machismo of the game so offensive, I particularly like the way Will ends his column:

It has been said (by Thomas Babington Macaulay) that the Puritans banned bear baiting — unleashing fierce dogs on a bear chained in a pit — not because it gave pain to bears but because it gave pleasure to Puritans. But whatever the Puritans’ motives, they understood that there are degrading enjoyments. Football is becoming one, even though Michigan’s $9 million coach has called it “the last bastion of hope for toughness in America in men.” That thought must amuse the Marines patrolling Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.

ears ring

 

Open Thread for (late) Thursday, August 31, 2017

The nuclear expansion that wasn't.

The nuclear expansion that wasn’t.

Better late than never, right?

  1. Merrill resigns a day before possible guilty plea in corruption probe — I hope for The State‘s sake that he really does plead guilty Friday morning, after that hed.
  2. In Tit-for-Tat Move, U.S. Orders Russia to Close a Consulate — You close one a ours, we close one a yours — bada-bing!
  3. Trump officials slash advertising, grants that help Americans get health coverage — You know how Trump and Republicans talk about letting the ACA fail on its own. Their plan for letting it do that involve shooting it in the head first.
  4. Santee Cooper leaders were paid bonuses for failed nuclear project — Drip, drip, drip. The hits keep comin’.
  5. Trump-Russia inquiry: what you missed in a week dominated by Harvey — A nice service from The Guardian for distracted Americans.

Spot of good news: My neighborhood isn’t going to be demolished for a hyperspace bypass

Here’s the notice that was brought to my attention — not by the government, but by my daughter — on the last day of public comment.

Here’s the notice that was brought to my attention — not by the government, but by my daughter — on the last day of public comment.

So Donald Trump is still president, North Korea just fired a missile over Japan, and Harvey is still ripping up and flooding the Gulf Coast.

So, lots of bad news.

But at least there’s this:

The S.C. Department of Transportation has dropped a plan to build a bypass to unsnarl “Malfunction Junction” that would have caused up to 236 West Columbia homes to be razed.

State Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, said he received a letter about the change from the department Tuesday morning.

“This is a tremendous victory for us,” he said. “And this was a community effort.”

The bypass was one of several options being considered by the DOT to alleviate congestion at the junction of I-20, I-26 and I-126. It would have diverted traffic away from the intersection, but the bypass also would have cut through several West Columbia neighborhoods including Quail Hollow and River’s Edge….

I live in Quail Hollow. And while the abandoned route might not have technically gone through my living room, it would have run behind the houses directly across the street from me, and would have blocked me from the only way out of my neighborhood other than swimming across the Saluda River.

It would have been the worst deal possible: My property value would have been destroyed, and I wouldn’t have gotten paid for it because they didn’t necessarily have to buy my house. And my peaceful, semi-sylvan neighborhood — deer sometimes wander onto our lot — would have become utter, roaring chaos, with an interstate directly in front of the house, less than 100 feet away (as near as I could tell from the wholly inadequate maps provided by DOT).

As you’ll recall, I learned about this plan on the last day of public comments last fall, after having received ZERO notification from the state that my neighborhood was potentially to be sacrificed to fix Malfunction Junction, a problem that has never bothered me even though it’s only about a mile from my house.

We found ourselves in a situation that was almost, but not quite, entirely like the one Arthur Dent faced in the first chapter of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Did I ever tell you about the public meeting DOT finally held for my neighbors and me after we DID find out about it on that last day of public comment? Official after official claimed that we should have known sooner — after all, the plans had been on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard.” More or less.

Finally, this one woman stood up and faced the truth, and admitted that yeah, they had screwed up big-time by not actually notifying us. Which was nice. I guess she had drawn the short straw on being the “good cop.”

Anyway, I want to thank my Senator, Nikki Setzler, and my representative, Micah Caskey (although Micah says modestly that it was really Nikki) for standing up and raising hell about the deal. I think it probably helped even though the DOT people claimed at the public meeting that resistance would be useless, that political considerations would play no role, that the decision would be made by federal officials entirely on the basis of objective data.

Was the ending of ‘The Sixth Sense’ really a surprise?

sixth sense

Yeah, I know — I’m almost two decades late on this.

But when “The Sixth Sense” came out, I was uninterested. The trailers with the terrified little boy saying, “I see dead people!” just didn’t move me to want to watch.

But recently I kept seeing it promoted to me on Netflix, and last night I was giving platelets at the Red Cross, which immobilizes me with nothing to do but stare at my iPad for a couple of hours, and I’ve heard for years that the movie is good, so… I started watching it.

And I figured out the “surprise ending” in the first scene. And everything that happened subsequently confirmed it. In fact, it was telegraphed so strongly, and so persistently, that I couldn’t see how anyone would miss it.

SPOILER ALERT!

Now, let me admit right off that I had a helping hand. I knew there was a creepy, even shocking ending. I thought I had heard that the surprise was that the little kid himself was dead. But it became quickly obvious that that explanation didn’t work, and that another premise was completely inescapable. So I had a big leg up.

What I can’t figure out is whether I would have seen exactly what the “surprise” was without that hint Maybe not. But certainly I would have had questions along the way, such as:

  • Why doesn’t the big-deal, award-winning psychologist Malcolm Crowe have an office? Why doesn’t his young patient, Cole, go to see him there? Why does their first meeting involve Crowe spotting Cole and chasing him down the street? I really think these details would have made me expect answers — and if they weren’t forthcoming, would cause me to start speculating.
  • Why does the psychologist go everywhere with the kid — to school, to the hospital, to his home, to a funeral, to his school play, which his mother doesn’t even go to because she’s holding two jobs (which raises the question of how she pays the psychologist to look after her son 24/7)? Why doesn’t such a celebrated shrink have other patients? Why does he says he used to be a great child psychologist?
  • Why doesn’t the boy’s mother ever speak to Crowe when they are together? More than that, why doesn’t his wife, who we saw in the first seen was very warm and affectionate toward him, never speak to him or even look at him? Sure, there’s misdirection intended to make you think there’s a problem in the marriage, but it’s lame and unconvincing.

If you could see all of these things without figuring it out, I guess it would create a wondering tension that would make the reveal at the end a real kick in the head. But is that possible? Did people really not figure it out?

And if it was a big surprise, I sort of feel like Shyamalan undersold it. The reveal seemed low-key for such a realization on the part of the central protagonist — nowhere near as powerful as, say, the star’s realization of the truth about himself at the end of “Memento.” Beyond that, the resolution of various conflicts seemed a bit too pat and easy. What caused the teacher to give the outcast child the lead in the school play, for instance?

Assuming you saw it, what was your experience? No big deal, I’m just curious, after having heard how effective the movie was all these years…

How much Harvey coverage is enough?

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OK, people are going to start throwing brickbats at me for being mean and uncaring, an apathetic monster.

But I’m not. In fact, I have relatives I saw just the other day down at the beach who have thus far been unable to return to their homes in Lake Charles. I get the human cost. I care.

I’m just asking, how much coverage of Hurricane Harvey do we need? And my tentative answer is, “Maybe a little less than we’re getting.” Or maybe the same amount, played a little bit differently. Or maybe I’m wrong. It’s just a gut thing, based on my experience the last few days.

I ask this as a guy who has spent most of his life as a newspaper editor, figuring out how best to deploy finite resources — people, space, time. You can’t cover everything, so what will you cover, and to what extent? And how will you present it?

I was part of the team at The State that was a runner-up for the Pulitzer in 1989 for our coverage of Hugo (we’d have won it, too, if San Francisco hadn’t had an earthquake in the middle of the World Series). I’m proud of that wall-to-wall coverage that went on for days, weeks, while our state struggled to recover.

But as someone who is sitting outside the affected area, looking at national media outlets, I have to think the coverage, and/or the play, may be a tad excessive.

You may recall — if you’ve read anything other than Harvey coverage — that a lot of people accused Trump of burying the pardon of Joe Arpaio by doing it as the storm bore down on the Texas coast. But here’s the thing about that: News organizations can still cover such a political development, and play it prominently — if they choose to.

The last couple of days, I’ve started wondering about news organizations’ willingness to do so.

In the past day, North Korea fired a missile over Japan. Meanwhile, it was learned that a guy who worked for Trump reached out to a high Russian official for help in building a Trump tower in Moscow at the height of last year’s election.

You will say, But that’s just petty politics, and we need to take a break from that stuff when there’s something that affects real people happening — such as a big storm.

Well, yes and no. Assertions such as that always bring me back to the First Amendment. The reason the press has that special protection in the Constitution is so that it can make you aware of things you need to know in order to be an informed, empowered voter.

The kinds of decisions that you, as a citizen, are called on to make with regard to Harvey, are limited. You can volunteer to go help, if you see a way you can do so and make a real contribution. You can give money, or donate food or clothing, or give blood, if those things are identified as needs. You can tell your congressman you want him to vote to fully fund FEMA.

And I think that coverage that a) communicates the situation fully, and b) clearly shows how you can help is all to the good. Give us that coverage, and plenty of it.

But cover the other stuff, too. And, yes, that is definitely happening, or I wouldn’t know about those things. But I get the impression that these other important stories are getting pushed to the margins.

Look at the home pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times, above and below. Those screenshots contain nothing but headlines about Harvey. If you scrolled down on both of those pages, for at least another half a screen, it would be all Harvey.

And to me, that seems a bit… off. What’s wrong with letting people know, in their first glance at your news offerings, that there are other important things happening as well — such as the aforementioned missile over Japan? Harvey could still get the biggest headlines, and the most of them. But give us some balance, some perspective.

It’s a big planet, and most of it is not affected by Harvey. There’s a lot of other stuff going on. Don’t hold back from telling us anything we need to know about Harvey. But tell us the other stuff as well, and don’t bury it.

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Cashing in on Joe Arpaio, from all directions

Arpaio

As you probably realize, one of the reasons we are so politically divided in this country is that there’s a whole industry that exists to keep us that way.

There are the parties, of course, but there are loads of other entitities out there that exist to make you angry and keep you angry at those other people, and to keep you giving money so that the destructive process continues forever, in a self-perpetuating, self-financing loop.

About a month ago, I got on a mailing list from another universe — one in which Donald Trump and his fellow travelers are the most wonderful things ever. I get message after message begging me for money to fight “liberals,” which are defined as everything from Democrats to mainstream Republicans — Mitch McConnell is a favorite target.

Two or three times a day, these appeals came behalf of ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for his defense.

Of course, it’s not only the right that tries to cash in on that barbarian. After his pardon, I got this from a usual suspect on the left:

Brad —

We’re sick to our stomach. Donald Trump just pardoned Joe Arpaio — a fellow birther, convicted for illegally targeting and abusing communities of color.

This makes a mockery of the rule of law. It’s disgusting. And Republicans continue to REFUSE to hold Trump accountable for this latest in a string of racist acts.

We need to kick Republicans out of office and take back the House for Democrats. Please contribute right away so we can have the resources to do it.

$10 $25 $50
$100 $250 Other

Thanks,

Team Pelosi

Well, of course. When there’s a demon at hand, get the begging cup out.

You’re probably thinking, “Well, at least the right has no excuse to ask for help on this matter any more.” Oh, how foolish you are! The excuses why you as a partisan should give never end:

 

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Legal Defense Fund

 

BREAKING: Sheriff Joe Pardoned
by President Trump

Friend,
I just received some incredibly good news! President Trump has just issued a pardon on my behalf.Honestly, I could not be more thankful to President Trump for seeing my bogus conviction for what it was: a political witch hunt by hold overs from the Obama justice department. 

I am certain that President Trump was able to see the TRUTH so clearly because he too has been the victim of a character assassination by the liberal media and Democrat establishment on many occasions.

HELP SHERIFF JOE! Contribute $150 >>

While I am humbled and incredibly grateful for this very good news, I can’t help but be concerned about a bit of bad news I received recently.
I am still facing tens of thousands in legal bills from my fight to clear my name. Going up against the full force of the federal government was not only personally taxing, it was incredibly expensive.

Remember Friend, I am just a retired local law enforcement officer. 

The only reason you now my name is because the liberal media decided to launch a national campaign to paint me as a monster for my hard belief in upholding the Constitution and against illegal immigration . . .

HELP SHERIFF JOE! Contribute $75 >>

Frankly, the DOJ thought that I would back down and take a plea bargain to avoid the enormous expense of a legal battle on this scale. I was not going to let them intimidate me into to admitting to a crime that I did not commit, so I had to fight to clear my name.
Now, my wife Ava and I are still facing significant legal bills. . .

HELP SHERIFF JOE! Contribute $50>>

Friend, I know that you work hard for your paycheck which makes this very difficult to ask of you, but if you are financially able will you please make a contribution to my legal defense fund today? Every dollar you donate will go directly toward paying off my legal bills and putting this awful chapter behind me.
I cannot thank you enough for supporting me through this incredibly trying time,

Sincerely,


– Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Maricopa County, Arizona

 

Can I watch ‘Game of Thrones’ for free? (And should I?)

OK, I've heard that Winter has finally, FINALLY come. Beyond that, no spoilers, please.

OK, I’ve heard that Winter has finally, FINALLY come. Beyond that, no spoilers, please.

Stop pointing at me! That was my anguished cry when I saw this headline this morning:

Meet the sometime-streamer: TV watchers who sign up for one show — then cancel

Well… yeah. Why on Earth would I keep paying 15 bucks a month for HBO NOW once I’ve watched the latest season of “Game of Thrones?” What else of value does it offer? “WestWorld?” Gimme a break. If I see one of those “hosts” run through the same loop one more time, I’m going to have a serious programming malfunction.

The only other thing HBO NOW is good for is watching excellent past series, such as “The Sopranos,” “Band of Brothers,” “Boardwalk Empire” and such. And I get all of those at no additional cost for subscribing to Amazon Prime.

I’ve waited for the “GoT” season to end — which it just did — so I can sign up for a month, zip through the new episodes during my morning workouts on the elliptical, and cancel. And why would I do anything else?

The only question is whether HBO will extend to me the first-month-free introductory offer, since I’m a past subscriber. Well, not the only question. There’s also the ethical one of whether it would be OK to watch the latest “GoT” season for free, then cancel (if they even let me do that). I’m thinking I wouldn’t feel too terrible about it, since I’m very mindful of the two years or so that I paid $15 a month in exchange for practically nothing, before it hit me that I should cancel when not watching “Game of Thrones.”

On the whole, I feel like I’ve been bled fairly dry over the years by television and on the overall scales of justice, they kind of owe me. Of course,  that’s mostly the doing of the cable companies, not HBO. And, well, I think the HBO NOW model is a vast improvement over the old bundling ripoff. So maybe, in the name of rewarding something of which I approve, I should at least pay out $14.99 to watch a season of a show I want to see.

Yeah. Probably.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on this. And your practices. What are your habits in the age of streaming, and what are you willing to pay to support them?

If I want to rewatch "The Sopranos," I've got Amazon Prime.

If I want to rewatch “The Sopranos,” I’ve got Amazon Prime.

Then arose up a new king who knew not Joseph….

So who's this Joseph when he's at home?

‘So who’s this Joseph when he’s at home?’

Remember the other day when I quoted, twice (once in a comment, later in a post) the opening of an article from Foreign Affairs? It started out explaining the postwar collective security consensus (which, sadly, has to be explained to people these days), and ended with this transition:

Then arose up a new king who knew not Joseph….

… which I thought was an awesome line, because that’s exactly where we are, isn’t it? We have a king who knows not anything. Not history, not policy, not diplomacy, not the basics of governing, not the Constitution, not the rule of law. One who is surprised to learn of Frederick Douglass. A man who, for all I know, may not even know enough about Scripture to get the Joseph reference.

Anyway…

Yesterday, I happened to attend Mass at a local Episcopal Church — one that I visit from time to time. I always enjoy the services there for several reasons. One is that I can hear what’s going on. Whether the homily is in Spanish or English, the acoustics make it hard for me to follow the homily at my church, St. Peter’s. (It was hard before I lost hearing in one ear to Ménière’s; it’s next to impossible now.)

I also really like that they use the old liturgy — or what I think of as the old liturgy, which was really post-Vatican II liturgy, but I became Catholic long after Vatican II. Anyway, the Episcopalians are still using the one I like, in which we say “and also with you,” instead of “and with your spirit,” and in which the Creed starts with “We believe” instead of “I believe.”

So that’s nice. But that’s not why I’m writing about this. I’m writing about this because the first reading at this service was the one that starts like this:

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites….

Yeah, that line again.

Which was quite a coincidence, I thought.

But I didn’t realize how much of a coincidence it was until this morning.

I was thinking about it, and decided to go back and read it, so I went to the U.S. Conference Conference of Catholic Bishops site to check out yesterday’s first reading.

But it was a different reading. It was this one, from Isaiah.

Huh. So, if I had not just happened to attend a church other than my own, I would not have heard that reading, and would not have been struck by the coincidence.

How about that?

It appears that God wants me to pay more attention to that line.

So I’m pondering it this morning…

Or… did He want me to have occasion to go back and read the Catholic reading, which I otherwise would have missed? It, too, seems freighted with timely meaning:

Thus says the LORD to Shebna, master of the palace:
“I will thrust you from your office
and pull you down from your station.
On that day I will summon my servant
Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe,
and gird him with your sash,
and give over to him your authority.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and to the house of Judah.
I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder;
when he opens, no one shall shut
when he shuts, no one shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot,
to be a place of honor for his family.”

So… did Shebna not know Joseph, either?

Apparently, I should read further, and reflect…