Open Thread for Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Is THIS the guy who conducted Obama's terrible, awful, mean wiretaps on President Trump?

Is THIS the guy who conducted Obama’s terrible, awful, mean wiretaps on President Trump?

Very quickly:

  1. 30 years later, arrest made in ‘gruesome’ Richland County killing — Nice job, Sheriff Lott.
  2. Senators ask FBI for evidence of Trump wiretap claim — Oh, this should be good. Somebody get the popcorn.
  3. Hospitals and Doctors Reject Bill as G.O.P. Moves Ahead — Here’s how this will go: Everybody who knows anything will reject the bill. The House GOP will forge ahead, counting on the support of people whose taxes they’re cutting.
  4. Women protest in D.C. for ‘Day Without a Woman’ as area schools close — OK, so that’s where this was going on. You couldn’t tell around here.
  5. Spring Came Early. Scientists Say Climate Change Is a Culprit. — But you kinda knew that, didn’t you?

Now I need to go run to another meeting…

... Or was it THIS guy?

… Or was it THIS guy?

Why ‘A Day Without A Woman?’

I’m not talking about the thing; I’m talking about the wording.

How does that make sense?without a woman

I could see “A day without women.” We’re assuming more than one woman is taking part, and even though it’s only some women, and not all women, “a day without women” would still be a true description. (Despite the fact that, you know, the women still exist; they’re just not at their usual jobs.)

But “a day without A woman” expresses one of two unlikely extremes. Either it means one particular woman — say, Mary Smith of Anytown, USA — is staying home today, or it means a day without a single woman anywhere.

Each of which is obviously untrue.

Who are the ad wizards who come up with these things, and what are they thinking?

Setting the wording aside and dealing with the thing itself — how’s it going out there? So far today, I haven’t encountered a single situation in which a woman wasn’t at work. Every woman I would normally encounter is on deck, attending to duty. Nor have I noticed them wearing red. (Although I did overhear a man on an elevator jokingly asking a woman why she wasn’t wearing red. I missed her response.) So it seems like a bit of a bust.

This might be because personally, I hadn’t heard about it until last night on NPR as I was driving home. But maybe there’s some sort of lady grapevine out there to which I am not privy (which would not be a shock), and it has been organizing this thing with relentless precision for some time. I just can’t tell.

How’s it going where you are?

Open Thread for Tuesday, March 7, 2017

SCGasTaxLastResorceAriailW

I’m really busy today and will be here at work for quite awhile more, but I wanted to give y’all something else to ruminate over (not that I’m saying y’all are actual ruminants or anything):

  1. WikiLeaks Files Describe C.I.A. Tools to Break Into Phones — And why are they doing this? Well, because they hate the United States of America and wish to weaken it as much as possible. No indication of Russian involvement on this yet (that I’ve seen), but they have to be happy to get their hands on this material.
  2. Republican ‘Trumpcare’ plan battered by politicians on both left and right — In fact, the question arises: Is there anyone out there who actually likes this thing?
  3. SC House passes moped bill — I didn’t even know there was such a bill out there. Anyway, it’s apparently been watered down to where it just offers some minimal safety rules and administration regulation.
  4. Six of Trump’s tweets this morning seemed to respond directly to what was happening on ‘Fox & Friends’ — So basically, over a period of two hours, he was watching this and responding to it. We need to get this guy a job or something…
  5. Former MI6 agent behind Trump dossier returns to work — Actually, I think Christopher Steele is a former intelligence officer, not an “agent” or “asset” or “joe” or whatever you choose to call the people whom intelligence officers go out and recruit to provide humint. The Guardian should know better. But far more exciting than this news is the following…
  6. George Smiley will soon be back! — Coming in September! So I’m pretty pumped. Technically, an elderly Peter Guillam seems to be the protagonist, which indicates present-day, which means George is probably no longer among us (he’d be close to 100 if he were). But he’s bound to appear in flashbacks. If only he could be with us in the flesh, in the West’s dark crisis of faith…
Alex Guinness as George Smiley.

Alex Guinness as George Smiley.

House GOP just came up with an ACA replacement NOW?

Think about this for a moment. On Jan. 19, 2011, more than six years ago, the U.S. House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act for the first time.

On Groundhog Day last year (which was fitting), the House stormed that rampart again (in one form or another) for the 62nd time! I don’t know what the grand total was during the Obama years, since that’s the most recent story I find with a number. But 62 is far more than enough to make my point.

Now hold onto that thought, as you consider that yesterday, just yesterday — Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 — House Republicans finally offered a plan for replacing Obamacare. One that apparently has a bit of an uphill climb ahead of it.

We don' need no estinking CBO score?

We don’ need no estinking CBO score?

Conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin was particularly brutal, in a piece headlined “ACA repeal: House Republicans’ breathtaking recklessness.”

She has her reasons, and some are fairly persuasive. Some have to do with all the unanswered questions about the proposal. Republicans love to quote Nancy Pelosi’s observation that “We have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what’s in it….” Surely, surely, they’re not asking anyone to buy a pig in a poke themselves, right? She notes that Speaker Paul Ryan’s office says it can’t answer basic questions about the proposal’s potential impact because it doesn’t have a score from the Congressional Budget Office (which she doubts).

All that aside, here’s my reaction to the headline on Ms. Rubin’s piece: The real, breathtaking recklessness was voting to repeal the law all those times without even this imperfect replacement to offer. In other words, saying they had to repeal the ACA in order to find out what would replace it.

It’s pretty amazing…

A place to comment on Trump’s Muslim Ban 2.0

C6P7yWCXEAAS38r

And yeah, that’s what it is. Clear away the nonsense and that’s what you’re left with. He said when he ran for president that that’s what he’d do, and this is his second attempt to get away with doing it.

All the whys and wherefores and details and adjustments are kind of irrelevant to me. What I see is that the entire effort — which he has made the top priority of his first days in office — is completely unnecessary. It’s an overwrought, complicated solution to a problem that does not exist. It is absurd every bit as much as it is offensive and unAmerican.

The administration keeps mouthing the ridiculous justification that this is needed to “keep America safe.” I won’t go into that except to note that Charles Krauthammer — who takes a backseat to no one in advocating for national security — dealt with that with the contempt that it deserved a month ago: “Not a single American has ever been killed in a terror attack in this country by a citizen from the notorious seven.” Which is now six, Trump having discovered that Iraq is an ally.

So, you say what you have to say about it. I’m done for the moment…

If GOP candidates are talking this way, it’s going to be a long time before things start getting better

connelly

I see that Rep. Jeff Duncan has given Chad Connelly a boost — at least, I assume it constitutes a boost — in his efforts to differentiate himself from the crowd seeking the GOP nomination for Mick Mulvaney’s seat.

But that endorsement isn’t what interests me. What interests me is this language that Duncan used in making the endorsement:

Duncan believes Connelly, a former chairman of the state GOP, would work with him and President Donald Trump to “drain the swamp, secure our borders, and limit government.”

There’s nothing terribly surprising that one Tea Party Class Republican would use those terms in speaking of another of his party.

I just think it’s worth noting that this is where we are now. Which means we’re a long, long way from the Trump nightmare being over.

It won’t be over, of course, until he is gone from office, and gone in a way that even his supporters are glad to see him go.

That won’t happen as long as Republicans are invoking his name and using his talking points to praise each other. (At least, the first two are Trumpisms. The third point, “limit government,” is just one of those things some Republicans say the way other people clear their throats.)

They won’t go immediately from this point to denouncing him, mind you. If and when things start to get better, the first sign will be simply tactfully neglecting to mention him. That will be promising. Then they will mildly demur. Then they will hesitantly denounce, and so forth.

The White House currently is a raging cauldron, a place that emits chaos the way a volcano emits lave. At any time, it is likely to generate the Tweet or other eruption that will be the beginning of the end.

But obviously, it’s going to be a long journey…

Congressman Jeff Duncan Endorses Chad Connelly from UTPL on Vimeo.

Has the West ceased to believe in itself?

Last week, I read another excellent piece by Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal. It was headlined “Do We Still Want the West?,” with the subhed, “The best antidote to the politics of Trump or Le Pen is a course in Western Civ.”

Because of that paper’s pay wall, I’m going to push the envelope a mite on Fair Use here so that you get the point fully, and I hope the Journal will forgive me.

The piece begins anecdotally, telling about how the left’s culture warriors chanted Western Civ right out of the curriculum at Stanford in the ’80s, and how a vote to bring it back (a student vote, because grownups no longer dare to make such decisions) failed, 6 to 1.

Then, he sets out the problem:

The thought comes to mind following Sergei Lavrov’s Orwellian speech last week at the Munich Security Conference, in which the Russian foreign minister called for a “post-West world order.”…

Bret Stephens

Bret Stephens

Mr. Lavrov understands something that ought to be increasingly clear to American and European audiences: The West—as a geopolitical bloc, a cultural expression, a moral ideal—is in deep trouble. However weak Russia may be economically, and however cynical its people might be about their regime, Russians continue to drink from a deep well of civilizational self-belief. The same can be said about the Chinese, and perhaps even of the Islamic world too, troubled as it is.

The West? Not so much.

The United States has elected as president a man who has repeatedly voiced his disdain for NATO, the World Trade Organization and other institutions of the Western-led world order. He publicly calls the press “an enemy of the American people” and conjures conspiracy theories about voter fraud whose only purpose is to lend credence to his claim that the system is rigged. He is our first post-rational president, whose approach to questions of fact recalls the deconstructionism of the late Jacques Derrida: There are no truths; reality is negotiable….

He goes on about the crisis of faith in Western ways in Europe, and notes how the non-aligned — who once were so eager to join the Western club — are drifting toward other power centers, such as Russia and China.

In other words, moving toward cultures that still believe in themselves, or at least in their own myths.

Then comes the best part:

There was a time when the West knew what it was about. It did so because it thought about itself—often in freshman Western Civ classes. It understood that its moral foundations had been laid in Jerusalem; its philosophical ones in Athens; its legal ones in Rome. It treated with reverence concepts of reason and revelation, freedom and responsibility, whose contradictions it learned to harmonize and harness over time. It believed in the excellence of its music and literature, and in the superiority of its political ideals. It was not ashamed of its prosperity. If it was arrogant and sinful, as all civilizations are, it also had a tradition of remorse and doubt to temper its edges and broaden its horizons. It cultivated the virtue of skepticism while avoiding the temptation of cynicism.

And it believed all of this was worth defending — in classrooms and newspapers and statehouses and battlefields….

Donald Trump was elected by people who for whatever reason just don’t seem to get the fundamental assumptions of the West — they don’t know the history; they don’t embrace the ideals. It’s hard to talk to them about what’s wrong, because they don’t see it. Maybe it’s too late for them, but it’s time we started overtly teaching our children what’s valuable about the West.

But first, of course, we need to decide whether we still believe in it ourselves…

You know what’s ‘not what elected office should look like?’ Coronor, that’s what

Probably the dumbest headline I’ve seen this week was this one: “House panel moves to scrap education, experience requirements for coroners.”

Riiihhhgt… because that’s just what we need in the official who investigates unattended deaths in our counties — less expertise.

And the body of the story didn’t make a better impression than the headline:

Todd Rutherford

Todd Rutherford

An S.C. House panel Wednesday unanimously OK’d a proposal to scrap state laws requiring that county coroners meet education and experience standards.

State Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, says his bill strips “onerous” state laws that ensure only a handful of people in each county can run for the position.

“That’s not what elected office should look like,” Rutherford said, adding more qualifications are required of county coroners than U.S. presidents….

Let’s set aside the fact that this moment, when we’ve just elected the most outrageously unfit president in history, is not the best moment to tout the presidency’s lack of prerequisites… and move on to my point.

Which is this: The office of coroner is itself precisely “not what elected office should look like.” Coroner, a strictly technical, magisterial position that has nothing to do with politics, is precisely the kind of office that it is idiotic to fill by popular election.

If you want the job done right, you have the county administrator interview qualified candidates, and hire the person with the best experience and credentials.

You want to amend the law in a way that makes sense? Don’t dumb down the office in some misguided nod to democracy. Go the other way. Start by taking “coroner” off the ballot.

You MUST read David Frum’s brilliant piece in The Atlantic

David Frum on Tavis Smiley's show earlier this week.

David Frum on Tavis Smiley’s show earlier this week.

The other night, as I turned off the Apple TV and paused just before turning off the tube altogether, I saw that Tavis Smiley was interviewing David Frum — former speechwriter for George W. Bush and current senior editor for The Atlantic.

So I stopped myself from turning it off, because Frum usually has smart, interesting things to say.

He immediately said something rather outlandish. He suggested it was highly possible that Donald Trump’s main goal in being president of the United States is to become the richest man in the world. And that as long as his tax returns are not disclosed, he’s likely to achieve it.

I was about to scoff, but paused. That would be a ridiculous goal to me, or to Barack Obama, or to George W. Bush (despite what Bud and others seem to believe about Republicans.) The sheer petty, two-bit cupidity of it is laughable, particularly since in our history, no one who was thus motivated has ever sought such a position, much less attained it.

But I then reflected that lots of people actually are that motivated by money, as Doug keeps insisting to me that everyone is. And if there’s anyone on the planet who might be that acquisitive, it’s Donald J. Trump.

Well, fine. I don’t care if he does become the richest man in the world. Were it in my power, I would write him a check for the full amount he wants if only he’d walk away and stop doing what he’s doing to our country.

I don’t know, but suspect, that Frum would do the same. Because the problem for him, and for me, is the startlingly insidious ways that Trump is undermining our republic, its institutions — particularly the effectiveness of our vaunted checks and balances — and its standing in the world as a beacon of how self-government can work. Whatever Trump’s goal is — money, popularity, power for power’s sake — the really horrible thing is what he’s doing to get there.

During the interview with Smiley, Frum alluded to a piece he’d written in The Atlantic. I finally read it tonight. It is without a doubt the most brilliant, incisive, on-point, and chilling thing I’ve read since this nightmare began.

The title is “How to Build an Autocracy.”

Orwell’s 1984 has been enjoying a surge of popularity in recent weeks, especially it seems since Kellyanne Conway’s remark about “alternative facts.”

Well, the first 878 words of this essay is a bit of speculative fiction imagining the world four years from now, when Trump has just easily won re-election. It’s scarier than 1984 because it’s not a theoretical projection of just how horrible things might get in a place like Stalin’s Russia. It’s chilling because everything it describes, in explaining how Trump becomes a power that can’t be challenged, is completely, immediately believable. It wouldn’t have been before the past year, but it is now. We’re seeing it happen.

The other several thousand words of the piece elaborates on how we get from here to there, and it’s amazing. Frum doesn’t generalize. He explains in detail why it’s highly likely that the checks and balances we rely on — from official ones like Congress to unofficial ones like the press — are being quite effectively neutralized. He sets out beautifully, for instance, how Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are motivated to look the other way because they need Trump more than he needs them. It explains so much.

As for the media, well, Trump is redefining the nature of truth itself, or at least the way Americans regard it. An example of how that works:

One story, still supremely disturbing, exemplifies the falsifying method. During November and December, the slow-moving California vote count gradually pushed Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump in the national popular vote further and further: past 1 million, past 1.5 million, past 2 million, past 2.5 million. Trump’s share of the vote would ultimately clock in below Richard Nixon’s in 1960, Al Gore’s in 2000, John Kerry’s in 2004, Gerald Ford’s in 1976, and Mitt Romney’s in 2012—and barely ahead of Michael Dukakis’s in 1988.

This outcome evidently gnawed at the president-elect. On November 27, Trump tweeted that he had in fact “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” He followed up that astonishing, and unsubstantiated, statement with an escalating series of tweets and retweets.

It’s hard to do justice to the breathtaking audacity of such a claim. If true, it would be so serious as to demand a criminal investigation at a minimum, presumably spanning many states. But of course the claim was not true. Trump had not a smidgen of evidence beyond his own bruised feelings and internet flotsam from flagrantly unreliable sources. Yet once the president-elect lent his prestige to the crazy claim, it became fact for many people. A survey by YouGov found that by December 1, 43 percent of Republicans accepted the claim that millions of people had voted illegally in 2016.

If you sow enough cynicism, you don’t have to murder journalists or imprison opponents. There are subtler ways of achieving autocracy, which have been employed in recent years in places like Hungary, and we Americans are just beginning to learn about them.

He sort of leaves open the idea that Trump is a fascist, and moves beyond it, to tell us that our notions and labels and expectations are behind the times:

Whatever else happens, Americans are not going to assemble in parade-ground formations, any more than they will crank a gramophone or dance the turkey trot. In a society where few people walk to work, why mobilize young men in matching shirts to command the streets? If you’re seeking to domineer and bully, you want your storm troopers to go online, where the more important traffic is. Demagogues need no longer stand erect for hours orating into a radio microphone. Tweet lies from a smartphone instead….

But I’m not going to be able to do justice to this piece with excerpts. You need to go read it yourself. If you care, you have to.

I’ll just close with a neat thing Frum did today on Twitter. He set out some of the main points of his essay with a series of 21 Tweets. Here they are:

2) Donald Trump is a uniquely dangerous president because he harbors so many guilty secrets (or maybe 1 big guilty secret).

3) In order to protect himself, Trump must attack American norms and institutions – otherwise he faces fathomless legal risk

4) In turn, in order to protect their legally vulnerable leader, Republicans in Congress must join the attack on norms & institutions

5) Otherwise, they put at risk party hopes for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to remake US government in ways not very popular with voters

6) American institutions are built to withstand an attack from the president alone. But …

7) … they are not so well-built as to withstand an attack from a conscienceless president enabled by a hyper-partisan Congress

8) The peculiar grim irony in this case is that somewhere near the center of Trump’s story is the murky secret of Trump’s Russia connection

9) Meaning that Trump is rendering his party also complicit in what could well prove …

10) … the biggest espionage scandal since the Rosenberg group stole the secret of the atomic bomb.

11) And possibly even bigger. We won’t know if we don’t look

12) Despite patriotic statements from individual GOPers, as of now it seems that Speaker Ryan & Leader McConnell agree: no looking.

13) So many in DC serenely promise that “checks and balances” will save us. But right now: there is no check and no balance.

14) Only brave individuals in national security roles sharing truth with news organizations.

15) But those individuals can be found & silenced. What then? We take it too much for granted that the president must lose this struggle

16) The “oh he’s normal now” relief of so many to Trump’s Feb 28 speech revealed how ready DC is to succumb to dealmaking as usual.

17) As DC goes numb, citizen apathy accumulates …

18) GOP members of Congress decide they have more to fear from enforcing law against the president than from ignoring law with the president

19) And those of us who care disappear down rabbit holes debating whether Sessions’ false testimony amounts to perjury or not

20) Meanwhile job market strong, stock market is up, immigration enforcement is popular.

21) I’m not counseling despair here. I don’t feel despair. Only: nobody else will save the country if you don’t act yourself. END.

Illustration by Jeffry Smith in The Atlantic.

Illustration by Jeffry Smith in The Atlantic.

Wow, those chairs really looked… festive

The state of South Carolina’s electric chair, once a more frequently used form of execution, is shown here in 1998. The viewing room to the right is where media, lawyers and family members from both sides sat as witnesses. THE STATE File photograph Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/news/local/crime/article135985263.html#storylink=cpy

The state of South Carolina’s electric chair, once a more frequently used form of execution, is shown here in 1998. The viewing room to the right is where media, lawyers and family members from both sides sat as witnesses. THE STATE File photograph

I hope my friends at The State won’t mind my using this old file photo they just posted, but I was really struck by the incongruity of the decor.

Imagine that being your last sight as you were being executed. Instead of, “I really wish I hadn’t done it,” you might think, “Where the hell did those chairs come from? Couldn’t they have found something a bit more respectful of the occasion?” Which would be a stupid thing to be thinking at a time like that…

Those chairs look like they escaped from a “My Pretty Pony” cartoon. I wonder for what purpose the state ever purchased them to start with?

Any Democrats wanna run? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

As you probably know, everybody and his sister has lined up to run for the GOP nomination for Mick Mulvaney’s congressional seat in the 5th District. As of last week:

So far, six candidates have declared on the GOP side of the race: former state party chairman Chad Connelly; anti-Common Core activist Sheri Few; Camden attorney Tom Mullikin; Norman; Pope; and Indian Land attorney Kris Wampler….

(Yes, Sheri Few is running again! If at first you don’t succeed…)

It’s a mad scramble; you can’t hold ’em back! I read that story at breakfast at the Capital City Club one day last week, then folded my iPad and stood up to turn to leave — and there was Chad Connelly sitting at a table yards away with four or five other people, already having a campaign meeting. Time’s a wastin’!

And on the Democratic side…

I received this today, about an hour ago, from Clay Middleton with the SC Democratic Party:

unnamed
It is my privilege to lead the SCDP’s candidate recruitment efforts for the 2018 cycle.  The cycle is off to an early start with the upcoming special election in the 5th Congressional District.  After conversations with many great Democrats throughout the district, we expect a candidate to announce their candidacy next week.  The filing deadline is March 13th.  To receive regular updates on this special election campaign,sign up here.
While things are moving quickest in the 5th, it is not too early to start planning for a 2018 run for office!  If you are potentially interested, or know someone else who would be a strong candidate, please email me at plan2run@scdp.org.    
Throughout the country, Democratic energy is higher than ever before.  Earlier this week, in a special election in the reddest State Senate district in Connecticut, Democrats improved by 25 points over the 2016 general election result.  South Carolinians are just as fired up, organized, and ready to vote.  We just need great Democratic candidates to harness and capitalize on this energy.

Yeah, y’all are moving mighty quick in the 5th! You’re already up to the crucial, Let’s look and see if we can find somebody willing to run stage. You might even have one next week! The Republicans are probably wrenching their necks looking back at you! Or would be, if they gave you a thought.

And to think, this is the seat held by Democrat John Spratt for a generation before Mulvaney replaced him in the Tea Party wave of 2010.

If you’re a Democrat, and even if you aren’t, this is sad, folks…

Thank for the leadership, Speaker Lucas

If seems that Grover Norquist no longer runs the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Jay Lucas does. And he’s doing a good job. Along with Rep. Gary Simrill and everybody who voted for his bill yesterday.

It shouldn’t be remarkable that the House just voted to increase the state gasoline tax by (eventually) 10 cents a gallon. After all, everything about the situation would tend to lead any reasonable person to take that action:

  • We need road repairs.
  • We lack money for road repairs.
  • We have a tax that is dedicated to paying for road needs.
  • That tax is among the lowest in the country.
  • It hadn’t been raised for 30 years.

But as we know, our Legislature hasn’t been inclined to make calm, objective decisions with regard to taxes since the GOP took over in 1995. Since then, taxes have been for cutting, no matter the situation — because ideology rather than real-life conditions have ruled. And that approach, as the Speaker says, “simply places politics above responsible public policy.”

Speaker Jay Lucas

Speaker Jay Lucas

Of course, you don’t have to be an anti-government ideologue to have reservations about a tax increase. And in this instance, it would have been wrong to give DOT more money without reforming the governance of the agency. But this bill takes care of that, too.

Is this a done deal? Nope, because it still has to get through the Senate, which unlike the House isn’t run by anybody. As a body, it has been as allergic to DOT reform as the House used to be to tax increases. And that’s not the whole story. There’s also Sen. Tom Davis, whom The State today described as “libertarian-leaning,” which made me smile. Tom leans toward libertarianism the way Donald Trump leans toward self-aggrandizement.

But I want to praise Speaker Lucas and the House for getting us this far.

Enough with these ridiculous come-ons, OK?

We must never forget that Donald Trump is not the only element dumbing down our country, making it tackier by the hour.

There are many, many other factors. For instance, Reality TV, which of course has a huge overlap with Donald Trump. And such things as this:

Normally, I get that sort of thing in a block of such come-ons at the bottom of an article I’ve been reading — sometimes on sites run by reputable publications. That “What they look like now will leave you agog!” formulation is very common. Other clickbait favorites include “She didn’t know why everyone was applauding” (which is closely related to “17 epic wardrobe fails in sports”), and “Eating this gross-looking thing will make you live to 100.”

If you click on that one above, it takes you to a page with the headline, “Famous Celebrity’s Kids: All Grown Up!” As opposed to “Unknown Celebrity’s Kids,” I suppose. The first item you get is Jamie Lee Curtis and her daughter. Which was an interesting choice, since to me Jamie Lee Curtis is a “famous celebrities’ kid.” To see more, of course, you must click and click and click some more. And no, I wasn’t curious enough.

Bottom line I’d gotten use to these things appearing at the bottom of stories I was reading. Having them crop up frequently as “promoted”  content on Twitter is a relatively new irritation…

Oh, another thing: The feed that put that up is called “Greeningz,” which “was started in order to bring two of our favorite topics together – Eco friendliness and Entertainment.” Which seems among the odder reasons for being I’ve encountered. Do you suppose “Greenzo” is their mascot?

Greeningz

As far as we know, the Palmetto tree hasn’t offended anyone

Blue Palmetto

We haven’t had a discussion about this, have we?

The Democrats in South Carolina are fixin’ (I’m trying to be folksy in keeping with the national party’s cornball televised response last night from the diner) to have their first Blue Palmetto Dinner in late April:

It is my great pleasure to announce the upcoming release of tickets to the inaugural Blue Palmetto Dinner, which will take place on the evening of Friday, April 28 in Columbia at the Medallion Conference Center, located at 7309 Garners Ferry Rd, Columbia, SC 29209.
The Blue Palmetto Dinner, with its name derived from the flag that unites us as South Carolinians, will showcase a party that fights for all of us. As our premier fundraising event of the year,  we encourage everyone to attend. 
Tickets will be made available on WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22ND, at 10:00AM EST.
There will be special pricing and early notice given to our County Parties, and additional benefits will be made available for SCDP Members (Yellow Dog Democrats) and Committee of 100 Members. Finally, hotel blocks will be announced and made available in the coming days as well. 
The 2018 Elections are crucial for the direction of our party and the proceeds for our dinner will help us launch a coordinated field effort this year! We can’t afford to wait until next year to organize, recruit and prepare for these elections.
STAY TUNED for our official ticket release, and we look forward to seeing you in Columbia for the Blue Palmetto Dinner and SCDP Convention on April 28-29 at the Medallion Center. 
Sincerely,
Jaime Harrison
Chair, South Carolina Democratic Party

Of course, there’s nothing new about it but the name. Your Daddy — who was almost certainly a Democrat, if he was from around here — knew it as the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. (At least, it was known as that in most parts of the country. In SC, I see references without the “Day.”) So did everyone else, until last year, when Democrats decided the writer of the Declaration and the hero of New Orleans weren’t quite impeccable enough for their tastes. Because slavery. And the Trail of Tears.

I suppose they could have gone with a Roosevelt-Kennedy Dinner, but probably didn’t because Japanese Internment and Marilyn Monroe. Or something. The flesh being weak, sooner or later something bad is bound to come out about anybody who ever lived. I suppose they could have gone with Jesus, but there are doubts as to whether He actually voted Democratic.

And no, I’m not making light of slavery; I’m just saying that pretty much anybody who ever did anything really great probably did some stuff that we wouldn’t be proud of, if we chose to focus on that.

People are problematic.

So they went with a tree, one that near as we can tell never offended anybody. So they’re probably safe.

But time will tell.

SpaceX accomplishes what Bernie Sanders never could — it’s made me resent ‘billionayuhs’

SpaceX says its Falcon Heavy rocket, shown here in an artist's rendering, will be used in the mission to the moon.

SpaceX says its Falcon Heavy rocket, shown here in an artist’s rendering, will be used in the mission to the moon.

It’s hard to stir class resentment in me.

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Karl Marx and Occupy Wall Street have all been trying like fun for the last century or two, but they don’t arrive. I don’t much care how much money other people have, or what they do with it, as long as they don’t expect me to count it, or be impressed by it, or even think about it — because I can’t imagine anything more boring.

But SpaceX has succeeded where all the populists and resentmentmongers have failed, with this simple announcement:

The private company SpaceX has announced that it plans to send two passengers on a mission beyond the moon in late 2018.

If the mission goes forward, it would be the “first time humans have traveled beyond low Earth orbit since the days of Apollo,” as NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce told our Newscast unit.

The two private citizens approached the company about the idea and have already paid a sizable deposit, CEO Elon Musk told reporters in a conference call. These private individuals will also bear the cost of the mission….

I am a child of the Space Age, and what could be better for a communitarian? Look at what we accomplished!

In those binary days of the Cold War, “we” meant Americans. Our ingenuity, our pooled resources (it was going to cost $24 billion to go to the moon!), our heroes, the best of the best of the pilots of our military, with our nerds using their American sliderules to make sure our guys got there and back! It was like everything that was great about the Free World — with the government and the whole aerospace industry pulling together because no one entity could do it alone — came together to make the impossible possible. Our boys might have been going up to do single combat with the godless commies in the heavens, as Tom Wolfe eulogized the effort, but they had millions of us behind them.

And what should have happened, as the Cold War faded, was that “we” should have been redefined to mean the whole human race. And that sort of started to happen, with the Apollo-Soyuz hookup in 1975 (three years after we’d quit going to the moon), continuing with the International Space Station and with American astronauts hitching rides with the Russians after we quit building spacecraft and became Space Slackers.

But now it’s not “we” anymore. It’s Bernie’s “billionayuhs.” They’re the only ones who get to boldly go where no man has gone before. Because the United States of America, the richest and most powerful country in the history of this planet, is no longer big enough, rich enough, brave enough, ambitious enough, dauntless enough to send anyone up there on behalf of us all, so that we can all feel part of the thrill of exploration.

We can’t afford it anymore, it seems, even pooling the resources and energies of the whole nation. The most we can manage is to catch rides for a pathetic merry-go-round ride in Earth orbit, basically not going anywhere that Yuri Gagarin didn’t go in 1961.

But a couple of rich guys can go, on a lark, past where any of our previous national efforts could go. Not to accomplish anything for science or humanity, but because they’d personally like to go, and can write checks big enough to make it happen.

So yeah, finally, I resent the rich guys.

But even more, I resent the rest of us for having given up on human exploration.

These guys hung their hides out over the edge for US, not to gratify personal whims.

These guys hung their hides out over the edge for US, not to gratify personal whims.

Open Thread for Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Happy Mardi Gras! The holiday is huge in Dominica in the Caribbean, where my youngest daughter teaches ballet under the auspices of the Peace Corps. This is from her Facebook page, "Ballet in Dominica."

Happy Mardi Gras! The holiday is huge in Dominica in the Caribbean, where my youngest daughter teaches ballet under the auspices of the Peace Corps. This is from her Facebook page, “Ballet in Dominica.”

A few things you might want to talk about:

  1. Trump prepares to address a divided audience: The Republican Congress — Which reminds me… I’ll probably be actively Tweeting during the speech, in case you’d like to join in.
  2. Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds — A depressing piece in The New Yorker on how our brains work, or don’t work. It makes some good points — the ones that say things I already believed. The rest of it is fake news. Sad.
  3. Trump Learns That a Health Overhaul Is ‘So Complicated’ — Specifically, he said, “nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” I hope that didn’t shake him up too much, just before his big speech. You know what else is complicated? Stuff. Way more stuff than he has ever realized…
  4. U.S.-Russia Clash at U.N. Over Syria’s ‘Barbaric’ Weapons — The Kremlin vetoes American-backed resolution to punish Assad’s regime for using chemical weapons. Welcome to the big leagues, Nikki Haley.
  5. Confederate flag pair jailed over threats to Georgia black family — FYI, they’ve “received lengthy prison sentences” in spite of Georgia not having a hate crimes law. So, take that into consideration.

Putting your heads in the sand is no solution

coalition

I thought this was pretty dumb:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Democratic Coalition Urges People to #BlackoutTrump During Speech Tonight

February 28th, 2017 – Washington, DC – The Democratic Coalition, part of Keep America Great PAC, today called on people to skip watching President Trump’s address to Congress. Using the hashtag #BlackoutTrump, the organization urged Americans to do something that will actually help “Make America Great Again.”

“Donald Trump cares about ratings more than he cares about this country and its people,” said Scott Dworkin, Senior Advisor to the Democratic Coalition. “Let’s send him a message by skipping his speech and instead working to help the people his administration is going to hurt.”

There are lots of ways to use the time that would otherwise be wasted watching the President talk about how terrible our country is. The Democratic Coalition provided a quick list:

-Plan your attendance at a townhall – if GOP members of Congress ever hold them again
-Get organized for campaign volunteer opportunities
-Volunteer to rebuild recently desecrated Jewish cemeteries or clean anti-Semiitc graffiti off houses of worship
-Make calls to raise money for organizations that help refugees
-Dine out at literally any restaurant in the nation (providing work for immigrants)
-Call your member of Congress urging them to keep ACA in place
-Volunteer to improve your local community
-Retweet/Share the hashtag #BlackoutTrump
-Review the Dossier on Trump’s connections with Russia, more of which gets confirmed daily

Jarad Geldner, Senior Advisor of The Democratic Coalition added: “Though it will be closely watched in Russia, this speech doesn’t really mean anything to Americans. The President’s been in office an excruciating 39 days, but he hasn’t really accomplished anything beyond signing executive orders that scare people. We should all focus on ensuring that he cannot enact his agenda which aims to rob America of all its greatness.”

The hashtag was first deployed in late January, by deploying it today, the Super PAC intends to send the message that the American people are stronger and less divided than the White House would have us believe.

About The Democratic Coalition

The Democratic Coalition Against Trump, now The Democratic Coalition, formed in the Spring of 2016, with the main goal of making sure that Donald Trump never became President. The Democratic Coalition now exists to hold the Trump White House accountable, and is directly countering Donald Trump, along with Republican elected officials and candidates who support him, through aggressive digital and traditional advertising, grassroots action, in-depth opposition research, and a nationwide rapid-response team.The organization has chairs in all 50 states, comprised of Democratic elected officials, party chairs, delegates, grassroots leaders and activists.

Really? You’re going to get rid of this guy by hurting his ratings? And you don’t think going in ignorance about the insane things he may say is a bit of a high cost to pay to accomplish that?

You want a hashtag? How about #Vigilance?

Did you notice what the release said in the “about” footer? “The Democratic Coalition Against Trump, now The Democratic Coalition, formed in the Spring of 2016, with the main goal of making sure that Donald Trump never became President.”

Yeah, great job. Evidently, you still have the same strategists running your organization…

Suddenly, Nikki Haley is America’s foreign policy grownup

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This was in The Washington Post over the weekend:

After President Trump said that deporting undocumented immigrants was “a military operation,” Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, speaking in Mexico, clarified that there would be “no use of military force in immigration operations.”

After Trump, standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, upended decades of U.S. policy by saying he was open to a one-state solution to the conflict in the Middle East, U.N. envoy Nikki Haley asserted that the United States “absolutely” supports a two-state solution.

And after Trump alarmed European allies by declaring NATO obsolete, Vice President Pence flew to Munich and Brussels, where he reassured a worried continent that the president remains “fully devoted to our transatlantic union.”

One of the unofficial duties of Trump’s Cabinet, it seems, is cleaning up the statements of the man they serve. Five weeks into Trump’s tenure in office, his deputies have found themselves softening, explaining and sometimes outright contradicting the president….

Or, as Jennifer Rubin wrote last week, “Pay no mind to Trump. He’s just the president.”

Perhaps the only hope we have to cling to in this crisis is the fact that most of the world understands that the president of the United States is, for the first time in history, a complete nincompoop (see how I didn’t call him an “idiot” just then), so there’s the possibility of grownups cleaning up his messes before they blow up completely. No guarantee it will work, of course, but there’s the possibility.

Here’s what we’ve come to: Our own Nikki Haley, who had basically zero qualifications for the job of ambassador to the U.N., is now the grownup who has to step in and set things right when the president of the United States screws up on the global stage.

Scary, isn’t it?

I don’t want to take anything away from Nikki by saying that. It’s not her fault she was unqualified for the position. To my knowledge, she never sought the position, and can be forgiven for not having prepared herself for it before it fell in her lap. I applaud how well she’s doing scrambling to catch up. She’s apparently listening to the right people, and doing her best to learn, and I honor her for it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the guy who picked her for the job would do the same thing? But he won’t. He’s destroyed our hopes of his ever doing that, over and over again.

So everyone around him — or the competent ones, anyway, who are too few — will have to keep cleaning up after him, as well as they can for as long as they can. Which is cold comfort…

I love this picture from the Canadian border

From The Washington Post: Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police help a family from Somalia on Feb. 17, 2017 along the U.S.-Canada border near Hemmingford, Quebec. (The Canadian Press/AP)

From The Washington Post: Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police help a family from Somalia on Feb. 17, 2017 along the U.S.-Canada border near Hemmingford, Quebec. (The Canadian Press/AP)

I hope The Canadian Press (or the AP, which transmitted it) doesn’t mind my showing this photo, but my post would make little sense without it. It goes with this story this morning in The Washington Post:

OTTAWA — As desperate asylum seekers continue to flee the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown by crossing into Canada, concern is growing here over whether the country will be able to cope if the number of migrants keeps growing.

Stories of migrants hauling children and suitcases across frozen fields and snow-covered ditches into Canada have become headline news. The asylum seekers, who are fleeing President Trump’s travel and refugee bans as well as stepped-up arrests of undocumented immigrants, have received warm welcomes. But opposition politicians are criticizing the government of Justin Trudeau for being too harsh or too lax in its approach….

I just love that expression on the Mountie’s face as he lifts that child up from the snow. You go, Dudley Do-Right!

It’s particularly meaningful to me because our church sponsored a Somali Bantu family — a widowed mother and several children — in Columbia a few years back, and my wife played a leadership role in that, sometimes spending practically as much time with them, helping them negotiate American life, as she did at home. Or so it seemed to me, but I’m not complaining. She found the mother a job and helped her get settled in it, tutored one of the kids (using our old copies of The Wall Street Journal to help with his English skills), and all sorts of stuff like that. (My own involvement hardly extended beyond storing donated furniture in our garage before they arrived.)

Eventually, our Bantu family moved to Buffalo, where a lot of others like them had ended up. Also right on the Canadian border, you’ll note — although the picture taken above was far from there.

Of course, as I say, I love the picture. Despite the fact that it saddens me greatly that any of these folks would feel so unwelcome in this country that they would set out on such hazardous (and to them especially, horrendously cold) terrain in search of solace and safety…