The firing of Capt. Jimmy Morris

One of the great things about the internet, or so I’m told, is that everybody can publish anything they want any time for the whole world to see, without any professional editors getting in the way.jimmy morris

One of the truly awful things about the internet, I know from experience, is that everybody can publish anything they want any time for the whole world to see, without any professional editors getting in the way.

Self-publishing amateurs sometimes wonder, is there a boundary? Is there something I might say on the Web that will get me in serious trouble? Where is that line?

As a professional editor, I can tell you that the answers are, yes, hell yes, and somewhere in Capt. Jimmy Morris’ rear-view mirror.

Morris, a 16-year Columbia Fire Department veteran, ran screaming over that boundary with this Facebook post referring to the Black Lives Matter protesters who were blocking I-126 Sunday night:

Idiots shutting down I-126. Better not be there when I get off work or there is gonna be some run over dumb asses.

Apparently having read that back over, and deeply concerned that maybe he hadn’t been quite inappropriate enough, he added this an hour later:

Public Service Announcement: If you attempt to shut down an interstate, highway, etc on my way home, you best hope I’m not one of the first vehicles in line because your ass WILL get run over! Period! That is all….

The next day, he was fired from his job with the fire department.

Let’s just leave race out of this for the moment (ex-Capt. Morris is white; the Black Lives Matter protesters, in case you just aren’t paying attention, are not — and the station where Morris worked is in a mostly black neighborhood). Pretend there’s no such thing as race: Who, unless he’s blind drunk or something, thinks that’s an appropriate message for a ranking public official to post about the general public?unnamed (1)

Another, tougher question: What would be the motive for that message in a world where race was not a factor? What’s the cause of all that bile?

Since we live in world that does have the problem of race, we’ve come to recognize certain types of communications that derive their flavor from that factor.

And those messages have a distinctly familiar flavor.

There’s a lot more I could say about someone in such a position who responds this way to protesters who already believe that the public-safety sector has it in for people like them.

But I’ll step back now and let y’all comment…

 

What would you do to get the right to vote, if you didn’t have it?

rights

Following up a bit on my last post, about political demonstrations and whether they’re worthwhile…

I mentioned something about having seen the film “Suffragette,” and wondered about how wise it was for those women to break shop windows as a way of persuading men that they should be allowed to vote. Seemed kind of self-defeating, to me. Like, “I’m a rational, responsible, thoughtful human being who would make a great voter because I make good decisions! And to prove it, I’m going to break that window with this rock!”

Later, I got to thinking…

Just how precious is the right to vote? It’s a biggie, no question. Very important, even though it’s a little hard to fully appreciate it in an election year such as this one. Hard to have a representative democracy without it.

Interestingly, a 1913 film about suffragettes also emphasized the rock-throwing.

Interestingly, a 1913 film about suffragettes also emphasized the rock-throwing.

But is it the most essential right? Is it the one from which all others spring? Not really, I don’t think. I think the ones entailed in the First Amendment come higher, speak more to the essence of liberty — the ones that add up to freedom of conscience.

What would I be prepared to do to get suffrage if I didn’t have it? March? I suppose so. Break windows? I don’t know about that

But I would definitely use the other rights I just mentioned. I’d write about it; I’d speak about it. I’d peaceably assemble, and petition the government for redress. And I’d be very glad that I had all of those rights, which I would see as the key to getting the others.

The question may seem silly — of course, the right to vote is essential in a representative democracy.

But if you had to choose the lesser of two weevils — would it be the last right you gave up, or are others more precious?

90ef0250-ec33-0132-649e-0ecefe7c2201

Does marching in the street accomplish anything (usually)?

vietnam_protester

And before you answer, “Well, it accomplished a lot in the Civil Rights era 50 years ago,” let me say that I think it did — under those particular circumstances. But that was about a clear and obvious gross injustice supported by law as a matter of policy. The nonviolent resistance, the dignified witness of those marchers, were needed to draw attention to the fact that a state of affairs that was clearly wrong would no longer be tolerated. It was a movement with clear goals, and they were achieved as they should be, through legislation. (If you get HBO, go see “All the Way” for a wonderful dramatization of a time when our political branches still worked as they should.)

Those demonstrations were carefully organized, and the marchers showed up in their Sunday best. Everything about their appearance and demeanor demanded, “Respect me!” And that was good, because respect was what the movement was about. Again, the marchers had clear goals, and they were achieved with remarkable alacrity.

But how many other such movements can we point to? The Vietnam antiwar movement? I don’t think so. Those increasingly boisterous demonstrations went on year after year before the nation just got tired of the war.

Which brings us to the Black Lives Matter movement.

A friend connected to law enforcement observed that the demonstration Sunday evening seemed rather confused and disorganized. I’m not surprised. Remember the rather silly Occupy movement? It was a core principle to those folks that no one be in charge. Well, rattle off the names of some key Black Lives Matter movement leaders. Maybe you can. I can’t.

So far, the first word I can think of to describe BLM is “amorphous.” I don’t know where to grab hold of it. And I don’t know whom to ask, What, precisely, are you trying to achieve? What specific actions do you want to see taken? Yeah, I know, the movement doesn’t want to see cops killing people without justification. We all want that. But what are the specific steps you want taken? How do you get from here to where you want to be?

Is it just about, as Mick Jagger would say, venting your frustration?

The chaotic, disorganized nature of the modern demonstration was on particularly extreme display the other night in Dallas. I’m not talking about that one nut who was killing cops — I certainly wouldn’t blame the demonstrators for that. But I’m talking about the overall scene, as mentioned in this editorial by The Washington Post:

THE SOLUTION to a bad guy with a gun, it is often said, is a good guy with a gun. Yet according to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings (D), there were 20 to 30 good guys openly carrying guns among the protesters whom Dallas police were supervising last Thursday night, when Micah Xavier Johnson began picking off officers. “In the middle of a firefight,” the mayor said Sunday, “it’s hard to pick out the good guys and the bad guys.”…

This is a movement that needs some people in charge, making some rules. And it also needs to decide what it wants our political system to do. Because however much the attendees may wish for a peaceful demonstration, the elements of violence were there even if that one murderous sniper had not shown up.

Of course, I have a prejudice here, one that’s been noted here a number of times: I just don’t hold with taking to the streets, under most circumstances. And I take that way back in history: Calling a Continental Congress to debate and eventually declare independence was the way to go about getting free from King George — shooting at British soldiers in Lexington and Concord more than a year before that declaration was not. Nor was the Boston Tea Party — pure hooliganism, destroying other people’s property — more than a year before that.

Yeah, I know, you’ll say we wouldn’t have gotten to the point of Independence without that year of fighting first, and you may be right. But we can’t know, can we, because that’s not the way it went down.

Over the weekend my wife and I watched the movie “Suffragette.” (Side note: If you’re looking for a “feel-good” movie, this isn’t it — very depressing.) And I found myself recoiling at one of the first scenes — nicely dressed ladies smashing windows with rocks on Oxford Street (no, I couldn’t tell whether it was Selfridge’s).rocks

Yeah, that was preceded by words saying that a generation of more dignified approaches had accomplished nothing. But I was not persuaded. If I were trying to persuade people that I should have the vote, I wouldn’t think that throwing rocks would make anyone think I was good voter material. I’d want to persuade people that having people like me vote would be an actual enhancement to civilization.

(Mind you, I think peaceful marches by the suffragettes were probably one of those cases when, as with the Civil Rights movement, taking to the streets was the thing to do. After all, what else were those ladies going to do — they couldn’t vote.)

Anyway… I am in my own way as unfocused as the Occupy folks were. I’ve gone from talking about peaceful demonstrations and what they accomplish to violence, or at least destruction of property.

Yeah, I know the difference, and no, I don’t know where I’m going with this. But I do know that time and time again, when I see people take to the streets, whether nonviolently or not, I tend to wonder, what is being accomplished here?

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Hillary Clinton’s perception gap

Understanding

My attention was drawn to this good piece about Hillary Clinton by this from my good friend Mike Fitts:

I had to smile at that, and respond, “The more open-ended the better, even though that really got on ‘s nerves…”

By which I meant that the task-oriented Cindi went into a meeting with a source with goals in mind. The more experience-oriented Yours Truly went into them to see where they would go — the more unexpected the direction, the better. I liked learning things I hadn’t expected to learn.

Given that I was so free-form, Mike was a particularly valuable member of the editorial board. He enjoyed the experience of finding out where, for instance, Joe Biden would go next as much as I did (I think). But he was also organizing what he heard into a structure that enabled him to help guide our discussions later so that they were more efficient, more fruitful. (I wrote about this in a column when he left the paper, “Mike Fitts helped us make up our minds.”)

So, when Mike tells me that a piece is worth reading because it takes the best you get out of a wide-ranging interview and goes it one better, I pay attention.

The piece is very good, and very insightful, and it’s hard to explain why in fewer words than the entire piece. The author, Ezra Klein, admits that the explanation of why people who personally know Hillary Clinton think a lot more of her than those only know her through media is… inadequate. At least at first. The thing is, she listens.

Yeah, I thought the same thing. So did Klein:

The first few times I heard someone praise Clinton’s listening, I discounted it. After hearing it five, six, seven times, I got annoyed by it. What a gendered compliment: “She listens.” It sounds like a caricature of what we would say about a female politician.

But after hearing it 11, 12, 15 times, I began to take it seriously, ask more questions about it. And as I did, the Gap began to make more sense.

Modern presidential campaigns are built to reward people who are really, really good at talking. So imagine what a campaign feels like if you’re not entirely natural in front of big crowds. Imagine that you are constantly compared to your husband, one of the greatest campaign orators of all time; that you’ve been burned again and again after saying the wrong thing in public; that you’ve been told, for decades, that you come across as calculated and inauthentic on the stump. What would you do?…

It’s right about there that I started to get it…

You know how impatient I get with people who are all excited that Hillary Clinton would be the first woman to be president? That’s because their explanations for why that matters are ridiculously inadequate, and it comes off as identity purely for the sake of identity (“a president who looks like me!”), and y’all know how much I dislike that.

The problem with feminism is that it makes like it matters to have women in office while simultaneously insisting that you believe that there’s no important differences between men and women — which of course means that it shouldn’t matter.

But a feminist friend once said, meaning to be kind, that I was a “difference feminist.” And perhaps I am. And Klein does a good job of explaining why Mrs. Clinton’s gender makes her a different sort of candidate, and why I should care about that:

Let’s stop and state the obvious: There are gender dynamics at play here.

We ran a lot of elections in the United States before we let women vote in them. You do not need to assert any grand patriarchal conspiracy to suggest that a process developed by men, dominated by men, and, until relatively late in American life, limited to men might subtly favor traits that are particularly prevalent in men.

Talking over listening, perhaps.

“Listening is something women value almost above everything else in relationships,” says Deborah Tannen, a Georgetown linguist who studies differences in how men and women communicate. “The biggest complaint women make in relationships is, ‘He doesn’t listen to me.’”

Tannen’s research suggests a reason for the difference: Women, she’s found, emphasize the “rapport dimension” of communication — did a particular conversation bring us closer together or further apart? Men, by contrast, emphasize the “status dimension” — did a conversation raise my status compared to yours?

Talking is a way of changing your status: If you make a great point, or set the terms of the discussion, you win the conversation. Listening, on the other hand, is a way of establishing rapport, of bringing people closer together; showing you’ve heard what’s been said so far may not win you the conversation, but it does win you allies. And winning allies is how Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination.

Given where both candidates began, there is no doubt that Bernie Sanders proved the more effective talker. His speeches attracted larger audiences, his debate performances led to big gains in the polls, his sound bites went more viral on Facebook.

Yet Clinton proved the more effective listener — and, particularly, the more effective coalition builder. On the eve of the California primary, 208 members of Congress had endorsed Clinton, and only eight had endorsed Sanders. “This was a lot of relationships,” says Verveer. “She’s been in public life for 30 years. Over those 30 years, she has met a lot of those people, stayed in touch with them, treated them decently, campaigned for them. You can’t do this overnight.”

One way of reading the Democratic primary is that it pitted an unusually pure male leadership style against an unusually pure female leadership style. Sanders is a great talker and a poor relationship builder. Clinton is a great relationship builder and a poor talker. In this case — the first time at the presidential level — the female leadership style won….

Anyway, you should go read the whole thing.

 

Open Thread for Monday, July 11, 2016

A few items worth discussing:

  1. Black Lives Matter protest causes road closures, police activity — I didn’t even realize it was going on until this morning. You? And what do you think? Think these things accomplish anything? I’m in one of my jaded-about-demonstrations moods. Probably a separate post.
  2. Theresa May Poised to Be Britain’s Next Prime Minister — And she doesn’t want the UK out of the EU any more than I do, or Cameron did. But it doesn’t look like we’re going to get what we want. My question is, will we ever get what we need?
  3. In bashing Trump, Ginsburg may have just crossed an important line — Wow. That was not cool, was it?
  4. Pope appoints ex-Fox News correspondent as Vatican spokesman — Whoa! This is so wrong! Nobody in the Vatican even told me there was an opening. If the fix is gonna be in, why not just hire Father Guido? That would actually be kind of cool…
Fr. Guido Sarducci

Fr. Guido Sarducci

Krauthammer’s onto something re Comey’s motivation

comey testify

 

Charles Krauthammer says he thinks he understands why FBI Director Comey recommended that Hillary Clinton not be prosecuted, despite findings of illegality — and it doesn’t fit the usual GOP conspiracy theories.

In fact, it’s remarkably like what I said earlier in the week. Says Krauthammer:

The usual answer is that the Clintons are treated by a different standard. Only little people pay. They are too well-connected, too well-protected to be treated like everybody else.

Alternatively, the explanation lies with Comey: He gave in to implicit political pressure, the desire to please those in power.

Certainly plausible, but given Comey’s reputation for probity and given that he holds a 10-year appointment, I’d suggest a third line of reasoning.

When Chief Justice John Roberts used a tortured, logic-defying argument to uphold Obamacare, he was subjected to similar accusations of bad faith. My view was that, as guardian of the Supreme Court’s public standing, he thought the issue too momentous — and the implications for the country too large — to hinge on a decision of the court. Especially afterBush v. Gore, Roberts wanted to keep the court from overturning the political branches on so monumental a piece of social legislation.

I would suggest that Comey’s thinking, whether conscious or not, was similar: He did not want the FBI director to end up as the arbiter of the 2016 presidential election. If Clinton were not a presumptive presidential nominee but simply a retired secretary of state, he might well have made a different recommendation…

I think there’s something to that. This was a judgment call, and all sorts of factors go into judgments.

As I said before, there’s a point at which it is simply not in the national interest to reach back in time and use criminal statutes to punish those with whom one disagrees. Example: There are lots of folks who’ve always hated Tony Blair because of Iraq who now want to seem him prosecuted for it, just as there were Democrats who wanted to go back and prosecute people in the Bush administration once Obama took office (a proposition that Obama wisely dismissed).

Yep, I believe firmly in the rule of law, in the importance of having a country that is no respecter of persons. But in some cases, respect for the overall good of the country overrides consideration of the legal fate of an individual.

Comey had a judgment call to make, and he chose the less harmful option.

And if you don’t like it, remember that it was just a recommendation. It did not legally bind anyone. What he said was one man’s opinion (and also the unanimous opinion of those taking part in the FBI investigation — the opinions of professionals, not partisans). And I find his opinion defensible, even laudable.

Democratic chairman’s statement on shootings

I share this by way of starting an open thread for y’all to discuss this week’s deadly shootings — in case any of you are so inclined on a Friday:

SCDP STATEMENT ON RECENT SHOOTINGS
Columbia, SC – South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison released the following statement today on the shootings that occurred this week in Baton Rouge, LA, Falcon Heights, MN, and Dallas, TX:
4b62d416-e70f-4d86-8a6b-d6d02efdbb92“My heart breaks for the families who have lost loved ones in these horrific tragedies, and I pray for a full recovery for those who sustained injuries.  We must honor them by coming together, as Lincoln said, ‘with malice toward none, with charity for all,’ to break down the barriers between us that all too often lead to needless violence.  We in South Carolina emerged from the tragic deaths of Walter Scott and the Emanuel 9 last year stronger and more united, but this week’s events remind us that we must continue to strive to make our state and our nation the beloved community that Dr. King dreamed of.  I think it is imperative that we come together not as Democrats or Republicans but as Americans.  In the coming days, I, along with several partners, will announce an event at which I hope we can continue the dialogue and share techniques to improve and strengthen the relationships between law enforcement and all communities, but specifically communities of color.”
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Yes, that’s right: Iraq under Saddam sponsored terrorism

Another of Trump's favorite strongmen.

Another of Trump’s favorite strongmen.

In doing a fact-check on Donald Trump’s assertion that Saddam Hussein was “so good” at killing terrorists (and yes, he got four Pinocchios), The Washington Post reminded us of some history.

Namely, that rather than being some anti-terrorist scourge, Saddam was officially considered by the United States to be a state sponsor of terror.

Because, you know, he was.

What I remember knowing back before our invasion of 2003 was that he used to send $25,000 cash payments — bounties, if you will — to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers who killed Israelis.

Here’s the thing about Saddam, though: He was “so good” at killing terrorists (and he called all domestic opponents of his regime terrorists) inside Iraq. Just because he was “good” at killing anyone he saw as posing a challenge to his absolute control of the country. Frankly — just to stick up for Trump a bit here — I think they could have taken off one of the Pinocchios for that. Even though Saddam wasn’t killing them to make the world a safer place, but to hold onto dictatorial power.

But when it came to terrorists striking at the rest of the world — well, he was all for that.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt from the Post’s story:

Hussein’s regime was a long-standing supporter of international terrorism and was designated as a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In 2007, the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a think tank for national security agencies, published a five-volume report, “Saddam and Terrorism.” The report, compiled after hundreds of thousands of Iraqi documents became available after Iraq fell, highlighted relationships between Hussein’s regime and regional and global terrorism. The report details how Hussein nurtured relationships with terrorist groups, especially Palestinian ones. (We explored this issue in a 2014 fact-check.)

Among its major findings was that there was no direct connection between Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda  calling attention to the premise of one of George W. Bush administration’s justifications for invading Iraq. But the report found that at times, their short-term goals overlapped….

One of the charges I used to get a lot from my antiwar friends was that we supposedly went to war on the erroneous belief that Saddam was responsible for 9/11. As I always had to explain, that wasn’t something I ever believed or tried to get anyone else to believe. But there was no question that outside his borders, he was often a friend to terrorists…

 

Y’all, now would be a good time to go give some platelets

I just got this from the Red Cross:

Greetings,

I hope all is well.  We are currently under an appeal for platelets and could use your help right away.  If you can help us with a donation, please fill free to call, email or schedule via app.

I look forward to speaking to you and we certainly “Thank you” for being a Life Savor.

Respectfully,

Tracy B. Vaughn

Apheresis Donor Recruitment, Biomedical Services
American Red Cross
South Carolina Blood Services Region
2751 Bull Street, Columbia SC 29201
(803) 251-6082
Tracy.Vaughn@redcross.org

You may ask, “Why don’t you go give platelets, Brad?”

To which I say, I do. All the time. I did it last week, and the week before. And I will again, soon.download (7)

As I told the lady who wrote the above message, I still have a slight amount of bruising around where one of the needles went in last time, and I’m thinking it would be better to wait until that’s faded before I go.

Maybe that’s not important. And if she writes back and tell me that, I’ll go ahead and set the appointment.

But it sure would be great if some of y’all would pitch in, too. Not everyone can give, so those who can, should.

For instance, Kathryn Fenner can’t because she spent too much time in England at a bad time. (Mad Cow Disease or something there was rampant then.) I have a gay friend who says they won’t take his blood not no way, not nohow. (I wish they’d change that, if only so he wouldn’t have that excuse any more.)

I myself had to take a year-long hiatus after visiting Kanchanaburi, Thailand, last year. But that ended in March. I’ve given several times since then.

So as I say, those of us who can, should…

Open Thread for Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Obama Afghan

The president talking about Afghanistan.

Here’s what we have at this hour:

  1. Obama alters Afghanistan exit plan, will leave 8,400 troops — I appreciate that the president is bowing to reality, rather than trying artificially to pull out before he leaves office. I don’t expect that he’ll catch too much flak for it, do you? You can watch his video announcement here.
  2. 7 Years In The Making, Report Finds British Rushed Into Iraq War — NPR — Interesting juxtaposition. It took this group seven years to conclude that the Brits “rushed” into war? And the highlights (sorry, I have no plans to read a 6,000 page, 2.6 million-word document, especially if the headlines are no more surprising than these) are things that Blair’s critics were already saying before this process started. OK, I’ve got it: Thirteen years after Tony had to make a decision, you’ve decided he was wrong…
  3. Corbyn apologises for war on behalf of Labour — The Guardian — Thanks, Jeremy, but didn’t pretty much the entire leadership of the Labour Party tell you last week that it’s time for you to go? So when, exactly, are you leaving? Meanwhile, The Guardian calls Tony Blair “unrepentant.”
  4. Outrage after video captures white Baton Rouge officer fatally shooting a black man — WashPost — This one’s a little hard to follow, but it looks pretty horrific.
  5. About Moe Baddourah’s CDV charge — The State — Yeah, I know this is old news, but we haven’t had a discussion about it yet, and I suppose we should. Also, we don’t have anything newer that’s local.
  6. Belgian Neanderthals ‘were eating each other 40,000 years ago’ — The Guardian — Presumably, English Neanderthals were not. Which is why the Brits just had to get out of the E.U. Or something.

ClintonUninditedAriailW

 

 

What WERE those fighter aircraft that flew over the beach?

F-111 with its wings swept back.

F-111 with its wings swept back.

At midday Monday, I was in the backyard of my parents’ beach house, about to pull the jon boat out of the lake and secure it before driving a couple of my grandchildren back to Columbia. The house is a couple of blocks from the beach at Surfside, on a small man-made pond.

Suddenly, I heard the sound of high-performance jet aircraft, and looked up. As they flashed by between a couple of pine trees, I saw two fighters for a split second. I tried to identify the planes, but could not.

Later, my wife mentioned having seen a freakishly large plane go over, which I assumed was a C-17 from Charleston.

Later, hearing that there was a beach flyover in connection with celebrations of the Fourth, I looked for news stories to learn about what I had seen. What I read wasn’t helpful:

Beachgoers at a packed Coligny Beach on Hilton Head Island were in perfect position take in the annual Salute from the Shore on Monday, July 4, 2016. Two F-16 fighter jets and a C-17 transport plane from Charleston Air Force Base roared over Coligny around 1:45 p.m., with onlookers applauding and waving American flags, saluting the country’s real heroes.

OK, what I saw were not F-16s. Maybe I hallucinated, but I could have sworn that they had variable-sweep wings, and I actually saw the wings on one of the planes sweeping back toward a parallel position with the stabilizers in that split-second.

There are no current serving military aircraft with variable-sweep wings. It that’s what I saw, that makes them either F-14 Tomcats or F-111s. They also seemed to have single tails rather than double, which would count out the F-14. (I’m not certain about the tails. Maybe the angle was bad. I saw them from 3 o’clock low, at a distance of about half a mile. One was yawing slightly, which is why I could see what the wings were doing — if I really saw that.)

The website for the event wasn’t helpful, either:

The bad news is that unfortunately, only three of the eight vintage planes are able to fly today due to mechanical issues…

However, the good news is that the one of the biggest transport planes in the American military will fly today! Charleston AFB and Joint Base Charleston will fly a C-17 on the SC coast in support of the 169th Fighter Wing F-16s and the vintage planes. This year’s Salute promises to the the best yet….

OK, so if “vintage planes” were involved, they could have been 14s or 111s. But what were they?

In the information age, it should be able to answer such a simple question, when thousands of people saw the things.

But the info just doesn’t seem to be available.

I know it’s a small thing, but stuff like this bugs me. Partly because, as a longtime newspaper editor, I’ve had to deal too much with most journalists’ combined ignorance and lack of interest in military hardware and a number of other topics (firearms, religion, science) that tend to hit news media in a numb spot.

If you assume people are interested in these “vintage planes,” whether you are the organizer or a reporter covering the event, why wouldn’t you tell people what they were?

F-14 Tomcat

F-14 Tomcat

OK, now THIS was news: FBI chief recommends ‘no charges’ on Clinton email

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Seconds after I posted wonder why the chattering classes went ape over Hillary Clinton’s weekend interview with the FBI, actual news was made on that front.

Here’s how I characterized what FBI Director James B. Comey had to say:

We’ll continue to argue over her judgment in setting up and using the private server. We will rightly be concerned over the potential for hostile governments and private actors to have obtained access to classified material, thanks to her carelessness.

But there will almost certainly be no indictment, unless federal prosecutors completely disregard the recommendation of the FBI.

Which could happen, but which seems unlikely.

I’m guessing that those pundits who said the FBI interview was part of a terrible week for Clinton will now be touting this as a big win. And this time, they’ll be right.

Explain to me how FBI interview exacerbated Hillary’s problem

On the way to the beach Saturday, I had my phone off my hip, plugged into the car and sitting perched on the ashtray pulled out from the dashboard. My wife, who insists on continuing to use a flip phone and is not accustomed to such distractions, kept picking it up to look at it when a tone would announce a news alert.

There were some bulletin-worthy items, such as the death of Elie Wiesel and the arrest of Columbia City Councilman Moe Baddourah on domestic violence charges. But one puzzled her:

FBI

Why, she wondered, was that interesting enough to bother people with? I couldn’t really answer that, since I thought the same thing. It was a turn of the screw in an ongoing process, very much dog-bites-man. Maybe you take note of it in the course of the day’s news; it might even have its own headline. But even in this bulletin-mad era we lived in, it was hardly worth asking people to stop what they’re doing to read about it.

Others seemed to disagree. In fact, it was treated like some major blow to the Clinton campaign, on a level with Bill “It’s All About Me” Clinton’s idiotic tête-à-tête with the attorney general.

As The Washington Post said,

Hillary Clinton’s weekend interview with the FBI stands as a perfect symbol of what is probably her biggest liability heading into the fall election: A lot of people say they don’t trust her.

Clinton sat for an interview of more than three hours as part of a Justice Department investigation into the privately owned email system she operated off the books when she was secretary of state. The timing — less than three weeks before she will claim the Democratic presidential nomination — is an attempt to make the best of a situation that would look bad for any candidate but is particularly damaging for Clinton.

That the interview at FBI headquarters was voluntary does not expunge the whiff of suspicion surrounding the entire email affair that, for many voters, confirms a long-held view that Clinton shades the truth or plays by her own rules….

OK, y’all, explain to me why this was a big deal, or any kind of a deal. If she had refused to be interviewed, that would be news. If they interviewed her and learned something new and told us about it, that, too, would be news. But this? How is it more than a take-note-of-in-the-name-of-transparency thing?

We knew the FBI was investigating Hillary’s emails. They’ve been doing so forever. That’s why it was a big deal that Bill chatted with the AG.

The FBI interviews the subjects of investigations. I mean, right? Why wouldn’t they? It’s not like the headline was “FBI interviews Clinton and decides to charge her.” That would definitely be bulletin-worthy, because it would mean that it’s even more likely that a neofascist will occupy the White House. It would be more than news. It would be history. And not the good kind…

Obama, groping through the moral twilight of drone warfare

OK, so it's really a picture of the president touring Carlsbad Caverns with his family last month, but it seemed to go with my headline.

OK, so it’s really a picture of the president touring Carlsbad Caverns with his family last month, but it seemed to go with my headline.

Today, the Obama administration owned up to a number of bystanders killed a collateral damage in drone strikes:

The United States has inadvertently killed between 64 and 116 noncombatant civilians in drone and other lethal attacks against terrorism suspects in places not considered active war zones, the Obama administration said Friday.

The unintentional deaths came in a total of 473 CIA and military counterterrorism strikes up to the end of 2015 that the administration said have taken between 2,372 and 2,581 militants permanently off the battlefield in countries where the United States is not at war, which would include Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

The release was accompanied by an executive order, signed by President Obama, designed to give added weight to existing administration standards and procedures governing the use of lethal force and for limiting civilian casualties….

So. 473 drone strikes. At least 2,372 people regarded as enemies of the United States killed. And the tradeoff is as many as 116 folks who were minding their own business, snuffed out without warning by hellfire from the sky.

What do we think about that? Are the attacks justified? Is the tradeoff morally defensible? Can we rationalize killing an innocent person for every 20 terrorists?

The administration released this information in connection with the president’s promise to be more transparent about his “I’ve got a list” program of drone warfare.

By disclosing, he’s pulling us in, sharing the burden. Now that we know, it’s more on us. We, too, are walking about in a moral twilight. How do feel about that?

Excuse this digression….

Are you familiar with the naval battle that occurred outside Boston Harbor between HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake on 1 June 1813? Up to that point in the War of 1812, there had been several one-on-one battles between British and American ships, and the infant U.S. Navy had won all of them — which had really shaken up the Royal Navy. They were used to fighting the French, and always winning.

Philip Broke, commander of HMS Shannon, had been blockading Boston Harbor for months. He was low on water and other provisions and couldn’t stay on station much longer. But he didn’t want to leave without having had a chance to reclaim the Royal Navy’s honor against the Americans. So he sent a note into the harbor to Capt. James Lawrence of the Chesapeake, challenging him to come out and fight.

Lawrence did so that very day (although coincidentally, on his own initiative, not because of the note). And after a furiously intense 15 minutes of fighting in which 252 men were killed or wounded, Shannon had won. Lawrence, who was mortally wounded in the battle, famously said “Don’t give up the ship!” as he was taken below — but moments later, his men were forced to do just that. He died of his wounds three days later, as his captured ship was being taken to Halifax.

Broke, too, was gravely wounded. He survived, and was made a baronet for his victory, but his injuries ended his active service for good.

This story is told in vivid detail in one of Patrick O’Brian’s novels, The Fortune of War. As you know, I’m always trying to get everyone I know to read these books about Captain Jack Aubrey and his particular friend, surgeon Stephen Maturin, and I recently persuaded my wife to read this one.

To her, Broke’s note challenging Lawrence made no sense.

And yes, it does seem a bit irrational, like two boys meeting on a playground and saying simultaneously, “I can beat you!” and going at it. Boys who’ve heard too many stories about jousting knights in shining armor.

But there was a time when behavior such as Broke’s was universally lauded, held up as an ideal. And I confess I’m atavistic enough to feel admiration for him, while at the same time seeing that whole war as an absurd waste. (I contain multitudes.)

And I have to wonder: Was there not honor in inviting the enemy out to a fair fight, one in which the challenger’s life was on the line as much as anyone’s? A fight in which many were killed, but all were legitimate combatants? Are we better, more rational, more enlightened, more admirable now that we fight wars like this instead?

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The initial exchange of gunfire between Chesapeake and Shannon.

Y’all, the Walk for Life team will be cranking up before long

Walk1

Last week, I attended a kickoff meeting for team captains for Palmetto Health Foundation’s 2016 Walk for Life. Or, to be more formal, the “Walk for Life and Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon, 5K and 10K.”

The kickoff was held at the Fireflies’ new ballpark, which will be the departure point for the Walk this year. It was my first time there. Nice.

Anyway, I’m going to start getting the team organized soon, so make your plans to participate and help beat breast cancer.

It all happens on Oct. 22, so mark your calendars…

ballpark

Is RCRC chief ‘The most powerful black man in South Carolina’?

Things are continuing to heat up over at the Richland County Recreation Commission, causing Sen. Joel Lourie to send this message this morning to his fellow members of the county legislative delegation:

Dear Fellow Delegation Members –

I wanted to make you aware of the recent developments with the Recreation Commission.

Joel 2

Sen. Joel Lourie

The story on WACH fox is alarming and very, very concerning.  I think we are in crisis mode and like me, I am sure you have heard from constituents who are demanding change.  I cannot imagine what is like for the employees working there, but it sounds like a “living hell”.  We cannot sit quietly and ignore what is happening.  Please join me in insisting the commission take action on the recommendation of the delegation last week to suspend the director until the investigation is concluded and the cloud of uncertainty and fear is removed.  My friends, I have never seen anything like this in all my years of public service and we owe it to the employees and citizens of Richland County to take action.  I hope to be speaking with many of you in the days ahead about this urgent matter.

Wishing you and your family a safe holiday weekend  –

Joel Lourie

Here’s the WACH-Fox story he alluded to, which featured some pretty lurid quotes from an unnamed “whistleblower:”

Sexual harassment, bullying and a long line of nepotism are what a whistleblower says the Executive Director brings to the Richland County Recreation Commission. A person with ties to the commission spoke exclusively with WACH FOX News and The State newspaper, saying they and many others are scared for their lives.

“We’re scared. I mean, we’ve heard that he carries a gun in the office.. so we’re.. we never know when he will flip and turn on us because he has said many times that if he goes down, he’s taking all of us with him.”

The whistleblower says Executive Director James Brown III has been making threats for at least two years, but they have gotten worse since the first of multiple lawsuits were filed.

“He has bragged about having sexual relations in the bathroom at the job, and he’s also bragged saying he only needs to throw fifty dollars to certain people- you know, out of his pocket, to get what he wants.”…

The whistleblower says in the last year, about fifteen people have been fired- most of them in retaliation for speaking out against him.

“He thinks it’s a joke, and he thinks he’s the most powerful black man in South Carolina, and he has said that and said that he knows he can get away with anything.”…

The story in The State was less sensational, but on firmer ground. Rather than quoting the anonymous source, he paper stuck with named sources and documents:

An employee of the highly scrutinized Richland County Recreation Commission who is one of several recently to sue the agency was fired this week.

It’s the most recent plot point in a continuing narrative characterized by inflammatory accusations, numerous lawsuits and investigations by local, state and federal agencies launched in recent months into the commission and its executive director, James Brown III.

Anthony Cooper, the commission’s bond director, was fired by the agency Wednesday, according to Cooper’s attorney, J. Lewis Cromer. Cooper’s termination letter cited him as “placing documents in the Dumpster in violation of a current litigation hold,” Cromer said in a statement Thursday.

But Cooper, Cromer said, had outwardly accused higher-ups in the commission of shredding documents that might have been the subject of investigations….

The plot sickens.

I just called Joel to chat further about this, but missed him. I left a message saying that I bet I know one thing he won’t miss about his job as a senator…

One of the commission's many facilities.

One of the commission’s many facilities.

Barack Obama, Selfie Subject in Chief

Did selfies exist when W. was president? I don’t recall, but they’ve certainly been a huge factor in the current administration.

They’ve both been part of the Obama legend — this was the youthful, supposedly tech-savvy president who complained back in 2009 about having to curtail use of his Blackberry (an archaic device that, amazingly, he continued to use into this year, thanks to the government’s sclerotic pace of adaptation) — and a bit of a curse, as everyone he meets spins away from him in order to snap a shot.

As The Washington Post noted just this week:

Obama has complained — with increasing regularity during his final year in office — about the prevalence of the selfie and its intrusion on his personal space. But the president, who has leveraged his image as a tech-savvy and approachable leader to mobilize young voters, has not been willing or able — despite his ample executive powers — to contain the selfie explosion. No blanket selfie ban has been issued.

The upshot: Obama and the humble smartphone have forever altered one of the most iconic American moments. Never again will citizens interact with their president in quite the same way. #ThanksObama….

Generally he’s been a good sport, as you’ll recall from the famous Buzzfeed video, in which he reached out to young people by letting on that he, too, could be way narcissistic.

heres_looking_at_you_obama.0

Then there was the selfie he and soon-to-be-ex-PM Cameron oh-so-cheerfully posed for with the hot Scandinavian blonde… with the First Lady sitting off to the side scowling — as well she should, since they were in the middle of a funeral for one of the most revered people on the planet (actually, the photographer later said the photo was misleading on that score):

MANDELA-SELFIE_2761644b

It’s a bit weird the way this one minor feature of smartphones — the reverse lens, a goofy little add-on — has transformed the way people across the country and around the planet interact with the most powerful man in the world.

Yesterday, I remarked on the lack of gravitas exhibited by the president and the young leader of Canada in the selfie Tweeted by PM Trudeau. David Carlton chided me a bit, saying he was pleased to see national leaders so loose and informal.

And I suppose it’s all right. At least they’re wearing coats and ties, so my Tory sensibilities aren’t too offended. Harrumph.

I, personally, do not have a selfie with the president, strictly speaking. I have this old-fashioned shot taken by an actual photographer after interviewing then-Sen. Obama in 2008. Sorry. Best I could do:

brad-Obama

Open Thread for Thursday, June 30, 2016

Canadian PM Trudeau Tweeted out this selfie, which POTUS reTweeted...

Canadian PM Trudeau last night Tweeted out this selfie, which POTUS reTweeted. Anyone besides me think our modern leaders are lacking gravitas?

Well, we have one rather startling story to lead off with:

  1. Coastal Carolina wins College World Series — Wow. Not sure how this even happens. This seems to be one of those Milan, Indiana-type moments.
  2. Boris Johnson, ‘Brexit’ Leader, Won’t Run for Prime Minister — Another shocker. Makes me envy the Brits. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, right on the verge of getting his party’s nomination, Donald Trump said, “Never mind”?
  3. Who is Michael Gove? Britain’s real-life Frank Underwood — Actually, I think in the original British version, his name was Francis Urquhart.
  4. Connor Shaw released by Cleveland — How about that? Two sports stories in one day! Are y’all pumped or what?
  5. Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops in military — Initial reports I saw on my phone said transgender folk will be allowed to serve “openly.” Made me wonder how they’d keep it a secret. Maybe they don’t have short-arm inspections in the Army any more…

Donnie Myers makes list of America’s 5 ‘deadliest prosecutors’

And it’s getting lede treatment by The Guardian, in keeping with that newspaper’s fascination with us barbarous Americans with our guns and capital punishment.

Excerpts:

The five are profiled in a new report from Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project. Titled America’s Top Five Deadliest Prosecutors, the report highlights the lion-sized role in the modern death penalty of just four men and one woman. Donnie Myers

They are: Joe Freeman Britt of Robeson County, North Carolina; Donnie Myers of Lexington, South Carolina; Bob Macy of Oklahoma County; Lynne Abraham of Philadelphia County; and Johnny Holmes of Harris County, Texas….

Myers is the only one of the five who is still in office, with plans to retire at the end of the year. The lawyer, the one with the electric chair paperweight on his desk, did not respond to the Guardian’s questions about his inclusion in the top five club of deadliest prosecutors.

He achieved 39 death sentences in the course of his 38 years in practice but labored under a 46% rate of misconduct that was later discovered. Six of his death sentences were overturned due to problems in the way he had secured a capital sentence – often involving discriminatory exclusions of jurors based on race.

The report notes that Myers once rolled a baby’s crib draped in black cloth in front of a capital jury and, crying profusely, told them that a failure to return a death sentence would be like declaring “open season on babies in Lexington County”. In another death penalty case, he referred to the black defendant as “King Kong”, a “monster”, “caveman” and “beast of burden”….

Myers, of course, will be replaced by former deputy Rick Hubbard, after Hubbard’s victory in Tuesday’s primary.

Here’s part of what Cindi wrote about Hubbard in The State‘s endorsement of him:

Mr. Hubbard doesn’t speak ill of his former boss, but he does acknowledge that there have been problems in the office. He does note that he does not share Mr. Myers’ “old-school style of doing things.” And he makes a convincing case that he would represent a clean break….

Mr. Hubbard also seems to have the deepest appreciation of the three of the moral duty of a prosecutor to seek justice regardless of public opinion, and to seek justice even when that means losing a case. As he put it, “A prosecutor’s job is to do the right thing and to do it for the right reason.” After 40 years of a win-at-any-cost solicitor, the people in Lexington, Edgefield, McCormick and Saluda counties deserve a prosecutor who is deeply committed to putting justice first, always, and who has the experience and expertise to deliver that justice in a steady, reliable way….

Congratulations to Micah Caskey — now I’d like to see him adopt his opponent’s issue

A week ago today, I dropped by a gathering of supporters of Micah Caskey at The Whig. It was a small group, but diverse — the person who had invited me to it was Raia Hirsch, a Democrat previously seen working in Vincent Sheheen’s gubernatorial campaign. (She and Micah had been in Law School together.)Micah Caskey cropped

I chatted briefly with Micah at the event, and he seemed quite confident that he was going to win the runoff — even though his opponent, Tem Miles, had the public backing of their chief rival in the original primary on June 14, former Lexington County Councilman Bill Banning.

Well, he was right to be confident — he won walking away, with more than two-thirds of the vote (see below). This was no doubt due to hard work, a positive message, and of course the fact that he took out a campaign ad on bradwarthen.com — that’ll do it every time. :)

He was a strong candidate. I guess I should say is a strong candidate, since he has opposition in the fall. In this district, you’re usually pretty safe to bet on the Republican, although I haven’t met his opposition, which I need to do at some point. He faces Democrat Peggy Butler and Constitutional candidate Robert Lampley in November.

As I think I mentioned earlier, I thought the district would have been well-served by either of these young attorneys. And there’s one thing that would make me feel even better about the prospect of Micah Caskey being my representative…

The best thing that Tem had going for him was that he had notions of reform that seemed to come straight out of the Power Failure project I conceived and directed at The State 25 years ago even though he’s too young to remember it. I had meant to encourage him further in that direction by dropping off a reprint of the series at Mr. Miles’ law office (I still have a few yellowing copies in a closet somewhere). I neglected to do that. I’ll still do so, if he’s interested.

But I’m also going to give one to the winner, next time I see him. It would be great to see him adopt the best part of his erstwhile opponent’s platform…

District 89