Funniest SNL skit ever… to me… at least on paper…


I say “to me” because it was inside humor; it could not possibly have been as funny to someone who has not sat through thousands of news meetings just like the one portrayed, and suffered just the way Phil Hartman’s character suffers in the skit. (I’d love to know who wrote it. It had to be a fellow sufferer, because only someone who has been there and listened to such nonsense could possibly have come up with some of the touches in the dialogue.)ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

And I say “at least on paper” because, to my disappointment in going back and watching it again, I see that the actors were a bit off. There were stumbles by Rob Schneider, and even Phil Hartman, who otherwise is brilliant as the one sane man in the room. I wish in retrospect that they’d shot it as a short film in advance, as SNL sometimes does, to iron out those little problems with timing. I find myself wondering whether the actors just lacked energy because, having never been newspaper editors, they just did not understand how hilarious this was.

Unfortunately, the live audience hardly laughed at all, which probably persuaded Lorne Michaels that insider newspaper humor doesn’t sell.

Anyway, I’m sharing this because of a Twitter exchange I had Saturday night:

Perhaps so. I forget what the show did right after 9/11. But that reminded me that, ironically, one of the funniest things SNL ever did was about Pearl Harbor. Fortunately, the skit ran 50 years to the day after the attacks, and that amount of time having passed gave the show license to make fun.

And it was just so, so real. How many times have I been in such meetings, trying to sell something important as the lede story, while my fellow editors oohed and aahed over minor crime news, or the fact that “the lady bulldogs have a chance of going to the state finals this year.” And as one who has always had little patience with other editors’ overreaction to the weather (my general guiding principle on that is that if I want to know what the weather is, I’ll step outside) this is a battle cry that resonates in my heart:

“I’ll tell you what’s happenin’ in the weather: IT’S RAININ’ BOMBS IN HAWAII; that’s what’s happening…”

There’s just one brilliant line after another, such as “Do we have one Japanese person in Turrell?” and “Now Bill, that is something that affects our readers — they’re going to have to pay for those typewriters!” Someone had to have been taking notes during real newsroom budget meetings to come up with dialogue such as that.

But the very best touch of all is when you see the paper roll off the press, and the Pearl Harbor story is played at the bottom of page 7, under the news that Phil Hartman’s character has, understandably, shot himself. It appears under this savagely brilliant, one-column headline:


… because, you know, you can’t be too careful. Do we KNOW that they were Japanese? And we’d better put “base” in quotes rather than step out on a limb…

Live-Tweeting the Democratic debate

dem debate

Missed most of the first half-hour because I lost BOTH TV signal and my wi-fi. Up and running now, though.

‘Multiple attacks’ in Paris — AGAIN

It looks like there’s a significant and terrible development in the War on Terror breaking right now in Paris.

The BBC reports:

At least 18 people have been killed in several shootings in the French capital, Paris, as well as explosions at the Stade de France.

At least one man opened fire with an automatic gun at the Petit Cambodge restaurant in the 11th district.

Liberation newspaper reports four deaths. It also reports shootings near the Bataclan arts centre.

Three explosions are also reported outside a bar near the Stade de France, where France were hosting Germany.

Reports say French President Francois Hollande was watching the match and has been moved to safety….

This is the point at which no reports will be both coherent and accurate, perhaps not either.

As for drawing conclusions regarding the events — that’s pretty far off. Is this retaliation for our killing Jihadi John? Who knows? It may have nothing to do even with anything going on in that part of the world. If that is what it is, it makes little sense to strike in France, but since when did terrorism make sense? It doesn’t much matter why they do what they do; our aim must be to stop them from doing it.

To the extent that we can. This is another case in which the civilized world failed.


I get why he LIKED it; I don’t get why he BOUGHT it

No, this is not Fitsnews. The nekkid woman at right is a work of art — a very valuable work of art.

An ex-cab driver who is now a billionaire in China bought the above Modigiliani, titled “Nu Couché,” for — maybe you should sit down first — $170,405,000.modigliani

Unlike with some extremely expensive works of art, I totally get why he liked it. It’s appeal is rather straightforward and visceral. But so is the kind of picture that will no longer appear in Playboy. I would not pay $1.70 for a picture in Playboy (which is why Playboy is struggling), much less $170 million for any picture that has ever been put on the market. If I had $170 billion, I wouldn’t spend that much for a picture. I wouldn’t want to be such a sap for one thing, and there are far better ways to spend the money.

Besides, to see that very same picture, all I had to do was Google it. I don’t care how nice the brushstrokes are, a picture is a picture.

Which means that even if I were a billionaire, you probably wouldn’t find me at Christie’s. Although I did have a pint in a pub across the street from Christie’s when I was in London. In the pub were a number of guys who apparently worked there, but I didn’t talk to them while enjoying my bitter.

However, I’m not entirely lacking in the sensibilities necessary to see marketability in art. Check out this interactive feature from The New York Times, which asks you which works of art brought the highest price. I got the first three right and thought I was really savvy, but I missed on the rest of them.

Another good reason for me not to spend millions on a painting even if I had billions. I’d be a lousy judge of resale value.

But I thought you might have fun taking the quiz, too…

art quiz


Glad to see The State endorsing in city council runoff

I was really glad this morning to see The State endorsing in the District 2 race. That causes me to expect an endorsement Sunday in the at-large runoff.

These are the first endorsements I’ve seen since the editorial department was reduced to one, which I was worried would mean no more endorsements. While the editorial board has always consisted of more than the editorial department (the publisher in my day, the publisher and the executive editor and I think at least one other today), the actual legwork necessary to an endorsement was always done by those of us in the department.

So I was glad to see such a thoughtful, in-depth analysis of the District 2 race, ending in an endorsement of Aaron Bishop. Personally, I had no idea which of those guys I would have endorsed. I haven’t done the legwork. So I got a lot of food for thought out of what The State said — which, after all, is the purpose of an endorsement. As I’ve said so many times over the years, an endorsement is less about the who than about the why.

I look forward to the Sunday piece. I have a pretty good idea which way they’ll go, but I’m not at all convinced I would go that way — so I look forward to the seeing the arguments advanced.

The CRC forum went well. Y’all shoulda been there

CRC forum

The city council runoff candidate’s forum sponsored by the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council went pretty well. We had a full house, and we had pretty good coverage from The State, WIS, WACH, ABC Columbia and Free Times. Follow the links for their coverage.

The coverage sort of seized on the “jabs” and “barbs” the candidates aimed at each other. There was plenty of that, in part stimulated by some of my questions. And while I had worried that it would be funky doing one forum with people running for two offices, it sort of worked, largely because these guys have split up into tag teams: Howard Duvall and Ed McDowell vs. Andy Smith and Aaron Bishop.

I wasn’t just going for pointless conflict, but I made sure to ask at least one question of each candidate that required him to address a perceived problem or weakness — not just to put them on the spot, but to give them a chance to address, before an audience, these things that people have been saying about them. (And in the case of Duvall and Smith, based on my interviews, I already knew that they had pretty good answers for the questions. People deserved to hear those answers.)

After a softball question or two to all (“What is Columbia’s greatest need, and how will electing you help achieve it?”), I asked one “edgy” question of each. That was really all I had time for in the hour before we went to closing remarks, because I let them go back and forth — response, rebuttal, then (if new allegations came up in the rebuttal, which happened often) another round. I wanted them to say all they had to say, as long as it didn’t drag — and it didn’t.

Here were the individualized questions:

  • To McDowell: “Mayor Steve Benjamin has criticized your ties with former councilman E.W. Cromartie. Please describe your relationship with Mr. Cromartie, and talk about why that is not a problem in your mind.”
  • To Bishop: “We don’t have parties in the usual sense in city elections, but you and Mr. Smith have both been endorsed by Mayor Steve Benjamin, while your opponents seem to be running against him. What should voters think about your ties to the mayor?”
  • To Duvall: “A few years back, we had a city councilman who was known as “Councilman No” (I didn’t say so at the forum, but I meant Hamilton Osborne) – whatever it was, he was against it, or at least that was his reputation. You have presented yourself as a needed obstacle to things the mayor wants to do. Will you be a new Councilman No, or do you have a positive vision for the city’s future?”
  • To Smith: “You are up against a candidate with an intimidating resume. Mr. Duvall is a professional at municipal government. Why should voters choose you, a political novice, over someone who has helped run cities for as long as you’ve been alive?”

I was far too busy to take notes, so go look at The State‘s or the TV coverage to see how they replied. Most of the quotes you see arose from those questions.

forum crowd

Open Thread for Thursday, November 12, 2015

James Flowers, who will run against Leon Lott. Nice campaign picture, huh?

James Flowers, who will run against Leon Lott. Nice campaign picture, huh?

Here are some conversation-starters:

  1. GM to Import Chinese-Made Buick — So now American cars have to compete with American cars from abroad? WSJ notes that this is right after GM agreed to a new labor contract expected to drive up it’s cost of making cars in this country.
  2. Leon Lott to have primary opposition in 2016 — That’s his picture above. As you can see, unlike Leon, he is not my twin. Too young.
  3. Mobster, 80, Cleared on All Counts in ‘Goodfellas’ Case — So they made a whole frickin’ movie about it, and he didn’t even do it? That’s funny! What do you mean, funny? What’s funny about it? You think I’m a clown, that I’m here to amuse you…?
  4. Russia reveals giant nuclear torpedo in state TV ‘leak’ — And I thought the Russkies were supposed to be good at keeping secrets. Or did they leak this on purpose so everybody would think they had a “giant nuclear torpedo?”

Or whatever y’all want to talk about…

Jaime Harrison talking to Rachel Maddow about SC Democratic Party

This clip, brought to my attention today by the state Democratic Party, features MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow talking to SC Democratic chair Jaime Harrison during her visit to SC for the debate Friday night.

This is interesting because you see how the state party chair opens up about his challenges when he has a sympathetic ear who nevertheless knows how to ask pointed questions.ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

As long as he’s got that ear, he makes his pitch through Maddow to the national party for what he terms a Democratic Southern Strategy. He’d like to see the national party get as serious about winning back the South as Harry Dent et al. were about taking it away from them in the 1960s.

He also talks about his biggest challenge — the lack of a bench here in SC. It’s hard to win back anything when you have a scarcity of strong candidates.

Oh, and about that Democratic debate the other night — did you watch it? I confess I didn’t even try. Maybe it’s wrong of me, but I sort of lost interest when Biden said he wouldn’t run, and Hillary just stomped all over her opposition in the previous debate — and the GOP failed to lay a glove on her in the Benghazi hearing. If she gets in serious trouble again (like, email-server trouble or worse), I might get interested again. Until then, we know whom the Democrats are going to nominate…

Thoughts on last night’s debate(s)?

Above and below you see two of my most popular Tweets (out of 39) from during the GOP debate last night. This is the kind of incisive commentary you won’t find elsewhere.

OK, truth be told, I later saw that Nicholas Kristof had the same idea I did re William Jennings Bryan, but that’s OK. Great minds and all that.

But I’m putting up this post to ask what y’all thought of the debate.

Just some quick overall impressions from me:

    • I was struck a number of times at how this sounded like a debate featuring candidates of some party other than the Republican, such as Rand Paul’s opposition to a strong defense, Ted Cruz’ criticism of corporate fat cats, and Marco Rubio’s tax credit for child care.
    • Meanwhile, the most perfect embodiment of traditional Republicanism, Jeb Bush, continued to fail to pull away from the pack.
    • Trump was marginally more buffoonish than in past events, I thought. Will his supporters notice. My fave LOL Trump moment — when he asked with regard to Carly Fiorina, “Why does she keep interrupting?” Yeah, Donald! Doesn’t she know men are talking?
    • Actually, I’m serious about the West Coast thing (below). It’s ridiculous for debates to start that late at night.
    • I think Cruz had the best night, followed by either Rubio or Kasich.


Come to the city council candidates’ forum tonight!

Notice how I threw in that exclamation point to get y’all excited? Is it working?

I hope so, because I’d like some of y’all to turn out. The Greater Columbia Community Relations Council will host a candidates’ forum tonight feature all four of the Columbia City Council candidates who are in next week’s runoff: At-large candidates Howard Duvall and Andy Smith, and District 2 candidates Ed McDowell and Aaron Bishop.ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

It will be at 7 p.m. at the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce offices at 930 Richland Street.

How are we having a forum for two different offices? Like this: We’ll ask a question of the candidates for one office, then ask another question of both candidates for the other. Not perfect, perhaps, but it seemed the simplest way of handling it without trying to schedule two separate events in a tight time frame.

Originally, this was to have been televised live, but that fell through at the last minute. So instead of this being moderated by a smooth broadcast professional, the questioners will be CRC Executive Director Henri Baskins (who’s pretty smooth in her own right) and yours truly. If you come, don’t boo us too much — we’re last-minute substitutes, doing our best. (See how I lowered expectations there, despite the fact that I’ve moderated debates in the past and been paid for it? If candidates can play that game, so can moderators.)

Those of you who can vote in this election should come on out. This might be your last chance to compare the candidates in person…

SC Democrats are becoming what SC Republicans once were

This news from The Hill:

… is hardly news to us in South Carolina. We knew that since Joe Biden (who had a lot of support among party regulars here) said definitively that he would not run, Hillary has had our primary pretty much sewn up.

But it made me realize something.

For a generation, South Carolina Republicans were known for always choosing their party’s eventual nominee in their presidential preference primaries. It’s one reason why the nation paid so much attention to what happened here.

Then, in 2012, they went nuts and chose Newt Gingrich over the guy everyone knew would be the eventual nominee. This year, they’re gaga over Donald Trump and Ben Carson, and if either of those guys is the eventual nominee, the national Republican Party might as well have a going-out-of-business sale.

But the Democrats in South Carolina are showing the centrist conservatism for which their rivals were once known, lining up dutifully behind the establishment candidate who is ordained to pull the sword from the stone.

Maybe in the future, the nation’s pundits will watch our endangered Democrats as closely as they have watched the GOP here in the past…

Life, clinging…


See this photo I took of scraggly trees desperately clinging to a clump of fertile soil on a bleak, muddy, flood-swept landscape?

Actually, it was a tiny weed, about four inches high, in the driveway next to the ADCO building on Pickens.

I was amazed that none of us had run over it. I thought I’d immortalize it before that happened. The very essence of fragile life, clinging on against the odds.

That’s all. No political message…


Video: McCain urging N.H. to vote for Graham

Lindsey Graham may not be on the debate stage tonight, but he’s on the airwaves in New Hampshire — or rather, John McCain is, in Graham’s behalf.

From The Washington Post:

Two Graham radio ads launched in conjunction with the TV spot also feature the Arizona senator, and in an interview last week, Graham said he had no intention of quitting.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Graham said. “I’m going to stick to what I’m doing. I’ve always thought that using national polls for [debate] selection is ridiculous.”

Graham’s campaign said that the ads would start airing today, in a “significant buy.” His war chest, built on the one that got him through a 2014 Senate reelection, is about $1.6 million, putting him closer to the middle of the 2016 pack than the bottom.

Open Thread for Monday, November 9, 2015


I’m posting this mostly to find out whether y’all know of anything interesting to talk about today. The well seems pretty dry to me, but here are some possibilities:

  1. University of Missouri president resigns amid racial tensions — Was this a story before the guy resigned? If so, I missed it, and I thought I was pretty much up on major racial flashpoints. Everybody seems to be leading with it on this slow news day… Oh, wait — it seems to have had something to do with football. No wonder I missed it.
  2. Russia Engaged in Sports Doping, Commission Finds — It looks like I have a sports fixation today (there’s another coming below), but this was state-sponsored cheating by Putin’s Russia, and that seemed worth talking about…
  3. Susan Brill to run for Lourie seat — A contest between Brill and Mia McLeod will definitely be worth watching, starting with the fact that the Lourie family seems less than enchanted with the Democratic candidate. Joel’s brother Neal is on Ms. Brill’s campaign committee.
  4. Isn’t it bad enough that BOYS want to play football? — Just to take another slap at the only game we’re hearing about now that the Series is over (all too soon). The NYT ran brief essays from five people about the “problem” that some boys don’t think girls should play football. Each took a distinctive position, but not one challenged the premise that boys should want girls to play football. The pieces were all about how to make sure those boys get their minds right. Huh. Personally, I don’t think we should encourage boys to play football, and extending the insanity to the other half of the population strikes me as beyond absurd. But I  know I’m unusual.

That’s it. That’s all I’m seeing. Your suggestions are even more welcome than usual…



Steve Spurrier’s just like me, except for all that money

I found this item today interesting:

Steve Spurrier has been to Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., since resigning as South Carolina’s head coach, but he won’t be at Williams-Brice Stadium this weekend or any weekend the rest of this season.

“I don’t think that’s my place,” Spurrier told The State on Monday….

Hey, what a coincidence — I don’t feel like it’s my place, either, so I won’t be going to the game. Either.

Increasingly, Steve Spurrier is just like me — except that he’s paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to ignore the Gamecocks, whereas I do it faithfully, year after year, for free.

Now I ask you, is that fair?

How can we have a ‘War on Christmas’ when it’s not even Advent for three more weeks?

Central Park detail

Detail from a family picture taken on Black Friday 2007 in a frigid Central Park.

When I met Howard Duvall at Starbucks the other day, I was delighted to see that they’d started using the red holiday cups. I have a lot of pleasant associations with that annual sign of the season, such as the time three of my kids and I stayed warm with such cups on a Black Friday visit to a bitterly cold New York (see above).

Some people, however, see the cups’ arrival as an opportunity to increase the amount of division in the world:

Starbucks has come under fire from some Christians who say the company isn’t repping hard enough for Jesus on its recent understated holiday cups. The problem? Political correctness, according to one evangelical.

“I think in the age of political correctness we become so open-minded our brains have literally fallen out of our head,” Joshua Feuerstein said in a widely viewed anti-Starbucks rant on Facebook titled “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus.” “Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups? That’s why they’re just plain red.”…

Everyone has his or her peeves. Here’s one of mine…

Why on Earth would I expect to see “Christmas” on a coffee cup on Guy Fawkes Day? That’s more than three weeks before Advent even starts, much less Christmas. You want to complain about Christmas being underplayed, get back to me sometime between Dec. 25 and the Feast of the Epiphany.ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

When I get a red cup on Nov. 5, it really is a holiday cup, since it will span the period that includes our first experiences of cold weather, Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas. It’s about celebrating a season — you know, the holiday season, and yeah, that includes Hanukkah. Maybe New Year’s, too (I’m not clear on when they stop using the cups).

If your excuse for protesting is that you are a Christian, how about checking out a liturgical calendar sometime? Yeah, I know, not every Christian is in a liturgical church, but come on — just how early do you want the Merry Christmases to start?

Andy Smith says his campaign is about Columbia’s future

Andy Smith


Andy Smith came in second behind Howard Duvall in Tuesday’s voting, but “we had such enthusiastic voters” that he’s optimistic about his ability to come out on top on Nov. 17.

The key, he said, is “keeping our base engaged,” and turning out people who maybe didn’t get out on Tuesday.

I asked him how he defined that base, and he said it included LGBT voters, the arts community, those 50 and under and young professionals. At this point, I told him, I was feeling a bit left out. Just kidding. (In fact, I should disclose that Andy and his wife, Kimi Maeda, are friends with my elder son and daughter-in-law.)ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

Since he mentioned LGBT folks first, I wondered — would his base be less motivated now that Cameron Runyan was out of it? He said he didn’t think so.

In fact, he emphasized that his campaign was far less about what this or that person had done in the past, and more about what Columbians together could do in the future.

“We’re the only campaign talking about ideas for the future,” he said. “We’re not negatively motivated; we’re actually the reverse.”

What does he mean by that? He cites the prediction by the Urban Land Institute — he was involved in ULI’s Reality Check two years ago — that the Midlands would grow by 500,000 people over the next three decades. He’s among those convinced that the way for that bigger city to be the kind we want to live in, it needs to attract both talented workers and successful entrepreneurs.

Although he didn’t put it this way, to some extent he meant people like himself.

Andy Smith grew up in Columbia, the son of a retired two-star Army general and the grandson of a brigadier. He went away to Swarthmore for his undergraduate degree, and did graduate work at UCLA. He came back home after an epiphany following the 2004 presidential election.

At the time, he was one of many “young, progressive people from the South” who “had all moved to the blue states.” After the election, he was looking at a map showing which states had gone for Bush and which for Kerry, and was struck by how divided the country was.

He decided he would no longer surround himself only with people who saw the world the way he did. He came home. “Places like Columbia are very special,” he said. Someone like him is “forced to interact with people who disagree with you all the time.” And he sees that as a good thing. “I moved back here determined that I’m just going to change the world.

Five years ago he became executive director of Nickelodeon Theater. The bio on his campaign website describes his tenure thusly:

Under his leadership, the Nickelodeon moved to the renovated Fox Theater in the heart of Columbia’s burgeoning Main Street, doubling its annual attendance and growing its budget to over $1 Million annually. Andy is also the founder and co-director of the Indie Grits Festival, named twice by MovieMaker Magazine as one of the “20 Coolest Film Festivals in the World.” Columbia Business Monthly named Andy to its 2014 “50 Most Influential People” list and Free Times named him one of “50 People who Get Things Done” in 2015.

He sees his candidacy as a logical next step in helping build and maintain a livable community.

Some other things we talked about during our interview today at the Vista Starbucks:

  • What about his relationship with the mayor, since this runoff is being described as the Benjamin team (Smith and Bishop) versus the mayor’s detractors (Duvall and McDowell)? He sort of laughed as he said “The mayor is one of many people who have offered advice.” He has found that when you’re running for public office, a lot of people come out of the woodwork to offer such advice and aid, both “solicited and unsolicited.”
  • One of the key issues that has divided the mayor and Howard Duvall was the strong mayor initiative, which Duvall was instrumental in scuttling. He said that while be believes a community needs “strong leaders,” he doesn’t have strong opinions regarding what the best form of government might be. He did vote for the proposal, but he sees the form as less important than the quality of individual leaders.
  • Smith is half the age of Duvall, who is also a retired professional at running municipalities. Smith is unfazed by his opponent’s resume. Sure, Duvall is an expert on the nuts and bolts of running a town, but “We have a philosophical difference about the proper role of a council person.” Smith doesn’t think an elected councilman should be “getting involved in the nitty-gritty that you want staff to do.” A member of council should “think big,” concerning himself with policy rather than the minutiae of administration. “Retain talented people; let them do their jobs.” For his part, speaking of the Nickelodeon’s key role in transforming Main Street, “I have 10 years of experience actually turning our city around, and that’s the kind of experience we actually need on council.”
  • He noted that he was “talking about water and sewer before the flood,” based on personal experience. He and his wife live in the Earlwood neighborhood, and their tap water was brown, forcing them to drink bottled water from the grocery.
  • Like his opponent, he sees crime as a big issue, especially since he and his wife have been “awakened by gunshots” in their neighborhood. “Not feeling safe in your home is just terrible.” He believes it is essential to hire and retain the best people as first-responders.
  • He says the city has not done enough to take care of the good “things that make us unique — such as “our rivers, which we continue to dump sewage into.”
  • He sees the need for a citywide comprehensive cultural plan, which would help Columbia obtain grant money that would further develop the arts, making the city that much more attractive to the “creative class” that Richard Florida speaks of.

“I think we have all the pieces we need to be successful. So much has happened almost despite city council in the past.” He believes he can help provide the right leadership to keep the community moving forward.

Andy Smith 2

Howard Duvall: Now the donors are calling HIM

Hal with Howard

Hal Stevenson talks with Howard Duvall at the Starbucks on Gervais.

I found Howard Duvall Thursday on the sidewalk in front of the Vista Starbucks, talking on his cell phone.

Afterwards, he tells me there’s been a change since he was the top vote-getter in his bid for the at-large seat on Columbia City Council Tuesday. He still spends much of the day trying to raise money, but he doesn’t have to call them so much as “People are calling me now.” He has no illusions as to the source of his new popularity: “They want my ear later on.”

Some of those donors may assume he’ll win the runoff on Nov. 17, but he’s being careful not to jinx himself. “It’s a brand new election,” he said. “If they’d let you bank that 15 percent” he’d feel more like the winner, a reference to the fact that he received just under 40 percent of the meager vote Tuesday, while his runoff opponent got 25 percent.ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

I saw evidence that he’s picking up at least some support from third-place finisher Cameron Runyan, who lost his seat on Tuesday: Hal Stevenson, who recently had a fund-raiser at his home for Runyan, plans to back Duvall now. Hal owns the building in which the Starbucks is located, and the offices of his Grace Outdoor billboard company are right upstairs, so you can find him there with coffee in hand a lot. And before Mr. Duvall and I sit down for an interview, Hal promises to send him a check.

Then we sit down to talk — me with a tall, black Gold Coast, him with one of the fancier drinks — and the first thing I ask him about is his alliance with District 2 candidate Ed McDowell against Mayor Steve Benjamin’s preferred candidates, Andy Smith and Aaron Bishop.

Duvall sort of downplays that, saying that he’s become friends with McDowell after meeting him at the kickoff for National Night Out at the end of July. For that matter, he says he’s even gotten to be friendly with his opponent Andy Smith, from running into him on the campaign trail.

And he doesn’t like to be described as anti-Steve Benjamin: “I like Steve Benjamin. We’ve been friends for years. We have a long and pleasant history.”

“I’m not anti Benjamin; I’m just pro fiscal responsibility” — the implication, of course, being that he doesn’t think the mayor always is.

As for McDowell’s connection to E.W. Cromartie, which the mayor loves to mention, “Cromartie has served his time,” and “is well respected” by a lot of people in the community. For those who forget Mr. Cromartie, The State provided this primer:

But McDowell has said previously that he has accepted campaign contributions and political advice from E.W. Cromartie. The controversial former District 2 political powerhouse is more of an adviser than a contributor, McDowell said in a previous interview. Cromartie lost his seat after a federal conviction for tax evasion and for trying to hide what he was doing from the Internal Revenue Service. He served about a year in prison and is back home….

Here are some other things we talked about:

  • I forget how it came up — it may have been a segue from Duvall’s conversation with Hal Stevenson and his support for Runyan — but the candidate urged me to check out this clip from the GOP-sponsored debate at Doc’s Barbecue, in which Duvall told voters “I’m not running to be your priest.”
  • He hasn’t spoken to incumbent Runyan since he and Smith outpolled him Tuesday, although he tried: “I called him; he didn’t answer his cell phone.” He says he left a message in which “I thanked him for his service.”
  • I asked what he was hearing from voters as he knocked on doors across the city. He said the thing that has struck him the most is that crime is seen as a problem in every neighborhood in the city. He was surprised to learn that there had been three recent drive-by shootings in the Melrose area.
  • When he spoke about his opposition to a development that he feared would be harmful to the Gills Creek watershed, I noted that between that and his opposition to the ballpark, some might think of him as anti-development. I asked whether that bothered him, and he said “I love to build things,” but again, “My main concern is the financial management.” He’s worried that Columbia has maxed out its capacity for general obligation bond, and has turned to the “payday lender” of municipal financing — installment purchase bonds. This was followed by an explanation of how such bonds work that was over my head. The upshot was that they are expensive, risky instruments. If y’all must know how they work and why they concern him in detail, I’ll track him down and get the explanation on video or something. I am not a good vessel for relaying such information.
  • And his problems with the Bull Street project extend beyond the financing. He says the project has morphed from a good plan for a mixed-use urban village to an “entertainment district that will cannibalize the Vista and Five Points.
  • He said he’s raised about $80,000 for his campaign and has about $9,000 left. By the time the runoff is over, he expects to have spent $100,000, which is what he had planned to spend.

I then asked him whether there was anything he thought the mayor and present council had done that was good. And he didn’t have to think hard to come up with examples:

  • The ongoing redevelopment of Main Street. The Nickelodeon and Mast General, to be more specific.
  • The hiring of Police Chief Skip Holbrook after a nightmarish period of instability. “They hired a pro” who has done a lot of good for the city.
  • A reduction in transfers from water and sewer to use as general funding.

He said they’ve done good on “a lot of basic things.” So he’s not against everything that’s happened during Steve Benjamin’s tenure. But he does think the city needs him as a check on some of the “undebated projects that the mayor brings up.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: I have an interview with Andy Smith set up for Saturday afternoon, so I should have a post from that sometime over the weekend.

Howard at Starbucks

McCartney’s enthusiasm for Guy Fawkes Day creeps me out a bit

I say that on account of my being Catholic and all.

I reTweeted this from Paul McCartney yesterday, which included a picture of him that appears to be from his “Maybe I’m Amazed” period:

But this was a classic case of a reTweet not constituting an endorsement.

Now, y’all know that I’m an Anglophile from way back. I generally love English traditions, including some of those involving fire.

But I’m a bit squeamish about the one that involves burning in effigy a Catholic-rights activist who in reality was tortured by English authorities before being drawn, hung and quartered.

OK, granted, we’re not talking Pope Francis here: Guy Fawkes was a terrorist who intended to blow up the king and Parliament and had the explosives to do it.

But still. The English had already been oppressing Catholics for Fawkes’ entire life and then some, and they used the Gunpowder Plot as an excuse to step that persecution up and continue it for most of the next 400 years. The celebration, unless I mistake, was of a victory over the Pope and papists as much as over a terrorist cell.

Which I kind of resent, because, you know, we’re not all terrorists.

So excuse me if I’m not too thrilled about your bonfire there, Paul…


Open Thread for Friday, November 6, 2015

Sorry about no posts yesterday; I’m trying to get back on track here:

  1. Obama rejects Keystone XL project, citing climate concerns — OK, somebody ‘splain this to me: If you’re concerned about climate change, you want to see us move away from fossil fuels. And I think most rational people want to do that, as soon as we can. But we know that we won’t be able to replace them for decades to come, and will still need fossil fuels in the meantime if we want to have jobs and eat and operate our mobile devices. So… why not do so as efficiently as possible? I don’t get it. But then, I’m an Energy Party guy.
  2. Russia suspends Egypt flights — It would be nice if someone would figure out what actually happened, and how and why.
  3. Editorial: USC shouldn’t pay Spurrier for work he’s not doing — Absolutely. Oh, and I enjoyed the file photo that The State ran with the edit — Spurrier in his office leaning back with his hands behind his head, his golf clubs occupying a prominent space at his right hand…
  4. Friends proud of Chester boy who died saving sister from hit-and-run — Don’t know what else to say about this. Can you be devastated and proud at the same time? I suppose so…
  5. Conjured criminals: A history of imagined perpetrators — I just included this because it features the BBC revisiting the Susan Smith case. See below.