Graham gives Ashton Carter a thumbs-up

This just in from Lindsey Graham:

Graham Statement on Nomination of Ashton Carter for Defense Secretary

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today issued the following statement on the nomination of Ashton Carter for Secretary of Defense.

“Ashton Carter has the knowledge and capability to serve as Secretary of Defense during these difficult times. He has proven to be a leading voice when it comes to articulating the damage done to our military by budget cuts.

“I expect he will face tough questions at his confirmation hearing about President Obama’s failing national security policy, but I expect he will be confirmed.”

####

Yeah, but it would have been so much cooler had he chosen Joe Lieberman! #threeamigos

Meanwhile, in SOUTH CAROLINA, a white cop is charged with murder for shooting an unarmed black man

Just thought I’d run this for the pure irony of it. We have protesters all across the country who are convinced that cops can kill black men with impunity, and yet, right here in the first state to secede, we have this:

A white police chief who fatally shot an unarmed black man in South Carolina in 2011 has been charged with murder, and his lawyer says prosecutors took advantage of national outrage toward police to get the indictment….

Combs was the police chief of Eutawville in 2011 when he fatally shot Bernard Bailey during a struggle outside town hall.

Prosecutor David Pascoe said at a bond hearing Thursday that he told Combs’ lawyer last year that he would pursue a murder charge if a judge rejected Combs’ self-defense claim. The judge rejected the claim this week.

Interesting, huh? Note that this is David Pascoe, the prosecutor who doesn’t fool around with law-breakers, whoever they might be…

Now there’s no way I can vote for Hillary, because I’ve seen THIS

Kathryn brings this to my attention, and I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive her for it.

She got it from Jezebel, which said:

(T)his music video trumpeting Hillary Clinton for 2016 might be the worst piece of political persuasion I’ve ever seen….

No, seriously, whatever badness you’re expecting, quadruple it and you might come close to the reality of this dreck. Somebody please tell me this is a massive prank. Or a deep-cover GOP stunt. Funny or Die. Hell, Jimmy Kimmel. ANYTHING….

Forget the awful ad that Jenny Sanford did for Ginny Deerin. That was a masterpiece of tasteful concept and flawless execution compared to this.

You know, I had been thinking that, assuming the Republicans don’t come up with someone I like better, I could probably vote for Hillary Clinton. I’ve really liked the way she’s positioned herself on the current president’s wishful foreign policy.

But now — no, I don’t think I’m going to be able to put this one completely out of my mind. No one remotely associated with this abomination can be trusted with the nuclear football.

The only thing I can say in her defense is that it was the work of some group called “Stand With Hillary,” and maybe the candidate had nothing to do with it.

Oh, I hope she didn’t…

This is a FINE quiz Bryan found (yep, I aced it)

civil war quiz

Bryan Caskey offered this quiz via email today. Y’all know I like quizzes, and this one was of the sort I really like — I got a perfect score.

Bryan introduced it gently, saying:

I’m currently in Vol. II of Shelby Foote’s Civil War, so that’s not really fair to everyone else. Give it a try, I’m sure y’all will all do fine.

http://www.quizfreak.com/can-you-answer-these-15-civil-war-trivia-questions/index1.html

Well, I’m not as well read on the subject as Bryan — the most involved book I’ve ever read dealing with that period was the science-fiction alternate history novel The Guns of the South (South African white supremacists travel back in time to supply the Confederacy with AK-47s — no, really; it’s a really good book).

But folks, you should know most of this stuff by osmosis. That’s how I picked it up.

Give it a shot. There are only 15 questions.

Oh, wait, tell a lie — I’ve also read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. But that was more about politics than military history…

Nice to see left and right getting together to back a pregnant woman

This morning, I ran across this Tweet from a pro-life organization:

Later in the day, I got this release from the Population Connection Action Fund, which I gather is not exactly what anyone would call rabidly pro-pregnancy:

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Peggy Young v. UPS, a pregnancy discrimination case. We are appalled that in the year 2014 pregnant women continue to face injustice in the workplace at the hands of employers whose actions are wrongly legitimized by lower courts’ narrow interpretation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Population Connection Action Fund stands firmly with Ms. Young in her fight for rectitude against UPS. No pregnant woman in the United States, or any country for that matter, should be stripped of her right to receive valid accommodations from an employer if she has a substantiated medical need…

I’m glad to see folks from both sides of the Culture Wars banding together to defend a woman in need.

Of course, if you read a bit further in each organization’s statements, you get to language where they are gulfs apart.

But I take these blessed moments of togetherness wherever I can find them.

Here’s an NPR story about the case that brought them together…

Our new, entirely commercial, liturgical calendar, purged of all religion

A still from very shaky, low-res video I shot inside Macy's flagship store on 34th Street in New York on Black Friday, 2007.

A still from very shaky, low-res video I shot inside Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street in New York on Black Friday, 2007.

Once upon a time, we kept track of our days this way throughout what was termed Christendom:

  • Michaelmas — Sept. 29 — Not only a day to celebrate the archangels, and especially Michael, who defeated Lucifer in the original War on Terror. It was also the ending and beginning of the husbandman’s year, when the harvest was over and the bailiff of the manor would make out his accounts for the year. Big day, back when most of us were engaged with agriculture in one way or another.
  • All Saint’s Day — November 1 — Also known as All Hallows, making the night before… well, you get it, right?
  • First Sunday in Advent — fourth Sunday before Christmas, which this year was yesterday — The beginning, NOT of the Christmas season, but of the time of contemplative anticipation looking forward to the arrival of Jesus Christ into the world. Christmas begins, not ends, on Dec. 25, which if you go way back, was once Saturnalia. This occurred this past Sunday.
  • Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception — December 8 — No, this is not about the Virgin Birth, which is a whole separate concept. This was defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and he was infallible in setting out this dogma, because he spoke ex cathedra, and… well, it’s complicated. Elaborating might make Protestants’ heads hurt…
  • Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe — December 12 — This celebrates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to an American Indian named Juan Diego (who has his own feast day three days earlier). She spoke Nahuatl to him. Among us Catholics, she is the Patroness of the Americas.

Anyway, you get the idea. There wasn’t a day in the calendar that didn’t have its own, holy designation — if you belonged to a liturgical church. Although some feast days were more equal than others.

But as Bob Dylan would say, it used to go like that; now it goes like this:

  • The Day after Halloween — When you can start to see the Christmas displays in the stores.
  • Black Friday Eve — A day once given over to thanks to God is now increasingly the day when those who can’t wait a day to shop traipse to the stores.
  • Black Friday — Not to be confused with the one in 1688, when the Anglican bishops were imprisoned, or the one in 1929 when the market crashed, or any of a couple of dozen other dark days in history. No, this is a recurring day, the observance of which has crept up on us over the last few decades. It’s allegedly the biggest shopping day of the year, and the “black” has a couple of meanings — it’s a day without which merchants’ books might never get into the black, and it’s also a hellish day to go shopping.
  • Small Business Saturday — Just in case you only went to the chain stores on Friday.
  • Cyber Monday — The reason this falls on a Monday is that people like to do all their online stuff while they’re at work, something I discovered back when I started blogging and tracked my traffic by the day and hour. Anyway, this is the day when people buy the gifts that they looked at while showrooming on Friday.
  • Giving Tuesday — This is the only day in this new calendar that bears any relationship to the traditional reason for the season. I’ve gotten solicitations from several local nonprofits, wanting me to give today. This is the first time I remember being aware of this one.
  • The Day After Christmas — Once known as Boxing Day in some cultures, it’s now the second-biggest shopping orgy of the year, supposedly.

You’ll note that, with the exception of Giving Tuesday, this new liturgical calendar is about nothing holy or transcendent, but all about the gimme-gimme, pure commerce. For that matter, Giving Tuesday is about trying to adapt altruism to this new, entirely secular calendar of recognized (and much advertised) observances.

This formalization of the shopping calendar has pretty much taken place entirely within my lifetime.

The last really great song by The Band

Just a little musical interlude to calm you down on this third day in Advent.

This was the last really great song recorded by The Band, from their largely unregarded 1975 album, “Northern Lights-Southern Cross.” For whatever reason, I didn’t even buy this one, so I had to discover the song in later compilations. I’ve been listening to it a lot in recent days, from a CD of The Band’s best that I bought at Walmart for $5.

I like this assessment of the song:

“I thought about the song in terms of saying that time heals all wounds,” Robertson told interviewer Robert Palmer at the time of the song’s release. “Except in some cases, and this was one of those cases.” Yet writing the song was only half the battle with The Band. With three brilliant singers available, choosing between Richard Manuel, Levon Helm, and Rick Danko was never an easy task, although you really couldn’t go wrong.

Danko got the call, and his emotional performance, all wavering notes and reckless abandon, is the uncanny embodiment of a man driven to the end of his tether by his love’s absence. He gets interpretive assistance from his Band-mates, who give a typically intuitive performance. Garth Hudson’s stately but sad saxophone sounds like it has accepted defeat, while Robertson’s delirious guitar isn’t ready to give up just yet.

Robertson’s metaphors and similes are simple yet effective in showing the narrator’s inner torment. In the bridge, the imagery gets direr, all empty halls and stampeding cattle. As the song closes out, Danko uncorks his final lines with desperation dripping off every word: “Well I love you so much and it’s all I can do/Just to keep myself from telling you.” At that point, he is ironically joined by his good buddies Helm and Manuel on sympathetic harmony for the coup de grace: “That I never felt so alone before.”

Nobody did melancholic grandeur better than The Band, and there’s no topic more suited to that treatment than lost love, so it would have been an upset if “It Makes No Difference” hadn’t turned out so fine. Either you’ve been there before, in which case Robertson’s eloquent anguish will seem achingly familiar, or you haven’t, in which case Danko’s fearless vocal will act as a public service announcement on the merits of holding on to a good thing for dear life.

Child Hysteria Bingo Board, by way of Lenore Skenazy

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Lenore Skenazy, who spends her time debunking the more absurd anxieties of helicopter parents at her website Free Range Kids, passed on this inspiration from one of her readers

Welp, I think I’ve finally read enough of Free-Range Kids to make a Bingo board. Make a 5×5 grid, put Free [Range] Space in the middle, scatter the other options randomly over the grid, and play along!

  1. SCARY BLACK PEOPLE
  2. SCARY MEN
  3. SCARY PO’ FOLKS
  4. FACTS SCHMACTS, WE’VE GOT A WITCH HUNT GOING HERE
  5. MAD SNATCHERS BEHIND EVERY TREE
  6. I MADE IT UP AND NOW IT SCARES ME
  7. PHOTOS ARE WINDOWS TO MY CHILD’S BEDROOM
  8. ALL CHILDREN ARE 2 UNTIL THEY TURN 18
  9. THE ETERNAL CRIME WAVE
  10. EVERYTHING BAD ON THE NEWS HAPPENS HERE…

And so forth. You should go look at the whole thing. It’s hilarious. Except… every once in awhile when Lenore is making fun of such things, I pause and think, well… I DO worry about that one a bit… although none on this list jump out at me.

I would never have the nerve to be Lenore Skenazy, and here’s why: I have this superstitious dread — related to the old superstition of “naming calls,” whereby mentioning a thing you fear could make it happen — that if I mock people for having a certain irrational fear for their children, that very thing might happen to one of my kids. As a sort of cosmic justice thing for engaging in hubris.

Silly, I know. But have you ever heard that saying, “Making the decision to have a child… is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” Well, my heart walks around in five pieces, spread from here to Thailand. And then five more pieces for grandchildren.

And a condition like that can sometimes overcome one’s resolve to be calmly rational…

Should all SC cops have to wear body cameras?

Or, to put it another way, should every county and municipality in South Carolina have to pay to buy and maintain body cameras for every cop in the state?

Two lawmakers think so:

South Carolina Senators Malloy and Kimpson File Body Camera Legislation

Senators Malloy and Kimpson will pre-file legislation tomorrow requiring all law enforcement officers in the State of South Carolina to wear body cameras that can record any and all contact with persons in the performance of the law enforcement officers’ official duties.

“As chair of the Criminal Task Force, Sentence Reform Commission, Sentencing Oversight Commission and author of numerous bills in the criminal arena, my experience informs me that police officers should be collecting more evidence all the time,” stated Senator Malloy.  “History has demonstrated that eyewitnesses are not always the most reliable form of evidence.  It is time for South Carolina to invest in common sense technology.  This investment is critical to preserving the integrity of our system of justice.”

“Disputed facts are often an issue in encounters with law enforcement as we’ve seen with the incident between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri,” stated Senator Kimpson.  “Right here in Charleston, there remains a dispute about what happened to Denzel Currnell.  It is important to note that while a dashboard camera did not stop South Carolina highway trooper Sean Groubert from shooting Levar Jones, it did lead to the officer’s firing and arrest.  Body cameras would provide everyone a clearer picture of the facts,” continued Kimpson.

Representative Wendell Gilliard plans to introduce a similar bill in the House when pre-filing opens on December 11th.  “I applaud Senators Malloy and Kimpson for filing this legislation.  Over the summer, I met with many representatives of the law enforcement community and neighborhood leaders who indicated that they would welcome this legislation.  Statistics confirm increased use of body cameras tend to reduce the number of confrontations,” said Representative Gilliard.

I suppose as reactions to Ferguson go, this is preferable to chaos in the streets. And indeed, we’ve had our share of problematic uses of force right here at home in the past year.

But I have to wonder whether this is overdoing it…

400 families waiting for help to have a Merry Christmas

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One of our friends over at the S.C. Center for Fathers and Families forwarded this message from the Palmetto Project over to me, so I’ll share it with you:

If you’ve been thinking about adopting a family this Christmas, we have more than 400 families left, a lot of these are families of 2 or 3 – and we really need your help.

Please call the WIS TV phone bank at 251-8501 and speak to a volunteer today so that we can make sure you get your information ASAP!  Or you can go to http://www.wistv.com/story/24003113/2014-families-helping-families to register on line.

Phone Bank is open now until 7:30 and tomorrow from 5 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.

If you have already adopted a family, thank you very much!  You should have received your information already, so please call us at 251-8501 if you have not.

Thank you so much for your continued generosity.

Doug reports from London: He didn’t have the time to wait in the queue…

Doug Tube

The queue at Oxford Circus, 6 p.m., Nov. 25, 2014. Photo by Doug Ross

Yes, that’s a paraphrase from a song written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison

Anyway, you remember our discussion of mass transit back at the end of October, when Doug Ross mentioned he would be in London for a week in November, and would report on whether he thought the London Underground was as awesome as I say it is?

Well, he checked in via text last week (sorry, I failed to pass it on, what with trying to get my work decks cleared for Thanksgiving).

He sent the above photo, with this caption:

This is the line to get to the steps to get to the entry to the tube at 6 p.m. in Oxford circus. When it is not crowded it’s fine. Otherwise it’s a nightmare.

So there you have it; the opposite position from my own.

I never ran into anything that bad in London. I was in some crowded trains, and waited on some crowded platforms. But I never had to wait up on street level to get into the Tube. Maybe that’s because I was there between Christmas and two days after New Years Day, so normal commuter traffic was lighter than usual. Or else Doug has just had phenomenally back luck.

I will quote this from Wikipedia: “At the end of the 2000s, Oxford Circus had the highest pedestrian volumes recorded anywhere in London.” So, you know, it might be a place to avoid if you haven’t got the time to wait in the queue.

But I’ve shared Doug’s report, in the interest of fairness. Perhaps he would like to elaborate…

The REAL Star Wars teaser trailer, and the fake one

In these days of digital magic, fans don’t necessarily have to wait for the real thing:

Earlier this week, director J.J. Abrams announced via Twitter that there would be a teeny tiny sneak peek of the next “Star Wars” installment this weekend. A teaser trailer was set to screen at about 30 theaters nationwide….

But then the trailer was leaked on Thursday. Or rather a trailer was leaked. And then another popped up. And then another. None of them were the official trailer, mind you. They were made by people with fairly decent video editing software, but a lot of people didn’t realize that. And whoever is in charge of the Star Wars Twitter page ultimately had to spend Thanksgiving setting people straight.

Some of the fan-made teasers looked pretty legit. This one, for example, has gotten more than 4.3 million page views:

Pretty impressive fake trailer, huh? Personally, I enjoyed them both.

You know what would have made the real one 10 times more exciting, and enable it to crush the fakes with its authenticity? A glimpse of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher. Maybe that was impossible (as in, they haven’t shot any scenes yet), or maybe they’re being saved for the really exciting trailers later.

In any case, I look forward to seeing them…

star-wars-luke-leia-and-han

The Way They Were

White people rioting over stupid… stuff

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سلطان سعود القاسمي, a.k.a., @SultanAlQassemi, brings this to my attention:

This in no way, shape or form excuses the behavior of those engaged in mindless destruction in Ferguson, MO. But it does provide an interesting side note, a bit of perspective lest we leap to erroneous, ugly conclusions.

Stupid is stupid.

The much-anticipated Ferguson decision

photo (11)

I was thinking this morning that, while all Monday-morning papers tend to be light on news, today was a particularly slow one.

I thought that because both The New York Times and The Washington Post were leading their iPad apps with a story that hadn’t happened yet. Which, in the strict definition of What Constitutes A Lede that I was taught, is something you don’t do. News is, at the least, something that has happened. Advancer stories have their value, but they don’t lead the paper, in the normal course of things.

Anyway, I share that as a way of having a post already up and ready in case y’all would like to comment when the Ferguson grand jury does report, which I see it is expected to do at 8 p.m.

photo (12)

 

Hagel, who challenged Obama on ISIL strategy, resigns

Here’s today’s news. The president said all the obligatory things about the Defense secretary’s service to his country, starting as a grunt in Vietnam.

But I worry about what seems to lie behind this change. This is from an Oct. 31 report:

Washington (CNN) — Earlier this month, while on an trip to Latin America to discuss climate change, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagelsat down and wrote a highly private, and very blunt memo to National Security Advisor Susan Rice about U.S. policy toward Syria.

It was a detailed analysis, crafted directly by Hagel “expressing concern about overall Syria strategy,” a senior U.S. official tells CNN. The official directly familiar with the contents declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter….

The focus of the memo was “we need to have a sharper view of what to do about the Assad regime,” the official said. The official refused to provide additional details, but did not disagree with the notion that Hagel feels the U.S. is risking its gains in the war against ISIS if adjustments are not made.

Some analysts have pointed out US airstrikes in Syria against ISIS can benefit the Assad regime which also opposes ISIS. Hagel’s concerns are not related to the Pentagon effort to train and equip moderate Syrian forces, something he still strong supports the official said.

What concerns me is that a guy willing to challenge the president is leaving, while the Susan Rices of the world — all too eager to give voice to approved talking points, even when they’re not true — remain.

Graham rants about Benghazi, tries to hold his party accountable on immigration

The conflicting personas of Lindsey Graham were on display over the weekend.

On Saturday morning, seeing that the House Intelligence Committee had completely exonerated the Obama administration on Benghazi, I looked for reaction from our senior senator. I found none either on his Twitter feed nor in my email inbox, so I wrote to Graham aide Kevin Bishop, seeking a response. I still haven’t heard from Kevin (it was, after all, the weekend), but I see CNN got a response out of the senator. He said the panel’s report was “full of crap.” And then he did a poor job of supporting that statement. (His rambling about this official said this, and that official said that, sounds like Trekkies arguing about whether Gene Roddenberry was wrong not to do a followup episode to “The Trouble with Tribbles.” It’s just so esoteric, and seemingly moot.)

You can hear his comments above.

Meanwhile, on immigration, while doing the standard GOP thing of blaming the president, he also gave both barrels to the obstructionists in his own party:

“Shame on us as Republicans,” he added. “Shame on us as Republicans for having a body that cannot generate a solution to an issue that is national security, it’s cultural and it’s economic.”

Dismissing talk of impeachment and pointing to bills passed in the Senate that have stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Graham continued, “I’m close to the people in the House, but I’m disappointed in my party. Are we still the party of self-deportation? Is it the position of the Republican Party that the 11 million must be driven out?”

It’s hard being Lindsey Graham. Everybody lets you down…

I wish he could just coherently explain to us what he wants with regard to Benghazi. It seems that he’s still obsessing over what Susan Rice said. Well, I long ago just learned to disregard most of what Susan Rice says, and Sens. Graham and John McCain did a lot to help me reach that conclusion, so, mission accomplished.

But he just. Keeps. Going. ON about it…

There was one excuse for pursuing investigation on Benghazi — to learn from the event so as to prevent future embassy/consulate security disasters. We should try to identify mistakes made, so as to make sure nothing like this happens again.

What Susan Rice said just seems to have become irrelevant SO long ago. I mean, what she said was already wrong and inoperative before she said it. It made no difference to anything that happened in the real world, except to tell us we shouldn’t put her in sensitive positions of responsibility. Which the president seems to have some compulsion to do, which is problematic.

But it doesn’t make the committee’s report “full of crap.”

Runyan defends his lone vote against same-sex benefits

I hadn’t really pictured Cameron Runyan as a culture warrior. But here, in the process of defending a vote, he takes on moral relativism, postmodernism, and other newfangled stuff.

Not the sort of stuff you usually hear city councilmen going on about.

Anyway, I pass it on verbatim:

Cameron Runyan for Columbia City Council
Why I cannot support the redefinition of marriage
My recent, lone vote against providing homosexual couples with marriage benefits has caused quite a stir in the capital city of Columbia.  I hope this will shed a ray of light on my action.
Let me first address two primary issues.  First, nothing I say below on this topic means that I do not care deeply about the people who are in the midst of these issues.  I do care, and will continue to care for them.  I also pray that as they read this, they can be as respectful of my worldview as they require others to be of theirs.  Second, there was a time in my life when I believed, like an increasing number in our culture, that what is truth for one person may or may not be truth for another person.  I believed that we should essentially let people do whatever makes them happy within their version of truth.
However, a few years ago, my eyes were opened to the reality that the increasing moral relativism of our post-modern culture is contributing to the unraveling of the societal foundations we all depend on.  Because so many in our culture now see all moral issues as being relative to the individual, we are quickly becoming a society where any absolute moral truth no longer exists.  Nowhere is this more apparent than with the contemporary issues surrounding human sexuality.
Twenty-five years ago, there was not one country on the planet where same sex marriage was legal.  Today, the push to redefine marriage and sexuality has become the issue of utmost moral urgency in our culture.  This movement has led us to redefine gender and the central institution of the family in ways that no previous generation in the history of the world could imagine.  We now face the once incomprehensible notion that a person can choose their gender and, further that they can choose the type of marriage arrangement they desire within their chosen gender.  The fruit of this unprecedented revolution is that absolute moral truths have been exchanged for a relativistic belief system in which nothing can be known with certainty.
City Council’s vote addressed same sex couples but the impact of this moral revolution extends far beyond that because once moral absolutes are removed, anything goes.  Even Facebook is in on the revolution.  Users there can now choose from more than fifty different gender options.  Earlier this year in Utah, a judge struck down that state’s anti-polygamy law opening the way for polygamous and polyamorous marriages.
In Germany, the restraints are even being removed from incest to allow for sexual fulfillment.  A recent ruling there declared, “The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.”
Historic women’s colleges are now being forced to accept transgender men and are, ironically in the position of discriminating against women in favor of men.  On other college campuses, students are being encouraged to choose their “preferred gender pronoun” and to change them as often as they wish.  These students may literally choose to be male today, female tomorrow and to have no gender next week.
The moral revolution in the educational arena is also entering our high schools as well.  In a Kentucky high school, a child who was born a boy, but now identifies as a girl, has recently been allowed to use the lady’s facilities along with the school’s girls.
At the end of the day, I have been elected as one of three at-large, city wide officials to represent all the people of our state’s capital city.  The balance of council did their job representing one portion of Columbia.  I have chosen to represent the rest.

In service,

Cameron Runyan

Councilman, City of Columbia, SC

Here are some basic, immutable truths about SC politics. Now, someone please, please go prove me wrong…

I was inspired by this piece by Chris Cillizza of The Fix, who was in turn inspired by this John Harris piece in Politico., headlined “The Dark Art of Political B.S.”

For much of my career writing political opinion, I have been told by various people that I shouldn’t keep banging my head against walls and expecting the impossible, because things are just a certain way, and they’ll always be a certain way.

Except that things do change. They do. As Cillizza writes:

“Current trends never continue indefinitely,” Harris write. “Politics especially is an infinitely fluid process, refreshed continually by new issues, new circumstances and, above all, new voters with different generational perspectives. Politicians are intelligent people, whose ambitions naturally orient them to accommodate change and find a way to prosper in it.

The central contention of Harris’ piece is that modern politics — cable TV, Twitter, You Tube and all the rest — moves at a pace that makes predicting anything beyond the next few days virtually impossible. And that fact makes the entire political media industry — which prides itself on seeing around corners — on shaky ground even when at its best. “A lot of what political journalists write as we try to divine larger meaning from election results involves a whiff of bovine byproducts,” writes Harris.

He’s right.  And I’ve become more and more convinced of that fact the longer I have been writing about politics….

Presidents always lose seats in their second midterm election. Until Bill Clinton in 1998. Senators don’t get elected president. See Obama, Barack. The South will always be solidly Democratic. There will be no white Democrats in the Deep South in the 114th Congress….

Things that were never going to happen, happen. The Berlin Wall is an absolute barrier, until one day it just comes down. The IRA and the Brits will never reach a peace accord, until they do. Nixon is the most implacable anti-Communist, until détente and ping-pong diplomacy. Hitler and Stalin have a non-aggression pact, until they don’t. John Kerry voted for it before he voted against it. Barack Obama holds the firm belief that “that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” until he doesn’t. Mark Sanford is a dedicated family man, until, you know.

Black people have to be drawn into majority-minority districts for black candidates to have a chance, because they can’t get elected at-large. Until Tameika Devine, Steve Benjamin, Tim Scott and Barack Obama.

To cite one very recent change close to home: Even though it was the one constitutional office that it made the least sense to elect, adjutant general was the one elective office that wasn’t ever going to switch to appointive. That’s because adjutants general continued to dance with the one that brung them, and their subordinates always followed their lead, and the Legislature and the rest of the electorate went with what the Guard wanted. And then, we get an adjutant general who favors reform, and bang! Things change.

Oh, and Bobby Harrell will never be made accountable for his mishandling of campaign funds, because he’s the speaker.

Never say never. Because things change.

With that in mind, I’d like to make a few absolutist statements about South Carolina, in the hope that I will in short order be utterly humiliated for having been so wrong. Here goes:

  • The Republican majority in the Legislature will never take down the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.
  • Nikki Haley and her allies will never see how absurdly irrational and harmful it is to South Carolina to refuse Medicaid expansion.
  • We’ll never see the ridiculously large numbers of school districts in South Carolina reduced, because it’s always in the interests of lawmakers to protect the status quo in their home communities.
  • The promise implied in the recent Supreme Court decision in favor of poor school districts will never be realized, because powerful suburban white Republicans will never devote the kinds of resources that are needed to poor, rural districts.
  • South Carolina taxpayers will continue to support the more than 500 unnecessary, duplicative little governments called “special purpose districts,” because most people don’t know they exist, and the districts themselves are too good at political self-preservation.

Maybe you have some eternal verities of your own you would like to toss onto the trash heap of history as well. Be my guest…

Thoughts on the president’s immigration speech?

Well, I’ve been fighting serious problems with my laptop for the past hour (including one appearance of the dreaded blue screen!), so I’m not going to say as much about this as I would otherwise. Bottom line, I thought the president argued his case ably. And I think that logically, the onus is on the members of Congress who will criticize him for acting: If they want a different approach, pass a bill. You’ve got a perfectly good one sitting in front of you, House members. Just take a vote. The president wants you to. I want you to. Most Americans want you to. But because a very angry, vocal minority don’t want you to, you don’t. And that’s no excuse. I couldn’t find an embed code for the speech, but it’s contained in the Tweet embedded above, in case you missed it. It’s not very long. Here’s the full text. Below are my Tweets from during and right after the speech. Below that is a video reaction from Lindsey Graham. I was not favorably impressed. He knows the problem. He says “the broken immigration system” three times. He doesn’t explain why the president is wrong to try to fix it, and he in no way backs up his statement that the president  “has done great damage to our nation” by making the attempt. But anyway, here are the Tweets:

This morning’s CRBR legislative panel

Sen. Joel Lourie, Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Rep. Beth Bernstein, and Otis Rawl of the state Chamber.

Sen. Joel Lourie, Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Rep. Beth Bernstein, and Otis Rawl of the state Chamber.

I went to this morning’s “Legislative Lowdown” breakfast sponsored by the Columbia Regional Business Report. I waited and let Chuck Crumbo go ahead and write about it, since he gets paid to, and here’s his report. Use that as a baseline.

The panel was the same as this one in 2010, only with Rep. Beth Bernstein in place of Rep. James Smith.

Here are a few random impressions I formed:

First, while I think these annual sessions have been highly informative and fair to all viewpoints, CRBR should probably make an extra effort to get more Republicans on the panel, just to more accurately reflect realities. I wouldn’t take any of the Democrats away; I’d add a couple more Republicans — maybe Kenny Bingham and John Courson, or Katrina Shealy.

Here’s the one thing I Tweeted out during the session:

Otis wasn’t saying we shouldn’t have ethics reform, but he certainly seemed to regard it as a distraction, as a plate of vegetables with no meat, saying, “I know they’ve got to do this,” but… His tone reminded me of the bank examiner in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Remember George Bailey, all animated, telling him about the fact that his brother is going to the White House to receive the Medal of Honor from the president, and the bank examiner says, without a shred of interest, “Well, I guess they do those things….”

Well, that’s Otis being told about ethics reform. He supposes legislators have to get this ethics stuff out of their system, but he’ll be glad when they’re done and move on from it.

Now in his defense, he sees the urgent need for workforce preparation, infrastructure and other things that bear on our economic well-being, and he should be focused on those things. But he was really a wet blanket on the ethics stuff.

Others were more interested in the topic. Rep. Bernstein predicted that, again, the sticking point will be independent oversight, instead of lawmakers policing themselves. She said that was key, but signaled willingness in a pinch to accept a “hybrid” approach, with some lawmaker participation.

On Medicaid expansion, Sen. Joel Lourie said two things that interested me. First that Christian Soura, the guy Nikki Haley just appointed to replace Tony Keck at HHS despite his never having done anything like that, is a very impressive guy. I’ve gotta meet this guy, if Joel thinks that. Or at the least, hear an elaboration on what impressed Joel. Then, he said he appreciates the position of those who oppose Medicaid expansion because they’re worried about the state having to pay 10 percent of the cost after three years. I usually don’t hear Democrats say things like that.

As Chuck noted in the lede of his report, there was pretty much a consensus that for lawmakers to act meaningfully on paying for roads, there would have to be a lot of pressure on them from outside the State House. Sen. Lourie said there are three kinds of people in the Legislature on this — those who clearly see the need to come up with road funding, those who can maybe be talked into it, and “the not no, but ‘hell no’ group.” Republican Nathan Ballentine said that was accurate, and “The majority in the House, the majority in my party, are in the ‘hell no’ category.” He says he’s not afraid of raising the gas tax, and noted that he voted for the cigarette tax increase awhile back. But getting the rest to go along will take heavy lifting, especially with the governor’s veto threat. There was discussion of raising fees for driver’s licenses. Otis Rawl noted that we only pay about $2 a year for those, and certainly, he asserted, it’s worth more than that for our families to travel on safe roads (and for our goods to get to market, he was quick to add).

It was predicted that roads, ethics and one other matter — reacting to the Supreme Court decision saying the Legislature hasn’t done enough to educate children in poor, rural districts — will dominate the session. The general consensus among these suburban lawmakers was that whatever is done for the poor, rural districts, it not be taken away from the affluent suburban districts. Which to me indicates more money would have to come into state coffers, although I didn’t hear anyone say that overtly.

And of course, more than money is needed. After talking about how bad things are in Marion County, Sen. Lourie said, “Maybe we don’t need three districts in Marion County.”

That caused me to break my rule about not asking questions at such events. I rose to suggest that everyone talks about school district consolidation until it strikes close to home. I agree that there shouldn’t be three districts in Marion County, but I asked, “should there be three districts in Richland County, and five in Lexington?”

He actually had a good answer. As he said, if the state is going to help out Marion County in ways that Richland and Lexington districts aren’t asking it to do and don’t need it to do, then there’s an extra expectation that Marion should do some things it can do on its own — like getting rid of duplicative administration. Rep. Ballentine agreed, saying there’s a much greater imperative to consolidate in districts with fewer students total than you would find in a single school in the city.

Yes, they’re right. The case for consolidation is much more compelling in the rural districts. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a good thing in the big counties, as well.

Anyway, that’s my rambling report…