Open Thread for Thursday, November 13, 2014

I realize it’s kind of late in the day for this, but I figure some of y’all might still want to discuss these things, even if you don’t get to them until the morning.

I only have a couple or three proposed topics:

  1. Obama Said to Plan Moves to Shield 5 Million Immigrants — Looks like he’s going to get in the GOP’s faces over this. Will this endanger his ability to find common ground on other things? Maybe. Should he do it anyway? Maybe…
  2. US military considers sending combat troops to battle Isis forces in Iraq — That headline, from The Guardian, perhaps goes a bit far. But Gen. Dempsey was floating the idea today.
  3. Secret Service Blunders Eased Way for White House Intruder — This just in. Report details failures by the protective detail.

Sorry I didn’t see anything good local. Mostly crime news, it seems, and that tends not to catch my eye. I mean, we’re all against crime, right? So what would we discuss?

But maybe y’all have a good local topic in mind…

Joe Wilson questioning SecDef Hagel about ISIL

Just a little slice-of-life from Washington today. I’m listening to it myself as I post this. Here’s a release Wilson sent out with the clip:

WILSON: PRESIDENT NEEDS TO DEVOTE MORE ATTENTION TO ISIL

(Washington, DC) – Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following statement after questioning Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel about the Administration’s strategy and military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the Middle East.

“The complete and systematic defeat of ISIL is imperative for the United States’ national security and the safety of our allies around the world,” Chairman Wilson stated.  “Achieving this outcome is growing increasingly difficult due to ISIL’s changing tactics and the President’s reluctance to listen to the advice of his experienced military advisors.  After today’s hearing, I am further convinced that the President needs to devote more resources and attention to effectively destroy ISIL. Additionally, I believe that a comprehensive plan, which considers all options presented from our military leaders, is critical to complete our mission, protect our national interests, and bring peace to Iraq and Syria.”

Are yard signs gone yet in your neighborhood?

The morning after the election, a black sedan was stopped on my street. A man got out and removed a campaign yard sign from the yard of one of my neighbors, got back into the car and drove on toward the next one. I didn’t recognize the guy, couldn’t see whose sign it was and couldn’t remember having noticed it before.

But I was impressed with this one campaign’s diligence in cleaning up post-campaign clutter.

Beth Bernstein reminds me that the process of cleanup continues:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

A necessary evil of campaigning is the proliferation of campaign signs, and I really appreciate those who agreed to put a yard sign in their yard.  The day after the election, my family and I worked diligently to collect as many yard signs as possible.  Although we collected around 300 signs, I am sure we still have some out there.  If you have a sign that needs to be picked up, please let me know.

The last of my billboard signs was picked up yesterday. Unfortunately, it was more labor intensive to collect those so it took a little longer to coordinate that effort.

Thank you for the honor and privilege of serving you and our community in the Legislature!

Warm regards,

So, are all the signs gone in your neighborhood?

Court rules for poor kids in 21-year-old lawsuit, says SC hasn’t done enough to educate them

I hadn’t intended to post today beyond the Open Thread, but this is major, historic news.

I wish Steve Morrison, who led the charge on this for so long, had lived to see this:

The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that state government is not doing enough financially to guarantee a “minimally adequate” education for public school students in poor areas of the state.

The court ruled 3-2 Wednesday in favor of plaintiff districts in the 21-year-old school equity suit.

The court rejected state lawmakers’ arguments that decisions on school funding belong to the General Assembly, not the courts. Lawmakers had argued that they alone should determine what the state constitution’s “minimally adequate” means.

Justices, however, found that the school districts must better identify solutions for their districts’ needs and work with state lawmakers on how to fix them….

Of course, the big, billion-dollar question is, What will South Carolina DO about it?

It is, unfortunately, up to our General Assembly. As Chief Justice Jean Toal wrote:

“it is the Defendants who must take the principal initiative,” the ruling states, “as they bear the burden articulated by our State’s Constitution, and have failed in their constitutional duty to ensure that students in the Plaintiff Districts receive the requisite educational opportunity”

But WILL they? They, after all, are the ones who have fought this. How can the Court compel action in this case? I don’t know enough to say…

Open Thread for Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rosetta

I’ve got a lot to do — I’m feeling rather overwhelmed by it all, in fact — and haven’t felt particularly inspired today. So maybe y’all can keep the plates spinning for me. For us all…

Some possible topics:

  1. Judge rules in favor of same-sex marriage in SC — The judge in question is Richard Gergel, who signaled this intention a week or two back.
  2. Rosetta mission makes history, lands on comet 300 million miles away — Very cool stuff. It’s been so long since we’ve had a space milestone like this. Too long… Of course, “we,” as Americans, didn’t accomplish this. But “we,” as a species, did.
  3. US and China strike deal on carbon cuts in push for global climate change pact — I wonder what, if any, will be the practical effect of this. Will the Chinese, with the phenomenal rate at which they’ve been building coal-fired power plants, uphold their end? Will this country, given the president’s lack of political capital, uphold our end? I don’t know enough to answer that, but I’m not optimistic.

Or bring up your own topic; see if I care…

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I enjoy serendipitous juxtapositions

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I enjoyed this juxtaposition of headlines on the business page of The State today. The headlines go to this story, and this story.

For a split second, I thought maybe the stories actually were related. And in a global, trend-tracking sense, I suppose they are. Except, of course, that the larger posteriors some women seek are more of the muscular variety. Doughnuts alone won’t give you that…

Open Thread for Veterans Day, November 11, 2014

800px-Royal_Irish_Rifles_ration_party_Somme_July_1916

Members of the Royal Irish Rifles, first day on the Somme. Look at them staring at us from a century ago…

It’s been a century now since the badly labeled War to End All Wars began, and 96 years to the day (to the hour, as I write this) since it ended in an unsatisfactory manner that helped lead inexorably to the next conflagration.

If you’d like to reflect on that, this would be a good day for it.

Here are some other possible topics:

  1. I see Cindi Scoppe has written my usual post-election column on our endorsees and how they fared. As I did after each election, she does it to deep-six the nonsense about our endorsement being the “kiss of death.” This time, the board went 9-2, slightly better than the usual 75 percent or so winners. Of course, endorsements are not predictions of who will win, but statements about who should win, and more importantly, why they should win. But one does get tired of people saying untrue things about one, hence this tradition that I started about a decade ago.
  2. Haley picks the dollar-a-year guy to run $7 billion agency — The career of Christian Soura, since he first came to SC to work for the governor, has mystified me. He started work here at a dollar a year, explaining that he was living in part off his government pension from Pennsylvania — even though he was only 32. Later, he became deputy chief of staff at the somewhat more substantial compensation of $128,698. Now, he’ll be making $154,879. And no, he has no experience running a Medicaid agency. Tony Keck, whom he replaces, had. Guess we know who just won an election. Note the picture at the link. Keck looks like he could be Soura’s father. (He even looks like a baby next to Nikki, as youthful as she is.)
  3. The Hummer is back. Blame falling oil prices. Sheesh.

Or, whatever you’d like to bring up.

 

 

DCCC tries to show Obama has been a success

Obama numbers

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out the above chart today.

And while I usually have nothing but snarky remarks for these blatant fund-raising emails, I have to say I actually thought the number look pretty good.

So… are we a lot better off than we were when this POTUS took office? I have to say, I am not — but then, I’m no worse off than I was two months after he took office, when I got laid off.

And yeah, I would hope we’d look good when compared to the very low point of the recession. But still, I thought the numbers looked good…

Do the number lie? Are they the right number to be looking at? Thoughts?

Studies: High rate of military suicides are NOT because of repeated tours in Iraq, Afghanistan

Here’s an interesting fact that struck me when I read it, counterintuitive as it is. It’s part of a piece in the WashPost headlined “Five myths about military suicides“:

Repeated tours through the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan are often cited as a primary reason so many troops take their own lives. But the statistics don’t support that explanation. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in the summer of 2013 found that longer deployments, multiple deployments and combat experience didn’t elevate suicide risk. In fact, more than half the troops who had taken their lives had never deployed. A separate, massive Army study found that, while suicide rates for soldiers who had deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan more than doubled between 2004 and 2009, the rate for those who had never spent time in the war zones nearly tripled….

The Quinn sweep

FYI, Richard Quinn and Associates has been celebrating for the past week:

RQ&A Celebrates Election Sweep

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) Richard Quinn & Associates (RQ&A), celebrated another successful election on Tuesday.  Our firm helped lead numerous Republicans to victory in the Nov. 4 General Election.

“It truly is a great honor to work with such talented leaders at every level of government,” said company founder and president Richard Quinn.  “We regard playing a small part in helping them win election as our own special form of public service.”

RQ&A’s roster of winners was led by five successful statewide candidates — a list that included nearly half the state’s Constitutional officers.  RQ&A clients U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Attorney General Alan Wilson, and State Treasurer Curtis Loftis all won re-election, while clients Henry McMaster and Molly Spearman were elected Lt. Governor and State Superintendent of Education respectively for the first time.

Columbia-based RQ&A also assisted Congressman Joe Wilson, the dean of South Carolina’s Republican federal delegation, in his re-election victory, as well as a group of victorious State legislative races, including Reps. Kenny Bingham, Jenny Horne, Ralph Kennedy and Rick Quinn.

The 2014 elections may be over, but the RQ&A team isn’t taking any time to rest.  We are already planning for next year’s local elections and the upcoming South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary.

 

Of course, it helps to be a Republican consulting firm in a year such as this, and a number of their clients had no, or only token, opposition.

But you can certainly see why they’re celebrating. A year such as this is good for business.

Wow. Some Dems still clinging to the ‘Gore won’ meme

When I saw this on Twitter:

— Salon.com (@Salon) November 10, 2014

I clicked on the link for the purpose of delving into how the hopelessly ideological (by which I mean, whoever wrote that headline) look at things.

It wasn’t very interesting. But my eyebrows did rise at this:

The answer given by the media then, and often proffered today as well by the Democrats is “It’s the economy, stupid.” They didn’t give that explanation up when Reaganomics produced heavy economic losses for working people who continued to vote Republican, and they didn’t give that explanation up when the Clinton/Gore years produced a booming economy and yet Gore lost (OK, he won but for the Supreme Court, but that was only made possible because of how close the vote was—and why would it have been so close if “the economy” is the determining issue?)…

Wow. Some liberals are still clinging to the “Gore really won” fantasy.

In case any of you still cling to that, it is patently untrue.

Sometime after the legal battle in Florida ended, a consortium of media organizations completed a recount of all the ballots. Actually, they completed several different recounts, using different sets of rules (as you’ll recall, much of the controversy during the Long Count in 2000 was over which set of rules to use).

Bush won the recount that the Gore people claimed was short-circuited by the courts.

Ironically, had there been a total recount of the entire state, the media recount indicates Gore might have won, by as few as 60 votes. However, using the rules in place on Election Day (and I still don’t understand how a reasonable person would expect any other set of rules), Gore still wouldn’t have won:

Gore’s narrow margin in the statewide count was the result of a windfall in overvotes. Those ballots — on which a voter may have marked a candidate’s name and also written it in — were rejected by machines as a double vote on Election Day and most also would not have been included in either of the limited recounts….

So yeah… for good or ill, Bush won.

Black is the new orange

orange invert

I found this piece, end of last week, intriguing:

It sounds like a radical idea: Stop incarcerating women, and close down women’s prisons. But in Britain, there is a growing movement, sponsored by a peer in the House of Lords, to do just that.

The argument is actually quite straightforward: There are far fewer women in prison than men to start with — women make up just 7 percent of the prison population. This means that these women are disproportionately affected by a system designed for men….

Essentially, the case for closing women’s prisons is the same as the case for imprisoning fewer men. It is the case against the prison industrial complex and for community-based treatment where it works better than incarceration. But there is evidence that prison harms women more than men, so why not start there?

Any examination of the women who are in U.S. prisons reveals that the majority are nonviolent offenders with poor education, little employment experience and multiple histories of abuse from childhood through adulthood. Women are also more likely than men to have children who rely on them for support — 147,000 American children have mothers in prison….

I don’t know how practical the idea is, but I like that somebody’s thinking about it. We lock up way too many people in this country, period. I don’t think anyone who is not a danger to others needs to be incarcerated; it serves little useful purpose.

Of course, a certain percentage of male inmates are a danger; but very, very few women are. They’re more likely to be in for writing bad checks than for armed robbery.

So, let’s explore this…

orange

Doug’s out shooting today. Stay indoors; hide behind something solid

Apparently, they survived. After the expedition, Bryan emailed this shot of Doug holding the 20 gauge over-and-under Beretta in a safe manner.

Apparently, they survived. Bryan emailed this shot of Doug holding the 20 gauge in a safe manner.

Bryan Caskey, who so kindly took me out shooting clays a couple of weekends ago (and I had a great time), has Doug Ross out there as I type this.

Doug professes to have never held a gun before. Or a rifle, either, I believe. Today he is armed, with several boxes of ammo.

Pray for their safety. And your own…

I love the smell of advertising in the morning. It smells like… freedom!

This is a cautionary tale for those of you who gripe about “all the ads” in your daily newspaper. When the truth is that the dramatic decline in advertising revenue over the past decade or so is what has been strangling newspapers.

It’s why Robert Ariail and I, and a bunch of others, got laid off in 2009, at the very low point of the Great Recession.

Greet those ads as friends, because those that remain are all you have to keep the news flowing your way — no matter where you get your news. The few reporters left at mid-sized dailies across the country — and at virtually every other information outlet you can think of — get paid from ad revenues. It was always thus, only in the old days there was a lot more flowing in.

No bucks, no Buck Rogers. Or perhaps I should say, no Clark Kent.

There are readers out there who labor under the delusion that they pay for their paper, so they shouldn’t be assaulted with all these ads. Well, no they don’t — pay for it, that is. Oh, they pay something, but it’s a pittance compared to what it costs to publish a newspaper. The rest comes from advertising.

And contrary to the equally deluded belief of folks who imagine that ads make the news somehow hostage to the interests of advertisers (which just proves they’ve never worked at a general-circulation newspaper in this country), advertising is also what keeps news free and independent. As we’re seeing in Russia:

An advertising ban on Russian cable and satellite TV stations could decimate regional television broadcasting from the suburbs of the capital to the far reaches of Siberia, leaving the country almost entirely dependent on state media for news and information.

The law, which will prohibit commercial advertisements on paid cable and satellite channels starting next year, is one of many measures Russian authorities have adopted in recent months to tighten control over the flow of information, reduce foreign money in Russian media and force journalists to hew closer to a pro-Kremlin line.

But the advertising ban threatens to deliver the most devastating blow to homegrown independent outlets where Russians get most of their news: television….

When newspapers and other news outlets lose their access to advertising in a place like Russia, the news becomes, once again, a wholly owned subsidiary of the government.

So enjoy the ads, folks. They’re better than the alternatives…

Go ahead and feel defeated, ‘Nancy.’ Don’t fight it…

Unfortunately, the end of the election has not ended the flow of begging emails from the DCCC.

I had to smile at one today, ostensibly from Nancy Pelosi. An excerpt:

Election Day was tough. We lost the energy of some excellent public servants. In the coming days, I’m sure all the pundits will provide their analysis of what happened.

It would be easy for us to feel defeated. To think “this is too hard, I’m done fighting.” But we can’t do that. We’ve got to stay engaged…

See, there’s a reason it would be easy to feel that way — you were defeated. So don’t fight it. Sit back and absorb that for awhile, and give the clamoring for money a brief rest. Please…

Happy Elephant Day, Republicans (courtesy of Thomas Nast)!

Nast elephant

I learned this from a Tweet today:

On this day in 1874, in a Thomas Nast cartoon, the Republican Party was symbolized as an elephant for the first time

You know, that’s gotta be a bitter pill for some in the GOP to swallow — their symbol was given them by a hero of the MSM.

I must remember to mention this to Robert Ariail, who has a special bond to Nast — he was judged best cartoonist in the world in 1997 by the Overseas Press Club, which gave him their prestigious Thomas Nast Award.

By the way, here’s an explanation of the Nast cartoon that ran on Nov. 7 1874.

SC’s American Party feels good about inaugural outing

They didn’t get anybody elected, but the new party started by Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace is counting its blessings after Tuesday’s vote. And if you think about it, they did pretty well in their initial effort to break up the mindless two-party paradigm:

THE AMERICAN PARTY SHINES DURING INAUGURAL ELECTION

Columbia, S.C. – The candidates of South Carolina’s newest political party, the American Party, received more votes than that of any other third party’s candidates in Tuesday’s elections.

While only nine months old, the American Party of South Carolina out performed every other party except for the two major parties on Tuesday with American Party candidates receiving, collectively, more than 153,000 votes.unnamed

“We are extremely proud of our candidates and the positive way in which they ran their races,” said American Party Chairman Dr. Jim Rex. “With few financial resources and no television ads, we showed that ideas do matter and that voters are seeking more options at the polls than they have been getting.”

Rex pointed to the extremely low voter turnout at about 43 percent as a sign that voters are disenchanted with the status quo candidates.

As it stands now only a handful of voters in one of the major parties, during their primary, decide who our leaders are in South Carolina. Voter participation in general elections is getting lower and voter apathy is growing. Voters are getting fed up with the two-party status quo system and are staying home on election day.

While the major parties are becoming more and more extreme, the American Party is  focused on problem solving and governing from the middle.

According to Rex, it’s not just about who won or lost on Tuesday. The American Party is in this for the long haul to change South Carolina . Change does not occur overnight, but the American Party has made great strides in a very short time. The party believes that the political middle represents the largest portion of our electorate and that those voters are hungry for a fresh approach to politics.. “We will work to get beyond a system hijacked by partisan extremists and get back to governing. It will take a few election cycles, but we are on our way,” said Rex.

During 2015 the American Party will be organizing in each of South Carolina’s 46 counties while working on the party’s “Recall Election” initiative launched in September. The initiative is aimed at enhancing governmental accountability by amending the State Constitution to give registered voters the option to recall elected officials who violate the trust placed in them by the electorate.

More information on the American Party of South Carolina can be found on facebook and on line atwww.americanpartysc.gov.

I’m trying to get you to engage in crimethink

Off in my corner, out of sight of the telescreen, writing down my subversive thoughts...

Off in my corner, out of sight of the telescreen, writing down my subversive thoughts…

Back on my post last night expressing horror at the number of South Carolinians (49 percent!) who voted straight-party on Tuesday, Lynn T. posted this thoughtful comment, to which I responded, and I thought the exchange was worth its own post. Lynn’s comment:

The parties have successfully sold the idea that they stand for a consistent set of values and priorities. Anyone who watches actual votes and decisions knows better, but few citizens do. First we have to set aside the cases in which consistency isn’t a reasonable goal because pragmatic lawmaking requires compromises. Even excluding those cases, the variation is substantial. One Democratic senator campaigned on his 100% rating from the Chamber of Commerce, normally more closely associated with the Republican Party. At the same time, his environmental record was not nearly as positive as that of some Republicans, who are usually perceived as more inclined toward business than environmental preservation. There are Republicans who support no-excuse early voting without adding “poison pill” restrictions, and others who take a very different direction. The diminished resources of the press in this state are a serious problem because the press is the closest thing we have to a reality check. If The State had as many reporters on the State House as on Gamecock football it would be fabulous. But then if more citizens cared about their government as much as they do about Gamecock football, it would be fabulous.

My response:

What the parties — and the media, and interest groups, and practically everyone whose profession has to do with politics — have successfully sold is the binary paradigm.

Almost all of the people who write or talk about, or otherwise deal with politics for a living, talk about political decision as being a choice between two options, and two options only. Either-or. Left-right. Democrat-Republican. Black-white.

And because that’s the way THEY talk and write about it, the rest of the public does the same. Why? Because they lack the vocabulary to speak or think about politics any other way. It’s a very Orwellian situation. The point of Newspeak in 1984 is to eliminate all words that express concepts that would free people’s minds. If they don’t have words for a concept that would be a thoughtcrime, they can’t engage in crimethink.

Too many people just can’t think beyond the notion that good people like me vote THIS way, and only this way, and that people who vote that other way are bad.

The way rank and file voters react to Nikki Haley offers a good example of this phenomenon. Among in-the-know Republicans — the Inner Party members, carrying forward the 1984 analogy — have never liked her much, although I sense a lot of them have now warmed to her.

But among the great masses of people who think of themselves as Republicans, if you criticize Nikki Haley, then you are a liberal Democrat. This, to them, is a truth that cannot be disputed. There can be no other explanation for your criticism.

I know this from personal experience. I actually have missed out on getting a job because the boss was convinced I was “left of center.” Why? Because I’ve criticized Nikki Haley. That was the entire explanation. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But I knew I’d have trouble working for someone who didn’t think any more clearly that that, so sour grapes.

Cindi Scoppe and I both got that a lot over the years. And the idea that either of us is a liberal Democrat is risible to anyone who looks and listens and thinks. But otherwise bright people who don’t think about this stuff all the time believe it as a matter of course, because their paradigm admits no other explanation.

Back when Jim Hodges and Bill Clinton were in office, we caught similar hell from Democrats. Their notion that we were right-wingers was equally laughable, but you couldn’t convince THEM of that. (I’ll never forget one through-the-looking-glass experience I had speaking to a small group of academics back when Hodges was in office. They sat there with these stony looks of hostility on their faces. They finally let me know that, because I was opposed to Hodges and his “education lottery,” I was an enemy of public education — despite the fact that we had written FAR more over the years as champions of the schools than we had written about Hodges and his plan. They could not be moved. They sat there and informed me I had never lifted a finger for education. They were adamant in their absurd belief.)

As you say, Lynn, “Anyone who watches actual votes and decisions knows better, but few citizens do.” Posts such as this one are part of my campaign to gradually wear away at the bars of the average citizen’s mind prison, which was largely created by my colleagues in the media…

The number of South Carolinians voting straight-ticket is sickening

straight

Pursuant to a conversation some of us had earlier about the election results, our own Doug Ross took it upon himself to crunch some numbers. And what he came up with was appalling.

Here’s his spreadsheet. Read it and weep. I almost did.

As you know, I get thoroughly disgusted at the idea that anyone, anywhere in this nation, would cop out of his duty as a citizen to the extent of voting a straight party ticket. That an American citizen, much less a fellow South Carolinian, would completely forego the responsibility of carefully considering each candidate, and surrender his precious birthright to anything so low and destructive as a political party — letting the party choose and think for him, on the most important decisions he must make as a citizen — is utterly shocking to me.

I don’t think the straight-party option should exist on ballots. It should be constitutionally banned. Short of that, I think the device should be used as a test to see whether you’re ready for the responsibility of voting: Choose the straight-ticket option, and your entire ballot should automatically be thrown out. If you can’t be bothered to think about each candidate and each position, you don’t deserve the franchise.

Given my thoughts on the matter, you can imagine my horror at the numbers Doug put together (based, I think, on the election commission’s numbers — Doug can elaborate on that).

According to Doug’s spreadsheet, almost half — 49 percent — of all voters in South Carolina Tuesday chose the straight-ticket option. Half of our fellow citizens just… couldn’t be bothered… to carefully consider each decision with which they were entrusted. They just made one decision — to not make any decisions for themselves, leaving them all to a party.

Twenty-three percent of them chose straight Republican; 25 percent went straight Democratic.

The numbers choosing a straight-party vote were particularly horrible in poorer, more rural counties, where the preference was usually Democratic. In Lee County, 72 percent of ballots were straight-ticket. The percentages weren’t as bad in the suburbs, but the raw numbers almost were.

Why, oh why, do people even bother to register to vote, if this is all they’re going to do?