My piece for the Brookings Institution

When I returned from Thailand, I had an email from Elaine Kamarck at the Brookings Institution:

1477344_10152268988702708_889340808_nI’m reaching out to invite you to contribute a short essay for our FixGov blog at the Brookings Institution. FixGov focuses on new ideas to make government work and identifies and aims to solve the nation’s most pressing political and governance challenges with sensible and realistic solutions.

A major thematic focus area of the blog and our work here at Brookings is improving media capacity.  Given your expertise, I welcome you to author a blog post for an upcoming series that will explain the current state of media in America and propose solutions for reinvigorating the industry, improving local and national news coverage and bolstering media oversight. The series will begin in mid- to late-Spring…

I sort of wondered how they got my name. I learned that, as I had suspected, E.J. Dionne had mentioned me. Which I appreciate.

Anyway, I proposed a topic to them and sat down and wrote it a couple of weekends back, and today it was published.

My topic was the decline of mid-sized newspapers, and why it matters — in terms of not being able to perform (as well) their watchdog role on the state and local level. After mentioning the ironic juxtaposition of the Charleston paper getting a Pulitzer on the same day more staff reductions were announced at The State (which happened after I chose my topic, but gave me a timely peg), I elaborated:

That matters because midsized papers have been the watchdog on the levels of government that most affect our lives. We drown in political news, commentary, gossip and minutiae out of Washington, but there’s no such informational vitality at the state and local level. When there are less than a third as many of you as there used to be, and you’ve added the 24/7 churn of web publishing, it gets hard to do anything more than feed the beast. Enterprise suffers….

And then I got to this point:

So, with newspapers shrinking and blogs unlikely to replace them, who is going to watch our state legislatures and city halls across the country? Increasingly, no one. Or worse, the wrong people…

That’s when I got into the fact that it was great that the S.C. Policy Council stayed on the Bobby Harrell story until action was taken. But I found it disturbing that an ideological group that doesn’t want to tell us where its money comes from was playing a role once played by broad-interest newspapers supported transparently by the ads you saw every day.

But you know what? Just go read the whole thing. Then, if you like, come back and we can discuss it further.

Ex-Rep. Nelson Hardwick just became an unperson

Wow, that was quick.

This was just reported:

Hardwick-NelsonState Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Horry, resigned Tuesday evening in the middle of his sixth term after an investigation by the House Speaker’s office.

Hardwick was accused to sexually harassing a female House staff member, accorrding to four lawmakers who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the investigation….

Not knowing him, I went to look him up… and he had already been removed from the list of members on the legislative website.

Winston Smith moved quickly on this one. One day a lawmaker, the next day… you are an unperson.

Speaker Lucas had this to say:

“I received Representative Hardwick’s resignation letter and accepted his decision to step down from the South Carolina House of Representatives,” Speaker Lucas stated. “As Speaker, maintaining the integrity and public trust of this Body is my highest priority.  Any inappropriate activity related to the men, women, and staff that serve in the House Chamber has been and will continue to be investigated thoroughly and expeditiously.  Each of us have been entrusted with the opportunity to serve the public and that trust must never be called into question.”

Hillary Rodham (not yet ‘Clinton’) in 1979

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Buzzfeed posted these clips (you’ll have to follow the link; the embed code isn’t working) from an interview with Arkansas First Lady Hillary Rodham (she had not yet taken Bill’s name). Buzzfeed notes:

In 1979, a month into her tenure as Arkansas first lady, Rodham sat down for an interview with the Arkansas public affairs program In Focus. The interview, available on BuzzFeed News for the first time in decades, is among the earliest, and most open, glimpses of Clinton’s efforts to balance public and private life, a theme that has followed her long career. Archived in the special collections at the University of Arkansas, the nearly half-hour-long interview offers an insight into the future Hillary Clinton and her early attempts to navigate the tough waters as the wife of a political figure — while keeping her own identity and privacy.

As for the video — yeah, we looked funny back then.

In the interests of fairness — that is, embarrassing a Republican equally — I went out and dug up this image of Marco Rubio at around that same time.

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Atlanta preparing to cover our primaries

Aaron Sheinin and Daniel Malloy at M Vista today.

Aaron Sheinin and Daniel Malloy at M Vista today.

Had lunch today with my friend Aaron Sheinin of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. You may remember him from when he worked at The State.

Aaron wanted me to meet Daniel Malloy of the AJC’s Washington Bureau. Daniel’s going to be in SC a good bit over the next few months covering our presidential primaries.

Back in 1987, right after I arrived at The State as governmental affairs editor, we brought Jeff Miller in from our Newberry bureau to cover the 1988 presidential primaries full-time. Or rather, the Republican primary and the Democratic caucuses. We had other people writing about the campaign off and on, but Jeff’s job was to stay out on the hustings and cover as much of it as possible in person.

Of course, that was back when The State had five times the staff it does now. I’m sure it will be working hard to cover the 2016 contests, but it’s good to know that we can also rely on the small army of out-of-state people who will also be on the job in SC. Once, that would have done us little good, but with the Web, we can follow it all with relative ease.

I didn’t have a whole lot to share with Aaron and Daniel today. I did tell them that I think the current, early GOP field offers more palatable choices than we saw in 2012, when the selection was just awful.

And on the Democratic side… well, at this point eight years ago Hillary Clinton seemed to have SC almost sewn up. This time, I’m fairly confident she DOES have it cinched — although Dick Harpootlian, a Biden man, has been telling Aaron and Daniel otherwise.

The difference is that there’s nobody even remotely like Barack Obama on the horizon this time.

But we’ll see, won’t we? Secretary Clinton does have a talent for undermining herself…

Verizon-AOL deal: “You’ve got a white elephant!”


That was actually my second reaction when I heard Verizon had bought AOL for $4.4 billion. My first was that I didn’t know Verizon was into collecting retro kitsch.

What on Earth does Verizon want with AOL? Here’s what they’re saying:

The company has developed valuable technology for serving mobile video and advertising, and Verizon is billing the deal as a way for it to expand its video offerings. Already a leader in distributing mobile video through its robust national mobile phone network, Verizon is making a push to become a leader in so-called over-the-top video, shorthand for television content distributed through the Internet.

But in acquiring AOL, Verizon is buying much more than websites that host streaming content. Along with its video and online advertising technology, AOL owns The Huffington Post, a sprawling collection of international news websites with growing traffic.

It also manages a dwindling but profitable dial-up Internet business, providing online access for those who live in areas too remote to have broadband, or who never canceled their subscriptions…

Yeah, well, the WSJ is not impressed, saying the “deal suggests a crumbling empire more than it shows the power of the network:”

Neither Verizon nor AT&T is going away. But their place in the world seems ever more insecure. What is their purpose in this converged world? AT&T has taken a path into the past, agreeing to buy satellite-TV operator DirecTV for nearly $50 billion. Verizon is spending $4.4 billion on AOL, a loose confederation of advertising-technology businesses, random “content” plays, and a beguiling, money-leaking adventure called the Huffington Post.

This puts Verizon in a number of intriguing, if conflicted, new positions. It will have to be neutral arbiter in these advertising businesses, but also have to nurture and develop its offerings of online video and content. Does a phone company have the mettle and creativity to do this well? Does the prospect of a TechCrunch video show—brought to you by Verizon—captivate or horrify the average millennial?

The answer is that no one has the answers. It is a war of all against all. Platforms against platforms. Content against content….

Like “Game of Thrones.” And that analysis makes Verizon sound kind of like the Starks at the end of Season 3 (which is where I am).

Does this make sense to anybody? I mean, don’t go by me — I’m the guy who thinks Facebook is the AOL of this century. Think about it — It’s another messy, way-too-busy interface that tries to be your one and only portal to the Web. I find it hugely irritating, and more of an obstacle than a useful tool. But it’s still going strong, so, as I say, don’t go by me…

If you live in Columbia, buying the new Toyota hydrogen car could actually make sense

Something jumped out at me in this story in The Washington Post about Toyota’s new hydrogen-powered car, the Mirai (the name comes from the Japanese word for “future.”)

Along with all the gee-whiz stuff, such as the 300-mile range and the fact that it takes only five minutes to refuel (versus all night for other electrics), there were some caveats — and that’s where I found the good news for South Carolinians who’d be willing to pony up the 50 Gs for one of these things:

The Mirai’s sole fuel source is hydrogen, which you can get in only a dozen fueling stations across the country: 10 in California, one in Connecticut and one in South Carolina. More are in development, but there’s still no way this will be a road-trip car anytime soon.

And, last time I looked, that one was in Columbia.

No, wait… there were two in South Carolina, weren’t there? One was around Aiken, I believe. So maybe one closed. I hope that wasn’t the one in Columbia…

Casting call? Can’t their people just call my people?

I’ve been hanging on since last week to this notice:

And I’m thinking, who would be better qualified than I?

I’ve got the acting chops, and extensive experience in the actual, real-life political world. “House of Cards” has characters who are bloggers and newspaper editors; I am or have been both. As for Washington experience, I used to supervise reporters in Washington; shouldn’t that count?

Uh-oh. The Hill says:

The casting call announcement advises “House of Cards” hopefuls to come “camera ready” in their “best upscale attire.” Men are asked to “use hair product,” while the ladies should “have your hairstyle and makeup applied as we will be taking your photos for you.”

Dang. I don’t “use hair product,” and can’t we just use this picture below that Kelly Payne took of me at the state GOP convention earlier this month? I mean, the fact that it was taken at such an event, by someone who has actually run for office in South Carolina (which Kevin Spacey has only pretended to do), should count for something.

In fact, why do I even have to show up for a cattle call? Just have your people call my people…

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GOP hopefuls come to SC, and tread all over Graham’s turf

Hey, Lindsey Graham’s supposed to be the tough-on-terrorism candidate, people! That’s (kind of) why he’s running! (Or thinking about it, anyway.)

And yet, all these out-of-staters came to SC and had a contest seeing who could talk the toughest over the weekend. I wasn’t there, but The Washington Post wrote about it in a piece headlined, “South Carolina was the center of the GOP presidential universe this weekend. Here are the five biggest takeaways.” An excerpt:

Who is running as the most aggressive foreign policy hawk? Pretty much everyone.

The dominant theme of the summit was national security and combating terrorism, which made sense in a military-centric state such as South Carolina. The rhetoric was especially sharp — even for a conservative confab — and appears to be intensifying, a sign that the candidates desperately want to be seen as the tough enforcer in the field. Many of the candidates hold similar views on matters such as Iran, the Islamic State militant group and preventing domestic acts of terrorism. That’s probably why they tried to use memorable lines to leave an impression. Sen. Marco Rubio quoted from the movie “Taken.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal joked that gun control means “hitting your target.” Sen. Ted Cruz said an officer who killed two gunmen who were probably inspired by the Islamic State helped them “meet their virgins.”

Oh, and if you’re wondering what it meant about Rubio’s “Taken” line, check his Tweet:

And what did Graham himself say? Well, he wasn’t there. Nor was Rand Paul, Chris Christie or Jeb Bush.

They’re boxy, but they’re good: Welcome to Volvo!

At least, they used to be boxy, and that’s the way I still think of them. Lately, I’ve seen some Volvos that I could hardly tell from other cars, and they just don’t have the same cachet.

Here’s hoping they make some boxy ones here in SC:

Volvo announced Monday that it will build a $500 million factory in Berkeley County to produce 100,000 cars a year.

Construction on the Swedish automaker’s first U.S. plant will start this fall with the first cars produced in 2018. The South Carolina plant will add to four Volvo factories in Europe and China, where the automaker’s parent company is based.

Volvo usually makes two models of vehicles at its plants, company spokesman Jim Nichols said. but the automaker has not decided which models will be built in South Carolina.

Volvo could employ up to 2,000 workers in the decade after the plant opens and another 2,000 by 2030, the S.C. Department of Commerce said. The state employs 46,000 automotive-industry workers, including at hundreds of suppliers, according to the S.C. Automotive Council….

I only have one concern: These things last forever. My wife’s still driving the 1998 model she inherited from her Dad, and it’s going strong. How many of these cars are we going to be able to sell if they never break down?

But I kid. I’m a kidder. First BMW, then Boeing, now this. I love the image of South Carolina as a place that builds high-quality rides…

ICYMI: Our governor as the Khaleesi

Since most of y’all don’t follow my Twitter feed, I thought I’d share this one, which I put out while cooking out on the deck yesterday:


How else to describe a person who thinks it’s all about her, who stands up at a party convention to say most Republican officeholders are not real Republicans because they don’t do her bidding in all things?

“Where’s my army?” Wow. She really thinks the GOP is supposed to be her army. Like Lincoln and the others started this thing in the 1850s just so that Nikki could have an entourage.

Of course, now that she and her dragons can boast of having brought Volvo to Westeros, who’s complaining, right?

 

A musical interlude, with Puddles Pity Party

Just a little change of pace. My younger son alerted me over the weekend to the oeuvre of Puddles Pity Party, the band fronted by Puddles, the 6-foot-8 clown with the powerful voice.

Don’t know what to say about it, exactly. I just… sort of enjoyed the weirdness. Even though I don’t like clowns…

I was particularly attracted to the selection of the song to cover. “Royals.” When my grandson was just over a year old, he was obsessed with this song. He kept asking to see the original video on one screen or another. He called it “ah-ooh,” which was how he interpreted the sound made by background singers. (I think they’re saying “I’ll rule; I’ll rule…”)

Here’s Puddles doing another fave, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

The affordable housing challenge

Warren Bolton’s last editorial for The State, which ran Sunday, sounded a familiar theme that he has steadfastly promoted for years:

But for there to be real progress, the public must embrace the notion of affordable housing, and one or more city leaders must step forward to champion it.

If the city fails, the poor could be pushed out to make room for the affluent, further segregating our capital city by income and turning the city center into a ghetto of sorts for the wealthy. That kind of progress would be hard to accept….

I always agreed with Warren that ensuring affordable housing to prevent the creation of ghettos by income was a laudable goal, but — and this will surprise my libertarian friends — I always had my doubts about the extent to which we could bring that about.

My question was, just how long would we want to mandate conditions that ran counter to market forces? And would that really work?

If you build affordable housing in a highly desirable place, then you’ve accomplished your goal for the moment. But unless you have a strict rent or purchase-price control in place permanently, then that property is going to appreciate, and people are going to be willing to pay higher prices for it.

How long do you maintain an artificial, government-mandated (and here, “government” could be anything from the Feds down to your subdivision or apartment-house covenant) set of conditions that defy market forces?

This is the approach discussed in the editorial:

Brian Huskey, director of the Midlands Housing Trust Fund, which works to create affordable housing opportunities, has suggested that one answer is to adopt inclusionary zoning. Such zoning would require developers to include a certain proportion of units that are affordable to people who aren’t among the highest wage earners. Incentives could encourage developers, and an opt-out fee could help finance affordable housing elsewhere.

But would that really work in the long run? I don’t know.

I want the same thing that Warren wants on this, and always have. I’ve just been a little unsure about how practical a goal it is…

And she’s our National Security Advisor? Yikes!

Conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin brings my attention, belatedly, to this recent shocker from, not some average person on the street, but our National Security Advisor — a Phi Beta Kappa Stanford history major and Rhodes scholar:


The Tweet was evidently in anticipation of today, the 70th anniversary of V-E day — which was not the end of the war. In case you, too, are confused.

When I first saw that Ms. Rubin had mentioned her confusion, I thought, Aw, she probably just typed “V-J Day” when she meant “V-E Day,” a slip anyone could make, even when they know better.

But no. She specifically said “end of WWII,” and brought up the Japanese, implying that she actually thought this was the day that hostilities with Japan ended.

Of course, maybe she was just looking ahead to August, and celebrating that anniversary instead of this one. But I don’t think so.

Back when her potential candidacy for secretary of state was being discussed, I already had reason to fret about Ambassador Rice’s competence, for reasons that went way beyond Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. But this just floors me.

Corey Hutchins writes about buyouts at The State

Yesterday afternoon, Corey Hutchins called me to find out what I knew about the latest round of staff reductions at The State. I pointed him to my report two weeks ago, and chatted a bit about what I had learned since then. Beyond a few names, I had little else to say to enlighten him.

Corey’s report was just published by Columbia Journalism Review. And for me, the most pertinent part is the names of the longtime colleagues:

A number of entries disappeared from the paper’s online listing of newsroom staff between Thursday and Friday, though it was not immediately clear whether all the changes were related to the buyouts. Some of the names not on the current list include features reporter Joey Holleman, education and religion reporter Carolyn Click, associate editor and editorial board member Warren Bolton, photojournalist Kim Kim Foster-Tobin, sports columnist Ron Morris, and sports writer Neil White, who had been with the paper nearly 30 years.

Investigative reporter John Monk, who has deep sources in the legal and law enforcement worlds, is still listed, as are veteran environmental reporter Sammy Fretwell, business and military reporter Jeff Wilkinson, and longtime newsman Clif LeBlanc….

I had already told y’all about Warren and Neil, the only two I had confirmed of the dozen I had tentatively identified. Nothing in Corey’s report contradicted anything I had heard. I will say that some of the people I’ve heard are leaving are still listed on the newsroom’s online roster. Maybe I heard wrong; I don’t know.

Today is Warren’s last day. Here’s the only notice I’ve seen of that in print, at the end of his column today:

Editor’s Note: After 29 years with The State, the past 18 as a member of the editorial board, Mr. Bolton is leaving the newspaper. His insight and his journalism have enriched our community.

Kind of makes my farewell tour from the paper — three columns on the subject, a whole day’s letters to the editor, and multiple blog posts — look like an extended display of narcissism, doesn’t it?

My thoughts and prayers are with those leaving, and with those staying behind, from the top of management to the lowest folks on the totem pole. They’ve all been fighting a tough battle for years, and it just got harder for most of those left behind.

I’d love to be able to help, if I could.

The quality of the content should be the only consideration

Bryan and I have been continuing this debate in other venues, such as Twitter.

He has emailed me the above short (58-second) video, with the comment:

I am in agreement with Chris Hayes for perhaps the first time ever. This is news in and of itself.

My response…

That’s a VERY good analogy, and here’s my reply: If you really didn’t like the segment, you shouldn’t run it. If you were on the fence about it, you should decide whether to run it based on its merits.

What the advertiser had to say should have NO bearing on your decision, period. To fail to run the segment BECAUSE of the advertiser’s threat would of course be wrong, and a betrayal of your audience. But to RUN it because of the threat, even if you thought it shouldn’t run, is a stupid, childish and irresponsible gesture that ALSO lets your audience down.

Your judgment about the quality of the segment and whether it properly, professionally serves your audience should be the only consideration.

To elaborate beyond what I told Bryan…

If the advertiser’s threat was public, you will pay a price in terms of your reputation if you decide honestly that the piece was not worth running. All the other kids in the playground will taunt you and say you were chicken, or worse.

And of course, that is more painful to the journalist’s pride than any other scenario.

But a mature and responsible professional will decide on the merits of the content, not on the basis of what may make him seem braver and tougher. You do the right thing, to the best of your ability to ascertain the right thing, and you take the consequences. If the content is worth running, you take the consequences of the advertiser’s ire. If the content doesn’t measure up, you accept the taunts from the crowd.

Yo, Pinocchio — GRAHAM has done what Hillary says no GOP candidate has done

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You may or may not be familiar with The Washington Post‘s Fact Checker feature, which daily examines the veracity, or lack thereof, of statements by public figures.

One of this week’s editions examines whether Hillary Clinton spoke sooth when she said:

We can’t wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship. Now, this is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side. Make no mistake: Today not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. Not one.

Then, the piece goes on and on about Marco Rubio, and what he said, and when he said it, which struck me as odd. He was a late bloomer, and an inconsistent one if I recall, on immigration reform. Why keep going on about him? It didn’t follow.

I kept looking for the examination of Lindsey Graham’s record, and the story went on, and didn’t get to him.

Later, the Fact Checker had to come back and add this to his report:

(Update: Our friends at PolitiFact correctly note that Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who also backed the Senate bill, is also considering a presidential run and has not wavered from advocating a path to citizenship. They gave Clinton a “mostly false,” equivalent to Three Pinocchios. Given that Clinton mentioned “potential” candidates, that may be a fair assessment.)

Well, duh. We knew that.

Yeah, I know that Graham isn’t someone you think of right away when it comes to viable GOP candidates. But if someone says “Republicans” and “immigration,” he would be the first, or one of the first, you think of. Lord knows, he’s taken enough grief for it.

As you may know, the Fact Checker awards a certain number of “Pinocchios” based on the extent to which a statement is judged to be false.

I wonder what should be awarded to the Fact Checker for spending all that time sniffing down the wrong trail?

Open Thread for Thursday, May 7, 2015

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Yes, I know, I’ve been a blogging slacker today. But I’ve had a lot on my mind as well as my schedule, so this catchup will have to do:

  1. Tories appear to be winning, if you believe exit pollsThe Guardian appears to be taken aback, judging by the above screengrab from their homepage. Exit poll shocker!
  2. Gov. Nikki Haley signs bill to oust S.C. State trustees — A new seven-member board to be appointed.
  3. N.S.A. Program Is Illegal, Appeals Court Rules — Oh, yeah? Well…. let’s see what the Supremes say. Or the whole appeals court. Or the Congress. There’s no injunction to cease and desist, and this is still up in the air.
  4. VE Day 70th anniversary marked with events across Europe — From the Beeb, fittingly.

Or, whatever interests you…

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Special ‘I’m back!’ Open Thread for Wednesday, May 6, 2015

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Well, we seem to have gotten to the bottom of the problem that was keeping me from even seeing my blog, much less posting on it.

So here’s a nice multi-topic post to get us started:

  1. N.F.L. Says Patriots Probably Deflated Footballs Purposely — See? Bryan’s not the only one who gives you sports topics to talk about, is he? And you don’t really like him better than you do me, do you?
  2. Black Box Suggests Germanwings Co-Pilot Practiced Crash: Investigator — That guy was one sick puppy. Apparently, he tested the settings for flying into the mountain, but reset the controls before the plane could respond to the settings, so no one noticed.
  3. Borrowing plan for SC colleges, tech schools on shaky ground — Because fiscal conservatives believe government should live within its means, just the way families have to do, and everyone knows families never borrow money. Right? What’s that? What’s this “mortgage” thing you speak of? Some socialist plot?
  4. Baltimore Mayor Asks Feds To Investigate Police Department — The sad saga continues. On a side note, anyone see this Margulies cartoon last week? Seemed to sum up the cognitive divide in the country fairly neatly.

A short debate regarding cartoonists and terrorists

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Bryan Caskey wrote this over on his blog:

“You’re just not going to convince me that the right and true and courageous’ way to stand up to terrorism is to go out of your way to offend hundreds of millions of Muslims who are NOT terrorists, and mean you no harm.”

A couple of things. First, I think that Brad is more concerned about the tone and style than he should be. Now, that probably has to do with the fact that Brad is a really nice guy. He’s a very polite person.
If you met him in person and said something that he seriously disagreed with, he probably would just give you a polite smile and let the pitch go by. He wouldn’t start big argument with you in a social setting, because it’s considered impolite to start political arguments in social settings. He’s right about that, too. For the most part, it’s a good idea to try and get along with other people. I have that instinct, too, but probably not to the same extent.
For instance, it’s probably not the most agreeable thing for a practicing lawyer to have a blog like this and take various positions that I take. I’m sure it makes some people around me (including my wife) uncomfortable at times.
I kind of vacillate between trying to the the go-along, get-along guy and the guy who doesn’t care what you think of me. Part of me wants to be the Conventional Guy, with all the conventional thoughts, because that’s what advances you in life – especially when you’re a lawyer. People want their lawyers to be Buttoned Down People for the most part. They don’t want bomb-throwers.
But the other part of me is the bomb-thrower that doesn’t care what people think because that part of me isn’t seeking the Blessing of Other People. Partly, I think that’s me trying to stand independently, and partly, it’s me not having respect for some of those Other People because I don’t think they’ve earned the respect.
This go-along, get along mentality is certainly fine, and it has it’s place. No one wants to be a social outcast. I don’t argue politics at my son’s friends three-year-old birthday parties. But there’s also a point at which you have to actually stand up for something. If you live in fear of social stigma your entire life, you’re going to be easily pushed around. This is why political correctness is actually a powerful force.
There are so many people who are afraid of being thought of as “the wrong class of people” that the Perpetually Offended Army can push them around by telling them things like If you say the word “thug” you’re a racist. Someone who’s a Conventional Guy doesn’t want to be labeled a racist, because that’s about the worst thing you can be in the year 2015. Accordingly, the Conventional Guy alters his behavior because he doesn’t want to be thought of like that.
Note, it doesn’t matter if he’s actually a racist or not, and it doesn’t matter if the use of the word is appropriate or not. All that matters is that the Perpetually Offended Army can push Conventional Guy around.
So now we have Pamela Gellar and her group who push the envelope of free speech beyond what is tasteful and beyond what ispolite into a region that is….uncomfortable for Conventional Guy to support. So when the Perpetually Offended Army says thatYou can’t support this kind of….hate speech! It’s just not respectful of other people’s religion, Conventional Guys like Brad don’t want to be thought of as “the wrong class of people”, so they focus on the impolite tone and style of Ms. Gellar’s speech as offensive.
And that’s the wrong place to focus. Here are the facts.
1. Ms. Gellar and her group of people drew cartoons and publicly displayed them.
 
2. Men shot at her for this public displaying of cartoons.
 
3. There is no third fact. That’s it. There are no other facts. 
Do we really need to say that drawing cartoon is “inexcusable”? Nope! Because they don’t need an excuse to draw cartoons. That’s allowed. It may not be the way that Brad chooses to express himself, but Ms. Gellar doesn’t need to apologize, explain herself, or have an excuse for anything. She’s an American, on American soil, expressing her opinion about someone’s religious beliefs and conduct.
And people shot at her for doing so. Shot. At. Her.
It’s not hard to figure out which side you should be on. And spare me the “but”. You’re either for free speech or you’re only for speech that doesn’t make you uncomfortable. The latter makes you an unprincipled hack.
Do I like it when people burn the American flag to make a statement? No. I find burning the American flag to be distasteful and somewhat un-American. However, I think that attempting to ban flag burning is even more un-American than burning the flag. That’s how America works.
Respectability is all fine and good, but at some point you have to decide that you are in favor of certain ideals and principles. If other people don’t like your ideals and principles, then screw them. I’m reminded of a quote:

Do you have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” -Winston Churchill

Maybe we should all be a little less afraid of making enemies these days.

And I replied…

A couple of quick points…

First, mine is not the conventional position. Mine is the harder position to take. On the left and on the right, and certainly in the streets of Paris, the overwhelmingly popular position is Je suis Charlie.

I go against that grain, and say I am most certainly not Charlie.

I’m the guy whose position makes everyone indignant.

Another point: This is one of those situations in which someone like me gets hit with the “blaming the victim” accusation. You know, like when you say the beautiful young woman shouldn’t be jogging through a bad part of town in a skimpy outfit late at night. At that point, you’re accused of defending potential rapists and blaming the victim. No, I think rapists are candidates for suspending the “cruel and unusual” prohibition in the Constitution. But that doesn’t change the fact that if you don’t want to be a victim, don’t put yourself in that vulnerable situation. (People get a little less indignant at you if you say, “Don’t walk with a bag full of money with dollar signs printed on it through a high-crime area late at night.” I used the example most likely to stir objection, because the point still applies, but it’s a point that a lot of people miss because the emotional content throws them. As with cartoonists and terrorists. I think like a Dad, or like Buck Compton in the 7th episode of “Band of Brothers,” telling his men: Don’t do anything stupid.)

In this case, there’s an additional factor — you’re not just waving a flag at a bull, you’re going out of your way to insult that which is sacred to millions of people who don’t intend ever to do anything wrong. You really have to be a jerk to do that.

This is made worse by the fact that you have no point to make. It’s all about being offensive, period.

Another point: Go ahead and flatter yourself that you’re being brave, daring the terrorists to come on and get you for being such a jerk. This completely ignores the fact that you are putting other people’s lives at risk. From the security guard who had to defend these jerks in Texas to innocent bystanders at riots in Pakistan, your actions can have completely unpredictable consequences on other people — people who did not choose to be a jerk along with you.

Finally, I have nothing but contempt for this whole “bravery” pose. Imagine it the other way: Say terrorists say they’ll kill you if you don’t draw pictures of Mohammed. In other words, they’re trying to make you do a bad thing. Refusing to do so would be proper courage in the service of a worthwhile cause. Being a big, fat jerk because some lunatic threatens to kill you if you act like a big, fat jerk does not make you a hero. It just makes you a big, fat, stupid jerk.

See what I mean?

Not you, of course. I mean the cartoonists.

Because I don’t think for a minute that you would ever do what they do…

Another way to put it…

Just because someone threatens to kill you if you do a really rotten, stupid, pointless thing does not ennoble the rotten, stupid, pointless thing. You still shouldn’t do it.

The threat of violence just confuses everybody….

Open Thread for Tuesday, May 5, 2015

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A few topics to chew on:

  1. Midlands Gives — First, a reminder that today is a great day to give to local charities. If you can’t think of one, try this one. For many, the gifts will be matched by donors who have committed in advance. Learn more here.
  2. Milliken endorses free trade — OK, so maybe this isn’t a big deal to you. But that’s because you haven’t sat through lengthy editorial meetings in which the late Roger Milliken extolled the virtues of protectionism. This is kind of a big deal, which is why it made The Wall Street Journal‘s front page.
  3. ICYMI: Texas governor assigns State Guard to keep eye on U.S. military — Once, Southern states welcomed military operations. Now that paranoid, anti-government, nullification-loving lunatics frequently hold public office, we get this kind of nonsense. And yeah, this story’s been out there for several days, but I just saw it this morning.
  4. Report: Islamic State claims credit for Texas attack — Deliberately provocative foolishness on one side, dependable evil on the other. We’ll have another round of “Je suis Charlie” in response, but this stuff is inexcusable. You’re just not going to convince me that the right and true and “courageous” way to stand up to terrorism is to go out of your way to offend hundreds of millions of Muslims who are NOT terrorists, and mean you no harm.

Or… whatever y’all want to talk about…