CRC honors Jack Van Loan, Nikki Haley

Jack Van Loan in 2006.

Jack Van Loan, flying back-seat in a civilian aircraft in 2006.

Today at our annual luncheon at the convention center, the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council (of which I am a board member) honored my good friend Jack Van Loan and our governor, Nikki Haley.

Jack received the Milton Kimpson Award for a lifetime of service to his country and to this community. As you’ll recall, he was an Air Force pilot who was shot down, captured, tortured and held prisoner for several years at the Hanoi Hilton, where he became fast friends with fellow prisoner John McCain. Since moving to Columbia in retirement (he’s originally from Oregon), Col. Van Loan has been a community leader particularly in the Five Points area, and is the guy who built the annual St. Pat’s Day celebration into the huge event it is today.

We honored the governor with the Hyman Rubin Award for her leadership last year after the killings at Emanuel AME in Charleston — for the way she led us in mourning and honoring the dead, and for (in my mind, especially for) doing the unlikely thing and leading us, finally, to take down that flag. Her leadership during last fall’s floods was also mentioned at some of the meetings I attended.Nikki Haley

Now I’m going to tell a tale out of school, and if it significantly bothers a consensus of my fellow board members, I’ll take it down…

Some very good people who are deeply invested in the cause of the CRC contacted board members in recent days to protest our honoring Gov. Haley. In one case, we received a long and thoughtful letter reciting a litany of reasons why, because of her policy and political actions in office, she did not embody the spirit of Hyman Rubin, or of our group.

I can’t speak for the rest of the board, but I can speak for myself on this. My reaction was that the protests were thoughtful and respectful and stated important truths. Most of the items counted against the governor were things that I, too, disagree with her about.

But I strongly believed that we should give the governor the award. (And while I didn’t poll everyone, I haven’t yet spoken with a board member who disagrees with me.) Our group is about community relations, particularly in the sense of fostering better interracial relations, and what the governor did last year did more on that score than I’ve seen from any elected official in recent years. Despite what some believe, she did not have to do what she did. I did not expect her to do it, right up until the miraculous moment when she did. Based on what I have seen over almost 30 years of closely observing S.C. politics, what she did was a complete departure from the norm.

So I was pleased to see her receive the award. She was unable to attend personally, but she sent along a video clip in which she thanked us quite graciously.

Congratulations, governor. And thank you for your leadership…

Recap: Game of Thrones decides to throw us a bone

Having a bad day, Jon? Well, it's the consequence of your own decisions...

Having a bad day, Jon? Well, it’s the consequence of your own poor decisions…

Yeah, I know how other sites give you the Game of Thrones recaps the same night the episodes are first released, but that is SO-o-o-o- 20th Century. I watch them in the modern way — when I feel like it.

So here’s my recap of Episode 9 of Season 6, “The Battle of the Bastards.”

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER — BASICALLY, NOTHING BUT SPOILERS FROM HERE ON.

Let’s cut to the chase and deal with the battle itself. Bottom line, the good guys win, which in and of itself is remarkable. For once the writers throw us a bone.

But here’s the thing — they don’t deserve to win. Not tactically speaking. In fact, they do everything they can to throw the battle into Ramsay Bolton’s nasty lap.

What was the one thing that came out of the Council of War the night before? Make Ramsay come to us. He has the numbers; he has the cavalry. Choose your ground, hold it, shape it with trenches and other things that will prevent the enemy from enveloping you, and you have a chance.

Um, remember how the plan was NOT to get enveloped?

Um, remember how the plan was NOT to get enveloped?

So what happens? Ramsay does something entirely predictable — as Sansa said, there’s no way Rickon is walking out of this episode — and Jon et al. do exactly what he wants them to do, what even a split second of thought would tell them he wants them to do. And they do it anyway, without hesitation.

This seems particularly egregious to us as viewers — or me, anyway — because who is Rickon to us? Yeah, in the abstract we know that Jon watched the kid grow up, but we have not been made to feel that. To us, Rickon is just this guy, you know? Has he ever spoken a word of dialogue? Maybe so, but not that I recall. Yeah, he’s the last legit male Stark heir who hasn’t gone north of the Wall and become a hallucinating oracle, but were any of us pinning our hopes on him to save the family fortunes? I don’t think so. The poor boy was a born victim. I didn’t seen any of Ned in him. In fact, I didn’t see any of anybody in him, because we never got to know him.

So we see Ramsay do Rickon in in a cruel manner, but not a particularly cruel manner by Bolton standards. Which we expected him to do. Which, since we don’t know Rickon really from Adam’s off ox, makes it seem especially egregious when Jon reacts by doing everything he can to throw the battle away.

And in fact, he succeeds in that. The battle, as far as the forces Jon went in with, is entirely lost when Littlefinger comes to the rescue — a deliverance we had no reason to expect, making it the plot equivalent of dealing with a nightmare situation by writing, “And then the boy woke up.”

Yeah, it’s satisfying to see Ramsay come to an ignominious, gruesome end. He brought out the cruel beast in us all.

But the good guys had this one handed to them. They didn’t earn it.

Meanwhile, across the Narrow Sea, the Khaleesi is in a fix and her dragons deliver her from it, yadda-yadda. Personally, this girl isn’t going to impress me any more until she finally makes an appearance in Westeros and delivers on all her big talk.

But what did y’all think?

Meanwhile, Daenerys and her dragons, yadda-yadda...

Meanwhile, Daenerys and her dragons, yadda-yadda…

HOW many guys are passing the new Marine fitness test?

'The fitness test? You can't HANDLE the fitness test!'

‘The fitness test? You can’t HANDLE the fitness test!’

I don’t intend to get into the underlying issue of women in the infantry — I’ve intended to ever since that mandate came down from civilian leadership, but I just haven’t felt up to the huge and predictable argument that would lead to — but in reading this I felt motivated to make some remarks on general fitness in the Marines:

New physical standards established so women can compete for combat posts in the Marine Corps have weeded out many of the female hopefuls. But they’re also disqualifying some men, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.

In the last five months, 6 out of 7 female recruits – and 40 out of about 1,500 male recruits – failed to pass the new regimen of pull-ups, ammunition-can lifts, a 3-mile run and combat maneuvers required to move on in training for combat jobs, according to the data.USMC-logo2

The tests, taken about 45 days into basic training, force recruits who fail into other, less physically demanding Marine jobs. And that, the Marine commandant says, is making the Corps stronger.

The high failure rate for women, however, raises questions about how well integration can work, including in Marine infantry units where troops routinely slog for miles carrying packs weighed down with artillery shells and ammunition, and at any moment must be able to scale walls, dig in and fight in close combat.

The new standards are a product of the Pentagon’s decision to allow women to compete for frontline jobs, including infantry, artillery and other combat posts. But Marine leaders say they are having a broader impact by screening out less physically powerful Marines – both men and women.

“I think that’s made everybody better,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told the AP in his first in-depth interview on the subject. “We’re trying to raise everybody’s bar a little bit and we’re trying to figure out how to get closer together, because at the end of the day we’re all going to be on the battlefield and we all have to be able to do our job.”…

I have a series of reactions to this:

  • These new standards are only eliminating 40 out of 1,500 male recruits? That doesn’t sound like the Marines to me. They’re supposed to be the few, not the 1,460 out of 1,500. Were the ratios always like this? If so, that sort of tarnishes the image I have in my head of the Marines as an elite force. Even the Army, at the very height of WWII, was rejecting a third of draftees. I really that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but still — wouldn’t you think more Marine recruits than that would wash out, if standards were what they should be?
  • Assuming for a moment that we’re all in agreement that women should be in foxholes, I don’t think we have any reason to look at 6 out of 7 women washing out of an elite light infantry unit as bad news. Seems to me that the best argument always advanced for letting women in is that we should treat people like individuals — that we shouldn’t say, just because most women lack, say, the upper body strength to keep up with male Marines, that all women should categorically be barred. Shouldn’t we make exceptions for, say, the Lady Briennes of Tarth among us? That always seemed a good argument to me. (I,for one, would not want to be the officer deputed to tell Lady Brienne she was out, especially since Ser Jaime let her keep that Valyrian steel sword). Besides, if six women don’t make it, the more honor to the seventh.
  • What happened to the notion of “every Marine a rifleman?” Should Marines keep the feathermerchants who can’t pass a test that 97 percent of male recruits can pass? What’s this about “other, less physically demanding Marine jobs?” When did the Marines start offering such jobs? I’ve always known the Army had places for the less fit — or at least they did in the days of the draft, when things like food service weren’t outsourced to civilian contractors and you could always put a sad sack to work peeling spuds or policing the area for butts — but since when is that an aspect of the Marines? They’re the point of the spear, are they not? Let the swabbies do the paperwork, right? Every marine is a rifleman.

I should probably stop there before I offend the Air Force, too.

But when I hear that almost all male recruits can pass the new physical requirements, it makes me think that even I, at my age, might have a shot. And I really like to think of the Marines as having higher standards than that…

Guadalcanal: A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River in September 1942.

Guadalcanal: A U.S. Marine patrol crosses the Matanikau River in September 1942.

Open Thread for Monday, June 20, 2016

Let’s kick this week off, shall we?

  1. Trump to campaign manager: ‘You’re fired!’ — All those Trump fans are getting the reality TV show they voted for. There’s something backward about this, though: If the Trump campaign wanted to get rid of its greatest liability, The Donald himself would be the first to go. Meanwhile, the NYT has apparently read the WashPost‘s story about Roy Cohn’s influence on Trump, and done their own version of the story, with additional details.
  2. Cavaliers win NBA championship — For those of you who complain that we don’t have enough sports here. As Kent Babb, former sportswriter at The State (now with The Washington Post) Tweeted, “Royals … Cavs … Cubs? Ain’t nothing impossible anymore.” He neglected to mention this year’s greatest sports miracle: Leicester City winning the Premier League, with a bit of encouragement from Richard III.
  3. High Court Turns Away Challenge to Semiautomatic Gun Law — This counts as a victory for gun-control advocates, as at least this is one battle they didn’t lose. Meanwhile, Here Are The 4 Gun Proposals The Senate Is Voting On (Again).
  4. Coroner: 3-year-old dies a day after twin brother — I could hardly stand to look at this story. It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. Forgive me for sharing it, but it just cast a pall on my morning. Twins are such a blessing, as I’ve been privileged to learn. Such a loss staggers the soul. My thoughts and prayers go out to this family.
  5. The Guardian view on the EU referendum: keep connected and inclusive, not angry and isolated — Somehow, they fail to persuade. But this is fairly typical, for me, of their “leaders.” Still don’t know how I’d vote…

This just in! I’ve learned that Capt. Jack Aubrey, late of Her Majesty’s Navy, has come out for Brexit, and has given his jolly tars a pep talk urging them to vote the same:

Capt. Jack Aubrey: England is under threat of invasion [evidently a hyperbolic reference to increased immigration from EU countries], and though we be on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship, is England. So it’s every hand to his rope or gun, quick’s the word and sharp’s the action. After all… Surprise is on our side.
Crew: Huzzah, huzzah!
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Do you want to see a guillotine in Piccadilly?
Crew: No!
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Want to call that raggedy-ass Napoleon your king?
Crew: No!
Capt. Jack Aubrey: You want your children to sing the “La Marseillaise?”
Crew: NO!

OK, so he’s distorting things a bit. But don’t stop him; he’s on a roll…

Watching the Brexit campaign closely, but still undecided...

Watching the Brexit campaign closely, but still undecided…

Open Thread for Friday, June 17, 2016

TrumpPressAriailW

This being Friday afternoon, practically no one will read this, but you who do can count yourselves as special:

South Carolinians observe anniversary of Emanuel AME killings — You’ve probably been hearing about it all day. Any thoughts?

  1. Russian Track and Field Team Barred From Rio Olympics — Both the NYT and WSJ are leading with this right now, so it’s a really slow news day. With the Russians, isn’t this kind of a dog-bites-man thing? Or am I thinking of the East Germans?
  2. Dozens of GOP delegates launch new push to halt Donald Trump — Very een-ter-resting. Also interesting is that the WashPost’s top three stories are about Trump, so getting barred from his campaign hasn’t cramped their style at all. The lede is about his business ties to Russia, which casts a new light on his cozying up to Putin. The third is about Trump’s long-standing relationship with the late Roy Cohn, who the story says “showed Trump how to exploit power and instill fear through a simple formula: attack, counterattack and never apologize.”
  3. Jo Cox

    Jo Cox

    Jo Cox killing: suspect’s far-right links a ‘priority line of inquiry’ — Everything, including politics, stands still when one person gets shot in Britain. Because unlike in certain countries we know and love, it seldom happens there. Guess why? Of course, she was an MP, so there’s that.

  4. Suspect who allegedly shot at car with five victims inside turns himself into police — So how did he do that? Was it magic — did he actually become a police, or did he merely put on a cop costume so that everyone thought he had turned himself into police? I like the Baltimore-style use of “police” to refer to an individual, like on “The Wire.” You know, like when McNulty or somebody said, “You’re a good police.”

Tem Miles, Republican, S.C. House District 89

Tem and the Miles fam.

Tem and the Miles fam.

Tem Miles came in second in the GOP primary for S.C. House District 89 Tuesday. He got 25 percent of the vote to Micah Caskey’s 36 percent. (Those percentages are from a tiny turnout — Caskey got 1,026 actual votes, and Miles got 717.)

But he’s already gotten a boost in the runoff on June 28. Bill Banning, the former Lexington county councilman who came in third with 21 percent, has endorsed Miles, based on his belief that “experience matters.”

That’s a reference to the fact that between the two young attorneys, Miles is the only one to have held elective office previously. In fact, as a West Columbia city councilman, Miles is the veteran of some pretty unpleasant confrontations with former Mayor Joe Owens. He was re-elected last year.

Miles also cites other experience, serving in two of the state’s three branches of government. The Citadel grad formerly clerked for Appeals Court judge Paul. E. Short Jr., and served as attorney for the Office of Senate Research. Today, he’s in private practice with the McKay Firm.

His list of goals if elected, as listed on his website, are pretty similar to those cited by his opponent, and not appreciably more detailed:

Tem Goals

Since it was the item that interested me most (hey, you want something other than that, go to some other blog!), I asked him what he meant by “reforming state government,” noting that the few words he had about it on his website suggested he was mostly talking about ethics reform.Tem Miles

But his notion of “reform,” it turns out, is much broader and to the point than that. In fact, he defines it pretty much the way I do.

Turns out that, although he was probably in middle school when my “Power Failure” project ran in the paper in 1991, he seems to have absorbed its main lessons from somewhere.

So, like Arlo Guthrie and the other fellas on the Group W bench, we just had a high ol’ time talking about the Legislative State, special purpose districts, judicial selection, co-equal branches of government, and all kinds of groovy things that would probably make your eyes glaze over — but which are the very things a lawmaker should care about if he’s running on RE-form.

Some high points from that discussion:

  • He would turn more real power over “to our governor” — although he hastened to add that he didn’t specifically mean this governor, just governors in the future. Bottom line, the executive branch must be more empowered in other to be a co-equal branch with the dominant Legislature.
  • He would empower the judiciary in part by giving it a set percentage of the state budget to run on, rather than judges having to go begging to the Legislature for funding.
  • He would further free the judiciary from the legislative branch by changing the method of judicial selection, which now lies completely in the hands of lawmakers. Rather than say he would move to the federal system, he said he would select them like worker’s comp commissioners — the governor nominates, and the full Senate confirms. In other words, the federal system.
  • “We’d be so much further along as a state,” he said, if we fully implemented Home Rule — by which he meant local governments should be run by the folks elected locally to do that, instead of by county legislative delegations and their creatures, such as SPDs.

There was more, but you get the idea. Either that, or you zoned out. Anyway, the idea is RE-form.

So that’s what I know about Tem (short for “Temus“) Miles, who is facing Micah Caskey in the runoff on June 28.

Micah Caskey, Republican, S.C. House District 89

Micah Caskey

Micah Caskey

The Caskeys and the Warthens have some common history, although it’s from before my time. Remember when I mentioned that my mother was writing her childhood memories, and I was typing them and creating a blog for them? Well she made prominent mention of “Hop” Caskey, who was a teacher and coach at Bennettsville High School in the ’40s, and his wife, “Madam.” They were good friends of my mother’s family — they used to buy season tickets together for Tarheel football so they could go see Charlie “Choo-Choo” Justice play.

"Madam" and "Hop" Caskey

“Madam” and “Hop” Caskey

Well, those were Micah Caskey’s great-grandparents. I was happy to be able to share with him recently a picture of them that he’d never seen before. By the way, the photographer in the foreground is Jimmy Covington, who’s been a fixture in Columbia media circles for decades. He was at BHS with my Mom.

Still, I’d never met him until back in March, when he filed to run for Kenny Bingham’s House seat. We had a wide-ranging conversation about values and policies. Unfortunately, if I took notes I can’t find them. At the time, my main aim was to find out whether this was a someone I wanted to run against, so I don’t think I took notes at all. I was looking for an overall impression.

And the overall impression was this: I was reluctant to run against him because dang it, not only is he a Marine combat veteran, but it was eerie how many things we agreed on. Of all the things we talked about, there was one thing we sharply differed on, and now I’ve forgotten what it was.

So for blogging purposes, that was a useless interview (aside from getting the photo above). But fortunately you can find out about him at his website. He lives in Springdale, and he’s an assistant solicitor in the 11th Circuit solicitor’s office (the one Rick Hubbard and Candice Lively are competing to run). I asked him why he didn’t just run for solicitor, and he said others seeking the office had more experience than he did.

The son of a locksmith, he’s the product of Lexington 2 schools and the University of Florida. He describes his military service thusly:

After college, Micah spent the next several years on active duty in the Marine Corps—rising to the rank of Captain. Micah commanded both company and platoon-sized units during his two combat tours of duty in Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraq. Later, in 2009, Micah left law school for a year to continue his service to the country. It was during that year that he commanded a small team of specialized Marines in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

He obtained his law degree from USC, plus a master’s in international business from the Darla Moore School. He worked as a management consultant in the oil and gas industry for awhile before joining the solicitor’s office.

Here are the issues he’s running on (which are pretty similar to the ones his runoff opponent, Tem Miles, cites):

  • I want to get government working for us. America is at its best when individuals and private businesses are pursuing life, liberty, and happiness — not when wrapped up in bureaucratic red tape.
  • I’ll fight to fix South Carolina’s roads and bridges. I’ll work for meaningful reforms that innovate the way our state government functions. We need accountability and transparency.
  • I will be a voice for public safety. Last October, when the floods came, our first responders answered the call. I’ll help ensure we are ready for the unexpected.
  • I’ll fight to ensure that South Carolina continues to be a friendly place for our military to call home. As a veteran, I know what it means to serve. I want South Carolina to remain a magnet for our military, our servicemembers, and our veterans.

That’s all from his website. One thing you won’t find there (or on his opponent’s site, either) are a lot of details about how he would accomplish the above. He says he’s following political advice on that, which runs against the grain because “I want to just tell people what I think about everything.” But he realizes that unless he has an hour to get into the nuances and layers of each position with each voter, it’s easy to be misunderstood when you get into specifics.MicahCaskey_Logo_v02

(I nodded when he said that. As you know, I am no fan of campaign promises. Tell people who you are, describe your experience and your overall interests in running. But don’t say exactly what you’re going to do, because you don’t know what you’ll be dealing with into office, and you don’t want to trapped by promises into doing something that turns out to be dumb under the circumstances.)

“Taking absolutist positions isn’t useful” because “I’ve seen how layered and complicated things can be.” To take one buzzphrase, he mentions “limited government.”

“What does that mean?” he asks. He prefers to say he likes “smart government,” but even there, you have to do a lot of explaining. For an example, he says, he’d do away with having to go to “15 different offices to start a small business.”

Bottom line,”I think I’m a common-sense candidate, a pragmatist.” He notes that someone called him a “consensus candidate,” a guy who would work with anyone from anywhere on the political spectrum who would help pass sensible legislation.

He accepts service on that.

Being about the age of my kids, he has run on the slogan of “A New Generation of Leadership.” That seems to have served him well over the much-older Bill Banning and Billy Oswald.

Now, he’s up against a contemporary and fellow attorney, Tem Miles. On June 28, GOP runoff voters will decide which young man they want representing them in this relatively new century.

A gram is better than a damn, ma’am

Soma ad

Sometimes Google Adsense makes, well, sense — such as the Ancestry.com ad I’m seeing in the rail at right — I’ve really been into building my family tree lately.

Sometimes I am mystified. That’s the case with the “Soma” ad you see above.

Doubly mystified. To me, “Soma” means:

  1. The therapeutic and recreational drug of choice in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where “A gramme is better than a damn” is axiomatic. It is used to keep people in that creepy utopia from feeling disagreeable emotions. Life is tough? Take a soma holiday!
  2. The muscle relaxer I have used at times over the years — generic name “carisoprodol.”

I don’t associate it with ladies in swimsuits. But apparently, that’s a thing now.

I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s that their products are meant to fit women’s physical forms, since “soma” means “the body as distinct from the soul, mind, or psyche.” You know, as in “psychosomatic.”

But it caught my eye…

Soma

FYI, the UnParty almost ran its first candidate this year

The candidate that wasn't, posing on the State House steps (for the ADCO website, NOT for a campaign!)

The Candidate Who Wasn’t, posing on the State House steps (for the ADCO website, NOT for a campaign!)

Actually, “almost” is a little strong, but the UnParty’s unleadership did think about it a good bit. (You think Ethan Hawke was good as Hamlet? That was nothing compared to this.)

I just got off the phone with both Micah Caskey and Tem Miles, who are in a runoff for the GOP nomination for Kenny Bingham’s House seat. I plan to post something about both of them before the day is over. (OK, so it took me until the next day.)

But before I do I should tell y’all something that I’ve mentioned to a handful of people, but not to you or the world at large:

When I heard that Kenny Bingham, my representative, was stepping down, I immediately thought about running for the seat myself — as an independent, of course. (I’ve told Messrs. Caskey and Miles this.)

Ever since I left the paper, I’ve thought about the fact that, after all these years of telling politicians what they ought to do, maybe I should get off the sidelines and do something myself.

The most logical office for me to run for would be the House. My understanding of state government and issues is far greater than my knowledge of local government. And the idea of trying to raise the resources needed to run as an independent for Congress, especially in my über-Republican district (represented by Congressman-For-Life Joe Wilson) was too high a mountain to contemplate climbing. Anyway, I think people should hold other offices before aiming that high.

And the state House would be easier than the state Senate.

But I wasn’t interested in running against Kenny (or my senator, Nikki Setzler), largely because I think he’s done a good job over the years. Also, I didn’t see how I could beat him.

So this seemed like my chance. And a good one, in one sense, even though an independent is always at a disadvantage: If I ran, I would run overtly against both political parties. I would tell voters exactly what I think of the parties, and that I was running because I didn’t want Columbia to become any more like Washington than it was. (I’d tell them a lot more than that, but that would be the thrust of my elevator speech.)

I’d be running against my opponent’s parties, not the opponents themselves.

If that pitch was ever to be effective, it would be in a year in which voters are highly disaffected from the parties — with most Republicans picking a non-Republican for president, and almost half of Democrats going with a non-Democrat. And when disgust with the partisan gridlock of Congress is at an all-time high.

If I would ever have a chance, that is. My chief handicaps would be:

  • Running as an independent, period. Despite all that disaffection, voters in this country for the most part have no practice at wrapping their minds around the concept of an independent candidate. It takes a lot of explaining, which means you start out in a hole. You run as an independent in a Republican district like mine and people assume you’re really a Democrat and trying to hide it. (Sure, I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words explaining my distaste for both parties, but how many people will go read all that?) Beyond that, it’s a hugely difficult task logistically — you have to gather thousands of signatures on petitions to get on the ballot. (At least I think so — I didn’t get to the point of actually going to the election commission and finding out all the rules.)
  • Raising the money. Because I simply cannot self-finance, even partially. I can’t spend what I don’t have. And raising money is hard for me, just as it’s hard to go out and sell ads on the blog. Not my forte. (I have raised money with some success — such as when I was on the Habitat board. But asking for money for a cause like that is far easier than when the cause is me.) Which means I’d be ill-equipped to overcome the difficulties that an independent would have with fund-raising to start with.
  • This is the biggie: There has possibly never been a candidate for public office in South Carolina who is on the record (on the easily-accessible record) on as many issues as I am. And none of my positions have been crafted to help me win elections. (In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time urging pols to do the right thing even when the right thing is unpopular.) I don’t regret any of them, but the fact remains that there are thousands of cudgels out there for an opponent to beat me with. And while every one of my opinions is chock full of nuance and careful rationale that I think would help if the voter bothered to go read it, a lot of them could be misrepresented with devastating effect.

But those aren’t the things that cooled my ardor to run. Two factors stopped me. (Or at least, stopped me so far. I’m 90 percent sure I won’t run. Let’s see how this runoff ends up. But the truth is, I’ve now waited so long that I’ve made the already-long odds close to impossible.) Here they are:

  1. Some people I liked — and who I thought would be strong Republican candidates in the general in this Republican district — filed to run. I liked Bill Banning when he was my county councilman, and was sorry to see him lose his seat. And I had breakfast with Micah Caskey (I was curious to meet him because my mother was friends with his grandparents and great-grandparents in Bennettsville) a couple of months back. I agreed with practically everything he had to say about why he was running. And oh, yes — he’s a combat veteran. I didn’t talk with Tem Miles until today, but knowing I liked both Bill and Micah, and that they would both be formidable opponents, was enough to seriously discourage me.
  2. I had a bad spring with my asthma. For the first time in years, it wasn’t under control, and I couldn’t do my daily workout — and undertaking a campaign of going door-to-door nights and weekends was just unimaginable for me. I’m better now, by the way, but I lost a lot of precious time. You’ve got to feel GREAT to undertake something like this, and I didn’t there for awhile.

So anyway, now you know where things stand — or might have stood. I thought you should know this stuff before I write about either of these candidates, which I hope to do within the next 24 hours…

When I told Kenny Bingham himself that I might run, he was kind -- he didn't laugh.

When I told Kenny Bingham himself that I might run, he was kind — he didn’t laugh.

What sort of person rushes out to buy the weapon used in a mass shooting?

FILE -- In this Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, three variations of the AR-15 assault rifle are displayed at the California Department of Justice in Sacramento, Calif. While the guns look similar, the bottom version is illegal in California because of its quick reload capabilities. Omar Mateen used an AR-15 that he purchased legally when he killed 49 people in an Orlando nightclub over the weekend President Barack Obama and other gun control advocates have repeatedly called for reinstating a federal ban on semi-automatic assault weapons that expired in 2004, but have been thwarted by Republicans in Congress. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,file)

This is not a post about Constitutional rights or about what sorts of laws we have or don’t have or should or shouldn’t have.

This is about the marketplace. And frankly, there’s apparently something pretty disturbing going on in the marketplace right now.

This morning on public radio, I heard a representative of a gun store say they are currently selling weapons like the one used in the Orlando massacre at a very brisk rate. That is, people are buying more of them in an hour than the store normally sells in a couple of days. Usually, he said, they sell three or four a day. Now, they’re leaping off the shelves or racks at a rate of about 10 an hour, and more than that over lunch hour.

Of course, these weapons have been very popular for years, even as we’ve had one mass murder after another using them.

I have to ask: “What sort of person sees a certain kind of weapon used in something like the Orlando massacre, and thinks to himself “I’ve gotta HAVE me one of those!“?

What goes on in such a person’s head?

Now my gun-loving friends will say, this is just a rational response to talk about once again banning such weapons — red-blooded folk want to get out there and purchase the rifle they’ve meant to get for years before it’s banned.

I’m sure it does work that way with some. But I have to ask a followup question — what is the rational reason why someone wants one? What is the circumstance that this person anticipates that calls for a large-magazine, rapid-fire weapon? Do they expect to be attacked by a herd of deer? Are they preparing for the zombie apocalypse (if so, I recommend they take a cue from Daryl Dixon and obtain a quieter weapon)?

What scenarios call for a weapon ideally suited for a target-rich environment of human beings? What normal circumstance can’t be dealt with with a bolt- or lever-action rifle, or a semi-automatic that uses five-round magazines?

What sort of nails does one drive with such a hammer? And what are the psychological processes that cause someone to want to shell out several hundred dollars for such a tool?

We’ve seen these things grow in popularity the more mass murders they are involved in. Am I wrong to see that phenomenon as kind of sick, and if so, why?

Open Thread for Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sig Sauer MCX

Sig Sauer MCX

A few potential topics:

  1. Medal of Honor recipient cleared of hit-and-run charge — This has to be a relief to the solicitor’s office. Who would want to prosecute this one?
  2. Gun used by shooter was not an AR-15 — It was a Sig Sauer MCX, for those who care.
  3. Orlando massacre brings together Christians and gay community — We’ve read a lot in the last couple of day about how the massacre has divided us, so this is nice. Also, did you see that Chick-Fil-A in Orlando opened on Sunday — not to the public to make money, but just to feed people giving blood in the aftermath.
  4. Primary battle not over for two long-time GOP SC Senate leaders — Mike Fair and Larry Martin face runoffs, something I didn’t mention in the roundup earlier today.
  5. Bernice Scott beaten in attempt to regain seat — Another one I overlooked. Wow. This is sort of historic for Richland County. The former longtime councilman was unable to step in and take back the seat abandoned by her son-in-law Kelvin Washington.

Game of Thrones: A girl tells a man where he can get off

A girl sees that a man failed to pay the light bill again. A girl is out of here...

A girl sees that a man failed to pay the light bill again. A girl is out of here…

Lots of websites, including some run by respectable newspapers (how respectable? in one case, so respectable that Donald Trump has banned it from his campaign), drive traffic by posting weekly recaps of “Game of Thrones.”

Any interest in that here? After all, I stayed up too late a couple of nights ago to catch up on it, and I hate for that lost sleep to count for naught.

SPOILER ALERT

I was glad to see that Arya woke up and decided that, after all, she does have a name. Jaqen H’ghar had been one of my favorite characters, based mostly on his idiosyncratic speech habits. But at some point, damn, girl — it’s time to realize you’ve had enough, head home and use some of your new assassin skills on Ramsay Bolton, or someone else who richly deserves it.

OK, so the Khaleesi’s back home. But is anyone besides me tired of waiting for her to actually get it together and head for Westeros? Enough stilted, grandiose talk! Get with the program or put your dragons out to pasture!

As to the scene with the fugitive Ironborn heirs in the brothel (poor Theon!)… Anybody besides me wonder how they cast a scene like that? Do they place an ad asking for “beautiful young women with shapely boobs; no skills required?” Hollywood is a ever-weirder place as we descend further into cultural decadence.

Take a good look at Jon Snow, with his perpetual petulant, worried, put-upon expression. He looks like a boy-band member who didn’t get his bowlful of red M&Ms. Would you follow this guy to almost-certain doom? Neither would most of the noble houses of the North. When Sansa, habitual victim, comes across as the stronger sibling, House Stark is in trouble.

Finally, is Winter ever going to come? There’s a whole army of zombies up there north of the Wall, and did we get to see any this week? No.

Personally, unlike all those fanboys out there, I’d like to see all this get wrapped up….

Seriously, does this face inspire confidence?

Seriously, does this face inspire confidence? Do you want to follow it into battle?

Thoughts on the primary results?

Ck_4xgEUUAIyaec

Our hero’s identity revealed!

Well, I finally got to vote last night. I picked up my wife on the way there, and we were almost the last voters at Quail Hollow (there was one after us). So we did our duty.

What do y’all think about the results? Here are some random thoughts that I’ve had:

  • Wes Hayes’ loss. Well, the best of the three senators opposed by Nikki Haley was unfortunately the only one to lose. No offense to Hugh Leatherman and Luke Rankin — they both won in spite of the governor’s allies’ $500,000 onslaught, so good for them — but Wes Hayes, a.k.a. “the Dean of Ethics,” was the one whose plight most demonstrated the hypocrisy of the governor’s own commitment to ethics. So I’m sorry to see it.
  • Runoff for Kenny Bingham’s seat. This is my House district. I felt like the two strongest candidates were newcomer Micah Caskey (any relation, Bryan?) and former county councilman Bill Banning. Micah (the scion of a Bennettsville family with close ties to my own, by way of disclosure) was the top vote-getter and is in a runoff. Bill, unfortunately, did not make it. But I say this with no knowledge of the other guy in the runoff, Tem Miles — whom I have not interviewed or even met. I need to remedy that.Ballentine - Warthen Ad
  • Midlands incumbents prevail. Wes Hayes said it was a bad year for incumbents, and in many cases across the country that’s true. But most Midlands legislative incumbents with opposition did just fine. I was happy for Katrina Shealy because she’s done a good job, and I was rooting for her after that awful thing Cindi Scoppe did to her several years back (tsk, tsk).  Nathan Ballentine deserved to win, of course, because he advertised here on the blog. You see the logic in that, right? Other winners included Rick Quinn (in spite of the slight cloud from Pascoe’s investigation), and in Richland County, John Scott and Darrell Jackson (despite the election commission, the Recreation Commission and so forth).
  • Solicitor runoff. Going by The State‘s endorsement, the strongest guy in the field to replace Donnie Myers got the most votes, but he’s in a runoff with Candice Lively, about whom I need to learn more, just as I do with Tem Miles. Stay tuned for more.
  • Dems divided over whom they will sacrifice to Joe Wilson. Well, we heard a lot about how Arik Bjorn was the only real Democrat in their 2nd District primary. The state party even endorsed him, in an extremely unusual move (they didn’t want another Alvin Greene). And he did prevail — but by a grand total of 49 votes in unofficial results — over alleged interloper Phil Black. This 50.1 to 49.9 triumph is particularly pathetic when you reflect that in Lexington County, the gravitational center of the district, only the most dedicated, partisan Democrats — the kind who wouldn’t be caught dead voting Republican — would even have selected a Democratic ballot, since this was the only thing on it. Bjorn can take comfort that proportionally, he did a little better in my precinct than he did elsewhere — 14 to 9. No, those aren’t percentages; that’s how many people voted.
  • As expected, Sanford prevailed. Jenny Horne’s tirade against the flag, wonderful as it was at that one moment last summer (and it may have been what turned the tide in the House and got the flag down), didn’t prove enough to send her to Congress. They love them some Mark Sanford in the 1st District. I suspect it’s something in their water. But in this case, since Jenny backed Trump and Sanford did not, perhaps justice was done.
  • Lott prevails, but his secret is out! Perhaps the most satisfying result of the night was Leon Lott’s overwhelming 3-to-1 win over James Flowers for a sixth term as Richland County sheriff. I would have been cheering my twin anyway, because he’s done a great job, but that WashPost series gave us good reason to be deeply concerned about his challenger. But I’m not sure I’m happy that he’s revealed his secret identity (see photo above, which I hope The State doesn’t object to my sharing). Doesn’t this grant an advantage to the supervillains out there? I suppose the secret was bound to come out. I thought it careless of him to win those statewide Toughest Cop competitions several years back…

Your thoughts?

Horne header

I was denied the right to vote for lack of a photo ID!

direct mail

My colleague Lora Prill at ADCO brought me some of the primary-related mail she’s received at home. This is about a third of it, she says.

As you know, I’ve been pretty dismissive over the years of the respective positions of both Democrats and Republicans regarding voter ID. (Basically, I think Republicans came up with it to address a virtually nonexistent problem, and Democrats exaggerate the degree to which it amounts to an insurmountable obstacle.)

So my Democratic friends should really enjoy the irony of this:

Today, I was denied the right to vote for lack of a photo ID!

But I’m not going to picket the State House or anything, on account of it being, you know, my fault

Basically, I showed up without my wallet, something I realized when I walked into the polling place, approached the check-in table, and reached into my jacket for it. I announced my problem, was told, “You’d better go home and get it.”

Which I did. But I did it on the way downtown, and didn’t go to the polling place again, as I no longer had time. (Get this: I searched all over, and finally found it in a pocket of a pair of pants I was wearing on Sunday. Which means I drove around all day yesterday without a wallet. Sheesh.)

But I’ll go back this evening. Which makes me a little nervous. I usually vote first thing, so that I don’t have to worry about something coming up to prevent me from making it by 7 p.m.

Also, I don’t get to walk around all day with one of those “I voted” sticker, which, square that I am, always makes me feel a little bit proud of myself.

So, that’s me. How about you? Did you vote yet? How was it? Were there lines? Were there technical glitches? Share…

Sometimes ‘realism’ is taken to unreal lengths

With all the talk about guns in the wake of the Orlando massacre, we got to talking on an earlier thread about the role of firearms in American history, which started me (as a child of the ’50s, who felt naked without a toy six-gun on my hip) to start riffing on that peculiarly American art form, the Western, and how it has evolved.

So I thought I’d expand on the subject in a separate post…

I, and others my age, grew up on unrealistic westerns in which every man went around with a gun in a holster, except for wusses such as shopkeepers or bankers. I’m pretty sure that is an exaggeration, and I suspect that people who went obviously armed were probably looked at askance by the townspeople, although it may have seemed marginally less bizarre than it would today on Gervais Street.

Just as gunfights were nothing like the ritualized affairs we know from movies, with two men approaching down the dusty street, pausing with their hands hovering over their holsters, scrupulously waiting for the other guy to go for his gun before drawing.

Gunfights such as the one at the OK Corral were wild, confused affairs more akin to what happened at that video game storethe other day…

Modern westerns, of course, go for realism.

SPOILER ALERT!

I’m belatedly watching “Deadwood.” I’m not binge-watching because, as one whose ancestors stuck to Civilization — by which I mean the East Coast — I can only take so much profanity, filth, crudeness, naked avarice and utter disregard for common decency at a time. (As much as it would scandalize my 6-year-old self, I have come to suspect as an adult that had I lived back then, I likely would have been a “dude.” Which wasn’t as cool back then as it sounds today.) Thirty seconds with the “Deadwood” character Al Swearengen (based on a real guy) can make you want to write off the human race as beyond redemption. At the very least, it should persuade a discriminating person to give the Wild West a wide berth.

I would not want to live in the same territory as this guy.

I would not want to live in the same territory as this guy.

Anyway, I’m in the first season, and in the last episode the death of Wild Bill Hickok was depicted — VERY realistically, with him being shot in the back without warning while playing poker.

Such realism is preferable, I suppose. And the clean-cut, 1950s-style western was ridiculous (compare above the guy who played Hickok on TV when I was a little kid and it was my favorite show, the version from Deadwood and the real guy).

Although enough of “Deadwood” and you can start to long, at least a little, for the Disneyland version, with the good guys in spotless white hats.

Or at least for characters you give a damn doggone about. So far the only relatively likeable person on this series is Calamity Jane, and you don’t want your kids in the room when she’s talking.

Bottom line, I’m sure something like everything you see on “Deadwood” actually happened at one time or other in the Old West. But not distilled to this extent, not as unrelenting with the soul-wearing nastiness. Just like, unlike on cop shows, real cops can easily go their whole careers without discharging a firearm in the line of duty.

Surely they had to let up and give it a rest sometime — go through a day with a killing, or maybe speak two sentences in a row without an F-bomb, just to give their profanity mills a rest.

Or else it seems that after a couple of days, they’d get exhausted with it all and skeddadle back East. I know I would have.

Quick: Whose catchphrase was, “Hey, Wild Bill! Wait for me!” The answer is below…

Interesting juxtaposition: Haley vetoes helmet bill; three motorcyclists killed

helmets

Talk about your ironies, check out the above juxtaposition of headlines from thestate.com.

In the moped safety story, the governor cites some libertarian claptrap about “government overreach” in vetoing a bill that would require moped riders under 18 to wear helmets, and all riders to wear reflective clothing at night. But to her credit, she does say she remains open to new moped safety laws, just not this one. Here’s her veto message.

In the other story, we have five tragic cases of the sort that is all too common, three of them involving motorcyclists. I wonder how many were wearing helmets.

No, there’s not a cause-and-effect here. And of course, mopeds and motorcycles aren’t exactly the same thing. I just found the timing interesting…

The difference between voting Republican or Democratic in my precinct (and yours, if you’d like to look it up)

Sample GOP

On that last post, Jeff Mobley weighed in thoughtfully, and mentioned that you can go view a sample ballot for your polling place at SCVotes.org.

So I went and did that, in order to illustrate the difference between choosing a Democratic or Republican primary ballot in my precinct, Quail Hollow.

As you can see above, I get to make some significant electoral decisions if I choose a Republican ballot. As you see below, all I’d get to do on a Democratic ballot is choose who is going to lose to Joe Wilson in the fall.

For some loyal Democrats, that is enough, as my longtime colleague Rick Temple suggested on Facebook:

This is a good year for Lexington County Democrats to vote in the their party’s primary because of the 2nd Congressional District race. One of the candidates, Arik Bjorn, is actually a Democrat. The other, Phil Black, is a Republican who has admitted he is running as a Democrat because he knows he has no chance against Joe Wilson in the Republican primary.

The ephemeral abstract rewards of such a quixotic gesture, however, escape me, in part because I don’t care who is a real Democrat and who is not, but mostly because neither of them will be going to Congress.

That makes the decision very easy.

If you live in Richland County, of course, you likely have the opposite situation, and should choose a Democratic ballot tomorrow, as our Republican friend Jeff plans to do…

sample Dem

Sorry, SC Democrats! I see no point in voting in your primary — a matter of geography, you see

unnamed

Got the above via email over the weekend.

Nice of you to think of me, SC Democrats, but I see no point in voting in your primary.

If I lived in Richland County, it would be different, as Cindi Scoppe noted in her recent column, aptly headlined “SC voters have one chance to make a difference, and it’s not in November“:

Unless you are so partisan that you can’t bring yourself to vote in a primary for the best or at least the least bad candidate in the other party, you should go where the elections are being decided. I always vote in the Republican primary when we have statewide contests, because those races are decided in the primary. This year I’m voting in the Democratic primary, because there are no statewide races and I live in Richland County, where all but one of the legislative and local contests are among Democrats. If I lived in Lexington County, I would vote in the Republican primary, for similar reasons.

Exactly.

Cindi and I agree politically about as much as any two people you’re likely to know, which means that she doesn’t care which party wins in November any more than I do. But she cares about having her vote count, which is why she votes in the Democratic primary where she lives, and I vote in the Republican over in Lexington County.

So that we get a voice in the actual election. Because where I live, the Republican primary is the election.

Thoughts on the Orlando nightclub massacre?

Orlando shootings

I mean, aside from Oh, my God, here’s another horrible thing that’s happened?

Pretty much all the usual, trite political reactions were aired yesterday, reflecting our divisions over guns, terrorism and homosexuality. Although there have also been encouraging signs of coming together.

Personally, I’m still in the Oh, my God, how horrible mode. The only good news we’ve gotten was when the death toll was revised down from 50 to 49.

Here’s the latest. As I type, the FBI director is giving more information. He just called people who do such things “savages.” Apt. But what can anyone say that would ever help us understand the mind of someone who would do this?

Thoughts?

The killer really liked selfies. This is one of many out there.

The killer really liked selfies. This is one of many out there.

 

A heads-up: Collapse of western civilization imminent, says this one bloke

The Brexit rhetoric just heated up a notch. From The Guardian:

David Cameron and his Remain colleagues have repeatedly been accused of scaremongering. Recession, rising unemployment, rising prices, rising interest rates, falling house prices, further rise of international conflict (although not necessarily “world war three”, which was Boris Johnson’s parody) – there seems to be no end to the list of negative consequences from Brexit that Cameron has been warning people about.

But Donald Tusk, president of the European council, has gone much further. If Britain leaves the EU, that could eventually end up with the downfall of Western civilisation, he says.

He made the comment in an interview with the German newspaper Bild. Some extracts were released yesterday, but the full article became available today.

Reuters has written it up as a story. Here’s the key quote from Tusk.

Why is it so dangerous? Because no one can foresee what the long-term consequences would be. As a historian I fear that Brexit could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also of western political civilization in its entirety.

I must confess that unlike that Polish cove (and yes, I realize my grasp of British slang is a bit outdated), I have not yet made up my mind — even though it’s a huge issue involving a country I love.

Donald Tusk

That Polish cove, Donald Tusk

On the one hand, I don’t like people on the continent telling the British people how to live — Bonaparte tried that, until Nelson and Wellington sorted him out. Emotionally, I dislike anything that might make Britain even marginally less British. Tell them, Professor.

On the other, we have establishment figures (and y’all know how I love me some Establishment) from President Obama to PM Cameron, coming out against it — although I found our president’s threat that Britain would go to the back of the queue on trade deals unconvincing. Lindsey Graham and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, they say the same, on collective security grounds.

But I’m still unsure which side to root for. You?