Sheheen tries, unsuccessfully, to goad Haley into debate

Last night, Vincent Sheheen put out this statement:

“Honest leadership means looking people in the eye and defending your record in debates in each region of the state, but Governor Haley refuses to face the tough questions about her abysmal record. Today we notified ETV that, as with the debate proposed by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, I will participate in the debates when Nikki Haley agrees to join us. I encourage the Governor to stop hiding behind staff and TV commercials and agree to debate in the Midlands and Myrtle Beach especially. We all know you can’t trust Nikki Haley to tell the truth, but residents of every region deserve the opportunity to hear directly from their governor about her record and from the gubernatorial candidates about the direction we would take this state.”

The irony here is that Sheheen himself is declining to debate with Ervin, in the absence of the incumbent. So… he’s doing to Ervin what Haley is doing to him.

The governor, who is in a position to spurn Sheheen, does so, on the standard theory that if you’re leading and you’re the incumbent, you don’t give your opponent a forum in which he appears on an equal footing with you.

And if you’re Sheheen, you don’t lower yourself to debate with Ervin alone, because then you look like the members of the Sad Losers Left Out In the Cold Club.

It’s a pecking order thing.

Not that I disagree with Sheheen’s decision. Sheheen and Ervin debating an empty podium makes for an unappealing campaign visual. But when we all know how the electoral math works, it makes Sheheen sound a bit priggish to be using holier-than-thou language such as “We all know you can’t trust Nikki Haley to tell the truth.” But the campaign keeps putting language like that into his mouth, even though it just doesn’t sound like him.

Only one thing will get her to turn out for that debate: Polls that show her losing her lead. Apparently, she’s not seeing any polls like that.

Fearing U.N.’s ‘Agenda 21′ down in Charleston

Paranoia strikes deep in the heartland. And also on the coast. I rode on an elevator with Matt Kennell of City Center Partnership this morning, and he was marveling at the credulity of those in Charleston who believe that “smart growth” is some sort of U.N. plot to undermine the American Way.

Here’s what he was referring to:

Where builders and planners see combining high-density housing, retail and offices as the wave of the future, residents from Mount Pleasant to James Island see problems – crowded schools, lack of parking and an end to small-town lifestyles.

Now, they also have complaints that high-density residential developments, bicycle lanes, mass transit and “sustainable” or “smart” growth are part of a 22-year-old United Nations plot to undermine the American way of life.

“It’s all a part of this Agenda 21,” said Mount Pleasant native Cindy Anderson, referring to the Coleman Boulevard Plan. “They will push us all into these urban centers – that’s the plan.”

Bill Eubanks, the creative director of Urban Edge Studio at Seamon, Whiteside & Associates, who authored Mount Pleasant’s Coleman Boulevard master plan, said he’s heard concerns about Agenda 21, a 351-page document outlining ideas to address poverty, housing and environmental problems, including climate change.

“I have looked into the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory claims and not only do I think they are unfounded, I think they are absolutely ludicrous,” he said. “Worse than that, buying into this ridiculous fear-mongering can stand in the way of both sustainability and smart growth – something our communities really need.”…

Apparently, “Agenda 21″ is to development what “Common Core” is to education standards — some sort of dog-whistle thing that only the conspiracy-sensitive can hear.

Those who fear this supposed agenda say it could lead to people getting out of their cars and riding mass transit. Which, of course, sounds awesome. I don’t know whether the U.N. has a plan for that, but I do. Alas, I don’t think any of us will live to see it where we live…

I’d hate to see this guy trip and hurt himself

pants

And now that my temper is up, I may as well go on and abuse every body I can think of.
– Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

Yeah, I know I used that same quote just a month or two ago, but it’s one of my all-time favorites.

And it’s perfect for a post in which, having ranted about one of my chief peeves just moments ago, I let loose on another one.

Look at the photo above, from the Washington Post iPad app. (Here’s the story it goes with.) See anything wrong with it?

Yeah, it’s a good action photo, the player seeming to float in the air as he runs the bases.

But I can’t enjoy it because I can’t stop thinking, When he lands, he’s liable to trip on his pants.

Yeah, I know — ballplayers have been wearing their pants like this for a long time. Rather than wear proper knicker-length pants, with the team-color stirrup showing over their socks, their pants legs go all the way to the tops of their shoes, and too often, beyond.

And it just looks stupid. Almost as stupid as wearing a ballcap with the brim artificially flat as a mathematical plane, instead of curled like a hyperbola, the way God and Abner Doubleday intended. It’s so unbelievably uncool. Like some clueless alien trying to dress like a ballplayer to pass as an earthling, and failing miserably. Players who do that look like dorks. It makes them look, well, like this. It makes me wonder, What are these people’s heads shaped like? (And yeah, I know it comes from hip-hop culture, but I don’t care — it’s definitively uncool.)

But there’s something especially awful about this particular photo, something that justifies my bringing this up again: That’s Bryce Harper, No. 34 for the Washington Nationals. Bryce Harper is known for being one of the few present-day ballplayers who still wears knickers and stirrups!

So this is a particular betrayal of tradition, and all that is right and true about the game.

Maybe it’s temporary, maybe it’s some playoff superstition thing; I don’t know. But I’m deeply disappointed. I mean, this was supposed to be a guy who gets it….

I know it won’t do any good, but I had to say something. Again. I just hate to see it.

Now, all of you kids — get offa my infield!

These guys got it.

These guys got it.

No, it could not, because ‘impact’ is not a verb

Recently, The State led an editorial off by citing a headline in the Charleston paper:

A RECENT HEADLINE in Charleston’s Post and Courier asked: “Could Bobby Harrell’s departure impact Charleston’s road money?”…

I read no further, but immediately emailed Cindi Scoppe to say, “The answer to the P&C’s question is ‘no,’ because ‘impact’ is not a verb. (I later went back and read the edit. You should, too; it will make you feel even better about Jay Lucas being the new speaker.)

But I’m still harrumphing about the P&C headline.

Then, this morning, I saw a Tweet that said:

SCOTUS’ Same-Sex Marriage Decision Could Impact SC

To which I could only respond, “No, it could not — because ‘impact’ is a noun, not a verb. :)”

I added the smiley face because the Tweeter does not know me. Wouldn’t want her to think I’m an unpleasant person or anything.

Yes, I know I’m fighting a losing battle. I know that people who employ this abomination think that it is a verb, and can probably cite all sorts of authorities to support them. Doesn’t matter. I refuse to accept it.

There is something about “impact” used as a verb that for me invokes the most stilted, bogus, officialese. People think it sounds authoritative, official, like something an expert would say. It’s like, I don’t know, cops calling everyone a “subject,” or saying they “observed” the “subject” doing this or that. I actually don’t mind that as much, though — I can appreciate a cop trying to distance themselves from the incident with technical, unemotional language. “I observed the subject exiting the premises at a high rate of speed,” sounds more like the voice of law and order than, “I saw that stupid jackass with my own eyes, running off like a scalded dog.”

But “impact,” used as a verb, affects (note the way I used the right word there) me differently. Every time, I hear the voice of someone who is trying to sound smart, but instead is coming off as illiterate. To me, anyway.

Yeah, I know I’ve mentioned this before. But it bugs me every time, and sometimes I just have to say something…

 

All is not well in Fringe City: Ravenel, Folks have falling-out

File photo from earlier this year.

File photo from earlier this year.

Erstwhile pals Thomas Ravenel and Will Folks have had a falling-out. Here’s Charleston City Paper‘s version of the tale:

Hours after the Associated Press reported that Ravenel was “reassessing” his indie challenge of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, the former state treasurer tried to get in touch with Folks, the ‘founding editor’ of FitsNews.com who appeared on the show as T-Rav’s political advisor.

According to an incident report filed by the sheriff’s office in Lexington County, where Folks lives, after he didn’t answer a phone call from Ravenel Sunday morning, he followed with several “harassing text messages” to Folks around 9:30 Sunday night. The incident was first reported by the Post and Courier, but you can read the full report below.

“Folks stated that he did not want any contact with Ravenel so he did not return his phone call,” the report notes. In one text message last night, Ravenel supposedly promised  “he would have him (Folks) in a trailer within a year.”…

Here’s the incident report. And here’s what Will had to say about it.

City Paper also reported that “In an email to local media, Lexington County Sheriff’s officials say that both parties later told cops that the situation had been resolved.” I’m sure that’s a relief to all…

Meanwhile, I want to know more about the “reassessing his campaign” thing…

Time is running out to sign up for Walk for Life!

Past Glory: Last year's stellar, Top-Ten team posing with Samuel Tenenbaum before the Walk.

Past Glory: Last year’s stellar, Top-Ten team posing with Samuel Tenenbaum before the Walk.

OK, folks, we’ve all fallen down on the job thus far on Walk for Life.

Team registration ends at noon on Wednesday, and… this is embarrassing… I’m the only one who has signed up for my team, bradwarthen.com. And that means I’ve raised a total of, let’s see… yeah, $25.

Yes, I’ve done a lousy job of leading, having written only one post on the subject so far.

But we can still finish strong, right? Right? Don’t make me charge out of here like John Belushi in “Animal House,” with nobody behind me.

This is already humiliating enough. Help me out here.

The walk itself is a week from Saturday…

 

Haley, in town to endorse a lawyer for the State House, says there are too many lawyers in the State House

Our governor had an attack of foot-in-mouth disease on a campaign trip to the coast:

Gov. Nikki Haley told members of the Waccamaw High School Young Republican Club last week that she didn’t know if she was a Republican or a Democrat when she decided to run for the state House.

“I knew I needed to get to Columbia because they had way too many lawyers there, and we needed some business people to straighten it out,” she said.

Haley spoke to the club members and other students at Waccamaw High before she attended a rally at the Hammock Shops to promote Republican Stephen Goldfinch, a Murrells Inlet lawyer, seeking re-election to the state House from District 108….

Here’s how Vida Miller, Goldfinch’s non-attorney opponent, responded to that:

Lawyer Goldfinch’s November opponent, businesswoman Vida Miller, said Gov. Haley has a point.

“I do think it’s helpful to have a business background,” Miller said. “Balancing budgets and meeting a payroll in the real world is the best experience possible for a legislator. And that experience is exactly what I’ll take with me to Columbia if the people of this district give me the honor of representing them once again in the State House.”…

Further muddying the waters, the governor had this to say about Ms. Miller:

“I know Stephen’s opponent, Vida Miller. I know her very well. I served with her multiple years. She is a wonderful woman that I respect, but this is not about respect. This is about the fact I need fighters in Columbia. Stephen Goldfinch is a fighter.”

Wow. Talk about a lame justification for endorsing someone. But then, most people don’t hate “fighting” rhetoric in politics as much as I do. As soon as a politician promises to “fight” for me, that’s it. They’ve lost me. (Here’s a column I wrote in 2008 ranting about pols from Hillary Clinton to John McCain using “fight” language.)

I’ll take a “wonderful woman” over a “fighter” any day.

 

Lindsey Graham for president? He’s considering a run

Hey, why not? -- 2007 file photo by Brad Warthen

Hey, why not? — 2007 file photo by Brad Warthen

Which is not the same as saying he thinks he can win. But he might run anyway, according to The Weekly Standard. In a piece headlined, “The Return of the GOP Hawks: Not that they ever really left,” Graham was quoted as speaking of 2016:

In our interview, Graham repeatedly spoke of the challenges that will face the next president because of the mistakes made under Obama. And he suggested that he might just be the one to fix them.

“If I get through my general election, if nobody steps up in the presidential mix, if nobody’s out there talking​—​me and McCain have been talking​—​I may just jump in to get to make these arguments,” Graham said.

I asked Graham about Rubio. Hasn’t he been making many of the arguments you’d be likely to make? Graham wasn’t impressed. “He’s a good guy, but after doing immigration with him—we don’t need another young guy not quite ready,” said Graham. “He’s no Obama by any means, but he’s so afraid of the right, and I’ve let that go.”

McCain likes what he sees in the emerging GOP field, but acknowledges that he’s told Graham to think about running. “I’ve strongly encouraged him to give it a look. I think Lindsey has vast and deep experience on these issues that very few others have…

I freely admit, I did not see this coming.

But after all, why not? Both of the other two of the Three Amigos have run, and both have made it onto national tickets.

That said, it sounds to me like his real purpose is to raise issues. But this is still fascinating…

This, by the way, is the second indication I’ve seen in 24 hours that Graham’s internal polling must be looking really good.

The first was this, last night:

I do well on the serious tests, badly on the silly ones

Pew quiz2

The trend continues.

There was a story in The Washington Post this morning about the fact that “One third of Americans think the government spends more on foreign aid than on social security.”

Stupid one third. Of course, this is a continuation of the stubborn belief that we spend some huge proportion of our budget on foreign aid, when we spend about 2 percent on it. People continue to get this wrong, against all reason, even though their foolishness has been written about over and over and over and over and over. This is related to the increasing irrational hostility toward government in general — most people don’t like the idea of foreign aid, so they overestimate how much is spent on it.

It’s the sort of thing that makes you want to give up on democracy. On your bad days, anyway. At the least, it underlines the superiority of representative democracy over the direct kind.

Anyway, the story said the findings came from one of those Pew quizzes I like so much, so I immediately went and took this one. I got 11 out of 12 right, putting me ahead of 96 percent of those tested.

But… and here’s the really, really embarrassing thing… I missed the same question as the stupid one-third did. No, I didn’t say “foreign aid.” I gave a different wrong answer. I knew the right answer, and if I had just done it in a hurry, I’d have gotten a 100. But I thought, “I haven’t compared these things in awhile. Maybe this other thing has overtaken the one I think it is. Maybe this is a fargin’ trick question.” So I chose the other thing. But it was, of course, the first thing.

The irony is that if I had done what I have to do taking the weekly Slate News Quiz, I’d have gotten it right. That test is timed, and I hate that about that test. I also hate that it is deliberately about details in the news, rather than about whether you know overall what’s going on, and the relationships between different facts (which is what Pew tests).

Anyway, this being Friday, I went and took that one. And bombed. See the results below.

I would do better on that if it weren’t timed. I can usually see through the red herrings and at least intuit the right answer if I take a little time. But you’re penalized for taking time. So I do badly. Note that I completed the test in one minute, 47 seconds. Which for me is barely enough time to properly consider one question, much less 12.

And yet, I took too much time on the other test. Go figure.

slate quiz

I promise, I don’t know WHY I’m getting these ads

ads

As you probably realize, I don’t see the same Google Adsense ads on this blog that you do. Supposedly, they are tailored to our respective interests.

Really, they are guided by a couple of things. First, there’s context, if I understand the process correctly. For instance, if we have a discussion here about gun control, I will see ads about concealed carry laws.

The inferences are also drawn from my browsing history. If I looked up a product on Amazon recently, I will get ads for that product on my blog.

But folks, I promise, I have no idea what I could possibly have been looking up that caused me to get these ads. I mean it. I’m puzzled. And a little embarrassed lest someone walk up behind me while I’m checking the blog.

These are just barely workplace-safe…

I’m trying to think whether I had “bad idea” in a headline recently. Did anyone use the word “cleavage,” and I’ve just forgotten it?

Have any of y’all been getting ads such as these — without, I mean, any obvious reason why?

Nikki Haley’s meek assurances to the neoConfederates

I wrote about this and posted it four years ago, and referred back to it yesterday.

But today, when the Sheheen campaign sent it out for the benefit of those who previously missed it or have forgotten, it occurred to me that they have a point: For the sake of clear comparison to Sheheen’s stand, it’s probably worth posting again.

Aside from her meek assurances that no, she won’t try to get the flag down, and no, she won’t succumb to “pressure” to change her mind, there are a number of bits that sort of make the flesh crawl — such as when her questioner (in a voice that even Hollywood might think sounded TOO stereotypical; it’s in the Strother Martin range) asks whether she realizes that “we do have the power to oust someone” if she misleads them, and that David Beasley “learned that the hard way.” Whatever the issue, you will seldom hear a political threat uttered in such naked terms. That part starts at 6:15.

Almost everything objectionable about flag defenders is on display here, such as the laughable conceit that they somehow have the monopoly on true knowledge of history. Hear the voice ask Rep. Haley (at 5:44) whether she understands that the Emancipation Proclamation, which “is supposed to be such a great document,” only freed slaves in states in a state of rebellion. It’s apparent that this guy thinks this is not only some great revelation (as though any student of history wouldn’t know it), but that he thinks it somehow delegitimizes the Union cause, and excuses the Southern one.

Nikki nods and smiles through all that. To her credit, I think I sense a little bit of, “Oh my God, what have I let myself in for here?” in her eyes.

But then she humbly assures these folks that she will do their bidding in office. And that’s the point here.

Why don’t I write like that any more?

hemingway-writing

For my entire career, whenever I look back at what I wrote a year or two in the past, I think, “Why don’t I write like that anymore?”

This is, I hope, a twist on the “grass is always greener” phenomenon. Either that, or my powers as a writer have been declining for four decades, which means that by this time, I should be incapable of putting a noun and a verb together in an intelligible order.

Anyway, I had that experience again today. I accidentally ran across this post from four years ago, in which I had a little fun mocking the way Republicans talk in South Carolina:

As I’ve said from Day One I’m a conservative a true conservative my daddy was a conservative daddy my mama was a conservative mama I’m a bidnessman meet a payroll don’t take bailouts lazy shiftless welfare takers the key is to starve ‘em before they reproduce 100 percent rating from conservative conservatives of America my dog is a conservative dog I don’t have a cat because cats are effete I eat conservative I sleep conservative I excrete conservative I got conservative principles a conservative house and conservative clothes take back our government from the socialists even though we don’t really want it because who needs government anyway they don’t have government in Somalia and they’re doing alright aren’t they National Rifle Association Charlton Heston is my president and Ronald Reagan is my God I will have no gods before him I go Arizona-style all the way that’s the way I roll I will keep their cold dead government hands off your Medicare so help me Ronald Reagan…

That was prompted, of course, by my being fed up at hearing Republicans who are unable to complete a sentence without using the word “conservative” at least once, and preferably multiple times. In case, you know, you missed it the first time. It is mind-numbingly monotonous, and I needed a little comic relief. I thought we all did.

That got me sufficiently charged up that I turned and made fun of Democrats, saying that just once, I’d like to hear a candidate for office in South Carolina say the following:

Actually, I’m a liberal. A liberal all the way. I drive a Prius, I love wine and cheese parties with the faculty, I think America is a big bully in the world and no wonder people hate us (I’d be a terrorist, too, if I didn’t abhor violence so), and I never saw an abortion I didn’t like. My spouse and I have an open marriage, so scandal can’t touch us, because to each his or her own. I’m a white, male heterosexual and the guilt just eats me alive; I wish I belonged to a group that was more GENUINE, you know? The first thing I’d do if elected is raise taxes through the roof, and spend every penny on public education, except for a portion set aside for re-education camps for people who now home-school their kids. Then, if we needed more money for excessive regulation of business and other essential government services, we’d raise taxes again, but only on the rich, which is defined as YOU or anybody who makes more than you. Probably the best word to describe my overall tax plan would be “confiscatory.” And my spending (OH, my spending! You’ve never seen spending until you see my spending!) would best be termed “redistributive.” If elected, my inaugural party will have music by the Dixie Chicks and the Indigo Girls, and then we’ll all bow down to a gigantic image of Barack (did you know it means “blessed”?) Obama, the savior of us all, and chant in some language other than the ultimate oppressor language, English. French, perhaps. Or Kiswahili….

I had fun reading that. Why don’t I write like that anymore?…

Sheheen’s bold stand is the ONLY way the flag will come down

Vincent Sheheen’s call to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds isn’t some here-today, forgotten-tomorrow campaign gimmick.

It’s a game-changer. But only if he somehow manages to win the election.

Sheheen was paraphrased in The State today as saying that this is an issue best addressed by a governor. Sure, he could have introduced a resolution to have it removed every session, only to have it die in committee, as did Cleveland Sellers’ one such attempt as a freshman House member. One or two lawmakers might be willing to stick their necks out, but there aren’t enough others willing to go along with them to make the effort viable. Knowing that, lawmakers see little point in making enemies over a lost cause — they have other things they want to accomplish.

But a governor has the bully pulpit to raise the issue so it can’t be buried or ignored.

That said, not just any governor would have the political leverage to overcome the General Assembly’s profound inertia on the issue. It would take a governor who campaigned on the issue, and got elected. A governor who does that would have political juice, and moral authority, unlike any we’ve seen in our poor state, which has been so sadly short on political courage for the generation that I’ve covered it.

So that raises the issue, does this move hurt or help Sheheen’s chances of getting elected? I truly don’t know. His chances were slim as it stood, barring something to shake up the equation. And I’d rather see it shaken this way — by Sheheen doing something right and good and visionary and courageous — than by some new scandal or other disaster befalling Nikki Haley.

Some think it’s automatic political death for a governor or gubernatorial candidate to embrace this issue. They’re wrong. They point to what happened to David Beasley, who stirred up the Angry White Men of his party with his abortive, half-hearted attempt to take action on the flag. Yeah, a few more neoConfederates may have voted against him. But Beasley had also alienated those of us on the other side of the issue, by so quickly reversing himself and giving up on the issue when he experienced the white backlash. Even to people who, unlike me, didn’t care about the flag, it made him look weak, wishy-washy and ineffective.

(I had only contempt for his surprised, shocked and weak reaction to the angry calls and letters. I, and to an even greater extent my colleague Warren Bolton — flag defenders got especially angry at a black man who dared to say the same things I was saying — had experienced the same phenomenon every single time we published another editorial or column on the subject. That means we had experienced it hundreds of times since I had joined the editorial board and started writing on the subject in 1994. Beasley couldn’t take a few days of it.)

And there were other reasons for Beasley’s loss.

In Sheheen’s case, not only is this likely to galvanize voters who would likely have supported him anyway — motivating them to get out and vote and urge their friends and neighbors to do so — it elevates him as someone willing to lead among many who might have been on the fence. Say, business leaders. If you’ll recall, the state Chamber backed Sheheen last time, and this time (thanks in large part to the rise of some Haley allies on the Chamber’s board), it went for Nicky. Business people can be favorably impressed by someone who is willing to lead, and to lead us in a direction that sweeps away such atavistic nonsense, such unnecessary barriers to progress, as flying that flag.

People who were dispirited by Sheheen’s lackluster, take-no-chances campaign thus far will be willing to step forward and put out some effort to get him elected.

I believe it’s at best a wash, and could be helpful to his chances.

But win or lose, he’s doing the right thing. And it’s been far too long since we’ve seen anyone who would lead us do that.

SHEHEEN: TAKE DOWN THE CONFEDERATE FLAG

Well, this is welcome news. In fact, the most welcome news I’ve seen out of the rather lackluster Sheheen campaign this year.

Vincent Sheheen is stepping out and taking a stand on something that speaks to the essence of who we are, who we have been and who we aspire to be as a state and as a people:

Democratic candidate for governor Vincent Sheheen tried to shake up the governor’s race in South Carolina on Wednesday, calling for the removal of the Confederate flag that flies on a pole in front of the Statehouse.

Sheheen, who is lagging in the polls, is the most prominent political voice to call for the removal of the flag — a somewhat quixotic attempt that would need a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate at a time when few others in the state are publicly demanding it.

The two-thirds vote requirement was included in a compromise 14 years ago that moved the flag from atop the Capitol dome to a place just a few feet south of a monument honoring Confederate soldiers on one of the state’s busiest streets.

The state senator from Camden has proposed replacing the Confederate flag at its new location with an American flag. The American and South Carolina flags still fly over the Statehouse.

“I want South Carolina to be celebrated not as the state that left America, but as the best state in America,” Sheheen said….

As Bryan Caskey observed to me via email, Sheheen must have been listening to Doug Ross, who has repeatedly urged him on this blog to take this stand. Perhaps — although Doug won’t be satisfied until Sheheen also comes out “for gay marriage, legalized marijuana, and casinos in Myrtle Beach.”

That’s Doug. Me, I’m just glad to see Vincent do this. He’s taking a stand. A quixotic one to be sure, the way the Legislature has rigged the deal. But it’s the right stand. And it offers a clear contrast, if you’ll recall the way Nikki groveled before neoConfederates four years ago.

Let me clarify a couple of points here. First, the Legislature didn’t just codify the flying on the flag in the 2000 “compromise.” They did that back when the GOP first took over the House in 1995, shortly after I started writing extensively (my detractors would say obsessively) about the issue.

Second, this is not a new contrast between Sheheen and Haley. Sheheen indicated his openness to removing the flag four years ago. What he’s done now is shift from that passive stance to an active one, and put forth a specific plan.

I tell you what I’d like to see now: I’d like to see Joe Riley and others who have shown courage on this issue in the past get enthusiastically and visibly behind this effort, rallying the forces — in business, church, civil rights and other leadership circles — that came together in 2000 to get the flag off the dome.

It’s time to rally around the cause of putting this issue behind us forever, placing it in the museums and history books where it belongs. So we can move forward as South Carolinians, as one people, without this nonsense dividing us.

Some will say — as they have said after each of the hundreds of times I’ve called for removing the flag — that this is a distraction, that it is not a serious or core issue. But I assert that if we are not a state that can muster the courage and good sense to dispense with this flying of a divisive relic on our state’s front lawn, then we are not equal to tackling any of the challenges before us.

In my last column for The State, I wrote about South Carolina’s unfinished business — the need for reform in government, in education, in taxation. All of the things I wrote about were complex issue that would take a lot of heavy policy lifting, except for two, which I mentioned at the end:

Some of these things are tough; others are less so. But they are all essential to getting our act together in South Carolina. To help us warm up for the harder ones, I suggest we do the following immediately:

Raise our lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax by a dollar, bringing us (almost) to the national average, and saving thousands of young lives.

Remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds.

While those last two are easier to implement, they are essential to proving to the world and ourselves that we are serious about building a better South Carolina. The reasons that have been offered not to do those two, simple things are not reasons in any rational sense, but rather outgrowths of the mind-sets that have held us back since 1865.

Which is long enough.

We sort of halfway addressed the first of those two easy, no-brainer actions. It’s far past time to address the other.

In the Line of Ire: Secret Service chief quits

A guy climbing the fence and running wild in the White House and some aggressive reporting by The Washington Post have led to the following:

Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, resigned Wednesdayfollowing a series of security lapses by her agency, including a recent incident in which a man with a gun was allowed on an elevator with President Obama.secret service

Obama “concluded new leadership of the agency was needed based on recent and accumulating accounts” of performance problems within her agency, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a news briefing.

Pierson’s departure from her post came just 24 hours after a congressional oversight hearing about a growing number of security breaches. She appeared evasive, gave conflicting accounts of a recent incident involving a man who jumped over the White House and got deep inside the building, and said she learned some things about her agency by reading accounts in the Washington Post.

That growing list of security failures, many first reported in the Washington Post, had put the president and his daughters in potential danger. Some of the details of the lapses, including the service’s fumbled response to a 2011 shooting at the White House, were unknown to Congress and the president before they were reported ….

It usually takes a little longer than this for someone in Washington to fall this hard. But fall she did.

And yeah, I partly posted this just to use the headline…

I’d also like to say that while I don’t subscribe to the school that holds that the ultimate measure of a journalist is the number of public officials’ scalps on his or her belt, the Post has done some fine work ferreting these stories out, and making a compelling case for quick action.

That said, a resignation solves nothing. The work of addressing these problems needs to begin now.

Another year of notices about sex offenders, I guess

Just got this notice from CSID today:

We are excited to inform you that the State of South Carolina has partnered with CSID to offer an additional year of identity theft protection to you for free. Since you’ve already enrolled, your service will automatically renew for another year through October 31, 2015, and no additional action from you is necessary. We hope you are enjoying your identity monitoring service from CSID and are taking advantage of all this service has to offer.

Any of y’all get that?

I don’t know what this means, other than I suppose I’m going to get another year of alerts about sex offenders living in the area. That’s all I’ve ever gotten from this service. You? And frankly, I don’t know what that has to do with ID security.

Here’s an odd thing that I hesitate to mention, but I found it interesting. On the CSID homepage, the focus is on a very attractive young woman of what appears to be Indian extraction. And I couldn’t help wondering if that was supposed to be some sort of subliminal nod to Nikki Haley. Or something…

No, I know it isn’t, but that did pop into my head…

csid

You ever notice how much Jed Bartlet aged in office?

Once, he was so young and vigorous.

Once, he was so young and vigorous.

Well, there’s not much “West Wing” left.

As I was working out this morning, Leo McGarry — now Matt Santos’ running mate — was sweating over debate prep, and Josh and the rest of the campaign were leaking how badly he was doing, to lower expectations.

One by one, President Jed Bartlet’s key staffers have pulled away. Sam Seaborn just sort of fell off the face of the Earth when he went West to run for Congress (the way he faded away, without any mention of what happened to him, is one of the few weaknesses in the writing of the show). Leo stepped down after his heart attack, but is now “jumping off the cliff” again with Santos. Josh is running the Santos campaign. Toby is — well, you know what happened to Toby — and if you don’t, I’m not telling you.

The Bartlet administration is winding down. This was episode 10 of the 7th and final season. Only 12 episodes left.

And if you think the presidency of Barack Obama has aged him, have you ever compared pictures of Jed Bartlet from season one and season seven? Being a TV president can be pretty rough, too, apparently.

Of course, the transformation is more startling to me than it was to folks who watched the show the first time around. I saw my first episode at the start of this year.

As you know, I have loved this show. I don’t want to lose it, and have to go back to the horrible real-life politics. Or to vastly inferior television, for that matter. I try to cling to it. I get excited when someone else out there writes about how much he or she loved the show, and I nod enthusiastically. When a young woman asserted in the WashPost that “I’m the biggest ‘West Wing’ fan you’ll ever meet,” I protested, “No, you’re not.”

I’ve started following “Leo McGarry,” my favorite character, on Twitter. A sample:

All this fanboy behavior is pitiful, I know, but then my plight is truly pitiable: I’m about to run out of West Wings. And I fear there’s nothing out there that I haven’t seen that is as good as this.

Showing his age, with Leo in Season 7.

Showing his age, with Leo in Season 7.