Change the system? ‘Aw, never mind …’

JUST IN CASE you were wondering, or knew and had forgotten, this is the way the political culture pushes back against change in South Carolina: Not with a bang, but with an “Aw, never mind.”
    Remember last week’s column, in which I offered, as a rare sign of hope, the gathering consensus that the state Department of Health and Environmental Control should be made more accountable by placing it directly under the elected chief executive? Well, ever since then, there’s been some backtracking.
Actually, it started even before that. While I was writing that column, I heard from my colleague Cindi Scoppe that Manufacturers Alliance chief Lewis Gossett was sending us an op-ed clarifying his position after The State’s Sammy Fretwell had reported that he and S.C. Chamber of Commerce president Otis Rawl were supporting legislative efforts to put DHEC in the governor’s Cabinet.
    Not having received that op-ed (and we still hadn’t received it a week later, when this page was composed), I just wrote around the business leaders, and focused on another Fretwell story that reported that the chairman of the DHEC board, Bo Aughtry, was supportive of the Cabinet idea. “It is worthy of serious consideration because I believe it would take some of the political influence out of decisions that really should not be political,” he had told Sammy.
    This was important because the board Mr. Aughtry chairs would be the very entity that would be surrendering power if the governor were in charge. I thought it reflected very well upon Mr. Aughtry.
On Wednesday, however, I began to worry when someone shared with me a memo that DHEC Commissioner Earl Hunter had sent internally on Friday, Jan. 16, which said in part (you can read it all on my blog):

On another note, several stories have been reported in The State newspaper and other media outlets recently regarding our agency being placed in the Governor’s cabinet. Two business organizations, the SC Chamber of Commerce and the SC Manufacturers Alliance were reported as being supportive. Information I have received from both of those organizations contradicts those storiesæ.æ.æ.æ. In addition, an article this week reported that our board chairman was also supportive. Chairman Aughtry has e-mailed and called me to let me know and let you know that he was misquoted. His statement to the media was simply that he felt that any change that would take politics out of the equation is worthy of consideration. He also let the reporter know that he was 100% supportive of the agency and its staff. As usual, however, that statement wasnt included in the report….

    Then, on Thursday, we received the op-ed piece from Bo Aughtry that you find on the opposite page. Please read it.
    He writes that “moving the agency into the governor’s Cabinet may be appropriate,” although “this is not my current position.” He does believe that “any move that will make DHEC decisions less subject to political pressures is worthy of consideration. Is this best accomplished by a move to Cabinet status? I do not know, but the objective is sound.”
    If that’s a denial, it’s a mushy one. But he delivers another message that I hear a lot more loudly and clearly: Earl Hunter is a great guy. His staff is very fine, too. The same is true of the folks on the governing board.
    And you know what? I agree. I don’t know all of those people, but I know Earl Hunter, and he is a great guy. He goes to my church. I truly believe he is a sincere advocate for the state’s health and environmental quality.
    But you know what else? This isn’t about how I feel about Earl Hunter. It’s about the fact that we have a system of government in this state that does not allow the public will to be expressed clearly and effectively through this or any other agency that does not report to the elected chief executive.
    Too often, the need for such accountability is expressed in punitive terms: A governor could fire an agency head who isn’t getting the job done. But an agency head who has the governor and his bully pulpit behind him will have a lot more political leverage for doing his job. Which is better: having the unelected board chairman “100% supportive of the agency and its staff,” or having the same support from the governor and his bully pulpit? As things stand, Mr. Hunter has no one at his back with any juice, but he does have to keep his board and 170 legislators happy, which is not a recipe for bold reform; it’s a recipe for caution.
    What I want is a system that gives South Carolinians someone to hold accountable for the fact that we take too much of the nation’s waste and are not as healthy as folks in other states. Such a system would also give the good, dedicated people at DHEC the political leverage to change the political dynamic in this state as it affects their mission.
    We’ve been here before. When this newspaper started pushing hard for a Cabinet system back in 1991, we ran smack into the fact that the then-commissioner of DHEC was also a terrific guy, named Michael Jarrett. He was enormously respected in state government circles, and rightly so. He spoke out strongly against making DHEC a Cabinet agency. He did so as he was fighting cancer, which took his life in 1992. Lawmakers listened, and did not make DHEC a Cabinet agency.
    We don’t need another reform debate based in how lawmakers feel about those serving in the current system, because in South Carolina, the reform argument always loses such debates. Once it becomes about ol’ so-and-so who has the job now, forget about change: Aw, never mind.
    The thing is, if Mr. Hunter and Mr. Aughtry were replaced tomorrow — something I am not advocating — it would not change one bit the fact that voters have no one they can hold responsible for improving our public health and environmental quality.
    Mr. Aughtry was right the first time, and he’s still right: Reform is “worthy of consideration,” because “the objective is sound.”

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48 thoughts on “Change the system? ‘Aw, never mind …’

  1. XXX

    The reform you propose is almost quixotic. In this state, it always comes down to taking care of your own. The public schools are much the same way. In this state, it truly is where you’re from, how long you’ve been there, and whom you know.
    I am all in favor of sweeping constitutional reform, even in spite of the fact that Elmer Fudd is our governor at the present time. But at the agency level, and that includes the schools, real reform is at the civil service level.
    We need to make certain that people are qualified for what they are paid to do. That means legally mandated offices with specific qualifications attached and a denial to all agencies of the possibility of creating job categories other than those specifically required by law.
    In the public schools, that would mean specific qualifications for all administrative positions and the requirement that only a set number of administrators be hired relative to student population.
    Unfortunately, the way it works now in the schools, all you have to do to get around state certification laws–particularly if your friends (most of whom are coaches) can’t pass the damn certification tests–is create positions not listed in the regs and therefore not subject to those regs: “Dean of Discipline,” “Assistant Administrator,” “Chief Operations Officer,” or positions at the DO of a district that vaguely deal with planning and “operations”–whatever that is.
    We need to stop hiring our friends and start hiring people on the basis of qualifications. That would send the strongest message possible to kids that an education is the key to advancement–not whether or not you know somebody!!

  2. Ellen

    Has anyone ever presented evidence that the governor’s agencies are “better” than the others? As a long time government guy, I just can’t see where that is the case.
    I owuld love to see info on that.

  3. Catherine

    Accountability is simply un-South Carolinian. There is NO accountability for any of our agencies. Sure, reports are written — who reads them? Who acts on them? If you look at K-12 and higher ed, there is NO research being done on effectiveness, efficiency, access, affordability, none at all. Why not? Because this way each little group can complain, put up false figures and lobby.
    South Carolina is my home, but its government (as currently organized) remains the laughingstock of the country. No, I don’t know that the Governor’s structure would work better — but I can guess that it wouldn’t be worse. At least SC citizens wouldn’t have to rely on the citizens of Charleston County to unseat the real abusers of power.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Ellen, how would you measure that? Do you want a numerical scale, with Cabinet agencies scoring a 62 and non-Cabinet agencies averaging 44? If so, I can’t provide that to you.
    It either makes sense to you — that a system in which heads of agencies are directly accountable to a single well-known executive elected by the whole state is more accountable and transparent than many different systems in which agency heads owe their authority to a complex maze of little-known board members or who-knows-which legislators — or it doesn’t.
    And even if that numerical scale existed, you wouldn’t go from zero to 100 the moment you have a Cabinet agency. What the Cabinet system does is make it much more likely that whatever happens, someone will have to account for it, which gives someone — and someone with the necessary power to be effective — tremendous motivation to see that the agency is responsive and effective.
    Would a state in which people are less healthy than people in other states suddenly stop having heart attacks and strokes? No. Would polluted streams immediately become pristine? No. But as the state pulls its resources together to address those problems, it would be more transparent and accountable to the public’s genuine desire to see improvement.
    More than that, all agencies could be pulling together toward common goals from their respective perspectives. You don’t lower obesity levels merely by having a great, accountable health department. You have to do a lot of things. You have to improve education levels and step up economic development, and have attractive, well-run communities where businesses want to locate and safe highways and secure prisons. And in a true Cabinet system, a governor who ran on a platform of making our state more healthy, wealthy and wise would at least have in his hands the many levers with which state government can work in the direction of those goals. There would be someone in charge, someone we the people choose. Now, there isn’t.

  5. Doug Ross

    Nothing will change until the size of government is reduced. A small inefficient government is far superior to a large inefficient one.
    Take away the money and the priorities of the people will “bubble up” to the top.
    A simple tax system would lead to government restructuring much faster than waiting for the well-connected politicians to do it themselves. Flat income tax, no exemptions, no loopholes; Remove all sales tax exemptions; zero corporate tax (because we all end up paying for it anyway and the companies just waste resources trying to avoid paying them).
    Zero based budgeting.
    Companies would flock to the state if we had a legislature that was truly interested in the entire state instead of its own personal interests.

  6. Ralph Hightower

    Similar topic on government restructuring, but on reducing the number of constitutional officers, I think that South Carolina should reduce the number of constitutional officers that we elect.
    However, I think there are some officers that the governor should not appoint: Attorney General.
    Just think of what would have happened if we had a governor like Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, and appointed his personal friend and biggest contributor as Attorney General. Using National Association of Attorney General, I found that only eight states appoint their Attorney Generals: Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wyoming.
    I am ambivalent about Secretary of State; it is more difficult to find out who is elected and who is appointed from the National Association of Secretaries of State.
    The National Association of Treasurers is as difficult to get appointed versus elected status as the National Association of Secretaries of State; same difficulty finding elected/appointed status using the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers.
    But Adjutant General, Commissioner of Agriculture should be appointed by the governor.

  7. Lee Muller

    It is impossible for big government to be honest, much less efficient. When it government is so large that an individual voter cannot keep track of what is going on, and see the details of the entire budget, it is too big.
    Government attracts the lazy, the dishonest, the power-hungry, people who need to be watched constantly in order to behave. When they can hide, they sleep on the job, cheat, lie and steal.

  8. Rich

    I really think that the State newspaper should call for constitutional reform in a powerful sequel to the work the paper did in the early 90s. I do think, however, that little came of it precisely because of the fear you and others have (quite reasonably) expressed about calling a constitutional convention. Lord knows what could come of that! Look at what just happened in Bolivia!
    Still. I think we need to take the risk and write a short, barebones constitution that would not saddle future generations with today’s priorities, or those of the past that are no longer workable.
    Whether or not our government deficit spends, creates and funds this or that agency or program, or even what its people believe about life in general should have no place in such a document.
    I would eliminate, for instance, all references to God (they’re unconstitutional on the federal level anyway and cannot be enforced, particularly the nonsense requiring state office holders to believe in “God”), the right to a “minimally adequate” public education (the legislature is going to determine that anyway), the definition of marriage, etc.
    In a word, this would be a constitutional convention that would sidestep the hotbotton, culture-war issues that so deeply divide us in favor of writing a constitution for a public-service state that would protect its citizens, provide essential services, be balanced among the three branches of government, and allow for the governor to execute the laws and administer the government in much the same way as the president administers the federal government in Washington.
    I really think the State newspaper should push for something along these lines, keeping in mind that arcane, lawyerly language is going to turn off the majority of the population, and it is precisely these people we should want to bring into the process, even if only as knowledgeable voters who would have to vote to ratify.

  9. RM

    “Has anyone ever presented evidence that the governor’s agencies are “better” than the others? As a long time government guy, I just can’t see where that is the case.”
    I think this person forgot that they registered to comment on this site under the name “Ellen.”

  10. USA Reader

    You don’t have to register, RM. Any inclined person with the Internets can spout off here. That’s why I love it. And that’s why I love Amerika!!

  11. T

    “If you look at K-12 and higher ed, there is NO research being done on effectiveness, efficiency, access, affordability, none at all.”
    In regards to K-12, that is simply untrue.

  12. Herb Brasher

    In two days of Obama’s administration, I already sense a hopeful start. After eight long years, it’s great to have a president with a brain.

    Well, I figured out at least one of Rich’s sources, or at least he and Michael Hirsch at Newsweek are reading the same talking points from somewhere. Here is an excerpt:

    What Obama’s election means, above all, is that brains are back. Sense and pragmatism and the idea of considering-all-the-options are back. Studying one’s enemies and thinking through strategic problems are back. Cultural understanding is back. Yahooism and jingoism and junk science about global warming and shabby legal reasoning about torture are out. The national culture of flag-pin shallowness that guided our foreign policy is gone with the wind. …
    We can finally go back to respecting logic and reason and studiousness under a president who doesn’t seem to care much about what is “left,” “right” or ideologically pure. Or what he thinks God is saying to him. A guy who keeps religion in its proper place — in the pew . . .

    Well, well. It sounds as though all people who take God seriously are those who don’t use their brains. Better stay out of church, Brad.
    I don’t deny that a lot of religious people, including myself, have a lot to learn. But I guess I’m wondering if Mr. Hirsch is quite as bright as he seems to think he is. And as for keeping religion in its place—the pew, well, I wish that Martin Luther King were around to comment on that one.

  13. Ralph Hightower

    I disagree with Lee Muller’s statement:
    Government attracts the lazy, the dishonest, the power-hungry, people who need to be watched constantly in order to behave. When they can hide, they sleep on the job, cheat, lie and steal.
    What is happening in private industry is the same that is happening in state government: “Doing more with fewer people”.
    Now, Tommy Moore’s brother at DSS, okay, you’re right.
    But those state employees working in Information Technology could easily earn $10-15K more in private industry if there were jobs available.

  14. Capital A

    Herb, every time religion and government lie down in the bed together for extended periods of time, another mutant fetus of a tragedy is conceived.
    Every…single…time…from ancient Persia to the Crusades to the Puritans to modern day Persion to an incompetent President tugged from the throes of cocaine addiction by baby Jesus, that marriage, when it is explicit and deliberate, never works.
    “I have ever thought religion a concern purely between our God and our consciences, for which we were accountable to Him, and not to the priests.” –Thomas Jefferson to Mrs. M. Harrison Smith, 1816. ME 15:60
    My hero…
    And, yes, the pope (purposeful lower case) is just a guy with the end of a posthole digger for a hat. I can mail in my own prayers without the aid of an organization that communicates via smoke signals.

  15. Herb Brasher

    No doubt, Cap, but yours and Rich’s assessment is way overboard. You simply cannot ban religion from the public square like this. No doubt everyone of your examples makes a valid point, but most of them (well, not the Crusades, I think) has a balancing factor. I know you hate the Puritan experiment, but it was not all bad, and contrary to your belief, it did not end with a bunch of witch hunts. As one-sided as it was, the Puritans are one of the streams that flowed, along with many others, into the river that became our uniquely American democratic process. The Puritans didn’t live that badly, either. I know you probably have a vision of them as some kind of evil brand of Amish separatists who looked down their nose at everybody else, but a fair examination of Puritan society shows a pretty even-keeled group of people. Their experiment was, of course, doomed to fail, human nature being what it is. (And don’t worry, Rich–we “fundamentalists” will always lose–that is the nature of any religious group’s attempt to legislate righteousness–it will always fail–but it may, at times, influence for the better. )
    A person’s relationship to God goes deep into the very identity of who we are–and it goes deep, even for those who expend a lot of energy trying to prove that God does not exist. [That is doubtless a futile exercise, as the very basic fact of all religion is the fact that God does exist–and the very basic facts of Biblical revelation is, to start with the first two commandments of the Decalogue: “I am God, there is no other, you shall have no other gods before me, and you shall not create images of me of your own making–I am the God who speaks, who reveals Himself.]
    So is it any surprise that religion cannot, and never has been, simply a matter of private, personal belief? Why should we be expected to shut up about that which is the very basis of who we are?
    What I think that you and Rich would like to ban from the public square is not religion per se, but evangelicals, “fundamentalist” Muslims, and any other group that is convinced that there is only one way to God. Pluralism is OK, I think. Well, we must preserve the freedom for anyone to believe in any god they want, for coercion will certainly never work. But don’t expect us to just walk off the scene with nothing to say. And at the same time, we cannot deny John 14:6, Acts 4:12, or any other of the huge number of Biblical passages in both the OT and NT that make it plain that there is only one God, and He defines the way in which He is to be approached. We would often rather be much more pluralistic and liked by everybody, of course, but one cannot abandon truth just in order to be more popular. Nor can we be expected to abandon the promise that we can know that we are the children of God (1 John 5:11ff.). Assurance of our position before God is part of our birthright.
    Now of course that does not mean that we cannot make huge mistakes in addressing the issues of the public square. Since evangelicals can be found on many sides of the political spectrum, from Jim Dobson to Jim Wallis, there is a huge spectrum of understanding and input. There are a lot of things we will disagree about. But there are some things that we will be pretty much of one mind about, and we will speak our mind, whether you or Rich like it or not. We are people, citizens of this country, and we will not shut up. I promise.
    As for the fundamentalist Muslims that you lump us together with, please remember that there is a difference between fanaticism and fundamentalism. Hopefully a new administration will do better and not push the great mass of normal, Muslim people toward fanaticism. We can certainly be a lot smarter in our relationship with other peoples. But some of the things that you guys call “freedom” is what a great mass of humanity calls corruption, and they are angry, not only at US foreign policy, but also at Hollywood’s influence, Internet porn, and a host of other issues that are part of the so-called “culture wars” that get so easily dismissed on this blog as though they affect no one.
    Sorry for the sermon. Rest assured, we will not leave the public square, and for that I will not apologize.

  16. Herb Brasher

    P.S. My hero at the time of the Revolution is John Wesley. He had the foresight to pack up and go back to Britain instead of taking part in what may have been an unnecessary war. Had we done so, we might of remained a colony of Britain. Who knows–like Canada, we might have a proper medical system in place today?

  17. bud

    Brad’s cavalier dismissal of Ellen’s comment shows just how out of touch the State Newspaper is on this issue. All you have to do to assess the merit of a cabinet system of government is look at the performance of the South Carolina Department of Public Safety over its first 7 years of existence. That was EXACTLY the type of change they pushed for in 1992 and are pushing for again today. It was cronyism gone wild. Did it do a good job serving the needs of the public? No. And this CAN be measured. Traffic deaths soared (from 807 to 1064) as the number of troopers declined. (Other measures also showed we became a more dangerous state relative to the rest of the nation). The governor’s appointed head of DPS was a joke and the results prove it. And guess what, he was re-appointed by Governor Hodges, after Gov. Beasley fired him, as a quid pro-quo for his endorsement in the 1998 gubernatorial election. Some accountability.
    Whenever The State uses the word “accountability” you need to head for the hills, hide your valuables and pray.

  18. Lee Muller

    “..those state employees working in Information Technology could easily earn $10-15K more in private industry if there were jobs available.” – Ralph Hightower
    There are plenty of IT jobs available paying far more than state workers earn. Either the state workers don’t want those jobs, or they are not qualified for them. There are no other reasons.
    That is basic economic reality.
    I didn’t say that all state workers were lazy and dishonest – just that the environment of low performance accountability attracts those sorts of people. If you want to pay state employees more money, then I expect there to be fewer state workers with higher skills and work ethics.

  19. Brad Warthen

    bud, I thought we were making progress when you acknowledged, on a previous post, that Public Safety is not a Cabinet agency. In fact, lawmakers very deliberately avoided making it a Cabinet agency, and went through other gyrations that produced the unaccountable governing structure that you decry. So where in the world do you get the idea that Public Safety “was EXACTLY the type of change they pushed for in 1992 and are pushing for again today” — when it quite clearly and obviously is NOT?

  20. Brad Warthen

    And Ralph — the attorney general is at or near the top of most people’s lists of which constitutional officers should remain independent of the governor.
    And most restructuring-minded folks would agree with you in naming the ADJUTANT general as the one that most obviously should be appointed rather than elected, as is done in the other 49 states. Unfortunately, our political culture is such that the adjutant general has a loyal following — Guard members, particularly senior officers — that forms a lobbying phalanx that makes him the last, or one of the last, officials that lawmakers will vote to make appointive. This, of course, is precisely why the United States has always carefully avoided allowing military officers to get tangled up in politics, the way they are in banana republics. An elected military leader with a corps of loyal followers within the military itself acting in politics is a dangerous thing.
    If you analyze some of the more prominent military coups, you’ll see that same dynamic of political power within the military itself being exercised to the detriment of democracy. I remember seeing those dynamics at play when we studied the Brazil coup of 1964 in college — which particularly interested me because I lived through such a coup, on a smaller scale, in Ecuador when I was a kid. (All I knew at the time, being a kid, was that the Ecuadorean Navy captain who lived downstairs suddenly became minister of agriculture or some such, and the junta banned Water Carnival… )

  21. Lee Muller

    At what point would you acknowledge that the fascism being put in place by Mr Obama is a coup?
    When his Obama Youth Corps are chanting in the streets?
    When McClatchey gives up ownership to the federal government in consideration for bailout money?

  22. Lee Muller

    Litmus test:
    Would you accept a Constitution which guaranteed only freedom to pursue your own dreams, and no goods or services at the expense of others?
    Go ahead a post your wish list for a new Constitution, to see if you think like an American or a European serf.

  23. bud

    Brad, the governor DOES have the power to appoint the Executive Director of DPS. The Director DOES NOT serve at will as a pure cabinet agency would suggest but DPS is much closer to the ideal you keep pushing for than DOT or DHEC. And the governor abused his authority in 1999 when he appointed someone who was clearly doing a poor job. So in my estimation the near-cabinet agency status of DPS failed and the proof is in the numbers. Why can’t you simply acknowledge that DPS was a step in the direction of what you want then also acknowledge how it failed. I see nothing with the last restructuring legislation that would offer one scintilla’s worth of evidence that a cabinet form of government will work. You dismiss my facts about crash statistics without even acknowledging them. Look it up. SC is a dangerous state to drive on. And restructuring DID NOT HELP MAKE IT SAFER. Until you can admit that your claim of open-mindedness is a sham.

  24. Rich

    There is no empirical evidence to support any religion whatsoever. The very fact that you would find some other means of corroboration that would convince you, but not people who disagree with you, demonstrates why it is important for the government to be absolutely secular and completely neutral in matters of religion.
    No one is denying you the right to preach your religious mumbo-jumbo to whoever will listen, but I should not have to deal with it nor should public policy or schooling ever be based upon sectarian doctrines. That’s why a woman has a right to an abortion, why gays have the right to be married if they so choose, why we should engage in stem-cell research, etc.
    Best to keep religion out of our constitutional government so that everyone may live in peace, smug in his own rectitude, but quite powerless to enforce it upon anyone else!!

  25. bud

    I happen to believe restructuring will not accomplish what it’s proponents claim it will. It some vague way the various agency heads might indeed be more accountable (whatever that means). But I absolutely don’t believe they will serve the people better.
    This shouldn’t be about whether I find Brad open minded or not. Brad probably is open minded on most issues. But I think he has too much invested in this particular issue to see things with a neutral perspective. And perhaps maybe I do as well and take this very personally at times.
    This should be about facts. And the one great example of restructuring that made an agency a quasi-cabinet agency turned out to be one of the poorest performing, most inefficient agency imaginable. The flaw in the thinking by the pro-cabinet folks is simply that the Governor can make a bad choice. With some type of governing board the really, really bad choices are unlikely. And it’s obvious by Hodges behavior cronyism is not eliminated and perhaps even more likely with a cabinet agency.
    So folks before you jump on the restructuring bandwagon keep 2 things in mind. First, it’s going to cost money. That’s a fact. When agencies are split or merged that creates a massive amount of moving expenses, changes in logo, letterheads, web-sites, support staff and all the rest.
    Second, there’s really no evidence from past restructuring events to indicate it will actually improve service to the people.
    I was once a pro-restructuring guy, but now I know. It’s just not going to make things better.

  26. Lee Muller

    There IS empirical evidence that deficit spending by governments to “stimulate the economy” DO NOT work, and are often counterproductive.
    Yet ‘rich’ and ‘bud’ have FAITH that spending another trillion dollars on top of the 350 billion spent in 2008 without success, will somehow now succeed because Messiah Obama is doing the spending.
    Brad has faith that restructuring government will suddenly make it work wonderfully, without changing the people in charge and reducing their power, but merely by redistributing their power over the taxpayers.

  27. Capital A

    Herb, the Puritan experiment never ended. Its spirit is alive and well in the Republican party as witnessed by that group’s conservatism, adherence to the letter of the law regardless of conscience or common sense, and its xenophobia.
    Unfortunately, the Puritan ethic has dominated American culture for far too long at the expense of the more enlightened, Cavalier, Southern ideal of open mindedness, fair commerce, liberal study, honor and loyalty. Those of you who are from the south and reject those traits I just mentioned as traditionally our own are what have been described as the stereotypical Southern Yankee, and you probably have been enculturated by the likes of O’Reilly and Limbaugh. You aren’t in the matrix, you ARE the matrix, as you loudly suckle your red-state pills.
    Those aforementioned Southern ideals largely have been lost to time as even southerners have bought into their own stereotype as propagated by the northern-dominated media: poor, ignorant, slow-drawling, know-nothings.
    I will agree with you, Herb, that the Puritans were futurists as far as women’s rights are concerned…if you consider not beating your wife as epiphany. Overall, the Puritans were a small minded, vicious sect that, regrettably, windswept providence didn’t see fit to misdirect during their sea voyage. Even England didn’t want them to stay.
    To paint the Puritans as vital and necessary to the majority of our country’s success is misdirection; their fervor was representative of Nazi Germany on a smaller scale as the unwed, the socially unacceptable, the lustful and the mentally ill were executed in the names of superstition and petty bickering.
    To brush all of those despicable facts aside and to overstate their role in America’s rise to power reeks of religious familiarity and undue apology. Their lasting role certainly is diminished in comparison that of their Southern planter antipodes, despite millions of faulty high school textbooks which incorrectly state the contrary.
    To paraphrase another famous rebel in an only tangentially related context, we didn’t land on Salem, Massachusetts. Salem, Massacusetts landed on us.

  28. HP

    “arcane, lawyerly language” is music to our ears compared to your proposed godless blather and re-illustration of what ‘is’ is.

  29. Lee Muller

    Obamania more closely resembles the fervor of Nazism, than do the Puritans.
    Obama is a fascist in his concepts of centralized economic planning and control.
    Hitler was much smarter about it. He created planning councils composed of industrial leaders.
    Obama just does whatever pops into his mind, or has been his pent-up hatred or desire. If he gets any advice, it is from his communist pals and radical environmentalists, abortionists, homosexuals, and haters of business.

  30. Capital A

    We know, we know, Lee. Hitler was a white guy so he obviously did everything…even spread hate…better than the half-white guy. (sarcasm OFF, for the slow kids out there)
    You know, you are really efficient at finding and presenting useful information on many serious issues. I have learned a lot from greater exploration of the links you have provided.
    Unfortunately, you have also taught me that there are still members of my beloved state who can’t contain the hate in their hearts. It’s a shame, really, that you have so much to offer as a teacher, yet your closed-mindedness would limit your potential student audience severely.
    You’ve gone a long way to prove the more controversial elements of my last post. Based only on your blog postings, you’re a sadly tragic figure, actually.

  31. Rich

    You can believe whatever you want in matters of religion, just so long as the state does not endorse ANY of it or take any note of it whatsoever.
    Religious beliefs have no place in a modern constitution that respects the rights of all to believe and expound whatever suits their fancy.
    You can believe whatever you want, but it should have no impact whatsoever on my life nor should I have to take any cognizance of your religious fantasies.
    HP, freedom of religion means more than just your right to believe in your version of God and whatever he/she may be or desire that you do; freedom of religion also means freedom FROM religion.
    I live quite happily without your religious fairy tales and I want a state constitution that will NOT bow and genuflect in the direction of your irrational beliefs and prejudices.

  32. Herb Brasher

    Cap (and Rich),
    Did I paint the Puritans as “vital and necessary to our country’s success”? Because I don’t remember doing that. That would be a bit over-stating the case. But I have to wonder if comparing Puritans to Nazis is also not a bit overstating the case. I don’t recall any concentration camps being built in Mass. during the 17th century–or since then, for that matter, since you claim that they have been plaguing you ever since. [We sure do throw around this comparison to Hitler’s Germany a lot–you’d think that most of us really know something about it.]
    I would suggest that, while you institute same-sex marriages, you might also consider instituting marriage to whatever animal we should want to marry (after all, we are all animals, are we not?), and you might as well include self, as the comic strip Kudzu suggested last year. After all, most of us get along with self the best of anybody. Whatever you do make sure that religion has no influence on the matter, by all means. Maybe you should have a law that only atheists can introduce legislation.
    The idea, of course, that religion is to be allowed no influence on society whatsoever is totally ludicrous and ridiculous. MLK’s committment to non-violent racial change grew out of his religioius conviction about the nature of a human being.
    I’m sorry that you deem us evangelicals, and even religious people in general, it seems, to be such a threat to human life on this planet. This is the first time I’ve been basically called a Nazi. My family will doubtless be very amused at the inference that I am also a disciple of Limbaugh, since they know I don’t listen to, nor can I stand the guy.
    I can only be thankful that your Messiah, Barack Obama–who according to you guys is going to rescue us from the evil Satan George Bush (does it not strike you as peculiar that you accuse the Puritans of black and white categories, and yet you have them yourselves?)– seems to be a pretty much level-headed guy who also doesn’t seem to feel threatened by faith-based initiatves, but even has plans to encourage them. That tells me that religion can continue to exercise some influence in the public square, and the evident paranoia that you two seem to have will not necessarily rule the day.
    I like Obama in many ways–I certainly was influenced by some of the thoughts here, especially by Karen McCleod, in how I voted. I don’t tend to be very influenced by people who insult me as being ignorant, dismiss my positions out of hand, infer me to be a fascist, or even assume that I have read less than they have, since nobody here really knows how much I have read. I doubt that anybody is really positively influenced by those kinds of insults. You might want to think about that when you respond to others in the future.

  33. Lee Muller

    Your voting for a fascist like Barack Obama does not make you a fascist.
    For that, you actually have to believe in state control of banks and industry, dictating what products they make, the wages they pay, benefits they provide.
    Most Obama voters just wanted someone who sounded confident and a take-charge guy. They didn’t think about his way of dictating things, and by-passing Congress, to be illegal.

  34. Capital A

    Herb, I am not painting this as a black or white issue. In fact, where religious folk are concerned, I see you as gray, leaning towards white.
    I can’t speak for Rich, but I don’t trust evangelicals at all. For the most part, you are nice enough people (in my experience), but I sure as sheoal would not trust you to create fair and balanced American legislation. The past eight years are evidence of how that process goes.
    You all have an agenda and that agenda is to promote Christ, or more specifically, your depiction of Christ, above all else…above party lines, above your country’s needs, above the culture of others. As such, you cannot be trusted to consider the needs of ALL Americans.
    In fact, it is ironic and laughable that you get so upset when someone challenges your worldview. Your ire is very telling and goes a long way in proving my point.
    WWJD? No, I say, what would a good, decent, lawful person do? Those approaches in thinking are similar, but one explicitly holds to our nation’s core ethics, while the other doesn’t.
    The Puritans held to faith where legal matters are concerned. They called it “spectral evidence”; they were not required to produce definite, credible evidence for their charges as long as the accuser had high enough standing in the church and, basically, made up a good enough ghost story to damn his or her neighbor. If evangelicals had their way, they would return us to that line of thinking.
    And I’ll rot in the aforementioned sheoal while spitting in the eye of any God who would support that postition before I sit idly by and let that happen…

  35. Herb Brasher

    Cap, I think it’s hopeless. If you really think that evangelicals are going to be able to make your life miserable, then I guess I can’t help much. Pulling out some extreme examples from the Puritans and pinning them to the donkey (or I guess it was the elephant the last 8 years), as though we’re intending to slaughter your civil liberties, well that’s just plain silly.
    I’ll admit that a lot of times evangelicals are not good at thinking. I’ll admit that many of us would do good by contemplating Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms and differentiating between them. But you guys go way overboard in trying to keep our influence out of the public square. We have just as much right to be there as you do. When it does come to issues like abortion–well Brad already said it on another thread. If we’re honest, I don’t think killing comes easy for any of us, but it is astonishing how some people can brush it off as a non-issue.
    And really, would you cease trying to do silly things like find abortion in the Bible? You know well enough that the issue is principles. Try a concordance and look up ballistic missles as well.
    There are so many sweeping generalities here in these comments that it is almost useless to try and discuss things, anyway. To say that the last 8 years was a time of “evangelical” legislation is a joke. Especially since evangelicals are found all over the political spectrum. And if you’re talking about Dobson, well, I sincerely doubt that he got much of what he would have wanted.
    A Christian should never ask, WWJD, because Jesus is alive. If we ask him, he’ll help us to figure out what we’re supposed to be doing, but He never came just to provide a good example. But I don’t want to expose you to my theology–especially since you don’t want it. But just so you know–don’t bother quoting me the WWJD thing; I don’t subscribe to it.
    At least I learned that I am gray-white Nazi, and presumably not totally brown. Whatever that means . . . .

  36. Capital A

    Herb, I did not say you were a Nazi or anything approaching that. I intimated that many of the same drives of the Puritans resurfaced in Nazism. They both wanted to force people to be better. I do not hold to that belief.
    People CHOOSE to become better, often through inspiration. You probably have had more experience with people who have made that choice than I have, so why are we even wasting time debating that point? Why would you think I called you a Nazi when I have repeatedly expressed admiration for your stances, though I often disagree with their entirety? C’mon, Herb!
    If abortion is a principle, then why do evangelicals portray those who make that hard CHOICE as sinners and use extremely hateful language in reference to those who don’t agree with them? Herb, you are the exception to evangelical protocol, not the rule. I’ve lived in this state long enough to realize that much, and my 17 years’ experience in the Southern Baptist church suggests you are out of touch with those who share your beliefs.
    Evangelicals won’t purposefully “make my life miserable”, but they often make a right mess of things when they try to intepret complex, current issues through the mindset of ancient Jews. See also: United States’ Nonsensical Military Support of Israel. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
    The past eight years have evangelical fingerprints all over them as our formerly coke-addled President on a few occasions has professed his being guided by voices. At least the Reagans were more honest about their shared inspiration and had a Ouija board in hand as evidence of their source of information.

  37. Herb Brasher

    As far as the perceived “evangelical vote,” I think things are a’changin’. I guess part of the problem too is that my definition of “evangelical” is a lot narrower than yours is. Rick Warren is one; George Bush definitely is not, since he believes that there are many ways to God through all religions.
    “Out of touch”? Maybe, but I think more “out of step.” But as I’ve already said, there are more of us than you think. Yes, the Israel thing is really a bummer, many Christians really see Israel is some sort of fetish–the mistaken idea that if I treat Israel well, then God will bless me. Meanwhile, Micah 6:8 is where God is at: “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly . . .” But then I have Palestinian friends, and that helps, I guess.
    I still think you overdo it, as I also do at times, but thanks for the explanations.

  38. Herb Brasher

    By the way, this is right on, and well said:
    “Evangelicals won’t purposefully “make my life miserable”, but they often make a right mess of things when they try to intepret complex, current issues through the mindset of ancient Jews.”

  39. Lee Muller

    Cap A,
    It is Obama who is the racist and the hater. He ran on a campaign of retribution, of blacks against whites, do-nothings and have-nots against the successful, the Welfare State against individualists, Democrats against Republicans.
    So far, every day, Obama has made a point of demonstrating his intent to punish those whom he demonized during the campaign.
    And I intend to point it out to those of you who voted for that ignorant bigot.

  40. Capital A

    Herb, henceforth I will refer to Evangelicals like you (in the tradition of Paul) with a capital E and the more politicized bent with the common lower case e. Who knows, maybe you can become Capital E one day if you promise to give me 10% of your earnings while using that moniker?
    On a more serious note, I want you to see the following evidence that, indeed, Babybush is a full-blown evangelical and has been keenly aware of how his office would benefit that cabal.

  41. Capital A

    Lee, Southern Baptist preachers have been spreading hatred of homosexuals for decades. I sat through many sermons of that subject for at least 17 years, yet I have no hatred or even dislike for those who are gay.
    I think they are born that way, and sexual preference is not a choice — it’s a complex swirl of hormones and electrical impulses; in fact, it’s part of God’s way which I, as a mere human, can barely fathom. Despite my belief that is at odds with the church, I stayed.
    And why? My family and friends went there, and I enjoyed their fellowship. I have sat silent and even turned my head when objectionable statements were hurled across the clergy because I respected the messenger, if not the message.
    Until I see Obama cheering on something that is obviously evil or offensive, I will reserve judgment. Besides, preachers are performers — Falwell, Bakker, Cerrullo, Hinn.
    Why do you have a problem with the black variety and not the white, I wonder? At least two of those aforementioned actors has meetings with Reagan, Bushdaddy and Bushbaby.
    Message received?
    Message understood?

  42. Lee Muller

    Obama sat in Jeremiah Wrights cult “church” for 20 years and cheered on his racist tirades.
    We KNOW that, because the audiotapes and videotapes of the tirades are out in the public, where Obama was present.
    Obama has praised Louis Farakhan and Farakhan has praised Obama.
    Obama himself wrote and spoke of his hatred of whites, Jews and Asians, and his desire for retribution.

  43. Lee Muller

    Since this all came out during the election, and you obviously didn’t pay attention, why don’t you go go back now and prove your assertion that Obama missed ALL of Jeremiah Wright’s racist sermons of hate?
    You can see some of them on YouTube.
    All his past sermons are available from his cult church for $7.00. Pick some at random, like some of the investigative journalists did.
    In fact, on Jan 21, 2009, Jeremish Wright was standing right behind Barack Obama at that early morning church service which completed the four days of Innaugural ceremonies. It is on C-SPAN.

  44. Capital A

    Lee, I didn’t miss a thing…not even your leap of illogic. Still, I have never seen Obama “cheering on” Wright. Other than in your narcotics-enabled yammerings, has this ever happened?
    You’re normally the master of links. Have you lost your ability?
    Also, the word is “inaugural.” Your spelling degrades when you fib. I think that’s called a “tell.”


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