Your Virtual Front Page, Monday, September 16, 2013

Just a quick look at what’s out there:

  1. Rampage at Navy Yard (WashPost) — Death toll up to 13 in shooting spree, apparently including the shooter.
  2. UN concludes chemical agent sarin gas used in Syria attack (The Guardian) — The UN calls it a war crime, and describes the attack in terms that make it certain that the Assad regime is responsible, but isn’t pointing fingers. Which, many will say, is just like the UN.
  3. Experian doesn’t want to monitor our credit any more ( — I suppose the job didn’t turn out to be all that lucrative.
  4. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses ‘catastrophic’ threat, CDC report says (WashPost) — Scary-sounding stuff.
  5. Costa Concordia freed from rocks (BBC) — That’s that shipwreck in Italy.
  6. Columbia man shot protecting pit bulls ( — I put this on the front because, while it is not literally a “man bites dog” story, it comes close.

104 thoughts on “Your Virtual Front Page, Monday, September 16, 2013

    1. Doug Ross

      Whoooo…whoooo… can you hear the train wreck coming? Max Baucus could.

      Do you really expect all the new IT systems to work day 1? The White House won’t be able to control the Twitter avalanche as bad news spreads in early October.

      It could’ve been done right. It could’ve been done better. This is an all-Democrat solution. They better own it.

      1. bud

        Doug, I’ll ask you and all the other anti-ACA people what do you want to do? After you finish I’ll explain why that won’t work either. It’s very easy to bash something but coming up with something better is tough. The devil is in the details after all. And just for the record I’m not a big fan of Obamacare either. It’s way too complicated. Medicare for all is my approach.

        1. Doug Ross

          I’ve said what I would do many times.

          1) Keep the regulations that allow for portability and no denial of coverage
          2) Allow any citizen to buy the same policy that their U.S. Congressman has access to at the same cost
          3) Cut military spending and shift it to providing vouchers to those who cannot afford insurance
          4) Ban the advertisement of prescription drugs except directly to doctors.
          5) Require everyone to purchase a high deductible catastrophic policy. If they don’t buy one, there is no penalty. They are just left to pay for whatever services they get.

          That’s worse?

          1. Doug Ross

            The failure is going to be with the IT systems. Mark it down. It’s an area I have a lot of experience with. There will be data issues, privacy issues, access issues, hacker attacks.

          2. bud

            1. Portability sounds fine until you get into the details. Some companies have contracts with specific health insurance companies. Ultimately those contracts would be rendered unworkable as people move from job to job. That seems even more awkward than the exchanges being developed as a part of the ACA.
            2. This would involve gigantic subsidies since the congressional plan is probably a platinum plan.
            3. While I strongly agree with the sentiment to cut military spending that is really a separate issue that should be decided on the issues related to what we need to defend our country.
            4. No problem with banning advertising but doesn’t that go against libertarian philosophy?
            5. You support a government imposed mandate? Mandates are among the most controversial parts of the ACA.

            Doug you have at least suggested some things and you deserve credit for that. And frankly they have merit but probably don’t go far enough in my view. But many in congress only talk about repealing the ACA without proposing anything to replace it with. It’s nothing but political posturing.

        2. Silence

          1) Offer/require a high deductible plan that covers catastrophic events and long-term illness. This will prevent people’s medical bills from causing bankruptcy.

      2. Scout

        An all democrat solution that will be implemented by republicans in a lot of cases – I’m sure republican governors across the nation aren’t dragging their feet making sure the implementation runs smoothly or anything. Nikki Haley has certainly done everything she could to make sure SC is ready, right?

        1. Doug Ross

          They are doing what the law allows them to do. It makes more sense to have the federal government run the exchanges anyway – why should there be 50 systems instead of 1? Think about how all those systems will have to interact as people move from state to state. It’s going to be a nightmare.

          1. Scout

            You are preaching to the choir there, Doug. I have no issue with federal oversight that facilitates common standards between states in general. I think it makes sense in most things, given how mobile our population is.

            But the point I was making is that people who disagree with the law are in a position to muck up the implementation if they want to. It would be big of them to not interfere, since it is the law of the land, despite their misgivings, but some don’t take the high road. To not acknowledge that this is the case is being disingenuous. It puts a new wrinkle on your statement that “This is an all-Democrat solution. They better own it.” Are the detractors going to own up to their part in obfuscating things? I doubt it.

            Also, it’s interesting that this all-democrat solution is so similar to republican plans of the past, even the recent past (i.e. Romney Care). But they haven’t owned up to that either. There is not a lot of owning up happening any where these days.

          2. Doug Ross

            My point is that it doesn’t matter what Republicans do. This will be a failure because of the bill and its implementation. If I were a Republican, I would sit back and say nothing and watch it fail on its own. Don’t give the Democrat any excuse to blame anyone but themselves.

            This could have been done incrementally. The big bang approach will result in a larger explosion when things go wrong.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      Maybe if the GOP and Faux News didn’t expend so much effort muddying the waters, folks might be able to suss it out….

      1. Doug Ross

        Fewer than 2% of Americans watch Fox News and the majority of them are older Americans, many of whom are on Medicare already.

          1. Doug Ross

            Do the math. The influence of Fox News is greatly overstated. There are 7 times more people who watch Duck Dynasty than Bill O’Reilly. There are 15 times more people who watched the Broncos-Giants game on Sunday than watch Hannitty.

            People have reservations about Obamacare because of what it is and what it does, not who passed it. What it is and what it does is a function of the Democratic Party’s values – take from the rich, give to the poor.

      2. Bart

        C’mon Kathryn, did you study at the Obama Institute of Blame? How can one network with less viewers than even one of the majors have that much influence over the American people? If not for Fox, who would liberals have to blame for Obama’s lack of leadership? It is really becoming as the old saying goes, a crashing bore to hear you, bud, and a few others who comment on a regular basis use the MoveOn and DailyKos continue to “blame” Fox and Republicans for everything wrong with the country.

        Then tonight, Obama had to reach back to 2008 to deflect his lack of leadership because after 5 years in office, things are not that much better than they were when he was elected. It is becoming apparent the word “blame Bush and Republicans” is permanently etched into his teleprompter. He wanted the job, he went after the job, he got the job and now, he cannot do the job because – wait for it, Fox News, Republicans, Rush Limbaugh, and anyone he can safely attack. Now exactly what economic plan has he presented other than wanting to raise taxes? Wow, I thought the Stimulus and shovel ready jobs would ignite the economy or at least that is what we were led to believe.

        Every time Obama speaks, we see a living example of Peter’s Principle in action.

        1. bud

          things are not that much better than they were when he was elected.


          Since when is 7.4% unemployment “not much better” than 10.1%?
          Since when is zero troops in Iraq not better than 150,000?
          Since when is a 7% increase in the rate of health care not better than 12%?
          Since when is a stable financial sector not better than a financial collapse?
          Since when are profitable automobile and housing sectors not better than ongoing bankrupsy in those industries?
          Since when is a $600 billion budget deficit not better than a $1.4 trillion?

          There is no need to make excuses for Obama. I think he is doing a fine job rescuing this nation from the horrors of George W. Bush and his neocon minions of evil and plutocrat cronies of greed. Sure we need to do more. And if the obstructionist congress and their propaganda machine at Fox News would simply get out of the way and let the president do his job then things would be even better.

          1. FParker

            bud, your right, Obama is doing a wonderful job. Wall Street is making money hand over fist, Main Street is still going out of business. Minimum wage jobs are scarce now that people are limited to 28 hours per week so they’re working two jobs. The Treasury printing presses are working overtime and I hear there’s talk of a 3rd shift.

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      It’s funny what y’all got out of that poll result re Obamacare.

      When I saw it, my first thought was, so now we don’t have to pay the slightest attention to any of those OTHER polls that show people don’t like Obamacare. Because now we know that they don’t have a clue what they’re opining about…

      1. Doug Ross

        How much do YOU know about Obamacare? Could you spend 30 minutes discussing what is coming in the next month, what the challenges are, where the funding comes from? Or should we leave that to Jim Clyburn and Joe Wilson?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Not a whole lot. Probably not much more than the average person.

          But then, I’ve never claimed to know all that much about it. Here’s what I DO know: I’m uninterested in doing away with it until:
          a) It’s actually implemented, and we see how it works; and
          b) Someone presents a viable alternative plan for accomplishing the same goals.

          Is there something I should know that would change my mind on those two points? It seems unlikely, but if there IS something, share it. Otherwise, why go on and on about it?

          Until those things (a and b) happen, hollering about whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing seems a waste of time. In fact, this constant harping on how awful it is, when no one really knows yet, poisons attitudes ahead of time and can only be destructive.

          It should be given a chance. And that’s hard to do when there’s such a loud faction determined that it NOT be given a chance…

          1. Doug Ross

            Yeah, no sense going into this with a well-thought out plan with wide ranging support. It’s just 1/6 of the economy.

            I suppose if you were building a house and saw that the architect suggested using cardboard for the walls, you’d say “Hey, let’s see how this turns out. You never know!”

            Remember – Senator Max Baucus – the guy who was one of the lead people who came up with Obamacare said it will be a train wreck. He was so sure it will be a disaster that he decided not to run for re-election.

            All you have to do is keep up with the news on the implementation to know it is headed for disaster. Unions are dropping support, insurers are deciding not to offer coverage in some states, premiums are rising in some states (and dropping in a couple where they were already high), employers are cutting hours to get under the caps, portions of the bill have already been delayed because they couldn’t be implemented in time…

            There is a trail of news you can follow to see where we are headed. This isn’t something you can ask for a mulligan on.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            I seem to have missed it when Congress voted on this alternative, “well-thought out plan with wide ranging support.” When was that?

            We have this same argument about a lot of things. It’s related to the argument we’d have when you’d criticize me for endorsing the lesser of two evils.

            What you ignore is that in the real world, choices have to be made between the actual options that are available. If one of two candidates IS going to be elected, you are copping out not to pick one, because the difference between bad and worse IS important.

            And when a perfect plan with majority support is never, ever presented as an option, if it never gets to the point of a vote, you go with the best thing you can get. Because the alternative, to do nothing, was and is totally unacceptable.

          3. Doug Ross

            Doing less WAS an option. Doing it incrementally WAS an option. Obama and the Democrats went for the massive changes.

            It’s estimated that 70% of software projects fail. Since Obamacare will be relying on numerous concurrent software projects to implement, I expect a significant number of problems, especially when they are working on a fixed deadline instead of waiting until it is ready and tested. If you are building a house and have a move in date of October 1 and the roof isn’t in place on September 30, you don’t just go ahead and move in.

            14 days left. In the real world, the IT systems would have been tested and ready to go two weeks or more ago. Think they’re at that point now?

            I’m betting on either massive system failure or a delay announced at the last minute.

      2. Bart

        On many occassions, my job required making power point presentations to a room full of board members, management teams, engineers, and other highly educated or experienced supervisors and rank and file employees. The one thing learned very early in the process was that in order for the audience to fully evaluate a new program or product, you need to provide bullet points with essential ACCURATE information for the positives, the negatives, and the unknowns. When a presentation is totally transparent it is usually successful. When the people who are affected have an opportunity to actually know what is in a plan so they can evaluate it considering all or as many options possible, they can then reach an informed decision and decide to proceed or not.

        When you package a pile of steaming horse manure as a Christmas present and have Nancy Pelosi tell us they have to pass it to find out what’s in it is not the way to conduct the business of America. That is tantamount to buying a “Grab Bag” from a barrel and hoping you will find a genuine treasure instead of junk. But, usually all you find is a cheap trinket.

        When one tries to read and comprehend the full extent of the bill, one of the first things noticed is that there is no real cohesion to the conglomeration of old wish lists, Hillary Care provisions, and existing health care laws.

        Mark, Doug, Bryan, Kathryn, or anyone else who has ever had to present a comprehensive argument for or against anything, knows they must present it with clarity and support for anything declared as a fact and if it cannot be quantified, then the variables should be presented in honest terms, positives and negatives.

        Doug is right, if we have to depend on Joe Wilson or Jim Clyburn to explain the bill, forget about it.

        1. Doug Ross

          Here’s a good site with specific facts and timelines for Obamacare:

          Some things I bet you didn’t know were in the bill.. which if these do you think could have been left out to craft a cleaner bill?

          – Chain restaurants must now display calories in order to promote wellness and healthy living

          – The law imposes a 10% tax on tanning booths.

          – Employers must list employee benefits on their tax form.

          – ObamaCare places a $2500 limit on tax free spending under FSAs

          – There is a 3.8% tax increase on capital gains over, unearned income, interest, dividends, annuities, rent, royalties, and inactive businesses.

          – There is a .9% ObamaCare Medicare tax on those making over $200k as an individual or $250k as a business

          – ObamaCare increases (7.5% to 10%) threshold at which medical expenses, as a % of income, can be deductible

          – There is a new tax on medical devices.

          This is not a health care bill, it is a tax-and-spend bill.

          1. Doug Ross

            Here’s a quote from a politician I believe you respect:

            “I’ve been warning that a train wreck is coming with this law, but the truth is that no train wreck has ever had this many warning signs,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R.-Tenn., said.

          2. Silence

            It is a law that is designed to fail. It’s designed to break the country’s healthcare financing system. It’s intended purpose is to make the people say “Uncle” and force a large swath of the middle class to literally beg for single payer. That is all.

        2. Bryan Caskey

          On the topic of presentations and being effective, I would say that credibility is the most important thing for me and my client in the courtroom setting. If the Judge/jury doesn’t believe that you’re 100% credible, then you’re at a severe disadvantage. You’ve got to face up to the worst parts of your case and deal with them head-on. Omitting bad facts is the worst thing you can do, because a good opposing counsel will show you to be incompetent at best, and misleading at worst.

          At least when the bad facts come from you up front, you get to deal with them in your own manner, and you get a little credit for being an honest broker.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            I just re-read my comment, and I noticed that I did the Mark Sanford “I would say…” thing right out of the gate. Sorry.

            /rolls up newspaper

            / hits self on nose

            Bad Bryan! Bad!

        3. bud

          Brad hit the nail on the head. ACA IS the only game in town right now. Once it’s fully implemented we can see what works and what won’t. This is my biggest beef with the Republicans right now, they simply do not offer anything other than repeal. The result of a comprehensive repeal would be the return to what we had in 2008 with all the horrors that existed then. Do we really want to get rid of the pre-existing conditions clause of the ACA or the mandate that insurance companies spend 85% of their revenue on actual healthcare and not profit? Most Americans if presented with that choice would probably not want to go back.

  1. FParker

    7. The State goes to FaceBook only comments. From today’s articles, most appear to have one or two comments or no comments at all vs. 2-3 pages of comments under the old system. How long until falls to the FaceBook only comments trend?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        A bit of pointed commentary, that.

        Yes, I can see some value in outsourcing the headache of moderating the blog.

        But I don’t think I’d ever choose Facebook for that purpose…

    1. Silence

      I don’t like FB. While I’m technically still “on” it, I hardly use it anymore. It’s become the new “MySpace” and has gotten crap-tastic.

      1. Bart

        I go to FB when a notification comes in but never post anything to it. For some reason, I am not compelled to share with everyone I know when my wife and I go to a restaurant.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I totally screwed up Facebook.

          I jumped into it at the same time, and for the same reason, that I started using Twitter — to promote my blog.

          So I approved pretty much everyone who asked to be my “friend,” seeing the term as a misnomer anyway. (Yes, dear reader, that’s how YOU got in — just kidding; you know how close we are. I mean all those OTHER people.)

          And I ended up with 989 “friends.”

          Then, later, I realized that Facebook is really only useful for keeping up with, and sharing pictures and such with, actual friends and family. Nothing at all like Twitter, which is a great way of interacting with the rest of the world.

          So, to make my Facebook page what it ought to be, I’d have to unfriend about 900 people. Which I am loath to do…

          1. Silence

            You know, you could set up a FB page just to promote your blog. Instead of people “friending” you, they would “become a fan” of your blog on the page. That way updates could show up in their feed, but you wouldn’t have to actually be friends with a bunch of people who aren’t really your friends and family. Do you need a social media coordinator? I can recommend someone to manage your social media activities.

  2. Rose

    #1. I think the military needs to change how it screens its civilian contractors. This guy had a criminal record and mental health issues. Even just a basic run of his fingerprints would have pulled up his arrests. Yet somehow he was approved, hired, and allowed access to the military base and its IT systems. Was NO background check run?

    1. Silence

      The military screens civilan contractors pretty thoroughly. While he had been investigated a few times, I don’t think he’d ever been actually convicted of anything, so no criminal record. Remember, ANYONE can be accused of ANYTHING at ANY TIME, so let’s not rush to judgement.
      When you submit an application for a clearance, it’s on an Standard Form 86 and it’s pretty exhaustive.
      It’s the same form, whether you are an active duty servicemember, a contractor, or a civilian employee. The form goes deep into your past, where you lived, worked, who knew you, where you travelled, mental health issues, criminal history, etc. It even takes into account arrests that did not lead to convictions. It’s coupled with a national state and local agency database check as well. It’s pretty thorough, you also submit finger prints and it can take a few months to adjudicate.
      An SF86 etc. would have to be completed and a background check performed for him to have gotten the clearance. It’s possible he had the clearance before he started having problems, and was able to keep it after he separated from the service.

        1. Silence

          Sounds like he walked in with only the Remington 870 shotgun and acquired additional weapons from some of his LEO victims.

          Joe “shoot ’em through the front door” Biden is a shotgun fan.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Speaking of which… I know that the Navy has changed a lot since I was a dependent and lived on Navy bases, but…

            I saw all these images of various civilian law enforcement types responding to this shooting, and I found myself wondering, Where were the marines? Shouldn’t this be their bailiwick?

            Also, I know we have posse comitatus to keep the military from performing civilian law enforcement functions. Is there no barrier to civilians operating on a military base? I mean, I’m sure the barrier can be overcome, but what red tape had to be cleared away for D.C. cops and others to come on to the premises?

            I’m not clear on the jurisdictional issues. But mostly, I wonder, where were the marines?

          2. Silence

            Most of the security has been outsourced to contractors. They are cheaper than Marines. A lot of the trained SF/MP type GI’s get deployed overseas, and the backfill at home stations are contract personnel. There’s just not enough people in the career field to fully staff all of the required positions.
            There’s no barrier to civilians performing law enforcement functions on a military base. They’d be overseen by a Provost Marshall, who is military. Typically, crimes on a military base would be dealt wth in federal magistrate’s court, IIRC.

          3. Brad Warthen Post author

            Thanks, Silence!

            That’s sort of the way I thought it was.

            This makes me all nostalgic. Back when Burl and I were in high school, you had to get past the USMC to get onto Pearl Harbor. And those marines were dressed properly, in Blue Dress C uniforms, not in fatigues like they’re pretending to be at war or something.

            You really felt like THIS was a secure, and properly squared-away, facility.

            By the way, in case you missed it previously, here’s a story about a run-in I had with one of those marines on the gate at Pearl…

          4. bud

            As bad as it was if the dude really did have an AR-15 it would have been worse. Killing 12 people with a shotgun and a handgun or two probably required a great deal of time and skill. Sadly even those weapons are deadly in the wrong hands.

      1. Rose

        Well, that’s a whole lot more helpful info than has been in the media! Thanks, Silence. Still, it’s frightening to see that someone with a history of arrests and poor conduct in the Navy can get through a background check and get clearance as a civilian contractor. Also, Naval Station officials were supposedly notified of the recent incident when he reported hearing voices….Wouldn’t that be something that would at least temporarily suspend his access to the base?
        Of course, it all seems so obvious now. I know it must be extremely difficult to put these pieces together when you don’t know that there’s a threat….

  3. Bart

    Item #2. When the president starts to lose WaPo, it is time sit up and take notice. Recently, Obama made the comment that criticism of his Syria policy was nothing more than “style points”. This invoked a response from Ruth Marcus of the WaPo.

    “Style points? Seriously? Style points? That’s what President Obama thinks the criticism of his zigzag Syria policy amounts to?

    As presidential spin, this is insulting. As presidential conviction — if this is what he really believes — it’s scary. . .

    Second, presidential actions have ripples beyond ripples. Obama may have lucked — or his secretary of state accidentally may have stumbled — into an approach that averted “The Perils of Pauline” moment. But the indecision, the mind-changing, the lurching — and, note, Obama did not dispute such characterizations so much as dismiss them — have consequences.

    “Style,” as the president would have it, matters. Adversaries and allies, foreign and domestic, take a measure of the president’s steel. They judge whether he can be trusted, whether he will back down, whether he has what it takes to lead his country and the world. In the past few weeks, I have encountered not a single person outside the White House, Republican or Democrat, who has kind words for Obama’s performance.”

    Slowly but surely, one at a time, the once tight ranks around the president by the press is starting to break. Whether it will last is another question but for now, some are seeing the light after having the scales removed from their eyes.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Bart this has nothing to do with being a press guy, or having scales on the eyes, but I continue to hope that the president knows what he’s doing. Because the alternative is scary.

      I heard an excerpt from and interesting interview Charlie Rose did last week — not with Assad, but with Leon Panetta. He was polite and respectful toward the president, and gave him the benefit of the doubt. But I got the impression that he still believes that he — and Hillary Clinton, and Robert Gates — were all right two years ago when they urged the president to go in and deal with Assad back when there was a good chance that he would be replaced by rebels more to our liking.

      The president did the same thing week before last… he ignored his whole national security team in deciding to back down and hand the decision about Syria to Congress.

      I don’t like the pattern.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Panetta also harbors no illusions about the Russians. Regarding Putin’s op-ed, he said “Clearly, he was trying to weaken the United States…”

        He also said, as I would expect him (or any sensible person with his kind of experience) to say, “The fact is, we ARE exceptional, in terms of our value of human rights and our leadership in the world.”

        As for whether the threat of U.S. force brought the Russians and the Syrians to seize on the chance of a deal regarding chemical weapons, he said, “No question. No question. They respond to power. Look, for almost 30 months, we have been asking the Russians to help us try to negotiate some kind of solution here, and it hasn’t gone anywhere. And suddenly, the threat of military action comes from the president of the United States…” and they want to work something out…

        How about Panetta for president?

        1. Silence

          Our RECENT human rights record isn’t so hot…
          Surveillance programs that would make the Stasi grün with envy.
          Imprisioning “terrorists” without due process or legal recourse @ Gitmo.
          Drone strikes – technically assasinations of American citizens and others without trial, in which the executive branch is judge, juror and executioner.
          Secret FISA courts issuing secret orders that can’t be challenged or appealed – because they are secret.
          TSA thugs stealing traveller’s stuff, groping people, or subjecting them to being photographed “au naturel”.
          Death Panels.

          Come to think of it, our leadership in the world has been questionable lately as well. Good thing that France, Russia and China are stepping up to fill the gaps.

        2. Phillip

          Panetta, in the same interview, kept reiterating that all the President has to do is assert that our own national security is at stake and he can basically do whatever he likes, Congressional approval or not. But as horrible as the chemical attacks within the Syrian civil war are, defining that as a threat to our own US domestic security seems like a stretch.

          But Obama IS Commander-in-Chief, as you like to point out, and so part of that is being firm, not just against foreign adversaries, but against your national security team when they are giving you dangerous advice. There’s a lot of wishful thinking out there in terms of how the rebel forces in Syria are divided between the moderate secularists and the religious-based fighters.

      2. Bart

        Brad, I never included you in the sycophant press corps who have continued to prop Obama up when they can see with their own eyes how incompetent and lacking in leadership he really is. His empty suit is apparent to everyone who is not blinded by his historical victory in the 2008 election. When the press returns to its roots and starts to hold everyone accountable who is elected to office instead of being a propaganda arm and carrying the water for Obama, maybe some respect will return for what was once considered to be an honorable profession.

        This has been Obama’s history from day one for anyone who has actually studied the man with open eyes and without a political agenda either for or against and he is not going to change. He has been able to slide by with his charm and ability to create an illusion that he knows what he is doing. He is a very dangerous person who is in over his head and it strikes fear in me to think he actually does have control over the “red button” and is responsible for answering the “red phone” at 3:00 in the morning.

        He has made the comment, “words, just words” and by doing so has revealed that words are all he has to rely upon in any situation. The problem is that his words are meaningless in real content but contain the potential to create more division between the races instead of closing it, exporting a weak portrayal of America when his supporters praise his “pragmatism” that in reality is nothing more than indecision because he simply doesn’t know what to do or how to lead.

        And, to be perfectly honest, most liberals and Democrats are scared spitless (h) to criticize Obama for fear of being called a racist. Somewhere deep in their psyche, apparently they truly believe if they are honest and level legitimate criticism of Obama, they are betraying their core belief and encouraging a racist attitude toward the man. Propping up a president who is weak because he is the first black president is not doing this country any service or encouraging the progress of racial relations in America. If anything, it is nothing but a lack of expectations and a form of soft racism that creates more harm than it does good. If Obama cannot be held to the same level of expectations for leadership and competence as any other president would be, then the office is diminished to the point where it is nothing but a high school exercise by electing the most popular student to be student body president.

        He simply does not have the same option he had as a state senator and a US senator by being able to vote “present” when confronted with a very serious issue. He continues to “blame Bush” for everything as evidenced by his regression to the 2008 financial collapse in his speech last night. George W. Bush may not have been the best president ever and he most certainly had his faults but not once did he use the excuse, “it’s Clinton’s fault” while he was in office. Go back as far as your memory allows and give an example of any sitting president who continually blamed his predecessor for everything that was/is wrong with the country. Hell, we know he inherited the financial situation but by damn at some point, he must take ownership but he won’t because he is not effective enough to lead the country out of it.

        Maybe the “shovel ready jobs” he referred to are the ones where we need shovels to clear a path after one of his teleprompter speeches.

        1. Phillip

          Bart, I have to chuckle when you say Obama is a “dangerous man” who it makes you shudder to think that he has his hand on the “red button.” Had either of his opponents won, in ’08 or ’12, we would have gone to war five times over in the interim, launched goodness-knows how many cruise missiles, sent troops into who knows how many locales around the world. Don’t get me wrong: I have real problems with Obama and have just about climbed off his bandwagon myself over the drone strikes, the NSA surveillance policies, and his coming close to committing the US to one particular side in a Shia-Sunni civil war in Syria…but I think it’s quite possible there are a lot of kids in the US whose fathers are still alive to tuck them in at night because he’s President and not McCain or Romney.

          1. Bart


            Glad I was able to provide you with a chuckle especially since you were engaging in an exercise of “what if” when it comes to McCain or Romney automatically declaring war, bombing other countries without seeking and getting approval, or all of the other conclusions drawn on supposition because of your political ideology.

            And yes, the most dangerous person in the world is one who has the power to “push the red button” when that person is simply not qualified to be a position of power.

          2. Bart

            “…..but I think it’s quite possible there are a lot of kids in the US whose fathers are still alive to tuck them in at night because he’s President and not McCain or Romney.”

            Really Phillip? Is that the best you can do as a rebuttal? Invoking an image of kids being tucked in at night by their fathers because the “bad men” are not in office? Apparently the LBJ approach still resonates with you – from Goldwater = nuclear weapons to McCain/Romney = dead fathers. And to think liberals constantly portray conservatives as fear mongers.

          3. Phillip

            Bart, it’s got nothing to do with “liberal” or “conservative,” Democrat or Republican, if you’ve been paying attention to the recent debate over Syria. There are plenty of liberal Democrats who were all for dropping missiles on Syria (Pelosi and others) while there are plenty of conservative Republicans who questioned the wisdom of doing so.

            In the latter part of this decade, new fault lines have opened up within the two major parties about American interventionism abroad. Within the Republican party, you see a real split between the more libertarian wing that would prefer to see a stricter, narrower definition of American “national security”, versus what might be called the neocon interventionist wing.

            McCain and Romney, based on their record and their words, are firmly in the neocon camp. Romney’s foreign policy team in particular was a rehash of familiar faces from the Bush II era. When you vote for President, who makes you feel safer is part of the equation, I don’t think anybody would begrudge that point of view, would you? Based on McCain’s (in 08) and Romney’s (last year) positions on world affairs and their rhetoric, in each case I felt that Obama would be less likely to send our troops overseas for dubious reasons. In that sense I think (and still do) that Obama is far less “dangerous” than either of those other two. A lot of the criticism of Obama’s handling of foreign policy is justified; all I’m saying is, from my perspective, things could be a lot worse.

          4. Bart


            You make some good points but in response, the positions taken on the campaign trail vs. the actions taken once the race is over and the winner takes office are generally changed due to the real vs. the anticipated. While I agree McCain and Romney are more hawkish, if either had been elected to the presidency, I seriously doubt they would have engaged in an armed conflict without regards to the consequences of doing so in a kneejerk reaction to a Syrian type situation. The difference is rather simple and to the point.

            If McCain or Romney had been in office when the first news of chemical weapons being used in Syria had surfaced and if they had warned Assad if he didn’t cease and desist or face the consequences, Assad would know they were not bluffing or posturing with “words, just words”. He knew Obama would not send missiles into Syria of his own volition without someone or something to cover his behind. Putin knew it as well and so did the rest of the world.

            I am not in favor of war or combat unless the reasons are so compelling they simply cannot be ignored and/or pose a definite threat to this country. If attacked by an outside force, I would expect an armed response with enough intensity to end it in a very short period of time. Not broadcasting that the intent is to inflict harm no worse than a “pinprick”.

            My take – if McCain or Romney were in office, Assad would be given a warning to give up his chemical weapons or he would be hit with enough firepower to essentially end his rule over Syria. And, IMHO, Assad would have taken it very seriously as would Russia and China. It is a high probability he would have capitulated to the demands of either one, he would know to not take either one lightly. Don’t make threats unless you are prepared to back them up with concrete actions. Even if Assad had not agreed to surrender his CWs, it is highly doubtful the first missile would have taken flight to hit a target in Syria. Obama simply does not have what it takes to do it on his own and would have others to blame if something were to go wrong. Taking a few al Quida guys out with drones is very different from sending missiles into what would most assuredly be a set-up with civilians and children being the victims.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          In a lot of ways, partisans exaggerate the differences between McCain and Obama on war and peace.

          We most certainly wouldn’t have “gone to war five times” had McCain been elected. The course would have been slightly different, but not all that much so.

          McCain would have acted, as Obama did, to topple Gaddhafi. Whether he’d have managed the aftermath better remains to be seen.

          No one, McCain included, would have pursued the War on Terror more aggressively than Obama has. If you count up the countries in which the president has authorized drone strikes, does that get you up to “five more wars”? No, because it’s all one war. And Obama knows that.

          And would McCain have sent in the SEALs to get bin Laden, or bombed (being an old bomber himself)? Don’t know. In any case, it’s hard to imagine a Republican being any more aggressive, or more unilateral, than Obama was in that case. Sending in the SEALs, with orders not to worry so much about taking prisoners, in the middle of Pakistan, without telling Pakistan — those were all the right things to do, and no one could have been more aggressive.

          McCain would also have withdrawn U.S. troops from combat roles in Iraq — although I think he’d have negotiated a new Status of Forces agreement, to keep a stabilizing presence there.

          McCain would have done the Afghan surge, just as Obama did. You would have seen some difference, maybe, in this setting of deadlines to get out.

          McCain wanted to close Guantanamo, too. And he would have found it just as hard as Obama has, only he would have taken a lot more grief about it, from Democrats, than Obama has. They’d have gone on forever about how if Obama had been elected, Gitmo would have closed. Which we know is not true.

          But as for Syria — I think you’re looking at a big difference. Had McCain been president two years ago, when the chances of replacing Assad with non-Islamist rebels was much greater, he would have done what the president’s entire security team was urging him to do — he would have intervened. And regime change would have been the clear goal.

    2. bud

      Bart, doesn’t that really just show that the mainstream media really isn’t liberal? Conservatives continue to cling to that notion but it really isn’t true now if it ever was.

      1. Bart

        bud, delusion can be treated with proper medication. If you haven’t been paying attention, close to 95% of the mainstream media are admitted liberal Democrats. The infamous “Journalist” was not made up of conservative reporters or members of the media, were they?

        1. bud

          Bart, you can call me whatever you want, delusional?, I’ve been called worse, but it only diminishes anything you say afterwards.

          And I stand completely behind my comment. The MSM is most assuredly not liberal. Take a look at what was being said in the run up to the Iraq war. The NY Times was one of that disasters biggest cheerleaders. Count the number of global warming stories on the MSM. Perhaps there are a few but really nothing like what the liberals, rightly or wrongly, believe is the significance of that issue. Look at the gigantic, and growing, income inequality in this country. Not much discussion of it in the MSM.

          No, the MSM is basically Fox News light. They talk about the faux scandals, present the conservative view on the ACA ad-naseum and in general provide only a cursory presentation of the liberal side of issues. Given the power of talk radio and Fox News combined with the relatively few “real” liberal outlets out there it’s no wonder the failed conservative policies continue to thrive. How many people know that the economy has created a positive number of jobs for 3 straight years? Just look at the polling of the ACA. Much of what Americans say they want are in the ACA but it continues to poll poorly. Thank you very much “liberal” media.

          1. Bart

            “Bart, you can call me whatever you want, delusional?, I’ve been called worse, but it only diminishes anything you say afterwards.”

            Bud, have you ever stopped and read some of the outlandish names you have called people on this blog and others of a different political and ideology? Diminished comments afterwards? Think again.

            “And I stand completely behind my comment.”

            ‘Nuff said!

            “The MSM is most assuredly not liberal. Take a look at what was being said in the run up to the Iraq war. The NY Times was one of that disasters biggest cheerleaders.”

            When the case was being made for the Iraq war, liberals and Democrats were supporting it because the previous administration’s position supported the belief and conviction that Saddam Hussein did possess WMDs and was repeated by every Democrat and liberal who could find a microphone, news camera, or interview on national television that was available. It became the official US policy for regime change in Iraq under Clinton and was supported by Democrats, liberals, and the media, including the NY Times. So, that point doesn’t hold water at all.

            “Count the number of global warming stories on the MSM. Perhaps there are a few but really nothing like what the liberals, rightly or wrongly, believe is the significance of that issue.”

            Apparently you and I are reading or listening to different liberal news, media, or opinion programming about the global warming issue or if one is in the opposite camp, the global warming non-issue. I find stories all the time about the dangers of global warming on the internet from widely read sites, media outlets, and opinion programs on network news, MSNBC, CNN, and other media outlets. As scientists are slowly changing their position on global warming, conferences, reports of pending disasters, and other alarmist offerings are getting less coverage than they did at one time when almost every day we were bombarded with “the sky is falling” reports from the MSM.

            “Look at the gigantic, and growing, income inequality in this country. Not much discussion of it in the MSM.”

            The income inequality is nothing new; it is just now being brought more into the public eye. As for the massive income growth, most of it is due to an inflated stock market, supported by the Fed pumping billions and billions into it to support it. Guess who benefits the most? Investors. Another point to consider. There are more newly minted “overnight” billionaires during the Obama administration than ever before and most if not all are liberal Democrats. Facebook anyone? If one were to take a few minutes, do some actual research, one would find that the majority of the wealthy are liberal Democrats. No one ever discusses the head of Progressive Insurance and other George Soros sycophants but they damn sure go after the Koch brothers at every opportunity.

            “No, the MSM is basically Fox News light. They talk about the faux scandals, present the conservative view on the ACA ad-naseum and in general provide only a cursory presentation of the liberal side of issues. Given the power of talk radio and Fox News combined with the relatively few “real” liberal outlets out there it’s no wonder the failed conservative policies continue to thrive.”

            “How many people know that the economy has created a positive number of jobs for 3 straight years?”

            Every time a new jobs report comes out and it is positive, the media jumps on it like a stinkbug on a pile of crap and proclaim the economy is on its way to recovery until one reads the “rest of the story”.
            According to an AP article in the paper this morning, there are several rebuttals to your comment about the economy and hiring. First of all, the fact that job growth has been increasing over the past three years is totally misleading if you look behind the curtain at the Wizard pulling the levers. “The unemployment rate is now 7.3 percent, the lowest since 2008. Yet the rate has dropped in large part because many people have stopped looking for work and are no longer counted as unemployed – not because hiring has accelerated.”

            “Just look at the polling of the ACA. Much of what Americans say they want are in the ACA but it continues to poll poorly. Thank you very much “liberal” media.”

            And just why do you think it continues to poll poorly? If you try to blame Fox News and talk radio, you really do need to get a grip on reality. Think for a moment about the number of people in the US who are capable of listening to or watching a news channel or talk radio station. There are approximately 316 million people in the US according to the 2010 census. Of this number, the number over the age of 18 is 209 million. The average number of viewers for ABC, CBS, and NBC News, is approximately 23 million each night. Fox News on the other hand averages somewhere around 2 million viewers and the opinion programming which is not news but as stated, opinion, has a slightly higher number of viewers overall. As for talk radio and the 20 million Rush listeners myth has been debunked, the truth is that less than 1/10th of 1% listen to Rush when all is said and done. So, please justify how Rush Limbaugh who may draw a total of ½ to ¾ million listeners and approximately 2 million plus Fox viewers out of a potential market of 209 million can sway so many politicians and influence the government to the degree you and other detractors claim?

            The reason ACA is polling poorly is because of the stated reasons that should be obvious to anyone capable of chewing gum and walking at the same time. It was a conglomeration of requirements that were not well thought out, not cohesive enough to produce an understandable bill, not informing the public of the down side as well as the upside and the general disposition of the American public to resist more government control of decisions that should be left up to the individual. Blaming Fox, Republicans, and especially Rush Limbaugh is nothing more than throwing straw men up to distract the public from a poorly written bill.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Um, I know of no one who resides in the city limits who is even remotely active in city affairs who thinks this is a good idea.

      1. Doug Ross

        I would think the NAACP would be for the advancement of a black man becoming the strong mayor. How is the NAACP impacted by this?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          One hates to make generalizations based on race, and at best this is just a rough rule of thumb, but here goes…

          For the entire time I’ve been in SC since I came back here to work for The State (and maybe longer), black leaders have been a hard sell on government restructuring.

          They tend to be suspicious of it. A shorthand way of summing up the attitude is, Hey, we just got here, and got a seat at the table, and you want to reshuffle things? They get a strong whiff of suspicion that The Man is trying to rig things against them, again.

          In Columbia, there’s been a tendency to see a conspiracy behind the strong-mayor movement from the start. I remember I was on a radio show a few years back, and my good friend J.T. McLawhorn (head of the Columbia Urban League, on whose board I served for about a decade), who was also a guest, said Don Tomlin was putting everybody up to supporting it. My reaction was, Really, J.T.? Because I’ve been for it for years, and this is the first time I’ve heard Tomlin’s name come up in relation to it. (It wouldn’t be the last time, but it was the first.)

          To the extent that there’s anything substantial behind such suspicions, it goes like this: Neighborhood associations are often black power bases. They are seen as having more pull with the city with authority fragmented the way it is. There is a constant tension between neighborhood associations and business leadership (perceived as The Man), which tends to want to concentrate energy and resources on the city center, or on citywide priorities, rather than on the concerns of individual neighborhoods.

          Of course, these are gross oversimplifications. But I hope some of this helps answer the point Doug raises…

          1. Silence

            Leave the neighborhoods out of it Brad – that’s a red herring. With single district representation from 4 districts, and all members of council being equally strong, our current system ensures that minorities have an opportunity to be involved, for their voice to be heard in local government. Two of the districts are majority/minority districts. To “promote” the mayor is to “demote” the other members of council and potentially make it more difficult for minorities to be heard. Of course that’s just one issue.
            We could say that a lot of this is personal, but I don’t think it’s really about Mayor Benjamin. In a few years he’ll probably be gone, but we’ll still be saddled with our choice about style of government.

          2. Silence

            @ Doug – I think it’s pretty likely at some point. Candidate Benjamin did a fantastic job of turning out black voters, especially (and unexpectedly) in the run-off. If future candidates can do as well, then perhaps black candidates could run the table. Personally, I’d be for a purple candidate if they had honesty and integrity, and ideas that I agreed with.
            That being said, Columbia (inside city limits) is about 42% Black or African American as of the 2010 census, down from 46% in 2000. Columbia has gotten “whiter” while Richland County has gotten “darker” 46.8% African American or Black in 2010, up from 45.2% in 2000.
            I think this shift is likely to continue, as gentrification of urban neighborhoods increases, as the number of high end condos and apartments increase in town, and as more urban housing projects are demolished.
            Assuming for a minute that Mayor Benjamin will run for Congressman Clyburn’s seat when he decides to retire – are there any other African American potential candidates on the radar who could mobilize the resources that candidate Benjamin did for a campaign? That’s the real question. I’m not familiar with any who I’d say could mount a credible citywide campaign in 4 years or 8. That’s not to say that there aren’t, just that I’m not familiar with them.

          3. Doug Ross

            But a black candidate will likely get a much higher share of the 42% black vote and then only need to get 10-20% of the white vote to win.

          4. Silence

            Doug, that is correct. The Benjamin model (and Obama model) was to get 99% of the black vote and most of the white democrats. When Steve Morrison (other democrat in the non-partisan race) was in the race he couldn’t pull 50%, but when it got down to only two candidates AND Benjamin was able to turn his base out (at unprecedented levels for a runoff, no less) he was able to clean up.
            I think the level of GOTV success in the runoff was unexpected. Remember that Finlay was an unashamed fiscal conservative and budget hawk, this allowed Benjamin to cast him as the “evil Republican” in the race. This helped Benjamin’s machine to get the base ginned up for the runoff. But I don’t think that Columbia is by any means precluded from having a white (democrat) mayor again.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        As to Kathryn’s comment, “I know of no one who resides in the city limits who is even remotely active in city affairs who thinks this is a good idea.”

        That’s fairly typical with proposed changes in forms of government. We ran into the same thing when we were pushing for a Cabinet form of government for the state. Lots and lots of really good, sincere, involved people — the kinds of people we would have liked to have had on our side in that discussion — were deeply opposed to change.

        Which isn’t surprising, when you consider that they had all spent years, if not decades, learning how to get things done under the system that we had. They had confidence in it, because it worked, from their perspective.

        The problem with that was that to the vast majority of South Carolinians, the way state government “worked” was a complete mystery. We were for opening that up, so that it would be more transparent and accountable to everyone, not just to the cognoscenti.

      3. FParker

        Would that be because it might take power away from the people you know who are involved in city government?

        1. Silence

          @ Fess – No. It’s because I have yet to have a conversation with ANYBODY who lives in the city that supports it. I honestly can’t name one person that I know (other than Steve Benjamin, Cameron Runyan, Brian Newman,Sam Davis and a few folks on this blog) who has said one supportive word about it. Everyone’s got some issue with it. Either they don’t like how it’s being pushed through, or they don’t like Mayor Benjamin to start with so they don’t support, or they are worried about the effects. If I could think of anyone I knew who supported it, I would tell you!

  4. Mark Stewart


    Of course you do. You just appear unwilling to admit that you know such people. Clearly, they exist. Likely, more than a few are known by you.

    There is no dicotomy between being active in city affairs and believing that a strong mayor form of municipal administration may be worth exploring.

    If I lived in Columbia, I would be one.

    1. Silence

      I also can’t think of anyone who closely follows the issues and lives in the city who supports the strong mayor proposal. Well, that’s not entirely true. Cameron, Brian, Sam and Steve all support it. So that’s four. And them’s the four who counts, I suppose.

  5. Burl Burlingame

    I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that security at Pearl Harbor was still at its usual level after the Navy Yard shoot’emup. We generally have low-bidder private security at the gates and an occasional Navy SP. Our Navy-run security on this base runs from stupidly relaxed to insanely overpowering no no particular reason. The Navy here even refuses to use DefenseID, which most bases on the Mainland use, and which catches perps all the time. On the other hand, otherwise perfectly legal building contractors are refused entry here is they have 25-year-old DUI charges. Go figure.

    1. Silence

      Brad – since the early 2000’s many of our installations have gone “Joint” so to speak. Basically it allows less administration to run the new organization. You have one base that takes over many or all of the garrison functions of the old bases. The operational or training missions are unaffected, but you have only one organization providing force protection, public works, contracting, finance, that sort of thing. It’s an efficiency improvment, and a lot of it was driving by the BRAC process, or was done in response to the threat of BRAC.
      Charleston AFB is now part of Joint Base Charleston. Fort Dix in NJ is now Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Langley AFB is now Joint Base Langley–Eustis.

  6. Doug Ross

    And in today’s news we find that what I said will happen, is happening:

    Minnesota’s legislative auditor warned that the state’s launch of its health-care exchange is being rushed to meet the October 1 deadline. This comes days after a security breach at the exchange known as MNsure, that resulted in the release of thousands of Social Security numbers.

    “If we’re rushing to meet a preannounced deadline to go live, and we are not adequately testing and securing, that’s a real concern,” legislative auditor James Nobles told local television station KSTP. “When we take people’s private information and we do not adequately protect it, that is real harm to the state and to the people’s private data that was inappropriately exposed.”

  7. Bart


    You might consider adding the latest report from NBC to your Virtual Front Page as an “Extra, Read all About it”.

    The QE the administration and Fed is so enamoured with is having the opposite effect desired. One of the billionaires who benefited greatly along with Warren Buffett finally told the truth that most of us who understand the stock market is not a reflection on how well the country is supposed to be doing.

    By extrapolating the connection between the White House, Obama’s economic czars, his financial experts he consults, and the true impact the QE is having on the poor and middle class will be astounding to the uninformed and ignorant low information supporters of Obama. They think he is doing a great job and is actually on the front lines fighting to improve the economy and supporting the “working man”. Total BS to infinity times infinity.

    Here is the lede and the first few paragraphs from the article.

    “Hedge fund billionaire: Fed’s move ‘fantastic’ for the rich”

    Robert Frank, CNBC Facebook
    Share on Facebook Twitter LinkedIn GooglePlus Email 9 hours ago

    The Federal Reserve isn’t just inflating markets. It’s also shifting a massive amount of wealth from the middle-class and poor to the rich, according to billionaire hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller.

    In an interview on “Squawk Box,” the founder of hedge fund Duquesne Capital said that the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing was inflating stocks and other assets held by wealthy investors like himself. But the price of making the rich richer will be paid by future generations.

    “This is fantastic for every rich person,” he said Thursday, a day after the Fed’s stunning decision to delay tightening its monetary policy. “This is the biggest redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich ever.”

    “Who owns assets—the rich, the billionaires. You think Warren Buffett hates this stuff? You think I hate this stuff? I had a very good day yesterday.”

    Druckenmiller, whose net worth is estimated at more than $2 billion, said that the implication of the Fed’s policy is that the rich will spend their wealth and create jobs—essentially betting on “trickle-down economics.”

    “I mean, maybe this trickle-down monetary policy that gives money to billionaires and hopefully we go spend it is going to work,” he said. “But it hasn’t worked for five years.”

    You need to read the complete article.

    And please, bud and other Obama disciples, don’t try to tell me he is not aware of what is going on, after all, he spends a lot of time with his very wealthy friends, contributors, and supporters. Or will he plead ignorance like he did after being a member and attending Reverend Wright’s church for over 22 years but never heard a sermon like the “G-d Damn America” one?

    1. Silence

      I’d completely agree with the assessment of QE. By keeping interest rates at extremely low levels, the government is punishing savers and retirees and rewarding banks, hedge funds, and borrowers.

      1. Phillip

        QE and other Fed policies have been one of those things that, like the NSA surveillance issues, have brought together potentially new coalitions in American politics…think Bernie Sanders plus Ron Paul. The progressive wing of the Democratic party pushing back against the Larry Summers nomination was in part a revolt against the kind of thing that Bart is alluding to, Obama’s all-too-willing deferral to the banking interests. I’ve read very few liberal critiques specifically of QE, though…Robert Reich and a couple of others are all I could find, whereas there’s lots of criticism on the right. Libertarian criticism of the Fed has been consistent and principled of course; but I think one reason more progressives aren’t picking up on this “QE redistributes wealth to the rich” argument is because they are suspicious of so many mainstream conservatives making this argument, as the sudden concern for the well-being of the poor (after so much demonization, and at the same time for example as 3.5 million could be taken off food stamps) strikes them as a little disingenuous.

  8. Brad Warthen

    I don’t understand why y’all are going on about Queen Elizabeth. What does her majesty have to do with any of this?

    Honestly, that’s the only QE I can think of. Sigh. I’ll go look it up. But if it has something to do with money, I’m going to be unhappy…

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