Your Virtual Front Page, Monday, March 31, 2014

Not a huge news day, but just to acknowledge what’s going on out there:

  1. Russia in ‘partial’ border pullout (BBC) — So… what’s he leaving in place? I’ll bet it’s still a threat to Ukraine.
  2. Health Website Failures Impede Signup Surge as Deadline Nears (NYT) — A blast from the past on Obamacare’s big day — more website trouble.
  3. U.S. considers release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard (WashPost) — I generally try to keep up with espionage news, but I still have trouble understanding why we were holding someone who spied for an ally in prison. Edward Snowden is still running around loose (sort of) and making appearances at SXSW, and this guy’s been in prison for 27 years? Something is askew here.
  4. Koreas Trade Fire Amid North’s Drills (WSJ) — All we need…
  5. Suspect arrested in Five Points shooting ( — What are we going to do about this stuff, folks?
  6. Guinea faces huge Ebola epidemic (The Guardian) — News to shudder at. Even a tiny Ebola outbreak should be enough to send chills down the spine.Just in case the Ukraine and Korea stories didn’t worry you enough…

75 thoughts on “Your Virtual Front Page, Monday, March 31, 2014

  1. susanincola

    On #5, I noticed in a news account that the old Library is now called Twist. Is it owned by the same people? They made kind of a big deal about closing down The Library, but I hadn’t seen anything about what replaced it. Was this shooting near there on Harden, or somewhere up/down the street?

    1. Silence

      Usually when a bar gets shut down they apply for a new liquor license under a new corporate name, and/or with a different partner or family member listed as the licensee.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        And I think I recall that The Library was not legally closed, just voluntarily?

  2. bud

    I guess the Malasyian airliner story is finally off the front page. It really is quite the mystery though.

    1. Not sure why folks get so worked up over this Ukraine story. No one has successfully invaded another country when the world was opposed to it since the Mexican war. Russia will ultimately pay a big price economically.
    2. The website story is relatively minor. With the perfectly reasonable extension to sign up it’s likely that the 7 million goal will be met. Along with the Medicaid expansion and the other features of the ACA the ranks of the uninsured are likely to drop by at least 15 million. Most of the horror stories have been debunked. Although some folks may pay a bit more the overall size of our national health care budget is certain to drop.
    3. Don’t know enough about the spy story to comment.
    4. I guess the Korean war really hasn’t completely ended. Hopefully this too will just be another small, meaningless flare-up.
    5. I was a story a while back that 5-Points really isn’t any more crime-prone that other parts of Columbia but the media loves to focus on every incident that occurs there. Not sure but in any event it has the reputation and Columbia PD has to pay attention to every incident there.
    6. Now here’s a real story. Millions of people die in the third world from disease and war yet the whole continent is largely ignore. But if the Russians annex Russian-speaking Crimea without firing a shot everyone goes ballistic.

  3. Norm Ivey

    The most unsettling aspect of the Guinea Ebola outbreak is its location. Most major outbreaks have occurred in central Africa (Gabon, Congo, Uganda, Sudan). It’s a long way from home, and the article says that it has gotten into a major population center, which could be disastrous, especially in an area that does not have the kind of health care that more developed nations have.

    AIDS and Ebola both reared their heads within a few years of each other, and while AIDS has killed far more people at this point, Ebola has the potential to set all kinds of records–it’s transmitted much easier than AIDS (casual contact is enough).

    We should be supplying more aid to third world countries to develop their health care and hygienic resources. Bush’s AIDS support for Africa is a good example of how effective such a program can be. Jimmy Carter is doing his part to eradicate Guinea worms. We should fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here.

    1. Norm Ivey

      Not suggesting that Guniea worms are an infectious disease (or migratory like a swallow)–just citing an example of the good we can do.

  4. Karen Pearson

    While I think we can stop Ebola from becoming epidemic here in the states, any disease with an up to 90% kill rate that manages to get to any city with an airport makes me nervous.

    1. Norm Ivey

      Hygiene, education and vigilance are good barriers, but we haven’t been tested with an outbreak here.

  5. Doug Ross

    I wonder if this new group will achieve what it is trying to achieve.

    A group of African-American parents has established a new organization in Richland 2, which leaders say was born out of the frustration among some parents that their concerns are not being addressed by the school board and the administration.

    The Richland 2 Black Parents’ Association is still in its infancy, with an inaugural meeting planned sometime in April. But one of its founding members, Stephen Gilchrist, said Monday the organization hopes to increase minority representation in the administration and on the seven-member school board, which now has three black members.

    For that reason, Chip Jackson, one of the three African-American board members, said he was wary of shaping a conversation based solely on race in a district that has students who speak 40 languages and who come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.

    “If you look at where the rubber meets the road, there have been changes,” Jackson said. Five years ago, the district’s four high schools had white principals. Five years later, with the addition of a fifth high school, three of those high school principals are black.

    “Five years ago, we had 26 total schools, seven headed by African-Americans, “ he said. “We now have 31 schools and now 16 of them are headed by African-Americans.”

    Read more here:

    1. Silence

      Doug, you answered your own question: “the organization hopes to increase minority representation in the administration and on the seven-member school board, which now has three black members.”

      1. Doug Ross

        My question was IF they will achieve their objective… not what the objective is.

        Seems like there are elections that have to be won in order to achieve a majority black representation on the school board.

        There are consequences that will come as a result of these types of actions.

        1. Silence

          Sounds like they are well on their way. The demographics of Richland 2 have changed a lot in the last 20 years, which should help them meet their goals.

          1. Silence

            Do we really want a group of people who can’t spell the word “raised” correctly on their website to be involved with the education of children?

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              As a champeen speller, I notice that most people, including Professor F, BA Harvard, PhD University of Chicago, have problems spelling and proof reading. Indeed, whoever is posting on Facebook for The State could use some help! One assumes this person is paid to write!

    2. Bryan Caskey

      I’m just wondering what the response would be to a group with similar goals, if it was the Richland Two White Parents Association.

      Just wondering.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Well, in the extremely unlikely event a pattern of discrimination against white kids seemed evident, go for it.

        When I represented juveniles, almost zero were white. Some black kids do really stupid and really bad stuff, but also many were in court over low level rowdy behavior. “Disturbing schools.” I bet lots of white kids behaved just as badly, but….

        1. Doug Ross

          Well, there will be data available now that half the schools have black principals to see if the pattern is related to race.

        2. Doug Ross

          And it wasn’t just about expulsions. It’s about hiring quotas and board representation, apparently. The group’s website also has these statements in BOLD:

          PARENTS DID YOU KNOW!!!!!
          Richland School District Two’s student body is 68% Black?
          Most of the Administrative staff at the District Office that makes decisions about our children are WHITE?
          Richland School District Two has only Three Black Board Members and they are in the Minority on the School Board?
          Richland School District Two’s Budget (not to include the taxes that have been rasied on the residents of Northeast Richland for Facilities) is a whopping $223,915,710.00!!!?

          Wonder what the purpose of that last bullet point would be? Maybe they’re for reducing taxes???

        1. Doug Ross


          Is Richland 2 better, worse, or the same over the past decade? Do you think there is a culture of racism from the top down? I just haven’t seen it in our 20+ years in the district. The biggest change has been as a result of growing too fast due to expanding the number of lower income homes and apartments. It’s not a race problem, it’s a economic problem combined with the family structures.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Well, white people often are blind to the privilege, just as those who have historically been discriminated against can be (understandably) hypersensitive to discrimination.

          2. Norm Ivey

            T agree-I’ve been in the district for 24 years, and there is no culture of racism in Richland 2. Bryan’s question was about the name of the group. I would expect that if some silly souls started group called “Richland Two White Parents Association” that they would receive the same response as in this discussion–some ridicule, some questioning of agenda, some irrelevant stuff like Agarn’s comment above.

  6. Bryan Caskey

    Regarding Pollard, that guy should stay in jail based on what he actually did. Retired Adm. Thomas Brooks, the former director of naval intelligence, said Pollard’s actions have been “exceeded only by Edward Snowden,”

    The only reason that the White House is even considering the idea of releasing him is to give Israel an incentive to stay at the negotiating table with the Palestinian authority. It’s a naked bribe.

    U.S. intelligence officials say Pollard gave away highly-prized secrets unrelated to Israeli security or Arab countries, among them “technical details of sophisticated U.S. spy satellites; analyses of Soviet missiles systems; and information about eavesdropping equipment used by the NSA to intercept foreign governments’ communications, including all ten volumes of a highly-classified manual known as ‘the Bible’ that spelled out how the U.S. intercepted Soviet communications.”

    Israel only admitted for the first time in 1998 that Pollard was a spy for Israel and while his release has been floated as a bargaining chip in the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, efforts to free Pollard date back over two decades.

    And I don’t care that he spied for an “ally”. I care who is spied on – the USA. No other country is entitled to our information if our policymakers decide not to share it.

    The thing is, this White House is so desperate for a middle east peace deal, they are now at the point of releasing one of the most damaging spies in a long time – simply to have ongoing talks.

    I wouldn’t blame Israel for simply playing along though. Why not take the deal? Get a spy released from life in prison in exchange for “more talks”? Sure, why not?

        1. Mark Stewart

          At this point I think he has made himself eligible for special treatment not involving capture.

  7. Doug Ross

    Another City of Columbia employee bites the dust…

    Gregory was selected as the city’s economic development director in September, 2013.

    “Wayne is a proven leader in his field with a wealth of experiences from the Upstate to the
    Low Country and he is a great addition to the leadership team as we work to Build Columbia,” said city manager Teresa Wilson at the time.

    How difficult is it to find people who AREN’T ethically challenged?

    1. Silence

      I just came here to post that tidbit, but you beat me to the punch. Economic development efforts are distasteful from the git-go, but it does seem like Columbia has more than its fair share of employees getting indicted.

      1. Doug Ross

        Economic development = paying off connected people to do things investors aren’t willing to put their money toward

        The charges against Gregory are from his time in Horry County. Will someone be doing an audit of his activities over the past six months in Columbia?

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    Re the economic development guy…

    I’ve been travelling day in the Greenwood area, and at one point that popped up on my phone, and I have to say I was pretty startled — the guy just GOT here! Then I saw it was related to his former job.

    All I know about him is that I see him at the Club — his office is in the same building as Cap City — and that he seemed young. But then, I was used to Jim Gambrell, who’s older than I am.

    What a mess…

    1. Doug Ross

      Should we assume he stopped stealing money when he got to Columbia? Maybe because all that could be stolen was already spoken for?

      For an anti-government person, Columbia is the gift that keeps on giving…an endless stream of incompetence and corruption.

      1. Mark Stewart

        Gift cards??? What was Georgetown County doing with a supply of gift cards on hand in the EcoDev department anyway? Is this the new way of doling out Jacksons?

    2. Brad Warthen

      I’m at the Club now, and it is abuzz with the news.

      You know how shocked everyone was at his club when Winthorpe was arrested in “Trading Places?” It’s like that…

      1. Silence

        I had the most absurd nightmare. I was poor and no one liked me. I lost my job, I lost my house, Penelope hated me and it was all because of this terrible, awful Negro.

  9. Brad Warthen

    Here’s what I want to know: Who risks it all for 100 grand? Who — among people who have good jobs — risks prison for a year’s pay, essentially?

    Assuming I were someone who would steal, I’d be the sort of thief who would abscond with something more like $100 million. And that’s borderline… I mean, even if one has no morals, one should have standards…

    Maybe it’s because, as a journalist, I’ve been in a lot of jails and prisons. I’m telling you, people, you DON’T want to go there…

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Usually embezzlers start small, promising that they will pay it back, but they never can because their expenses (gambling?) exceed their incomes….they don’t set out to score. It just sorta happens…..

  10. Brad Warthen

    One thing about the Gregory situation: The city fired him immediately. So… why can’t they show that kind of decisiveness when it comes to problems in the police department?

    1. Mark Stewart

      Because he was a problem somewhere else (we hope). It would probably be naive to assume that the same pattern was not in process in Columbia as well.

      A prepared press release issued shortly after a “surprise” arrest doesn’t exactly sound like something that caught the city unaware.

      1. Silence

        Well, it seems like a lot of folks (pun intended) may have had an idea this was coming. I’m glad that Cola-town is doing an audit to see if this may have occurred here too.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      Because he was actually indicted. No charges were made in the Santiago-Navarro debacle.

  11. Doug Ross

    Obama’s Rose Garden celebration of miraculously reaching 7 million Obamacare subscribers will likely turn into his “Mission Accomplished” moment. The 7 million number isn’t the count of people who didn’t have insurance before… and it includes people who haven’t paid for insurance yet. The fact that the administration claims to not have more detailed information on the demographics and payment data is ludicrous. A junior level programmer with spreadsheet could compile that data.

    “The unpublished RAND study – only the Los Angeles Times has seen it – found that just 23 per cent of new enrollees had no insurance before signing up. And of those newly insured Americans, just 53 per cent have paid their first month’s premiums. If those numbers hold, the actual net gain of paid policies among Americans who lacked medical insurance in the pre-Obamacare days would be just 858,298.”

    Read more:

    Getting people signed up is the smallest first step in the overhaul of a healthcare system that most people were happy with according to all polls. Now we’ll see what happens with access to providers, newly insured faced with high deductibles and co-pays, people getting hit with penalties next year, etc. Signing people up SHOULD have been the easiest part of the process and it was (and continues to be) a train wreck.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      And you didn’t even get into the demographics of the people who have actually paid premiums, which is really important. I’m totally fine to let leftists crow about what a success this program is. As much as they want to claim success, they can’t alter math. Math doesn’t care. Math is going to require insurance companies to raise rates or get massive bailouts from the taxpayers.

      Heck, insurance companies are already letting us know that they will beraising rates .

      Math doesn’t care.

      Personally, I’m really looking forward to the employer mandate becoming law. Things will be really fun then. I wish we could open our Obamacare presents now. It’s too bad the White House keeps delaying all the best parts of this super-duper law!

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        When did your health insurance company NOT raise rates? It’s more or less an annual thing, in my experience. The only novelty would be using the ACA as an excuse.

        1. bud

          Exactly. The record for YTY increases in medical expenditures in this country was about a decade ago when we had a full-blown Republican healthcare system.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            What year would that be?

            And how do you define “health care expenditures”? Do you mean health insurance premiums? Because “health care expenditures” sounds like total spending on health care, which would be a whole other thing.

            Or are you just making stuff up?

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Actually, I’ve always sort of suspected that insurance coverage acts as a price support for health care.

              But I fear that just doing away with insurance coverage, and have each patient be responsible for paying whatever the provider charges, while it would drive prices down, would be too much of a shock to the system.

              Say you have a drug that retails at $350 for a month’s supply. With your insurance (which most people have), it might cost you a $35 copay. If suddenly the insurance went away, most people would have to quit taking the medication. The few who were left buying the med probably wouldn’t be enough to keep the manufacturer in business. So the drug itself might just go away. Or at the very least, new drugs that cost hundreds of millions to develop wouldn’t be developed.

              Hospitals couldn’t afford MRI machines, etc.

              I don’t know what the answer is to that.

              I believe a single-payer system could save money. Doctor’s offices wouldn’t have to invest nearly as many man/hours in dealing with the plethora of different kinds of insurance they have to deal with now, and could have smaller admin staffs.

              But I don’t think the savings would be huge enough for that to be a main argument for the change.

            2. Kathryn Fenner

              Uh, yeah–single payer! So many people, me included, and many doctors, would love it!

        2. Bryan Caskey

          Oh, ok. I was under the impression that this law was going to “bend the cost curve” and that “the average family would save $2,500 each year”.

          I guess that was my mistake.

    2. susanincola

      But if 75% already had insurance before signing up, then that implies that they were insurable, and thus negates the idea that the pool is overloaded with sick people. Previously, sick people couldn’t get insurance, but if they only make up 25% of the pool, that sounds like it would tend to hold rates down.
      And @Doug, I remember how not so long ago you were saying how impossible it would be for them to reach 7 million, and how stupid anyone who thought that was possible must be, so I think you should at least give them some credit on that one.

      1. Doug Ross

        I’ll give them credit for 7 million when the data is shown to prove it. If they haven’t paid for insurance, then signing up means nothing. And if they were just moved from one plan that Obamacare cancelled (after saying “you can keep your health plan”) onto an Obamacare plan, that really isn’t a new person covered by Obamacare is it?

        Show me the facts.

  12. Silence

    In related news, Columbia’s city-funded downtown ice skating rink lost $103,000 last season, a worse loss than the previous year. I’ll bet the operator of the rink cleared a nice profit, though.
    Columbia’s city council couldn’t run a whelk stall…

    1. Doug Ross

      But it’s FOR THE CHILDREN!

      Ice rinks, New Years Parties, museums, arts, etc. should not be a function of government… particularly when we have citizens who don’t have a place to sleep, enough food, or necessary healthcare. Take care of those actual needs first before wasting money on somebody’s pet project.

      1. bud

        Is spending gazillions of dollars for and airplane factory a good use of taxpayer money? Seems like the two are comparable. The ice rink brings people downtown who spend money and stimulate the economy. Isn’t that the rationale for the Boeing largesse?

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      It was a Parks and Recreation deal, not expected to be self-sustaining. Parks and Rec is a service, just like Solid Waste and Forestry and Beautification.

      I’m not sure this is the best event for a famously hot city, but it seemed to help juice along the Main Street revitalization. Unlike the New Years blowout, it was not presented as a zero cost option.

      1. Doug Ross

        “it was not presented as a zero cost option.”

        If you don’t have to worry about breaking even, you probably don’t spend much time worrying about the cost. Especially when it’s someone else’s money you’re spending. Wouldn’t it be great if those in charge had their salaries tied to fiscal responsibility?

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          The Parks head testified on exactly how they DID rein in costs, including having parks employees staff the booth, instead of much more expensive private contractors, and reducing the hours to after four, instead of starting at noon.

          1. Doug Ross

            Yeah, and she said essentially, “well we didn’t lose $125,000 like we forecasted we might”. Great job!

            It’s a waste of money when there are other more pressing needs.

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              A well-run government doesn’t just deal with “pressing needs.” It provides a healthy environment to head a lot of pressing needs off at the pass. A healthy Main Street is a worthy goal. Wholesome activities for families, a worthy goal.
              I will gladly pay taxes for these things, so long as they are planned well and thought through.
              I am not convinced that ice skating is what it takes here. It sure was cool to see all the lights and people on Main Street in the darkening hours of a late fall evening.

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