Open Thread for Tuesday, December 15, 2015

tag sc

Some quick topics:

  1. Threat that closed down L.A. schools appears to be a hoax, congressman says — That’s according to the L.A. Times.
  2. New SC license plate coming out next year — I think they’re an improvement, although nothing to write home about. I’d prefer the Latin: Dum Spiro Spero. Why can’t license plates be educational?
  3. Fed Poised to Mark The End of an Era — Wow, the WSJ is really excited about the expected interest-rate increase.
  4. Huckabee calls for greater monitoring of mosques — This is from the undercard debate. If you’d like to engage with me on the grownup-table debate later, go to @BradWarthen.

… or whatever else interests you.


27 thoughts on “Open Thread for Tuesday, December 15, 2015

  1. Andy

    The unfunded pension liability is growing like a weed. The awful performance of the Retirement System Investment Commission has cost us billions over the last decade. Do you think this means the end of the public pension plans? Say, in the next ten years? Or do you think the state will step up and pay the pension debt before they vote for a gas tax or other things?

  2. bud

    4. Huckabee is from the theocrat wing of the party who believe the reigns of government should be controlled by Christian theology. No surprise that he’s willing to trample on the Constitution by proposing oppression of a different faith.

  3. Assistant

    ABC reports:

    “The instigator of the threat may be a ‘Homeland’ fan,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton told reporters. “Basically, watching ‘Homeland’ episodes that it mirrors, a lot of recent episodes of Homeland… This is not a credible threat. This is not something we’re concerned with.”

    ABC News obtained a copy of the email that was sent to New York City school officials that Bratton said was “almost exactly the same” as the one that prompted school closings today in Los Angeles. The message says in part, “I am a devout Muslim, and was once against violence, but I have teamed up with a local jihadist cell as it is the only way I’ll be able to accomplish my massacre the correct way.”

    “Something big is going down. Something very big. It will make national headlines. Perhaps, even international ones,” the message reads. The writer claims he was bullied and rejected at “one of the district high schools,” but does not say which.
    Bratton indicated that an analysis of the email indicated to the NYPD that it was not actually an Islamist threat.

    “The language in the email would lead us to believe this is not a jihadist initiative,” he said. “For example, that Allah was not spelled with a capital ‘A’. That would be incredible to think that any jihadist would not spell Allah with a capital ‘A’.”

    Tonight on Fox The Hammer was charitable, noting that New York had a lot more experience with all sorts of threats. Moreover, unlike LA, the school supe was not the decision-maker in New York, law enforcement was.

    So it’s tough to blame the poorly informed school chief on the left coast, it should not have been his call because he does not have the resources, experience, or knowledge necessary to evaluate such a threat.

  4. clark surratt

    Following on the city penny tax plan.:
    I know many stories are to follow, but it seems an obvious and easy part of reporting (as in follow the money) how the two PR firms which got the big bucks are owned and/or operated by people with such strong former or present connections to City politics. I’m getting old, but the amounts and choices of these companies (BANNCO and Campbell) sort of leave me speechless. Brad, did your firm have the opportunity to compete for any of this business?
    And on another topic, I like opportunities for educating those of us not school in the languages, but when I see the Latin motto for South Carolina, I can’t help but think first of a former shamed US vice president.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Maybe they went with the English to avoid accidents — keeping people from out of state from being distracted, trying to remember their high school Latin.

      Wait — do they still teach Latin in high school?

      1. Bryan Caskey

        That’s what I was going to say. If it were in Latin, I could see people out there trying to google it on their smartphones while driving, leading to traffic accidents.

        OFFICER: [Arrives at scene of accident] What happened here?
        AT-FAULT DRIVER: Well, what happened was, I saw this Latin quote I couldn’t translate…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Good for them!

          I had two years — Bennettsville High School in the 9th grade, and Robinson High in Tampa in the 10th.

          In Bennettsville, it was a HUGE deal. Pretty much everybody who was college-bound took it. It was also a big social thing. Everybody who took it joined the Junior Classical League, and there were a lot of activities, including a Roman banquet in the gym, and a trip to Winthrop for statewide competitions.

          Here’s how unbelievably geeky it got (and yet at this school, all the cool kids did this, too): One of the competitions in Rock Hill was for living tableaus. I participated in one, in which we represented the gods on Olympus. It was like a pagan live nativity. I was dressed as Mercury — tunic, helmet with wings, caduceus, the whole shebang. Sort of thing I wouldn’t have been caught dead doing at any other school. I think our tableau placed.

          At the Roman banquet, my job was to wear my Mercury costume, stand on a pedestal and make like a statue. Freshmen had to do stuff like that; I think the upperclassmen got to eat.

          OK, guys, go ahead and give me the business, as Wally and the Beav would say. But I’m telling ya, everybody did this. (Echoes of Frank the Tank streaking: “Everybody’s doing it!”)

          It all sounds very 19th century, doesn’t it? Huh! You don’t know the half of it…

          Now, here comes the shocking part: In connection with the banquet and other activities, had a fund-raiser for JCL. Guess how we raised funds? We had a SLAVE AUCTION. I am not making this up. In South Carolina, first state to secede, we had a slave auction.

          But the slaves, in violation of SC tradition, were all white. (Under the “Freedom of Choice” rules that preceded true integration, there was a smattering of black students brave enough to choose to attend the “white” school. I had some black classmates in homeroom and P.E., but I don’t recall any in Latin.)

          So who were the slaves? The freshmen, of course. I was led onto the stage in the auditorium wearing a burlap sack as a tunic and sold. Not for much. I was a pretty scrawny specimen in those days. The idea was that for the rest of the week, we had to do the bidding of our purchaser (within certain limits, I’m sure). My master wasn’t very imaginative. He had me come over to his house and mow his lawn. He wasn’t even there. I showed up, told his dad I was there to cut the lawn, and he told me where the mower was. The only other thing he had me do was he stopped me in the hallway at school and made me drop and do pushups, for the amusement of his friends.

          It was a miserable experience, deeply humiliating, particularly for a scrawny little guy who was new and hadn’t grown up with the rest of the kids. But it was accepted the way hazing was once accepted at the Citadel.

          I wasn’t there, but I’m assuming that tradition ended when the school was truly integrated two or three years later. Of course, most of the Latin students at that time transferred to the new white flight academy, from what I heard.

          I assume they don’t do stuff like that at your middle school, Norm.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I should probably turn that into a separate post, huh? I hesitate, because I was embarrassed even writing it out.

            The next year, I was in Tampa taking Latin II, and experienced a shock. There, Latin wasn’t the big social thing it had been in B’ville, and only geeks joined JCL — something I didn’t realize until after I joined. Fortunately, it involved NONE of the above activities — except I did participate in a statewide competition taking a written test.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            That’s the sort of thing that would make great fodder in a novel about growing up in the South back when, wouldn’t it? Something like the autobiographical novels of Ferrol Sams.

            Trouble is, I can’t remember details that would make it work. I don’t know what the few black students at the school knew about the slave auction or what they thought about it, for instance. And stuff like that is essential.

            I wasn’t observant enough to describe anyone’s experience but my own, and that mostly involved mortification. I just wanted to get through it; I definitely wasn’t taking notes.

            I’m no Harper Lee. The year before that, I was in suburban New Orleans. The year after, I was in Tampa. Two years after that, Hawaii. I moved too fast to soak up the atmosphere properly, to have the necessary intimate knowledge of the community.

            Pat Conroy’s military family moved to SC and he stayed. I didn’t have that experience…

            1. susanincola

              Just make up the parts you don’t remember! isn’t that why it’s called an autobiographical novel and not just an autobiography?
              I’m constantly collecting material for my (non-existent) Southern novel. I was at a funeral a few months ago where two dogs came, one of which was dressed in black for the funeral. But one had to be taken out because it started to whine when one of the soloists got going. Definitely making it into my novel.
              So, write those stories down, and who knows? A novel might pop out some day. Or at least some good short stories.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Well, I guess I’m assuming I’d have to write from an omniscient perspective, understanding everyone’s thoughts and motives. I suppose I could just go with first-person.

                But still — I’m not great at remembering the small details about of how we loved 40 and 50 years ago. My standard is Patrick O’Brian, who brings the world of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars to such vivid life. He does it with the tiniest details of everyday life, everything people did and exactly how they did it and why they did it that way and how it felt and what they thought about as they did it.

                I do not have the memory to do that even within my own lifetime…

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Take, for instance, that period at BHS. I was SO clueless about what was going on around me.

                  I mention those few black classmates. I thought that meant the school was integrated. I had no idea how brave those few kids were who chose to go to the white school. I was an idiot.

                  Twenty years later, I attended my cousin’s graduation at the same school, long after real integration. I remember the thought running through my head for a second: Where did all these black kids come from? Then I realized it: We finally had real integration, and a lot of the whites were at the seg academy. So the racial mix was reversed, of course.

          3. Norm Ivey

            Nothing like that, more’s the pity. There’s nothing like a good hazing or initiation rite to help an outsider feel like part of a group.

        2. Doug Ross

          My son went through that program at Dent. He did a round the world trip before Thanksgiving a few weeks ago that included a couple days in Rome. I asked him if his Latin education was useful when visiting the historical sites. Nope. Too far in the past. I’m sure that there are people who get SOMETHING out of learning Latin (because, you know, it’s IMPORTANT!). But for many (most), it’s just another fairly useless skill to learn, take the test, and forget.

          And if you try to tell me it helps with other subjects, I’ll just have to disagree and say that smart kids can learn anything.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            It helps with three things:

            • Learning and understanding modern romance languages. In fact, between the Germanic roots of English and Latin (plus the fact that I spoke Spanish fluently as a child), I can make some sense of most Western languages, if I see them written.
            • Immediately understanding complex, Latin-derived words in English — not only because you recognize the root words but because you understand what the add-ons mean. You know, for instance that co-, con-, cum- and com- all derive from “cum, the Latin for “with.”
            • Spelling. You know that it’s “consensus” and not “concensus” because it comes from consentire, easy to remember because it’s the source of “consent.”

            Yeah, I know this probably means nothing to you. You’re a practical, task-oriented guy. But if you live and breathe words, these things matter a great deal. Latin combines with other things to give you a sense of how thoughts are connected across cultures. It provides a richness of context and connectivity that I would not want to be without…

            Not that I could translate a single paragraph of Caesar’s commentaries today, but I’ve got a rough feel for it, and these little realizations constantly pop up, and enrich my life.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              You know what? I just realized “consensus” was a bad example on spelling. I once DID think it was spelled “concensus,” and it was my Latin background that led me to that error, thinking that it derived from the Latin words cum and census.

              It’s knowing that it and the English word “consent” share the same root is what keeps me from making that error.


            2. Norm Ivey

              There’s a much bigger focus today on learning what we call “stems”–word parts that carry a consistent meaning between words. For example, once you understand that “con” means together (whatever its etymology), you can see the connections between words like consensus, congregation and connection. Much more effective that the old prefix–suffix–root approach.

              As part of their curriculum, our Latin program uses a gaming approach to learning called Operation Lapis. Think Dungeons and Dragons meets Ancient Rome. The students have to be able to translate clues and artifacts they uncover which are all written in Latin. It’s fun to watch the kids when they are engaged in this activity. They’re learning without even trying.

              1. Kathleen

                Thank you Norm and Brad for your practical and nostalgic odes to Latin. I thought the conventions in Rock Hill were wonderful, partly because I got to stay with my aunt, a Latin teacher who lived almost across the street from Winthrop. I’m still pleased with myself for winning the costume contest. I was Diana. I can’t count the times studying/sitting through Latin saved my unstudious skin in subjects I didn’t care for.

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                I’d love to take a shot at playing Operation Lapis, even though I’d probably lose, since I’ve forgotten so much of my Latin.

                Not the same thing at all, but one of my favorite computer games ever was “Caesar III.” It’s a Sim-type strategy game in which you build a Roman settlement from scratch and try to build it up.

                Here’s how you win: Keep taxes as low as you can and wages as high as you can. Keep food production at a good level. And build up your military forces as quickly as you can afford to do, because inevitably, Rome will get ticked off over nothing and send a punitive expedition to burn your city down and kill all its people. And then, if you fight that attack off, they’ll send a larger force. You have to be a hawk and look to your defenses to win this game; merely having a prosperous city won’t cut it.

                I lost the CD for that game years ago, and haven’t bought another one because I don’t think the later versions of Windows will play it…

  5. Mark Stewart

    I see they are still designing license plates by committee over at the DMV. Another dreadful effort is on display here. Better than last year’s; but that isn’t saying much as those were clearly DOA.

    When you have a flag like SC’s for inspiration, how hard is it to bollocks it up?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I know! We need a dark blue plate with white letters and a white Palmetto tree and crescent moon in the center. How complicated is that? It would be beautiful, and we would never need a redesign, because it couldn’t be improved upon…

      I have a lot of respect for states like New Jersey, who have a simple design and just stick with it. You can tell a NJ plate at quite a distance.

      I want a plate like that, only beautiful. The flag design is the way to go.

      1. Mark Stewart

        Indigo blue background, white numbers, a smaller white palmetto tree and crescent moon, an appropriate serif font for S.C. – and maybe, or maybe not, the motto in latin at the top.

        I would lose the white border, too. Nore needless visual clutter.


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