Open Thread for Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Some quick topics:

  1. How Moscow Aimed a Perfect Weapon at the U.S. Election — Wow. This currently leads the NYT site. It takes the story well beyond where The Washington Post had advanced it. This is a huge accusation — and an assertion that not only did Russia attempt to sabotage our election, they got it done. Heads up — Trump is really not going to like this one.
  2. Deals With Putin Helped Fuel the Rise of Tillerson at Exxon — And this one, somewhat less lurid but still serious food for thought, is leading the WSJ. No wonder Marco Rubio says he has “serious concerns” about the SecState nominee.
  3. 2 doctors assaulted at maximum-security S.C. prison, official says — Another security failure in our underfunded prison system.
  4. Florida court says iPhone passcode must be revealed — The guy’s accused of being a voyeur. Not exactly the terrorism case we discussed previously, but interesting nonetheless.
  5. Wave taller than a six-storey building sets ‘remarkable’ world record — Looks like I gave up surfing about four decades too soon. Thank God…

File photo from Wikimedia Commons. I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to attribute it, so I’m linking you to the source…

67 thoughts on “Open Thread for Tuesday, December 13, 2016

  1. Jack Aubrey

    A 62 foot wave may be the highest measured by a buoy, but I saw many larger waves down in the roaring forties. One must keep a close watch on the sails and a steady hand on the wheel. A ship could get laid on her beam-ends quite easily.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I had the blue devils for some time after seeing what happened to the Waakzaamheid.

      I was thinking of that, too, when I read it. I also thought of the swells I rode through off Cape Hatteras when I was a kid, which were pretty mind-blowing.

      And I wondered, do they distinguish a “wave” from a long, high swell?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Then might I with unrivalled strains deplore
          The impervious horrors of a leeward shore!

          My understanding is that this record wave was far out at sea — as the story said, “at a remote spot between Great Britain and Iceland…”

  2. Doug Ross

    Again, the sabotage of the election was because of what? Factual information released to the voting public? Which specific items sabotaged the election? Voters took the information they had and made a choice. The horror! The horror!

    Democrats had ample time to address the contents of the emails. They chose instead to blame the messenger. Deny, deny, deny, deflect, deflect… Standard M.O. for the Clintons.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      The horror indeed. As we’re reminded daily. Nothing this horrible has ever even come close to happening to our politics and government. It’s profoundly sickening.

      Of course, you think politics and politicians are all horrible anyway, so I don’t expect you to ever see what’s wrong…

      1. Doug Ross

        You’re talking about the result you don’t like. Now tell me how releasing actual DNC emails sabotaged the election. Whoever released the emails did Americans a great service by exposing the DNC for exactly what it is. Tough luck that the truth came out. It was only a tiny part of the many mistakes the campaign made.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          You’re absolutely right that I’m talking about the result — the precise result that the Russians sought.

          And Doug, this is not some result I “don’t like,” as though we’re talking about a whimsical personal preference for Coke over Pepsi, or the Gamecocks over Clemson.

          This is a singular disaster that has been visited upon our country, a thing unparalleled in our history — and precisely the result that a hostile power sought, knowing how it would send the United States into disarray and weaken us.

          If we can’t reach agreement on THAT point, we don’t have much of a basis for a fruitful conversation about anything else related to this…

          1. Doug Ross

            The fact that the result MIGHT be what the Russians wanted doesn’t have any connection to the actual result. A doesn’t necessarily cause B. And all A is at this point is factual information released to the public that the DNC bungled in response. There were far more factors involved in Trump’s election.

            The reason we can’t have a fruitful discussion is because you’ve doubled and tripled down on your Trump hysteria. Meanwhile. life is going on. Cabinet positions are being filled with people. The stock market is rising. Regular people are going about their daily lives. Trump is breaking down all your ideas of normal. Perhaps they weren’t normal in the first place. My advice continues to be that you should relax until there is an actual reason to be hysterical.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              First, I am not hysterical. I am matter-of-factly describing reality. And if you think this reality-show farce of a transition is normal (how about that summit with Kanye West, a person who has been competing with Trump lately for most unhinged tacky celebrity?), then again, it’s kind of hard for our conversation to go anywhere productive. We sort of need SOME basis in common assumptions.

              You are absolutely right, though, that “A doesn’t necessarily cause B.”

              All we know is that the Russians wanted a certain result, took steps aimed at achieving that result, and that result is what occurred. We’ll probably never be able to draw the straight line from one to another. Which is the beauty of this for the Russians. They perfectly played upon the pathologies currently sweeping through our politics. They threw gasoline on fires here and there. Would the conflagration have overcome us anyway without those those exacerbating efforts? How will we ever know?

              But the apparent facts that they wanted to achieve what they wanted to achieve, and tried to achieve it, calls for intense examination of what happened, and fierce resistance to Trump’s efforts to normalize Putin and model his own leadership after him. Our eyes should be wide open, finally. And our gaze should not falter.

              Let Doug call that hysteria. I call it being alive, and awake, and conscious…

              1. Doug Ross

                “All we know is that the Russians wanted a certain result, took steps aimed at achieving that result, and that result is what occurred.”

                Again you ignore the basic question: What specific information did the Russians allegedly reveal that would have flipped the election to Trump?

                Now if you told me they shot a blowdart into Hillary to cause her to pass out at the 9/11 Memorial, that would be at least interesting. Because that caused her more damage than any Podesta email. She didn’t lose the Rust Belt because of the emails. IT DID NOT HAPPEN THAT WAY.

      2. Claus

        If Clinton had been elected, there would be no word spoken or written about any of this. The only “sickening” thing about any of this is having to listen to the Democrats whine about Hillary blowing the election that she thought she had in her pocket. I’m about ready to tell the people complaining to just STFU.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “If Clinton had been elected, there would be no word spoken or written about any of this.”

          You’re completely wrong there. Perhaps we wouldn’t be regarding it with the same anguish, because we wouldn’t be staring at the ugly spectacle of having Trump as president.

          But the fact would remain that the Russians had TRIED to sabotage our election, and that would be a VERY serious matter to people who take national security seriously — a set of people that does not include Donald J. Trump.

          Even better, we’d have an incoming president prepared to confront the Russians about it, instead of a fanboy who thinks Putin is just the coolest guy ever…

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      False light defamation is a legal concept for a good reason. I bet it would not be difficult for a hacker to piece together bits of your online presence and make it look dodgy. We all say and do things in a context that might not look so great taken out of that context. Many of the damaging emails released were taken seriously out of context.

      1. Norm Ivey

        So I think it’s inappropriate to do two “I saw the open for…” comments on the same post, but False Light Defamation would be an awesome band name.

  3. Doug Ross

    “underfunded prison system”.

    Add that to underfunded roads, underfunded schools, underfunded medical care. What isn’t underfunded in your book? Is there any part of the state government you would cut first before reflexively looking to increase taxes?

    Maybe instead of calling the prisons underfunded, we should instead only lock up actual criminals (violence and armed theft). Then the prisons would be properly funded or perhaps could have funding cut. It’s easy to just throw other people’s money at a problem instead of fixing the root cause: too many prisoners.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “Is there any part of the state government you would cut first before reflexively looking to increase taxes?”

      No, I can’t think of any. And certainly not our prisons. When I think of underfunded state services, that tends to be one of the first I think of. Several years ago I visited one of the prisons and saw how they had cut back on security, and I’ve been very worried ever since.

      But I agree with you entirely on reducing the prison population. Ideally, only those who pose a danger of violence should be locked up. Then, perhaps our corrections system, from basic security to rehabilitation programs, would be adequately funded. But watch — our Legislature would probably cut it back to where it’s still at the current level per prisoner…

      1. Doug Ross

        Well, let’s cut first and then talk about raising taxes.

        On roads, halt all beautification projects and shift the money to repairs. In schools, stop spending money on useless tests first and pay good teachers more.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I can go along with those — although I don’t think testing is inherently useless….

          But ruling out raising taxes needlessly handcuffs us in dealing with the problems. It should be on the table every bit as much as spending cuts.

          That mentality — that tax increases are NEVER, EVER to be considered — is the main reason that so much of state government is so badly underfunded today. Our General Assembly has been dominated by that mentality since about 1995…

          1. Doug Ross

            I’m not ruling out raising taxes. But first determine what the proper service levels are. If you provide the money first, it will get spent. We see it all the time when there are budget dollars left at the end of the year. That’s when the spending spree happens.

        2. bud

          And there it is! The beautification bogey man. This comes up whenever raising the gas tax becomes an issue. It’s really a teeny tiny amount of money that comes from different sourcing than the maintenance budget. Still, let’s get rid of it. Ugly roads work just as well as pretty one I suppose. Now we can pave about a mile of interstate. What about the other 60,000 miles of roads?

          I’m not gonna sit here and say the DOT couldn’t do things more efficiently and cut waste. Of course they could. But so could every organization, including Doug Ross enterprises. But if we wait until every last ounce of waste is ferreted out nothing will ever get done and lives will continue to be disrupted and even lost. Can’t we do both?

      2. Mark Stewart

        DSS. Doug’s “solution” will be to expect unfit parents not to have children.

        Keeping kids safe, educating them and providing both positive societal role modeling and opportunity is the way to begin to crack the other types of social costs we must carry.

        1. Doug Ross

          “Doug’s “solution” will be to expect unfit parents not to have children.”

          Absolutely. We should pay young poor women to wait to have children until they have a high school diploma or reach age 25. It’s cheaper in the long run. I’d rather deal with the root cause than just keep throwing resources at the symptoms.

          But, really, keep trying. It’s an impossible task but a noble effort that makes you feel good.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            And you know what — if we make sure NOBODY has children, we’ll reach a point where we have no social problems whatsoever.

            And we could accelerate the process by radically reducing the number of people who are alive NOW — we could, say, make parking violations a capital crime.

            Seriously, it amazes me that a libertarian would advocate the government interfering in private lives to the extent of preventing certain people from having children — in other words, preventing poor people from EXISTING before they’ve had a chance to be born.

            Margaret Sanger might have approved, but I find it a bit chilling — and I’m the supposed “statist”…

            1. Doug Ross

              Yep, you leaped all the way off the cliff on that one. I say “Provide incentives to delay having children” and you turn it into mass sterilization. We provide scholarships to kids who do well in school, right? We take away privileges for kids who are caught using drugs, right?

              I’m just horrible for suggesting that we teach and incentivize young poor women to get educated before they have children. How awful…

            2. Norm Ivey

              “I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”
              “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
              “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides—excuse me—I don’t know that.”
              “But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.
              “It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”
              Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.

              1. Doug Ross

                I’m trying to be Santa Claus – giving some poor women a gift that they shouldn’t have to receive. Free money for not having a kid and being tied to poverty for the rest of their lives.

                1. Claus

                  Do you know those “adopt a family” drives won’t allow you to specify a family to adopt? A friend tried a few years ago, a friend of a friend registered, he asked to sponsor that family and was told that he couldn’t so he ended up doing it through another route.

            3. Claus

              Just because one is physically able to have kids, doesn’t mean they should have kids. How many kids are neglected or abused by parents who are not concerned about raising their kids? Sadly for some kids are no more than a meal ticket… more kids, more EBT, more WIC, more housing allowance, more (enter social service here). Once the kid reaches the age of 5 or 6, they’re the preschool or school’s responsibility to take care of… according to the parent. I have noticed one thing while watching the news, why do mothers of inner-city kids act like “just another day in the hood” when interviewed about their kid being gunned down? Bill Cosby has an old bit where he would threaten his kid by telling him, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out… and make another one just like you”. Which apparently is more truth than a joke.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                “why do mothers of inner-city kids act like ‘just another day in the hood” when interviewed about their kid being gunned down'”

                Say WHAT!?!?

          2. Norm Ivey

            “We should pay young poor women to wait to have children until they have a high school diploma or reach age 25.”

            Doug, I don’t disagree that your approach might have the desired effect, but it’s a moot point. We will never do that as a society. Ever. It’s just not going to happen.

            We have to deal with the world as we find it and do the best we can.

            Providing support services to poverty-stricken areas in the form of parenting classes and well-paid teachers would be a good first step. Provide incentives for businesses to locate in the poorest regions of the state. Those things have to be paid for by the state because those communities don’t have the tax base to support them alone.

            1. Doug Ross

              None of what you suggest will work either. Never has, never will.

              Why do you say my idea couldn’t happen? Who would oppose it? The same people who are afraid of vouchers for the worst school districts? Better to keep them tied to the government.

            2. Claus

              ” Provide incentives for businesses to locate in the poorest regions of the state.”

              If you owned a business, would you locate in a profitable area or an area where you’ll be stolen blind and the only way you could keep the door open is with a government subsidy?

              I for one don’t want my tax dollars being spent on a Starbucks in the middle of a Section 8 housing project where people will be using their EBT card for $8 cups of coffee.

          3. Mark Stewart

            From my experience teenage parents weren’t the root of the problem, Doug. Drugs, mental health issues and physical/sexual abuse – and out and out indifferent neglect. That’s the biggest one right there. All of these occur at every socio-economic level. It’s just that the wealthier can hide their unfitness to parent better – though the kids will still suffer through it and through life.

            We penalize kids who didn’t ask to be born into their lot in life; and excuse the parents as irredeemable and not worth penalizing. That’s the problem that creates the vortex. We criminalize children and then wonder why they become a burden on society. It’s really a sick way of coloring reality.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        OK, we’ve heard from Captain Bligh. Mr. Christian, are you out there?

        Seriously, though… while I say nonviolent offenders shouldn’t be locked up, I realize that people DO need to be punished for nonviolent offenses, and sometimes it can be tough to figure out HOW, if there’s no prison time. I mean, if the offender has the means, he should be fined, and preferably required to pay restitution.

        But say you’ve ripped off investors for a billion dollars — and the money is now gone. And you are never going to be able to accumulate another billion by legal means. What should be your punishment?

        That’s an extreme case, of course, but I use the exaggerated figures just to illustrate that restitution — which I think should be the penalty of first resort in property crimes — isn’t always a workable option…

        1. Claus

          Actually I’m talking more about caning than whips.

          I’m talking about the people who are locked up for misdemeanor charges. Felony charges are another animal. In your example, you get sent away for a long period of time of hard labor… likely life without parole. No more laying around in a cell for 23 hours a day, chain them to a rock pile turning big rocks into little rocks or on chain gangs.

          Follow the punishment they use in Taiwan.

  4. Claus

    One question brought up today about Trump being required to end all ties with his business… why don’t other politicians have to end ties with their business? How many legislators in the House and Senate pass laws that benefit their law firms? Isn’t that a conflict of interest?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It can be. And that’s actually a serious issue with lawyers, particularly on the state level, where you see, for instance, legislators who defend clients on DUI charges preventing the law from making it easier to prosecute and convict on DUI.

      But you can’t very well expect part-time legislators to abandon their livelihoods. The federal level is a different story, and particularly the presidency — it’s a far more than full-time, all-consuming job, and the ultimate career-crowning job, something you retire from, rather than going back to a previous occupation.

      And there are two things about Trump that make him unique: He is the first person ever to be elected president who was nothing BUT a businessman. Other presidents with business interests put them into blind trusts — which admittedly was probably easier for them, since whatever private interests they had were simply something to pay the bills, not something that defined them.

      Secondly, Trump has demonstrated a singular tendency to put himself and his business interests first and foremost, ahead of every other consideration. He it utterly unique in this respect, from channeling his campaign expenditures to his own businesses to using the Brexit vote as a perfect opportunity for promoting his golf course in Scotland. No one, but NO ONE, has EVER so intertwined politics with his own private enterprises to this extent.

      So yeah, more than anyone else in history, Trump needs to divest himself of his business interests…

  5. Claus

    No comment on state employees now being forced to pay 9.2% and 9.7% (firemen and policemen) of their salary into the state retirement system? I believe I heard that that amount is 80% higher than any other state in the Southeast. It wasn’t that many years ago that the contributions were 6%.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah… try living on a pension that’s one-seventh what your working pay was…

      Of course, maybe that’s what state employees get; I don’t know. Some of y’all are state retirees — enlighten me.

      We who’ve spent our lives in the private sector have this notion that state and especially federal pensions are more generous than that (and start at a much, MUCH younger age). If we’re wrong, we need to be set straight.

      Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for dealing generously with our public servants. Although the super-early retirement thing is rather ridiculous….

      1. Claus

        For those in the State, you take your yearly average of the highest 12 quarters multiplied by number of years multiplied by $1.825%. This is for those who have 28+ years or are over 65 years old.

        $100,000 x 28 years x 1.825% = $51,100 yearly pension

        Now this isn’t an accurate number because state employees get to add their annual leave payout to their last quarter raising the aveage, they get credit for an extra quarter of service for 90+ sick days not used and a few other things. Most people I know who are retired with 28 years of service make about 56% of what their ending salary was. In other words 2% for every year served.

        The new system is average of highest 20 quarters and 30 years service.

        Typically state employees didn’t make the salaries that private sector employees did, but received better benefits.

        If you want to be upset, consider the fact that college football coaches, university presidents, etc… also can be eligible for state retirement based on their salaries (state money not department or foundation money). Someone said that Spurrier will be collecting about $100,000 in state pension for the 10 years he was employed here. He’s over 65 so he can collect immediately upon termination. Why do you think he had his final two years salary changed from around $142,000 to $550,000 in state funded salary?

      2. bud

        Work 35 years then at retirement gross income would be about 60% of your pay. However, you would not have to pay SS or retirement so you could end up with around 70% of take home. Not bad but hardly lavish.

    2. Mark Stewart

      Keep your hands off my Government money, I believe is the phrase to use here. No entitlements for anyone but meeeeee!

      1. Claus

        How about only entitlement for those who contributed to it? If I pay into a retirement program, have to pay someone to manage it, I expect it to be there when I retire.

    3. Norm Ivey

      I’m a state employee (public school teacher, and it’s actually a little bit more for us), and I’ll comment. I’m cool with it. Small additional price to pay to help keep the retirement system healthy. Problem is, it’s still not enough. They’re going to still have to find additional monies.

      1. Doug Ross

        Isn’t the pension something like 80% of the average of the highest three years salary plus medical benefits? And doesn’t it kick in after 30 years?

        Pensions should be replaced by 401K’s with a % match of employee contribution. Then you don’t have to worry about funding future obligations.

        1. Claus

          The state system caps at around 75% if you’re willing to put in 40 years of service. It’s approximately 1.8% – 2% per year of service.

          I believe things will end up going to 401k programs, I believe the military is already there or going that way. But, who pays for those already in the system? You can’t take a retiree or a person with 27.9 years of service and tell them it’s going away and here’s your 401k with an amount “we” think your account would be worth. You can do that with a new employee or someone not vested into the system.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Wow. Wow…

            75 percent of your pay, just for waiting to retire at a time closer to when MOST people retire.

            That’s just astonishing. That’s like heaven, only with money. If I had that coming, I don’t think I’d ever complain about my payroll contribution going up a few tenths of a percent…

            1. Claus

              Even if you were being paid 60% of what you’d make in the private sector? The majority of state jobs don’t pay what the public sector pays.

              How do you feel about military personnel being able to retire and draw a pension at 20 years? For many that’s at 37-38 years old.

                1. Claus

                  Just trying to figure out where you draw the line, a 37 year old drawing a pension for 50 years is good, but a state employee drawing a pension for 20-25 years not so good. What about firemen and police officers who draw for 20-25 years?

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  I think you can make a case for fire and police that is similar to the one with soldiers. But it’s harder to make that case with office workers…

              1. Bryan Caskey

                “How do you feel about military personnel being able to retire and draw a pension at 20 years?”

                Yeah, I’m good with that.

                If you sign up to get shot at by crazy Islamic fanatics, have no say over where you get stationed, have no say over your duties, and essentially become government property…and you make it through 20 years…yeah I’m good with retirement.

                Being military personnel for 20 years ain’t exactly the same as working for the City of Columbia for 20 years.

                Now, there are also some fringe benefits to being in the military; you get to blow stuff up from time to time.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  And if you have a captain with the proper notions about gunnery, you get to fire the great guns at quarters every evening, with a clean sweep fore and aft…

            2. Norm Ivey

              You’re assuming that folks are holding the same job for 40 years. I doubt that’s typical, and it’s becoming less common all the time. When you retire from whatever job you have when you retire, you won’t have 40 year’s service with your employer. If I retire in ten years at 65, I’ll have 38 years of service with the state. There are very few teachers that last that long. My building has only two who have been in the game longer than me.

        2. Norm Ivey

          I’ll research it a little more closely, but I’m pretty certain it’s not that high. I have some retired friends who have said a number in that range, but they were including Social Security benefits with it Claus’s 52% quoted elsewhere in this thread sound more like it.

          1. Norm Ivey

            Using the DC retirement calculator, my monthly benefit would be 50.7% if I were eligible today. I won’t be eligible for early retirement (55 and 28 years) until next year. Using the Social Security calculator, and if I were somehow suddenly 62, my combined benefits would be 74% of my current income. That’s where that figure comes from.

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