Category Archives: Coming Attractions

Happy Fourth! See you (I hope) at the flag rally

flag rally FB

Just a reminder that the Unity rally for taking down the flag — and for celebrating and supporting the fantastic consensus in the State House to do so — is at 4 p.m. today.

I hope to see you there.

And I hope it will be an event that looks and sounds like South Carolina, which is something I’m always jittery about. Just as I did two weeks ago, I’ve been communicating this week with the organizers, fretting about whether the speakers and the visuals will help cement this miraculous consensus and not weaken it. I won’t go into all that. I just hope this is at least as positive an event as the one two weeks ago turned out to be, only with even more people.

I’ll try to post something about the rally tonight. I say “try,” because I’ll be hanging out with two, and possibly four, grandchildren tonight, and playing with them comes first.

And just because I’m proud of it, I’ll post again the video my son did based on the last one. It tells you a little about the origins of that event, and therefore this one, since it has the same initial organizers:

Legislative hearing on the school equity decision

I got this advisory yesterday from Bud Ferillo, who made the influential “Corridor of Shame” documentary, in case you don’t know him otherwise:

Advisory Notice
See attached official notice for the initial meeting of the new legislative committee that will consider remedies for the Abbeville v. State of South Carolina rural schools funding case.
It will be held in Room 100, ground floor of the Blatt House Office Building, at 1:00pm next Monday, February, 23, 2015.
Former U. S. Secretary of Education and South Carolina’s first two-term Governor, Richard W. Riley, a partner in the Nelson Mullins law firm which represented the plaintiff districts prop bono publico, will be the lead off speaker. See the attached Agenda for other speakers and committee business.
PLease share with others. Come early for a seat. Enter through the center door facing the Gressette Senate Office Building. All other entrances are locked.


Pay AGAIN? Sure and ye must be after takin’ me fer an eejit

How many of these people do you think would pay TWICE?

How many of these people do you think would pay TWICE?

That’s what I expect a lot of people to say when they leave the St. Pat’s celebration in Five Points this Saturday and try to come back in — assuming, of course, that they’ve learned a cheesy Irish accent from the same dialect coach who trained the “Lucky Charms” guy in “Austin Powers.”

Expect a few donnybrooks over that.

I don’t know what I think. On the one hand, it seems reasonable to me, as it has seemed reasonable to the organizers of this annual festival from time immemorial (this never happened in Jack Van Loan’s day!), to allow people to come back in if they’ve paid once. I mean, when you’ve paid for an all-day event, I can think of all sorts of reasons (say, for instance, you are constitutionally incapable of taking advantage of a port-o-john) why you might need to leave briefly and come back — and you DID pay for the whole day.

On the other hand, the public safety argument has some force on its side, although I’m not entirely devastated by the logic:

But the new policy will allow police and private security to better monitor who is coming and going.

In the past, people were screened the first time they went through the festival gates but not necessarily when they came back, interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago said. Instead, those returning just showed an arm band and walked in.

Now, everyone inside will have been screened, eliminating the risk of bringing contraband, Santiago said. The policy also keeps people from leaving so they can drink more or use drugs before coming back, he said.

“We know that everybody who is in there has been through security,” he said.

Franks also hopes the no re-entry policy curbs some of the disturbances the festival causes in surrounding neighborhoods. There should be fewer people walking through yards and less trash…

What do y’all think?

Rush and his friends the Democrats

Just to complete the process of distracting myself with total trivia, I'll mention the spin cycle rubbish of the last couple of days about Rush Limbaugh.

How pathetic can we be in this country, huh? This contemptible creature (why contemptible? because he wants this country to fail to prove an ideological point) actually gets treated as someone who matters. The chief of staff of the President of the United States elevates him, absurdly, to chief of the president's opposition. Even more absurdly, the actual chief of the opposition party spends breath denying it.

Either yesterday or the day before, as I was working out, Wolf Blitzer started to put James Carville, of all appalling people, on the air with some presumably equally appalling person (I'd never heard of the guy — name of Tony Blankley) from the "other side" to talk about it, and I just barely found the remote in time to avoid hearing it.

Moments like this confirm me once again in my firm belief that these people — Limbaugh, Carville and so forth — are all on the SAME side, and that side is opposed to the one I'm on. They reinforce and affirm each other. They live for each other. They define themselves in terms of each other. They depend absolutely on each other to raise the funds that they use to continue their destructive absurdity. They are as symbiotic as symbiosis gets.

And they deserve each other. The problem is, the rest of us don't deserve them. And yet, time and time again, we see actual, real-world issues that affect real people in this country — and the world — defined in terms of choices between these malicious cretins.

We deserve better. We deserve much better.

(What got me to thinking about this, even though it doesn't deserve to be thought about? Well, Kathleen Parker wrote about it in the column I chose for tomorrow's op-ed page.)

Sunday preview: Ivy Day in the Committee Room (5 Points version)

    Old Jack raked the cinders together with a piece of cardboard and spread them judiciously over the whitening dome of coals. When the dome was thinly covered his face lapsed into darkness but, as he set himself to fan the fire again, his crouching shadow ascended the opposite wall and his face slowly re-emerged into light….

        — from "Ivy Day in the Committee Room," by James Joyce

In the middle of a brilliant, unusually warm February afternoon (Thursday), I was holed up in an Irish-themed pub talking local politics. Jack Van Loan was holding court at his "office" in a booth at Delaney's pub in Five Points. And when I say office, I mean "office," with his files and organizers on the table before him next to his coffee, and his briefcase opened on a bench close at hand. From such locations Jack makes and takes his multiple calls getting ready for the big St. Paddy's Day event (March 14) and talks Five Points politics.

Last year, he was pushing Belinda Gergel for the 3rd district council contest that she eventually won. Today, he was conveying his blessing upon another (potential) candidate — this one for mayor.

The candidate, or potential candidate, sat in the dark with the bright light coming in the window behind him so that I was talking to a silhouette — a little like the effect when you talk to Joe Riley in his office down there at the Four Corners of the Law, with that huge cathedral-like array of windows behind him, and the fluid light of the Holy City radiating all about him. This was a little more prosaic than that, but then this wasn't the mayor yet, just a potential candidate.

Who was the candidate? Well, that's him in the very bad phone picture above, with Jack at his right. Shouldn't be hard to figure out. The thing about this candidate was, I needed no introduction. We've endorsed him for statewide office in the past. But my friend Jack wanted to introduce him as his candidate for mayor in next April's election, and I wanted to hear what Jack — a force in the influential Five Points Association since 1991 — had to say about him. It wasn't exactly Joyce's "Ivy Day in the Committee Room" and we didn't talk about Parnell, but by Columbia standards it would do.

Anyway, the rest of the story will be in my Sunday column, so tune in.

Sunday preview: A look at gubernatorial field for 2010 (all one of it)

For once, I am ahead of the game. I have now interviewed ALL of the declared candidates for governor in 2010, and have written about them in my Sunday column.

Of course, there's only one so far: Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Democrat from Camden.

I don't know who will be the next candidate to declare, but I'll tell you who's running the hardest among the undeclared: Attorney General Henry McMaster, Republican. Hardly a day goes by that I don't get a release about him speaking to this or that Republican group in some nook or cranny of the state. In fact, I got this one just yesterday about his appearing on Sen. Sheheen's home turf:

COLUMBIA – Attorney General Henry McMaster will be honored for his service to Kershaw County at a BBQ dinner and rally this Friday, Feb. 20th at 6:00 pm.  The rally will take place at: KCMC Health Resource Center, 124 Battleship Rd, Camden.  The public is invited to attend.  There will be a media availability immediately following the rally.

In fact, looking at the old clock on the wall, it looks like I'm missing that as I type this. And that would have been a good one for me to go to, had it not been on a Friday. I look forward to seeing Henry and/or Vincent and whoever else out there stumping soon, because we can't get to 2010 soon enough as far as I'm concerned. I'm tired of reading AP stories describing network news interviews with Mark Sanford promoting his (shudder) national ambitions, just so I can find out what our governor's up to.

One of the things my Sunday column talks about is the candidate's views on government restructuring. On the same day, we'll have a column co-authored by him and Anton Gunn on the same subject (continuing a string of me writing columns related to op-eds that day, such as last week's on Mark Sanford, and the recent one on DHEC). As further background material on that subject, here's a post from a little over a year ago from when Vincent came to talk about his restructuring plan (yes, I actually wrote about something other than the presidential primaries in January 2008), and here's video that goes with that.

And just to show you the subject's been on him mind a while, here's a 2007 post that's sort of related.

Of course, he hasn't been thinking about restructuring as long as I have; at least I hope not (even though he does claim to be something of a "geek."). He was in college when we did the "Power Failure" series.Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have here a gubernatorial candidate who was born in the year I graduated from high school. I still remember vividly our editorial board interview with the first gubernatorial candidate I'd ever interviewed who was younger than I was — David Beasley in 1994. Since then, every governor we've had has been younger than I am.

And now this. These kids today…

Notice how this hasn’t helped with SC jobs

Tomorrow's op-ed page features this Trudy Rubin column about how, in tough economic times, xenophobia and scapegoating of "the other" tends to rise. She speaks of the synagogue trashed in Caracas, similar incidents in Argentina, the Vatican's recent mess with the reinstated archbishop, etc.

And just in passing, there is a mention of a type of scapegoating we have seen in this country:

    Of course, it won't just be Jews who will be scapegoated. It can be Chechens or dark-skinned people from the Caucuses in Russia, or migrant workers in Chinese cities, or illegal immigrants in the United States.

Well, yes and no, in terms of the direct correlation to the economy. We saw the rise of resentment of illegals peak BEFORE the economy's recent southward trend. And in fact, one has heard a lot less about it recently than one heard back before John McCain became the GOP nominee (except, of course, from the kind of GOP voter who said they would not vote for him, not no way, not nohow).

Of course, there are some here in SC who would attribute the quieting of the anti-illegal lobby to the terrific job they say they're doing. I just got this release today from S.C. Senate Republicans:

South Carolina’s Immigration Laws Could Be Severely Weakened

Federal Government May Not Reauthorize E-Verify Program

Columbia, SC – February 17, 2009 – South Carolina’s State Senators are taking action and asking the United States Congress to reauthorize a federal program that is presently allowing the state to crack down on illegal immigration.  State Senator Larry Martin (R-Pickens) today introduced a resolution urging Congress to reauthorize the E-Verify program.
    E-Verify is an Internet based program run by the Department of Homeland Security, which allows for the instantaneous verification of an employee’s residency status.
    After an outcry from businesses, workers, and taxpayers across the state, the South Carolina General Assembly last year passed the nation’s toughest illegal immigration laws. Using the federal government’s E-Verify program, South Carolina’s new laws give the state the ability to punish those who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.  Unfortunately, South Carolina’s laws could lose their teeth and be severely weakened if Congress does not reauthorize E-Verify.
    Senator Larry Martin says the affect on South Carolina’s economy could be devastating.  “We now have the third highest unemployment rate in the nation due to this harsh economic environment. Our new law has stopped the influx of undocumented workers in South Carolina. We need to ensure that every available job in the state is being filled by a legal United States resident.”
    Martin continued, “E-Verify is the most cost-effective, secure, and reliable tool for businesses to verify the residency status of their employees. I can not urge Congress enough to reauthorize this vital program.”

So basically, he's saying we've got to keep out the illegals to protect our jobs. To which I say, what jobs? The period during which he's saying SC's done a great job of keeping out illegals (which remains to be seen, but let's play along) is a period in which unemployment in SC has soared.

Here's a clue, folks: You know what's more likely than anything else to keep out illegals? The continued decline of our economy, that's what. When there aren't jobs to be had, they're going to stay away. But is that what we want?

Think about it: Would you rather have high unemployment and keep the illegals out, or low unemployment but with illegals here? I'm sure the choice before us is not a pure question of either-or, but a basic understanding of supply and demand would suggest that there is a high correlation…

The private sector (a tiny part of it, that is) meets accountability (sorta kinda)

Let me call your attention to the David Brooks column (what, him again?) that I chose for tomorrow's op-ed page, in which he chronicles the relatively new phenomenon in which honchos in the private sector are held publicly accountable for the kind of wasteful foolishness that they normally get away with completely and utterly:

    Then there are the Wall Street executives who were suddenly attacked from the White House for giving out the same sort of bonuses they’ve been giving out for years. Now there is Tom Daschle, who is being criticized for making $5 million off his Senate prestige.
    I’m afraid there are rich people all around the country who are about to suffer similar social self-immolation because they don’t understand that the rules of privileged society have undergone a radical transformation.
    The essence of the problem is this: Rich people used to set their own norms. For example, if one rich person wanted to use the company helicopter to aerate the ponds on his properties, and the other rich people on his board of directors thought this a sensible thing to do, then he could go ahead and do it without any serious repercussions.
    But now, after the TARP, the auto bailout, the stimulus package, the Fed rescue packages and various other federal interventions, rich people no longer get to set their own rules. Now lifestyle standards for the privileged class are set by people who live in Ward Three.

Mr. Brooks goes on to poke fun at the bureaucrats and others (who live in Ward Three in D.C.) who suddenly are in a position to pass judgment on the Fat Cats…

… thereby missing the larger point that what is happening here is that for once, the denizens of the private boardroom are being held accountable — in the manner to which gummint is accustomed to being held accountable — to people with a differing world view.

One of the great ironies is that the anti-gummint types I argue with here on the blog all the time largely hold the views that they do because we in the sin-stained MSM spend so much of our time telling them about the outrageous waste and foolishness in the public sector, whereas almost no one ever tells them about the equal foolishness and waste that is normally shrouded in the private sector. And why is that? Because we see it as our mission to hold the public sector accountable. But when the private sector wants a bailout, it needs to understand it will have to play by the same rules for once.

Once you go public, you don't get to make up the rules any more.

Do I HAVE to go back to writing about Sanford?

Well, it was nice while it lasted — writing about the presidential contest between two guys I liked. It was the first time in my career that had happened, and I got as excited about it all as anyone did, I suppose.

But now I turn back to South Carolina, where our last election for a chief executive was between Mark Sanford and Tommy Moore. Fortunately, we don’t have Tommy to kick around any more, since he went to work for his pals in the payday industry.

But we’re stuck with Mark Sanford. I was unpleasantly reminded of this by the op-ed piece he wrote for The Wall Street Journal last week. It was classic Sanford posturing, another sequel of his personal movie, "Me Against the Big Spenders." It was headlined "Don’t Bail Out My State." It’s filled with the kind of self-aggrandizing, Look At ME stuff that drives others at our State House bonkers.

Anyway, I wrote about it for Sunday, but I’ll have you know I didn’t enjoy it. The prospect of anything positive happening at the State House is just so dim, that it’s depressing.

Back on this post, Doug asked who I believed in the conflict between Nikki and the speaker. Oh, Nikki, of course, I said.

That doesn’t mean I don’t fully understand how it must frost the speaker to see members of the House joining the governor in his holier-than-thou posturing. But you see, like the broken clock, sometimes Sanford postures in favor of the right thing. That’s one of the really disappointing things about him. He’s made so many enemies in the Legislature that it has doomed the causes he was right to advocate, such as government restructuring. We’re at the point now that we’re WAY past the Legislature’s ingrained resistance to reform. Now, they’ll oppose it just for the pleasure of frustrating HIM. It’s an unhealthy situation for us all.

And Nikki’s campaign for recorded votes is the right thing. Sure, there might be practical reasons against making ALL votes recorded, but the House can do an awful lot better than it does.

Waiting for the liberals to calm down

As you know, I’ve been picking our syndicated columns since we lost Mike Fitts. This means judging a fairly stiff competition each day, since most days that we have an oped page, I only have room for one syndicated column (and one local, which Cindi deals with). On Sunday there’s room for two; on Saturday and Monday, zero. Then there’s Saturday’s online, where I can run several "also-rans" from during the week.

Each day, I just try to pick the best column, without keeping count as to how many "liberals" or "conservatives" I’ve run. "Best column" to me means the most thought-provoking and least predictable. I’m utterly uninterested in a column that simply channels the rantings of left or right that you can find on the Blogosphere. That shouldn’t be hard, right? These people are professionals, the tops in their field, so they should be perfectly capable of original thought, right?

Not always. Too often, especially during an election year, columnists succumb to the urge to play to a side. I think of it as writing so as to get pats on the back from the people you meet at Washington cocktail parties — reinforcing the prejudices of one’s friends, rather than provoking them to think. (Admittedly, I’m having to guess at something from the outside. I don’t have a ready-made set of folks who agree with ME, since I’m uncomfortable with both established flavors.)

Anyway, the point is, about a month into my doing this, one of my colleagues noted that I was picking mostly "conservatives." Was I? I looked back, and yes, I was. I didn’t try to change anything, but kept on picking the best column each day, regardless of its point of view — giving no more thought to it than I give during the process to whether the candidate we’re endorsing is a Democrat or a Republican. And I noticed (without having it pointed out to me again) that I was still picking mostly "conservatives."

But that’s because the conservatives were more interesting this year. Why? Because they were struggling. They were uncomfortable. They knew they were likely to lose this election, so they struggled. They were unusually critical of "their" standard bearer, and particularly his veep choice. Some just went ahead and endorsed Obama. They bickered with each other, and in their struggle, in their striving, they had an occasional original thought here and there. You had Kathleen Parker saying Sarah Palin should drop out. You had George Will sneering for all he was worth at McCain for having embraced campaign finance reform, only to be done in by an avalanche of money. You had David Brooks struggling for sociological metaphors to explain what was happening. You had Charles Krauthammer getting irritated at the lot of them, and in reaction writing an endorsement of McCain that was sharper than it otherwise would have been because he wrote it in reaction to the defections of conservatives, as an argument against their apostasy.

Meanwhile, on the left, you had what you always had — recitations of "the failed policies of the past eight years," the assertion that McCain equals Bush, yadda-yadda. Same old-same old. Lots of vitriol of the repetitive variety. When people find a formula is working for them, they stick with it. Failure, however, is simply more interesting. It provokes thought, and builds character. So the left just wasn’t nearly as interesting.

There were exceptions. Tom Friedman was good as always, but as critically important as his "Green Revolution" columns are to an Energy Party guy, they often seemed off-topic at a time when everybody wanted to read about and talk about the election. Friedman’s best that WAS election-oriented? His lecture to Sarah Palin (and the Mark Sanford’s of the world) explaining that paying one’s taxes IS patriotic. Amen, Brother Thomas.

And I thought David Broder’s two columns on "what we have learned about" McCain and Obama to be two of the most thoughtful, helpful summaries of the candidates I saw anywhere. They’re better than David Brooks’ attempts at similar columns on McCain and Obama — and certainly more concise than my own offbeat efforts. (I particularly recommend the McCain piece, which was as clear-eyed as anything I saw during the long campaign.) But that’s because Broder, who is center-left at most, is a reporter first and foremost. His writing, while sometimes dull, is refreshingly free of cant. He makes observations that are fair, and therefore sometimes ground-breaking. Those two columns were a nice coda on a long and distinguished career.

But Bob Herbert, Paul Krugman? Fuhgeddaboutit. Occasionally, Krugman was able to write something helpful about the financial crisis, and when he did, I ran it. But he should stick to what he knows, and too often does not.

Anyway, with the election over, I thought maybe the liberals would settle down. Their guy just got elected; they increased their majorities in the Congress. The man they hate more than any other human in the history of the world will soon be out of office. So maybe, once they’d gotten over celebrating, they’d start saying, "OK, so know we’ve got to govern, and we have differences even among ourselves, so let’s start thinking."

But it hasn’t happened yet. I’m still seeing the same old patterns. Gail Collins, who is usually not one of my favorites, nevertheless had a somewhat provocative piece over the weekend looking at poor winners and losers. I might use it tomorrow. But Bob Herbert? He went out of his way to illustrate what Ms. Collins called " the dark side of the postelection mood." He had a column for the same day that you’d think would be constructive, or at least upbeat. It was headlined, "Take a bow, America." So I read on, hoping to be uplifted for once.

Then I got to his second sentence, in which he was explaining the significance of the election results:

Voters said no to incompetence and divisiveness and elbowed their way
past the blight of racism that has been such a barrier to progress for
so long….

Those, of course, would be the only reasons anyone might have voted for John McCain — if they were in love with incompetence, or just stone racist.

Explain something to me, folks: How can someone who habitually writes that way about people with whom he disagrees, even in a moment of celebration, accuse other people of "divisiveness," and do so without any visible trace of irony? Some of it is the unfortunate New York mindset that one often sees in the Times — most perfectly expressed in the writing of Frank Rich — that folks out there in flyover land are just beneath contempt. That is expressed in Herbert’s very next sentence: "Barack Obama won the state of North Carolina, for crying out loud." In other words, even THOSE redneck idiots knew better.

Perhaps even Herbert will settle down eventually, and turn to the actual issues facing the country — and facing the just-elected administration-to-be. Just as the right has gotten interesting in recent months as it has struggled to define itself in adversity, perhaps the left can settle down and address such difficult issues as the tension between the far left and the pragmatists like Rahm Emanuel, who infuriated True Believers by recruiting Democrats who could win back in 2006?

We’ll see. In any case, I plan to continue doing my best to choose the most thought-provoking column each day, whether that produces a string of liberals, a run of conservatives, or a perfectly blended mix.

Helen Alvaré on Obama and abortion

Tomorrow, I plan to write a column for Sunday about how the remarks of the candidates on judicial selection in the third debate solidified my preference for John McCain, on several levels.

It won’t be about the abortion issue. Obviously, Obama and I disagree about abortion. But so do most Democrats, and I’ve supported plenty of Democrats in my day. What I plan to get into is the less emotional aspects of that debate, those that deal with bipartisanship, pragmatism, the Constitution and the proper roles of the respective branches of government. For instance, as I’ve mentioned here, I was rather shocked to hear a Harvard-trained attorney equate the inferred (and I believe, nonexistent) "right to privacy" to the all-important First Amendment, deliberately stating that the first is just as sacrosanct a principle to him as the latter.

Here’s my text from which I’ll be working. It’s this passage from the transcript of the third presidential debate:

SCHIEFFER: All right. Let’s stop there and go to another question. And this one goes to Senator McCain. Senator McCain, you believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Senator Obama, you believe it shouldn’t.

Could either of you ever nominate someone to the Supreme Court who disagrees with you on this issue? Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: I would never and have never in all the years I’ve been there imposed a litmus test on any nominee to the court. That’s not appropriate to do.

SCHIEFFER: But you don’t want Roe v. Wade to be overturned?

MCCAIN: I thought it was a bad decision. I think there were a lot of decisions that were bad. I think that decisions should rest in the hands of the states. I’m a federalist. And I believe strongly that we should have nominees to the United States Supreme Court based on their qualifications rather than any litmus test. Now, let me say that there was a time a few years ago when the United States Senate was about to blow up. Republicans wanted to have just a majority vote to confirm a judge and the Democrats were blocking in an unprecedented fashion.

We got together seven Republicans, seven Democrats. You were offered a chance to join. You chose not to because you were afraid of the appointment of, quote, "conservative judges."

I voted for Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg. Not because I agreed with their ideology, but because I thought they were qualified and that elections have consequences when presidents are nominated. This is a very important issue we’re talking about.

Senator Obama voted against Justice Breyer [sic — he meant Alito] and Justice Roberts on the grounds that they didn’t meet his ideological standards. That’s not the way we should judge these nominees. Elections have consequences. They should be judged on their qualifications. And so that’s what I will do.

I will find the best people in the world — in the United States of America who have a history of strict adherence to the Constitution. And not legislating from the bench.

SCHIEFFER: But even if it was someone — even someone who had a history of being for abortion rights, you would consider them?

MCCAIN: I would consider anyone in their qualifications. I do not believe that someone who has supported Roe v. Wade that would be part of those qualifications. But I certainly would not impose any litmus test.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

OBAMA: Well, I think it’s true that we shouldn’t apply a strict litmus test and the most important thing in any judge is their capacity to provide fairness and justice to the American people.

And it is true that this is going to be, I think, one of the most consequential decisions of the next president. It is very likely that one of us will be making at least one and probably more than one appointments and Roe versus Wade probably hangs in the balance.

Now I would not provide a litmus test. But I am somebody who believes that Roe versus Wade was rightly decided. I think that abortion is a very difficult issue and it is a moral issue and one that I think good people on both sides can disagree on.

But what ultimately I believe is that women in consultation with their families, their doctors, their religious advisers, are in the best position to make this decision. And I think that the Constitution has a right to privacy in it that shouldn’t be subject to state referendum, any more than our First Amendment rights are subject to state referendum, any more than many of the other rights that we have should be subject to popular vote.

OBAMA: So this is going to be an important issue. I will look for those judges who have an outstanding judicial record, who have the intellect, and who hopefully have a sense of what real-world folks are going through.

I won’t get into the right or wrong about abortion per se in my column except to acknowledge that yes, I’m pro-life, so there’s a fundamental disagreement there, and I think Roe has been enormously destructive to the politics of our nation. Then I’ll move on to the more abstract stuff, where I believe I will make points that someone should be able to relate to regardless of their position on abortion itself.

Other Catholics have taken on the ethical issue head-on, however, and are actively appalled at the idea of a "President Obama." A few minutes ago, I got an op-ed submission from Helen Alvaré, as follows:

(Helen Alvaré was the planning and information director for the pro-life efforts of the nations’ Catholic bishops for 10 years. She is now an Associate Professor at the George Mason University School of Law. The opinions expressed herein are purely personal, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of either of these institutions)

My name has been closely associated with Catholic Church pro-life efforts for almost two decades. For that reason, and because I believe ardently that religion cannot be reduced to politics, I have studiously avoided public commentary about particular candidates over the course of 18 years of pro-life work.  It still offends me at three or four levels when a minivan sporting a political bumper sticker arrives at carpool at my kids’ Catholic school, or parks for Sunday Mass.  I will not have one.

But Barack Obama has pushed me over the edge of anonymity.  Whatever else is true about the dangers of appearing to claim (wrongly) that God has a horse in this race, it is more dangerous to pretend that I’m less than horrified at the prospect of an Obama presidency.

For here is a man who has publicly thrown his considerable influence behind the idea that it is acceptable to let newborn infants die if their mothers wanted an abortion and the child was mistakenly delivered alive. Here is a man who can countenance doctors  partially-delivering living unborn children,  and then stabbing, suctioning and crushing their heads – all in the name of preserving “abortion rights.”   His public record is unambiguous in this regard, despite attempts by the some to torture the meanings of Senator Obama’s voting record.  The facts are simple. While an Illinois state senator, Senator Obama led the opposition to a law that would have protected children who were accidentally born alive after an abortion-attempt. He also worked with the nation’s leading chain of abortion clinics, Planned Parenthood, to strategize the defeat of bills that would have given parents information about their minor girls’ abortions.  As a U.S. Senator, he denounced an overwhelmingly popular law to ban the killing of partially-born infants. And as a presidential candidate, he told Planned Parenthood’s Action Fund on July 17, 2007 that the “first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.” For emphasis, he repeated: “That’s the first thing I’d do.”  This is overwhelming on its face. Among all the first statements about the meaning of his historic presidency a President Obama could choose, it would be this: an expanded abortion license.   

What can be made of such a man?  It is no good to say he is simply acting to champion women’s rights when most American women would outlaw or more stringently regulate abortion (New York Times, April 19, 2007 Megan Thee, Public Opinion on Abortion).  Or when even Obama concedes the possibility that abortion is killing, which of course makes it a forbidden “means” to any end – woman’s rights or any other.  He cynically leaves it to others at a higher “pay grade” to determine the exact moment when life begins, but we all know the instrumental purposes of this utterance: appear to maintain common ground with both sides of the ever-churning abortion debate.

Some readers will say of my position:  “She is a single-issue voter, and those people don’t care what becomes of the rest of us.”  To the exact contrary, I am suggesting that when Obama supports allowing a parent to kill a child, at perhaps the most defenseless moment of his or her life, and when he refuses to see this killing as an intrinsic wrong, but calls it rather a cherished right,  we should understand that none of us is safe.  For where does his “reasoning” leave other defenseless persons?  What does it imply about all of the decisions a “President Obama” will make?

Some will say that the good Obama will do for some people simply outweighs the harm he will do to others. Even this calculus is absurd; Obama’s judicial appointments will ensure that legalized abortion continues to be forced upon every state, as it has been since 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court in one fell swoop overturned laws against most abortions in every state in the Union.  We’re talking millions more abortions during our lifetimes and the lifetimes of our children.   Obama has even declared himself opposed to continued funding for “crisis centers” offering pregnant women a way to support the children they wish to keep.

But even were the above calculus somehow measurable and correct, it is never acceptable to endorse killing as a means to any end.  By endorsing it, then, candidate Obama has demonstrated that he doesn’t have a conscience that functions in a way Americans should even recognize.   Rather, his is a “conscience” which surely comprehends what it must be like to die violently, or by means of starvation and dehydrations; yet he votes to allow these to continue.  Elevating such a man to the most important legal and social bully pulpit in the nation is unthinkable. Worse, it is a national tragedy.

For these reasons, and for the first time in my life, I have to speak out. An Obama presidency would be a moral nightmare.

Professor Helen Alvaré  is an Associate Professor of Law at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia.

I certainly understand where Ms. Alvaré is coming from on this, even though I’m going to be tackling this from another angle.

Personally, I haven’t been as shocked by Obama’s positions on this as she is. I say, you want to be shocked? Look at Joe Biden. He’s a Catholic; he should know better. And yet, as I’ve said plenty of times before, I like Joe. And I’m not horrified by the idea of an Obama presidency, he is after all my strong second choice. But pieces such as this make me wonder about myself: Maybe I’ve allowed myself to accept too much about the "political realities" of being a Democrat in America. There is an alternative — pro-life Democrats such as Bob Casey in Pennsylvania DO get elected nowadays, even with NARAL fighting tooth and nail to stop them. Obama and Biden have a moral alternative. So what excuses their position, from my own Catholic point of view?

But that’s not what my column’s going to be about.

Watch for the rest of the endorsement package Sunday

Finally, I’m wrapping up my day. It’s been a long one, but I’m reasonably pleased.

Today, Warren and I completed the rest of the endorsement package — my explanatory column, and his column dissenting from the McCain endorsement. I’m reasonably pleased with what I was able to do and still keep my column to a normal length, instead of my double-length pieces last week and the week before.

But I’m even more pleased with Warren’s column, which gives readers a fuller picture of the range of opinions on the board. I’ll post it on the blog Sunday along with my own.

Together, the four elements — the endorsement editorial itself, my column about the process, Warren’s dissent, and the discussions we’ve already had here on the blog and will continue to have — present a fuller and more thought-provoking package than you will find in the endorsement of any newspaper in the country. I’m quite proud of it.

As I’ve said so many times before, the point of an endorsement is to help the reader think more deeply about his decision. Whether you agree with us in the end or not, my hope is always that your vote will be better thought-out, more fully contemplated and informed, because of having read the endorsement. In that regard, I believe this package, considered as a whole, accomplishes the goal far better than usual.

When you’re done looking at all of this (and I hope you will), you’ll have a much better idea of where we’re coming from, and be better equipped to decide what you think in light of it, than, say, the confusing package put out by the Philly paper the other day, for instance. Not to cast aspersions (perish the thought).

Watch for the McCain opus Sunday

And this time, I’ll try to remember to make sure it posts on the blog before Monday.

This piece will have several things in common with the "Barack Like Me" column:

  • It will be just as long (sorry, but it took a good bit of trimming even to get them down to that length).
  • It will be based on a number of things that cause me to feel a personal connection to the candidate and as a result enable me to say some things I hope you will find at least somewhat original.
  • It will be written right after reading an autobiography about the candidate, although much of it will be based in experiences I had long ago.

Beyond that, I’m afraid I don’t think this column is quite as good as the first one. With McCain, the "like me" thing breaks down at a certain point, which is ironic because of the greater superficial similarities in our backgrounds. But while we’re both Navy brats, that’s all I was — a dependent. I never served, much less serving heroically, and that creates a crimp in the whole identification thing.

But I think it still rises above my usual columns in what it offers. I was just very satisfied with the way I was able to tie a lot of disparate observations within a single defensible theme in the Obama piece; and that didn’t work quite as well with this one. Maybe it’s just that I’m really tired (after reading late into the night the last two weeks) and struggled with the writing this time. Or maybe it’s just as I will say in the column: the thesis broke down.

By the way, I’ve gotten a lot of kind comments about the "Barack" piece — and some not so kind. But they all had something in common — all (or most, now that I think back) seemed to assume I was choosing sides in the election, and meant to laud Obama accordingly. That misses the point. So I sent variations on this message to several people who wrote to me about it in the past week:

Thank you so much; you’re very kind.

On Sunday, please watch for my companion piece about McCain.

A caveat: Neither of these columns should be seen as an endorsement, or even an attempt to assess the suitability of either man for the presidency. If you go back and read more closely, you’ll see they don’t even get into that.

What I was trying to do is just raise some thoughts that you might not have seen elsewhere about the formative experiences of both men.

I just say all that because some seemed to take my Obama piece as pro-Obama (some were happy about that; some angry), but that’s not what it was meant to be. The potential exists for some readers to assume the same about the upcoming McCain piece.

We WILL be endorsing, but haven’t yet made the decision whether it will be McCain or Obama. We’ll be deciding that next week.

What you need to remember as you read is that I like BOTH of these guys a lot; our endorsements of them in January were quite enthusiastic. The general election endorsement will be made all the tougher because of that. I know some of you think you know how we’re going to endorse, and you have a 50-50 chance of being right. But you’re wrong if you think the decision is already made. And as the days have gone by, the decision has loomed tougher and tougher. I’m dreading the discussion next week, and still trying to decide how to lead it. I will really be missing Mike Fitts, because as I described in this column and this one, he did a masterful job of helping walk us through these decisions.

Salvation Army says homeless center not moving either way

We just remade tomorrow’s op-ed page to share with our readers a piece that I think everyone should have the chance to read (folks who live in the Elmwood area will find it of particular interest), even though it has already been overtaken by events, and could be more so by the time the paper hits your doorstep Thursday morning.

So it is that I go ahead and give it to you here and now. An explanation: We got this piece today, when Salvation Army board chief Michael Beal shared with us the letter he had sent to Columbia City Council. He wrote it before the Midlands Housing Alliance voted NOT to change its plans and move to a site being pushed by some members of the city council. That happened Wednesday afternoon.

What I don’t know at this writing is what the city council will do in light of a) this letter, which tells them that the homeless services that residential neighbor want well away from them isn’t going to move whatever the Alliance does, and b) the vote by the Alliance this afternoon NOT to change its plans.

I’ve heard one thing about the city’s plans: That it plans to discuss the issue behind closed doors tonight. Here’s hoping that the city’s leaders think better of that and deal with this in the open. For my part I’ll find out when I read the paper in the morning; tonight I’ll be watching the presidential debate (assuming I get out of here by that time tonight). When I’m going to finish reading that blasted book so I can write the column that will be the counterpart to the "Barack Like Me" column, I don’t know. But that’s not your problem, is it?

Anyway, here’s the piece from Mr. Beal, adapted from the letter he sent the council:

Killing homeless center won’t move homeless

Guest Columnist
On Wednesday, I sent a letter to Mayor Bob Coble and City Council on behalf of the Columbia Salvation Army Advisory Board to disabuse them of the idea that the homeless are leaving our site at 2025 Main St. If the Midlands Homeless Alliance doesn’t serve them at our current headquarters, we will continue to do so.
    I share the substance of it here.
    The Salvation Army has a 100-year history of caring for the homeless in Columbia. We believe the Homeless Alliance’s plan to build a residential homeless transition center at 2025 Main St. complements out mission.
    The selection of an appropriate location is loaded with emotion. No one wants a homeless facility in their backyard. And yet it must be somewhere.
    City Council, the Homeless Alliance and the Salvation Army all must make decisions that further their missions. Council will have to determine which homeowners to appease and which to upset (Elmwood Park and Cottontown vs. CanalSide) as well as whether to help facilitate a well-financed and well-considered solution to a problem for the greater good.
Council also has a duty to be a good steward of the taxpayers’ money. From an economic standpoint, the Homeless Alliance proposal is clearly the best option.
    The alliance will have to gauge the feasibility of abandoning the Salvation Army site for a city-sponsored alternative, which raises many questions and jeopardizes some of its financing.
    The Salvation Army’s goal is to sell the property to the alliance and become a service provider at the new transition center. To be very clear: If lawsuits or red tape kill the pending sale, we will renovate our facility and continue our residential care mission at 2025 Main St.
    We are informed that much of the financial support garnered by the Homeless Alliance will be lost if the transition center is not built on Main Street. If that occurs, we expect those who had agreed to support the alliance to support us instead, so we can continue to provide shelter and other services.
    If the new residential facility is built somewhere else, that would undoubtedly influence us, but it would not end utilization of the property for homeless services, including programs with substantial residential components.
    This is not an either-or issue. The current zoning permits the Salvation Army to use the property for up to 261 residential beds, with full support services. Infinitely. We continue to serve the homeless today even though much of our funding has been diverted to the transition center. If the Homeless Alliance contract is not closed, we will continue to own the property and will continue our mission and ministry of helping the homeless at 2025 Main St. for another 100 years, or until there are no more homeless people who need our assistance.
    If the Homeless Alliance isn’t able to build its state-of-the-art center, it will further Columbia’s reputation as a dysfunctional city where critical issues are interminably debated, not resolved.
    While we debate and litigate, little is being done to actually solve the problems of homelessness in Columbia. Homeless people (who are people) continue to sleep on the streets and urinate in citizens’ yards. Another winter will come and go in Columbia, and no answers will be provided.
    The Miami shelter, which many members of council and this community visited, has a success rate in excess of 60 percent. If the Midlands Homeless Alliance’s plans are approved and we achieve a success rate close to 60 percent, it will not take long to see a noticeable improvement in downtown Columbia. In addition, the lives of the formerly homeless will be changed forever: They will become employed, tax-paying citizens. If it happened in Miami, it can happen here.
    This is Columbia’s last and best chance to properly address homelessness.
    The alliance’s project has incredible support in the community. Hundreds showed up at the announcement at the Salvation Army this summer. Churches have pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars, and business and individuals have pledged $5 million to match the Knight Foundation’s incredible gift. The Midlands Business Leadership Group, Knight Foundation, United Way, Central Carolina Community Foundation and the faith-based community have come together in an unprecedented fashion on this singular issue to provide something that Columbia has been lacking for many years — leadership.
    We hope that council will be part of the solution and help Columbia take the first step toward becoming the great city we all believe it can become.

Mr. Beal chairs the Columbia Salvation Army Advisory Board.

The opus is done; you’ll see it Sunday

Well, I just finished writing what I consider to be my most provocative column of this long presidential election. At least, it’s the most provocative to me. You have to consider that I didn’t expect the John Edwards column to cause such a fuss. So maybe this one will be a dud; I don’t know.

But I do know it’s longer than any other column that I can ever remember publishing in the paper — twice as long as usual. It will jump from the Sunday editorial page to the op-ed page. But then, I’ve thought about it a lot longer than I do most columns — months, in fact. That’s something it does have in common with the Edwards piece, although this one is much more complicated. Even at this length, it requires the reader to understand more than I have space to say. And maybe, because of that, it will be unintelligible. But a lot of my columns attempt to say more than I can denote in a limited space. This one just has more than usual to say.

Anyway, I look forward to your reactions to it. I think.

Updates from the Palin front

e’ve all been so distracted with serious bidness the last few days that I’ve hardly had a moment to think about Sarah Palin. But I pause now to pass on two things:

  1. I met with Marvin Chernoff over breakfast this morning, and he asked me whether I’d seen the Tina Fey-as-Sarah Palin skit on SNL, and I said I had, but after a moment it hit me that we weren’t talking about the same skit. Turns out she reprised the role Saturday night and I missed it, while Marvin was unaware of the earlier one. Now that I’ve seen the latest (clip above), I’ve got to say it sort of fell flat by comparison, but it would have been hard to match the hilarity of the first effort. It was the funniest thing on that show in decades.
  2. Be sure to check out tomorrow’s op-ed page. Kathleen Parker writes about the tidal wave of vehement reaction she got to her Palin-should-drop-out column the other day.

So THAT’S who that arrogant-looking so-and-so was…

For months now, I’ve been seeing this one photograph of this one guy, over and over, in The Wall Street Journal — almost always with stories I was uninterested in reading, so the picture just sort of registered in the background.

It was the sort of picture that no sane company publicist would ever have distributed, unless it wantedFuldrichard2_2
its CEO to be hated. And you knew this was a CEO; the picture just radiated, "I’m the kind of guy who thinks he’s really hot stuff because I’m so absurdly overcompensated." And you know, I seldom think that when I look at people. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt (something that drives some of y’all crazy, because you’re always wanting me to join you in despising somebody, and I just don’t feel like it — not necessarily because I’m a nice guy; I just don’t feel like it). But this picture INSISTED that you not like the guy. If a psychologist included this photo in a Thematic Apperception Test, I suspect there would be a surprising uniformity in the stories the subjects would tell.

Well, we’ve all been paying more attention than usual to Lehman Brothers the last few days. For tomorrow’s op-ed page, I happened to choose this Nicholas Kristof column, which in a nutshell is about a guy named Richard Fuld who got paid the equivalent of $17,000 an hour while he was running that company into the ground.

Needing art for the page, I searched AP photos for "Richard Fuld." And lo and behold, what should pop up but that very same picture that’s been half-registering on my mind the last few months. That’s it above and to the right. It was taken by Kevin Wolf at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington on Jan. 22, 2007. I especially like the way Mr. Wolf thought to include the satellite image of the Earth in the frame, just in case we missed the whole "master of the universe" thing going on.

And apparently, to the extent that this guy Fuld will be publicly remembered, he’ll be remembered looking like this.

Well, I feel so much smarter for knowing that now. But not nearly as smart as he apparently thought HE was.

Double dose of Krauthammer

Robert was poking around nosily on my desk earlier and, seeing the op-ed page proof, expressed his pleasure that I was going to be running Charles Krauthammer for a second day in a row.

Dang. And I’d hoped nobody would notice.

The problem started when I saved Mr. Krauthammer’s column that had been written for Friday publication for our Monday page (it was better than any other leftovers I had at the time I had to choose, which was Friday).

This morning, as I looked over the 11 new columns I had from writers to whom we subscribe, one of them was an EXTRA one that Mr. Krauthammer had offered over the weekend (he normally only writes once a week). Like most such spontaneously offered material — stuff the writer just felt compelled to write — it was a strong one. But I had just run a Krauthammer.

What I WANTED to run on Tuesday was a "liberal" columnist, even though I normally don’t think about such things. Why? Because a colleague suggested the other day that I’ve been running more "conservative" syndicated op-ed columnists than "liberals" lately. She may have been right; I had not been keeping score. In the daily scramble to put out pages since we lost Mike Fitts (who used to choose op-ed copy), I have done each day’s selection in a vacuum, with no thought to what I ran the day before or will run the day after.

And each day, I have simply chosen what seemed to be the best-written column. You see, I only have room for one. I can’t pick what I regard as the best column, and then another for "balance." But since this perceived imbalance was pointed out to me, I’ve been making an extra effort to see the "liberals" as "best" on some days. But they haven’t been helping much. Especially today.

Oh, I thought I was in good shape on my goal, because I first picked a Paul Krugman piece that I thought was particularly timely. It was about the mounting crisis in the U.S. financial sector. Good topic, one I certainly could stand to know a lot more about. I had it picked, and edited, and was in the process of choosing some AP art to go with it, when I made the fatal mistake of READING the captions on the photos of anxious traders I was looking at. They mentioned that Lehman had filed for bankruptcy today. Mr. Krugman’s piece didn’t reflect that. Nor did it reflect that Bank of America was buying Merrill (he had been writing over the weekend, for Monday publication). Dang.

At this point, already late for my Rotary meeting, I turned back to my options, and noticed that while some of the folks on the left had written about the Sarah Palin interview with Charles Gibson …

  • Bob Herbert: While watching the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson on Thursday night, and the coverage of the Palin phenomenon in general, I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail….   "Do you believe in the Bush doctrine?” Gibson asked during the interview. Palin looked like an unprepared student who wanted nothing so much as to escape this encounter with the school principal. Clueless, she asked, "In what respect, Charlie?”
  • Maureen Dowd: Being a next-door neighbor is not quite enough, though. If Sarah had been reading about the world she feels so confident about leading rather than just parroting by rote what Randy Scheunemann and the neocons around McCain drilled into her last week — Drill, baby, drill! — she might have realized that as heinous as Russia’s behavior toward Georgia was, it was not completely unprovoked. The State Department has let it be known that it warned McCain’s friend, Misha, the hotheaded president of Georgia, not to send troops in to crush the rebellion in two breakaway states.  And she might not have had to clench her jaw and play for time when Gibson raised the Bush doctrine, the wacko pre-emption philosophy that so utterly changed the world.

None were as good as the Krauthammer piece. Those columnists went no deeper into the "Bush doctrine" thing than Tina Fey had on SNL.

Momentarily, I considered a column from Mary Newsom at The Charlotte Observer (a paper with a new EPE, by the way), which struck me as interesting because it was written by someone who disagrees strongly with Ms. Palin, but considers much of the criticism of her as "creepily misogynistic." I like columns like that — you know, the "against type" columns, like the one in which Kathleen Parker broke with other "conservatives" and expressed her displeasure with the Rick Warren event — but I was struck by how much this passage was like Herbert and Dowd: "Further, I am horrified at her inexperience in foreign affairs. Did you see her micro-expression of fear Thursday when ABC’s Charles Gibson asked her about the “Bush doctrine” (that pre-emptive strikes are OK) and Palin obviously was lost?"

Meanwhile, Krauthammer not only raised the question that popped into MY head when I heard it — WHICH Bush doctrine? (If you had forced me to guess, I would have guessed he meant "pre-emption," but I would have asked him to define his term first, too) — but also made the point that while Sarah Palin obviously didn’t know what it was, neither did Mr. Gibson. Nor, presumably (if Mr. Krauthammer, who claims to be the author of the phrase, knows what HE’s about), do Mr. Herbert or Ms. Dowd.

An arguable point to be sure, but one that struck me as more interesting, and adding more to the conversation, than any column that merely elaborated on the Tina Fey point of ridiculing Ms. Palin. (And if you haven’t watched that yet, you must; it was truly hilarious.)

Anyway, that’s why you’ll be seeing Charles Krauthammer two days in a row.

Mobile Ariail

As you know, Robert Ariail recently launched a Web site where you can get his latest cartoon, as well as archives.

Now, Robert has gone mobile. If you want to see his last few cartoons on your PDA, here’s the address:

Just don’t do it while driving, OK?

Looking ahead, his cartoon for Tuesday will be about … let’s see… what Joe Biden does for the Democratic ticket…

What the Capital City Club did for Columbia (column version)

Yep, once again, my column today was something you’ve read before here. In fact, the earlier blog version was more complete — I couldn’t fit all that into the paper today.

But there is something new to mention on the subject, which is to urge you to watch for Clif LeBlanc’s follow-up story to the one he wrote that appeared on our front page Wednesday. The folo will be in the paper Sunday (or so I’m told), and it will address the question that  has occurred to me a number of times in the years since the Capital City Club opened Columbia’s private club world to minorities and women:

Just how open ARE the rest of the Midlands’ clubs today?

I look forward to reading it.