Category Archives: E-mail of the Day

A communitarian view on gun control

I thought y’all might be interested in this perspective on gun control from Amitai Etzioni, who is sort of the godfather of the rather modest communitarian movement in this country. An excerpt:

etzioni_mainWe should not wait for our elected officials, in President Obama’s good words, “to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” We should do our share. One way to proceed is to mark our homes, apartments and condos, with a “gun free” sign. Parents should notify their friends that they would be reluctant to send their child over for a play date unless the home was safe from guns. Residential communities should pass rules that ban bringing guns onto their premises, clearly marking them as gun free.

Anyone who puts up such signs will become an ambassador for gun control, because they are sure to be challenged by gun advocates to explain their anti-gun positions. Here are some pointers they may wish to use against the typical pro-gun talking points.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

• Tragically, it is the case that there will always be dangerous individuals, but they can kill a lot more with easy access to guns. On the same day as the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, a knife-wielding man targeted a primary school in a Chinese village. Twenty-two children and one adult were wounded, but none were killed.

“Guns deter crimes and save lives.”

• Of the 30,000 gun deaths in America every year, only 200 are caused by self-defense. Studies have shown that a higher rate of gun ownership is correlated with higher rates of homicide, suicide and unintentional shootings. The U.S. has a firearms homicide rate 19.5 times higher than the combined rate of 22 high income countries with similar non-lethal crime and violence rates…

Note the emphasis on community-based solutions — starting in one’s home and workplace, engaging one’s neighbors in debate. Very much based in faith in engaged communities.Very different from the “50 percent plus one” forced solutions that left and right tend to jockey for…

Not that a communitarian would object to more reasonable laws regarding guns. As Etzioni says, “No right is absolute. Even the right to free speech, considered the strongest of them all, is limited. You cannot shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater — precisely because it endangers life.”

$41 million for SC, and everybody’s in on it

You get used to press releases from congressional offices in which Rep. This or Sen. That announces that his district or state is going to get X amount of federal largesse. Even when the member had nothing to do with it, by announcing it, he gets credit. It's routine.

But this one was so big that the president and the veep had to get in on it, which is something new for me:

President Obama, Vice President Biden, U.S. Transportation

Secretary LaHood, Announce Availability of Nearly $41.2 million in Public Transportation Investments for South Carolina

More than $8 Billion Made Available
Across the Country for Mass Transit

President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the availability of $41,154,218 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for South Carolina in public transportation funding.  The funding was part of $8.4 billion made available to repair and build America’s public transportation infrastructure.
    “All over the country, resources are being put to work not only creating jobs now – but also investing in the future. A future that strengthens our transit system, makes us more energy efficient and increases safety,” said Vice President Joe Biden.  “With this recovery package, we will be creating jobs, saving jobs, and putting money in people’s pockets. And with these resources, we’ll not only be rebuilding roads and bridges and schools, we’ll be rebuilding America.”
    “Investments in public transportation put people to work, but they also get people to work in a way that moves us towards our long term goals of energy security and a better quality of life,” said Secretary LaHood.  “That is why transit funding was included in the ARRA and why we think it is a key part of America’s transportation future.”
    The U.S. Department of Transportation has already committed $540 million in federally financed loans, about one-third of the total cost, for the intermodal center, which is proceeding on time and on budget.
    The U.S. Department of Transportation will monitor state compliance and track job creation. The projects will be web-posted for the public to see with information on projects accessible at


Just another one of our little secrets

A colleague passes on this reader complaint, with the comment, "What planet does this person live on?":

I would like to know why we don't hear more from SC or Columbia's media about the Governor's inclination to refuse the stimulus monies when SC is in such desparate need. This state ranks about last economically,educationally, yet ranks high on crimes.  Shouldn't this money be extremely vital to SC… is the media bias… playing politics or what? 

Dang, and after all our efforts to keep the governor's position on this secret…

ANOTHER social networking site? ARRGGGHHH!

Just got this press release:

Hi Brad,

I hope you are doing well. I wanted to let you know about a unique social news service that just launched –

Have you ever wanted access to a community of people who have the same interests as you? Where you can share artistic visions, muses and styles? Many people find social websites like Facebook and MySpace invasive and difficult to navigate. At BUUUZ registration is simple and members create virtual "islands" based on subjects of interest (islands are populated with news from websites across the internet as well as BUUUZ community discussion). Creating an "island" for a topic is as easy as picking a few keywords that best describe your interests.

As an example, if you love to oil paint like I do, you can use favorite artists, museums, etc. as island keywords to be alerted on stories and member conversations mentioning them. Then you instantly become a part of a worldwide conversation through this new service, where you can find and interact with new friends who have the same interests.

In light of the Facebook Terms of Service uproar from last week I wanted to mention:

– BUUUZ's subscription revenue model, makes it so they do not have to "fight" with the users about owning their data.
– At BUUUZ, when a user deletes their account, and their data is completely deleted
– BUUUZ has also set up automatic deletion of old messages

Please feel free to take a look at the service at and reach out if you would like images or have questions.

Best Regards,

Brent Bucci
FortyThree PR

… to which I can only say, "ARRGGHHH!" Or, perhaps, "AIIIEEEE!!!" Or somewhat more sedately, "Please; not another freaking social networking site."

Since I did that column over the holidays about Facebook, I have had even MORE "friend requests," and some of them have been from being I actually felt obliged to say "yes" to, so as not to hurt anyone's feelings. (And yes, some of them were people I'd actually like to maintain connections with, but not all…) And some of them were … a tad… weird. Like, if I thought myself a target for such things, I'd think "stalker." Which is not a good feeling.

Who's got time for all this socializing? Hey, you've got time on your hands, go read a newspaper. And then, go to the mall and buy something, and tell the merchant to buy some ads. Make yourself useful.

Well, that’s a big releef

At 11:02 a.m. today, I received a release from Jim Clyburn's office with the following headline on it:


Then, at 11:33, I got the corrected version, which makes me feel so much better:


Still awaiting the next correction; I'll let you know when I see it…

Urgent call for field peas

A reader in Tennessee who apparently read this post of mine from last summer is obviously a guy who's got his priorities straight, and I'd like to be able to help him out:

I'm TN and would like to know where I can order Dixie Lee Field Pea seed for my garden.
Thanks Chris

Anybody know where he might be able to obtain these seeds? One of our correspondents wrote in July as follows:

A few years ago I planted a patch of these peas and I agree that they
are some of the finest. I purchased my seed at Bob's Ace Hardware in
Leesville, which is across the street From shealy's bbq. Also, you may
want to try Consumer Feed and Seed in Lexington, which is next to Addy

… but I don't know whether that will be helpful or not, to a guy in TN. Any other tips for a guy who knows what's good? (Actually, I'm assuming the "guy" part, and on thin evidence, it now strikes me. If Chris is a gal, I apologize.)

But how about those spiffy MODERN blue laws?

Got a release today from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, calling my attention to a NYT editorial headlined "A Dry Sunday in Connecticut," and saying that in case I wanted to write anything about Sunday sales of liquor, to consider the following:

  • Archaic Blue Laws make no sense in a 21st-century economy where Sunday has become the second-busiest shopping day of the week.
  • Beer, wine and spirits are already permitted for on-premise consumption at bars and restaurants seven days a week.  Allowing the sale of beer, wine and spirits at off-premise retail outlets on Sunday would simply give adult consumers more choices and added convenience.
  • The state will benefit from the increased tax revenues generated by an additional day of package store sales.  Contrary to some who believe that Sunday sales will just spread six days of sales over seven, recent implementation of Sunday Sales in 12 states (Colorado’s repeal was too recent for data) shows that in 2006 Sunday sales generated $212 million in new sales for retailers.  This figure is expected to increase annually.  See economic analysis of those states here.
  • No legislation forces any package store to open on Sundays. It simply gives store owners the right to decide for themselves which days to open. 
  • Sunday liquor sales will not lead to increased drunk driving.  According to an analysis using government data on alcohol-related fatalities, there is no statistical difference in states that allow Sunday liquor sales compared to those that do not.

Which provokes me to say,

  • First, we have no plans to do any editorials on the subject. I doubt we would reach consensus, partly because I'm such a mossback. I miss having a day of rest, so pretty much anything that is still proscribed on Sunday, I'm for keeping it. And before you secularists have a fit and fall in it about "establishment of religion," yadda-yadda, I don't much care which day of the week you pick. Make it Tuesday, if that makes you feel less threatened and oppressed. Just pick a day on which we can all kick back and not be expected to run around and get things done, just because we can. And don't give me that stuff about how I don't have to shop just because the stores are open. Yes, I do. There is so much pressure on my time that I can't possibly get everything expected of me done in six days, and if you give me a seventh on which to do them, I'll have to use it. And if you don't understand that, there's no point it our talking about it. The only way to have a day of rest is for there to be a day in which we roll up the sidewalks, so to speak, and everybody understands that you couldn't do it that day, so they don't expect you to. Now I know we're not going back to those days, but I am not inclined to add anything else to the list of stuff going on 24/7. You remind me that "Sunday has become the second-busiest shopping day of the week," and you think that's an argument for doing something else on Sunday? You're kidding, right? It just makes me tired thinking about it. Get somebody else to write your editorial; you're barking up the wrong tree with me. And all of you kids, get off of my lawn! Dagnabit.
  • Is your use of the term "archaic blue laws" meant to suggest that there's another category of spiffy, modern blue laws that you don't mind so much? Or are you just being redundant?
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but your point about increased tax revenues means that people will be buying more liquor, right? I see how that's a good thing for you and the fine folks at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, but how is that a good thing for the rest of us?
  • Yeah, right — nobody would be forced to open on Sunday. This reminds me of when I worked in Jackson, TN, and the owner of the largest department store in town fought against lifting the blue laws because he said that if you lifted them, the big chain stores would come to town and drive him out of business. Besides, he liked giving his workers Sunday off. And he was Jewish, by the way. The newspaper ignored him (even though he was its biggest advertiser, for those of you who keep track of such things) and kept advocating for lifting blue laws, that eventually happened, the big chain stores came to town, he had to open on Sundays, and he soon went out of business anyway. When it comes to competition, folks, "choice" can be a myth. If your competitors are all doing it, you have to.
  • I'll take your word for it on the drunk driving. Although it seems a bit weird that you'd be selling MORE liquor (remember the tax revenues thing), but people won't be driving drunk more. Whatever.

Just look upon me as a disgruntled beer drinker — one who was perfectly happy buying enough on Saturday to make it through the weekend, and thinks anybody who wasn't organized enough or self-aware enough to know ahead of time that he might want a beer on Sunday is pretty pathetic. Dagnabit.

Have you seen the PETA billboard?

hile I disagree with the dope-legalization folks, I can at least see why they use the Michael Phelps case to promote their cause. A little more unexpected is the very local, specific way that PETA has used it to promote its agenda.

I think I mentioned before that PETA was putting up a billboard locally. Well, they say it's up now, over on the outskirts of Shandon, or Old Shandon, or whatever. I haven't seen it. Have you? That's it above, and below is the release about it:


Meat Is a Bigger Health Hazard Than Marijuana, Says Group

Columbia, S.C. — The infamous photo of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps as he tokes a bong has now given rise to more than just a few million eyebrows—namely, a brand-new PETA billboard. The billboard—which shows a cow's face next to the tagline "Say 'No!' to Pot … Roast. Don't Be a Meathead. Kick the Habit!"—aims to warn students about a substance that can be even more hazardous to their health than marijuana: meat. Click here to view the billboard, which is located at the intersection of Millwood Avenue and King Street in Columbia.

Bongs and needles aren't the only place drugs are found; meat often is loaded with drugs — including hormones and antibiotics. Consumption of artery-clogging meat and other animal products has been linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and several types of cancer — not to mention other hazards, such as E. coli, salmonella, and listeria. So while smoking marijuana is illegal, eating meat can be deadly.

Not only is eating animal flesh responsible for the horrendous suffering of billions of chickens, fish, cows, and pigs, it also wreaks havoc on the planet. A recent U.N. study found that raising animals for food creates more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, trains, and planes in the world combined and contributes to water pollution and land degradation.

"While Michael was busy apologizing for smoking pot, millions of Americans should have been apologizing for eating pot roast—to animals, to the planet, and to their own bodies, " says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "We want to remind USC students that while smoking pot might land them in front of the dean, eating meat burgers and chicken nuggets could land them an early date with their maker."

To view the ad, go to PETA's blog. For more information about the benefits of going vegetarian, please visit


You know, for my part I've been eating less beef lately. I've eaten a lot of turkey burger instead, so I don't think PETA's going to be proud of me on that score.

So you can assume I am NOT sharing this with you in order to endorse the PETA agenda. But I do hope that if you pay enough attention to PETA, with its campaigns for the rights of George the Lobster and so forth, you'll turn back to me and see me as reassuringly moderate and sensible…

You know, if these folks stuck to vegetarianism as a health and environmental issue they'd gain more traction — and they're wise to emphasize those points. It's when it's all driven by a view of animals as having RIGHTS akin to those of people that they lose me.

Differing views on the stimulus

Just to share with you some of the e-mail that I ran through just before leaving the office for the night, here are three views on the stimulus bill that passed the House today.

First, Jim Clyburn really LIKED it:

February 13, 2009


WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn today released the following statement praising House passage of HR 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
    “Our economy is shedding 20,000 jobs a day.  Just last month nearly 600,000 jobs were slashed, marking the deepest cut in payrolls in 34 years.  The unemployment rate in January reached 7.6 percent, the highest level in more than 16 years. Of the top 20 highest months of job loss in America’s history, five occurred in the last seven months.  It’s time to turn those statistics around.
     “The American Recovery and Reinvestment plan is the bold action that President Obama called for.  It will create and save 3.5 million jobs, cut taxes for 95 percent of American workers, and strategically transform our economy for years to come.
     “Yesterday we marked the bicentennial anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln and the centennial anniversary of the NAACP.  It’s not coincidental the NAACP founded its organization on Lincoln’s birthday.  Yesterday, to mark their anniversary, the NAACP celebrated the breaking of glass ceilings, but also admonished us to uplift the grass roots by focusing on economic issues.
     “The last time our country faced an economic crisis of this magnitude, the government’s response in large measure omitted the communities that I represent and for which the NAACP advocates.  As we crafted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we targeted our efforts on traditionally underserved communities and rural communities using census tracks and poverty levels to direct the greatest need. I believe we met the challenge put forward by the NAACP for equity and fairness, and I expect this recovery package to deliver the hand-up that Americans so desperately need.
     “The American Recovery and Reinvestment act makes targeted investments so the children in Sumter, South Carolina will have clean-water, so that children at J.V. Martin Junior High School in Dillon, South Carolina will not have to learn in a 150 year old school, so that the mother in Charleston, South Carolina will not be homeless, so that kids Columbia, South Carolina will have a summer job,  so that a teacher in Anderson Primary School in Williamsburg, South Carolina will not lose their job, and so that families in Florence, South Carolina looking for a way-out out this economic recession will not suffer under a Governor’s political ideology.”


Lindsey Graham really DIDN'T like it:


February 13,

Graham to
Vote Against Stimulus Package


– U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made these statements on
the stimulus package the Senate will vote on later today. 

    “The stimulus package creates more government than jobs.
The original goal was to work together to create jobs and stimulate our
economy.  It’s clear we have failed miserably in that

Lack of

“There was never a real effort to find common ground. 
We’re spending $1.1 trillion over the next ten years and we never had a
thoughtful discussion to figure out how we could come together on something with
bipartisan support.  The idea that this is bipartisanship does not meet any
realistic test of bipartisanship.

Lack of Job Creation

“About seventy percent of the jobs in our nation are
created by small business.  If our goal was to crate jobs and stimulate the
economy, one of the tests should be how much did we do for small business?  Not
much.  Less than $3 billion in the entire package is directed to small
business.  It’s one of the areas of the bill where the focus missed the target
by a country mile. 

Untimely Spending to Create Jobs and
Stimulate the Economy:

“There are so many things in the package completely
unrelated to creating a job in the next 18 months.  Only 11 percent of the
appropriated spending will be spent in the first year.  In fact, over half of
the money will not be spent until two years from now.  We waste money in this
bill that could have gone to shoring up the financial sector and fixing our
housing problems.”


And Columbia Mayor Bob Coble sent out this spreadsheet
with the message:

Here is the final version. Very good for cities!

Not that ‘Morning in America’ hubris again…

Just got this e-mail a little while ago from a reader (I guess it was a reader, anyway):

The headlines today said that McCain claims Obama "must" consult with the GOP on stimulus talks. That's not true, any more than saying that Ronald Reagan was required to allow Dems much input in his 1981 plans. On election eve 1980, even old democrats like me realized that the public had said no to government spending, said no to government meddling and no to more regulations. I believed the public was wrong, but also understood that Reagan's mandate was to proceed as he'd promised.
Thirty years later, Americans' have decided that we need government, government to stop us from dying from eating peanut butter, government to stop bankers from stealing from us, and government to provide jobs until the economy picks up. That's Obama's mandate, and to do anything else would be to back off from his promises. McCain is wrong. He and his party lost. Obama wants to be nice and extend an olive branch to the losers, but it is not necessary that he does so. What's necessary is he goes forward with his plans.

To which I felt compelled to answer as follows (slightly edited, as I read back over it):

Interesting you should mention 1981. I'm still ticked off that Democrats back then took just the attitude that you're calling for. Tip O'Neill and the rest said, well, Reagan won the election, so let's give him anything that he wants. This, after four years of that same Democratic Congress not giving Jimmy Carter ANYthing he wanted.

I'm still mad about it. I'm still mad about how the whole world just rolled over for Reagan. Much of the media was full of that "Morning in America" hoopla, and I felt like …. well, have you ever been the only person in the room who was not drunk or stoned, and everybody around you thought everything was just SO funny, and you just thought they were all very irritating? Not much fun, huh? Well, that was me in the Reagan era.

I don't feel that way this time. I sort of thought Reagan's win in 1980 was the end of the world — not because I was anti-Republican, but because I had liked Jimmy Carter so much (I don't like him as much as I did then, but I really liked him then). I don't feel that way at all about Obama. Out of all the people running for president last year, McCain and Obama were my first and second choices. So while I'm sorry McCain didn't win, I'm glad Obama didn't lose. I'm highly ambivalent on that score.

But one reason I DO like Obama so much — and liked him so much more than Hillary — is that he IS about post-partisanship. (That's one of the main things I liked about McCain, too.) He's nothing like Reagan; he's far less the ideological warrior. And if he doesn't work with McCain (something which, to his credit, he's already demonstrated a willingness to do), then he's not the guy that a LOT of people voted for. I would expect exactly the same from McCain — a willingness to work across the aisle — had he been elected.

And I have little patience for Democrats who act the way the Reaganites did in the early 80s — We won, so we'll do what we damn' well please. Unfortunately, I do hear that from some. Like "Morning in America" revisited. And I didn't like that triumphalist bull the first time, not one bit.

And if you don't care about bipartisanship, think about this: There's a good chance this stimulus will fail. There's a good chance ANY stimulus would fail. So how would you feel about it if, once the stimulus fails, the GOP recaptures Congress, and then goes around telling Obama and the world that "We won, so we don't have to listen to you?"

Far better that we have a stimulus plan that both parties buy into. It's a little late for that, but it WOULD have been far better. It's never good to have one of the two major parties politically invested in the nation failing…

(I'll add one more thought: I would not say that Obama "must" work with McCain et al. I'm just saying that to the extent that he can, he should. This is not to say that if you've tried to bring the GOP along and they've just refused and you truly believe your plan is the right one, you don't go ahead — just as I thought it was right for us to go ahead into Iraq without France, Germany and Russia on board. But I am saying that if you can possibly swing it, bipartisan is WAY better for the country.)

Y’all listen in, now, ya heah?

Well, this is something new. I just now got down in my external e-mail far enough to see this item from 9:37 this morning:

**Press Conference Call**

White House Domestic Policy Council Brief for Southern Reporters on American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, February 5, at 1:30 p.m. ET, Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council, will discuss the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan on a press conference call with southern reporters.  Barnes will discuss the impacts of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan and answer questions.

WHO:              White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes

WHAT:            Press conference call

WHEN:            Thursday, February 5, 2009

                          1:30 p.m. ET

Well, looks like I missed it. (They might not have let me in anyhow, since although I'm Southern by birth and inclination, I haven't held the title of "reporter" since 1980.) So I'm left to guess. Do you think it was just like the briefing for the Yankee reporters, except they talked slower and said y'all a lot? Did they say, "Don't y'all tell a soul, but we're gonna give y'all extra heppin's of stimulus and treat the Yankees like red-headed stepchildren?" Did they use metaphors only we'd understand, involving field peas and the Chicken Curse?

I don't know; I'm left to wonder. And one of the things I wonder is, why couldn't Robert Gibbs have handled this briefing? You'd think it would be right up his alley. Although she was born in Virginia, and did undergraduate at Chapel Hill, is Melody Barnes a real Southerner? Who's her Daddy? How did she end up working for Ted Kennedy, and belonging to the New York Bar Association? Mercy sakes alive… I reckon I'd understand a heap more if Ah'd been able to listen in…

That’s why I don’t answer the phone

Someone in our newsroom sent out this e-mail globally a few minutes ago:

Has anyone else  gotten a call from the woman who wants to talk about movie reivews, The State and the SC Supreme Court not displaying the American flag, Daniel Craig in "Defiance,"
China and the Germans? Among other things.

No, thank goodness — although that sounds just like a lot of calls I get.

When I became editorial page editor, I had to stop answering my publicized land line — which I felt really bad about, since my whole career I had valued accessibility. But I found that editorial page editors get a kind of call that other journalists don't get — the very nice people who, when they find out they're talking to the EPE, want to talk about every issue under the sun. And since they are nice people, I have a very hard time getting off the phone. When I DO make the mistake of answering it, it's not unusual for me to be trapped for half and hour, and sometimes more. Which I cannot do, and do all the other stuff I have to do in a day — especially if I'm going to read my e-mail, and communicate with y'all here on the blog.

Once, I had someone to answer the phone for me — and get me on the line if necessary. No more. Now I have to let the machine get it, and get back to people as I am able — something I apologize for, but I don't know how else to manage the time.

If someone really NEEDS to talk to me (not just chat) and they're not available when I call them back, I leave my cell number — which I always answer.

It's really, really imperfect, but I haven't figured a better way to get through the day. And yes, I've consulted people about time management, and you know what they always say? I try to do too much. Answering the phone is one of the few things I've given up.

Nikki Haley applauds House action on roll-call voting

OK, well, this message, received moments ago, through me for a bit of a loop:

The Haley E-Newsletter – On The Record Voting passes the House

Dear Friends,

We Did It!  On-the-Record Voting just passed on the floor of the South Carolina
House of Representatives by a vote of 115-0!
Click here to read my blog which has more details as well as my thoughts about this significant

Are you as surprised as I am? I had no idea that Nikki had a blog.

There's also, of course, the fact that I thought what the House had been planning to do on roll-call voting did not meet Nikki's, or Nathan Ballantine's standards, which is what all that fuss was about that led to the Speaker booting them off their committees, etc.

But Cindi tells me that the House moved in Nikki's and Nathan's direction on this today. So all's well, I suppose. I haven't had time to sort it out yet; I just bring it to your attention.

Meanwhile, here's what the Speaker's office put out on the subject today:

Office of the Speaker


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   

January 14, 2009                                                                                                       

Contact: Greg Foster    

House Strengthens Requirements for Roll Call Votes
Adds to list of required transparent votes

(Columbia, SC) – During December’s organizational session, the House adopted a rule strengthening the requirements in which roll call votes are taken.  Today, House members added to this accountability requirement more instances in which an automatic roll call vote will be required.
     House Speaker Bobby Harrell said, “Strengthening our transparency rules in December was the right thing to do.  Since then, a number of members said they would like to see a few more items added to the required roll call list.  This measure – unanimously adopted by the House – provides for even more true accountability on the major issues taken up by the House of Representatives.”
     Measures requiring a roll call include:

  • Amendment to the Constitution of South Carolina
  • Legislation ratifying a proposed amendment to Constitution of South Carolina
  • Bills raising or reducing a tax or fee
  • Adoption of the Budget
  •  ***Adoption of each section of the Budget unless unanimous consent is given
  • Adoption of a state or congressional reapportionment plan
  • Bills increasing or decreasing the salary, benefits, or retirement benefits of members of the General Assembly, Constitutional Officers, or members of the Judicial Branch
  • Bills amending the Ethics and Accountability Act or the Campaign Finance Act;
  • ***Conference and free conference report
  • Any question for which the Constitution of South Carolina requires a roll call vote
  • Amendments to the Budget spending $10,000 or more
  • ***Adoption of bills returned to the House with Senate Amendments
  • Any election by the General Assembly or the House or Representatives except where the election is declared by unanimous consent to be by declaration
  • All vetoes from the Governor
  • Any questions for which 10 members of the House request a roll call vote

*** New requirements added to December’s rule Change
                  # # #

Regarding patience (as a virtue)

Among the things in my electronic IN box this morning was this forwarded message:

—–Original Message—–
From: Tom Fillinger
Sent: Sunday, January 11, 2009 6:10 AM
To: StateEditor, Columbia
Cc: Warthen, Brad – External Email; Scoppe, Cindi; Bolton, Warren
Subject: Sweet Irony

RE Fuming With Impatience
Brad Warthen's editorial, 01/11/09, p. D2 – Fuming With Impatience.
Food For Thought, 01/11/09, p. D3 – "Patience is the companion of wisdom" – – St. Augustine.
The reader may draw their own conclusions.
In Grace,

Tom Fillinger, CEO
IgniteUS, Inc.


… to which I replied as follows:

Thanks. So far my
wife, Robert Ariail and you have all pointed this out to me. So you're in good

Blogger runs for school board

Among the e-mails awaiting me upon my return today was this one:

Happy New

You know me from my writing and
protesting about the Confederate flag: I write the blog takedowntheflag.  Some of you
also know me as an active volunteer for Barack Obama and for Anton

I’m writing to tell you that I’m
running for the vacant seat on the Richland Two School Board.  There are nine
candidates, and whoever gets the most votes gets elected (no runoff).  The
election is on Tuesday, Jan 20, and in-person absentee voting is
going on now.  One of the major tasks of the school board will be the oversight
of the building of new schools.  The voters passed a $306 million bond
referendum for new schools in November.

In Richland District Two, we need to

  • build new,
    well-designed schools to accommodate the amazing growth in our
  • provide more technology
    for students and more ways for students to be engaged in both curricular and
    extracurricular activities.
  • develop strategies to
    address No Child Left Behind and Act 388 so that we’re serving all students,
    teachers, parents, and everyone in our community.

I'm a public school teacher, and I
have a PhD in engineering from Northwestern University.  I teach math in Sumter
(we have a carpool); my sister Tracy teaches math in Hilton Head; my sister
Kelly teaches math in Atlanta; and my brother Kevin also teaches math in
Atlanta.  My wife Amy and I have two children. Our son Aidan is 6 years old and
is a first-grader at Polo Road Elementary School (we like the Spanish program
there). Our daughter Kate is 2½, and we plan to enroll her in one of Richland
Two’s child development programs this fall.

What I’m saying is: I'm a public
school teacher and a well-qualified candidate. I've got a huge amount of
interest in the position, and I will do an awesome job.  Please check out the
attached flyer “A Step Ahead” and my candidate website for more information
about me and about the issues.  Also, I invite you to the Candidate Forum on
Tuesday, Jan 6 at 6pm in the District Auditorium at Richland Northeast High
School.  Please spread the word about my candidacy to any voters you know in
Richland Two.  I could use all the help I can get between now and Jan 20! 



Michael Rodgers,

Maybe Doug Ross could offer him some advice, having also run for that board, if I recall…

By the way, here's the attachment
to which Michael referred.

‘Hyperbole’ and Iraq

The last couple of days I’ve broken my rule about not responding substantially to e-mails. In the interests of making the best use of my time for the readers’ benefit, I try to steer people to the blog so that everybody can join in on the conversation. Anyway, when I break my rule I try to do this, which is publish the exchange on the blog. This exchange started, of course, with my Sunday column:

From: Pat Mohr
Sent: Sunday, November 30, 2008 4:34 PM
To: Warthen, Brad – External Email
Subject: hyperbole

Well, Mr. Warthen, isn’t your respect for the language, as the SNL church lady would say, "special?"  I guess I’m just another bleeding-heart liberal because I did watch in horror as my country approved torture and suspended habeus corpus for prisoners. And I did watch in horror as people died after Katrina because we had incompetent ideologues in the White House who sat and watched that devastation because  they wanted to "reduce the size of government to the point that they could drown it in the bathtub."  And I’ve watched in horror as we waged a "war" (otherwise known as an occupation) in which thousands and Americans and even more thousands of Iraqis died because we made a mistake about Saddam’s intentions.

Now if those things don’t fill you with horror, you’re not the man I hoped you were.

Pat Mohr

On Dec 2, 2008, at 1:54 PM, Warthen, Brad – Internal Email wrote:

The NYT editorial in question wasn’t about the issues you mentioned. That was one of the bizarre things about it. It was about things like unauthorized wiretaps, and the operation of Gitmo. Hardly "horror" stuff.

I know lots of people look upon our involvement in Iraq with "horror." I don’t, but I know other people do. The NYT editorial wasn’t about anything like that.

You want to see what I look upon, with horror, read my blog.

From: Pat Mohr
Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2008 2:24 PM
To: Warthen, Brad – Internal Email
Subject: Re: hyperbole
Importance: High

Thank you for responding. I understand what you’re saying about the other issues in the NYT editorial, but I do believe that Gitmo is a horror because of the torture that has been sanctioned there (and in other places because of rendition). If this torture was indeed not just the work of some bad apples, and we have some evidence to say that it wasn’t, then it does qualify as a horror.  Like many other Americans, i never thought I’d live to see the day that my country sanctioned torture—not for ANY reason!

And I will go look at your blog.  One reason is that I’d like to know why you don’t look upon Iraq as a horror. I don’t attribute intent, but I do believe that our government mistakenly believed the boasts of Saddam and ignored/demeaned reports that did not support their preconceptions. Then we refused to wait for the inspectors to go back & look further for WMDs or to go through the UN for assistance, coming up instead with our "coalition of the willing".  Meanwhile, Bush and Cheney deliberately conflated 9/11 with Iraq to justify our preemptive invasion. I still see polls that report that something like 40% of evangelicals believe that Iraqis attacked us on 9/11. So I’ll look to see why you don’t believe that the ensuing deaths of thousands was not indeed horrible….

I always read your column because even though I frequently disagree with you, you’re rational and provide reasons for your opinions. This is no small thing in an area of the country infested with ideologues!  I’ll always appreciate the work you do!

On Dec 2, 2008, at 3:14 PM, Warthen, Brad – Internal Email wrote:

Thanks for the kind words.

I doubt that I can explain my support for our invasion of Iraq in 2003 to your satisfaction. I can’t explain it to my wife’s satisfaction. I certainly can’t explain it to the satisfaction of people who disagree on my blog.

It has nothing to do with WMD. I realize it did for an awful lot of people, but not for me. So while I saw not finding the WMD (which we all know had been there, because Saddam had used it) as a big setback, it didn’t change anything about why I saw us needing to go in there.

It did have a great deal to do with 9/11, but not in some simplistic way such as you describe, the "hitting back at the people who attacked us" formula. I don’t think in those terms.

Either you look at the situation we had in the world at that time and agree with me, or you don’t. It’s very hard to bridge the gap. I looked at a lot of things, and that’s what it added up to for me. Other people look at the same things and don’t arrive there at all. Part of it is that I am by nature inclined to intervention. I think we were right to intervene in the Balkans, and wrong not to in Rwanda and Darfur. I think we were wrong to leave Somalia in 2003. I believe when you’re the most powerful nation in the world — economically, militarily, just about any other way — you have an obligation to act when people are suffering and being oppressed. Anti-war people think that’s arrogant. I think it’s cold NOT to want to do what we can. And the fact is, if we want to, we can do a great deal.

Here are two of those reasons, which make all the sense in the world to me, but not to antiwar people:
— Until 9/11, the U.S. policy toward the region had been maintaining the status quo. What that had meant was backing current regimes, however horrible — or at least leaving them alone — so as to keep the oil flowing. Don’t rock the boat. The 1991 Gulf War was a perfect example of this old strategy: Saddam had attacked Kuwait and was threatening the much bigger target of Saudi Arabia. We sent an overwhelming force to preserve the status quo ante — pushing Saddam back "where he belonged," and restoring the previous government in Kuwait, and protecting the Saudi regime. We didn’t want to take Baghdad then because that might have created a vacuum into which Iran, and to a lesser extent Syria and Turkey, might flow. That would upset the apple cart, and we didn’t want to do that. (We should have, because at that time we had something we didn’t have 12 years later — overwhelming force, enough to occupy and stabilize Iraq. I understand why we didn’t — but that calculation was based on the old, pre-9/11, policy of preserving the status quo.)
     9/11 changed this equation, because it showed us that preserving the status quo — one in which oppressive regimes produced political frustration and encouraged Islamic militantism — was extraordinarily dangerous to us. The 9/11 hijackers were the result of the old policy of supporting the status quo. We needed to begin the process of changing the region, and Iraq was a good place to start. Succeed there (and the problem in Iraq is that so many things were done wrong in the first years that it took far too long to succeed), and you encourage liberalizing, democratizing forces in all middle eastern countries. We saw the beginnings of that in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Libya — although much of it was set back by the increasing violence that was only quelled after the Surge began at the start of 2007. Much of that good effect has yet to be seen, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still happen.

— Iraq was the place to start because we had every reason to go in and take out the regime there. Saddam had violated terms of the 1991 cease fire for 12 years. He was shooting at our planes enforcing the no-fly zone. In 2002, the UN passed the resolution authorizing force unless Saddam met certain conditions — which he failed to meet. Some significant UN members balked at acting upon the resolution — France, Germany, Russia — but plenty of others, including most European powers, actually joined that "coalition of the willing." And why not? Saddam had spent the last decade and more cementing his reputation as an outlaw regime.

Anyway, that’s PART of my thinking on the subject. It doesn’t make sense to people who agree. It DOES make sense to some who do, such as the New York Times’ Tom Friedman.

Hope that helps, but I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t.

From: Pat Mohr
Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2008 8:27 PM
To: Warthen, Brad – Internal Email
Subject: Re: hyperbole
Importance: High

Hmm, I’ve gone back and read and re-read your rationales for going into Iraq. I’m still thinking—because you’ve made some good points. I do have to tell you, though, that I’m not anti-war; I just think it should be restricted to defense. However, many of your reasons seem to indicate that you truly believe that you are your brothers’ keeper, and that’s morality I share. I too think we should have gone into Darfur and Rwanda. We do have an obligation to help the oppressed—but not only the oppressed with oil under their land. I just don’t think that Iraq should have been singled out, even in the mideast.  What about the outrageous treatment of women in Saudi Arabia for example? And how can we be the world’s policemen? How can we ever fix it all?

Moreover, I think our presumptuous invasion has brought us so much international ill will that it will be years before our reputation is restored. And then there’s the billions and billions of dollars that have been squandered in this war.  I wonder if Iraqis think it was worth it because I don’t think most Americans do. And now we’re in greater jeopardy in Afghanistan—and we still haven’t found Osama.

All that said, in the light of your comments, I intend to start reading your blog as I continue to think about my position.  I like to think that I’m open-minded enough to change my mind given additional evidence.  I wish I could come back in fifty years and see what verdict history renders on this war….

Thank you again for engaging in this dialogue with me.

On Dec 3, 2008, at 10:54 AM, Warthen, Brad – Internal Email wrote:

All I can ask for is to get people to think about the points I make, so I thank you for that.

In answer to one point you made, let me point out that we did not have an acceptable rationale for invading Saudi Arabia. Remember the 12 years of defiance of the ceasefire agreement, and all those UN resolutions that gave us authorization to go into Iraq. We had nothing like that in the case of Saudi Arabia, or Iran or anyone else. Just Iraq.

Also, the reference to oil is a non-sequitur. We kicked Saddam out of Kuwait for oil. The policy of supporting the status quo was about oil. Invading Iraq actually endangered the flow of oil by upsetting the status quo.

You might be interested in a column I wrote before the Iraq invasion, about why we needed to go in:

Published on: 02/02/2003
Edition: FINAL
Page: D2
Editorial Page Editor

AMERICA SEES ITSELF, quite admirably, as a nation that doesn’t go around starting fights, but is perfectly willing and able to end them once they start.

Because of that, President Bush has a tall hill to climb when it comes to persuading the American people that, after 10 years of keeping Saddam Hussein in his box, we should now go in after him, guns blazing.

In his State of the Union address, the president gave some pretty good reasons why we need to act in Iraq, but were they good enough? I don’t know. Probably not. It’s likely that no one outside of the choir loft was converted by his preaching on the subject. And that’s a problem. Overall, while there have been moments over the last 16 months when he has set out the situation with remarkable clarity, those times have been too few and far between.

He has my sympathy on this count, though: His efforts have been hampered by the fact that the main reason we may need to invade Iraq is one that the president can’t state too clearly without creating more problems internationally than it would solve. At the same time, it’s a reason that seems so obvious that he shouldn’t have to state it. We should all be able to figure it out.

And yet, it seems, we don’t.

I hear people asking why, after all this time, we want to go after Saddam now. He was always a tyrant, so what’s changed? North Korea is probably closer to a nuclear bomb than he is, they say, so why not go after Kim Jong Il first?

We left him in power a decade ago, they ask, so why the change?

The answer to all of the above is: Sept. 11.

Before that, U.S. policy-makers didn’t want to destabilize the status quo in the Mideast. What we learned on Sept. 11 is that the status quo in the region is unacceptable. It must change.

Change has to start somewhere, and Iraq is the best place to insert the lever, for several reasons – geography, culture, demographics, but most of all because Saddam Hussein has given us all the justification we need to go in and take him out: We stopped shooting in 1991 because he agreed to certain terms, and he has repeatedly thumbed his nose at those agreements.

Iraq may not be the best place in the world to try to nurture a liberal democracy, but it’s the best shot we have in the Mideast.

I’m far from the only one saying this. The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, who has more knowledge of the region in his mustache than I’ll ever have, has said it a number of times, most recently just last week:

"What threatens Western societies today are not the deterrables, like Saddam, but the undeterrables – the boys who did 9/11, who hate us more than they love life. It’s these human missiles of mass destruction that could really destroy our open society. . . . If we don’t help transform these Arab states – which are also experiencing population explosions – to create better governance, to build more open and productive economies, to empower their women and to develop responsible news media that won’t blame all their ills on others, we will never begin to see the political, educational and religious reformations they need to shrink their output of undeterrables."

Journalists can say these things, and some do. But if the president does, the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Syrians and just about everybody else in the region will go nuts. In European capitals, and even in certain circles here at home, he will be denounced as the worst sort of imperialist. Osama bin Laden’s followers will seize upon such words as proof that the West has embarked upon another Crusade – not for Christ this time, but for secular Western culture.

None of which changes the fact that the current state of affairs in Arab countries and Iran is a deadly threat to the United States. So we have to do something about it. We’ve seen what doing nothing gets us – Sept. 11. Action is very risky. But we’ve reached the point at which inaction is at least as dangerous.

Should we go in as conquerors, lord it over the people of Iraq and force them to be like us? Absolutely not. It wouldn’t work, anyway. We have to create conditions under which Iraqis – all Iraqis, including women – can choose their own course. We did that in Germany and Japan, and it worked wonderfully (not that Iraq is Germany or Japan, but those are the examples at hand). And no one can say the Germans are under the American thumb.

But that brings us to a problem. The recalcitrance of the Germans, the French and others undermines the international coalition that would be necessary to nation-building in Iraq. It causes another problem as well:

Maybe we could accomplish our goal without invading Iraq – which of course would be preferable. By merely threatening to do so, we could embolden elements within the country to overthrow him, which might provide us with certain opportunities.

But the irony is that people aren’t going to rise up against Saddam as long as Europeans and so many people in this country fail to support the president’s goal of going after him. As long as they see all this dissension, they’ll likely believe (rightly) that Saddam might just hang on yet again.

If the United Nations, or at least the West, presented a united front, the possibility of Saddam collapsing without our firing a shot would be much greater. But for some reason, too many folks in Europe and in this country don’t see that. Or just don’t want to.

Maybe somebody should point it out to them.

Write to Mr. Warthen at P.O. Box 1333, Columbia, S.C. 29202, or

By the way, do you mind if I post our exchange on my blog? Whenever I spend this much time writing about a subject, I try to share it with as wide an audience as possible…

From: Pat Mohr
Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 2008 11:06 AM
To: Warthen, Brad – Internal Email
Subject: Re: hyperbole
Importance: High

Certainly, you may share it.

That’s it. Join in, if you got this far…

An exchange about macroeconomics

Here’s an e-mail exchange from today, unadorned. Perhaps y’all will take an interest in the discussion:

From: Kathryn Fenner
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 9:26 AM
To: Warthen, Brad – External Email
Subject: a suggestion

    Upon reading Peter Brown’s comment (the old ‘it’s my money’ whine) in Adam Beam’s excellent front page piece in today’s paper on the possibility of federal "bailout" money coming to Columbia as "investments," I wondered if it might not be helpful for some of your readers if you did a simple primer on Keynesian macroeconomic theory (since Friedman is generally considered discredited outside the Governor’s circle). Maybe if people understood that, instead of directly taxing us, the federal government can print money, which, if it pays for certain things like wages, can actually create wealth (increase the pie) rather than taking money from your pocket, everyone might calm down a bit. Or at least some people might….
    A lot of us educated in South Carolina public schools–even the fairly good ones (Aiken) missed out on economics–I only happened to take macroeconomics as an English major at Carolina b/c a friend recommended the professor teaching the honors section (Martin). I would have taken another social science for my requirement for sure otherwise. I also only happened to take an excellent course on the history of the New Deal because it was taught by an excellent professor (John Scott Wilson), whom I had studied under for another course.


Kathryn Braun Fenner
Attorney at Law

On Wed, Nov 26, 2008 at 11:36 AM, Warthen, Brad wrote:
    We touched on economics in my senior year, at Radford HS in Honolulu. You know how we did that? We played a game over the course of several days, in which we were supposed to be marooned on a desert island, and we had to make decisions about how to spend our time. Most time was spent obtaining food, but we could also budget time away from food-gathering to make tools to save time, etc. Scads of fun, much like such computer games of latter days such as Sim City — only we did it on paper.
     That was about it.
    We also read
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which Barack Obama ALSO read in high school in Hawaii, and found inspirational. Our teacher for that class was Mrs. Nakamura, so we were way multicultural.
     That’s about it. I know what Keynesian economics is in this context, very roughly — it’s like, spending to stimulate the economy, right? — but I would not presume to set myself up as an expert. Oh, I know one other thing — his middle name was Maynard, like Maynard G. Krebs, whom you are probably too young to remember.

From: Kathryn Fenner
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 12:43 PM
To: Warthen, Brad – Internal Email
Subject: Re: a suggestion
    Dobie Gillis was in syndication and played in the afternoons when I got home from school, man. Maynard went on to be Gilligan, a vastly inferior show. I’m only six years younger than you, not that your face gives that away (what is it,  a portrait in the attic? Some secret Hawaiian face cream? I mean from reading your columns, you got plenty of sun playing outdoors in the tropics and subtropics)
    The game you played was more about microeconomics, which most people probably grasp more intuitively–it’s our household economy, our business. The mess we are in now calls for macroeconomic solutions, which no one in the MSM seems to spell out in a nice graphic for the newbies–how when the government prints money, you get inflation, but you also can get jobs and spending money and ripples through the economy (bottom up works a lot faster–not stimulus in your pocket that you save or pay off credit cards, but jobs for the unemployed who buy groceries and other necessities and thus get the ball rolling again in terms of generating transactions that not only support a civilized lifestyle (as opposed to homelessness or Harvest Hope) but taxable income to repay the "printed money."
    Whatever happened to the notion of "from those to whom much is given…."?  Rotary is such a great example of the fulfillment of the expectations by the fortunate, but some of the bloggers and Peter Brown and Sanford and his cronies (Joel Sawyer’s letter was way off base) need to step to the plate. Dennis Hiltner said something to me the other day that drew Socialist me up short, "The employers who depend on workers who depend on bus transit should pay them enough to afford the true cost." I sputtered, but then I thought, "Surely Palmetto Health could take $10 per shift from the MDs and give it to the custodial staff?" I guess that’s redistributionist, huh?

Gee, I don’t even want to talk with Geithner…


Just got this e-mail:

My name is Jen
Parsons, I’m with Ketchum PR.
I wanted to see if
you’re doing any profiles on Tim Geithner.  We work with
Keith Bergelt, the CEO of Open Invention Network, and
he worked with Geithner in the early 90’s while they were in Tokyo.  Keith can
offer some good insight into Geithner’s work style, career ambition,
Let me know if you’d
like to chat with Keith.


Now, that’s service for you. Unfortunately, I don’t even know what I’d ask Geithner himself if I were to have a few minutes of his time. For me, the broad, high-altitude overview Obama provided today regarding economic policy was way more detail than I need.

So no, I don’t need to talk to somebody who just used to work with Geithner.

When I receive a shotgun release like that, especially on Thanksgiving week — when we tend to be more shorthanded even than the skeleton crew we normally have, and I’m cranking as hard as I can with routine, boring tasks that you do NOT want to hear about, just getting the pages out, without even thinking about interviewing or writing, even about subjects I know something about, much less the new Treasury secretary, I find myself wondering whether people who send out releases like that have the slightest idea what’s going on out here in newspaperland. The answer comes quickly: Probably not.

Sorry about the length of that sentence. I didn’t have time to write short ones.


So do I LOOK like a sap, or what?

That was a rhetorical question. (Imagine Billy Bob Thornton saying that, as Mr. Woodcock.)

Jeffrey Sewell from over at S.C. Hotline sent me this suggestion:


Would you consider a blog piece encouraging folks not to give
to panhandlers but directly to shelters and churches during the holiday season?

Would that work? Even for a notorious soft touch like me? Long ago, back when I was in college, I sort of developed this attitude that if someone had degraded himself in his own eyes to the point that he’ll beg me as a stranger for money, why not just give him some? I mean, he might as well have the money, because what else has he got?

Admittedly, that’s a poorly defined philosophy, and an odd mixture of sympathy and judgmentalism on my part, but in all the years since, I haven’t really improved on it. I’ve experimented with giving the money, refusing to give the money, and ignoring the supplicant. All three make me feel bad — the first because I’m generally all but certain that I’m being conned (although there’s always the chance that the NEXT guy who needs just a little more money so he can catch the bus to Greenville to see his sick child will be telling the truth), and the others because, even if it’s a con, they make me feel like a rat.

So generally speaking, I’m a soft touch for beggars. But what gets me is that they can spot me at a distance. Either there’s a panhandler database on the Internet with my name and photo on it (so that’s what they’re all doing when they hang out at the library), or they can just TELL. The way I can just tell they’re going to hit me up from the first clearing of the throat, or the first move in my direction.

Sometimes, I can tell before that. Over the weekend, I was parallel-parked in 5 Points. I was in my vehicle already and just about to start the truck and pull away when I saw, about 10 feet off my starboard bow, a panhandler approaching a young woman. I said to myself, "Go, go, GO!" and cranked the ignition, but even though there was every reason to think I’d escape, somehow I knew that the young woman wasn’t going to buy me enough time; he was going to bypass everyone else and somehow get to me before I could get away. And he did. I started the truck, looked over my shoulder for a break in the traffic, and there he was, tapping on my closed window and holding up — this is the best part — an actual, official, U.S. military ID card.

I rolled the window down (what am I gonna do; run over a veteran to get away?), and he was already into his spiel, of which I only caught bits … "Green Beret… nineteen sixty-four…" Yes, it was the classic Billy Ray Valentine approach:

Uh… I was with the Green Berets – special unit battalion commando airborne tactic specialist tactics unit battalion. Yeah!

Apparently, this was Agent Orange himself. I hastily dug a couple of bucks out of my wallet and handed them over, which provoked a gap-toothed grin. He asked, "Bet you didn’t mumble-mumble-mumble THIS year!" So I said "What?" and he said "Bet you didn’t mumble-mumble-mumble THIS year!" and I said either "Yeah," or "No, I didn’t" noncommitally (how could I have committed? I didn’t know what he was saying). And he grinned and nodded, and I drove off.

Where were we? Oh, yeah, Jeffrey’s suggestion. Good idea. But would that work?