Category Archives: New Normal

Is ‘The Walking Dead’ about today’s economy?

Just another sunny day in the New Normal.

Late last night, in a fit of despond, I Tweeted the following:

Call me a pessimist if you will, but I must confess to a sinking feeling that things are not going to get better on “The Walking Dead”…

I mean, have you been watching this show lately? We thought things were as bad as they could get in the very first episode of the first season, but now? It’s almost like the makers of the show are daring us each week to keep watching. Recently on Netflix, I called up an episode from the first season — the one in which the survivors find temporary refuge at the CDC — and I was struck by how clean and relaxed and sane everyone was, even before they got access to the hot showers. Over the next two seasons, you can observe the decline of hope in the characters along with the layers of dirt and dried zombie blood encrusted on them.

Rick's just not inspiring a lot of confidence these days.

This show raises a lot of questions. For instance — if the only “life” in walkers (as demonstrated by the researcher at the CDC) was a trickle of activity at the very base of the brain, then how come a blow to anywhere on the head will put them down? Looked to me like the target area would be about the size of a walnut, and well shielded. And once you suspend your belief enough to ignore that, how are we to believe that humans with no firearms experience before the zombie apocalypse can hit a moving walker in the head at forty yards with a pistol, every time? That would be a toughie for the members of Seal Team 6, I  suspect.

But set all that aside, and let me get to my epiphany. Last night, as I looked on Deputy Rick covered in zombie mess, sitting there on the floor of the prison out of his mind with grief over the loss of someone dear to him, I got this sinking feeling that nothing was ever going to get better. Based, you know, sort of in the fact that this is the third season, and nothing ever DOES get better. Everybody was just going to keep scraping by, day to day, adjusting as well as they can to this new reality that seemed permanent…

And it hit me how much that felt like our economic situation since September 2008 (the show premiered in 2010, as we were realizing that our economic woes were the New Normal, and not a short-term thing). Only without everybody being covered in zombie  blood.

Is that what it’s about? Does that cause us to identify with these people enough to keep watching? Does it cheer us up, because unemployment and underemployment aren’t nearly that bad? Are the choices presented to the characters like our political choices? Is “the Governor” supposed to be Mitt Romney, presenting an idyllic suburban Republican sort of vision of what life could be? Deputy Rick seems to have the same pitch for holding on to leadership that President Obama used: No, I haven’t led you out of this, but without my leadership, things would have been worse.

Maybe not. But I’m trying to come up with a socially-redeeming excuse for why I keep watching. Because I do, and will. Right now, I can’t wait to find out who was on the other end of that ringing rotary-dial phone…

And I’m supposed to believe this kid can hit a moving walker in the head, at 50 feet, from a tower, with a pistol as big as he is?

It was too loose; now it’s too tight

This morning, we closed on a mortgage refinance, which we did partly because of the lower rates, but mainly to consolidate the initial mortgage and a credit line that we opened a number of years back to do some work on our house (hardwood floors, new HVAC, other stuff).

Anyway, the attorney helping us does this sort of thing all the time. (Over the years, we’ve been through this process with him — closing on a house or refinancing — at least three times.) My wife asked whether he’s keeping busy with these low rates.

Not really, he said. Oh, the demand is way up, all right. The thing is, though, about half of the loans aren’t getting approved.

Before, credit was too loose, which got us into trouble. Now, it’s too tight, which makes it harder to get out of the trouble. He said there are those who hoped real estate would lead us out of these hard times. But not at this rate, he suggested.

Just a little glimpse at the economy from a window other than my own, which I thought I’d pass on.

By the way, we had no trouble getting our refinance, through Palmetto Citizens Federal Credit Union. See the ad at right.

Product placement, baby.

Does Nikki maintain her Facebook page herself? I suspect so…

Someone speculated earlier that Nikki Haley doesn’t maintain her Facebook page herself. I suspect that she does. Or at least that some of the posts, or status updates, or whatever you want to call them (I’m a Twitter man, and get impatient with Facebook) are written by her personally.

They are so emotional. And they are so carelessly written that I hate to think anyone was paid to produce them — unless the rough edges are part of the service being provided, to add authenticity.

For instance, there’s this:

SC Law Enforcement Dir. Chief Keel responding to The State Newspaper: “I have expressed my concerns, as of yesterday, that publication of info regarding minor children of elected officials creates problems for State Law Enforcement and its efforts to provide security for the children of this governor or any governor. In my 30 yrs plus of experience at SLED, the security or activities of minor children of elected officials is something that the media in general has taken a “hands off” approach to in reporting except as released by the elected official’s office.”

First, one wonders what she’s on about. I didn’t see anything in the paper about her daughter before this appears. That sort of airing of a background battle as though everyone knows what’s going on is so off, so unprofessional, that it really feels like it’s coming from her.

Also, it follows her pattern of embarrassing her appointees by enlisting them in her personal political battles. I feel for Mark Keel.

It’s probably a reference to this thing Will Folks wrote about. I suppose The State was working on the story (the MSM have this quaint habit of confirming things with on-the-record sources, which makes them lag the blogosphere), and that freaked Nikki out in a way that Will’s post did not.

There was an earlier post on the same subject that was more emotional, and blasted The State as a worthless, “biased” entity that was persecuting Nikki’s family, and that one really felt like her. Here it is:

Scrutiny of me comes with the territory of being governor. I expect it. But it’s a sad day for journalism in South Carolina when The State newspaper goes after my 14 year old daughter. Public officials have a right to expect that their minor children are off limits from political opponents and even from biased media outlets like The State. Its disgusting. Shame on them.

If a paid staffer wrote that for her, then I’m embarrassed for that person, too.

Just to say something you don’t hear all that often

The quixotic demonstration at the State House yesterday by citizens sick of seeing our state’s infrastructure rapidly eroding under the stewardship of shortsighted politicians was of course an exercise in futility.

But I’m no stranger to that. A few minutes ago, looking for a link for a previous post that needed one, I went back to the last week of posts on my old blog I had at the paper, and ran across this forgotten item — which, as it happens, was day after the post in which I announced that I had been laid off:

Good job rejecting the tuition caps

This might sound strange coming from a guy who was already counting pennies (or quarters, anyway — I miscounted how many I had this morning in my truck, and ended up with a parking ticket because I didn’t have enough for the meter), with my two youngest daughters still in college. And now I’m about to be unemployed.

But I’m glad the House rejected tuition caps at S.C. colleges and universities. I have an anecdote to share about that.

Remember the recent day when college students wandered the State House lobbying lawmakers on behalf of their institutions. They wanted the state to invest in higher education the way North Carolina and Georgia have. Either that day, or the day after, I had lunch with Clemson President James Barker, and he told me an anecdote he had witnessed: He said the students were pressing a lawmaker NOT to support the tuition caps, because they were worried about their institutions being even more underfunded — they hardly get anything from the state — some are down below 20 percent funding by the state, and the rest has to come from such sources as tuition, federal research grants and private gifts. Eliminate the ability to raise tuition, and the institution’s ability to provide an excellent education is significantly curtailed. If we want lower tuitions, the state should go back to funding higher percentages of the schools’ budgets, the way our neighboring states with better higher ed systems do.

The lawmaker listened to the kids, and then said with great condescension, maybe you kids don’t care if tuition goes up, but I’ll bet your parents would like a cap. He thought he had them there, but the kids set him straight: None of their parents were paying the bills. These kids were working their way through schools and paying for it all themselves. And they didn’t want to see the quality of what they were working so hard to pay for be degraded by an artificial cap on tuition. The lawmaker had not counted on getting that answer.

I wish I had been there to see it, because I’ve been in a similar place before. Back in 95 or 96, Speaker Wilkins had brought his committee chairs to see us, and I started challenging the wisdom of their massive rollback of property taxes paid for school.One of them allowed as how he bet I was glad to get that couple of hundred dollars I didn’t have to pay. And I answered him that I was ashamed that I was paying so little through my property tax to support schools that I knew needed more resources. He said smugly that he was sure I wouldn’t want to give it back. I told him I didn’t see as how there was any channel for doing that, but if he could point me to the right person who would take my money and see it gets to the right place, I would pay the difference. He didn’t have a good answer for that.

It would be great if our lawmakers would stop assuming that all of us in South Carolina are so greedily shortsighted that we can’t see past our personal desire to pay less money, and that we are corruptible by a scheme to starve colleges of reasonable support.

Reading that now, with all that’s happened since — the rise of the Tea Party, the eagerness of Republicans, demoralized after their 2008 defeat, to embrace destructive extremism (and of course, what happens to the Republican Party as happens to South Carolina, which it dominates), the election of Nikki Haley over more experienced, less extreme candidates of both parties — it reads like thoughts from another century. And, of course, another place.

Imagine, even dreaming of our state caring enough about education to invest in it the way our neighboring states have, much less suggesting that we do so. How anachronistic can one get? All that’s happened since then is that South Carolina has run, faster every day, in the opposite direction — with out elected leaders firmly convinced that that is not only the right direction in which to run, but the only one.

Harvest Hope off to a good start, with a long way to go

Just an update on Harvest Hope Food Bank’s urgent appeal for operating funds, which I told you about back here.

Since that Tuesday press conference, which ADCO was honored to help with, the media reaction has been gratifying. All four local commercial TV stations showed up and reported — some of them doing followups. As for print — Harvest Hope’s appeal got the lede position on the front page of The State Wednesday, and on Thursday The Greenville News (Harvest Hope also has a significant presence in Greenville) played the story as its front-page centerpiece.

There will be follow-up coverage. But going forward, the ball is in the court of potential donors — some of whom have responded already to the initial repeal to double-match the generous $150,000 match pledge from Mungo Homes.

As of today, the cash raised since Tuesday was $37,477. And I was gratified to hear from Harvest Hope staffer Bryan Rurey that:

We also had an online gift that directly referenced Brad’s Blog!

Cool. Now which one a you crazy lugs did that? Whoever it was, good on you.

Now 37 grand is a great start, but just a start toward the $2 million that’s needed by June. In fact, it’s just a start toward double-matching the Mungo grant. So tell everyone you know, we need this thing to start snowballing.

To recap the salient points:

Each year since the economic crisis began, the need has been greater than the year before. Harvest Hope is now feeding 91 percent more families than it did in 2008.

Fixed costs, aside from food and capital needs, have risen dramatically. It now costs $3,100 a DAY to fuel the vehicles that distribute the food, and that’s only going to go up.

As the need and costs have risen, cash donation have dropped over the last few months. Some regular donors, people who used to give monthly, have even told Harvest Hope that they are just a step away from having to avail themselves of the charity’s services.

For the first time ever, the “giving season” donations that tend to flow in from September to December were not enough to pay off the line of credit that carries HH through the lean spring and summer. Always in the past, that operating debt was paid off by Jan. 1. At the start of this year, the organization was a million dollars in the hole — this despite operational expense cutbacks.

All of that adds up to an urgent need for $2 million to fill that hole, and to cover the expected increase in operating expenses for the next few months.

This is not just Harvest Hope’s problem; it’s a significant challenge to the 22 counties it serves. Because other entities that feed the hungry in those communities — churches, secular nonprofits, what have you, 450 member agencies in all — depend on Harvest Hope to supply the food. This, folks, is South Carolina’s version of an organization that is “too big to fail.”

Finally, I’ll reiterate the political angle. We hear a lot of talk from the dominant political faction in South Carolina about relying on government less and the private sector more when it comes to providing a safety net for the “deserving poor.” Well, folks, in this  part of South Carolina, Harvest Hope IS the private sector’s means of feeding the hungry.

Oh, and at Harvest Hope you don’t find the “culture of dependency” problem that certain politicians like to go on about. Typically, if Harvest Hope is able to take care of a family’s emergency food needs for three months running, it gets them through the crisis so they can get back on their feet. And only 1 percent of clients are on TANF (what remains of “welfare as we knew it”) benefits.

So what are you waiting for? Time to step up, and give. Here’s how:

  • Visit the donor page at
  • If you have received a mailing from Harvest Hope, please use the convenient reply envelope that came with it.
  • Send a check to Harvest Hope, 2220 Shop Road, Columbia, SC  29201.

Don’t ya just love the New Normal? It’s like we’re all living on the frontier, making it up as we go along

Just saw this from Wesley Donehue:

The Pub Politics episode scheduled for tonight has been canceled due to the show’s camera being broken. Unfortunately, the problem is one that cannot be repaired before airtime.

The show’s producer will be taking the camera to a shop to be fixed so that next week’s Pub Politics can continue as planned.

Phil and Wesley are sorry for the inconvenience, but hope you understand and will be patient for next week’s show.

For those who still wish to come to The Whig and hang out with the Pub Politics crew, we’ll be there for $2.50 pints.

Pub Politics is a weekly political show featuring Phil Bailey, SC Senate Democratic Caucus Director, and Wesley Donehue, SC Senate Republican Caucus Director, talking to various SC legislators and other leaders. For more information, please visit

Dontcha just love the New Normal? Instead of the imposing MSM with its vast resources for bringing us news and commentary, we increasingly rely on new media, which is very catch-as-catch-can, very bailing-wire-and-broomhandles, so close to the edge of viability, that a single camera breaking down puts you out of action.

Sort of like what happens to my blog when the laptop acts up.

It’s like the Wild West, folks, or… living on one of the outer planets on “Firefly.” Hey, I know! Maybe Mal and I can buy the Discovery, now that it’s headed to the scrapheap, and get Mr. Universe to do IT for us, and blog and broadcast from out past Reaver territory, where the Alliance can’t stop us…

Except that Mal, mercenary that he is, would demand to know how he was going to make money off of it. And we New Media types haven’t figured out how to do that any more than the MSM has figured out the same problem going forward. If we had, we’d have more than one frickin’ camera…

They’d better get it fixed quickly, so that I can go on and be the first Six-Timer