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Teague: Redistricting South Carolina: Nearing the end

The Op-Ed Page

By Lynn Teague
Guest Columnist

The House has adopted its Congressional plan. On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee will meet to consider two alternatives and will send one to the floor for a vote. After that, the two houses will go to conference committee to adopt a common plan to go back to the houses for final approval, and then to the Governor for signature. All of this will move fast, within a few weeks. So, what are the plans under consideration and what can we say about them?

The House plan and one of the Senate plans, Senate Amendment 1 (SA1), have a lot in common. They are somewhat similar to the existing Congressional map, although they are less competitive than the current map, which allows the southern coastal district, CD 1, to vary in partisan representation. These proposals would make CD 1 solidly Republican. leaving no South Carolina Congressional districts to be decided in November. Senate Amendment 2 (SA2) is very different, reimagining our Congressional map altogether. It is more competitive than either the current map or the two others under consideration, allowing both CD 1 and CD 5 to be decided in general elections while keeping both Charleston and Beaufort counties whole in CD 1. It is far superior to the other maps in every standard measure of redistricting proposal fairness.

Some of those testifying in the Senate Subcommittee hearing last week said that they support SA 1 because it keeps Beaufort in that district and “keeps the Lowcountry whole.” SA 1 does not keep the Lowcountry whole. The SA 1 map drives CD 6 south through Berkeley and Charleston counties to encompass parts of West Ashley and ALL of the Charleston peninsula and North Charleston. Mt. Pleasant and James Island are contiguous only by water. Both Charleston and North Charleston would be in a district with Columbia, a hundred miles away. What is happening here? There is an obvious clue. Like the House proposal and an earlier Senate proposal, SA 1 would reduce the Black Voting Age Population (BVAP) in CD 1 to about 17%, far lower than the black population of either Charleston County, which is 26% black, or Berkeley County which is 25% black. This is a racial gerrymander.

In contrast, SA 2 has a BVAP of 21%. The map proposal submitted by the League of Women Voters has a BVAP of 23%. Both these proposals keep Charleston County whole and in so doing produce a CD 1 that is competitive between the parties within a 1% range, the natural product of the racially and politically diverse community of interest made up of Charleston and its satellite cities and suburbs. SA 2 achieves this while keeping Beaufort County in CD 1, but whether Beaufort is in or out of CD 1, there is no rational argument that the Lowcountry is “whole” when the Charleston peninsula, in whole or in part, is carved out from CD 1.

One of those testifying last week was an Asian American resident of Hilton Head who asserted that minorities do not need special consideration in drawing Congressional maps, that they share the same interests as everyone else on the coast – such as the preservation of sea turtle eggs. However, throughout the redistricting process we have also heard from many black residents of South Carolina who do not agree and who ask that their voting influence not be diluted by gerrymandered maps like these. The voters they speak for are concerned about affordable housing, access to health care, and adequate wages, which are not concerns universally shared by residents of gated golf communities.

This week we will learn what map the Senate will pass, and then we will see whether South Carolina is once again embroiled in legal challenges to maps designed to dilute the influence of minority voters – especially black minority voters – and make all voters obsolete in November through non-competitive maps that decide our general elections in the map room, not the polling booth.

To see the plans for yourself, go to House and Senate redistricting websites or to:

Lynn Teague is a retired archaeologist who works hard every day in public service. She is the legislative lobbyist for the South Carolina League of Women Voters.

 

Well, I’ve got it. What now?

Just got the above notice, from my test yesterday morning.

How am I? I feel like crap. I have since last night. I’m going to do a quick couple more work things, including a phone interview at 1 p.m., then I’m going to eat some lunch and lie down.

After that… what?

I thought when they told me it was “DETECTED,” they’d say, and here’s what you should do in addition to what you’ve already been doing.

I thought it would be like, I don’t know, getting a draft notice: “GREETINGS,” followed by specific instructions on where to report for my physical.

But nope.

Kind of anticlimactic, really…

 

I’ve got to read more Joan Didion

Ross Douthat reminded me of that this morning with his column, “Try Canceling Joan Didion.”

The headline — which by itself made me smile, before even reading the column itself — is framed as a challenge to the self-righteous mobs of cancel culture. Noting that there’s some rumbling about canceling Norman Mailer, he snorts with derision at the idea of attacking such an easy and obvious target. Want a challenge?, he asks. Try Didion.

He notes that this may be difficult. After all, she has been so recently absolved by the ideologically correct following her death. The official story is that she may once have been the sort of confused creature who would compose a hymn of praise to John Wayne, but she later got her mind right and pounded the Reaganites, etc. A lost lamb recovered, in other words.

But Douthat notes that her best work — sharper, more focused, more brilliant — was in the ’60s when she was casting a jaded eye upon the hippies. More than that, he suggests it’s an insult to such a brilliant writer to suggest that she would ever have consented to be confined within the narrow fold of either of the two (and you’re only allowed two, remember!) sides in our perpetual cultural-political wars.

I suspect he’s right on the first point — that her earlier stuff was better — and not on the basis of ideology. While I knew a lot less when I was young, I was a better writer. This is a pretty standard pattern among members of our species. The best writers are those who are able to see things clearly and maturely when they’re young enough to write about it in an impressive manner. Didion was one of those.

And I have little doubt that he’s right on the second — that neither faction within the “ones and zeroes” crowd has any right to claim her as one of their own.

That I have any doubt and merely “suspect” he’s right is a function of the fact that I am a Didion neophyte. I only discovered her a couple of years back. I had always wanted to read her Slouching Towards Bethlehem collection for the simple reason that, like most people who have read it, I love that Yeats poem. I may have mentioned this before.

I thought I bought it and downloaded it to the Kindle app on my iPad, although Amazon says I “borrowed” it. Whatever. The point is, it’s been on my device for three years now, and occasionally I have dipped into it — say, when I’m in a doctor’s waiting room and it looks like I’ll be there for a bit.

From the first essay I read, I was rather excited. “I’ve found another Tom Wolfe!” I thought, congratulating myself. Not only in a literary sense, but politically. While I didn’t think about it one way or the other when I was adoring his stuff in the ’60s and ’70s (I was too busy just digging the writing), the man had a genius for puncturing the pretensions of the left, which was so dominant in our culture at the time.

Were celebrated writers allowed to do that? Well, yes, if they were as wonderful as Wolfe. I’ve always enjoyed this anecdote from Acid Test, in which Ken Kesey plays a role with which Wolfe no doubt identified….

… blast it. Google Books won’t show me the page I want. Well, here’s the page that leads up to it:

The good bit comes right after that. Kesey shows up for the antiwar rally and takes the stage, and instead of delivering a lecture on American “imperialism” or whatever, he takes out a harmonica and plays “Home on the Range,” delivering a few cryptic remarks that seems to dismiss the whole event in a way that kind of pops the event’s balloon. (Or so I remember it. I guess I need to run down my tattered paperback copy, wherever it is.)

Who asked this bastard, indeed? But why not ask him, they would have said in self-defense! He’s a writer! And a significant figure in the counterculture! Surely he’s one of us!

No doubt Wolfe got similar reactions when he wrote such things as Radical Chic.

But that didn’t make him the right’s boy, any more than Didion’s later work made her the left’s. Or so I gather from what I’ve read. They were both too bright and perceptive for that.

Douthat bases his judgment on “many years of reading the essays of Joan Didion.”

Well, I need to read more of her myself. I suspect I’ll enjoy it, as I enjoy anyone who refuses to become a plaster saint of either of our two narrow-minded, monolithic tribes.

I guess I need to add to that reading list

I’m making the resolutions easy, and pleasant: books

I’ve mentioned here many times how bad I feel about all the nice, new books in my house that I never get around to reading.

I could blame Amazon, but the fault is mine.

When I was young, I devoured books. Not at any blazing rate, because I’ve always been a slow reader, but with ridiculously good retention. Whenever I had a free moment, that’s what I did. Perhaps it expanded my mind somewhat, but that’s not why I did it. I did it because it was fun.

But when I was an adult, I became lazy. I didn’t have much leisure time — wasting my days working and such — so when I did grab a few minutes to read, I kept it simple. Usually, I read something I’d read before, and which I could easily put down at any point.

I made some new discoveries, of course — John le Carré, and Patrick O’Brian, and to a lesser extent some others like Martin Cruz Smith. And I loved all of those, but I fell into a nasty habit. When I got time to read, I’d pick up Master and Commander or Tinker, Tailor or Gorky Park yet again, rather than committing to something new.

I’d see new books that interested me, or read a good review, and put that book on my Amazon wish list, with all the best intentions in the world. And my loved ones would dutifully give them to me, and I’d proudly put them on the shelf, yet when I got a moment for reading I’d pick up a dog-eared copy of Smiley’s People or perhaps something even older such as Stranger in a Strange Land, which first cast its spell on me when I was 16.

Well, no more. I asked for several books for Christmas, and I got them, and I’m going to read them.

I am. I’ll start with the ones pictured above, all Christmas gifts. I cleared my decks by finally finishing — on New Year’s Eve — a new book (new to me) that I’d dawdled over for half of 2021: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. I enjoyed it, whenever I made myself buckle down and read any of it. I still hope to write a post about it, once I figure out how to tackle something that sweeping in a blog post.

On New Year’s Day, I started the new ones. That is, I started a book that I’d received for my birthday in October that I felt I needed to read before one of the ones below. It’s wonderful, truly. I should read new stuff all the time.

I haven’t promised a timetable or anything, but I’m going to get these read and then turn to some of the other couple of dozen I’ve got sitting around waiting. We’ll see how it goes. But I’ll definitely get to these:

  • The Discoverers, by Daniel Boorstin. I actually read at least a third of this one years and years ago, and then set it down somewhere and managed to lose it. Having given up on finding it, I put it on my Amazon list way back when I first started such a list. Finally, someone has given it to me and I can’t wait to jump back into it. By the way this isn’t about Columbus and conquistadores and such. It’s about how humans invented such artificialities as the hours of the day and clocks to keep track of them. That’s what I remember from before. More interesting than you might think. Or as Wikipedia describes it, “Discovery in many forms is described: exploration, science, medicine, mathematics, and more-theoretical ones, such as time, evolution, plate tectonics, and relativity. Boorstin praises the inventive, human mind and its eternal quest to discover the universe and humanity’s place in it.”
  • Agent Running in the Field, by John le Carré. This is one of two that had remained unread by me when David Cornwell died, so I put them on my list. My wife gave me A Legacy of Spies for my birthday, and that’s the one I started yesterday, because it was the earlier of the two. My younger son gave me Agent Running for Christmas. The rush I’m getting from the one I’ve started is like reading Tinker, Tailor for the first time, back in the ’70s, not least because it is about the same characters (Peter Guillam mainly, but also Smiley and Alex Leamas, with mentions of Bill Haydon, Percy Alleline, Jim Prideaux, Toby Esterhase, Roy Bland and Connie Sachs)! This is amazing. Why did I take so long to do this?
  • Old Abe, by John Cribb. This is a novel about our greatest president by an author I know nothing about, except that I’d heard glowing reports about his book, so I look forward to checking it out.
  • The Mirror & the Light, by Hilary Mantel. This is the third book in her Wolf Hall trilogy about the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell and others who were sufficiently unfortunate to find themselves within the close orbit of Henry VIII — Thomas More, Anne Boleyn and such. I read the first two sometime back, and have every expectation of it being good, although not so much for poor Cromwell.

You’ll note that this is a bit novel-heavy. Which presents a problem, because I’ve set myself a rule of alternating between fiction, which is fun, and nonfiction — which can also be fun but tends to be more of a hard slog, or at least easier to put down.

So in between, I’ll probably make myself finally finish reading Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton (or his Grant), or take up that massive volume I also asked for and received for my birthday, Napoleon by Andrew Roberts. I feel particularly obligated to know more about Buonaparte. I often find references in my O’Brian novels to the geopolitics of the day confusing. It’s embarrassing to know so little about such an important period in semi-recent history. I figure an exhaustive biography of old Boney should be the cure for that, if I can make it through.

In any case, I’m determined to keep this resolution. I hope y’all will hold me to it.

What’s with these red pickup trucks and Christmas trees?

Editor’s note: I wrote this early last week. The pictures that illustrated it would not load onto the blog. Again the next day, they refused to load. I set it aside and didn’t try again to post this or anything else until now. I was busy, and didn’t need the aggravation. But rather than let it sit in oblivion, I’m posting the blasted thing now, before writing anything else. And you know what? Even though it’s now Dec. 30, I’m backdating this sucker to before Christmas.

Those of you waiting for Brad to comment on something you consider “relevant” will just have to wait a bit longer. I’m busy.

But this question is timely and urgent, so I thought I’d ask: What’s with this image meme I’ve been seeing everywhere, with the red pickup truck with a Christmas tree in it?

Sometimes the tree is decorated (for reasons that completely evade me), and sometimes it seems fresh-cut from the forest. Sometimes the truck has wooden slats added to the sides of the bed; sometimes it does not.

But it’s everywhere. In these pictures alone, you see ones I’ve encountered in widely different venues. From top to bottom, they are:

  • A napkin from (I think) Publix.
  • A gift bag at Walmart.
  • Two other items that were at Walmart in the gift-wrap area.
  • An image in the L.L. Bean catalog.
  • A card placed in a live plant.
  • A decoration standing in the yard of a neighbor.

The answer is probably obvious to everyone except me, and that’s fine: That’s why I’m asking you.

During my lifetime I’ve figured out most things that we see over and over and over again this time of year:

  • Frosty the Snowman. (But what this has to do with Christmas, I still don’t know. I can see how it has to do with the season, but only if you live way up north.)
  • Rudolph.
  • The Grinch.
  • Buddy the Elf.
  • The Elf on the Shelf. (This one took me awhile, since I no longer had small children at home when the promotion came along, but I eventually figured it out. By the way: Marketing materials for this thing call it “A Christmas Tradition.” There’s nothing traditional about it. It was invented in 2005.)

Anyway, if you can tell me where this came from, I’d appreciate it. A cartoon? A song? A movie? A video game? Not knowing bugs me. The whole thing even seems a bit intrusive to me, since I drive an old, red pickup truck myself. I mean, if anyone knows, I should. But I don’t.

Pew tries to figure out what we really think. Good for Pew.

Pew Research Center keeps trying to figure out what Americans really think. I’m aware of three different sets of political “typologies” the organization has created in recent years. I appreciate that, although personally I kind of liked the first one. Maybe it’s just that I preferred where the country was politically at that time. Of course, I prefer where the country was at almost any time in our history to the place where we are now.

Anyway, I want to thank Bryan for trying to keep the blog going while I’ve been dealing with a lot of difficult things, particularly the loss of my father. And I want to thank him particularly for this post, because I had not been aware that Pew was at it again.

Bryan’s post was headlined, “Neither of the Two Political Parties Suit You? Here’s Why.” The simple answer I would normally give a question like that is, “No, they don’t, and here’s why: Because I think.” But that’s because, as you know, the two parties have been making me cranky for a long time.

Pew, as always, takes a more thoughtful and patient approach than my gut response.

To help you get engaged with the topic, take the test. See where Pew puts you.

As I said, while Pew may have gone through this process many times, I’m only aware of three times. The first was in 2014, and it tagged me as being in what it called the “Faith and Family Left.” I made a joke about how apparently Pew thought I was a black preacher or something, but I really mostly felt comfortable in that category, which Pew described this way:

The Faith and Family Left combine strong support for activist government with conservative attitudes on many social issues. They are very racially diverse – this is the only typology group that is “majority-minority.” The Faith and Family Left generally favor increased government aid for the poor even if it adds to the deficit and believe that government should do more to solve national problems. Most oppose same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana and most say religion and family are at the center of their lives.

And yeah, while I suspect no political group in the history of the world is with me on every issue, I was mostly comfortable with that one. I think it described why I felt such kinship with the black Democrats of South Carolina who came out to save the country on Feb. 29, 2020, by launching Joe Biden toward the nomination. The Identity Politics people would look at me and disagree, but as far as I’m concerned, those are my people. They stood up and went for the right man, not giving a damn about the trendy considerations roiling the Democratic Party in other parts of the country. And the rest of the country, thank God, got the message and got on board.

There are a lot of forces tearing our country apart and directly menacing our republic right now. One of them is what I’ve come to think of as the “ones and zeroes” problem. This was actually a serious problem 20 years ago, but it is far, far worse now than it was even then. I mean the increasingly blind members of the two tribes, and particularly the utter insanity that has gripped the Republican Party, followed by the failure of the opposition to coalesce consistently behind the one rational alternative, which Joe Biden represents. (If Democrats could shed the woke crowd and the Bernie Bros and demonstrate that the approach Joe embraces and personifies was the path it embraces without hesitation, I believe Trumpism would melt away as the vast center got behind the rational alternative. But we’re just not that kind of country right now, are we? More’s the pity. At least the Dems did the right thing long enough to get Joe elected.)

Then, in 2017 — when the nation had gone stark, raving mad, and more than ever needed a non-binary way of thinking about politics — Pew tried creating a new system, and utterly failed. It was awful, worse than useless. It put me in a bin full of obnoxious strangers, the “New Era Enterprisers.” The description it provided of that group made it sound like I was Martin Shkreli  or something — you know, the Pharma Bro.

I’d never seen Pew get anything as wrong as that before. But hey, it was 2017 — every thinking person in the country (and much of the world) was traumatized, when it came to politics.

Things are still awful, but they’ve settled down a bit.

And now Pew has a new model, the one to which Bryan called attention.

This one I like, although I’m not sure whether I like it as much as my “Faith and Family” designation. I liked that group. Still, this one has much to recommend it. It’s called “Establishment Liberals.” I like “establishment,” because as a communitarian and a traditionalist, I cherish the institutions that hold our civilization together — and were doing a great job of it until these last few years. But, I must confess, I don’t like it quite as well as “Faith and Family.”

As for the rest, well, I never was comfortable with “Left.” That sounded like they were making me out to be some sort of Bolshie, and I’m anything but. Not my sort at all. I much prefer “liberal,” but that’s because I use the word as a political scientist would, not the way it is so popularly used among the general population today — as a cussword among the GOP base, and as a badge of honor among the folks who see themselves as the sworn enemies of any “conservative.”

I wish Pew would steer clear of both those words — liberal and conservative — because of the way they’ve been corrupted by the in or out, good or bad, “my team or the enemy” crowd, which sees everything in tribal absolutes.

They’re both fine words, or were, originally. I can embrace both and apply them to myself, depending on the issue and the context. “Liberal” meaning generous, open, fair-minded, tolerant, and “conservative” meaning traditional, respecting core institutions and established ways. They’ve both fine things.

So I embrace the new label in that sense — the sense that Bret Stephens is using it when he laments the ways that both ends of the current political spectrum are eroding, even trashing, the liberalism that has made it possible for our country to live up to its finest aspirations. Stephens defines it this way:

By “liberal,” I don’t mean big-state welfarism. I mean the tenets and spirit of liberal democracy. Respect for the outcome of elections, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and the principle (in courts of law and public opinion alike) of innocent until proven guilty. Respect for the free market, bracketed by sensible regulation and cushioned by social support. Deference to personal autonomy but skepticism of identity politics. A commitment to equality of opportunity, not “equity” in outcomes. A well-grounded faith in the benefits of immigration, free trade, new technology, new ideas, experiments in living. Fidelity to the ideals and shared interests of the free world in the face of dictators and demagogues.

All of this used to be the more-or-less common ground of American politics, inhabited by Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes as much as by Barack Obama and the two Clintons. The debates that used to divide the parties — the proper scope of government, the mechanics of trade — amounted to parochial quarrels within a shared liberal faith. That faith steadied America in the face of domestic and global challenges from the far right and far left alike….

So yeah, I embrace liberalism in that academic sense, a sense that respects the meanings of words. I always have.

So “Establishment Liberals” sounds pretty good. Kind of like “Conservative Liberals,” in a way. It sort of cocks a snook at the people using words to try to tear us apart. I like that.

But so far I’ve dealt only with the name. Let’s look deeper. Pew provides a lengthy description, but let me just quote some of the bits I like best:

… Establishment Liberals are some of the strongest supporters of the current president … of any political typology group.

…Establishment Liberals are the typology group most likely to see value in political compromise and tend to be more inclined toward more measured approaches to societal change than their Progressive Left counterparts. Like other Democratic-oriented groups, most Establishment Liberals (73%) say a lot more needs to be done to ensure racial equality. Yet they are the only Democratic-aligned group in which a majority of those who say a lot more needs to be done also say this can be achieved by working within the current system….

Establishment Liberals stand out for their current satisfaction with the direction of the country and optimism about the future. Roughly half (51%) say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country today, compared with 36% of Democratic Mainstays and even smaller shares in other typology groups….

An overwhelming majority of Establishment Liberals approve of Joe Biden’s job performance as president as of mid-September, including six-in-ten who strongly approve….

You see where I’m going with this: Joe’s our boy. Always has been, is now, and probably always will be (because, thank God, I don’t see him changing at this point).

Some of the rest, like the fact that folks in my group are strongly Democratic, doesn’t work for me. For instance, Pew says “On a ‘feeling thermometer’ ranging from 0 to 100, where 100 represents the warmest, most positive feelings, Establishment Liberals give Democrats an average rating of 77.”

Not me. I gave the party a score of 30. Of course, I gave the GOP a zero, so I guess by comparison a 30 is kinda “pro-Democratic,” at this moment. Whatever.

The point is (yep, I’ve again taken 1,500 words to get to the point) that it’s great that Pew keeps trying to find ways of explaining the way people really think about politics in this country. They need to keep doing this, and the rest of us need to join in. Because too many — far, far, too many — of us have been buying into the stupid, insulting idea that there are only two ways to think (using the word “think” extremely loosely), and you’ve got to choose one and hate the other. Up or down. Left or right. On or off. Black or white.

This sickness, this “ones and zeroes” thing, is destroying us. It’s tearing us apart. It’s destroying any chance we have of living together peacefully, with all our differences, and continuing to build a civilization that cultivates and embraces real, thinking human beings.

And Pew’s helping us see that, however imperfect its changing models may be. Bottom line: Good for Pew for trying.

 

Supreme Court Possibly to Overrule Roe v. Wade?

By Bryan Caskey

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a case in front of the Supreme Court concerning a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Since Roe, all the court’s abortion decisions have upheld Roe‘s central framework — that women have a constitutional right to an abortion in the first two trimesters. However, the Mississippi law is counter to the core of Roe, setting the stage for the Supreme Court to modify Roe, or do away with it altogether.

If you want to hear the oral arguments, the Supreme Court’s official audio transcript is here.

You can’t always tell from oral arguments what Supreme Court Justices are thinking, much less where they will land in a final decision, but it’s nice to hear the questions they ask. You learn much more about the Justices actually watching them do their job at oral arguments than you get from the Senate confirmation hearings that are essentially an opportunity for Senators to grandstand and audition to be President.

I have no idea what the Supreme Court will do.

Happy Birthday to Winston Churchill

Churchill at age 21 (1895)

By Bryan Caskey

Today in 1874, Winston Churchill was born in  at his family’s ancestral home, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Considered by some historians to be the greatest man to occupy 10 Downing Street, he was the larger than life man who guided Great Britain through WWII. After Dunkirk, he gave one of his most famous speeches. He was a skilled craftsman with the English language. Here’s the soaring conclusion:

I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

Little known fact: His mother was an American.

President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation: Union and Fraternal Peace

By Bryan Caskey

In 1863, just a few weeks after the bloody Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln issued what some view as the beginning of a national day of Thanksgiving. At the time, hundreds of thousands had died in the bitter Civil War, and the nation was as divided as it has ever been. At the time, Lincoln requested the “…Holy Spirit to subdue the anger what has produced and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion, to change the hearts of the insurgents, to guide the counsels of the Government with wisdom….”

This idea rings true especially in today’s time as we feel can feel divided and frustrated. Reading back through President Lincoln’s proclamation, perhaps we work anew each day to find that sense of “union and fraternal peace”.

Thanksgiving Week Art Thread

The Hunters’ Supper – Frederic Remington

By Bryan Caskey

Happy Thanksgiving Week, campers. I hope you enjoy the time off. I have always liked Frederic Remington’s works. Since it’s Thanksgiving week, I thought this painting of the hunters cooking was somewhat appropriate.

Feel free to use the comments to talk about any other art (any medium) that you relate to Thanksgiving.

Neither of the Two Political Parties Suit You? Here’s Why.

Boston Public Library

By: Bryan Caskey

So often we are told that the country is clearly divided into two groups: the Republicans and the Democrats, or it’s liberals and conservatives. And then there’s a small group in the middle that can’t seem to make up their minds – the undecideds. And each election cycle, the two groups try to win over these undecideds. Sounds simple and straightforward, right? Well, life is more complicated than all that, as it turns out.

Pew Research did a large survey and just released the results. They identified nine separate ideological groups.

Here’s an overview of Pew’s nine categories (to see where you fit, you can take Pew’s quiz here):

Faith and Flag Conservatives (10% of the public)

Committed Conservatives (7%)

Populist Right (11%)

Ambivalent Right (12%)

Stressed Sideliners (15%)

Outsider Left (10%)

Democratic Mainstays (16%)

Establishment Liberals (13%)

Progressive Left (6%)

You can read the NPR article that breaks down each group and describes it further. Anyway, thought this would be interesting to talk about. The picture at the top doesn’t have anything to do with the Pew Research survey. It’s just a picture I took last week of the main reading room in the Boston Public Library, and I really like the picture.

“The Entire Biden Presidency Will Be Decided in the Next Couple of Days”

By: Bryan Caskey

According to CBS, that’s a quote from President Biden today, speaking to Democrats on the hill. Personally, I think that’s a bit of hyperbole. It’s not like we have a parliamentary system where a political catastrophe triggers an entirely new election. In the system we have, any failure is just a data point for voters to consider when the next election comes along.

So, notwithstanding the President’s statement, I think there will be plenty of time for him to do other things. What else is everyone seeing for the rest of the Biden administration? What goals should the Biden administration have?

Trump getting banned from Twitter: Good thing or bad?

Of course that should say "accounts THAT violate," not "accounts which violate." But whatever...

Of course that should say “accounts THAT violate,” not “accounts which violate.” But whatever…

I just mentioned in a comment on a previous post that I had meant to ask that question in a separate post back when it happened.

And then I was all like duh, you just wrote it out, so why not make it a post now?

So OK, I will…

Ever since he was banned from Twitter (and those other platforms), I’ve been meaning to write a post asking whether y’all think that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Sure, much trouble is averted by cutting him off from that outlet.

But it makes it harder to keep tabs on him. When he communicates in a more subterranean manner with his minions, we can’t see it.

It’s a tough call.

But one thing about it is easy: It’s idiotic to say his “First Amendment rights” have been violated. He can write any stupid thing he cares to. Jack Dorsey is in NO way constitutionally mandated to give him a free place to publish it…

The role of Republicans is now filled by moderate Democrats

Sen. Joe Manchin, masked but certainly not muzzled these days.

Sen. Joe Manchin, masked but certainly not muzzled these days./from his Twitter feed.

By “role” I mean “constructive role” or “traditional role.” The proper role of a loyal opposition, one that’s dedicated to contributing a point of view on the way to actually getting things done.

Which of course stands in sharp contrast to the embarrassing behavior we’ve seen exhibited in recent years by the loud, ranting, mentally dysfunctional remnants of the Trump-worshiping former GOP.

I noticed this frequently during the debate over the latest COVID relief bill. While people who wear the label of “Republican” sat on the sidelines making a shameful exhibition of themselves, moderate Democrats have steadily reshaped the bill, often in ways that normal, sane Republicans would have done back in the day.

I’ve seen and read about this in several places in recent days, as moderate Democrats kept the $15 minimum wage out of the bill and insisted upon other changes along the way. But nowhere did I see it sketched out as clearly as in an editorial in The Wall Street Journal today:

Of the Democrats who voted “no,” some no doubt agree with Bernie on the substance and merely didn’t want to steamroll Senate precedent.

But you might be surprised. “I have backed a $15 minimum wage on the federal level for years,” said Delaware’s Tom Carper. “At a time when our economy is still slowly recovering, though, policymakers have a responsibility to be especially mindful of the fragile state of small businesses all across this country.” Wow, that almost sounds like what Mr. Sanders might call Republican talking points….

Yep. That’s what I’m on about.

Maybe we could take these people — Joe Manchin and the others — and persuade some of the few, pitifully few nominal Republicans who still on rare occasion act like normal, thinking human beings (Mitt Romney, etc.) to join them. Get enough of them (a tall order), and then everyone could ignore the Trumpists, and we’d be back to the two-party system we once were used to — consisting of serious people with different viewpoints, constructively dealing with each other to shape legislation.

But of course, we’re nowhere near having a critical mass of them. Anyway, I’d hate to strip the Democrats of moderation that way. Do that, and the AOCs might actually start wielding the kind of influence among Democrats that the Trumpists like to pretend they do.

So for now, I’m sort of resigned to letting the bipartisanship go on between different kinds of Democrats. It’s not perfect. It would be nice for the Republicans to snap out of it and fill the position again themselves. But that’s not going to happen for awhile. The Götterdämmerung of the GOP is evidently going to be long, drawn-out, messy and painfully embarrassing to watch…

Like Götterdämmerung, but without all the Wagner.

Like Götterdämmerung, but without all the Wagner.

Minimum wage: Another issue on which I’ve never been able to take a position

There’s a very refreshing Fact Checker piece in the Post today. It’s about whether President Biden (I love typing that) accurately represented the proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 when he said “the whole economy rises” if we do that.

They gave him two Pinocchios. I love it. Pinocchios

No, I don’t love that my guy said something that earned two Pinocchios. I love that we’re back to checking a president’s accuracy in speaking about a technical matter of policy, rather than wild, hostile lies arising from his own deeply disturbed, evil personal impulses.

It’s refreshing.

As to the issue… this is one of those issues that people get very excited about, on one side or the other, but I’ve never been able to make up my mind about it. That’s because both sides present pretty compelling arguments.

That, by the way, is what the Fact Checker gave Joe the two Pinocchios for — stressing the upside as though it were settled fact, when there is plenty of reason to believe otherwise. In Joe’s defense, there is a large body of studies and arguments from experts that supports what he says. (And that’s what you do when you’ve decided to pursue a course and you’re trying to get people to go along — you cite the evidence for it.) The problem is that there remains a large body that says the opposite. It’s about the conflicting conclusions drawn by different economists.

The Congressional Budget Office does a pretty good job of summing up the dilemma:

On one hand, the CBO estimated that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 would cost 1.4 million jobs and increase the deficit by $54 billion over 10 years.

But it also estimated the policy would lift 900,000 people out of poverty and raise income for 17 million people — about 1 in 10 workers. Another 10 million who have wages just above that amount could potentially see increases, as well, the CBO reported.

On the one hand, and on the other hand.

It’s a toughie. And I’ve never been able to join enthusiastically with those who take either position: Those who want to lift 900,000 out of poverty, or those who wouldn’t do it because it might put 1,400,000 people out of work completely.

So I don’t know.

You?

 

I think I like Karen Bass. As always, I’d like to know more

Karen Bass

As y’all know, I’m a huge Joe Biden fan. From the beginning, he was the one guy the country most needed to win the Democratic nomination for president, and he did it, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I agree with everything he does. I’ve never in my life encountered a candidate like that. There are people I think are awesome, like Joe Riley. But there have been times when I didn’t agree with the Charleston mayor, either. If you’re honest, if you really think about all the issues, perfect agreement is impossible.

I’m not going to offer a list of things where I think Joe’s wrong right now (maybe later), but I say all that to mention one that is relevant to this post: I wish he hadn’t promised several months ago that his running mate would be female.

And no, it’s not just because that mean ol’ white guy Brad hates Identity Politics, although yeah, I’d prefer that someone who would be president would always promise to choose the best candidate, period, without regard to demographics. But here’s the real reason in this case:

We just had a small army of Democrats run for president. Quick, how many was it? Wikipedia says 29 “major” candidates sought the nomination, with as many as 25 running campaigns at any one time. I paid close attention. And at no time did I see or hear anything that in any way challenged what we knew at the start: Joe Biden was far and away the one candidate best prepared and suited for the presidency. He was ready for the job. Finally, an overwhelming proportion of the electorate agreed.

So while I watched to see if anyone presented evidence or arguments that challenged that fact — and no one did — my mind ran on a second track: As long as we’re looking so closely at all these other folks, which one would make a good running mate?

At some point, I — and a lot of other people — decided that would be Amy Klobuchar. I don’t remember when I first decided that, but here’s something I wrote back in October:

Oh, and I came close to a decision last night. I think I’d like to see Amy Klobuchar as Joe’s running mate, assuming everything goes right and Democrats decide they actually want to beat Trump. It would probably be Mayor Pete if he weren’t so young and inexperienced, and if he didn’t keep reminding us of it (But that happened five minutes ago, and as I may have mentioned previously, I wasn’t born yet…). I don’t see Sen. Klobuchar as quite ready to be president yet, but she comes close, and would be a good understudy….

From that point on, I became more and more certain of that. I had a feeling that Joe Biden did, too, to the extent that he had time to think about it.

In fact, I keep telling myself that the reason Joe announced that his running mate would be a woman, he thought it would be Amy Klobuchar. Which is one reason why I didn’t go around loudly complaining when he did it. Because I couldn’t think of anyone of any gender who would be better, or as good.

But here’s the thing: That wasn’t a done deal. And as things have turned out, she’s not the one. But Joe is stuck with his promise. He can’t go, “OK, who else looked good in that process? What about Cory Booker? How about Pete Buttigieg?” Which is a shame, because looking back, perhaps those were the best options after Sen. Klobuchar.

So now we’re in kind of a fix, because his running mate is going to be someone from one of two categories:

  1. Unfamiliar candidates who have not been vetted enough to inspire confidence. As y’all know, I’ve written a lot over the years about the importance of experience. It’s certainly one of Joe Biden’s top strengths. But as I’ve also explained, it’s not just about how experience prepares the candidate for the job. There’s also the fact that people who are experienced in public life have been out there performing in those jobs long enough for us to assess how we think they might perform in the future in public office. So even people with great resumes could fall down if we the voters haven’t been in a position to form impressions of their performance over time.
  2. Candidates who have been more or less thoroughly vetted and found wanting. That would include, say, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about why I’ve written them off in this post because this post is going to be long enough without that. We can argue about their relative merits another day, if necessary. But I had enough information about Warren eight years ago, when I wrote this. Nothing I’ve seen from her since then has changed that assessment. I went into the season with an open mind on the lesser-known Harris, but was disappointed in debate after debate. And other voters seemed to agree with me, which is why she didn’t even last until the first primaries. She was vetted, and did not hold up.

This is not a good situation. The only hope is that Biden will choose someone from the first category — and that person will hold up well under the tidal wave of examination that will wash over her when the time comes. Which would be astounding, the odds seem so strongly against it happening. But the country needs it to happen.

So I’ve found myself looking hard at previously unknown (to me, at least) potential candidates whose names pop up. Some of the best I’ve seen, making me momentarily hopeful, have been:

  • Val Demings — The former police chief of Orlando, and member of Congress since 2017. I like what I’ve seen, but I just haven’t seen enough. I like her 27 years of working in the vineyards of law enforcement — but hey, if the mere accident of being from Minnesota excludes Klobuchar, how well will a career cop do with the Democratic electorate in its current mood? And I really want to see more experience on the federal level.
  • Tammy Duckworth — I like all sorts of things about her. Of course, there’s the fact that she’s only in her first term in the Senate, but she did serve a couple of hitches in the House before that. But I really want to see a lot more than I’ve seen. So I’ll keep watching her. Tucker Carlson seems to be an ass (I say “seems” because I’ve never watched him, but only heard about him), but handing him the George Washington thing was a political misstep that is worrisome. We don’t need someone who will hand the opposition clubs to beat Biden about the head and shoulders with. But, as I say, I continue to watch her.

Which brings me to someone I’ve heard less about, and I wish it were more.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife casually mentioned having read about a woman who sounded good. She told me it was an African-American woman about our age, and she’d heard really good things about her. But she couldn’t remember her name. My reaction? Well, the fact that you can’t remember her name is a problem. Again, the point I make so often — we’re talking about a person who could become president of the United States. It needs to be someone we’ve been watching for years.

But it won’t be, will it? So, I get interested in any lesser-known person who sounds good, because that’s the situation we’re in.

I was pleased to read George Will’s column the other day headlined, “The woman Biden should pick to lead us to calmer days.” It was about U.S. Rep. Karen Bass from California. I mentioned the piece to my wife, who said, “Yes, that’s the woman I was talking about before.” Well OK, then.

Here are some of the things I liked:

  • First, that headline. “Calmer days” are exactly what this country needs. When I’m in a hyperbolic mood (which happens), I tend to think that my fondest wish for a future with Joe Biden as president would be that I would then live in a country in which I could completely ignore the White House for days and even weeks at a time, while feeling that my country was OK. I’d really like to stop thinking about the POTUS for awhile, at the same time knowing there’s someone qualified, decent and normal in charge. And a qualified, decent and normal person is in the backup position.
  • Second, she’s in her fifth term. While I may not have been in a position to vet her during that time, she’s held up under the examination of her constituents, over and over. Five terms isn’t what you’d call a long time in Congress, but it beats the other candidates I’ve been looking at.
  • Her elective service isn’t limited to Congress. She also cut an impressive swath on the state level: “Elected to the state assembly in 2004, in three terms Bass became majority whip, then majority leader, then speaker.” That doesn’t happen to people with sub-par leadership skills.
  • She’s from a district that has probably seen as much racial unrest in the streets as any in the country — the site of the Watts riots, and the Rodney King situation that “engulfed a swath of Los Angeles, killing 63 and injuring 2,383.” She brings history and understanding to this moment.
  • Our own Jim Clyburn, who helped us get to Joe Biden being the nominee, has good things to say about her, based on Will’s interview with her.

Well, I could go on and on, but there are a lot of things I liked. And I really didn’t see anything I didn’t like. Which is unusual, when you’re talking about the acerbic George Will. (Oh, and if someone jumps in with a “who cares what George Will thinks?,” I’ll address that. But once again, this piece, at more than 1,700 words, is already too long.)

That doesn’t mean I won’t find something that worries me. But hey, as long as it’s not disqualifying, that would be reassuring. As I said at the top, there’s nobody I don’t disagree with about something — especially if I know enough to consider the person as a backup president.

Maybe y’all can help get me started. I want to know a lot more about her…

NBC News report on Lexington Medical Center

Remember those pictures I posted from when I was a stroke patient at Lexington Medical Center, with the empty emergency room and everything so orderly?

Maybe that part still looks that way; I don’t know. They seem to be using only a portion of the hospital for COVID patients. But the surge has them overwhelmed enough for NBC to use my neighborhood hospital to show what it’s like here in the third-worst outbreak in the world.

When I went in on April 11 and asked them for a COVID test, they said no, we’re going to treat you for a stroke, because that’s what you have. Also, they said, if I were tested I’d have to go to the special COVID part of the hospital. Which probably wasn’t so bad back then, compared to now, but I passed on it anyway. I found the stroke floor quite fine, and they did a great job of taking care of me.

So I hate to see them having to deal with all this now…

Things were kind of peaceful when I was there, on April 11.

Things were kind of peaceful when I was there, on April 11.

Open Thread for Thursday, July 9, 2020

Can you make it out? Should I have lightened it up some?

Can you make it out? Should I have lightened it up some?

Just a few things y’all might want to comment upon:

  1. We’re Number Three! We’re Number Three! — Assuming y’all already saw that South Carolina is the third-worst place in the world for most new coronavirus cases per million. We were beaten by Arizona and Florida; Bahrain came in behind us.
  2. SC passes the 50,000-case mark — We’re just crowning ourselves with notoriety, aren’t we? Today’s total was 1,723, God help us. And did you see that “Fauci says states with major outbreaks should ‘seriously look at shutting down’ again.” Ya think?
  3. Supreme Court Rules Trump Cannot Block Release of Financial Records — Sorta kinda. And we won’t see them before the election. Kind of unbelievable, isn’t it, that the guy’s running for re-election, and we’ve never seen them?
  4. Trudeau: Canada handled coronavirus better than many countries, ‘including our neighbor’ — I hope he doesn’t think that’s some sort of accomplishment…
  5. Union County sheriff charged with sending obscene photo in lewd message — I just include this so I can ask, how can anyone be that stupid? Even if, say, you’d had a lot to drink or something? Wouldn’t you be prevented by the thought, This is probably not a good move for a sheriff? Or at least, wouldn’t you go, Hmmm, this is lewd enough. I guess I could leave out the picture
From the WashPost. Note the chart at left.

From the WashPost. Note the chart at left.