Keeping Track Of Uncle Mack

10502429_944538671533_2387090454819837848_nFacebook obviously has its faults, but it’s got one huge virtue — it makes it so much easier to keep track of what your friends and family members are doing.  Take Uncle Mack, for example.  What’s the lawyer/saxophonist/actor/occasional Webner House contributor in the family up to?  It turns out he’s been working on a film called The Orangeburg Massacre.  Calhoun ‘da Creator’ Cornwell is the motivating force behind the movie, and his Facebook page has lots of information about it, including the photo above in which Uncle Mack is prominently featured.  A trailer for the film is due in the near future, and I’ll post it when I see it.

The Orangeburg Massacre is the name given to the incident in which South Carolina Highway Patrolmen opened fire on students at South Carolina State College, who had been protesting in an effort to achieve desegregation of a bowling alley.  Three African-American students were killed and and 27 people were wounded in the shooting, which occurred on February 8, 1968 — more than three years before the much more well known Kent State shootings.  Does anyone doubt that the relative notoriety of the two incidents has at least some relationship to the race of the students who were victims?  It is wonderful that a film is being made about the Orangeburg Massacre, 45 years later.

Some people retire and do nothing except work on their tans and frequent Early Bird specials at local restaurants; others use their newfound free time to explore new interests and expand their horizons.  Uncle Mack is squarely in the latter camp, and I think what he is doing is pretty cool. I don’t know anything about the movie or his role, but I am proud of his willingness to tackle it and, we can hope, contribute to greater awareness of a shameful, racist chapter in American history.

The Race Rolls On, And The Big Issues Linger

The Republican presidential primaries, already seemingly endless, roll on.  With Newt Gingrich’s big win in South Carolina, the race is in disarray.  Gingrich is on the rise, Mitt Romney’s shield of inevitability has been dented, and Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are hanging on.

The focus now moves to Florida.  As has come to be the pattern, that means another debate tonight (No!!!!!!), lots more negative ads, and probably some new revelations before Florida goes to the polls on January 31.  We’ll hear lots of buzz words and scripted retorts and talking points, but what we probably won’t hear is much substantive talk about exactly how the remaining contenders are going to tackle the budget deficit.

You can argue about how we select a President in our country, and whether beginning with states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina makes any sense.  The early primary voters never seem to share my perspective on the big issues of the day, but perhaps that is just a reminder that ours is a large and diverse land where people have many different views.  In Iowa, social issues always seem to take center stage.  In South Carolina, the votes for Gingrich seemed to be motivated, at least in part, by anger — anger at the news media, and anger at President Obama — and a desire to select a candidate who, the voters believe, will cut the President to ribbons in debates.

Social issues just aren’t on my radar screen, I’m not mad at the news media, and scoring debating points with glib jabs at the President isn’t important to me.  Instead, I just want to hear how specifics about the candidates will cut our spending, balance our budget, resolve our debt issues, and get our economy growing again.  Those are the issues that are most important to me and, I think, most important to our country.  Maybe — just maybe — some Floridians share that view.

Newtered

Today South Carolina Republicans vote in their state’s presidential primary.  Polls indicate it is a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich apparently has been given a boost by the most recent Republican candidates debate.  Gingrich was asked about the recent comments of his ex-wife, who said he asked that she agree to an “open marriage” in which he could have both a wife and a mistress.  In response, Gingrich lashed out at the questioner and the media, generally, for focusing on irrelevancies and making the first question in a presidential debate one about his long-ago personal affairs.  The audience of Republicans, who apparently hate the media with every fiber of their beings, ate it up and gave Gingrich a standing ovation.

I don’t care about Gingrich’s past personal behavior — but I also don’t see why his set-piece smackdown of a question about it is such a great thing.  Some rock-ribbed conservatives seem to despise the media and love to see them publicly criticized for any reason; I don’t share that view.

To me, the little diatribe was an obvious, planned bit of political theater, and the fact that Gingrich palled around with the questioner after the debate just confirms it.  Gingrich has deep roots and connections in the Washington social milieu of politicians, lobbyists, reporters, and consultants.  When he gave his little angry performance, his inside-the-Beltway buddies no doubt leaned back, nodded to each other, and agreed that Gingrich was just doing the necessary political thing, knowing the rubes would eat it up — and they did.

Gingrich’s debate diatribe may well win South Carolina for him, but I think his performance really exposes him as just another calculated politician.

The Economics Of Early Primaries

Don’t look now, but states are jockeying to move up the dates of their primaries, caucuses, and other electoral contrivances.  Florida has indicated that it is going to move its primary to January 31.  If it does so, expect South Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Iowa to follow suit, so they can maintain their current positions in the presidential pecking order.  Such a result could mean the Iowa caucuses happen on January 9, 2012.  Happy New Year!  It’s time to vote!

It’s silly to be voting in January, 10 months before the actual election.  No rational person would want to front-load the process because it increases the risk that a flukey candidate might get on a roll and knock everyone out of the race, only to be exposed months later as a hapless lightweight who isn’t ready for prime time.  Rick Perry’s recent bumbling, fumbling, stumbling performance at a Florida debate aptly demonstrates why it makes sense to draw out the process, to give the candidates the chance to mature and to give the public a reasonable amount of time to get to know who they’re voting for.

So why is there this irresistible impetus to keep moving things up?  States might claim it’s to maintain a tradition or because they want to have a say in selecting the candidates, but I think the real reason is money.  Huge sums are spent on political campaigns these days, and the media flocks to the early primary states.  Early primaries have more candidates and more campaigns spending cash, and states want to get their share.  So why not schedule an early primary and then sit back and watch the hordes of candidates, staffers, consultants, pundits, and reporters descend, fill your hotels, restaurants and bars, buy the TV and radio spots and employ the printing presses, and pump up those hospitality and sales tax receipts?

Early primaries are good business.

Where Must Boeing Build Its Dreamliner?

At the oft-ignored intersection of politics and labor law, an interesting tussle is brewing.  At issue is whether a federal administrative agency can tell Boeing where it must build its 787 Dreamliner.

On April 20, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing Co.  The NLRB contends that Boeing’s decision to put its Dreamliner assembly line in South Carolina, rather than in Washington with other Boeing production facilities, constituted unlawful retaliation against unions that have struck Boeing facilities on several occasions over the last 25 years.  As a remedy, the Board asserts that Boeing should be required to move Dreamliner production from South Carolina to Washington.  The NLRB’s action is seen as an outrageous power grab by politicians in South Carolina — which is a right-to-work state — and Congress will hold hearings on the matter.  Boeing, which has sunk lots of money into its nearly completed factory in South Carolina, says its decision on where to locate the plant wasn’t retaliatory.

We don’t yet know what really motivated Boeing’s decision to put its production line in South Carolina and whether retaliatory animus played a part.  However, an administrative agency asserting that it has the power to order a company to move an entire production line from one state to another is a breath-taking exercise of federal authority — one that should give us all pause.  Should unelected administrative agencies be empowered to second-guess where companies decide to do business?  And if moving production facilities from one part of America to another can be characterized as anti-union retaliation, couldn’t the NLRB also claim that moving production facilities overseas to low-wage, non-unionized countries is retaliation as well?

Fort Sumter, April 12, 1861

It was a time of terrible fear and tension.  Even before 1860 had ended, South Carolina had announced that it had seceded from the Union. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas followed in quick succession, and the first Congress of the Confederate States met in February 1861.  By March 4, 1861, when new President Abraham Lincoln was finally inaugurated and took office, he faced a full-fledged rebellion — and a newly self-declared sovereign nation.

Fort Sumter, located in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina — the epicenter of the rebellion — became one of Lincoln’s first challenges.  The day after his inauguration, Lincoln received a message from Major Robert Anderson, the commander of the fort’s garrison of less than 100 men, announcing that Fort Sumter was equipped with only six weeks’ supply of food.  Anderson’s message presented the new President with an impossible choice.  At the time, many southern states — including important border states like Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee — had not yet formally decided whether to secede.  If Lincoln withdrew the garrison, wouldn’t that constitute a recognition that the Confederate States were no longer part of the Union and encourage the rebels?  And if Lincoln tried to aid the garrison, wouldn’t the confrontation that was likely to result inflame the passions of the citizens of the uncommitted states and throw them over to the Confederate cause?

After weeks of deliberation, on April 8, 1861, Lincoln notified the governor of South Carolina that he would resupply the fort.  Events then quickly spiraled out of control.  The Confederate government decided to force the evacuation of Fort Sumter rather than permit it to be provisioned.  On April 11, the Confederate commander delivered the evacuation ultimatum to Major Anderson, and in the early morning hours of April 12, 1861, the Confederates announced that the bombardment of the fort would begin in one hour.

At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, the Confederate batteries opened fire.  Some citizens of Charleston cheered, others wept and prayed.  A few hours later, the Union forces returned fire.  The battle continued for more than 30 hours, until buildings inside the fort were aflame and it became clear that restocking the fort would not be permitted.  On April 13, Anderson surrendered the fort, and the Battle of Fort Sumter was over.  No soldier on either side was killed during the bombardment — although, ironically, one soldier was killed and another mortally wounded during the attempt to complete a 100-gun salute to mark the fort’s surrender.  The rest of the garrison then marched out of the fort, undisturbed, and returned to the North where they were welcomed as heroes.

One hundred and fifty years ago today, the American Civil War began.

Weirdness In South Carolina

A publicly unknown, unemployed Army veteran who lives with his father somehow pays the $10,400 fee to run for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in South Carolina.  He holds no fundraisers and runs totally under the radar.  Yet he somehow garners 99.970 votes and defeats his only competitor in the Democratic primary by a comfortable margin.  Almost immediately thereafter the news media discovers that he was arrested last year on an obscenity-related charge.

Such is the odd story of Alvin Greene, for now at least the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in South Carolina.  Some people, incuding South Carolina Democratic Congressman James Clyburn, are crying foul.  They think Greene may be a “Republican plant” (which Greene denies), and according to the Christian Science Monitor article linked above South Carolina has a history of electoral weirdness and “dirty tricks.”

What does it say about the South Carolina Democratic Party that Greene’s past and present circumstances were not addressed during the primary campaign?  Why would anyone need to play a “dirty trick” on a party in such disarray that it could not field a candidate that could defeat a candidate who had no money and ran no campaign?  And how in the world could almost 100,000 South Carolinians vote for someone who was such a complete unknown?