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22 July 2009

A Portly Politico Two-Minute Update: Talk Radio

I neglected to mention in my last post that, despite having listened to very little talk radio lately, I recently called in to a talk radio program for the first time ever. I was very tempted to say, "Hey, Keven, first time caller, long-time listener." The program was hosted by Keven Cohen and the topic was space exploration because it was the fortieth anniversary of the moon landing. I just happened to be driving through Columbia when the show began and I knew I had to call in.

My main point was that the United States should attempt to establish lunar colonies--or at the very least another moon landing--before China has a chance to get to the moon, mainly because the United States will make sure that the moon remains open for the whole world to visit, to enjoy, and to business upon. I also argued that the moon is a possession of humanity and should therefore be treated unilaterally.

One point I wish I had made was that the future of lunar exploration might lie with private enterprise. Space exploration requires huge resources and coordination, but if commercial value could be demonstrated on the moon, on Mars, or beyond, private corporations might pick up some of the slack for the government. In times like these it might seem questionable to spend money on the space program, so projects like the Google Lunar X Prize might hold the key to future private ventures into space.

Corporations aren't the only entities that can get involved. Non-profit organizations could make substantial contributions to additional research.

Regardless, I have written an essay on lunar exploration that I have never published, so I might run it as a four-part series over the next few days. Stay tuned for more.

Vacation Time (Part II)!

Well, I have been fairly deficient the past few weeks in updating this little blog. Even my last blog entry on the Fourth was pretty much a cop-out. Speaking of which, here are my reasons for being so delinquent in my updating duties:

1.) The week after Independence Day I was in Fripp Island, South Carolina, for a few days before heading up to Banaslam in Cornelius, North Carolina at D. Rowland's place. My girlfriend and I stopped in Beaufort, South Carolina on our way to the beach where I picked up the twice-monthly The Lowcountry, which included a fantastic article about the recent Mark Sanford affair. The author, Margaret Evans, places Sanford in a very tragic--and very human--aspect, pointing out his honesty, however belated, during his unusually sincere press conference. You can find it here: "The Bigger They Are..."

2.) I've had three interviews at two different employers, both in Sumter, South Carolina. I have had two interviews with the City of Sumter for a position there as their Cultural Coordinator (more on that later) and had a second interview with Thomas Sumter Academy, a private school, for a teaching position in English and History. Therefore, I've been spending a good bit of time traveling to and from Aiken, Florence, and Sumter, as well as doing research for these positions (these days, you can never be too prepared).

3.) I've been playing a lot of games on Steam, especially Half-Life 2 and some unique, five dollar games that I have ordered from Steam--Chains, a pretty colorful, highly-original puzzle game, and Blueberry Garden, a whimsical but subtly sinister game about a living and temporarily breathing garden suffering from a mysterious peril.

4.) I am exercising! My girlfriend and I walk three miles a day and we have--over my objections--started to jog lightly. Weight loss, here I come! Maybe I'll have to change the name of this blog....

5.) Despite all of my traveling, I actually haven't been able to listen to news talk radio that often. I only really listen in the car alone, so for about a week or a week-and-a-half I didn't get hardly any news from my usual source; ergo, I have fallen woefully behind on the current events of the day.

All that being the case, I do have a quick topic to discuss. Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested the other day for ambiguous reasons. He arrived back from a trip and basically had to break into his own house. The issue is that Professor Gates is black, and he and others are saying that the Cambridge police department is racist.

Yeah, yeah--this is the same old song and dance. The arresting officer probably was motivated by race when he (allegedly) treated the professor roughly. Of course, the professor was probably being a smug, elitist punk when he (allegedly) talked down to the officer. They were probably both at fault.

I'm no big fan of cops, although one of them was very nice to let me off with a warning on my way to the beach the other week (and I was going fifteen over--thank you Officer DeLoach of Allendale). I recognize that they are necessary in our society to maintain order--the thin blue line and what-not--but police organizations can harbor some fairly dangerous and even racist contempt for the people they are charged to protect. I suppose this is the eternal problem facing police, who must constantly protect citizens that don't entirely appreciate them and who they don't entirely respect.

In fact, I don't even care if this arrest was racially motivated or not. Here's what upsets me: the way AP writer Jesse Washington covers the arrest in this piece: "Scholar's arrest is a signpost on the road to equality." Read the opening paragraphs: Washington is essentially arguing that because Professor Gates is well-educated and distinguished, he should be treated better than others who commit crimes. On the surface his argument is that because Professor Gates, a well-known African-American scholar, is treated poorly by the police, it just goes to show how much more poorly regular African-American men are treated by police.

That's not the point I see at all. I am enraged at the assumption that a Harvard professor deserves better treatment than others. Yeah, a lot of cops are probably anti-intellectual as well as racist. That doesn't matter. Professors contribute a great deal to society; they also sit on their butts quite a bit, too, especially the established ones. And honorary degrees, of which Professor Gates has over fifty, Washington tells us (probably due some extent to the fact that Professor Gates is a pioneering black scholar) are purely symbolic.

I'm not the only one. Dr. Boyce Watkins, an African-American, expresses some similar sentiments. I encourage you to read his article here: "Consider this before crying 'racial profiling.'" Maybe he has more cache than I since, in this color-blind society of ours, he's black.

Yes, there are plenty of white people who do despicable things to blacks and other minorities. Yes, there are a lot of elitist, ivory tower types in our universities. There are also tons of race-baiters out there who are all too ready to play the race card. In this instance, Professor Gates is probably right to do so, but he shouldn't expect better treatment because he's a distinguished professor at Harvard.

And, c'mon--how many skin-headed cops are really going to know a professor by sight? I don't know what Bernard Bailyn looks like, and I studied history at the graduate level and read several of his books.

So, yeah--welcome back.

04 July 2009

Happy Independence Day!

Hey everyone!

Happy Independence Day! The Fourth of July really is a time for celebration. It's a time to gather with friends and family, eat some barbecue, and--if you're in my family--debate politics. I know, I know--in polite (read: Southern) society you're supposed to avoid three topics at the dinner table: sex, politics, and religion. Well, we somehow manage to break the rule as it pertains to the second of those three items.

Of course, this holiday probably won't be so contentious since my left-leaning brother and sister-in-law will not be present, which also means it won't be as fun. My younger brother's ultra-conservatism and my socially conservative pseudo-conservatism usually butt heads with them, and while things can get a little heated, it's all in good fun. We might leave the table without having changed any minds, but there's still a vigorous, if occasionally heated, exchange of ideas.

Debate is one of the things that makes this country so great. It's also something that we as Americans need to be careful about. My family debates politics a great deal, but sometimes we might cross the line in our passionate defenses of our viewpoints. So in the spirit of magnanimity and reasonable discourse, let me issue an apology to my older brother and sister-in-law, in the event that I have ever offended you while defending any of my positions. I am not apologizing for what I believe, but instead for those times when I may have gone overboard.

And we all go overboard sometimes. That's okay every now and then, but we need to maintain a civil level of discourse as often as possible. Getting into arguments around the dinner table with close friends and family is one thing; doing it on national television is another. Conservatives and liberals alike are guilty of incivility in our national discourse. While conservatives tend to get a bad rap because of talk radio and confrontational interviewers like Bill O'Reilly, I would dare say that the most vicious, unfounded attacks come from the Left. Bill O'Reilly might yell at and talk over his guests, but it's usually because he's frustrated with liberal double-speak and the unwillingness of his guest to say what they really mean. Sometimes you have to get a little rough to get to the truth.

I'm sure there are plenty of conservatives out there who call President Barack Obama names or who wish aloud that Michael Moore was dead, but the shrill, non-stop hatred coming from liberals is staggering. It's also extremely hypocritical. Hate speech legislation and university hate speech codes are almost exclusively leftist measures that, ironically, limit free speech. I'll admit--conservatives and Republicans take a pretty unpopular stance on these kinds of things. We tend to believe that people should be able to say what they think and and believe, even if it is repulsive. That's why we let liberals get away with so much. Ever wondered why liberal college kids weren't tossed in prisons in droves for saying such asinine things as "Bush lied, kids died"? It's because their right to say those things, regardless of how slanderous or treasonous they were, is protected in the First Amendment.

What about when the shoe is on the foot? Everyone hates the Ku Klux Klan and their message. It's morally reprehensible and offensive--much like anti-Bush protestors (I'm not trying to imply moral equivalency--the KKK is far worse than a handful of misguided New York Times columnists). But just because we disagree with what they say does not mean they lose their rights to say it. Liberals, for all of their fawning over the ACLU and the First Amendment, have a hard time grasping that simple constitutional truth.

Free speech is for everyone. Our Founding Fathers intended it that way. Also, I'm pretty Thomas Jefferson would have loved blogging.

Happy Independence Day!

01 July 2009

A Portly Politico Two-Minute Update: A Message from Mark Sanford

Governor Mark Sanford regularly sends out an e-mail to those who are on a mailing list, I believe as part of The governor writes short e-mails to his supporters on a regular basis, informing them about certain issues being debated in the General Assembly or about up-and-coming politicians (I found out about Nikki Haley because Sanford sent out an e-mail linking to another blogger's post about her).

For those of you that do not receive these messages, or in case you missed the governor's speech last week about his marital indisgressions, I am including the full text of Governor Sanford's e-mail here. You can also find it at More commentary to come.

A Message from Mark

Dear Friends,

I write to apologize and ask for your forgiveness.

Well beyond the personal consequences within my own family, I know that at so many different levels my actions have upset, offended and disappointed friends and supporters and for this I am most sorry. As I mentioned in last week's press conference, I've always believed God's laws were there to protect us from ourselves, and what has transpired over this last week vividly illustrates the damage that comes personally, and to those you love and respect, in doing otherwise.

So in the aftermath of this failure I want to not only apologize, but to commit to growing personally and spiritually. Immediately after all this unfolded last week I had thought I would resign - as I believe in the military model of leadership and when trust of any form is broken one lays down the sword. A long list of close friends have suggested otherwise - that for God to really work in my life I shouldn’t be getting off so lightly. While it would be personally easier to exit stage left, their point has been that my larger sin was the sin of pride. They contended that in many instances I may well have held the right position on limited government, spending or taxes - but that if my spirit wasn't right in the presentation of those ideas to people in the General Assembly, or elsewhere, I could elicit the response that I had at many times indeed gotten from other state leaders.

Their belief was that if I walked in with a real spirit of humility then this last legislative term could well be our most productive one - and that outside this term, I would ultimately be a better person and of more service in whatever doors God opened next in life if I stuck around to learn lessons rather than running and hiding down at the farm.

They have also made the point that a good part of life is about scripts - that the idea of redemption isn't something that Marshall, Landon, Bolton and Blake should just read about, it's something they should see. Accordingly, they suggested that there was a very different life script that would be lived and learned by our boys, and thousands like them, if this story simply ended with scandal and then the end of office - versus a fall from grace and then renewal and rebuilding and growth in its aftermath.

I won't belabor all these points, but I did want to write as expressed earlier to say that I'm sorry and that more than anything I personally ask for your prayers for me, Jenny, the boys and so many others who have been impacted by what I have done.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Take care.


Mark Sanford