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Friday
Nov062015

Who is Left Who Can Still Be President?

By Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

I have been following and/or covering politics for more than 40 years and cannot recall any presidential candidates with thinner skin than Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Grown men answer questions with honest integrity. They do not attack those asking questions. We  need more adults who want to be president. Don't these guys realize difficult, probing questions are part of being the chief executive? 

On the other side of the aisle, Hillary is the most closed off, paranoid candidate perhaps ever. She makes Nixon seem downright open. She thinks she can build a wall that no one has the right to scale, and since she's had a secret service agent assigned to her for a quarter century, she thinks bodyguards and roping off media areas are just normal ways of life. While I don't think Carson or Trump will survive the process and get the nomination, I think Hillary likely will, and unless the GOP finds a less extreme, fragmented strategy, she's more than likely to get elected. 

I had greater hopes for the political process in this country until the polarization of the past couple of decades, where posturing and yelling up front have replaced working out what is best for the country behind closed doors. The GOP invokes the name of Reagan, but he would be unelectable today. His charisma would be overshadowed by stories of his days as president of a union, his divorce and whether or not he colored his hair. Reagan understood the idea of having a short list of priorities and spent much of his two terms working out deals out of the spotlight of the press, behind closed doors, with Speaker Tip O’Neil. Today’s GOP would brand him as too willing to compromise, too friendly with the Democrats.

The last GOP presidential candidate who seemed to understand this was Bob Dole and the party neutered his strengths with a horrible campaign.  

On the on side of the aisle, the Democrats have volleyed the angry extremist elements of the GOP back over the net with little more policy talk than “we’re not like the crazy Republicans.” This has given them the White House 16 of the last 24 years, while Congress has flipped and flopped on who held the majority. 

Sure, there are a few issues  - abortion, gun control, health care, taxation - which separate their rhetoric. But even on these issues, few seem able or willing to offer specific details or plans on how they would make progress toward solving these problems. There was a day not so long ago when every candidate would release hundreds of pages of position papers explaining where they stood on the issues of the day.

Today, these documents are replaced with yard signs, bumper stickers, and, if you we are fortunate, a two-sided panel card with bullet-pointed lists of why the candidate is a great American.

Has 2016 brought the worst group of presidential hopefuls ever? As a class, yes. There may not be a Henry Wallace, Strom Thurmond or Aaron Burr among the group, but as a lot this roster brings more “I don’t really like any of them, but…” than any in history.

A few raise questions of why they are burning money on a presidential run. Does anyone not related to Martin O’Malley think he has any chance at the Democratic nomination? Even if Hillary is indicted and is forced to drop out, the O’Malley would still not be seen as a legitimate option.

Bernie Sanders has captured the imagination of even more voters than Barack Obama and has raised more money from more small donations than anyone in history. Despite this, his insistence on harping on the term socialist and his approach will keep him from getting the nomination. Even when presenting a compelling message, Sanders drifts into lecturing and though he is pushing Hillary to the left, Bernie leans too far that way without apology to get the nomination. 

Meanwhile the Clinton machine has Hillary on a fast track to be the Democrats presidential offering for 2016. The hint of making Julian Castro, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, her running mate, has brought even more energy to her campaign.  

It seems increasingly unlikely she will be indicted on the email controversy, which leaves the question of who will be her opponent 

Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, George Pataki Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, even Carly Fiorina quite simply will never be president. Why anyone is still donating money to any of these campaigns is a real mystery. 

This leaves Donald Trump, Ben Carson, John Kasich, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. As I have already said, Trump and Carson will likely fade after some early successes. Carson leads in Iowa? Pat Robertson won Iowa. Trump wins the New Hampshire primary? Harold Stassen also won in New Hampshire. 

There are 54 more primaries and caucuses to follow. If Rubio can survive the questions of personal finances, pairing him and Kasich offers the GOP their best shot at defeated Hillary Clinton because it could give them victories in the key states of Florida and Ohio. Cruz might step in for Rubio in the same strategy, should Rubio stumble. 

Bush’s best chance at a nomination is the fact the GOP is experiencing something new in this cycle, millionaire/billionaire supporters who can keep candidates running no matter their showing in primaries, caucuses and polls. It is because of this Jeb Bush can stay in the race until the convention, even if he continues to post poor showings.

Bush hopes probably land on the chance of a brokered convention, which the nation has not seen since 1952. If no clear candidate emerges after the campaign season, the choice goes to the convention, where Bush might garner enough support based largely on his ability to have survived the run with enough mainstream GOP support and money left over to run in the general elections. 

Finally, will the candidates please stop whining about debate formats and questions?

If you are not fast enough on your feet to deal with even the worst the media throws at you, thou are not fit to be President of the United States.

Grow up, candidates, and remember you are asking voters to make you leader of the free world.    If you cannot handle questions of newsreaders on television, why would we trust you to handle being president?

Saturday
Oct242015

Study: Standardized Testing Overwhelming Public Schools

By Lyndsey Layton/Washington Post

The number of standardized tests U.S. public school students take has exploded in the past decade, with most schools requiring too many tests of dubious value, according to the first comprehensive survey of the nation’s largest school districts.

A typical student takes 112 mandated standardized tests between pre-kindergarten classes and 12th grade, a new Council of the Great City Schools study found. By contrast, most countries that outperform the U.S. on international exams test students three times during their school careers.

The heaviest testing load falls on the nation’s eighth-graders, who spend an average of 25.3 hours during the school year taking standardized tests, uniform exams required of all students in a particular grade or course of study. Testing affects even the youngest students, with the average pre-K class giving 4.1 standardized tests, the report found.

The study analyzed tests given in 66 urban districts in the 2014-2015 school year. It did not count quizzes or tests created by classroom teachers, and it did not address the amount of time schools devote to test preparation.

It portrays a chock-a-block jumble, where tests have been layered upon tests under mandates from Congress, the U.S. Department of Education and state and local governments, many of which the study argues have questionable value to teachers and students. Testing companies that aggressively market new exams also share the blame, the study said.

“Everyone is culpable here,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools. “You’ve got multiple actors requiring, urging and encouraging a variety of tests for very different reasons that don’t necessarily add up to a clear picture of how our kids are doing. The result is an assessment system that’s not very intelligent and not coherent.”

Ahead of the study’s release, the U.S. Department of Education offered a mea culpa of sorts, issuing a 10-page guidance document to states and local districts that spells out ways to reduce redundant and low-quality testing. The department pledged to make money and staff available to help and promised to amend some of its policies.

“At the federal, state and local level, we have all supported policies that have contributed to the problem in implementation,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “We can and will work with states, districts and educators to help solve it.”

The council’s report adds fuel to the national debate about testing that has spurred various “opt out” movements among parents and students and has put growing political pressure on Congress and state legislatures to cut back.

In one of the most notable attempts to reduce testing, Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho earlier this year cut the number of district-created end-of-course exams from 300 to 10 and eliminated them entirely for elementary schools.

“I believe in accountability,” said Carvalho, who runs the country’s fourth-largest school district. “But fewer assessments of higher quality are better. . . .What we have now across the country is confusing, hard to navigate and, I believe, abusive of both teacher and student time.”

California eliminated its high school graduation test three weeks ago, joining Minnesota, Mississippi, Alaska, Rhode Island and South Carolina. Virginia has reduced its number of state-level tests, and Montgomery County, Md., last month put an end to its high school final exams.

Standardized testing has caused intense debate on Capitol Hill as lawmakers work to craft a replacement for No Child Left Behind. Testing critics tried unsuccessfully to erase the federal requirement that schools test in math and reading. Civil rights advocates pushed back, arguing that tests are an important safeguard for struggling students because publicly reported test scores illuminate the achievement gap between historically underserved students and their more affluent peers.

But even testing supporters agree about an overload.

“For those of us who support annual assessments, it doesn’t mean we support this craziness,” said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, an advocacy group focused on reducing the achievement gap. “There’s a clear problem here.”

Testing tends to be concentrated between February and May. The council’s study found numerous examples of redundant tests, with students often taking an end-of-course test, an Advanced Placement test and a final exam for the same course.

In 40 percent of districts surveyed, test results aren’t available until the following school year, making them useless for teachers who want to use results to help guide their work in the classroom, Casserly said.

Jeffrey Cipriani teaches second grade at Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Boston. Even though his students are not in a grade that is required by federal law to be tested, the Boston Public Schools has him administer reading tests to his students three times a year. Because the tests are individual and can be as long as 90 minutes, it takes Cipriani about three weeks to test the whole class.

“It’s a colossal amount of time,” he said. “I probably spend about 60 hours not teaching reading but just sort of giving those assessments. They’re valuable but not that valuable.”

The study found no correlation between the amount of testing in a district and the way its students perform on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a federal test given every two years that is the only consistent measure of student achievement across state lines.

“We can’t assess our way to academic excellence,” said Carvalho, of the Miami-Dade school system.

While public schools have been administering standardized tests for generations, the current buildup began after Congress passed No Child Left Behind in 2001 and required states to test all students in math and reading annually from third grade through eighth grade, and once in high school.

States that failed to make academic progress faced a series of consequences. States and districts responded by adding new tests during the school year to ensure students were on track.

“You prepare for the test to prepare for the test to prepare for the test,” said Robert Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a nonprofit organization critical of standardized testing.

And, the study found, Obama administration policies have escalated the issue.

To win a grant under the competitive Race to the Top program, or to receive a waiver from No Child Left Behind, states had to evaluate teachers based in part on student test scores. Since federal law only required standardized tests in math and reading in certain grades, states added tests in social studies, science, languages — even physical education — to have scores they could use to evaluate teachers.

“Many of the appalling things reported on here are the direct result of the way the federal government has approached this,” said Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy. “The accountability system is what’s driving this and it’s fundamentally flawed.”

In its new guidance to states, the U.S. Department of Education tries to soften its emphasis on using test scores to evaluate teachers and urges states and local districts to cut down on redundant and low-quality tests.

The agency also pledged to work with states to amend waivers they’ve received under No Child Left Behind “to reduce testing in grades and subjects that are not subject to federal testing requirements and/or find alternative ways” to judge student achievement and use that to evaluate teachers.

“The time is now to take some new and meaningful steps to help schools deal with testing where it is unnecessary,” said John King, who is slated to succeed Duncan in January. “This is something the president and I have talked about, and it will be a key priority for me in our work with states and districts over the next 14 months.”

Friday
Oct162015

Is it Time to End Tipping in Restaurants?

Adam Gopnik/The New Yorker

The news this week that Danny Meyer will eliminate tipping in his restaurants shook up—or, at least, made slightly tremble, like a good panna cotta—people who like to eat out in New York. Although arguments for the abolition of tipping have been around for a while, and Meyer is not even the first to enforce the policy here, the prestige of his mark and chain makes his choice seem less idiosyncratic than pace-setting. Where Meyer goes, many follow, and it seems entirely probable that within a decade or so there will be no tip-line left on any New York restaurant check.

The underlying logic behind Meyer’s decision is, as is usually the case with innovation, more complicated than it might seem. It’s not simply the servile inequity and unfairness of the tip practice that Meyer objects to—the familiar ritual that leaves some poor twenty-somethings so at the mercy of a table full of inebriated arbitrageurs that she feels ready to take the bus back to Oberlin. It is also that eliminating tipping while slightly raising prices is actually a way of balancing the earnings of the front of the house and the back of the house. Meyer told the Times that, in the course of his three decades in the restaurant business, “kitchen income has gone up no more than 25 percent,” while “dining room pay has gone up 200 percent.” All the big tippers buying overpriced Bordeaux and giving the waiter twenty per cent, in other words, is of no help to the kid in the kitchen chopping onions for (relative) pennies. Putting everybody on a wage basis may just help to even things out.

The purely moral arguments for the abolition of tipping have been around for a while now, and they are impressive. There is something corrupting in the habit of having to wheedle money out of people as a favor, rather than a professional obligation, and though it may give the giver some sense of self-importance, that sense is surely not worth the degradation to the one who gets. Even the best diner devolves into a relationship with the to-be-tipped server like that of a tourist with the locals on a resort island, which isn’t healthy for anyone. Undemocratic, unjust, and, worst of all, encouraging of fake, stagy servility—all the odder that tipping has held on here longer than it has anywhere else in the Western world. (Or maybe not so odd, since Americans also stay busy singing about the long summer vacations they don’t have and the White Christmases they never see, pretending that our reality is other than it is being one of the most—or, actually, least—fetching things about us.)

Tipping was long ago abolished in France, where, by law, a gratuity is added automatically to the bill. Service compris is the motto at the end of every menu, meaning literally “service understood” or, closer, “service included.” Certainly, the abolition of direct tipping there has had a minimal effect on the quality of service, which is the ostensible reason for having tipping in the first place—direct payment for politesse, varying with the amount. The surly and irascible men and women servers remain surly and irascible, the pleasant ones pleasant, and the special handful who genuinely enjoy the company of new people in a convivial setting—rare, but they do exist—beam as they would in any case. Temperament is a far more powerful maker of men, and waiters, than even the promise of tips.

Yet the abolition of tipping in France recalls a truth that pertains to the abolition or prohibition of anything: the activity just gets forced into a marshier, twilight area of exchange. Though the service is included in France, and many French people never add anything at all to their bill, it is regarded as good behavior, especially in a familiar or favorite place, to add a little something extra at the end—perhaps five per cent. To further complicate things, Americans visiting France often do add a lot more extra than that, from domestic habit (along with some lingering, dated G.I. sense that Americans are expected to be generous), so that when an American adds nothing at all, in an attempt to seem European, he is likely to hear a slight or even loud grumble from the waiter, who has come to depend upon the American instinct to tip. The American’s attempt to seem sophisticated is thus taken by the waiter as a mark of irredeemable American gaucherie. So the abolition of tipping, far from simply abolishing a servile practice, tips the whole table over into an ever-more subtle and complicated and embarrassing emotional, and transnational, transaction. (Will tipping, one wonders, be truly abolished at Meyer’s joints or merely unnecessary? They are different things. If the servers at his places are under strict orders to return any little pourboire offered for extra helpful service—as is the rule at, say, Whole Foods Market, where a fishmonger who has sweetly pried out the pin bones in your kid’s salmon isn’t allowed to take a few extra dollars for the effort—then the economy has indeed altered. If Meyer’s waiters can still, in extremis, take cash as special thanks for exceptional service…. Well, then we are back in the old arena, and in more complicated ways.)

 

With the end of tipping in New York, though, we will lose as well any number of diverting social habits and prejudices. I had a friend who used to insist at the end of his meals that he would gladly pay a twenty-five-per-cent gratuity if the server swore solemnly that none of it would go toward subsidizing an acting teacher, especially a Method acting teacher. (Apparently, the other kind of acting teacher, who taught dialects and sword fights, were fine with him.) And while all such generalizations should be shunned—and then immediately repeated, for effect—the end of tipping will put an end to the endlessly repeated rumor and libel that women in restaurants tip less generously than men. It is certainly true that some women—they just happen to be one(s) I know—don’t tip adequately: a close female friend of mine, in response to the pleading imprecation offered when she flashes her credit card, responds that women are not really undertippers but seem that way simply in contrast to the male habit of overtipping for an ostentatious—and, obviously, absurdly fleeting—show of big spending.

Presumably, the real drawback to the approaching end of tipping is that you can no longer undertip for poor service. But when has anyone actually done this? You are more likely to overtip a surly waiter to placate him, or her. (The woman in question sighs.) Orson Welles once told a story of his idealized father burning up a hundred-dollar bill in a glass while a disobliging waiter watched, saying “That would have been yours!”—making it plain that the elder Welles was not cheap, merely demanding. The loss of this role of the Big Spender, and also of the Burning Judge, is doubtless well lost, but lost it is. (Although, come to think of it, “Hey, Big Spender!” the Leigh-Coleman classic, is a song addressed to a pathetic loser.)

Power relationships between the servile and the condescending are always less healthy than professional relations between the active and the appreciative. But, human beings being what they are, a certain nostalgia for the old relation, the material of so much great comedy, will linger—the greatness of Bertie and Jeeves is exactly that the servile one condescends with such skill that the condescending one becomes servile. The end of tipping means one more irrational thing rationalized, one more odd little ritual lost. Since such rituals are often the traces of oppression, they are, on the whole, well lost. But since they were also things handed on, as rites of passage, they had their joys. Waiting tables is hard work, mostly undignified—and yet pseudo-servility in exchange for real money does not seem the ugliest of human transactions, and it had, at least, the virtue of extending an ancient and complicated masquerade. One thinks right now of that greatest of all New York restaurant scenes in the movies, the one in Chaplin’s “The Immigrant,” where Charlie squares off with the formidable Eric Campbell as the waiter. What a matchless sense of triumph Chaplin achieves when, having lost his quarter—having imagined, for a reel, that he would have to fight his way out of the café—he can, thanks to a last-minute rescue by the beautiful Edna Purviance, finally, benevolently, patronizingly tip the irascible Eric. The ethics and poetry of service should doubtless always be included. But can they ever be entirely understood?

Monday
Sep072015

Clemson Football, Islam and Cecil the Lion

By Perry Noble

Political correctness strikes again — but this time in multiple places.

 Dabo Swinney, head coach of Clemson, declares himself a "twitter quitter" and bans his players from the use of twitter during the season.

In response to this, Deadspin issued this article criticizing the policy, saying it was wrong.

ESPN also wrote this article calling attention to the ban that raised a few eyebrows.

And Darren Rovell, an ESPN sports business reporter had the following to say about the social media ban: "Clemson football players banned from social media. Another institution teaching kids about the future by putting duct tape over their mouths."

It seems the sports world wants people to use twitter … until …

Curt Schilling, one of the all time baseball greats and a commentator for ESPN was recently suspended … for something he said via TWITTER. (Here is the story.)

What was his tweet?

It was a meme with the Nazi dictator Hitler on it that read, "The math is staggering when you get to true #'s. It's said only 5-10% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940 only 7% of Germans were Nazi's. How'd that go?"

The tweet was later taken down, Schilling suspended and was forced to issue an apology.

Uh … anyone see a problem here?

Apparently you should not put duct tape over someone's mouth unless they are saying something that may be politically incorrect, in which case their freedom of speech should be taken from them because it may offend someone.

My goal is not to start a holy war here … but what Schilling said is true. (No one seems to be bringing any attention to that!) There are record numbers of extreme terrorist attacks happening all over the world, and the one thing all of them have in common is the attackers are radical Muslim extremists — yet the media and some politicians believe if we do not say anything that these things might just stop happening.

Neville Chamberlain learned the hard way — and if the world doesn't wake up history will be repeated.

Let me be very clear. I do not hate Muslims at all. I've spent time with Muslims, listened to their stories, shared Christ with them. However, a very important fact is always overlooked when it comes to dealing with Islam — the more radicalized a Muslim becomes the more violent they will be as well.

This breaks my heart because at the end of the day, they are doing these things ultimately because they want the assurance that they can have peace with God — which is why I am more convinced than EVER that the GOSPEL is so necessary in our world.

However, I am afraid if we continue to go down the path we are on, with political correctness dictating what we say rather than the truth, our world is going to be a pretty horrible place to live.

As I've said before — political correctness has changed our language, but it has changed no one's heart.

Another example would be Cecil the Lion's death.

Several weeks ago I kept hearing about Cecil getting killed. I am serious when I tell you I thought it was some famous actor or musician I was unaware of, until I found out that Cecil was a lion!

The world went crazy!

There were people calling for justice over a lion in Zimbabwe that had been killed.

The man who killed Cecil (a hunter who paid $50,000 to go on a guided Safari) was the target of hateful speech, accusations and some even went as far as to call for him to be extradited to Zimbabwe for prosecution.

Over a lion!

Pause — a lion is an apex predator. They kill things. If you and Cecil were in a room and Cecil would have been hungry you would have been a snack — period.

However, it seemed "politically correct" to jump on the Cecil bandwagon and make a big deal about animal rights.

However, in all of this the REAL problem in Zimbabwe was ignored.

As of 2012 — CNN estimates that around 72% of people in Zimbabwe live below the poverty line. As of 2014 — GDP per capita was around $2,000. There are legitimate humanitarian needs in Zimbabwe, yet political correctness allows people to ignore what is important and instead focus on the trends of the day.

Sadly enough, the August 25 edition of the NY Times had an article in it about Quinn Swales, a resident of Zimbabwe and a safari guide losing his life.

How did he die?

He was mauled by a lion in the same animal park where Cecil had lived.

I waited …

There was hardly ANY press about this at all.

No social media outrage.

No late night talk show hosts offering tearful eulogies over Mr. Swales death.

Why?

It's quite simple — it just wasn't the politically correct thing to do.

My main reason for writing this article is simply to express a serious concern about the muzzle being placed on those who do not share politically correct views.

Tolerance no longer means we can agree to disagree — but rather you must agree with me on everything or I will label you with the word "hate."

I am concerned for the world we live in, but more specifically I am concerned for the Church.

Political correctness says we cannot take a stand for traditional marriage.

Political correctness says we cannot say that adoption is a better option than aborting.

And political correctness, I believe, will soon begin to declare that a person or church can no longer say that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way for a person to be saved.

What is the solution?

I believe there are two things:

#1 — Prayer — The Church today prays for safety, the early Church prayed for boldness. (See Acts 4:31).

We need to pray that Jesus will allow us to see people as He sees them.

But we also must pray that we may be able to speak truth in love — choosing to do what is right over what is easy.

#2 — Participation — Followers of Jesus MUST not be afraid to participate in the conversations that are going on in the world today.

We must participate with compassion.

We must participate with humility.

We must participate with gentleness.

But, for the love of God — this is NOT the time to go silent.

The world has never needed "good news" more than it needs it right now. And as followers of Christ we should not view this turning of the tide in our country as opposition but rather an opportunity to step into conversations people are already having and pointing them to Christ.

This article was originally posted here. 

Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of Anderson's NewSpring Church in South Carolina. The church averages 26,000 people during weekend services at multiple campuses throughout the state. Noble, his wife Lucretia and their daughter Charisse live in Anderson, South Carolina. You can read all of Perry's unfiltered thoughts about life and leadership at PerryNoble.com.
Monday
Aug242015

Can Bernie Sanders Win in S.C.?

By /Politico

Bernie Sanders made his most aggressive pitch yet to black voters during a weekend swing through South Carolina, and only part of that blitz was visible to the public.

In a set of four speeches throughout the state, the Independent Vermont senator and liberal 2016 presidential candidate marbled his stump speech with topics designed to appeal to African Americans: criminal justice reform, voter disenfranchisement, economic inequality among minorities, and preventing police brutality.

“When we talk about making our country the kind of nation that it must become, we must talk about ending institutional racism,” Sanders said during a stop in Columbia on Friday, to cheers from the crowd. “We need major reforms to our broken criminal justice system.”

The Sanders campaign also quietly reached out to local black leaders and activists for small-group sit-downs on subjects important to the black community. His campaign did not announce the gatherings, and aides declined to provide a list of the people he met with, describing them only as as meetings with “ministers, elected officials, and community leaders.”

“We’re talking about problems facing the African-American community in South Carolina. I’m learning a lot,” was all Sanders would say about them during a brief interview on Saturday.

But Sanders — who polls badly among black voters and has had his appearances disrupted several times by protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement — wasn’t here just to listen. African Americans made up roughly 28 percent of the vote in South Carolina in 2012. Roughly half of the state’s Democratic primary electorate is black. For all his evident appeal in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders needs those voters to go his way if he has any hope of beating Hillary Clinton here.

Interviews suggested it will be tough going.

“I think he’s probably coming up to speed on race,” Rev. Joseph Darby, the presiding elder of the Beaufort District of the AME Church, said of Sanders.

“I think Hillary’s a little bit more up to speed because she’s been dealing with the Obama proposals in the past. She’s got that depth of experience,” Darby said. “I think the senator being from Vermont, there’s probably not a whole heck of a lot of black constituents up there, so I don’t know that he’s had the opportunity she’s had to interact this often with African Americans.”

There was a formula to Sanders’ public appearances and private meetings in South Carolina, participants noted: The events began with the senator being introduced by Symone Sanders, the campaign’s national press secretary and an advocate for black criminal justice reform. Symone Sanders — no relation to the senator — made sure each time to mention the importance of the Voting Rights Act and to tout her boss as 2016’s biggest champion of racial and economic equality.

But while his message seemed to resonate, Sanders didn’t enjoy quite the rock-star treatment he’s received up north. Instead of pulsating crowds of around 15,000 in Madison, Wisconsin, or 28,000 in Portland, Oregon, he drew an estimated crowd of 2,800 in Greenville and around 3,150 for his appearance in North Charleston. The vast majority of attendees at each event were white.

Which is not to say that Sanders didn’t try hard to reach black voters. He tweaked his usual spiel on economic inequality, education, and poverty to speak more directly to African Americans’ concerns, and suggested the racially motivated massacre of eight parishioners in Charleston was hardly a one-off event.

“Racism remains a much too real part of American life,” Sanders said Saturday at the smallest of his events, in Sumter. “I’m not just talking about the sickness of a man who could walk into a Bible study class in Charleston, pray with people in the room and discuss the Bible and then take a gun and kill nine of those people. That is something literally beyond my comprehension. I don’t understand how that could happen.”

In Spartanburg, a town of almost 40,000, Sanders met with small clusters of community leaders, ministers, and elected officials, as he did in Orangeburg, Sumter, and Charleston. In each place, the message was the same: I’m the guy interested in understanding your problems.

“The racial justice platform is something we’re talking about a lot,” said Chris Covert, Sanders’ South Carolina state director. “We’re talking a lot about education — South Carolina is a place that struggles with its education.”

Sanders in the last few months has had several awkward encounters with black protesters, some of whom have taken over the stage at his events. At one crowded rally in Seattle, meant to be about Social Security, protesters identifying themselves as members of the Black Lives Matter movement seized the microphone from Sanders, forcing organizers to shut down the event.

Weeks earlier, Sanders was set to discuss immigration reform in Phoenix when protesters with Black Lives Matter marched onto the stage and demanded he focus more on issues specific to the African-American community. Sanders got so frustrated that first he testily said, “I have spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and if you don’t want me to be here, that’s OK.” When told he was out of time, Sanders curtly said, “OK, good.”

The campaign’s realization that it had a problem led them to bring on Symone Sanders, a 25-year-old Black Lives Matter activist who regularly introduces the senator at events and discusses voter disenfranchisement and the importance of criminal justice reform.

In South Carolina, aides also set up a few smaller meetings to allow for more interaction. On Friday, for example, Sanders met with 50 community and religious leaders at the Springfield Baptist Church in Greenville, most of whom were African American, and hammered home the need for criminal justice reform.

Kimberlyn Kimpson, the wife of state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, was among 20 or so people who went to the meeting at the North Charleston Convention Center bracketing Sanders’ speech there. She described Sanders as very “personal” and “knowledgeable about statistics” for the topics he discussed.

But he left her wanting more. “Honestly, I think he was only answering questions for maybe 10 or 15 minutes,” said Kimpson. “It really wasn’t that long.”

Covert said the meetings here were all “extremely positive and extremely productive. Nobody has walked out of there and said ‘I don’t want to learn more’ or ‘I’m not engaged’.”

But in general, the feeling among prominent black leaders here is that while Sanders’ efforts are appreciated, he’s still got a long way to go.

“If you’re not serious in your outreach and strategic in your outreach, I don’t think you have a shot,” said Anton Gunn, a former South Carolina state representative.

Talking about economic inequality, Marlon Kimpson said, is only the beginning. “We’re going to be asking some tough questions about the issue that he speaks eloquently about — income inequality — but also the creation of wealth and capital in our respective communities.”

On the organizing front, the Sanders campaign is still playing catchup. It has two offices open in the state, one in Charleston and one in Columbia, and eight paid staff. By the end of October, Covert said, the campaign could have “potentially two or three more,” with the main headquarters in Charleston and the other outposts being field offices. “We plan on hiring a large amount of people,” he said. “Every office is going to have between three to four full-time staffers at a minimum.”

Still, it seems hard to imagine Sanders repeating the feat of 2008, where black voters went dramatically for Obama over Clinton, allowing him to win the primary 55 percent to 27 percent.

And Clinton is leaving nothing to chance this time. She hired early and not just a skeleton crew: a communications director and state director, as well as additional personnel. The campaign says it has two offices open in Columbia and Charleston, 13 paid staff, and 1,400 active volunteers.

Then there’s the wild card: Vice President Joe Biden, who is toying with running and is thought to be focusing on South Carolina.

Sanders seemed unsure how Biden’s entry would shake up the race. “I’ve known Joe Biden for many many years. The people who know him respect him. If Joe gets into this race, I look forward to continuing running an issue-oriented campaign and discuss[ing] the important issues of the country with Joe,” he told POLITICO on Saturday. “Whether he gets in or not, I have no idea, and what its impact will be, I just don’t know.”

But Clinton aides have already indicated that he could give her a real scare here, and local black leaders agreed.

“Joe Biden has a long track record in this state of having several local elected leaders who are strong supporters of his and have been with Joe Biden going all the way back to 2006, even before he was running for president,” Gunn said. But Clinton had many loyalists as well, he noted.

Not Bernie.

“Senator Sanders is a newcomer to all of this; he’s a newcomer to Southern politics,” Gunn said. “I mean, being from Vermont, I can’t think of a place that’s further from the hearts and minds of South Carolina than Vermont.”

Monday
Aug102015

No Real Precedent for Candidate Trump

By

Is there any candidate in American history like Donald Trump?

The real estate mogul’s bombastic entrance into American politics has become a cultural phenomenon. His populist, nativist rhetoric has struck a chord with many voters and his wealth allows the billionaire to show a striking disregard for the norms of party politics. The result was that Trump’s appearance in the first presidential debate led to sky-high ratings with a viewership higher than the World Series or the NBA Finals.

Most recently, the controversy over his comments to Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly that she has “blood coming out of her wherever” has become front-page news around the world. The statement, which was widely perceived as a reference to menstruation, set off a media feeding frenzy which was covered as intently by supermarket tabloids as by wonky journals of policy.

Yet his rise has left pundits scratching their heads. There are plenty of archetypes in American politics like the young idealist orator, the grizzled veteran of Washington or the ideologue who inspires the party faithful. But the fabulously wealthy reality television host with a belligerent social media presence is something entirely new.

It is difficult to find parallels to Trump in recent American history. As Roger Stone, Trump’s former political advisor told the Guardian, “no one is Trump. Trump is unique.” He noted that while there may be elements of Ross Perot’s 1992 race in the real estate mogul’s candidacy, there are still big differences. After all, “Trump is much, much richer than Ross Perot and he is also far better known”.

But that hasn’t stopped academics and historians from trying to find a comparison.

David Karol, a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, sees difficulty in comparing Trump to anyone who has sought the GOP nomination in recent years. He noted the comparison to Pat Buchanan’s insurgent run in the 1992 Republican primary was problematic because the former Nixon speechwriter and CNN television personality “had a long history with the Republican party and held responsible positions in Republican administrations”. Further, Karol pointed out that although Steve Forbes, who ran in 1996, was extremely wealthy, he was also extremely boring.

Geoffrey Kabaservice, who wrote Rule and Ruin, the definitive history of the collapse of the moderate wing of the Republican party, saw the real estate mogul’s politics as emerging from an entirely different political tradition than the GOP. “Trump is not really a Republican, he’s a populist”; in his opinion, Trump has “all the hallmarks” of populism. “He’s anti-establishment and anti-politics,” said Kabaservice. “He doesn’t pretend to be a man of the people yet he is speaking for them and they find him to be an appropriate tribune.” The historian also noted that one can draw analogies between the Trump phenomenon and European populists like the Le Pens and Nigel Farage.

One longtime observer of American politics reached back more than half a century for a Trump analogy. Walter Shapiro, a columnist who has covered nine presidential elections, saw Douglas MacArthur, a former general who flirted with presidential runs in 1948 and 1952, as the best comparison to Trump. Shapiro noted MacArthur’s polling numbers against Harry Truman in 1951, shortly after he was sacked as the leader of US forces during the Korean War, closely mirrored Trump’s today. He further pointed out that both men fit the image “of a man on horseback – a business leader or a general who will make things all right and cut through all the crap in Washington”.

Yet all of these comparisons underrate the celebrity factor in Trump’s candidacy. He’s not just a television host but a full-fledged media personality who has been fodder for tabloid journalism for decades. He’s likely the first presidential candidate to have had his own board game. While celebrities have sought political office before, they’ve worked their way up. Jesse Ventura was mayor of his Minnesota town before running for governor of Minnesota; Ronald Reagan was governor of California before running for president – and both were long past the heights of their fame.

The closest parallel in terms of celebrity may be John “Goat Glands” Brinkley, a radio doctor famous for implanting goat testicles into men suffering from impotence in the 1920s. After Kansas authorities took away his radio station and medical license, he decided to run for governor as a write-in, third-party candidate and almost won in 1930. Even then, the parallel is somewhat forced: Brinkley was not a national figure, nor did he have the influence or resources that Trump has been able to bring to bear.

At this point, there is no historical parallel that captures the emergence of Trump on the scene. There have been populist firebrands before and there have been candidates who have tapped into resentment over immigration. There even have been self-funders who have able to make political decisions without any hesitation about worrying donors or the party establishment. But there has been no candidate who has combined all of those aspects with a level of celebrity rivaling a movie star or even a Kardashian.

The question is whether his candidacy has a lasting impact and inspires imitators, or if it’s as much of an aberration as Goat Glands Brinkley.

Thursday
Aug062015

Why Does Trump Appeal to Working-Class Americans?

BY JAMES SUROWIECKI
The New Yorker

Donald Trump’s campaign slogan is “Make America Great Again!” A better one might be “Only in America.” You could not ask for a better illustration of the complexity of ordinary Americans’ attitudes toward class, wealth, and social identity than the fact that a billionaire’s popularity among working-class voters has given him the lead in the race for the Republican Presidential nomination. In a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, Trump was the candidate of choice of a full third of white Republicans with no college education. Working-class voters face stagnant wages and diminished job prospects, and a 2014 poll found that seventy-four per cent of them think “the U.S. economic system generally favors the wealthy.” Why on earth would they support a billionaire?

Part of the answer is Trump’s nativist and populist rhetoric. But his wealth is giving him a boost, too. The Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who’s published reams of work on white working-class attitudes, told me, “There is no bigger problem for these voters than the corruption of the political system. They think big companies are buying influence, while average people are blocked out.” Trump’s riches allow him to portray himself as someone who can’t be bought, and his competitors as slaves to their donors. (Ross Perot pioneered this tactic during the 1992 campaign.) “I don’t give a shit about lobbyists,” Trump proclaimed at an event in May. And his willingness to talk about issues that other candidates are shying away from, like immigration and trade, reinforces the message that money makes him free.

Trump has also succeeded in presenting himself as a self-made man, who has flourished thanks to deal-making savvy. In fact, Trump was born into money, and his first great real-estate success—the transformation of New York’s Commodore Hotel into the Grand Hyatt—was enabled by a tax abatement worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet many voters see Trump as someone who embodies the American dream of making your own fortune. And that dream remains surprisingly potent: in a 2011 Pew survey, hard work and personal drive (not luck or family connections) were the factors respondents cited most frequently to explain why people got ahead. Even Trump’s unabashed revelling in his wealth works to his benefit, since it makes him seem like an ordinary guy who can’t get over how cool it is to be rich.

For someone who talks a lot about winning, Trump has a résumé dotted with more than a few losses. On four occasions, companies he’s been involved with have gone bankrupt. Yet these failures haven’t dented his reputation at all, contributing instead to a sense that he’s had to deal with adversity. In other countries, such failures would make it very hard for him to campaign as a visionary businessman. But the U.S. has always been exceptionally tolerant, in terms of both attitude and the law, toward business failure and bankruptcy. Indeed, Trump brags about how he used the bankruptcy code to get better deals for his companies; as he put it not long ago, “I’ve used the laws of the country to my advantage.”

Trump is hardly the first Western plutocrat to venture into politics. Think of William Randolph Hearst or, more recently, Silvio Berlusconi. But both Hearst and Berlusconi benefitted from controlling media empires. Trump has earned publicity all on his own, by playing the role of that quintessential American figure the huckster. As others have observed, the businessman he most resembles is P. T. Barnum, whose success rested on what he called “humbug,” defined as “putting on glittering appearances . . . by which to suddenly arrest public attention, and attract the public eye and ear.” Barnum’s key insight into how to arrest public attention was that, to some degree, Americans enjoy brazen exaggeration. No American businessman since Barnum has been a better master of humbug than Trump has.

Take the debate over how much Trump is worth. It’s impossible to get a definitive accounting of his wealth, since almost all of it is in assets—mainly real estate—that don’t have clear market values. Still, he’s clearly enormously rich. Bloomberg estimates his wealth at $2.9 billion, while Forbes pegs it at $4.1 billion—both tidy sums. But Trump will have none of that: thanks to the value of his brand, he says, he’s worth at least a cool ten billion. This number seems so absurdly over the top as to be self-defeating. But there is a kind of genius in the absurdity. Trump understands that only an outrageous number can really “attract the public eye and ear.”

Trump’s lack of interest in policy and his inflammatory rhetoric make it easy to dismiss him as a serious candidate, and it’s highly improbable that he could ultimately win the nomination. But his bizarre blend of populist message and glitzy ways has allowed him to connect with precisely the voters that any Republican candidate needs in order to get elected (including many whom Romney couldn’t reach). As Greenberg says, as long as he’s in the race, “Trump is a huge problem for the Party. He’s appealing to a very important part of the base, and bringing out the issues the other candidates don’t want to be talking about.” Republicans may be praying that his campaign is just a joke, but right now Trump is the only one laughing.

Tuesday
Aug042015

It's Crazy Time in America

By Bill Schneider
August 4, 2015

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, July 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

Why have Republican politicians gone crazy?

Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan declared, “It’s morning in America.” Now it’s crazy time in America.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was the first to notice. After Donald Trump held a massive rally to scapegoat illegal immigrants, McCain said, “[He] fired up the crazies.” There must be a lot of crazies running around. The latest polls all show Trump as the frontrunner for the 2016 Republican nomination.

Trump then insulted McCain, saying, “He’s not a war hero.” Trump has preferred to call McCain, with his impeccable outer-borough diction, “a losah,” adding, “I don’t like losahs.”

After that, it was open season for craziness. Having revealed that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had once called him to ask a favor, Trump gave out Graham’s personal cellphone number and told his supporters to call it — and presumably harass the senator. Trump ridiculed former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s personal appearance, saying he started wearing glasses “so people will think he’s smart.”

The craziness in the Republican race is not confined to Trump. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said that if the nuclear deal with Iran goes through, “it will make the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.”  In an outrageous violation of Senate decorum, Cruz called his own party’s majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a “liar.”

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, charged that President Barack Obama “would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven.”  Huckabee violated Rule No. 1 of political discourse: Nothing is analogous to the Holocaust.

Why have Republican politicians suddenly gone crazy? One key reason is that the first debate is coming up, and there are 17 Republican contenders. Fox News, which is hosting the debate, says it will invite only the 10 top-ranked candidates in the polls to be on the big stage. It is holding a separate, earlier debate among the lower-ranked candidates — the junior-varsity debate.

The also-rans are desperate for publicity to give them a boost in the polls. As one CNN reporter explained it, “There’s this Trump effect going on with some of these candidates where they want to say things and double-down on them to get some attention.”

Trump is gaining support by saying what former Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank once called “not-sa-pos-tas.” Trump says things you’re “not-sa-pos-ta” say if you want to be a viable candidate. Like insisting Obama’s birth certificate is a fake. And Latino immigrants are rapists.

Billionaire investor Mark Cuban, a Trump supporter, explains the Trump effect this way: “I don’t care what his actual positions are. I don’t care if he says the wrong thing. He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. This is more important than anything any candidate has done in years.”

Trump is unscripted. He exudes authenticity. His spokesman put it this way: “He’s not a politico. He doesn’t purport to be a politico.”

Trump didn’t create the conservative movement. The conservative movement created him. Conservatives are hungry for a leader who’s not a politician and who exudes authenticity. They demand confrontation.

Conservatives are in open revolt against the Republican Party leadership. Republican leaders are trying to prove they can govern now that they have a majority in Congress.  Governing means coalition building. Coalition building means compromise. Conservatives won’t stand for it.  “The Republican Party in Washington,” Fox News host Sean Hannity charged, “is a carbon copy of the Democratic Party.”

Here’s Obama’s explanation for the epidemic of craziness in the Republican Party: “Maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines.” Actually, other candidates are trying to imitate Trump and grab a piece of the action. But you can’t imitate authenticity.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is the only Republican contender willing to take Trump on. Bush offers an eloquent defense of compromise and coalition building: “We need men and women of good will forging consensus, starting to solve problems, kind of building back the muscles of consensus, compromise and solution-finding . . . . Apparently that is dangerous in a Republican primary.”

Yes, it is. Which is why Trump is leading Bush by better than two-to-one in the polls. Where will it all end? It will end when Republicans begin to take notice of the polls showing that Trump won’t beat Hillary Clinton. He won’t even beat Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. According to RealClearPolitics, no Republican is beating Clinton right now — but Trump, by far, does the worst. Clinton leads Trump by an average of 15 points in the polls.  She leads Bush by three.

Crazy time will end as soon as Republicans discover that Trump is “a losah.”

Sunday
Jul262015

Lessons from Wall Street's Quarterly Earnings Obsession

What we can all learn from Wall Street's quarterly earnings obsession

 

It’s time to break free of the “tyranny” of “quarterly capitalism”, Hillary Clinton proclaimed in an economic stump speech on Friday afternoon at New York University. Translation? The Democratic Party’s front-running presidential candidate is taking aim at Wall Street – sort of.

Clinton is no Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren for that matter. For some she is, in fact, just a little too close to the money men. So perhaps unsurprisingly, instead of offering a wide-ranging critique of US capitalism, Clinton’s taking aim at a very specific Wall Street ritual: the corporate earnings report.

What makes her comments timely as well as interesting is the fact that they were delivered smack dab in the middle of the second quarter’s “earnings season” – the six-week period during which the vast majority of publicly-traded companies tell us how much money they made during from April 1 until June 30, and analysts and traders rush to compare those figures to forecasts.

When the numbers measure up – or even better, exceed – the forecasts, it’s known as a “beat”, and Good Things Happen. Just look at what happened to Google earlier this month when it delivered better-than-expected results, including an 11% jump in advertising revenue. The company’s stock set off for the stratosphere, soaring 16.3%.

That wasn’t only Google’s single best day in its own history as a public company, but the biggest one-day gain recorded by any public company, ever, as the total value of Google (the number of shares multiplied by the stock price) increased by a record $66.9bn to $478bn. It’s as if Google suddenly gave birth to several giant new businesses, overnight.

Then there’s Amazon, which also startled investors by reporting better-than-expected revenues and by announcing that it actually made money, instead of reporting a loss for the quarter. The stock soared 18%; now Amazon is worth more than Wal-Mart.

But if you disappoint, prepare to be punished; Wall Street is unforgiving. Only in the rather bizarre world of earnings season could a 38% gain in profitability and a 35% increase in iPhone sales be dubbed a “disappointment” by analysts covering Apple. But that’s just what happened, in large part because some had expectations that were even higher , and because the company hinted that the current quarter could prove more lackluster. In a flash, $60bn evaporate from the value of the company’s market capitalization. Ouch.

Trying to deliver quarterly results that are on target, or a “beat”, has long since become a game. Entire teams of analysts are devoted to tracking the process. So, for instance, as I write this, I can tell you that Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S calculates that of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, 186, or 37%, have so far announced their results. Of those, 74% have beaten estimates, while 18% have reported earnings that were worse than analysts had anticipated. In a typical quarter (since 1994), 63% of companies beat estimates; in the last four quarters 70% beat estimates.

But – remember that I described this as a game? Heading into reporting season, companies will deliver hints to analysts – hey, your earnings estimate for us is too high; you might want to trim it a bit. They’ll do that throughout the quarter, going back and forth, until by the time the quarter is over, and the earnings are announced, what appears to be a “beat” is actually a figure that is lower than the original forecast. In other words, if analysts hadn’t cut their estimates, that beat would have been a “miss”. Only if you’ve been following the process, and have access to the fluctuating estimates – only if you’re an insider – do you know whether a beat is really a beat, and whether to react with exuberance and excitement.

Then, too, what’s happening on the bottom line often isn’t the full story. Consider toymaker Mattel Corp, which analysts were expecting to report a loss of 4 cents a share. When it actually reported a profit of a penny a share, that should have been good news, right? Wrong. That’s still worse than the company’s profits a year ago, and it was accompanied by an unexpected dip in revenues.

When Hillary Clinton takes aim at “quarterly capitalism”, it’s stuff like that she is thinking of. Well, that, and the antics that go on behind the scenes in corner offices in order for chief financial officers to deliver on the expectations of analysts and the investors who await each quarterly earnings season announcement anxiously.

The critique is an old one, dating back decades. The demand to manage earnings on a quarterly basis frustrates the CEOs themselves, many of whom loathe having to ensure their earnings are squarely on target or incur the wrath of giant activist investors like Carl Icahn or David Einhorn, capable of making their lives a living hell.

And it is a real conundrum. On the one hand, CEOs and their chief financial officers are responsible to their investors; their job is to maximize profits. That’s their fiduciary duty. So an investor who sees a company passing up an opportunity to make money this summer, and hears the CEO arguing next earnings season that he made that choice in order to invest in something that will (hopefully) produce even larger rewards in, say, 2017, might justifiably be annoyed. Many CEOs see that as too risky; they’d like to keep their jobs and keep investors pacified, thank you very much. There’s an equally valid argument that by taking those risks (and deferring today’s profits), CEOs are doing their investors, and the economy as a whole, a greater disservice.

It’s worth noting, incidentally, that two of the companies that have delivered blockbuster “positive surprises” so far this earnings season, Google and Amazon, are both headed by management teams with the ability or willingness to defy Wall Street and march to the sound of their own drummer. Google’s co-founders still control the lion’s share of the company’s voting stock, meaning that they can afford to shrug off grumpy investors, to some extent. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has made it clear that he’ll tolerate large losses if that’s what it takes to boost revenues and market share – and if investors don’t share his vision, they don’t have to stick around.

Clinton argues that companies that become obsessed with “quarterly capitalism” risk throwing the whole system out of balance by focusing only on the short term. Her admittedly wonkish speech criticized “hit and run” activist shareholders and the “culture of short-term speculation”, even if it was short of specifics on how to address those particular features of Wall Street.

But we don’t have to wait for Clinton – or any other politico – to lead the way. We can choose how we react to earnings releases, or fail to do so, for instance.

Corporate earnings news does matter, but the noise that surrounds it rarely does. Forget about the “beats” and “misses” and focus on the context. What is intriguing about Amazon’s announcement is the fact that the dramatic gain came from the company’s cloud business, rather than the core retail operations with which we’re all familiar. That might give you a lot of food for thought about what this means for other companies offering clients infrastructure web services platforms in the cloud, including Google, Microsoft and even Alibaba. Mattel’s announcement got me thinking about the fact that companies are having to struggle to post higher profits – this could end up being the 16th quarter in a row in which earnings grow at a faster rate than revenues, Thomson Reuters has warned. That means the pressure will be on businesses to keep cutting costs to deliver the earnings that investors expect – including salaries and jobs.

Then, too, it’s always good to monitor earnings announcements for what companies say about what they see coming next. What’s happening in China? Will oil prices bounce back to life? Are they worried about Greece or do they see it as a sideshow? CEOs and their chief financial honchos usually have a conference call with analysts after the release of earnings and that’s when the analysts will grill them about what’s going to happen next. One earnings season is now history, and Wall Street is looking ahead for clues to the next. If you really want to play the insider’s game, so should you, by reading the (publicly available) transcripts.

Wall Street may still write the rules of the earnings season game, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tilt the boards a little bit in our favor, whether by figuring out what’s going on or finding a way to play on our own terms.

Wednesday
Jul152015

S.C. Works Toward Healing

In South Carolina these days, no one speaks his name.

The 21-year-old man-boy, who allegedly murdered nine people and incited unity instead of the race war he hoped for, has been condemned to an eternal slog not toward fame but to ignominy.

He is no one.

“We don’t say his name,” Gov. Nikki Haley (R) told me during an interview Monday. “He is something that South Carolina wants to forget.”

The names that won’t be forgotten are those of the victims, whose faces and stories are now etched in hearts across the state and nation. Haley, emotionally exhausted by the nine funerals she has attended, readily recited them, saying she wishes she had known all of them in life rather than in death.

She is haunted by that one hour. The hour the gunman reportedly sat with those eight parishioners and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney and prayed with them. Did he revel in their unwitting innocence? Was he picking his first victim even as they read the Bible?

“They thought they were moving him,” Haley said. They thought they were showing him God’s love. . . . They wanted him to feel like he belonged.” Her voice tripped.

How does one process such brutality, inhumanity and hate?

Often the best anyone can do is put one foot in front of the other. With time, the stride lengthens; the pace quickens; and life, intrepid to a fault, goes on.

Action helps.

Thus, Haley moved quickly in urging the General Assembly to take down the Confederate battle flag from its perch on the statehouse grounds. But she didn’t stop at the flag; she wanted the pole to come down, too. “It was important to me that we take care of this once and for all.”

To this end, she decided to share a story from her own life with the state’s Republican caucus. Haley is the daughter of Sikh immigrants from the Indian state of Punjab. In the tiny, rural town of Bamberg, S.C., where Haley grew up, her father wore a turban and her mother a sari. She said she knows what racial pain is like.

“People didn’t know who we were,” she told me. “They didn’t know what we were.”

The story, as recounted to me, went like this.

My father loved to visit farmer’s markets. One day I went with my dad and he stopped at a roadside stand. He started picking up fruits and vegetables, and I saw panic in the faces at the checkout counter. Then the police came. My father’s a very graceful man. He shook their hands and said hello and we got in the car. He didn’t say anything because he hoped I hadn’t noticed. I didn’t say anything because I knew what had happened.

Hard to know what the folks were worried about, but then places like Bamberg, population 2,500 at the time, didn’t much cotton to strangers, especially foreigners, back then.

“Every time I passed that stand, that pain was very real,” she told me. “No child should have to experience that.”

The pain Haley felt, she said, is the same kind of pain many people in the state have felt every time they passed the Confederate battle flag. Pushback was inevitable. One needn’t look long to find online comments that are hideous and cruel. And though any civilized person wants to rail at such lowlife incivility, Haley says she understands that they feel betrayed.

The state’s grief and the healing process notwithstanding, political ramifications attach to such events. Haley, obviously, has been catapulted onto the national stage and into the Republican imagination. Though long on a short list of possible presidential running mates, she demurred on this line of questioning, saying without a hint of obvious humor, “I have a lot of friends who happen to be running for president.” Those who have contacted her in recent weeks to express support include Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

For now, Haley says her focus is on helping her state heal. She plans to begin “Emanuel Nine” tours in schools to talk about the love, faith and forgiveness of the nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church whose lives and martyrdom conveyed compassion and grace to millions across the state and beyond.

“In the history books of South Carolina,” says Haley, “they’ll talk about the Emanuel Nine.”

Not him, whose name no one wants to say.

Read more from Kathleen Parker’s archive, follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook.

Kathleen Parker writes a twice-weekly column on politics and culture for the Washington Post. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary In 2010. View Archive