Showing a noble, inspiring faith in the possibility of politics

Sue and Jim Rex, at the American Party booth at the SC State Fair.

Sue and Jim Rex, at the American Party booth at the SC State Fair.

I went to the fair today, and saw the usual booths for the Democrats and Republicans, and stayed away from them.

But I stopped to chat at the American Party booth, because one of the founders of the party was there — Jim Rex.

Jim invited me to sign the petition to get a recall power onto the ballot — a measure that would allow voters to dump politicians who have broken the law.

I told him no, I don’t hold with recall petitions. I think elections come soon enough. Although I admit that allowing recall only in cases of illegality is a lot less objectionable than the kind they have in California and other places, which allow voters to dump pols between election on a whim if they choose (thereby eliminating even the rare glimpses of political courage that we occasionally see in non-election years).

Then, we segued into a polite argument about term limits, with me getting on a rhetorical high horse and saying I just have more simple faith in politics than he does. I trust the voters to decide for themselves whether they want somebody for one term, two terms, three terms or 20 terms.

I said that if he wanted to do something about cynical incumbents, noncompetitive elections and apathy, then go to work on a federal constitutional amendment that would end the way we apportion districts in this country. THAT is the cause of all the ills he deplores.

Anyway, looking at the picture I took above of the Rexes causes me to check myself — I shouldn’t have said I have more faith in politics.

There is no greater faith in our system than stepping out and starting a new party, and sticking to it and working as hard at it as the Rexes have, along with Oscar Lovelace and others.

Frankly, I find it inspiring, even when I disagree on policy proposals

More newspapers have stopped doing endorsements, and their excuses for this cop-out are as lame as ever

Politico notes that more and more newspapers are announcing that they’ll no longer do candidate endorsements.

And as usual with such cop-outs, their excuses for this are completely lame:

Papers in Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine and Texas have all announced this year that their editorial boards will no longer print the traditional candidate endorsements.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette said they are discontinuing the practice in order to be “an independent voice amid the growing clamor of voices espousing hyper-partisan views.”

Yes, that’s right. You are supposed to be “an independent voice.” And if you, the independent voice, won’t state a preference between the candidates, then the only people out there expressing a preference will be the “growing clamor of voices espousing hyper-partisan views.”

To continue:

It’s a trend that’s been spreading throughout the country, CJR reports. In 2012, the Halifax Media chain said they would stop endorsing ” because endorsing candidates could “create the idea we are not able to fairly cover political races.” The Chicago Sun-Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution have also ceased endorsing candidates.

Guess what? People will still accuse you of not fairly covering political races. As has always been the case and always will be the case, people will try to read a bias into every word you write. They will always be looking for an indication that you’re really for the other guy, and in their minds, they will find the proof in every news story.

That’s why, as an institution, you should be honest about any preference you do have. So at least readers can take that institutional preference into consideration in assessing the fairness of your coverage. It makes you more transparent, rather than forcing readers to guess about the biases that they assume you have.

Fortunately, there are still some editors out there who understand what newspapers, and especially editorial pages, are for. As CJR reports:

As for movement in the other direction? The Los Angeles Times, which gave up endorsements in presidential campaigns after 1972, in part because of conflict over its support for Richard Nixon, returned to the practice in 2008. The Times’ reasoning tracked pretty closely with the Chicago Tribune’s 2012 statement on why it plans to keep endorsing: Editorial boards take stands on political issues every day, and it would be odd or even irresponsible to go silent at such a key moment.

Amen to that. I’ve said the same many times: Every day of every year, newspapers publish their opinions on every policy issue under the sun — which is a fine thing in theory, but the fact is that in a representative democracy, a newspaper’s readers can’t do anything about most of those issues. The one time they all get a say is at election time, when they choose the people who actually will act on those issues.

To opine about these issues the rest of the time (and if you don’t think newspapers should express opinions at all, then that’s another issue for another day), and then fail to point out which candidates are most likely to enact the policies one favors, at the critical moment when readers all have a decision to make, is both lazy and cowardly.

Cowardice has always been a factor because close to half of the people reading any endorsement are going to get mad at you about it. So has laziness, as endorsements are labor-intensive. The “lazy” factor is playing a bigger and bigger role as newspaper staffs keep shrinking.

And so it is that I’ve been proud to see Cindi and Warren cranking out endorsements this week, here and here and here and here. I know how much work they’re putting into the process, and I appreciate it.

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Joe Wilson says Hamas could attack U.S. with Ebola

Joe Hamas

Today, our own Rep. Joe Wilson is enjoying his biggest splash on social media since his “You lie!” glory days. A sampling:


Here’s a link to video of the congressman setting forth this theory.

Sen. Tim Scott: Ban travel from Ebola-stricken countries

And now, we have this proposal from U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC:

Charleston, SC – U.S. Senator Tim Scott released the following statement regarding travel restrictions from Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa. Senator Scott is a member of both the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees.Scott,Tim

“First and foremost, my heart goes out to those infected with Ebola and their families both in the United States and in West Africa. This is a terrible virus, and one the world must come together to stop.

As infections continue to spread here in the United States, the trust of the American people has been shaken by the administration’s response thus far. It is clear that a temporary travel ban for foreign nationals traveling from Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa should be put in place. The President has the authority to do so, and we have seen that airport screenings and self-reporting simply are not enough.

While both the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health state that patients without a fever are not contagious, recent studies from West Africa show that almost 13 percent of confirmed cases did not present with a fever. Screenings have also only been initiated at five airports, and even at airports travelers’ symptoms can be masked by over-the-counter medications.

This is about the safety of the American people, and nothing more. As the fight against Ebola continues, a temporary travel ban for foreign nationals traveling from the epicenter of the outbreak is a necessity.”

###

I find myself wondering: Did he decide independently to join the voices advocating this, or did Republicans get together and decide that his was the most sympathetic face they had for advancing such a proposal?

I say that in part because, although a number of Republicans have said it, it has tended to be those in tight races, such as Scott Brown and Thom Tillis. Sen. Scott, of course, is in the opposite of a “tight race.”

Ebola bridesmaids: First the ugly dresses, now THIS…

As if bridesmaids didn’t have it bad enough already:

Health officials say five bridesmaids of a Texas nurse with Ebola are among at least nine people voluntarily quarantined in northeast Ohio.

The Akron Beacon Journal (http://bit.ly/1oecJic ) reports Summit County Health Commissioner Gene Nixon identified the others as a bridesmaid’s husband and three children of bridesmaids who didn’t have direct contact with 29-year-old Amber Vinson.

Nixon said the bridesmaids and Vinson were at an Akron bridal shop last Saturday….

Fortunately, none are showing symptoms…

The funny thing is, this time things actually ARE that desperate for the Democrats

Among the “end of the world as we know it” emails I’ve received today from the Democratic Party is this plaintive lament:

We’re out of people to email you.

In the last week, you should have received an email from:

— President Obama
— Nancy Pelosi
— And every other Democrat on the planet

But it just wasn’t enough. The Koch Brothers’ last-minute ad blitz just made it too tough to catch up before last night’s deadline.

We’re not making this stuff up. Control of Congress is at stake. We’re dangerously behind. And we just fell short on the final public fundraising deadline of the election.

So here’s our last ditch effort: we’re extending the triple-match TODAY ONLY. We need 9OOO more donations in the next 12 hours if we want any shot at giving President Obama a Democratic victory in this election.

We’re begging, Brad. Can you chip in right now?…

As you know if you’ve ever found yourself on one of these email lists, all of them sound like that. The world’s about to end, you’ve been reached out to by people pretending to be various famous party members, and there’s a demon on the other side. With Democrats, the demon is usually the Koch Brothers or Karl Rove or their imaginary War on Women.

Basically, they’re always freaking out.

But as I read this particular cry for help, something struck me: This time, the Democrats really are in dire straits. Not that that matters, of course — I wouldn’t give two cents for either party to come out on top. But for once, all their moaning and wailing and gnashing of teeth actually has a foundation.

Every indicator out there shows that Republicans are going to win pretty much across the board. They’re going to keep the House, and win the Senate. All the energy and enthusiasm is on the GOP side, all the depression on the Democratic side.

Things are looking so bad for the Dems, such tectonic forces are at work, that it really doesn’t matter whether you give them money or not. (And of course, I would urge you not to.)

The Democrats are in the same situation Mr. Posner was in when Billy Jack told him he was going to take THIS foot and kick him on THAT side of his head:

There’s not a damn’ thing they’re going to be able to do about it.

Join us on Twitter tonight to talk about Walk for Life!

As you know, this Saturday is the Walk for Life, the Palmetto Health Foundation event that raises money and awareness to fight breast cancer in our community.

As you also know, each year I walk in the event with my wife, a breast cancer survivor, and several of my children and grandchildren.

And I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the following for having contributed money to the bradwarthen.com Walk team’s effort (in addition to some of my family members, not listed):

  • Debra Brooks
  • Dianne Chinnes
  • Doug Ross
  • Mr. Canute Magalhaes
  • Mr. Jeff Miller
  • Mr. Mark Stewart
  • Trip DuBard

Thanks so much, everybody! And if you have not contributed and would still like to, just go to this page and click on “Donate.”

Now, you may not know that I and several others will be Tweeting about Walk for Life from 7:30 to 8 p.m. this very night.

Come join the conversation!

Ebola in the U.S. has now reached the critical ‘WTF?’ stage

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So, let’s review the chart here, shall we?

  • Patient presents at Dallas hospital with symptoms consistent with Ebola. He tells ER staff that he’s been in a country affected by the outbreak. They send him home.
  • He comes back to the hospital days later, is finally diagnosed and treated, but dies — which of course is going to happen in far too many cases with this horrific disease.
  • It takes DAYS for anyone to take it upon themselves to put on hazmat suits and go clean out the apartment where this guy was sick before going into the hospital. Human beings are living in that apartment during that time.
  • We learn that a nurse at the hospital that treated the deceased has contracted the disease. This shatters our hubris about how, here in the U.S. we know how to treat infectious diseases safely.
  • Today, we learn that a second nurse who treated this patient is sick with Ebola. Which makes us wonder what in the world kinds of procedures were in place at that hospital. And whether Ebola transmits a LOT more easily than we had been told.
  • Between being infected and showing symptoms, the second nurse flew to Cleveland and back, the return trip on the day before coming down with the disease. Authorities are now trying to reach the 132 people who were on board  Frontier Airlines flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas with her on Monday. She was supposedly being monitored for signs of Ebola during the period in which she took this trip.

OK, so maybe the proper, professional reaction to these developments isn’t “WTF?,” but a more dignified, “Really?”

But a great deal of incredulity is a natural reaction, along with more than a little alarm.

As we speak, all over the country, hospitals and government health officials are (one hopes) reviewing plans and procedures. Which is good, because Ebola is horrible enough, and enough people are going to suffer and die, without committing boneheaded errors that help it along…

Before the last few weeks, everything I knew about Ebola came from Tom Clancy novels — specifically, Executive Orders (in which a fictional Iranian regime launches a deliberate germ-warfare attack on the United States using the virus, infecting thousands) and Rainbow Six (in which a super-radical environmental group, backed by a billionaire businessman, attempts to wipe out the rest of the human race using the disease).

Ever read a Tom Clancy novel? He was a great respecter of expertise, of whatever type — military, medical, what have you, his tales were filled with calm, super-competent professionals who always knew exactly what to do in a dangerous situation, and usually did it flawlessly. He was a great admirer not only of technology, but of procedure. When a patient came in with a high fever, nausea and petechiae, the staff swept into action sealing off the area and instituting ironclad safety procedures, making sure none of the medical professionals contracts the disease, and even if they do, that they don’t take it out into the world with them.

Apparently, it doesn’t always work that way in the real world. To say the least…

Did you see last night’s debate? I missed it…

I was traveling back from Memphis and missed last night’s gubernatorial debate. I do have these two releases from the SC Democratic and Republican parties. But somehow, I don’t think I’m getting the full story.

First, the Democrats:

Harrison: Sheheen Clear Winner of Debate As Haley Caught in Multiple Lies

Charleston, SC — SCDP Chairman Jaime Harrison released this statement following tonight’s first gubernatorial debate in Charleston:

“Sen. Sheheen was the clear winner of tonight’s debate. Vincent Sheheen made a compelling case for his plan to bring honest leadership and real accountability to South Carolina. Nikki Haley got caught in multiple lies about her jobs numbers, her record of repeatedly violating our ethics laws, and her failure to lead on roads, education, and helping hardworking families. There is a clear choice this November, and Vincent Sheheen is the only choice for South Carolinians who want a governor they can trust.”

###

Now, the Republicans:

Press Release: SCGOP Chair Moore congratulates Governor Haley on Debate Victory

North Charleston, S.C. – South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore issued the following statement tonight following Governor Haley’s gubernatorial debate victory:

“Tonight’s debate was a resounding victory for Governor Nikki Haley. Governor Haley is the only candidate with a clear, conservative record of results and a positive vision for South Carolina,” said SCGOP Chairman Matt Moore. “Vincent Sheheen’s mud-slinging debate performance, coupled with his full-on embrace of President Obama’s failed policies, shows why his campaign is failing and he’s the wrong choice for South Carolina.”

###

Reading stuff like that is SO dispiriting. Makes me depressed about the whole process, and glad that I missed the debate, if it was anything like those descriptions.

It also reminds me of why I wanted to switch from news to editorial years ago. The “objective news” model holds that if someone tells you the sky is white, you dutifully write that down and then run to somebody else who tells you the sky is black, and you write that down carefully. Then you write a story that reads like this:

Joe Blow today said the sky is white. However, John Jones insisted that it is black.

And you dust your hands and congratulate yourself for having written a balanced story. Trouble is, you haven’t told your readers the truth about the sky, which you can see for yourself. Opinion writing allows you to say that the sky is, indeed, blue.

So how about it? Any opinions about last night’s debate?

Open Thread for Monday, October 13, 2014

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First, happy birthday to my Uncle Woody.

Now, here are some possible topics:

  1. CDC: Unclear how many in Dallas were exposed to Ebola — First, we heard about how this got out of control in Africa because those poor, benighted folk lack the medical care we have in the developed world. Then, we tsk-tsked about how Spain couldn’t even protect its health care workers. Now, it turns out we can’t, either.
  2. Vatican Signals More Lenient Stance on Gays and Divorce — I read this, but didn’t see any news in it. I think this, and the Pope’s previous comments, seem like big news to people who didn’t understand the Church to start with. It’s all a matter of emphasis. I applaud what Pope Francis has chosen to emphasize, but it’s no radical departure.
  3. Kim Jong-un reappears after absence — Oh, well. It was too much of a good thing to last.

I tried to find something local, but I didn’t see much but crime and sports. But maybe there’s something good that I missed. In any case, y’all talk about what interests you

Haley, Sheheen SHOULD join together to call for a ‘yes’ vote on adjutant general reform

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On Nov. 4, South Carolina voters have the chance to put an end to an embarrassing anomaly — we have the power to cease to be the only state in the union that elects its adjutant general, the leader of the state’s National Guard.

The reasons why it’s a horrible idea to have a popularly elected general are many; Cindi Scoppe goes over some of them in her column today. It’s something I’ve never had to think about very hard, because when I was a kid, I lived in a place where it was accepted that that military officers got mixed up in politics.

In fact, it was far from an abstraction to me. We lived in the upstairs of a large house that was owned by a captain in the Ecuadorean Navy. One day, the captain asked if he could borrow our part of the duplex. My parents went out, and my brothers and I went downstairs to stay in the captain’s part of the house, while the captain and an Ecuadorean admiral met upstairs in our home. The next day, the president of the country had been put on a plane to Panama, the admiral was the head of the new military junta running the country, and our landlord was the minister of agriculture.

Actually, given what a disaster el presidente had been, Ecuador was no worse off. But in a country such as hours, with it’s deeply treasured culture of constitutional government and subservience of the military to legal authority, such a development would be catastrophic. Fortunately in our national history, such events have remained the stuff of political fiction such as “Seven Days in May.”

Except in South Carolina, where we require our top general to be a politician first (and really don’t even require him to have any military background at all).

Fortunately, our current adjutant general, Bob Livingston, is a well-qualified officer who also understands that we need to do away with this anomaly. That’s a very good thing, since his predecessors resisted reform, and the Guard followed their lead, and the electorate followed the Guard.

But now we have the opportunity to change the situation. We also have two people running for governor — the incumbent, Nikki Haley, and Sen. Vincent Sheheen — who are both known for advocating this reform (as well as doing away with other unnecessarily elected constitutional officers). In her column today, Cindi put forth a great idea:

Most of all, we need to hear from the most visible advocates of empowering governors to act like governors: Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Vincent Sheheen. This is a signature issue for both of them. It’s not too much to ask them to set aside their bickering for long enough to make a joint appearance — or to cut a TV ad together — asking voters to vote yes for the military meritocracy.

If they’re not willing to put some skin in the game, they’ll have no one but themselves to blame if we keep electing the adjutant general — and all of those other constitutional officers who ought to be appointed.

That would be wonderful on so many levels — including the first level, which is that it would make this long-awaited reform all that much more likely to occure.

No blog for you! My laptop’s dead…

Here I am at a Barnes and Noble where I came to do a little blogging, and… my laptop won’t turn on. (I’m typing this on my iPad.)

I turned it off fully charged and put it in my bag two days ago, so the battery can’t be dead. And even if it IS, it’s plugged in to the wall. So the battery’s status shouldn’t matter. But it’s cold, and dead. No lights come on. No sound. No response whatsoever.

Allow me to indulge in a bit of British-style understatement: This is distressing.

Open Thread for Thursday, October 9, 2014

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First, happy John Lennon’s birthday and Ecuadorean Independence Day!

Now here are some topics, in case you have trouble coming up with one:

  1. Policy Council chief says we should scrap SC ethics law – Ashley Landess’ main point seems to be that the whole Legislature-based system is rotten, so just let offenses be tried in criminal courts. There’s a related story in The State about Bobby Harrell’s PAC.
  2. SC Supremes say hold off on same-sex licenses – All is on hold until a decision in a U.S. District Court case. I think. It’s complicated.
  3. Where is Kim Jong-un? I wonder — if we find him, will we also find Waldo?
  4. Ebola — Pick a story — any story — I’m just thinking we haven’t had a conversation about this yet.

Or, whatever y’all want to talk about…

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Quick: What’s wrong with this electoral map?

Santos map

I mean, aside from it being about a fictional election.

Yes, I’m still obsessing about the absurdity of Democrat Matt Santos winning South Carolina in the seventh season of “The West Wing.” I don’t care that none of y’all were interested enough to comment on it yesterday. I’m interested enough for all of us.

During my workout this morning, in “Election Day Part II,” I learned one more supposed reason why the Democratic presidential nominee won SC (in addition to the two I mentioned yesterday, neither of which was convincing): It was mentioned (by the opposition) that Santos had spent so much time in SC, he could have been living here.

Well, that certainly would have been a departure from what we’re used to seeing — a Democratic presidential nominee actually visiting South Carolina.

But I don’t think it would make the difference. It would take a lot more than that, which is why Democratic presidential nominees don’t come to South Carolina during the general campaign.

I’m with Josh Lyman, who understood that there was something wrong if his guy was losing Vermont, but winning SC. He sort of freaked out about it, and who could blame him? His writers had put him in an impossible situation. Would Aaron Sorkin (who did not write these later episodes) have done that? I don’t think so.

Look at the map above. The Democrat lost California, but won SC? Mind you, there were extraordinary reasons for this. First, it was Vinick‘s home state. Second, Leo’s death was announced with another hour of voting to go in California. OK, fine — but if West Coast voters were balking at Santos because of Leo, then how did he win Oregon and Washington state?

You can see at a glance how SC sticks out like a sore thumb in blue. The Democrat would win Virginia or North Carolina or Florida way before winning here. It just doesn’t add up…

Sorry, but there’s NO WAY Matt Santos won South Carolina

The Santos-Vinick debate.

The Santos-Vinick debate.

This morning while working out, I saw episode 16 of the seventh and last season of “The West Wing,” the one titled, “Election Day Part I.

It’s the one that ended with Leo (my favorite character!) being found in his hotel room. Dead, I’m guessing (this was originally aired several episodes after John Spencer’s actual death). The episode ended with people rushing into the room after Annabeth finds him and calls for help.

So I’m braced for an emotionally wrenching Part II.

Only six episodes left…

But before we move on, I must offer my one criticism of this episode: As someone who has been closely covering SC politics for 27 years, I can tell you that it is utterly incredible that Santos would have won South Carolina.

Nothing happened in this fictional campaign that could possibly have overcome the state’s strong preference for the GOP.

Sure it’s conceivable that one of these days, a Democratic presidential nominee could win this state again. But it would take extraordinary circumstances. It most certainly would not be this candidate, who ran on a platform of public education and healthcare reform.

Speaking for myself and possibly other South Carolina swing voters, I found his obsession with public education — something that is not a legitimate concern of the federal government — quite off-putting. Santos projected himself as a liberal’s liberal. Not someone who is likely to make this red state change its mind.

I’m not sure I would have (as Kate Harper apparently did) voted for Arnie Vinick, but I found him a fairly appealing candidate. I would need to know more about both candidates and their platforms than I got from the show. But I know that Santos, as sympathetically as he was portrayed, still did not gain a lock on my support.

The two explanations offered in passing, over the last few episodes, for South Carolina’s move into the Santos column were:

  1. The nuclear plant accident in California. A couple of episodes back, it is noted that states with nuclear plants were starting to go for Santos, because of his complete opposition to nuclear power (and because Vinick had pushed to get the plant where the accident occurred up and running 25 years earlier). I don’t think SC would abandon its acceptance of nuclear power that easily. I know that I saw nothing in the San Andreo accident to make me decide nuclear power qua nuclear power was unsafe. Then again, maybe I’m not typical.
  2. A greater-than-expected turnout of black voters in SC. This is implied by the fact that halfway through Election Day, as exit poll numbers come in, Stephen Root’s character (a member of the Vinick campaign team) dismisses the SC numbers because the exit poll has “oversampled” black voters. He draws that conclusion because the proportion of black respondents is higher than the proportion of registered voters who are black. What he is apparently missing is that black voters did indeed turn out in higher-than-expected numbers. I have seen nothing to indicate that that would be likely. In fact, an earlier episode showed Santos having a problem with black voters elsewhere in the country, and there’s no explanation of why SC would buck that trend.

Yeah, I know. It’s make-believe. I’m overthinking it.

But I’m just trying to squeeze as much as I can from these last few episodes. So little time left…

 

Time for change: Scoppe column on judicial vote-trading

Did you see the exclusive story in The State the other day to this effect:

State and federal law enforcement officials are questioning S.C. legislators about potential illegal vote swapping in February’s race that re-elected the state’s Supreme Court chief justice, multiple sources have told The State….

Did you find yourself confused in reading it? Did you think to yourself, Don’t lawmakers trade votes all the time, on all sorts of issues? Since when is that illegal?

Well, Cindi Scoppe helps walk you through all that in her column today. She explains that yes, lawmakers routinely swap votes on issues — the General Assembly would get even less done if they did not.

But she also explains how a series of horrific events in 1995 that caused lawmakers to elect less-qualified jurists to the bench led to reform, and the practice was banned — with regard to judicial selection. (And ironically, the reform was passed by a vote-swapping deal between House and Senate conferees.)

Here’s her recap of what happened back then to lead to the reform:

it starts on a sunny spring day in 1995, when the Legislature elected E.C. Burnett to the Supreme Court and Kay Hearn to the Court of Appeals and re-elected Danny Martin to the Circuit Court. Mr. Burnett and Ms. Hearn were qualified for the positions, but analyses by the S.C. Bar and the Legislature’s judicial screening committee showed that they were the least qualified candidates in their hotly contested races. The committee found Mr. Martin didn’t understand the law at all, and the Bar had declared him unfit for the bench.

As senators filed out of the House chamber after the election, then-Sen. Robert Ford bragged about how it all happened: The Legislative Black Caucus pledged 20 votes for Hearn in exchange for Horry County votes for Martin and 18 votes for Burnett in return for four Spartanburg County votes for Martin; another five Spartanburg County legislators agreed not to vote in the Martin race.

“All kind of deals was made,” Sen. Ford told reporters. “I had to sell my soul to 10 devils.”

No one denied the deals, because vote trading always had been a part of judicial elections — whether the votes involved other judicial races or legislation. And why not? Trading votes is a natural part of the legislative process….

As so often during his lamentable lawmaking career, there was the brazen Robert Ford, standing as the poster child of bad government. But of course, he was just the most visible manifestation of something much more widespread. Perhaps we even owe him a debt of gratitude for making the unsavory situation so much more obvious.

That’s all history, but the thing that deserves even more attention is this conclusion:

I supported the current system for a long time, because it was such a huge improvement over what came before. But it never was a good system, because it encourages the sort of logrolling that is alleged to have occurred in the chief justice race, and because it allows one branch of government to control the judiciary.

And if one person rules the House with an iron hand — one person who is not the governor, who is not elected by all the voters of this state, and who is not accountable to the public for his power — it allows that one person to control the judiciary. As felt so disturbingly to be the case as we watched Mr. Harrell’s treatment in our courts in the weeks and months leading up to his indictment this summer on public corruption charges.

That’s sort of new, and sort of not.

I have long held the position that we should switch to a different method of choosing judges, preferably one like the federal system — the governor nominates, and the Senate confirms. That spreads out the power across the other two branches of government, and makes sure that the one individual having extensive say in the matter is one elected by all of the people, not just one House district.

But since the reforms of the 1990s, which did much to inject merit into the current system of election by the General Assembly, I (and the editorial board) acknowledged that the system was much better than it had been, and so we let judicial selection slide to a back burner. We still advocated for change when the subject came up, but we didn’t drive it the way we did so many other issues.

The events of the past year or two — with Bobby Harrell trying to bat the judiciary around like cat with a chew toy, so soon after a dramatic example of his power in choosing justices — mean it’s time to move real, substantive reform to the front rank of priorities.

It’s high time to stop letting the Legislature choose judges, all by its lonesome.

Great day in the mornin’! New Sheheen ad

In “What About Bob?,” Bill Murray famously said,

There are two types of people in this world: Those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don’t. My ex-wife loves him.

So true. And the same might truthfully be said about the phrase that Gov. Nikki Haley requires Cabinet-agency employees to utter when they answer the phone at work: “It’s a great day in South Carolina!”

There are some of us who find such chipper cheerleading off-putting, and are appalled at the idea that serious people with serious jobs are required to say it, regardless of the context of the call, thousands of times.

There are others who see it as harmless, perhaps even charming.

In any case, Vincent Sheheen has a new TV ad pitched to appeal to those of us in the first group:

NEW TV AD: “Great Day” Uses Haley Catch Phrase to Hit Her on Failures for Families
 “It’s a great day in South Carolina! For Nikki Haley, maybe. But not for South Carolina families.”
Camden, SC – Sheheen for South Carolina today released a new television ad using Nikki Haley’s mandated state catch phrase to shine light on her dishonesty, incompetence and unethical record that has hurt South Carolina’s hardworking families. The spot, “Great Day” will begin airing today as part of a substantial six-figure statewide TV buy. “Great Day” is the sixth television ad Sheheen for South Carolina has run in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
 “Nikki Haley says it’s a great day in South Carolina, but that’s just not true for our hardworking families. Nikki Haley has lied about her jobs numbers, hurt public education, sent our tax dollars to New Jersey, covered-up her worst scandals, and continually refuses to be honest with the people of South Carolina – starting from the moment she and her staff answer the phone,” said Andrew Whalen, Sheheen’s campaign manager. “South Carolinians deserve a governor who cares more about how things are on the ground than about how she can spin it on national television. It’s time for honest leadership and real accountability from a governor South Carolina can trust.”

Here’s supporting material the campaign sent out as part of the release:

Claim Backup
“Hello! It’s a great day in South Carolina.”
Call Nikki Haley’s state government and that’s what you hear.

 

ALT: Call Nikki Haley’s office and that’s what you hear.

But Nikki Haley vetoed teacher pay increases

 

CG: Nikki Haley

CG: Vetoed Teacher Pay

“Gov. Haley Vetoes $10 Million for Teacher Raises,” Robert Kittle, WSAV, 7/06/2012:

Gov. Nikki Haley has vetoed 81 items from South Carolina’s budget, including $10 million for local school districts to give teachers raises.

 

while giving her own staff raises.

 

CG: Gave Her Staff Raises

“Gov. Haley sets premium staff pay,” Jim Davenport, Associated Press, 1/13/2011:

Gov. Nikki Haley will pay her chief of staff $125,000 per year, a salary that eclipses her own pay and is $27,000 more than former Gov. Mark Sanford paid his chief of staff, according to records obtained today by The Associated Press.

 

It’s a great day in South Carolina!
And Haley sent our Medicaid dollars to other states,

 

CG: Nikki Haley

CG: Opposed Medicaid, Depriving Thousands of Healthcare

“SC’s poorest left out if Medicaid expansion turned down,” Joey Holleman, The State, 1/16/2013:

Arizona’s Republican Gov. Jan Brewer surprised many Monday by saying she would support Medicaid expansion in her state, saying if Arizona turned down the money it would just go to insure citizens of other states. S.C. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, said he hopes Haley will make the same decision, noting South Carolina can accept the expansion money and back out of the program in three years when the federal money runs out.

 

Kaiser Health News, 11/26/2013:

About 1 million people are enrolled in Medicaid in South Carolina. The state estimates nearly 300,000 people are eligible but not enrolled. In its fiscal year ending June 30, the state expects about 130,000 people to enroll, and that number will grow to 162,000 by June 30, 2015.

 

If the state had expanded Medicaid under the health law, it would have extended coverage to another 340,000 people.

denying healthcare to seniors South Carolina’s Office on Aging explains the benefits to seniors 55 and over, but because of Nikki Haley seniors aged 55 to 64 are not covered by Medicaid expansion.

 

South Carolina Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging:

Benefits available to Senior Citizens in South Carolina….

 

Age 55
Automobile insurance credit is mandated for persons who are 55 years of age or older and have successfully completed a driver training course approved by the Department of Public Safety

 

 

and children. By not expanding Medicaid thousands of children who are eligible for coverage are far less likely to receive coverage.  Numerous studies, and the results from states that have expanded coverage have shown that doing so drastically increases the number of children covered.

 

“Administration touts benefits of Medicaid expansion for children,” Ferdous Al-Faruque, The Hill, 7/11/2014:

States that expanded access to Medicaid under ObamaCare greatly increased access to healthcare for the poor, especially for children, according to the Obama administration….

 

The CMS study notes the 26 states and the District of Columbia, which expanded Medicaid, saw 17 percent more people enroll in the Medicaid and CHIP programs.

 

Overall, the agency says 11.4 percent more people enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid by the end of May compared to average enrollment between July and September 2013.

 

“Medicaid Coverage for Parents Under the Affordable Care Act,” Georgetown University Center for Families and Children, June 2012:

Increasing coverage among parents is expected to have a number of positive impacts…. Parent coverage also appears to increase children’s coverage, as studies and state experience have consistently shown that covering parents improves their children’s coverage rates.

 

“Coverage of Parents Helps Children, Too,” Leighton Ku and Matt Broaddus, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 10/20/2006:

Covering low-income parents in programs such as Medicaid and SCHIP increases enrollment by eligible children, with the result that fewer children go uninsured. Studies show that expansions of coverage for low-income parents lead to greater Medicaid or SCHIP participation by eligible children and reduce the percentage of eligible children who remain uninsured. The studies also indicate that covering parents helps eligible low-income children retain their coverage when it comes up for renewal so that fewer children lose insurance at that time, improving the continuity of children’s coverage and reducing the number of periods without insurance.

 

a great day in South Carolina!
And Haley’s Department of Social Services has failed our most vulnerable children.

 

CG: Nikki Haley

CG: DSS Children Abused, Even Killed

“DSS Death: ‘The System Failed Robert’,” Clark Fouraker, WLTX, 2/24/2014:

Despite multiple reports to the South Carolina Department of Social Services, steps were never taken to remove Robert Guinyard Jr. from his home before he died.

 

“They were notified on multiple occasions of abuse with this child,” said Richland County Coroner Gary Watts.

 

“SC senator: DSS must face questions about child abuse deaths,” Adam Beam, The State, 10/3/2013:

Laura Hudson, a member of the state Child Fatality Advisory Committee that reviews suspicious child deaths, said 312 children have died since 2009 while involved in one way or another with Social Services.

 

DSS, child protective services will be audited in light of safety concerns,” Prentiss Findlay, Post and Courier, 11/27/2012:

Reports of children starved to death, sexually abused for months and dying of treatable illness prompted a local legislator Monday to call for an audit of the state Department of Social Services.

 

a great day in South Carolina!
For Nikki Haley, maybe.  But not for South Carolina families.

 

CG: Nikki Haley

CG: Hurting South Carolina

What do you think of it?

So which is it? Is SC economy in the tank, or doing great?

Apparently riffing on a release sent out by the SC Democratic Party, Will Folks writes:

Is it a “great day in South Carolina?”

Not if you live in Cheraw or Bennettsville, S.C.  These two rural towns are reeling after a recent announcement from Bi-Lo – a regional grocery store chain that operates roughly 200 supermarkets in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

According to reporter Mary Edwards of WMBF TV (NBC – Myrtle Beach/ Florence, S.C.), Bi-Lo is shutting down stores in Cheraw and Bennettsville – a move that will leave 130 employees out of work.

The job losses are coming sooner rather than later, too, with the store’s regional public relations manager telling Edwards the stores will be closing prior to November 19 of this year.

Happy Thanksgiving, right?…

Remember Colonial Stores?

Remember Colonial Stores?

As a native of Bennettsville, I can remember when it had a thriving retail environment, with a bustling Main Street and several supermarkets in the downtown area — Winn-Dixie, Colonial (anybody remember Colonial Stores?), an A&P, and later, a Harris Teeter.

Not so much anymore. I haven’t counted the grocery stores lately, but it’s been awhile since downtown has been what it was.

But the view can still look pretty good from Columbia, as Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt writes today in The State — and he has plenty of facts on his side:

By any measure, South Carolina is on a roll. Over the past four years, we have been making major gains — gains that are bringing economic stability and opportunity to communities across the state.bobby_hitt_110111

We’ve celebrated big recruitment wins, including announcements by the world’s top automotive and aerospace companies, boosted opportunities for small businesses and created an environment that encourages existing industry to continue expanding in our state.

The facts are clear: Trend lines show unemployment on the decline while the number of South Carolinians working has risen to historic highs. Our economy is humming, and companies around the world are choosing South Carolina as a place where they can succeed….

That team approach starts at the top, with Gov. Nikki Haley personally invested and fully integrated in what we’re doing, meeting and speaking with prospects or our existing companies. As the CEO of the state, she understands the importance of customer service and a personal touch. In fact, one thing we hear from clients all over the world is that she readily gives them her cell phone number and says to call her with any issues….

So which is it? Is our economy in the dumps, or thriving?

Um, yeah… the U.S. Chamber may be (slightly) cooler than I thought it was…

Um, yeahhhh....

Um, yeahhhh….

Or at least, it has a greater sense of irony.

As evidenced by the following Tweet: