A couple of Ariail cartoons for you tree-huggers out there

Ariail CVSC

Ann Timberlake of Conservation Voters of South Carolina used the above Robert Ariail cartoon, from back in July, to illustrate this release today:

Folks,

This morning’s article in The State on the Pinewood landfill and the risk of hazardous waste leaking into Lake Marion reminds us all of the importance of strong leadership to protect our drinking water and our natural areas. We are troubled by the conflicting reports about DHEC and oversight at the landfill.  Governor Haley’s silence is notable.

A green governor would stand up to out-of-state polluters, and guard against the waste that would poison our lakes.

I urge you to keep that in mind as you head to the polls next Tuesday.

I’m glad to see Ms. Timberlake is a fan. But aren’t we all?

She could also have included this other one, from this week…

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Video and text on the Ervin endorsement of Sheheen

wistv.com – Columbia, South Carolina |

In case you wanted some more info on the Tom Ervin endorsement of Vincent Sheheen yesterday… above is some unedited video of the announcement, and below are Ervin’s prepared remarks:

TOM ERVIN’S PREPARED REMARKS FOR HIS ENDORSEMENT OF SEN. VINCENT SHEHEEN

 GREENVILLE, S.C. — Remarks from press conference on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014.

Remarks from Tom Ervin:

My campaign for governor was based on two core principles: one, that we deserve a new governor we can trust and two, our challenges are bigger than political parties and partisan politics.

I promised my supporters I would have an impact on this race.

Today, I suspended my campaign. I’m pleased to stand here and remain true to our principles while endorsing Senator Vincent Sheheen as the next Governor of South Carolina.

Why Senator Sheheen over Governor Haley? Simple. It comes down to three issues: 1) Gov. Haley’s ethics 2) domestic violence, and 3)  DSS.

It’s these three issues that led me to Support Sheheen.

I know some of my supporters will be disappointed about my decision today, but I encourage you to consider supporting Senator Sheheen. Vincent provides our state with direction with transparency, competence and compassion. Three things we so desperately need in the Governor’s office.

This is one of the most important elections in my lifetime. That’s why I believe it was necessary to put aside my personal ambitions for the greater good of the state I love so much. Today I am endorsing Sen. Sheheen so that our state can receive the leadership we deserve on ethics, domestic violence and DSS.

Thanks for your support and please consider supporting Senator Sheheen. It’s time to fill the leadership void in the Governor’s office, and Senator Sheheen is the person to do it.

A couple of broadcast ads from House District 78

The above Beth Bernstein ad came out a couple of days ago. Just getting around to sharing it now.

And as soon as I posted it, Beth’s opponent, Republican Jeff Mobley, commented below to call our attention to his radio ad, below. So I rewrote the post to include that prominently…

Wow. NOW Mia McLeod is attacking Carolyn Click

Here’s the latest escalation from Rep. Mia McLeod, who really seems to be going around the bend on this thing:

Okay, Ms. Click, so you write front-page fabrications about race in Richland Two on Sunday and then again on Tuesday and Wednesday of the same week? Guess The State must be hard-pressed for real news…and real journalists.

Race wasn’t an issue in Richland Two until you and your White Citizens Council (WCC) buddies made it one.Mia leopard jacket

The illusion of racial tension and animosity you guys have created continues to reveal your true colors. In fact, the same WCC spokesperson quoted in Sunday’s story, had this to add today,

“These people are playing hardball—if they get control they will drive off all the competent people…”

Funny thing is…”these people” kinda reminds me of “those people” and “you people.”

Clearly these are “your people,” Ms. Click, since you’re working overtime to help disseminate and lend credibility to their racist chatter.

Thankfully, somebody at The State had the good sense (not you, of course) to remove his racist rant from “the story” you originally posted online last night, as well as the printed version today.

More proof that “control”—not race, is the real issue. “If they get it,” means we’ve never had it. Guess that’s what scares y’all so much.

And you so desperately want the few readers you do have, to believe that I’m Amelia McKie’s biggest supporter. Guess that’s why you’ve conveniently omitted thousands of dollars in contributions and a diverse cross-section of her contributors from your “story.”

Too bad that while you’re working hard to undermine and discredit Mrs. McKie, the front-runner in this school board race, you’ve actually disclosed even more “evidence” of the collaboration between the current Administration and the WCC.

Obviously, the campaign contributions of current R2 Administrators to some of the WCC’s “chosen four” is evidence of collaboration and conflict—not to mention, impropriety. But I’m sure that’s well above your pay grade, Ms. Click, since The State must not require you to check the rules or the facts before you print your fabrications.

And for what it’s worth, I didn’t compare Debbie Hamm to Lillian McBride in my blog. I simply referenced incompetence as their common denominator.

Even my Senator chimed in to “reaffirm” his support for Debbie Hamm. But, this isn’t about her. Or is it?

Anyone who thinks she’s “building morale” in R2, is out of touch with everybody but the DO. For her loyal supporters, friendship trumps everything.

What a sobering reality check for the rest of us in Richland Two.

Let’s channel our energy and efforts towards a true commitment to excellence in education, for the benefit of all Richland Two students.

For those who are afraid of losing it, it’s clearly about control. For the rest of us, it’s truly about moving our students, communities and District forward, in a better direction.

It’s time to silence the rhetoric, the rancor and the manufactured issues of race. Next Tuesday, November 4, I’m counting on voters to do just that.

Maybe then, Ms. Click, you can focus your attention on real news, for a change.

Quote that….

Speaking as a 35-year newspaper veteran, I can tell you with authority that this is real news, and Carolyn Click is a real journalist. A good one. I’ve known her for a couple of decades, and I think this is the first time I’ve heard anyone call her professionalism into question.

And you can quote that….

The issue her opponents inexplicably leave on the table: Nikki Haley’s disregard for the rule of law

I don’t suppose we should be surprised that Nikki Haley treats “lawyer” as some sort of cussword, because she’s shown time and again that she has little regard for the law itself.

Cindi Scoppe detailed, in her column yesterday, the known instances in which our governor has acted as a law unto herself since taking office. Here’s the list:

Gov. Haley first overstepped her authority at the end of her first legislative session, when she ordered the Legislature back into “extraordinary” session because it failed to pass a bill that she supported. (It was a bill I supported as well.) That would have been counterproductive even if she had the constitutional authority to do it, because it angered the legislators whose votes were needed to pass the bill. But she did not have the constitutional authority to do it. Legislative leaders sued, and the Supreme Court overturned her order.

Before that first year ended, she had assumed police powers, unilaterally imposing a curfew on Occupy Columbia protesters who had camped out on the State House grounds, and then having them arrested when they refused to comply with her unlawful order. (I think camping out on the grounds should have been illegal, but at the time it simply was not.) In issuing a restraining order, a federal judge noted that the governor was “making up” the rules as she went along. Our bill for that incident alone was more than a half million dollars.

In early 2012, when the state Supreme Court ordered party and election officials to obey a ridiculous but valid state law, Gov. Haley marched over to the state Republican Party headquarters and persuaded the GOP executive committee to ignore that order and put her favorite candidate back on the ballot. The Election Commission refused to acknowledge that lawless action, saving the governor and the party the ignominy of being found in contempt of court.

Later that year, the Legislature passed a budget that fully covered the increased cost of health-insurance premiums for state employees and retirees. Gov. Haley could have vetoed the funding but chose not to. Instead, when the perfunctory matter of approving insurance rates came before the Budget and Control Board, she persuaded the treasurer and comptroller general to join her in requiring state employees and retirees to pay part of the increase themselves. And again, I agree with her policy preference, but she simply did not have the authority to act. State employees sued, and the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the governor and her co-conspirators had violated the constitution by usurping the Legislature’s power to write the law.

As far as I know, Gov. Haley has not directly overstepped her authority since then. But her fingerprints were all over her DHEC director’s decision last year to tell hospitals, nursing homes and other health providers that they could ignore a state law that required them to get a certificate of need before making large purchases, after the Legislature failed to override her veto of the funding for the program. Once again, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that this was completely lawless — but not before Lexington Medical Center and several other health providers spent huge amounts of money on expansion projects that they might have to abandon. And we’ll pay for that as well, through our medical insurance.

We are supposed to be a state of laws and not of men — or women, either. But our governor doesn’t get that.

Yesterday, at a lunch in connection with the Bernardin Lecture at USC (I’m on the committee; last night we hosted Sister Joan Chittister as our guest lecturer), the philosophy professor next to me got to talking first about Heidegger, then about the rise of the Nazis. At one point, he said something like (I wasn’t taking notes), “It’s a terrible thing when leaders see themselves as no longer bound by law.” He wasn’t talking about the Holocaust, or dragging the world into war. He was simply bemoaning the loss of the rule of law, as Hitler transitioned from chancellor to Führer.

Being very careful to say that we were talking about something several degrees of magnitude less evil or severe, I noted that we were seeing the same sad principle at work here in SC.

But Nikki Haley is no Hitler, not even a minor-league one. In fact, it’s not even a “degrees of magnitude” thing. I don’t see any evil at all in her. What I see is a terrible naivete, of a sort that you don’t ever want in someone in charge.

I think that at every stage in the incidents Cindi detailed, our governor meant well — by her lights. She meant no harm to anyone. As Cindi noted, in some instances she was trying to do something good. The restructuring measure she wanted lawmakers to come back and pass was something our state needed (and eventually got, largely thanks to Vincent Sheheen). And no, people shouldn’t be allowed to camp on the State House grounds. Trouble was, there was no law saying so at the time. The shenanigans she got up to with the state party were far less benign, but I think she honestly believed it was good for her chosen candidates to win.

No, the problem with Nikki Haley is that she simply doesn’t get something fundamental about the concept of the rule of law.

This is of a piece with her cluelessness on other things that an educated person who understands how the world works would get. If you’ll recall, back in the days that I was still endorsing her for legislative office, I found disturbing her unquestioning faith in such simplistic and erroneous nostrums as “I want to run government like a business.” Yes, a lot of people say that, but not people who understand government and business, and how they are not only different but supposed to be different. (You might call this, with apologies to Hannah Arendt, a case of being banal without being evil.)

She is innocent of such understanding. That doesn’t make her a bad person. But it makes her unqualified to govern.

As Cindi ended her column:

That is not just notable. That is frightening. That is the stuff of dictators and tyrants. That, more than policy or personal characteristics, is reason to replace her.

It’s frustrating that neither Vincent Sheheen nor Tom Ervin has pointed out this glaring abuse of power on the governor’s part. Perhaps they think voters wouldn’t get it, or wouldn’t care. And indeed, a lot of people — especially those who find the governor’s chip-on-the-shoulder, anti-intellectual populism appealing — would not. They’d dismiss talk of the rule of law as “lawyer double-talk” or some such, I suppose.

Perhaps such ignorance can be excused in a voter, if you’re really inclined to be forgiving. But not in one who would govern.

Ervin endorsement reduces Haley camp to incoherence (which is kind of weird, since they’re ahead and all)

Ervin campaigning with Sheheen in Charleston this morning. Photo is from Sheheen's Twitter feed.

Ervin campaigning with Sheheen in Charleston this morning. Photo is from Sheheen’s Twitter feed.

But then, I’ve noticed that a lot of things have that effect.

So, when Tom Ervin, after spending $2.5 million of his own money on a fairly sophisticated and well-run campaign, drops out endorses Vincent Sheheen at the last minute — and does so in sober, coherent, mature language — we get this kind of grade-school-taunt-level bluster from our governor’s campaign:

Haley’s campaign said Ervin and Sheheen, both attorneys, shared the same agenda with “their liberal trial lawyer cronies.”

“They have spent millions on false and shameful attacks, and gotten nowhere with South Carolina voters,” Haley deputy campaign manager Rob Godfrey said. “It’s no surprise that two pro-Obamacare trial lawyers would officially tie the knot at the end of the race.”…

Oh yeah? Oh yeah?!? Well, you’re… you’re a TRIAL LAWYER, that’s what YOU are…

I guess he told them.

And yet, she’s the one leading in the polls — which would make you expect her to be the calmer party in the equation.

Anyway, thoughts on this? Frankly, I don’t expect it to change anything, in terms of the electoral outcome. But I could be wrong…

Mia McLeod says it’s the WHITES injecting race in District 2

I really, really hated to see the first sentence of this story about the Richland School District 2 election:

Race has become the defining issue in the Richland 2 school board election, as rumors circulate of a shift in power from a white-majority to a black-majority board.

Fueled by the activism of an African-American parents’ advocacy organization and a separate white group called the Bi-Partisan Committee, the usually placid election in the Midlands’ largest district has spawned heightened interest and dueling visions for the future of the 27,300-student district….

Appalling. And here’s where I stand on this: I’m opposed to anyone who cares whether the board is majority-white or majority-black. I have no patience with Identity Politics. I wouldn’t lift a finger to affect the racial balance one way or the other.

By contrast, Rep. Mia McLeod is taking a side, labeling the “white” group as a latter-day “White Citizens’ Council.” Which is a pretty heavy-duty accusation. Here’s what she says:

Sadly, race has taken center-stage in Richland Two (R2), thanks to a modern-day White Citizens’ Council (WCC),” disguised as a bipartisan committee. But this WCC isn’t about students, academics, best practices or strengthening and improving public education in the District.

No…this “whites-only” advocacy group has rebranded itself for the sole purpose of interjecting race, racist rhetoric, lies and fear into a school board contest, so that R2’s power and control remains with those who’ve always had it.

It’s no secret that whites are now the minority in R2, but still very much in control. This election could change that, so the WCC was revived to protect the status quo and ensure that no real diversity or talent is elected.

Like you, I would much rather have qualified, competent board members who truly care about our students, parents, teachers and communities. Service with vision, integrity, transparency and accountability should be the benchmarks—not race.

I don’t care whether you’re (former) Elections Director, Lillian McBride, or (current) R2 Superintendent, Debbie Hamm. Incompetence in any “color” is equally offensive and those who condone it based on race, gender, party or friendship are equally wrong.

Realizing that change is imminent, former R2 leaders have joined forces with current R2 leaders to create this unholy alliance and ironically, it’s this White Citizens’ Council—not the Black Parents’ Association, that has strategically placed the issue of race front and center.

By purposely disseminating false, misleading, deliberately divisive rhetoric, R2’s WCC attempts to marginalize and discredit anyone who challenges the status quo. According to one WCC member, “it’s the last stand for a good school district.”

And yet, hiring and electing candidates based on race, not merit, is precisely what they’ve accused the R2 BPA of doing.

Isn’t that “the pot calling the kettle black?”

And because they’ve identified their “picks,” we now know who not to vote for, if we ever wanna see any positive, progressive change in R2.

Let’s start with the WCC’s only African-American endorsee, Cheryl Washington Caution-Parker, a retired R2 Deputy Superintendent who was repeatedly passed over for the top gig.

According to the WCC, she’s aptly qualified. Perhaps she was consistently not promoted because she is black, since current District leaders have secretly opined that R2 isn’t ready for a black Superintendent and “the reason we got rid of (former Superintendent) Katie” is because she promoted too many qualified African-Americans to Administrative positions, making it harder to keep R2 from “looking Black like Richland One.”

Amazingly, Washington Caution-Parker is now conspiring with the same racist operatives who’ve worked against her for years. Clearly qualified, but obviously not the brightest candle in the bunch…

Since the BPA allegedly works so hard to ensure that R2 hires and promotes African-Americans, whether qualified or not…maybe it was actually trying to help by listing her as “white” on it’s website—in keeping with the District’s “whites-only” Superintendent policy.

Perhaps, if the BPA had come to her aid sooner, Washington Caution-Parker might not have gotten bumped out of the Superintendent spot by a white IT Director with only a fraction of the qualifications and experience.

And White Citizens’ Council endorsee #2, James Manning, has proven yet again that he’ll align himself with anyone who’ll help him get re-elected.

Even after admitting that the WCC’s newsletter was chock full of lies, Manning happily accepted the endorsement—proof that he too, is fully supportive of the WCC’s mission and aligned with its values–while latching onto every black church, black parent, black anybody, who’ll help him hoodwink us out of four more years.

But the WCC’s radically racist crusade doesn’t stop there. It also attempts to defame and discredit one of the most qualified, capable, committed candidates, who happens to be African-American.

Why? Because if Amelia McKie (or as the WCC refers to her…the one with “the green signs”) is elected, we’ll have a strong voice on R2’s school board who’ll fight for students, communicate with parents and demand real transparency and accountability.

Contrary to what you’ve heard or read, I’m not a member of the R2 BPA. Neither is she. And if the school board and DO were truly representative of all of the people of R2, there would be no need for a Black Parents’ Association, White Citizens’ Council or this email.

Amelia McKie is a dynamic parent advocate, State SIC Board Member, R2 Ambassador, District spokesperson and SC Education Policy Fellow, who’s maliciously maligned because she poses the biggest threat to the OG’s precious status quo. And unlike the WCC’s “picks,” McKie is a change agent who’s qualified and in this race for the right reasons.

Her candidacy appeals to a vast cross-section of R2 residents because she understands that equity, parity and diversity are key to our individual and collective success.

Since we’re obviously not beyond tactics used during the Civil Rights Movement, ask R2’s WCC why it deliberately distributed false, deceptive, race-based propaganda, touting a predominately white slate to a “whites-only” audience—proving that District leaders still aren’t interested in engaging all of the people of Richland Two.

But as fate would have it, I just did. And now you too, get to see their true colors…

Not sure what to think of all that. But I imagine that some of the white folks who were so tickled that Mia was taking on Lillian McBride and her supporters among the other black members of the county legislative delegation are probably going to be less enchanted now.

No special election for Harrell’s seat

It looks like the Democrats might — might, mind you — pick up a seat in the SC House this year. Bobby Harrell’s:

Former S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s name will appear on ballots in his district on Election Day, but he cannot win.

Mary Tinkler

Mary Tinkler

“The election for House 114 will go forward on Nov. 4,” said S.C. Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire in a statement. “While Mr. Harrell’s name will appear on the ballot, he is no longer eligible to win the election.”

The Republican resigned his Charleston seat and withdrew from the election as part of his guilty plea last week on charges of spending campaign money for personal use.

The county voter registration and elections offices will place prominent notices in all polling places to inform voters that Harrell is no longer a candidate, Whitmire said.

Harrell was seeking re-election Nov. 4 to his seat, facing two challengers: Democrat Mary Tinkler and Green Party candidate Sue Edward….

I say “might” because, well, this is South Carolina and that’s a Republican seat. (And if you’re so naive as to believe there’s no such thing as “a Republican seat,” you need to pay closer attention the next time the GOP is redrawing district lines.)

And… the GOP still might run a write-in candidate. Also, there is another candidate, other than the Democrat.

But at least Democrats have this moment to savor…

 

In memory of Jack Bruce of Cream

Upon the death of Jack Bruce, legendary bassist for Cream, my elder son posted the above video on my Facebook feed.

To which I responded, “That’s my favorite! And not only because I suspect it may have inspired ‘Stonehenge‘…”

Yeah, this is just the kind of over-important, mock-epic kind of rock song that Spinal Tap was making fun of, but I love it anyway. I’ve always seen it from the perspective of the adolescent boy I was, as an evocation of the way the seemingly (to an adolescent boy) supernatural allure of women can drive a young man mad (which is what the story of Ulysses and the sirens was about, after all), done through the lens of the gods of rock, which made it all that much more meaningful.

I like it musically as well. I love the shift back and forth from the hard-driving parts to the bits that go, “Tiny purple fishes…” with a thin line on Clapton’s guitar gently hovering and Ginger Baker using his cymbals to evoke the sound of waves kissing the shore and receding…

It’s interesting how the star of this video is Bruce. I guess the camera crew on the Smothers Brothers show figured since he was singing, he was the front man. They didn’t quite get who Clapton was yet. You hardly even get a glimpse of his face (he was in a mustache phase), or even of his guitar.

Rock and roll! Everyone hold up your lighters now…

(c) Manchester City Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Hutchins highlights Dudley’s role in bringing down Harrell

On a previous post, Doug Ross and Lynn T. both said that Renee Dudley, formerly of The Post and Courier, deserved a lot of credit for bringing Harrell down. I had to confess that I wasn’t that familiar with her work (the last one of their reporters I knew at all was Yvonne Wenger) and had little to add on the subject. I knew that a lot of the initial spadework on the case had been done by the Charleston paper, but that was about it.

Well, today, Corey Hutchins brings to my attention to this piece he wrote in Columbia Journalism Review, praising Ms. Dudley along those lines:

ReneeDudley295

Renee Dudley

It is a case study in why local accountability reporting matters. It took the reporting of Renee Dudley, a young, aggressive reporter for the Charleston Post and Courier, to break the news of the longtime politician’s wrongdoing and force the issue to the forefront of public debate.

Harrell had been in the House since 1993, and had been Speaker since 2005. Before Dudley took him on, no other reporter had so thoroughly researched and scrutinized his behavior in office, not at papers around the state capitol nor in his home district of Charleston.

But Dudley, a Boston native, had started to make a name for herself with investigative features after joining The Post and Courier in 2010 to cover health stories. As a reporter covering politics at the capital for the Columbia, SC-based alt-weekly Free Times, I first noticed her work when she dropped a September 2011 story on Gov. Nikki Haley’s trip to Europe.

By the time I read her pieces on Harrell the next year, I was jealous. In the spring of 2012, Dudley, then 26, penned her first big report on Bobby’s world. The story was an investigative report about a big-money political action committee linked to the Speaker, and how he used it to consolidate and wield power in the House. Her piece raised questions about conflicts of interest, including whether it was proper for one lawmaker to accept $123,000 in payment to his communications firm from “the Speaker’s PAC.”

The bombshell that eventually put the Speaker in legal crosshairs, and later led to his guilty plea, came that September. Its title: “Harrell offers no details on self-reimbursement of $325,000 from campaign funds.”…

Trying to make up my mind on the Lexington sales tax hike

This story in The State today reminds me that I have to decide by next week whether to vote for the Lexington County penny tax increase.

I checked with Warren Bolton to see whether they’re going to have anything about it on the editorial page. He said there will be something, and I look forward to reading it. Y’all may think of me as a guy who comes equipped with a full set of strongly-held opinions, and to some extent that’s true. But my daily discussions with Warren and Cindi — and back in the halcyon days, Mike Fitts and Nina Brook and before them John Monk and Claudia Brinson — helped me refine and correct and hone my views. I was always smarter about an issue after discussing it with them. Even if I still had the same general view I went in with (which, I admit, was usually the case), I had a better grasp on it, and had sanded off the rough edges, when I came out.US_One_Cent_Obv

And when, as with this case, I’m not sure what to think, such a discussion always helped me make up my mind. (That dynamic, by the way — the testing of one’s thoughts against those of a group of thoughtful people — is what editorials, and especially endorsements, are all about. Even if you disagree with the piece, and don’t change your mind, you’ll be smarter about the way you approach the issue for having tested your views against the ones you read.)

I know that if I could sit in a regular morning meeting with my friends on the edit board, I could arrive at a conclusion that I would be comfortable with, and that I could support and defend. Lacking that, I look forward to seeing what they publish.

The problem I have making up my mind on the Lexington penny is that it’s just for roads and infrastructure. I backed the penny in Richland because half of it went to the buses. I’d have backed it more enthusiastically if it had all gone to public transportation. But Lexington County largely turns its back on the bus system, and is all about cars and roads. Which bothers me…

OK, it’s not ALL about cars and roads. There’s some other infrastructure in there. But I’m happy to pay the Richland penny because it’s funding something that is an alternative to cars and roads, and which the community needed, and which it was having trouble paying for otherwise. (And though I do live in Lexington, I probably spend at least as much on taxable items in Richland.)

Then there’s also the problem that we’re already leaning on the sales tax too much in this state. It’s crept up to where it’s on the border of being too high if not there already, while property and income taxes aren’t bearing their share of the load (OK, business property taxes are, but primary-residence taxes are not).

And as I’ve said repeatedly, we have a mechanism for building and maintaining roads — the state gasoline tax. That needs to be raised, rather than just raising sales taxes here and there across the state.

At the same time, that is still a tough row to hoe, and in the meantime we have inadequate roads. So I struggle with this.

Maybe y’all can help me with this. The morning meeting is hereby convened…

Scoppe reminds us Sheheen is a guy who gets good things done

We were treated to “steak-and-steak” in The State today. That’s what former Associate Editor Nina Brook called an editorial page that had a lede editorial on one subject, and a column on the same (or related subject). As opposed to, say, steak and potatoes. (Nina meant it disparagingly. Me, I like a lot of protein.)

And while I thought the editorial endorsement of Vincent Sheheen was fine, and made its case well (no open-minded person could come away from it thinking we shouldn’t make a change), I was more pleased with Cindi Scoppe’s column.

That’s because it made a point that I made here several months ago — that Sheheen is a remarkably successful and influential leader in our State House.

This year alone, he has been the driving force behind a shift of power from the constitutionally perverse Budget and Control Board to a Department of Administration under the governor (his baby from the get-go), a huge expansion of 4k education, without any new taxes; and a ban on texting while driving.

As Cindi concluded:

There are more legislators than I can count — and then-Rep. Nikki Haley was among them — who don’t get a single significant bill passed in their entire legislative career. To pass three in a single year, all of which will help our state … well, that’s practically unheard of, even for the Legislature’s most powerful Republican leaders.

Indeed. This campaign is about flash over substance, and there’s little doubt, to a careful observer, about which side has the substance.

What’s wrong with our politics? It’s the parties, stupid!

In The State today, there’s a column by Clive Crook of Bloomberg News that takes issue with Francis Fukuyama’s assertion that we are plagued by “too much democracy,” arguing that it’s more accurate to say, “The problem isn’t too much democracy; it’s too much politics.”

He elaborates:

You don’t measure the quality of democracy just by asking whether the politically engaged have voice, or by counting their opportunities to influence outcomes (for good or ill), important as those metrics may be. Democracy is also supposed to work for the disengaged. In that respect, this democracy is plainly failing.

America’s political class — candidates, interest groups, activists and their respective groupies in the media — can’t be faulted for lack of engagement. Boy, are they engaged. That’s fine, of course. (It would be even better if they were as interested in public policy as they are in the political contest as blood sport, but that’s another matter.) Outside that bubble, however, views of politics run the range from boredom to despair. And a main cause, I’d submit, is popular disgust with that very political class. More politics doesn’t necessarily get you more democracy, much less better democracy….

But when people say there’s “too much politics” in our, well, politics, they are confused. There’s nothing wrong with politics, per se. Properly understood, it is the set of mechanisms whereby human beings manage to live with each other, and when it’s working properly, it enables them to work together to get things of mutual benefit done.

Most of the time, when people say “politics” with a disgusted tone, they refer to contentiousness for its own sake. They refer to political actors working not to achieve something of benefit to the society, but trying to gain advantage for themselves and their own narrow ideological group.

The problem is that “politics” has come to refer to public affairs engaged in as a sport, in which there are only two sides, they are sharply separated, and one must win while the other must lose.

The system is rigged against those of us who would like to see change. Not by some class of insiders or by money contributed by a “one percent.” It’s rigged by the parties and their affiliated interest groups, who have set things up so that sensible ideas with broad, consensus appeal don’t have a chance.

Their most obvious mechanism for accomplishing this is the one mentioned in my last post: reapportionment. Every ten years, the algorithms have gotten more sophisticated, and so it’s child’s play for the party in power to draw, for instance, one super-safe Democratic congressional districts, and six others in which a Democrat will never have a prayer.

And so we have elections that are not elections, because our courts have held that incumbent protection (which really amounts to party protection) is an acceptable aim of reapportionment. So the only elections are the primaries, and they are geared to produce the most extreme, the most “pure,” expressions of the brain-dead ideologies that each party professes to embrace.

So is there any wonder that the rest of us are fed up, disillusioned?

What we need isn’t less politics; it’s more politics — the kind in which anyone has a chance to make his or her case in a fair election. We don’t have that now.

WashPost displays SC as poster child of our stagnant politics

Just wanted to bring to your attention this story, together with photo essay, in The Washington Post today.

It examines the dreary fact that there is not one competitive congressional race in South Carolina. As though that were news to us:

… Wilson, running for his eighth term, didn’t attend that candidates night program. Which is not unusual for South Carolina’s congressional delegation: All seven House members and both senators are floating toward Nov. 4 free and easy, running unopposed or facing absurdly underfunded, almost completely unknown challengers.

In a year in which American voters express deep frustration with paralysis in Washington, the ballots awaiting South Carolinians are so lopsided — not one competitive congressional race — that even some entrenched incumbents lament the lack of choice and bemoan what the paucity of campaigning says about the nation’s dysfunctional politics and disaffected citizenry.

Although candidates, parties and outside groups are spending nearly $4 billion to capture the two dozen House races and maybe one dozen Senate contests across the nation that are truly competitive, in states such as South Carolina, there are precious few bumper stickers or yard signs to be seen and barely any debates or forums where challengers can face off against incumbents….

South Carolina is perhaps more afflicted than most states with the results of ever-more-sophisticated gerrymandering by the majority party in the State House.

The one thing that was new for me in this story was that I read more here about the Democratic nominee in the 2nd congressional district — the district in which I live — than I have seen in any SC media.

Frankly, it wasn’t quite clear in my mind that Phil Black was the Democratic nominee. I had seen some signs for him, but had supposed he was mounting an independent campaign.

I’d be embarrassed if it weren’t for the fact that I know that the Democratic nominee in the 2nd district is fated at most to be a footnote.

 

Open Thread for Friday, October 24, 2014

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Some possible topics:

  1. Good news, bad news on Ebola — The good is that nurse Nina Pham has been released. The bad is the doctor in New York (which will be more intensely covered because it happened in New York rather than flyover land). Meanwhile, the WashPost reports how the Russkies once planned to use the disease as a weapon.
  2. Shooting In Washington School Leaves Shooter, One Other Dead — And so we’re reminded that Canada is not where you usually find this sort of thing. As though we needed such.
  3. The Russians Have Us Over a Rocket — You won’t be able to read this because of the pay wall — I couldn’t. But I got the point, and it’s a good one: It’s bad to be dependent on Putin’s Russia for our access to space.

    Or, whatever you want to talk about…

Bus passengers in an alternative universe

on the bus

Today, I got one of those emails trying to get me to engage more with Pinterest, and one of the pins it offered me was this one, which I thought was cool, because it’s one of my fave flicks of all time.

So I repinned it.

But then I noticed something… you ever take a good look at the passengers on the bus who turn back to stare at Benjamin and Elaine.

It’s like Mike Nichols deliberately filled the bus with People Who Will Never Be Seen Riding a Bus. At least, that would be the case in Columbia in 2014. And I’m even thinking it would be the case in California in 1967.

Dig the guys in suits. Especially the guy wearing cufflinks.

This is such a glaring anomaly that I find myself wondering whether it’s intentional, and it means something. Like maybe Nichols wanted a painfully bourgeois set of people to be staring at our lovebirds, or something.

Anyway, I’d never noticed it before, and I found it interesting…

Your Virtual Front Page, Thursday, October 23, 2014

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Just because you haven’t had one in awhile, and I felt like it would do you good:

  1. Harrell pleads guilty, looks toward future as informant (thestate.com) — Yeah, this has already been covered, but it’s still today’s lede story.
  2. Both Ebola nurses now doing much better (People, Yahoo) — Some of this is a day or two old, but I haven’t seen it on any front pages, and it seems like high-interest news to me. Nina Pham’s condition has been upgraded from “fair” to “good,” while Amber Vinson has actually been declared free of the disease! Seems like this isn’t getting the play that their initial infection got. Meanwhile, a doctor has been hospitalized in New York with Ebola-like symptoms.
  3. Evidence shows Islamic State used chlorine gas (WashPost) — Until now, this was one atrocity that they apparently had not yet committed.
  4. Canadian Police Say Ottawa Attack Was by Lone Gunman (NYT) — We’re used to “lone gunmen” in this country, but it seems like that’s one American cultural import Canada could have done without.
  5. Dogs helped stop White House jumper (WashPost) — Maybe they should put a dog in charge of the Secret Service.
  6. Dreher, Camden banned from football playoffs (thestate.com) — Not Earth-shattering, perhaps, but it seemed like a good local talker. This is because of a postgame fight between the two schools last Friday.
Hurricane, left, and Jordan -- the dogs who got the job done, protecting the White House.

Hurricane, left, and Jordan — the dogs who got the job done, protecting the White House.

Video: Sheheen’s and Ervin’s meetings with The State’s editorial board

I was looking for something else, and happened to run across these videos posted by SCETV, obviously with the cooperation of my friends at The State.

These are a considerable improvement over the low-res, 3-minute clips I used to post from my little personal Canon camera — which could not shoot any video longer than 3 minutes, and which I also used for still shots, so the video record was far from complete. And I was doing it all while running a sound recorder, taking notes and presiding over the meeting. But hey, before I started blogging, you didn’t get any pictures or video from these meetings. So get outta my face.

Anyway. I’m happy to note the progress. And as a connoisseur of these things, it’s fun for me to note the way things are the same and how they differ. For instance, I notice Cindi used the usual “give us your stump speech” opener with Sheheen, but asked a slightly different opening question of Ervin. The Sheheen approach was always our standard. I would do that because I liked to start with the candidate making his or her case in his or her own words, rather than just responding to our questions. I felt that was the fairest way to start, to lay a base, before we started asking what we wanted to know. And even if the spiel was a bunch of baloney, the fact that the candidate freely chose such a pose told me a lot. It was boring for the reporters who would sit in, because they had heard the speech out on the hustings. But these meetings weren’t held for their purposes; they were for those of us trying to make an endorsement decision.

You’ll hear me starting things off that way in this meeting with Barack Obama, just as I did with hundreds of others.

You might notice another, subtler thing. You can sort of tell at the start of the Obama clip that something has gone before — some small talk, some joshing around, before we got down to business. I always did that. You’ll note that Cindi, far more task oriented than I, and nobody’s idea of a social butterfly, doesn’t fool with that. She doesn’t schmooze. An interview is an opportunity to get answers to X, Y and Z, and that’s what she’s there for.

She always knows just what information she needs. I took more of a zen approach. I was always curious to see where an interview would go if I let it have its head. I was looking for column inspiration; I had Cindi and Warren and, in the good times, a couple of other associate editors to make sure all the essential bases were covered.

Oh, you’re wondering where the Nikki Haley meeting is, right? There wasn’t one. My understanding is that her campaign did not accept the board’s invitations to meet. So if you ever wondered what, if anything, Nikki Haley and Hillary Clinton have in common, now you know.

Prosecutors really had Harrell over a barrel

Carolyn Callahan of WIS Tweeted this just before the hearing, showing the isolated ex-speaker in the courtroom. Hope she doesn't mind my sharing it here...

Carolyn Callahan of WIS Tweeted this just before the hearing, showing the isolated ex-speaker in the courtroom. Hope she doesn’t mind my sharing it here…

There’s a country song in there somewhere.

The man who was arguably the most powerful person in state government, boasting only a few weeks ago about how the attorney general had failed to bring him down, pleaded guilty today to six counts against him, and still has other charges hanging over his head. The terms, as reported by John Monk:

In a plea hearing at the Richland County courthouse, Harrell was given six one-year prison sentences but all were suspended by circuit court Judge Casey Manning after Harrell, 58, agreed to the following conditions in a written plea agreement:

• Harrell agrees not to seek or hold public office for three years. He also will be on probation during that time. The Charleston Republican was first elected to the House in 1993.

• Harrell will pay a $30,000 fine plus an additional $93,958 to the general fund of South Carolina. Harrell will also turn over all of his remaining campaign account to the state’s general fund. That amount was not immediately available.

• Harrell agrees to cooperate with state and federal prosecutors, including being ready to testify “fully and truthfully at any trials or other proceeding” in state or federal court. Harrell must submit to polygraph examinations….

Here’s perhaps the most interesting part:

In getting Harrell’s cooperation to be a potential government witness, prosecutor Pascoe agreed to “nol pros,” or not prosecute four other indictments against Harrell. However, under a written plea agreement, Pascoe reserves the right to re-activate the indictments and prosecute Harrell if the former speaker lies to law enforcement officials.

Such written plea agreements – in which lighter sentences are given, and some charges are dropped, in return for a criminal’s information about other potential crimes involving other people – are common in federal criminal court. In federal court, defendants also agree to submit to lie detector tests and they know that dropped charges can be brought again if the government catches the defendant in a lie…

So it looks like prosecutors pretty much have Bobby Harrell on a leash for the foreseeable future. How the mighty have… well, you know the rest. But who foresaw it happening so quickly and dramatically in this case?

 

Heroes who don’t want to make a fuss about it

hero

E.J. Dionne begins today’s column thusly:

Seth Moulton, an Iraq veteran and Democratic congressional candidate on Massachusetts’s North Shore, has done something with little precedent in political campaigning: He was caught underplaying his war record.

You read that right: An investigation by the Boston Globe found that, unlike politicians who go to great lengths to puff up their military backgrounds, Moulton, as the paper’s Walter Robinson wrote, “chose not to publicly disclose that he was twice decorated for heroism until pressed by the Globe.”

It took Robinson’s reporting to discover that Moulton had won the Bronze Star and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for valor during the battles for control of Najaf and Nasiriyah.

In a telephone interview, Moulton said his reluctance reflected a “healthy disrespect” among his comrades-in-arms for boasting about citations…

And that reminds me of this other hero who prefers to remain unsung, which Dave Crockett called to our attention on an earlier post — the one who rescued a sick old man from a burning house, then melted away and did his best to remain anonymous:

Tom Artiaga groaned as the reporters starting banging on his door.

“I didn’t want the glory,” he says sheepishly, wearing the same blue Dodgers cap he had on as he walked calmly towards Wells’ burning home. “I don’t want it.”

Artiaga can barely look at me as I prod him, so uncomfortable is he talking about himself.

Artiaga says he was driving by when he saw the fire and heard the screaming about the trapped man inside. He parked his white truck and walked slowly towards the fire. The 49-year-old devoted husband, father of three and grandfather of five didn’t think about what he had to lose. A man who spends his free time helping out elderly people in his neighborhood with their gardens naturally thought about what he could do to help….

Artiaga saw his picture in the paper and the video on the local news. He couldn’t escape the video that was flying across Facebook and Twitter. He hoped his wife wouldn’t find out because he didn’t tell her. He hoped the story would fade and he could go back to his job as a delivery man for a liquor company, without anyone connecting the video to him.

“Why,” I ask. “Most of us liked to be thanked.”

Artiaga’s eyes begin to fill with emotion. “We have to help each other out. We kill each other. We fight. We gotta help each other out. I don’t feel like a hero. If it was someone else, I’d help them, too.”