Weigh in and say WHAT, Eva?

Regarding all the things said about Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin in the recent Pinson trial, Eva Moore has this to say in Free Times:

Yet there seems to be some discomfort in Columbia about either condemning the mayor or letting him off the hook. The usual mainstream pontificators — The State’s editorial board, blogger Brad Warthen, WIS General Manager Donita Todd — have yet to weigh in on the mayor’s role in the Pinson trial.

This was brought to my attention by my daughter, who said it doesn’t seem to matter whether I’m employed by the MSM or not; the Free Times will always label me that way.

I guess.

As for the rest of it — weigh in? Weigh in and say WHAT, Eva?

As she points out, we’ve been treated to the unusual spectacle of a lot of loose talk ABOUT the mayor in open court, but no charges brought. Makes you wonder if there’s another shoe, and if so, when it will drop.

Improper financial dealings. A sex-tinged anecdote. Some back-and-forth about whether the mayor should have reported the trip or not — one of those “ethics” issues we natter about when we don’t know how to get at the actual scandal, if there is one.

And frankly, I don’t have any opinions about that. At least, none that are busting to get out of me. If you ask me, I’ll say that I prefer that the mayor of Columbia not have this cloud hanging over him. The city needs a good mayor with good ideas who is in a position to lead. And a clouded mayor can’t lead much. So the city sort of drifts. Or it can. We’ll see.

But folks, I don’t know enough either to call for his head or to defend him against all comers. I just don’t. Do you? If so, have at it…

Haley wants Atlantic Beach to be the way it was in the 1940s. But I think she means that in a GOOD way…

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You know, you could take this observation from our governor in a very negative way:

— Gov. Nikki Haley and Atlantic Beach officials remain at a standoff regarding the future of Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest after a meeting Tuesday morning.

Haley said she would like to see Atlantic Beach return to what it was in the 1940s when there were bustling businesses, hotels and attractions and is willing to help the transformation with state funding – if town officials end Bikefest.

“When I look at Atlantic Beach the feeling I have is pride,” Haley told town council members. “When I look at Atlantic Beach the feeling I have is history. … We need to find a way to make sure that this is a destination spot for all of the people from all over this country to [want to visit].”

But Atlantic Beach officials say that while they resepct and appreciate the governor’s opinion, they still have no plans to end Bikefest….

Um, the way it was in the 1940s? You mean, when black folks weren’t welcome on the “white” beaches, and Atlantic Beach was the only place they could go enjoy sand and surf?

But I don’t think she means that. I think she means Atlantic Beach should be proud that it was a welcoming place for black families, a wholesome place for folks to vacation with their kids.

As opposed to what it is now, during Black Biker Week each year.

I applaud the governor’s efforts to do something about an event in South Carolina that this year led to three people getting killed and seven injured in eight shootings. That’s enough to make anyone long for halcyon days. And I think she meant it in a good way….

Open Thread for Monday, July 28, 2014

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Folks, I’m not going to be sitting at my laptop much the next few days, but hey, that’s no reason for y’all not to have something to talk about. How about these topics?

Europe and U.S. to Sharply Escalate Russia Sanctions – About time.

Central SC Red Cross chapter, United Way end 90-year partnership — The way this is explained, I suppose this was inevitable, with the United Way’s new funding model. Will other major local nonprofits do the same?

John Kerry’s gigantic blunder – David Ignatius says his short-term push for a cease-fire in Gaza has backfired spectacularly. Netanyahu is now warning of a prolonged conflict.

Sheheen asks Moniz to spare us the nuclear waste, thanks

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This came in earlier today from Vincent Sheheen. Make of it what you will:

Sheheen to DOE Secretary: SC Is Not A Nuclear Waste Dumping Ground
Camden, SC – Today Vincent Sheheen urged Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to join him in preventing South Carolina from becoming a dumping ground for international nuclear waste, as the Secretary toured the Savannah River Site and visited the Aiken area.
The text of Sen. Sheheen’s letter to Secretary Moniz is pasted below.  View a PDF of the signed letter at: http://vincentsheheen.com/?p=594
July 28, 2014
The Honorable Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy
US Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave. SW
Washington DC 20585
Dear Secretary Moniz,
As you will no doubt see on your visit today, South Carolina is a beautiful state, blessed with tremendous natural resources and hardworking people. We are also proud to have the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, which provides jobs in the community and does important work for our country.  But South Carolina is not a nuclear waste dumping ground.
I write today to ask you to join us in preventing German radioactive waste from being dumped in our state. We’ve been down this road before, and South Carolina won’t be fooled by promises again.
The federal government’s proposal to ship nearly 1 million highly radioactive graphite spheres from Germany to Charleston and then transport it to the Savannah River Site is deeply troubling. The proposal is unprecedented in its scope and size – and for the sake of the local families and businesses, for the sake of our state, the proposal should not move forward.
This German commercial nuclear waste was created by experimental reactors in Germany. The clean-up or storage of the radioactive by-product should be the responsibility of the German government. It’s not right for Germany or for the US federal government to throw this responsibility off to the people of South Carolina.
We know that once these highly radioactive graphite spheres are at the SRS they are going to stay here, likely forever. There is currently no disposal system at SRS – or anywhere in the United State for that matter – to handle the reprocessing of this waste. So, once it’s here, it will sit here. And sit here. And sit here.
Until we have made headway in dealing with the 37 million gallons of waste that we currently have at the SRS, we should not take on this burden from other countries. Our focus must remain on cleaning up the tanks at SRS remaining from its time producing plutonium.
These are tough issues that affect the people from Aiken to Charleston and around our state. Governor Haley refuses to speak out on this issue, but that does not mean South Carolinians support this proposal.
South Carolina is not a nuclear waste dump.  Please help us keep it that way.
Sincerely,
Sen. Vincent Sheheen
###

 

Benjamin to take a position on issue of refugee children

I received a text this morning at 9:52 from Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, responding to my earlier post about the children from Central America:

Brad, Thank you for speaking up for the unaccompanied minors/children. I plan to take a formal position and to ask council to join me too. Steve

I responded that that sounded to me like a fine idea.

I was reminded of what happened 10 years ago, when a tide of resistance in Cayce rose up against the Somali Bantu moving here, and then-Columbia Mayor Bob Coble made it clear that they would be welcome in Columbia.

I have this vivid image in my mind — which unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find on the web — of Mayor Bob embracing the father of a Bantu family arriving at the airport, with the rest of the family standing by.

What a great message that was, and it washed away the earlier, uglier impression that our community had given.

It would be great to see the city of Columbia similarly distance itself from our governor’s ungracious reaction.

I hope the council can see its way clear to do just that.

Plagiarism flap in the Lowcountry

Tyler Jones, spokesman for SC House Democrats, brings this to my attention:

BREAKING NEWS!
GOP Legislator Busted for Plagiarism
On Monday, Berkeley County GOP Rep. Samuel Rivers, a Tea Party activist and pastor, published an op-ed in the Post and Courier that discussed new EPA proposals in Congress.
The only problem?
He didn’t write it. 

According to Hutchins’ story, Rep. Rivers published an op-ed in the Charleston Post & Courier on Monday, July 21st under the byline of Samuel Rivers Jr.
Hutchins quickly found this exact same editorial was recently published out west by a cattleman’s association group.
———————————–
Compare Op-Eds:
 —————————–——
How similar are the op-eds? Have a look for yourself:
Excerpts from the Cattlemen’s Association Op-Ed:
“In 1972, the CWA created a regulatory permitting system to control discharges (discharge includes dirt, manure, fertilizer, litter, pesticides, etc.) into “navigable waters.” The term “navigable waters” is defined in the CWA as “waters of the United States” and nothing more. This absurdly vague definition has provided the implementing federal agencies – namely EPA and the Corps – with the loophole they needed to systematically gain more and more regulatory authority over smaller and less significant “bodies of water” – a term used loosely – over the past 40 years.”
“How did they do it? Through vague terms such as “neighboring,” ill-defined terms like “floodplain,” and expansive definitions such as “tributary.” Not to mention the agencies extremely broad definition of what is considered a “significant nexus” between isolated waters and downstream waters. The agencies also leave most of these important key terms up to the “best professional judgment” of the federal regulator. These legal terms give the regulatory agencies the loopholes they need to find your pond, puddle or ditch to be a “water of the U.S.” and leave landowners with more confusion than ever before.”
Excerpts from Rep. River’s Op-Ed:
“When passed in 1972, the Clean Water Act created a regulatory permitting system to control discharges (including dirt, manure, fertilizer, litter, pesticides, etc.) into “navigable waters.” The term “navigable waters” is defined in the CWA as “waters of the United States,” and nothing more. This vague definition has provided the implementing federal agencies (namely EPA and the Corps) with the loophole they needed to systematically gain more regulatory authority over smaller and less significant “bodies of water” over the past 40 years.”

“This is done through vague terms such as “neighboring,” ill-defined terms like “floodplain,” and expansive definitions such as “tributary,” not to mention the agencies’ extremely broad definition of what is considered a “significant nexus” between isolated waters and downstream waters. The agencies also leave most of these important key terms up to the “best professional judgment” of the federal regulator. These legal terms give the regulatory agencies the loopholes they need to find your pond, puddle or ditch to be a “water of the U.S.,” leaving landowners with more confusion than ever before.”

As you can see, almost all of Rep. Rivers’ op-ed was lifted verbatim from the Cattlemen’s Association op-ed.

Confronted with the facts, Rep. Rivers doubled down telling Hutchins, “Those are my words with the information that was provided to me, let me put it like that.”
It’s bad enough to plagiarize someone else’s work – present it as your own – and publish it in the state’s largest newspaper. But it’s even worse to lie about it after you’ve been caught.
The voters of District 15 deserve a representative who will be open and honest with them about the issues confronting our state. Not someone who will copy and paste someone else’s work and claim it as their own. The voters deserve an apology and an explanation from Rep. Samuel Rivers.
Sincerely,
Tyler Jones
Political Director
SC House Democrats
P.S. Don’t forget Rep. Rivers has a Democratic opponent, Marian Redish, in the November elections. You can make a contribution to her campaign by visiting her website - www.MarianForHouse.com.

Tyler had asked me for my thoughts on this earlier, and so had Corey Hutchins. Both wanted to know what I would have done had such a piece run in The State when I was EPE. Corey just wanted to know what I thought off-the-record, but you know me, I don’t mind sharing what I told him…

The truth is that first, I don’t know exactly what I would have done. That sounds like a cop-out, but it’s the opposite of a cop-out — it’s me taking the question seriously.

And one thing I’ve learned over the years is that it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll do in a given situation until you’re in it, and dealing with the very specific facts and dynamics of the situation, and consulting with your colleagues about it. (While I have never been shy about making unilateral decisions, I learned to my greater humility that as smart as I may have thought I was, I was always smarter after a serious discussion with my fellow members of the editorial board. And sometimes I made a different decision as a result.)

If you hold a gun to my head, I’ll speculate that under such circumstances I MIGHT write a column about it, as it’s an interesting situation that sheds light on the piece that we ran, and also into the editorial process, which I always liked to do….

If I didn’t want to spend a column (a decidedly finite resource) on it, I might do a blog post about it. But then I would feel some obligation to let print-only readers know the controversy existed. Maybe a brief blurb leading people to the blog post.

But that’s first-blush. As I say, in the actual situation I might do something different…

So I don’t like to second-guess what another editor did or didn’t do. Speaking of which, it appears that what Charleston did do was take the piece off their website. An update from Corey:

UPDATE, 7/25: Rivers’ op-ed appears to have been pulled by The Post and Courier. The link to the commentary now goes to a page that reads, “Error 404 – This page is either no longer available or has been relocated.” A search for phrases from the op-ed on the paper’s site yielded no results.

Charles Rowe, the editorial page editor, didn’t have much to say when asked earlier today if the paper had any update on the situation. Rowe did not immediately respond to another inquiry this afternoon, after the op-ed disappeared.

Rivers, however, hasn’t been quiet. He has repeatedly posted to his Twitter account a letter that indicates he had permission—from a lobbyist—to use industry-written material in his op-ed. …

The pettiest thing I’ve ever heard Nikki Haley say

I refer, of course, to this quote regarding the unaccompanied Central American children, part of the flood that has precipitated a crisis on our southern border, who have been placed with relatives in South Carolina:

“You want me to educate them, right? And you want me to pay their health care, right? It does cost us something”…

First, let me say this: Since it upsets you so much, governor, let me assure you no one’s asking you to pay for this. The rest of us, the people of the United States (and if you’re right, of South Carolina) will pick up the tab. Don’t get your wallet out. And while I know there are plenty of people in our state who resent the children’s presence as much as our governor lets on to, I for one don’t mind the spare change that will be my share.

Second, those 350 children — if they stay, which remains to be seen — can be absorbed into a state of 4.7 million so completely as to be unnoticed. The federal government placed them here quietly and discreetly — which was the proper way; these kids have been through enough — and you likely wouldn’t know they were here had the feds not told you.

Third, I’m especially embarrassed that my governor said this at an RGA meeting in Colorado. It was bad enough for her to say it at home, much less in front of outsiders.

Now, in defense of Nikki Haley, she did say, in the midst of a bunch of other stuff expressing her great irritation at having these children underfoot, “We do care about these children. We do want them to be safe.” I like to think that’s the real Nikki Haley talking — or at the very least, someone who knows what is right, despite her real feelings, and feels compelled to give lip service.

But that just makes the rest of it sound that much worse, sets it in sharp relief. If you know better, how do you say such things?

Here’s how: It’s something you do when you have made a strategic decision to cater to the worst impulses in your constituency — the pettiest, most grasping, most miserly, least caring about the distress of a stranger. She is appealing to qualities that are the opposite of those exhibited by the Good Samaritan.

Reading her comments, a word popped into my head that I hadn’t thought of in years — niggardly. It’s a word people avoid today, because of its unfortunate resemblance to our language’s worst epithet. But it states the case.

Another point: I’m distressed that the governor is pressing the feds to tell where these children are. I heartily endorse this statement:

A note on Health and Human Services’ website says that the children’s privacy and safety are of “paramount importance. We cannot release information about individual children that could compromise the child’s location or identity.”…

Speaking of things I endorse, I’ll just end with what The State ended with:

“Why are we not recognizing that these children are facing imminent danger and families are doing what they can to get them out of that dangerous situation?” said Sue Berkowitz, director of the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center. “I’m astounded that America is behaving this way.”

God bless Sue Berkowitz, who day in and day out does whatever she can for the least of these. If only more of us were like her.

Russia now waging war on Ukraine directly — no surrogates

Well, Russia has stopped playing the game of pretending this is all about Russian speakers in Ukraine yearning to breathe free. Putin is waging war on Ukraine directly:

The U.S. says it has “new evidence” that Russian forces have been firing artillery across the border to attack Ukrainian military positions, and that Moscow is planning to ship powerful rocket artillery to the rebels it backs in the country’s east.

“We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said during a daily briefing….

Meanwhile the European Union can’t seem to get its act together to enact strong sanctions. So, a week after one of his rockets killed everyone on board a civilian jetliner, Putin just continues to get away with it…

Congrats to Bryan Caskey on a beautiful baby girl!

Left to Right: Henry, Mary, Molly

Left to Right: Henry, Mary, Molly

Ready for her close-up.

Ready for her close-up.

In case you missed the news way down in a comment thread yesterday, Bryan Caskey is the proud papa of a beautiful new baby girl!

Rumors abound, however, that wife Mary actually did all the hard work.

Margaret Lamb Caskey was born at 2:38. 7 lbs. 15 oz. Mom and baby are both doing great!

Word from the Caskey household is that they’re going to call her “Molly.”

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Poll: Ervin could play decisive role in gubernatorial race

Over the last couple of days, I’ve gotten a couple of releases from SC Democrats saying Sen. Vincent Sheheeh was in a DEAD HEAT with Gov. Nikki Haley.

So finally, I asked “Which poll?” and was directed to this one by the Post and Courier and three TV stations. The lede:

COLUMBIA – South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has a slim lead over her Democratic opponent and a wide margin over two other challengers in a state that is deeply divided over the incumbent governor’s leadership, a Palmetto Politics Poll shows.

The poll of likely voters commissioned by The Post and Courier and three television stations shows that in a matchup with Democrat Vincent Sheheen, Haley leads Sheheen by four percentage points – within the poll’s 4 percent margin of error. Haley led overall with 46 percent support of those polled among the 650 likely voters surveyed.

In the matchup, Sheheen garnered 42 percent, independent Tom Ervin 3 percent and Libertarian Steve French 2 percent. Six percent of voters polled were undecided about the race, which features a 2010 rematch of Haley and Sheheen….

But the next bit was the most interesting part:

In a separate question posed to 1,000 potential voters, Haley would have a double-digit lead over Sheheen if he were the only other candidate in the race, with the incumbent leading 53 percent to Sheheen’s 40 percent in their head-to-head race.

So, if Erwin starts catching on at all — I’m assuming the Libertarian candidate’s numbers will stay fairly stationary — the governor could be in trouble, whether Sheheen gains any support or not.

Open Thread for Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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Let’s see what we have to offer today:

Russians have many theories about the MH17 crash. One involves fake dead people. — You know, the Rodina must be a very interesting place to live. This story compiles some of the wacky alternative explanations of the crash that are given credence by Russian media or influential websites.

Two Ukrainian Warplanes Shot Down . When this broke this morning, the first AP bulletin said:

Which caused me to react, “As opposed to CIVILIAN fighter jets?” Yeah, I know. The AP is being deliberately redundant in order to make sure the reader doesn’t misread it and think it’s another civilian craft. But it still bugs me. Of course, “fighter jet” is pretty redundant without “military” added. Think about it: Here in the 21st century, a fighter is highly unlikely to be a Spitfire or a Sopwith Camel. But maybe some countries still have some prop fighters. If so, I’d like to see them in action…

Israel Faces Rising Pressure to End Conflict in Gaza . And why, pray tell, is the pressure on Israel, instead on on Hamas, which started it, and insists on continuing? I suppose because Israel is more likely to respond favorably.

A Doctor Leading The Fight Against Ebola Has Caught The Virus – All I know about ebola, I learned from Tom Clancy novels. But that’s enough to make me shudder.

DSS: state needs 200 more child-welfare workers. I believe them. You?

In case you haven’t had a good 2nd Amendment argument today…

This just in:

Washington, DC (WLTX) – U.S. Capitol Police have arrested a Camden buisnessman after they say he tried to take a gun into an office building on the Capitol grounds.

Ronald William Prestage, 59, is charged with carrying a pistol without a license. Officers say they recovered the 9 mm handgun from him as he tried to enter the Cannon House Building, which is one of the structures containing the offices of members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Police haven’t said yet if he gave an explanation for why he had the weapon…

Actually, my headline is kind of misleading. I doubt many of my regulars, even the most ardent gun-lovers among us, will want to assert the right to enter the U.S. Capitol offices while packing heat.

Am I right? If not, have at it…

By the way, if you read the rest of the piece (I quoted as much as I thought I could get away with under Fair Use), you’ll find that this Mr. Prestage is an upstanding member of the community, the manager of the Kershaw County Airport (which you would think would make him a little more sensitive about where it’s a good idea to carry a gun, and where it isn’t). No rootless drifter/gunslinger is he.

He’s also president of the National Pork Producers Council. Yeah, I thought that was an unusual combination, too, but that’s what the story said…

Explain to me how these are ‘public relations director’ jobs

 

PR 2

As I’ve mentioned before, back when I was job hunting after being laid off, I signed up for a bunch of services that were supposed to send me tips on jobs that were relevant to my skills and experience.

I’ve continued to get those emails, and they are often entertaining.

This one service, The Ladders, which specializes in placing executive-level job seekers, regularly sends me messages with the subject line, “Public relations director jobs for you.” I especially like that personal touch, the “for you” part, don’t you? Just for you; I didn’t compile public relations director jobs for anyone else but you…”

I’m not sure how The Ladders decided that that was the only type job I wanted, but it’s really fixated on it. I get an email like this from them every week or two, sometimes more often.

Here’s the thing, though — not once have they sent a tip on an actual “public relations director” job. At least, not since February, which is as far back as I’ve been saving them.

In addition to that “Commercial Escrow Officer” gem above — which in no way bears any relationship to anything on my resume — The Ladders has in recent months tipped me to the following “public relations director” opportunities:

  • Sr. Electronic Engineer / Support
  • Air Compressor Technician
  • Executive Assistant
  • Supervisor Meeting and Special Events
  • Executive Director
  • Military Analyst Lead
  • Veteran Arabic Levantine Linguist Analyst
  • Veteran Arabic Iraqi Linguist Analyst
  • Video Production Specialist
  • Army Mission Command Program Analyst Senior

What makes this worse is that The Ladders is really selective in what it sends me. Other services send me lists of 25 or 30 job openings at a time, many (but not all) of them just as irrelevant. But The Ladders picks one or two at a time especially for me!

And yeah, I see the thing that advises me, “To improve your matches, consider editing your job goals.” But I have no idea what username and password I set up for that service five years ago, and would it really be worth it? It obviously ignores the input from me it has now.

This would all just be a hoot if not for the fact that there are algorithms just as bad as this one screening resumes and rejecting them before they are ever viewed by a human. I’ve had plenty of experience with that. When your last job, the one you held for many years, is “vice president/editorial page editor,” if the prospective employer is anything other than a newspaper, their algorithm isn’t going to have a clue what to do with you. It takes a human to think, “Hmmm, here’s a guy who knows his community, knows the movers and shaker in both politics and business in the state, and has writing and other communications skills that could translate well to what I need…”

So forgive me if I don’t laugh uncontrollably at the fact that these programs are even worse at matching me to a job than Netflix is at figuring out what kinds of movies I like…

Well, yeah — there might be offshore drilling if we FIND something

The Conservation Voters of South Carolina are upset about oil and gas exploration off the SC coast:

Sonic cannons: Is offshore drilling next?

Conservation Voters,

On Friday, the federal government announced its approval for use of sonic cannons to search for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean, from Delaware to Florida. Sonic cannons blast loud noises underwater, disturbing marine mammals, including the endangered North American Right Whale. This method of exploration has serious impacts, and it is the first step to drilling off our coast.

Past projections indicate too little oil and gas, too much risk and too little benefit for South Carolinians. We have serious concerns about the use of sonic cannons in our waters despite the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) “mitigation measures.” The fact that BOEM will not share the results of the studies compounds our misgivings. This process is as opaque as our waters will be if there’s drilling offshore.

Regardless of the results, the fundamental geology of our coastline suggests that offshore oil and gas would be a drop in the bucket, especially with our country’s exploding natural gas production. These are global commodities, and any oil or gas produced off our coast would not lead to lower energy costs here.

We urge Governor Haley to reject the “drill, baby, drill” rhetoric of the past.  We disagree with her assessment that drilling could be a “tremendous boon to South Carolina.”  Instead, we ask state leaders to support clean energy policies that bring jobs and lower power bills, without the risks that we saw so vividly in the BP Gulf Oil disaster. We cannot turn our coast into an industrial zone for oil companies’ profits and federal government royalties. Converting McClellanville, Pawleys Island, or Beaufort into a home for large refineries and industrial-scale natural gas infrastructure would imperil the tourism and fishing industries that sustain these special places.

Stay tuned.We’ll be following this issue closely in the months to come.

The answer to the question, “Is offshore drilling next?,” would seem to be Yeah — if we find anything that makes the effort worthwhile.

I’m a tree-hugger from way back — I participated in the first Earth Day when I was in high school — but I’m also founder of the Energy Party, and that means I’m going to have to hear more arguments before I’m opposed to this exploration off our coast (although the “sonic cannon” bit does sound a little wild).

The point isn’t “lower energy costs.” The point is energy independence. And unless you have a plan for us to be independent and stay independent without exploring for oil — because until hydrogen cars or some other breakthrough are here and mass-produced and affordable, our economy is going to need oil — then we need to go get it where we can find it. And that requires looking for it first.

Sheheen’s plan for roads (first, no gas tax increase, which is a BAD thing…)

Vincent Sheheen has presented his plan for fixing roads in South Carolina, and right off the bat, he loses me by saying he wouldn’t do the most obvious thing that needs to be done — increase the gas tax in order to pay for it all.

Here’s his release:

Sheheen Releases Plan to Rebuild Roads & Bridges
Gubernatorial candidate lays out plan to responsibly invest in infrastructure and restore safety after years of neglect
Camden, SC. – Today, Sen. Vincent Sheheen released his plan of action to rebuild roads and bridges in South Carolina. The plan lays out a responsible course of action to improve safety and efficiency of the state’s infrastructure immediately and for the long term.
Sen. Sheheen’s plan centers around four key components that will increase accountability and lead the state to responsibly invest in infrastructure without having to raise the gas tax: adopt a Fix it First approach to focus on repairing roads before building new ones; reorganize the Department of Transportation to save money, improve accountability, and be more efficient in choosing what gets repaired; issue bonds for an immediate one-time infusion of money to get investments started and create jobs; each year, automatically dedicate five percent of the General Fund and surplus revenue to rebuilding our roads.
This plan of action comes after three years of total neglect to South Carolina’s roads and bridges by Nikki Haley that have left only 15 percent of South Carolina’s roads listed as “in good condition,” left thousands of bridges so unsafe that they are classified as “functionally obsolete,” and made the state’s rural roads the most dangerous in the country according to a new study. The Governor has refused to release a plan on roads until after November’s election.
View Sen. Sheheen’s plan to rebuild roads and bridges, as well as his other ideas for how to improve leadership and accountability in South Carolina, at www.vincentsheheen.com. His book, “The Right Way: Getting the Palmetto State Back on Track” includes an entire chapter on improving transportation infrastructure and is free and also available online, here.
Honest Leadership & Real Accountability to Rebuild SC Road & Bridges
Under Nikki Haley’s administration, South Carolina’s roads, bridges, rail lines, and waterways are in desperate need of repair after years of neglect.
South Carolina had the fifth highest rate of traffic fatalities in the country, according to the US Census. Our rural roads are the deadliest rural roads in the nation, according to a new report released this month. In fact, only 15 percent of our roads are classified as “in good condition” with thousands of our bridges so unsafe that they are classified as “functionally obsolete.”
South Carolina’s families, businesses and taxpayers in general deserve so much better from their government. South Carolina needs honest leadership and real accountability to responsibly fix the roads and bridges – we need a Governor who will make infrastructure a priority.
As a small business owner, and an attorney who has helped families and small businesses grow and succeed, Vincent understands that economic activity depends on a good and viable transportation system. Having reliable roads and bridges is vital to growing the economy from within and attracting companies from out of state. Similarly, as the father of three boys and a native South Carolinian, Vincent knows how imperative it is for families to have safe roads and bridges. Taxpaying citizens should not have to fear for their safety while driving down a road in their town or across a bridge in their community.  And we shouldn’t be embarrassed when visitors come to our state by our dreadful highways.
Adopt a “Fix It First” Approach
South Carolina has the nation’s fourth largest state-maintained transportation network. Additions place an increased burden on an already overburdened maintenance program. If we can’t afford to maintain roads we already have, how can we afford to build new ones? It’s time for honest leadership and a common-sense approach where we fix our roads first.
Vincent’s plan of action
  • Issue an executive order to require the Department of Transportation to adopt the Fix it First rule he has promoted in the Senate.
  • Appoint a Transportation Director to be accountable and use the limited resources to secure the safety of the existing roads.
  • Set benchmarks on Fix-It-First projects to tackle our most crumbling roads first. Hold the DOT accountable to those benchmarks and provide monthly updates on projects to improve transparency.
Transform how we pay to maintain our roads & bridges. 
Currently South Carolina is heavily reliant on the gas tax, which generates about $500 million per year and accounts for 71 percent of all state highway funding. But the gas tax is a declining source of revenue as cars become more fuel efficient. Increasing the gas tax is not going to solve our transportation funding crisis. To succeed, the state must diversify funding and weave together sources to responsibly invest over the long-term.  Because of historic underinvestment in our roads we need to create an additional dedicated funding source and issue bonds to jumpstart needed investments.
Vincent’s plan of action:
  • Issue bonds to fund long-term investment.
    • The use of infrastructure is enjoyed by generations of our citizens. Just like a family takes out a responsible mortgage to buy a house for their long-term success, bonding is a responsible way to invest over multiple years in the future that will help families and businesses alike. The use of bonds would allow the state to inject a tremendous one-time infusion of funds needed to bring our roads up to standards while using other sources of revenue to maintain their integrity.
  • Dedicate five percent of General Fund revenue for roads.
    • As a state, we must decide that road funding is such a priority to deserve a portion of general tax revenue — especially surplus revenue. As governor, Vincent would put forth a budget to phase in the automatic dedication of five percent of the General Fund and surplus revenue to Department of Transportation to repair our roads and bridges.
  • Investigate other sources of revenue.
    • Honest leadership means bringing people together and considering many new ideas while building a bipartisan coalition to move forward and deliver results. As Governor, Vincent will explore potential revenue sources to pay for the repair of roads and bridges, including:
      • Lease rest areas to private businesses to establish gas and food sales at rest stops and generate new revenue.
      • Investigate an out-of-state truck tax to gather funds from those out-of-state who use our roads but don’t pay anything to maintain them. This will generate funds and make South Carolina more competitive with other states’ approaches.
 
Make the Department of Transportation more accountable
People expect and deserve a government that works and works well – and when it doesn’t, they deserve real accountability. South Carolina can fund its priorities by cracking down on waste, mismanagement, and incompetence to put politics aside and focus on getting results.
Vincent’s plan of action: 
  • Restructure of the state Department of Transportation to make the director answer directly to the governor
  • Abolish the DOT Commission to allow the legislature and governor to manage and set road funding and policy and to increase accountability.
  • Increase oversight from the legislature so that with new leadership we could have real accountability.
  • Combine the State Infrastructure Bank with the Department of Transportation to provide a consolidated and accountable approach to road improvements and maintenance.
View this release online, here.

Yes, restructuring DOT — as we failed to do in 1993, and again in 2007 (because, in both cases, the General Assembly did not want to reform DOT) — is a great idea. It’s a no-brainer, something that should have been done long, long ago.

And I commend Sen. Sheheen for presenting a plan, instead of playing the game that Nikki Haley is playing — saying she’ll have a plan for us, but only after the election.

But if announcing your plan before the election means you feel compelled to avoid the most obvious way of paying for your proposal, then something important is lost.

Again, we have a way to pay for roadwork. It’s the gasoline tax. It has been held artificially, ridiculously low for far too long. There’s no need to run all over creation trying to find some other way to pay for infrastructure when we have a way to do it already. It’s a particularly bad idea to cut into funding available for all the other functions of government that don’t have a dedicated funding stream (“automatically dedicate five percent of the General Fund”), to pay for a governmental function that does have a dedicated funding stream — a common-sense one tied to use.

Obamacare ruling: WOW, talk about a lack of perspective!

There’s some big news out of a federal appeals court in D.C., and I am just stunned by the lack of perspective in the way The Washington Post is reporting it:

federal appeals court panel in the District struck down a major part of the 2010 health-care law Tuesday, ruling that the tax subsidies that are central to the program may not be provided in at least half of the states.

The ruling, if upheld, could potentially be more damaging to the law than last month’s Supreme Court decision on contraceptives. [emphasis mine]

The three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with plaintiffs who argued that the language of the law barred the government from giving subsidies to people in states that chose not to set up their own insurance marketplaces. Twenty-seven states, most with Republican leaders who oppose the law, decided against setting up marketplaces, and another nine states partially opted out…..

Wow. Do ya think?

This ruling, “if upheld,” would mean Obamacare would cease to exist for those of us in South Carolina and in 26 other states. There would be nothing left of it. We don’t have the Medicaid expansion, and we don’t have a state exchange, so this would be it — no one — South Carolina would be getting health insurance through the ACA.

Which, of course, is precisely what Nikki Haley and all those other SC Republicans who hate Barack Obama and all he stands for far, FAR more than they care about the people of SC want. Their dream, our nightmare, would be achieved — South Carolina would have “opted out” of health care reform.

Compare that to a ruling that closely-held corporations with religious objections would not have to cover some contraceptives — while covering EVERYTHING ELSE that a person would go to a doctor for.

So, uh, yeah, it could “potentially” (that hedge word is just the cherry on top of this monument to lack of perspective) be more damaging to the law.

Wow. Wow…

I’ll get mad at Nikki Haley and her fellow ideologues who put South Carolina in a position to be denied any benefit (any benefit at all, people, not just your preferred contraceptives, or your favorite antihistamines, or your chosen brand of bandages) from the ACA later. Right now, my mind is too boggled by that observation from the WashPost

I don’t know anything about this Sandhya Somashekhar person who wrote the piece, but does she not have an editor?!?!?

The morality isn’t QUITE as clear as Krauthammer says

From Charles Krauthammer’s latest column:

Rarely does international politics present a moment of such moral clarity. Yet we routinely hear this Israel-Gaza fighting described as a morally equivalent “cycle of violence.” This is absurd. What possible interest can Israel have in cross-border fighting? Everyone knows Hamas set off this mini-war. And everyone knows the proudly self-declared raison d’etre of Hamas: the eradication of Israel and its Jews….

He’s right that there is not moral equivalence here, and that Hamas is the party that is in the wrong. They are the ones who started this by firing the rockets, and absolutely refusing to stop firing the rockets, which is all they had to do, at any time, to stop the violence.

But the fact is that innocents are being killed, and up to the time he wrote his column, they were Palestinian innocents, for the most part (the Israeli casualties have started climbing now that the IDF is engaged in ground operations, which is always the way).

And that raises the huge moral contradiction in this conflict:

  • Hamas is trying to kill innocent noncombatants in Israel, but failing.
  • Israel is trying NOT to kill innocents, but is doing so regularly.

That’s Hamas’ fault, no doubt about it. As Krauthammer says, those Palestinian innocents are being sacrificed by Hamas deliberately to score international PR points.

As Netanyahu says,

“Here’s the difference between us,” explains the Israeli prime minister. “We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”…

And what else is Israel to do, since Hamas won’t stop firing the rockets?

Krauthammer’s conclusion is inescapable. But it’s wishful thinking to say this is a moment of unusual clarity. The situation presents a moral mess, which is exactly what Hamas, of course, wants. The matter is clear to Krauthammer, and clear to me. But it isn’t to everyone, and to the extent that is the case, Hamas is succeeding.

Tom Erwin adds staff

I kind of like it when candidates send out helpful memos like this, to make it easier for me to keep up with who is running their campaigns. It keeps me from having to ask around, which, let’s face it, is kinda like work:

Ervin Campaign Announces the Addition of Press Secretary Christian Hertenstein and Senior Advisor Matt David.

Greenville, SC — The Tom Ervin campaign announced today its most recent additions to the campaign’s staff, press secretary Christian Hertenstein and senior advisor Matt David.20140525_0138-300x300

“We are recruiting top talent to our campaign team so that we continue our momentum and claim victory in November,” said Tom Ervin, the Independent Republican candidate for governor of South Carolina. “We want the entire state to understand our plan to grow the economy, ensure every child has access to a quality education, and implement tough ethics reform in Columbia; this is the team we need to do it.”

Matt David is a partner at Outland Creative Works in Los Angeles, CA. Prior to this he held a number of roles in Republican politics, both in state government and campaigns. David was the deputy chief of staff and communications director for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. David’s experience in South Carolina includes work in two Republican presidential primaries: deputy communications director for Sen. McCain in 2008 and campaign manager for Gov. Huntsman in 2012.

“South Carolina is in need of a chief executive that both reflects the values of the state and has a clear vision for its future. I’m thrilled to help Tom in his mission to make a better South Carolina,” said David.

Christian Hertenstein is serving as press secretary and has both private sector and political communications experience. Most recently, Hertenstein managed communications for a financial institution. Prior to his private sector work, Hertenstein was the communications director for the South Carolina Republican Party.

But they should provide links. I added the two above. I hope I linked to the right people of those names…

How could Huck Finn not top any list of Great American Novels?

Thomas Hart Benton's depiction of Huck and Jim

Thomas Hart Benton’s depiction of Huck and Jim

A piece in The Washington Post this morning on the new book about living next door to Harper Lee mentions the status of To Kill A Mockingbird as a, if not the, Great American Novel — and casually links to a list.

The list isn’t explained. I don’t know who compiled it, or what the criteria may have been.

But of course I’m drawn in. The list extends to 358 books (which requires straining the definition of “great”), but let’s just examine the top ten:

  1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  3. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  4. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  5. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  6. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
  7. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  8. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
  9. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
  10. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

OK, first, it’s just not right for Steinbeck to get three out of the 10. Especially since — confession time — I’ve never read the first two. The Grapes of Wrath is one of those novels I’ve meant to read for most of my life, and I will (my wife finds it utterly incredible I still haven’t). East of Eden, not so much.

And, to confess further, despite having started it again to great fanfare, I’ve still never finished Moby Dick. It just seems to start to drag after they go to sea. (Yeah, I know that’s pretty early in the book.) Which is weird, because that’s when seafaring tales generally get good.

I think all the other works are deserving of the top ten, although I might move up some of my faves from the second ten (On the Road, The Sun Also Rises, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Fahrenheit 451).

But my main beef is this: How could any list of the Greatest American Novels not start with Huckleberry Finn? Hemingway famously said, ““All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.” And I agree, except that I would delete the word, “modern.” It’s superfluous. All American literature, period.

It’s THE American novel. It’s episodic, picaresque structure is quintessentially American. Huck Finn, the freest character in literature, untainted by the history or culture of the Old World, couldn’t be more American. Huck can be anyone he wants to be, and slides in and out of identities throughout. And the central conflict in the novel is about the deepest, most profound issue of our history — in the sense that it has a central theme. Remember the author’s warning:

PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

Which is a very American sort of warning — notice in no uncertain terms that pretension will not be tolerated.

Even the novel’s weaknesses are very American. Such as the uneven tone — starting out with farcical comedy that is an extension of Tom Sawyer, moving to tragedy with the Graingerfords and other incidents, the slapstick and menace of the Duke and the Dauphin, and ending with the broad comedy of Tom’s insistence on throwing flourishes from literature into Jim’s escape from the Phelps farm – itself a deadly serious matter, which nearly leads to Tom’s death, and does result in Jim’s recapture (as a result of his own selflessness).

Sorry, that was a confusing sentence. But you see what I mean. The novel was no more constrained by a particular tone than life itself. Very free, very American. And certainly great.

OK, off the top of my head, my own list:

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
  2. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  3. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
  5. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
  6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
  7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  8. All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren
  9. The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane
  10. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

Some runner-ups:

  • The Chosen, by Chaim Potok
  • Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
  • City Boy, by Herman Wouk
  • The Natural, by Bernard Malamud
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain
  • Goodbye, Columbus, by Philip Roth
  • The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper
  • The Godfather, by Mario Puzo
  • God’s Little Acre, by Erskine Caldwell
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

Better stop there, as my quality was slipping a bit at the end there (Heinlein is fun, but is it literature?).

I’ll come back and explain those choices a bit another day. Gotta run now…