Category Archives: Business

Anybody have any ideas on how I can sell ads and be totally ethical?

Tony Mizzell in 2010: At the end of the interview, he gave me a check...

Tony Mizzell in 2010: At the end of the interview, he gave me a check…

The weirdness has been there from the moment I sold my first blog ad, back in 2010.

It was to Tony Mizzell, city county candidate.

For a guy who had spent his whole, long professional life totally insulated from the advertising department, it was… an unsettling experience.

My first ad. From the start, it was weird...

My first ad. From the start, it was weird…

I had set up an interview with the candidate. Here’s my post about that. He had also agreed to buy an ad. The weirdness happened the moment he and I were done with the interview. He said something like, “Oh, yeah, I owe you something!” And he gave me a check. Right there. At the end of an interview.

This was a perfectly natural transaction for Tony. He worked at Chernoff Newman, and dealt with digital advertising for them. In fact, he gave me a bit of code to attach to the ad so he could track its performance (he was pleased, as I recall).

But some element of that awkwardness, that ethical seaminess, has been present in practically every sales pitch I’ve ever made. And I don’t know what to do about it.

I’ve tried, three times, to get other people to sell ads for me so they can be the Advertising Department and I can be the Editorial Department, and never the twain would meet, as God intended. But it’s never worked out. Partly this is because I’ve never worked with anyone who was used to the world of political advertising. And let’s face it, while I have and have had some wonderful nonpolitical advertisers (Palmetto Citizens Federal Credit Union, AT&T, Yesterday’s prominent among them), politicians and advocacy groups are the most fertile field for selling ads for this venue.

And of course, ethically speaking, they’re the worst ads for me to try to sell.

But it keeps falling back on me. And it creeps me out to do it. So my ads are few and far between. I was grateful to have Micah Caskey’s business again this time around, which ended up leading indirectly to a last-minute primary ad from Paula Rawl Calhoon. I enjoyed having them there, and I just today took them down, having procrastinated for a week. I miss them already. Their presence made the blog look more colorful. And more prosperous.

So I’m looking around for new customers, when I can force myself to think about it. I was hoping Nathan Ballentine would run for John Courson’s seat, because, well, Nathan’s advertised with me before, and that makes the conversation easier. But he probably made a good move staying out of it, given the composition of that district.

So now what do I do? I decided to try Dick Harpootlian, even though he probably won’t have a lot of motivation to spend money until he has serious opposition. Dick being Dick, I thought I’d strike a somewhat facetious tone. Here’s the Direct Message I sent via Twitter:

Hey, Dick, what happened to your opponent? In any case, I’d like to talk about your campaign sometime…. Oh, and on a COMPLETELY UNRELATED matter, you should take out a campaign ad on my blog. I can send details. Yeah, I no longer have that wonderful wall of separation between editorial and advertising… It’s all me…

What do you think? Too much? Too little? Yeah, it would be great to separate the “I’d like to talk to you about your campaign” conversation from the “let me sell you an ad” conversation, and I do that when it’s workable, but this is a special election, and the time window is very limited.

Also, I don’t think Dick’s the kind of guy who’s going to feel woozy at the idea of a guy wanting to make money from what he does.

Trouble is, I am that sort of guy. I was shielded from such considerations all my life until recently. And it still feels unnatural. Notice how I didn’t really bother giving a pious Miranda-like pronouncement that whether you buy an ad or not will not be used against you in the court of my opinion. Sometimes I do it; sometimes I don’t. When I do, it sounds a bit priggish. And I’ve noticed that I don’t even try to sell ads to candidates I’ve been super-critical of. Of course, I don’t really try to sell ads to MOST candidates, whether I’ve been critical of them or not. I have such an aversion to the whole process.

If any of y’all have any ideas about how to go about it better, I’m all ears…

So... I made a half-hearted stab (my usual approach) at selling an ad to THIS guy...

So… I made a half-hearted, conflicted stab (my usual approach) at selling an ad to THIS guy…

Chamber endorses 15 incumbents with primary opposition

The Chamber of Commerce is playing it safe — which doesn’t mean they’re not right about some of these endorsements:

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce PAC, which supports pro-jobs candidates for the General Assembly, today endorsed 15 members of the S.C. House of Representatives who are running for re-election.chamber_pac_logo_2-1

Each Chamber PAC-endorsed candidate has joined the business community in the fight to make South Carolina the most competitive state in the nation for business development.

“The business community is proud to announce its support for these House members,” said Chamber President and CEO Ted Pitts. “They have strengthened our workforce, delivered tax relief, invested in our infrastructure and reduced the regulatory burden – and, when they are re-elected, we look forward to working with them to keep South Carolina on the move.”

The following House members have earned the business community’s support in June’s primary elections based on their performance on the S.C. Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative scorecard.

  • State Rep. Nathan Ballentine (District 71, Richland and Lexington Counties)
  • State Rep. Micah Caskey (District 89, Lexington County)
  • State Rep. Sylleste Davis (District 100, Berkeley Country)
  • State Rep. Greg Duckworth (District 104, Horry County)
  • State Rep. Craig Gagnon (District 11, Abbeville and Anderson Counties)
  • State Rep. Jackie Hayes (District 55, Darlington, Dillon, Horry and Marlboro Counties)
  • State Rep. Phyllis Henderson (District 21, Greenville Country)
  • State Rep. Joe McEachern (District 77, Richland County)
  • State Rep. Samuel Rivers (District 15, Berkley and Charleston Counties)
  • State Rep. Mike Sottile (District 112, Charleston County)
  • State Rep. Kit Spires (District 96, Lexington County)
  • State Rep. Eddie Tallon (District 33, Spartanburg County)
  • State Rep. Jay West (District, Abbeville and Anderson County)
  • State Rep. Brian White (District 6, Anderson County)
  • State Rep. Ronnie Young (District 84, Aiken County)

At this point, Doug or someone is bursting with indignation at the idea of endorsing all these incumbents! Understandable.

Although the ones with whom I’m most familiar — Nathan Ballentine and Micah Caskey, for instance — are ones I’d pick, too. And if I knew more, I’d likely back quite a few of the others, too.

Unfortunately, our parties have become so corrupted by our system of reapportionment that incumbents seldom, if ever, draw primary opposition that a sensible person would seriously consider. Challengers tend to be extremists trying to pull their respective parties even farther from the sensible center, perpetual candidates who time and time again have been rejected by the voters.

The latter is the case with Micah Caskey, for instance. I forget how many times Billy Oswald has run in the past — sometimes as a Democrat, sometimes as a Republican. If I recall correctly from meeting him long ago, he’s a nice guy (and I have no reason to believe he’s involved with this perfidy), but voters have repeatedly rejected him. And I see no reason they should change their minds after the strong freshman performance Micah has turned in.

In fact, he’s done such a good job that even if he had really strong opposition — such as, say, Tem Miles, whom Micah faced last time — I’d definitely be for giving Micah another term. He’s more than earned it, and I expect more good things from him.

All of that said, there must be SOME incumbents the Chamber doesn’t want to see re-elected. But being the Chamber and therefore risk-averse, those folks aren’t being listed. Because, you know, then the Chamber would be making enemies among folks who will likely be re-elected anyway.

I’d sort of like to see the other list, the one whose existence this one implies: In other words, the incumbents whom the Chamber didn’t endorse despite their having primary opposition. That list would be interesting. I might see if I can infer who those folks are if I get some time later….

 

The conservative case for clean energy

The solar panel (get it?): Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Charles Hernick of CRES, Bret Sowers of the SC Solar Business Alliance, Tyson Grinstead of Sunrun, Inc., and moderator Matt Moore.

The solar panel (get it?): Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Charles Hernick of CRES, Bret Sowers of the SC Solar Business Alliance, Tyson Grinstead of Sunrun, Inc., and moderator Matt Moore.

There’s something odd about that headline, isn’t there? One shouldn’t have to make such a case, seeing as how “conservative” and “conservation” derive from the same root.

But our modern politics are sufficiently strange that the case must be made — and increasingly, more conservatives are prepared to make it.

They did so this morning over at the convention center Hilton, at a breakfast co-sponsored by the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions out of Washington.

Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

The program started with a brief keynote by Erick Erickson of The Resurgent (and formerly of RedState), who came to say, “We conservatives don’t have to be afraid of clean energy.” Mind you, “We don’t need to subsidize it” the way he says folks on the left want to do — it’s more about getting out of the way and letting markets do the job.

The main thing standing in the way of that is the owners of the current infrastructure. Erickson, who lives in Macon, says he keeps hearing from Georgia Power, telling him that solar might burn his house down, and anyway, it’s not efficient — it doesn’t work on a cloudy day.

“Why are you so scared of it, then?,” he asks.

After Erickson sat down, Matt Moore — new head of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and former chairman of the S.C. GOP — gave out awards to some conservative friend of clean energy, including my own Rep. Micah Caskey. Others recognized were Rep. Nathan Ballentine, and Sen. Greg Gregory.

Gregory got credit for passage of Act 236 in 2014 — the legislation that allowed net metering in South Carolina. Which was a start toward putting solar on a firm footing in the state.

But the main order of 2018 for these organizations is repealing a problematic provision of that legislation — a 2 percent cap on the amount of energy allowed to be generated by solar, something the utilities insisted on in 2014.

So we heard a lot, during a panel discussion featuring Ballentine and three others and chaired by Moore, about H. 4421, which would remove that cap and let solar compete freely — an idea suddenly quite popular, with SCANA and Santee Cooper in the political doghouse.

We’re getting close to that 2 percent cap, which Ballentine said would cause the disappearance of 3,000 jobs in South Carolina in the installation business (also represented on the panel). That’s one of the reasons he’s for lifting the cap.

He praised H. 4421, saying how good it is to see a “bipartisan effort” behind it.

And it does have bipartisan support. What Nathan did not say, with so many Republicans in the room, is that the bill’s prime sponsor is Rep. James Smith. He was concerned, apparently, that some in his party might oppose it just to keep James from having a big win when he’s running for governor.

Which would be really petty of them, but that’s the state of party politics in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and eighteen. For some people, anyway.

Frankly, I’m having trouble imagining any good reason why anyone would oppose such commonsense legislation. Maybe you can think of one, but I can’t.

The bill is supposed to come up in subcommittee again Thursday…

the room

A word from this blog’s Shameless Commerce Division…

From Anne Marie Eckstorm Green's Twitter feed.

From Anne Marie Eckstorm Green’s Twitter feed.

As y’all know, I don’t have a lot of ads on this blog because I hate the very idea of trying to sell anything to anyone at any time. For me, approaching a potential customer is like having an out-of-body experience. It feels most unnatural.

So generally, I don’t do it.

For the past month, I had this vague idea that since there was a special election to fill Rick Quinn’s seat, in the district right next to mine (in fact, my house was in that district back when Ted Pitts had it, but I got drawn out), I should probably find out who was running and give them my usual pitch (which isn’t exactly, “You don’t want to buy a campaign ad, do you?,” but it’s close).

But the date snuck up on me and I missed it. But now there are two people in a runoff, so I thought, here’s an opportunity. But I had no contact info. So I sent this to Anne Marie Eckstorm Green via Twitter. She doesn’t follow me (and why not?), so I couldn’t DM her, and now all the world can see my unabashed hucksterism:

The other candidate, Chris Wooten, doesn’t have a Twitter feed, near as I can tell. So, if any of y’all know him, tell him he can buy an ad here. If he, you know, really wants one….

Oh, and speaking of shameless — yeah, I stole the name of my sales department from Click and Clack. What, you think I’m going to make the effort to come up with something original?…

From Chris Wooten's FB page. Dude, where's your Twitter feed?

From Chris Wooten’s FB page. Dude, where’s your Twitter feed?

See, society HAS made progress, lest you despair

My wife’s cousin posted this on Facebook moments ago, and it cracked me up.

Dig these hepcats delivering the message, “It’s not how long you make it, it’s how you make it long!” And no, I’m not trying to switch the subject back to pornography. They really said that. On TV. And yeah, in a way, it kind of was pornography.

Yes, boys and girls, before 1972, there were cigarette ads on TV. And while all TV advertising tended to be pretty insipid, almost nothing else exceeded cigarette ads on that score.

Can’t you just see Don Draper thinking this one up between naps on the couch in his office?

What’s a TV commercial, you ask? You know, those irritating things that come on when you watch a sporting event on TV. Otherwise, you’re unlikely to see them. At least, that’s the only time I see them, which means I don’t see them much. (I’ve watched a little of the Winter Olympics, but I can’t bring myself to stick with it past maybe one commercial break. Then it’s back to “Britannia” or “Detectorists” or old episodes of “The West Wing” on Netflix or Prime.)

Worse, back in the day they were often a whole minute long, even though this one is closer to the modern length. Thank merciful heaven.

I look back at this, and take heart: Yes, some things about our society and culture have gotten better in my lifetime…

winston

Did you know SC had an Official Snack? I did not…

Krista via Flickr

Krista via Flickr

I learned about it from this release today from Lindsey Graham:

Graham, Scott Introduce Bill to Better Represent S.C. Peanut Farmers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) introduced the South Carolina Peanut Parity Act, which would put an individual from South Carolina on the Peanut Standards Board at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Companion legislation was introduced by U.S. Representative Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) and passed the House of Representatives in October 2017.

Graham and Scott noted that even though South Carolina has the fourth largest peanut industry in the country, the state is not represented the Peanut Standards Board. The board, created by the 2002 farm bill, advises USDA on proper standards for peanut quality and handling.

“As growers of our state’s official snack, South Carolina peanut farmers deserve a say in matters that affect their livelihood. I’m proud to work with my colleague, Senator Scott, on this important bill to ensure South Carolina’s peanut farmers get adequate representation at USDA,” said Graham. 

“Ensuring South Carolina peanut farmers have a seat at the table is incredibly important,” Scott said. “I want to thank Senator Graham for working together on this important bill, and I look forward to sharing some South Carolina boiled peanuts with our colleagues when it passes.”

#####

I didn’t know we had an official snack. I didn’t know anyone had an official snack. And I quite naturally wonder whether we need an official snack.

But as long as we’re going to have one, I can’t think of a better one than boiled peanuts. Can you?

And in fact, now that I know it, I find myself growing quite indignant at the knowledge that heretofore, we were unrepresented on the Peanut Standards Board!

In light of that, I’d like to propose a new Official Battle Cry for the state of South Carolina:

No Goobers Without Representation!

Put an Apple Store near me, and I might take you up on it…

Apple Store

Doesn’t Apple have a way to know where the person it’s sending an email to is located?

I got this come-on from the tech giant today, urging me to partake of various interesting activities “at an Apple Store near you.” Such things as:

  • Take a Photo Walk. And snap pictures that pop with Portrait Lighting.
  • Join a Sketch Walk. And expand your palette with Procreate.
  • Stop by for a Music Lab. And define your sound with GarageBand.
  • Drop in for Kids Hour. And spark their imagination and creativity.

OK, so maybe I wouldn’t actually take you up on these activities. I’m not that starved for stuff to do. I never have been. Back when I was at the newspaper, and an editor’s meeting would come up about the Weekend section or the community calendars we’d run in the paper, I’d always wonder what it would be like to be someone who actually had to go out looking for something to do. I had trouble imagining it.

Anyway, if I did want to do any of this stuff, I’d be out of luck. When I click on the link in the email that promises to let me “Explore all the amazing things you can do,” I am immediately identified as being in the “Augusta area.”

Yep, that’s right — not only does Charleston have an Apple Store and we don’t… not only does Greenville have an Apple Store and we don’t… but little Augusta has an Apple Store — and in case you haven’t picked up on it, we don’t.

I think they’re just taunting me. Taunting all of us. Because they hate us…

Admittedly, I don't have a strong personal desire to be in this picture, but what if I did? Why taunt me?

Admittedly, I don’t have a strong personal desire to be in this picture, but what if I did? Why taunt me?

House panel to resume work on nuclear fiasco

S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas sent this out a few minutes ago:

Lucas

Lucas

“The House has continued to monitor the recent developments surrounding the VC Summer nuclear fallout since our ratepayer protection package was prepared in December. Comments made today in the Senate illustrate an inability to comprehend that our thoughtful approach remains the top priority of this legislative session. House leadership believes the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee should continue to thoroughly investigate the moving parts of this complex issue to ensure millions of South Carolina ratepayers receive the protections they deserve. As a result, Representatives McCoy and Ott are fully prepared to bring the the committee back in short order to address ratepayer concerns.”

I’m not sure what he means by “Comments made today in the Senate illustrate an inability to comprehend that our thoughtful approach remains the top priority of this legislative session.” Maybe everybody over at the State House today (yes, they’re back) knows, but I only walked around the State House on the way to my 11,447 steps (so far today), and did not go in.

But this might be a piece of it:

Leatherman

Leatherman

Leatherman urged the Senate and its special committee to take a deliberate, thoughtful approach to fixing the systemic problems exposed by S.C. nuclear fiasco, which has cost SCANA stockholders and SCE&G customers billions of dollars.

“We need the Senate to take our time, to make sure decisions we make are well thought out and take into account more than just political expediency,” Leatherman said, making one of several digs at the S.C. House, which is expected to pass quickly its package of nuclear proposals….

Anyone have any idea what I’m doing that bugs Google?

The cartoon that started the fuss back in 2010. In case you forget, it was about Nikki Haley calling for transparency for everyone but herself...

The cartoon that started the fuss back in 2010. In case you forget, it was about Nikki Haley calling for transparency for everyone but herself…

Google Adsense — the folks who place the more random-seeming ads on this blog — sent me this warning recently. I just wish I knew what it was I did that they don’t like — because while the money I get from Google for those ads is a tiny trickle, it’s better than nothing, so I’d hate to see them pull the ads altogether.

Here’s what they said:

Dear Publisher,

This Google Publisher Policy Report gives you an overview of recent activity related to violations found on specific pages of your websites. As enforcement statuses may change over time, please refer to the “Page-level enforcements” section of the AdSense Policy Center for the current list of active violations.

Please note this report doesn’t cover violations that may happen on an overall site or account level. You may be notified by a separate email if site or account level violations are found. Ads will continue to serve where no policy violations have been found, either at the page- or site-level.

In the last 24 hours:

  • New violations were detected. As a result, ad serving has been restricted or disabled on pages where these violations of the AdSense Program Policies were found. To resolve the issues, you can either remove the violating content and request a review, or remove the ad code from the violating pages.

Further details on enforcements can be found in the AdSense Help Center. To learn more about our program policies, please view the AdSense Program Policies.

Kind regards,
Google Publisher Policy

The particular post that is seen as being in violation was this one from 2010, in which I rebutted people who were offended by a Robert Ariail cartoon. All Google tells me is that it contains “Dangerous or derogatory content.” Google further defines that this way:

As stated in our program policies, Google ads may not be placed on pages that contain content that:

  • Threatens or advocates for harm on oneself or others;

  • Harasses, intimidates or bullies an individual or group of individuals;

  • Incites hatred against, promotes discrimination of, or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization.

Of course, neither my post nor Robert’s cartoon did any of those things, although there were people who managed to twist logic enough to be offended. Perhaps one of them complained to Google. Well, sorry, folks, but this is a political commentary blog, and that cartoon was legitimate commentary that made a highly relevant political point at the time.

Even if you do find a way to be offended, it completely escapes me how this seven-year-old post constitutes a “new violation.” This post was old and moldy before I ever started running Google ads. And the last comment on it was posted on Aug. 14, 2010. There’s nothing new there. In fact, reading over it just now I found some glaring typos, but I’m not going to touch them in case that makes the post more current to some algorithm out there.

The only way Google offers me to question this ruling is to “request review,” which I have done. I don’t get to offer a defense or anything; I just click on “request review,” and they say this:

What’s happening

You’ve requested a review for this page and we’re currently looking into it. Reviews typically take 1 week but sometimes can take longer. We’ll let you know when the review is complete.

We’ll see.

So we’re not going to have SCANA to kick around any more…

vc summer

Just thought I’d better put up a post about the big news of the day, to give those of you who wish to comment a place to do so:

Dominion buying SCANA, offers refunds to SCE&G customers after nuclear fiasco

Virginia-based Dominion Energy is buying SCANA Corp. in a $14.6 billion deal that offers $1.3 billion in refunds to SCE&G power customers who unwittingly helped bankroll SCANA’s failed nuclear expansion project.

In a news release announcing the deal, Dominion pledged cash payments of about $1,000 per household to customers of SCE&G, SCANA’s Cayce-based electric utility.

The deal, subject to regulatory approvals, would leave SCANA as a subsidiary of Dominion. The Richmond-headquartered company promised to cut SCE&G’s electric rates by $7 a month, on average, and to put a halt sooner to customers’ ongoing charges for the abandoned nuclear project….

Personally, I’m not yet sure what I think of what was South Carolina’s largest publicly traded company no longer being locally owned.

One thing I’m curious about, though, and did not see addressed in The State‘s story (maybe I read it too fast): Does this mean Dominion owns the permits to build the nuclear reactors, and does that revive hopes of building them in the future?

dominion

What’s the most deserted mall in South Carolina?

space

The other day I mentioned walking at Dutch Square mall, a place that would hardly be standing any more if not for the movie theater and Burlington Coat Factory.

I can remember when it was new, that one semester I was a student at USC, in the fall of 1971. I never actually visited it then — neither I nor any of my friends had a car (now try to imagine that, boys and girls), so what little shopping I did was limited to Five Points and the Main Street area — but I heard reports that it was really something. And when we moved home to South Carolina in 1987, it was still going strong.

Today, not so much. There’s the two businesses mentioned above, some athletic shoe stores, a fitness emporium, some clothing stores with such names as “Urban Fashion,” a nail salon and some places that deal in gold. And a lot of dead space between some of them.

But it’s hardly alone in that regard. A couple of nights later, we decided to take a walk around Richland Mall, after my wife exchanged something at Belk. Wow. First, some of the mall seems to be inaccessible, at least from the end where we were walking — the occupied part that includes Belk, Barnes & Noble, a LensCrafters and a barber shop. There didn’t seem to be a way to get to the part on the other side of Belk, at least from inside. After a couple of circuits around the part we could get to, we quit walking. It was depressing.

My wife raised a question that hadn’t occurred to me: How do they afford to keep the lights on, and climate control operating? I don’t know. That bill has to be huge, even with parts of the mall closed off.

But for sheer emptiness, I’m not sure even Richland can compete with Inlet Square Mall in Murrells Inlet. That was a fairly hopping place just a few years ago, and now it’s like something that’s begging to be used as a movie set. You ever see Logan’s Run, about an entirely underground society? They could have shot that in Inlet Square, probably with room to spare.

The tipping point for that mall was, near as I can tell, the closing of the K-Mart that anchored one end, followed by the disappearance of Steinmart. The amazing thing is that this mall still has a Belk, and yet seems much more deserted than Dutch Square.

This is our brave new world, with Amazon taking the place of all these public spaces. (I wonder — if I asked Alexa the way to a mall, would she know? Would she tell me?) Over the course of December I made a couple of trips to Columbiana. It’s still thriving — that is to say, it’s still active and busy. But I sense a certain fraying around the edges. Filling the former Sears with the men’s department of Belk was a master stroke of hiding the damage, but how long will it be before this place is largely deserted, too?

Yeah, I know one form of economic activity is being replaced by another that’s just brimming with vitality, but there is something about these deserted spaces that were once so filled with life that gives the impression of a dead or dying civilization. It’s like the Roman Forum after the Visigoths were done with it, or the Acropolis, or some Mayan city overtaken by the jungle. All that infrastructure, so recently vibrant and glittering, left to crumble.

Can anyone think of any other mall in South Carolina that is more deserted than the above, yet still standing and open to the public? If so, I might like to try walking there of a cold evening…

A bit of confusion in the purchasing department?

Trojans

What with the cold weather, my wife and I went to complete our walking for the day at Dutch Square Mall, a place where you can move at a pretty good pace without people underfoot, especially since the departure of Belk.

To lengthen the walk, we included a full circuit of the attached Burlington Coat Factory.

Looks like somebody in the purchasing department got a tad confused as to which USC interests people in South Carolina.

But whoever was in charge of putting out the stock was unfazed: They sent it, we might as well put it out!

SCANA’s Kevin Marsh: Will he stay or will he go?

I was puzzled when I saw this release from House Speaker Jay Lucas moments ago:

Speaker Lucas Calls for SCANA CEO’s Resignation

(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement today.

“SCANA’s mismanagement of the VC Summer nuclear facility has proven that the company cannot be trusted to promote or protect its consumers’ interests. On behalf of the South Carolina ratepayer, I believe SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh should resign immediately. This measure should have occurred long before now and without pressure from elected officials. Throughout the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee’s study, it has become increasing clear that neither South Carolina ratepayers nor the South Carolina House of Representatives can have faith in SCANA under Marsh’s leadership.”

Say what? Hadn’t I read just yesterday that he had been canned? Does the Speaker not read the paper?

But then I saw this, from earlier today:

SCANA chief denies he’s leaving embattled utility

The story over the weekend was weird. You had a spokesperson with SCANA putting out a non-denial denial that only increased confusion, and stubbornly refusing to clarify.

Marsh

Marsh

And now this.

So which is it, SCANA? Never mind Marsh and what he says. Do you intend to get rid of him or not? And if not, in light of the speaker’s statement, why not?

I could get into a whole philosophical thing about how the public utility chief quit right away, while the unaccountable private one refuses to, but y’all can see that on your own, right? Good, because that saves me from trying to argue a general rule on the basis of two examples…

Who can be as foolhardy and reckless as Trump? The Democrats…

900px-Flag_of_South_Korea.svg

Here’s an excellent example of why it won’t be the Democrats who save us from Trump.

At least, not these Democrats.

Possibly the most foolish thing Trump has done in the last few days (and yeah, I know there are a lot of exciting entries in a crowded field) is this, at the very moment we’re facing an increased threat from North Korea:

President Trump has instructed advisers to prepare to withdraw the United States from a free-trade agreement with South Korea, several people close to the process said, a move that would stoke economic tensions with the U.S. ally as both countries confront a crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Withdrawing from the trade deal would back up Trump’s promises to crack down on what he considers unfair trade competition from other countries, but his top national security and economic advisers are pushing him to abandon the plan, arguing it would hamper U.S. economic growth and strain ties with an important ally. Officials including national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn oppose withdrawal, said people familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

Although it is still possible Trump could decide to stay in the agreement to renegotiate its terms, the internal preparations for terminating the deal are far along, and the formal withdrawal process could begin as soon as this week, the people said….

You know why those top aides don’t want him to do this, especially now? Because they have brains. They know that free-trade agreements bind nations closer together, aside from producing more wealth overall.

This is absolutely no time for slapping allies in the face in that part of the world — or anywhere, of course.

But fortunately, there’s a loyal opposition out there poised to the save the country from this nonsense, right?

Uhhhh… no (imagine I said that in a Butthead voice). This was in the Post the same day as the above:

 Democrats facing reelection next year in states President Trump won are seizing on trade at this early stage as a crucial issue and a Republican vulnerability.

But rather than jeer Trump’s protectionist positions, Democrats are echoing them and amplifying them, arguing that Trump has failed to fulfill his dramatic campaign promise to rip apart trade deals.

“When we say renegotiating NAFTA, we mean a transformation, something substantial, not just going through the motions,” Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) told union leaders recently, referring to the administration’s talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

For Democrats, Casey’s pitch signals a wholehearted revival of their labor roots and a sharp departure from the free-trade tilt of the past two Democratic presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton….

So, according to these Dems, the trouble with Trump is that he’s not Trumpy enough.

Notice how eager they are to repudiate the views of the last two Democrats who won presidential elections?

Brilliant, just brilliant….

OK, I’m getting sick and tired of these paywalls

paywall

Of course, of course, of course newspapers should have charged for their content online, starting in the 1990s when the Web was a novelty everybody was playing around with.

But nobody did, so nobody thought we could.

The fact that we didn’t was sort of a boon to journalists, while a looming nightmare to the business side: We could all access each other’s copy for free in real time — no more need to convince my publisher every year to let me keep that budget line for Lexis-Nexis. (That one stuck in his craw, every time. I think on some level he thought I was using the newspaper’s money to buy myself a luxury car.)

And we all got used to that, as did readers. Which made it all that much harder to get away with putting up a pay wall. People had come to expect free news as their right.

But finally, much too late, pretty much everyone has realized they need to charge for news that it costs them dearly to produce. (Reporters don’t get paid much, but they’re not free. Editors even less so.)

And between that and the pop-up ads that repeatedly jump up between you and what you’re trying to read (yet another scrappy effort to regain fiscal viability), reading newspaper content online has increasingly become less of a pleasure, and more of a chore.

Yesterday and today, I was trying to read the Post and Courier‘s story on Alan Wilson and the Quinns, and not succeeding. I’d call up the story, it would appear tantalizingly, for a couple of seconds, and then disappear behind a dialogue box urging me to subscribe. When I declined, the screen immediately reverted to the home page, where I could only see the headline. (Eventually, a link Doug shared with me worked, and I was able to read the story.)

While I was in the midst of that, someone shared with me a link to this story in The Wall Street Journal about effective passwords. Since my subscription expired months ago, my initial effort to read it failed. Then, I went to the old workaround that hasn’t been working for me lately (Google the precise headline of the story, and call it up directly from the search page) and this time it worked! But that might be related to the fact that this was the daily A-hed story. (That’s that one fun, featury read that the Journal puts on the front page every day.) And if I remember correctly, the A-hed has been free to read for years — which is smart, because it gives prospective subscribers the impression that the Journal is a fun paper to read.

And as you all know, The State has been more and more insistent that you pay to play. In fact, a couple of months back I thought they were getting sort of obsessive about it. Three days in a row, I was forced to log in yet again in order to read the paper on my iPad app. I found this sufficiently irritating that I complained about it on Twitter — and it hasn’t happened since. I don’t think there was a cause-and-effect relationship there, but I found the result satisfying nevertheless. Almost like I still had some pull…

Of course, an awful lot of content out there remains free, to an extent. If not for that, we’d see Twitter grind to a halt — or at least, the kinds of Tweets that I value, the ones that provide links to content. And if you’re a light user, you may never, for instance, exceed The New York Times‘ allotment of 10 free stories a month. But if you’re a heavy user like me, you end up having to knuckle under and subscribe. And for how much longer, I wonder, will they allow those 10 freebies, month after month?

But it’s getting to be more work, and/or more expensive, to keep up with the news on the Web. I wish I thought that was going to save newspapers — or better yet, return the to their glory days. If I did, I’d find these barriers less irritating…

WSJ paywall

Who spends $100 at Starbucks?

starbucks tote

Starbucks keeps making me these offers that cause me to wonder.

Yesterday, I got an email offering me a “free” tote bag.

That is, it was “free” if I spent $75 or more at the Starbucks online store.

A few days back, I got another sweet offer of 20 percent off! To get that, all I had to do is spend $100 or more at the same online store. This was an “exclusive” for a limited time only. It was so exclusive that it had a special code word. Since the offer has expired, I’m going to go ahead and violate security and tell you the code word: “QUENCH.” Print that out, memorize it and then burn it.

The thing I wonder is this: Who spends $100 at a time at Starbucks? Who needs or wants that much Starbucks stuff at any given moment? How many people got excited and took them up on these deals?

By the way, I can get a perfectly adequate “tote bag” (you know, one of those reusable shopping bags) from any local supermarket for about a buck. So…

Oh, and Starbucks: If you want to promote yourself, I’ve told you before how to do it. Advertise on this blog. I’m starting to lose patience with you on this point…

_hero_01

 

No, I don’t! Stop saying that!

This is from the Bugs Bunny “He don’t know me very well, do he?” department…

I keep getting the Google Adsense ad you see below. I just now refreshed like four times, and it wouldn’t go away.

I guess it’s because some of y’all brought up birth control on the previous post. You’ll notice that I didn’t engage. That was mainly because I wasn’t interested in doing so, but now I have an additional reason not to — at some point, I’d like to stop seeing this ad…

planned

 

The WSJ’s pricing pushes me over to the NYT

WSJ front 2

When I was in college, one of my journalism professors told me that The Wall Street Journal was perhaps the best-written paper in the country. I didn’t discover how right he was until decades later.

As editorial page editor, I had print subscriptions to the Journal and The New York Times, plus The Economist, Foreign Affairs, The Post and Courier, The Greenville News, The Charlotte Observer and so forth. And I’d try to at least skim the Journal and the Times (as about the only person on the board who wrote about national and international issues, I felt the need to keep up).

But I really got into the Journal when The State made a deal to distribute that paper along our circulation routes. As part of that deal, we got a certain number of comp copies, so I arranged to have one delivered free to my house, brought by the same carrier who delivered The State. I wanted to get the Times at home, too, but the guy who contracts with them in this area refuses to deliver on my side of the river, or so I hear (Samuel Tenenbaum, who also lives in Lexington County, drives to the Publix in Lexington each morning to get his copy.)

I really got hooked on it. This was during the years that Murdoch was turning it into a national-international reporting powerhouse as well as just a financial paper. Every day I looked forward to the three pages of opinion, and on the weekends there was the wonderful Review section, always a feast for the mind.

The Journal wasn’t just a boon to me; my wife took the old copies with her when she tutored a Somali Bantu boy whose family our church was sponsoring, to help him with his English.

But after I got laid off, I had to make a decision whether to keep getting it and paying for it myself. And somehow, I managed to scrape along and keep doing it until sometime late last year, when my subscription ran out and they were not giving me a good-enough deal to keep it going.

To give some perspective: For the last two or three years, I’ve been subscribing to The Washington Post for $29 a year. Online only, but that’s fine — not only do they not circulate here, but I read all my papers on the iPad now. By contrast, I’ve been offered “deals” by WSJ for as much as $400-plus a year.

I chalk that up to the Journal continuing to be a paper that people pay for through their work expenses — or, if they pay for it themselves, they can afford it. I can’t.

To be fair, they kept offering me “professional courtesy” rates, usually about $99 for six months. And I’d think about it and shake my head — $99 for a year, maybe (which I think they offered me in years past). But not six months. Not when I’m getting the Post for $29 a year, and at a time when Jeff Bezos has been investing in the newsroom, and the paper’s political coverage is at least as good as it has ever been. Meanwhile, the WSJ has ditched the Arena section I use to enjoy on Fridays.

It was easy to pass up on these offers at first because, for some reason, the Journal was still letting me read the paper on my iPad app. Since that’s the way I prefer to read it anyway, no problem. But eventually — several weeks ago — they got wise and cut me off there, too.

So, I started reading The Guardian in the mornings in place of the Journal. It’s free, although they keep asking me to be nice and pay. But they don’t do it the right way. I think The Guardian‘s a great read, but they pitch it as though I’d want to support their editorial view, and I can’t go there.

Then, last week, The New York Times came at me with a proposition I couldn’t refuse — I could get the whole paper online for $7.50 a month — or $12.20 a month if I wanted the crossword, and one additional subscription for a friend. Why was this a good deal? Well, I was already subscribing to the NYT crossword iPad app, and was paying $6.99 a month for that alone. (Which I thought was really exorbitant, since I get The New Yorker on my iPad for only $5.99 a month, but hey, I enjoy the crosswords — at least, I do on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.)

So basically, I’d still get my crosswords, and then get the rest of the paper for only $5.51 — or $66.12 a year. With the offer expiring on Sunday, I pulled the trigger Saturday night.

Now, some of you will say — you won’t pay for The Guardian because of its editorial position, but you switch from The Wall Street Journal to The New York Times — the national icons of the right and left, respectively — as though they were interchangeable?

Yep. Because they’re both great, well-written and -edited papers that bring me the world, and offer me something I enjoy reading on every page. Including the editorial pages. I probably disagree with both papers’ editorial boards about equally. But the opinions, especially the op-eds, are lively and though-provoking. And I’m not one of these people who has to agree with a view to enjoy reading it — in fact, I don’t understand such people.

Anyway, it had gotten to where my favorite columnist in the WSJ was Bret Stephens — and he just moved over to the NYT. As I start reading the paper daily, I expect my favorites will be the ones who skew right — Stephens, David Brooks, Ross Douthat — even as my favorites in the WSJ were more to the left, on the rare days when such was to be had.

Anyway, y’all will likely see me citing stories in the Times as much as I used to from the Journal. (Y’all had probably long ago noticed that I point you to the Post a lot.) I’m sure y’all will give me a heads-up if you think I’m getting reprogrammed…

nyt

So then, what’s the ‘Texas Stack’ going to look like?

 

Alternative headline: “What’s all this, then, eh?

This ad, for a menu item McDonald’s only sells in Britain, is just beyond bizarre.

What were they thinking? This would be like Americans promoting a “London Stack” with a guy wearing a tam o’ shanter and kilt and complaining about how much the meal costs.

Reference is made to a “sweet and tangy South Carolina sauce.” That would be a bit of a step up. Have you ever tried the ketchup in a McDonald’s in England? I have. It’s the weirdest. They seem to leave the vinegar out — it’s just pure sweetness. No tang at all. It comes in the same little packets that say “Heinz” on them, but it’s nothing like American ketchup. Ask for some brown sauce instead…

Bull Street Update: There’s baseball, and, um… there’s baseball…

Bull Street is coming along fine. It's got baseball...

Bull Street is coming along fine. It’s got baseball…

Having seen this story in The State today:

Most members of the Bull Street Commission, a seven-member board appointed by Columbia City Council, said Monday that they are satisfied with progress at the former State Hospital despite raised expectations of a sprawling retail complex that so far have not materialized.

“I still feel the project is coming along at a reasonable pace,” said member Rebecca Haynes, a former president of the Earlewood Community Citizens Organization. “I think it’s way too early in a 20-year project for anyone to start throwing stones.”…

… I was wondering what y’all thought about how the development is going.

All I’ve really seen so far is baseball, but then, I keep telling y’all to be patient on the Innovista concept, so do I have room to talk?

Anyway, if all you’ve got to show is baseball, is that so bad? It’s better than what they’ve got going at Williams-Brice, in my book…

... and also baseball.

… and also baseball.