Category Archives: South Carolina

Our newbie Legislature (this should thrill Doug)

Scstatehouse

This news about our Legislature should thrill Doug:

About one-third of the House’s 124 members will start the session in January with less than three years of experience.

Almost half of the 46 senators have been elected to that chamber within the last five years…

The story in the Charleston paper attributes this in part to “investigations,” but that doesn’t add up. The ongoing corruption investigation has resulted in two permanent departures so far.

So I find myself wondering — how unusual is this really? Do we always have a surprisingly high number of freshmen and sophomores making our laws?

If so, that should be greatly reassuring to Doug, who eyes experience with deep suspicion.

But I’ve gotta tell ya, it kind of worries me a bit.

Although it doesn’t seem to bother my own senator, who’s held the office since 1976. So maybe it’s no big deal… :)

The other shoe drops: Richard Quinn indicted (Jim Harrison, too)

Scstatehouse

I looked away for a moment on this slow day, and suddenly there was news.

The other shoe has dropped in prosecutor Pascoe’s corruption probe. Actually, several shoes (so maybe that’s not the best metaphor, unless we’re talking about a well-shod octopus):

Republican consultant Richard Quinn Sr., for years a kingmaker in S.C. politics, was indicted Wednesday by the State Grand Jury on a felony charge of criminal conspiracy, as well as a charge of illegal lobbying, or failure to register as a lobbyist.

Since the late 1970s, Quinn, 73, has been one of South Carolina’s premier political consultants. An insider’s insider, he has helped elevate many S.C. politicians to power, nearly all Republicans. His clients have included Gov. Henry McMaster, Attorney General Alan Wilson, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, all Republicans, as well as Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, a Democrat.

Wednesday’s indictments capped months of behind-the-scenes activity by Special Prosecutor David Pascoe, the State Grand Jury, and nine State Law Enforcement Division agents. Pascoe of Orangeburg, the elected 1st Circuit solicitor, also enlisted the help of three other elected solicitors from around the state.

The illegal lobbying indictment issued against Quinn says he “did attempt to influence the action or vote of members of the S.C. General Assembly by direct communication on behalf of entities which employed, retained or appointed defendant’s businesses and defendant did not register as a lobbyist …”

Until now, the bombshells had been dropping all around the elder Mr. Quinn, but not on him. Now, the direct hit has come.

Jim Harrison, former House Judiciary Committee chairman and current head of Legislative Council, was also indicted, along with ex-Rep. Tracy Edge. And additional charges were brought against Sen. John Courson and the younger Quinn, Rep. Rick.

Yet another shock to the very heart of the S.C. GOP. What next? Pascoe said, “this is still an ongoing investigation.”

Jim Harrison in 2006

Jim Harrison in 2006

Smith promises to be the governor South Carolina needs

smith

Earlier today, I posted a speech from a young Republican — my own representative, and I couldn’t be prouder of him — who condemned our current governor for being so determined to hang onto his office that he has refused to lead. Henry just won’t take the chance.

Coincidentally, tonight Rep. James Smith — like Micah Caskey, a veteran of the War on Terror — stood before a crowd of supporters and promised to be a governor who “cares more about doing the job than keeping the job.” Which is the opposite of what Rep. Caskey accurately characterized our governor as being.

James said a lot of other things — about education, about health care, and about having an energy policy that benefits the people of South Carolina and not just its utilities and their lobbyists.

He spoke out against corruption and for transparency and accountability. Echoing my own Power Failure project, he spoke of a South Carolina that is no longer first where it should be last, and last where it should be first.

He did a good job. I was impressed. And you know what? I think he’s got a chance to win.

I tried to shoot video, but my phone ran out of storage room. I’ll try to clean it up and do better in the future.

Because this is going to be a fascinating, and fateful, election for South Carolina…

Smith with some of his comrades from the war in Afghanistan.

Smith with some of his comrades from the war in Afghanistan.

Rep. Caskey in May on the governor’s lack of leadership

With next year’s race for governor beginning to take shape in recent days, I got to thinking back to the moment when Henry McMaster lost me.

Speaker Jay Lucas and the rest of the GOP leadership in the House, eventually joined by the GOP-led Senate, had shown courage in stepping up to pass a bill that reformed our Highway department and, for the first time in 30 years, raised the tax on gasoline in order to pay for road repairs.

Lawmakers had hoped, after two governors in a row who were more about anti-government posturing than governing, that they would have a pragmatic partner in McMaster, someone who was serious about South Carolina’s needs and how to address them.

They were wrong. And they were bitterly disappointed.

I remembered reading at the time that that disappointment was eloquently expressed in a floor speech by an unlikely spokesman — my own rookie representative, Republican Micah Caskey. I missed his speech at the time. But I went back and watched it this week. Here it is. If you watch it, you can see why one observer responded this way, according to a reporter with The State:

Freshmen just don’t say things like this to their own party’s governor. But Micah did.

The relevant part of the speech — after Micah pays his respects to his new colleagues and notes this is his first time to take the podium — starts at 5:50.

His one prop, and the object of his scorn, was a copy of McMaster’s veto message, delivered the night before. Some excerpts:

“What this is,” he says of the letter, “is not leadership.”

“Its intellectual dishonesty is only outweighed by its intellectual bankruptcy.”

“The governor surely had an opportunity to lead on this issue. He knew there was a problem. He could have done it…. He didn’t do it.”

“He chose to remain silent. He chose not to act. He chose not to lead.”

“Had he put forth an idea, we could have gone from there…”

“I don’t like raising taxes… I didn’t want to have to vote ‘yes’ for this bill… but I did, because that’s what leadership requires: Admitting reality and stepping forward and addressing it.”

“What it is not is cowering below, hiding behind political pablum, waiting on somebody else to fix it because you were worried about your own career.”

Waving the letter aloft, he said “Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a serious message. This is not a serious proposal. This is not a serious alternative to what it is that ails South Carolina today. It is not. It is not.”

“What this is… this… is politics. South Carolina doesn’t need more politics. South Carolina needs serious answers to serious problems.”

Of the alternative the governor suggested, Caskey said: “We’re gonna bond out road paving over 20 years for something that’ll depreciate in 10. That’s his idea.”

“That’s not a serious answer.”

“What I am saying in my vote to override the veto is that this (holds up the letter), this is not good enough. We need more leadership.”

He tells his colleagues that however they vote, “I know you’ve been engaged. You led.” Unlike the governor.

He concluded by saying that a vote to override would say, “We deserve better. We deserve leadership. And you can take this message…”

(He crumples it and tosses it aside.)

… and keep it.”

After Micah’s speech, the House voted 95-18 to override the veto. The Senate followed suit, 32-12.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m proud to have Mr. Caskey as my representative. This video helps illustrate why.

tossRep. Micah Caskey throwing away the governor’s letter at the end of his speech.

 

Joe Biden on James Smith

Biden at the Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting in 2006.

Biden at the Galivants Ferry Stump Meeting in 2006.

Seeing that Jim Hodges had become the latest Democratic heavyweight to endorse James Smith for governor reminded me that I meant to go back and read the P&C’s story in which Joe Biden explained why he’s backing Smith.

It’s not just because James led the unsuccessful Draft Biden effort in SC before last year’s election.

Here’s hoping the Charleston paper doesn’t mind if I share a good-sized chunk:

Why Biden is backing Smith: “I have met a lot of guys in my career … but this is a guy, I swear to God, that I would trust with anything. This is a guy who I watched, he never puts himself before anybody else.”

“He’s not about tearing the house down. … I look at him and I think this is a guy with the energy, the integrity, the experience that can really have South Carolina get up and start to walk.”

How Smith reminds Biden of his son: He said Smith possesses the sense of duty of his late son, Beau, who passed on taking his father’s Senate seat when Biden become vice president to remain Delaware’s attorney general. Both younger men went on military deployments to the Middle East while in political office.

“They’re kindred spirits. … I know it sounds corny but it comes down to honor, duty and again the guy (Smith) has all tools. He knows the issues. His instincts are right. He thinks you should be able to make a billion dollars if you could, but you ought to take care of people and just give everybody a chance.

“I remember saying to him once that I thought that one of the problems with the elites in both our parties, we don’t have a lot of faith in ordinary people any more. And James started talking about his grandfather and great-grandfather (working class men from poor backgrounds). Ordinary people can do extraordinary things if you give them half a chance. I’m convinced he believes that.”…

Sounds like he knows James. There’s a bunch more, just overflowing with Joe-ness, if you want to go read the whole piece.

I’m still waiting to hear who’s backing Phil Noble. He must be responding to something going on in the party; I’m just not sure what. I didn’t know there was a sizable contingent of Democrats who didn’t like James. I need to learn more…

Help! We’re being buried under an avalanche of populist cliches!

Yow! I just watched this short video at thestate.com. Someone needs to contact the Guinness people, because this has to be the record for the most populist cliches packed into a minute and seven seconds.

Wait, the phone’s ringing… It’s 2010 Nikki Haley, and she wants her Tea Party speech back…

Let’s just hope the rest of the speech, whenever and wherever it was delivered, was way, way better than this. Because you know, she could get elected, and we’d have to hear this stuff for four years. Again…

Templeton

Why should we sell Santee Cooper, especially now?

Santee Cooper

Today’s story in The State told us that lawmakers want the governor to hold up a bit and loop them in on talks about selling Santee Cooper.

What they did not address, at least to my satisfaction, is the larger question: Why sell Santee Cooper?

In the normal course of things, it seems an idea worth exploring: Why should the state operate a utility, now, in the 21st century? We’ve pretty much made it through the rural electrification phase of our development.

But in the context of the current scandal over the nuclear plant fiasco, it makes less sense. To me, anyway.

I mean, isn’t everybody kind of ticked off that Santee Cooper — and SCANA — were out of control on this thing?

Wouldn’t the natural reaction under such circumstances be to think, “Hey, we own Santee Cooper. Since we own it, we can get it under control.” If the current laws and regulations don’t allow for that kind of control — and it appears they don’t — then change the laws and regulations.

But don’t sell it off to some out-of-state conglomerate that won’t give a damn what we want the utility to do and to be.

Isn’t there something kind of irresponsible in state officials wanting to wash their hands of the utility at this particular moment? Isn’t this kind of a backwards reaction?

There’s probably a flaw in my thinking on this that is obvious to everybody but me. Please, somebody explain it to me…

Smith won’t get free ride to nomination after all

After a long period in which it looked like the Democrats might not have anyone running for governor at all, James Smith threw his hat in the other day.

And then, as tends to happen, someone else is jumping in, too:

Charleston businessman Phil Noble becomes the second Democrat to enter the 2018 race for South Carolina governor, joining state Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, in vying for the party’s nomination.

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

Noble is president of South Carolina New Democrats, a group founded by former S.C. Gov. Richard Riley, and a longtime Democratic activist.

South Carolina is “an amazing state with terrific potential, but a broken, dysfunctionally corrupt state government is keeping us from having all the things we ought to have,” Noble told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Noble, who has yet to file with the state Election Commission, will make a formal announcement on Wednesday. Smith announced his candidacy on Thursday….

I was going to refer you to the video interview I did with Phil back when he sought his party’s chairmanship in 2011, but the embed code isn’t working. If I get it up and running, I’ll share it so that y’all will know a bit more about him.

In the meantime… he and James might not be the only ones seeking their party’s nod next year. I’ve heard another name or two murmured out there. But so far, there’s nothing like the active, crowded bunch clamoring for the GOP nomination — despite the fact that the incumbent is Republican…

A discussion Friday about lessons from Charlottesville

Photo by Evan Nesterak obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Evan Nesterak obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Remember a couple of months back, when I moderated a forum for the Greater Columbia Community Relations Council about the Bull Street redevelopment project?

Well, tomorrow we’re going to have another one that may interest you. It starts at 11:30 a.m. at the offices of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce offices at 930 Richland St.

The topic is “Lessons from Charlottesville.” The idea is to have a discussion about the implications for our own community arising from the issues raised there.

We expect 30 or so people, including Tameika Isaac Devine from city council, J.T. McLawhorn from the Columbia Urban League, and Matt Kennell from the City-Center Partnership.

Bryan came to the Bull Street one, and I think he found the discussion interesting. I did, anyway.

Whether y’all can come or not, I’d like a little advice. I’ve thrown together a short list of questions to offer to the group. The questions are just ways to keep the discussion going as needed. These discussions don’t follow a formal structure, with questions followed by timed answers, or anything like that.

Here are the ones I have. Suggestions?

  1. Could what happened in Charlottesville happen here? If not, why not? And if so, what can we do to prevent it?
  2. Even if we are spared the violence we saw in Virginia, how should we here in the Midlands respond to the issues that confrontation laid bare?
  3. President Trump has been roundly criticized for his response to what happened. What would you like to hear elected leaders in South Carolina say regarding these issues?
  4. Being the capital of the first state to secede, we have more Confederate monuments here than in most places. What, if anything, should we do with them?
  5. Has anyone present had a change of attitude or perspective, something that you’d like to share, as a result of the re-emergence of these issues onto the nation’s front burner?

1024px-Lee_Park,_Charlottesville,_VA

KKK questions in the 5th grade, and the ‘virtues of slavery’

They may look scary, but look at it from their perspective, kids...

They may look scary, but look at it from their perspective, kids…

Well, we’re in The New York Times again. This time it’s for asking a bit much of 5th-graders in Irmo:

“You are a member of the K.K.K.,” the fifth-grade homework assignment read. “Why do you think your treatment of African-Americans is justified?”

The work sheet, given on Thursday as part of a lesson on the Reconstruction period, caused an outcry after one student’s uncle, Tremain Cooper, posted a photo of the assignment on Facebook.

“This is my little 10-year-old nephew’s homework assignment today,” he wrote. “He’s home crying right now.”

Mr. Cooper identified the teacher as Kerri Roberts of Oak Pointe Elementary School in Irmo, S.C., a suburb of Columbia, and added, “How can she ask a 5th grader to justify the actions of the KKK???”

Reached by phone, Ms. Roberts’s husband said she was unavailable and was “not going to comment on anything.”…

Hoo, boy.

Of course, that’s a perfectly fine question to ask, to get the ol’ gray matter working — in a graduate poli sci course. I think it’s a shame that Ms. Roberts — who is on suspension pending investigation of the incident — isn’t commenting, because I would dearly love to know the thinking behind asking 5th-graders to tackle it.

Had she even looked at the lesson before she passed it out? Or was this enterprise on her part? Had she decided to go for a real challenge, asking her students to reach for understanding beyond their years?

One thing I’ll say in defense of this: It’s a more reasonable question than this one asked in California:

In February, second graders at Windsor Hills Elementary School in Los Angeles were asked to solve a word problem: “The master needed 192 slaves to work on plantation in the cotton fields. The fields could fill 75 bags of cotton. Only 96 slaves were able to pick cotton for that day. The missus needed them in the Big House to prepare for the Annual Picnic. How many more slaves are needed in the cotton fields?”

Correct answer: “That’s a trick question! Masters don’t have to do math!”

Of course, we have at least one person here in South Carolina who might love to be asked such a question. His letter to the editor appeared in The State today:

Teach truth about the virtues of slavery

The recent controversy about Confederate monuments and flags ultimately revolves around one man and one question. The man is John C. Calhoun, the great philosopher and statesman from South Carolina, and the spiritual founding father of the Confederacy. The question is: Was Calhoun right or wrong when he argued, from the 1830s until his death in 1850, that the South’s Christian slavery was “a positive good” and “a great good” for both whites and blacks?

If Calhoun was wrong, then there may be grounds for removing monuments and flags.

But if Calhoun was right, the monuments and flags should stay and be multiplied, blacks should be freed from oppressive racial integration so they can show the world how much they can do without white folk, the Southern states should seize their freedom and independence, and the North should beg the South’s pardon for the war.

Calhoun’s views are unpopular today because, since 1865, the Yankee-imposed education system has taught all Americans that the South’s Christian slavery was evil and that everyone is equal. But unpopularity cannot make a truth untrue, and popularity cannot make error truth.

WINSTON MCCUEN
AIKEN

“If Calhoun was right….”

Excuse me while I sit here and try to come up with a justification of Mr. McCuen’s point of view. It might be on the six-weeks test…

This is where the South Carolina Court of Appeals sits.

This is where the South Carolina Court of Appeals sits.

Another Democrat who apparently can’t afford a razor

Trent

 

I had to smile at this.

Remember I told you about that OZY profile of Jaime Harrison, in which I was quoted again noting that I’ll believe Democrats are serious about winning a congressional seat when they recruit a candidate willing to shave for the campaign?

Well, the writer of that piece sent me this today:

This website made me laugh and think of you — Dem running in a R-leaning Georgia seat formerly repped by centrist John Barrow. https://votetrent.com/

Whoa! That boy’s taking the whole facial-hair thing and squeezing it until it hollers!

He’s a little different from the hirsute ones who have run in South Carolina. Arik Bjorn and Archie Parnell, both being graybeards, had a sort of professorial look — they looked like they wouldn’t be out of place teaching a graduate-level course called “Marxist Perspectives on Shifting Gender Roles in Patriarchal Societies.”

Trent Nesmith, by contrast, has more of a hipster look going, and not just because of his youth. He seems to be saying, “Call that a beard? Check out this waterfall of fur!” Fortunately, his smile prevents you from thinking “Rasputin.”

Watch: I’ll get a lecture from Bud about focusing on style instead of substance. But that would be missing the point. The point isn’t the beard. The point is, how committed is the candidate? And when’s the last time you saw someone with a beard elected to high office in this country? And how big a deal is it to shave?

Yeah, you’re right — a beard is a stupid reason not to vote for somebody. But knowing how few bearded men (and even fewer bearded women, I’ll add for those who think I’m failing to be inclusive) get elected, you really have to wonder about the commitment of a candidate who won’t take the minimal step needed to remove a possible obstacle…

First video for James Smith’s campaign-to-be (one hopes)

Joel Lourie shared this with me this afternoon, and I’m sharing it with you.

Rep. James Smith is apparently moving closer and closer to launching a campaign for governor, and I think that would be a pretty exciting development. Because, frankly, I’m not terribly inspired by any of the other choices we have before us next year.

I had thought we could look to Henry McMaster for good things, in spite of the inexplicable aberration of his endorsement of Trump. After all those years of Sanford and Haley, both determined not to work constructively with the Legislature, it looked like we might have someone willing to lead.

But nope. What was his first significant act, the one that defned his first legislative session as governor? After Speaker Jay Lucas and other GOP leaders had had the guts to stand up and both fund and reform our roads, Henry stabbed them in the back with a veto, an action that had nothing to do with leadership and everything to do with craven political calculation.

If others now eyeing the office would be better, they haven’t shown it yet.

But James Smith is a guy who has worked with Republicans and his fellow Democrats to try to make South Carolina a better place for its citizens. This is a guy who has served in the trenches for 20 years, not just somebody who has been all about the next big office.

James embodies service, in every sense. This is the man who, with a comfortable billet as a JAG officer, gave it up to enlist as just another dogface so he could go fight after 9/11. He was told that’s what he would have to do to join the infantry, so that’s what he did. He went through basic training as just another another grunt — except he was twice the age of the recruits he was determined to keep up with. He made it, and ended up in combat in Afghanistan, serving with his fellow South Carolinians — Republicans, Democrats and independents.

Y’all know me. Y’all know how much I respect that sort of thing. But the kind of character he showed in that has been borne out in his conduct as a lawmaker.

Have I always been a James Smith supporter? Nope. We didn’t endorse him the first time he ran. We liked him and his Republican opponent, but we went with the Republican. He’s spent all the years since showing me that we might have gotten that one wrong.

Anyway,  this should be good. Ginger, get the popcorn

Capt. Smith takes aim...

Capt. Smith takes aim…

Graham should drop his healthcare proposal, support Alexander’s efforts

Graham pushing his proposal recently in Columbia.

Graham pushing his proposal recently in Columbia.

I’ve already written dismissively of Lindsey Graham’s approach to healthcare “reform.”

Today, with it getting so much more attention, I share with you this view of it, headlined “New Trumpcare Deserves a Quick Death.” An excerpt:

On Wednesday, a group of Republican senators plan to release a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It comes from Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and they will market it as a bill that gives states the flexibility to create the system that they want.

But that’s deeply misleading. While it would theoretically give states more flexibility, the bill would mostly rob states of money to pay for health insurance — and millions of Americans would lose coverage as a result. Think of it this way: Every reader of this newsletter has the theoretical flexibility to buy a private jet.

Cassidy-Graham, as the bill is known, ends up looking remarkably similar to previous repeal attempts. It would likely result in 15 million Americans losing their insurance next year and more than 30 million losing it a decade from now (based on analyses of an early version of the bill, which was similar to previous Republican health bills). “The similarities are more striking than the differences,” Aviva AronDine of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told me.

The same column hints at a far better way for our senior senator to direct his energies:

There is also good reason to hope that Cassidy-Graham dies quickly. Members of both parties — like Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican — now seem open to a bipartisan bill to fix some of Obamacare’s problems. A Senate committee held a hearing on the subject yesterday. But it was clear at the hearing that Republicans have a hard time talking publicly about bipartisan compromise so long as the fantasy of a beneficial repeal bill remains alive….

Indeed. Y’all know I’m a Lindsey Graham fan (most of the time), but I was a Lamar Alexander fan long before that. And this time, Lamar is clearly in the right of it. And what Graham is doing is actually an impediment to wise policy.

It amazes me that anyone from South Carolina could think that turning it all over to the states could be a good idea, given that our solons utterly refused a Medicaid expansion underwritten by the Feds simply because it was associated with “Obamacare.”

Lindsey should drop his bad idea like a hot potato and get behind Alexander’s effort. Or better yet, support Bernie Sanders’ single-payer approach. But somehow I’m thinking the Alexander option would be less of a strain for him.

It’s time to get past this “Repeal Obamacare” mania that afflicts Republicans, and get on to serious matters of governance…

Nice, informative piece about Jaime Harrison

Matt Moore, me and Jaime Harrison in 2015.

Matt Moore, me and Jaime Harrison in 2015.

A couple of weeks back, I got a call from Daniel Malloy, formerly of the Atlanta paper, who was writing a profile of former state Democratic chair Jaime Harrison for OZY. It ran over the weekend.

Why a profile of a former state chairman? Because Jaime’s a next-generation up-and-comer, a guy who — in Jim Clyburn’s own estimation — could replace him in Congress one day. Democrats don’t have much of a bench, and Jaime’s got qualifications that are rare among young Dems.

Much of that experience has been out of our sight up in Washington, such as when he was floor director for the House majority whip before he was SC party chair.

Daniel called me to see what I thought about Jaime’s optimism for the party in SC’s future. I wasn’t encouraging. I said a lot of positive things about Jaime, though, as well as about his counterpart, former GOP state chair Matt Moore.

As I say, I said a lot of things, but I kind of knew what he was going to use as soon as I said it. It was something I’d already said to y’all, and Democrats who read the Malloy piece will no doubt groan once again:

From a small state party office suite in downtown Columbia, South Carolina, Harrison expresses optimism for Democrats in South Carolina, Alabama and other crimson states. Starting in October, the DNC will send $10,000 per month to every state party and launch an additional $10 million innovation fund for states.

Some national Democrats have argued for more selective spending, and South Carolina hardly seems primed for a blue comeback. Brad Warthen, a PR consultant and former editorial page editor for Columbia’s The State, quips that after a string of bearded professor types, he’ll know Democrats are serious about winning when their candidates start shaving. “We will have to have a revolution — something akin to the constitutional convention in 1787 — to start seeing more Democrats elected to the [U.S.] House in South Carolina,” Warthen says.

Despite his facial hair, South Carolina Democrat Archie Parnell nearly pulled off a shocking special congressional election win in June with comparatively little national money. Harrison says more early investment in ground staff could have tipped the low-turnout race. With most of the U.S. political map drenched in red, there will be plenty more opportunities to test his theory.

Y’all should go read the whole thing, though.

I do NOT like the looks of this…

IMG_1314

The maps I’ve been seeing today are pretty disturbing.

If Irma makes landfall in South Carolina south of Charleston, and the eye then passes to the west of Columbia, we could be seeing damage and storm surges worse than Hugo — a lot worse, it seems to me.

I’m no meteorologist, nor yet a physicist, but it seems that the counterclockwise winds of the storm would his these population centers much harder than what we experienced in 1989.

And remember, Hugo came ashore as a category 4. This is a Category 5, and then some. The only reason it’s not a Category 6 is that there is no Category 6.

The only solace this course offers South Carolina is the probability of the storm using up a lot of its energy running up the Atlantic coast of Florida.

Which is cold comfort if you live in Florida….

By the way, as you can see, these are screenshots from my Washington Post app, updated at 9:27 a.m. and 2:19 p.m. today…

IMG_1315

Spot of good news: My neighborhood isn’t going to be demolished for a hyperspace bypass

Here’s the notice that was brought to my attention — not by the government, but by my daughter — on the last day of public comment.

Here’s the notice that was brought to my attention — not by the government, but by my daughter — on the last day of public comment.

So Donald Trump is still president, North Korea just fired a missile over Japan, and Harvey is still ripping up and flooding the Gulf Coast.

So, lots of bad news.

But at least there’s this:

The S.C. Department of Transportation has dropped a plan to build a bypass to unsnarl “Malfunction Junction” that would have caused up to 236 West Columbia homes to be razed.

State Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, said he received a letter about the change from the department Tuesday morning.

“This is a tremendous victory for us,” he said. “And this was a community effort.”

The bypass was one of several options being considered by the DOT to alleviate congestion at the junction of I-20, I-26 and I-126. It would have diverted traffic away from the intersection, but the bypass also would have cut through several West Columbia neighborhoods including Quail Hollow and River’s Edge….

I live in Quail Hollow. And while the abandoned route might not have technically gone through my living room, it would have run behind the houses directly across the street from me, and would have blocked me from the only way out of my neighborhood other than swimming across the Saluda River.

It would have been the worst deal possible: My property value would have been destroyed, and I wouldn’t have gotten paid for it because they didn’t necessarily have to buy my house. And my peaceful, semi-sylvan neighborhood — deer sometimes wander onto our lot — would have become utter, roaring chaos, with an interstate directly in front of the house, less than 100 feet away (as near as I could tell from the wholly inadequate maps provided by DOT).

As you’ll recall, I learned about this plan on the last day of public comments last fall, after having received ZERO notification from the state that my neighborhood was potentially to be sacrificed to fix Malfunction Junction, a problem that has never bothered me even though it’s only about a mile from my house.

We found ourselves in a situation that was almost, but not quite, entirely like the one Arthur Dent faced in the first chapter of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Did I ever tell you about the public meeting DOT finally held for my neighbors and me after we DID find out about it on that last day of public comment? Official after official claimed that we should have known sooner — after all, the plans had been on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard.” More or less.

Finally, this one woman stood up and faced the truth, and admitted that yeah, they had screwed up big-time by not actually notifying us. Which was nice. I guess she had drawn the short straw on being the “good cop.”

Anyway, I want to thank my Senator, Nikki Setzler, and my representative, Micah Caskey (although Micah says modestly that it was really Nikki) for standing up and raising hell about the deal. I think it probably helped even though the DOT people claimed at the public meeting that resistance would be useless, that political considerations would play no role, that the decision would be made by federal officials entirely on the basis of objective data.

Cindi’s proposal with regard to monuments

soldier (1)

I meant to call attention to Cindi Scoppe’s column yesterday

In light of the fact that, without two-thirds majorities in both legislative chambers, no one in South Carolina can remove a Confederate monument from any public space — whether state or local — she dusted off her idea for an alternative:

… I was so delighted by Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg’s idea. Well, it’s not actually Mr. Tecklenburg’s idea. It’s one I’ve proposed numerous times, and it certainly wasn’t original to me. But it’s a great idea. Leave up the monuments — not that South Carolinians have any choice — but add signs to provide context.

To Mr. Tecklenberg, it’s not just about doing an end-run around the Legislature. As he told Charleston’s Post and Courier newspaper last week: “I don’t believe we’ve done a good job of telling the whole story of slavery and Reconstruction and what happened there and Jim Crow. One hundred years from now, you want people to know the great lengths the white folks who were in charge around here went to try to put racial barriers back into place.”

First on Mr. Tecklenberg’s add-to-rather-than-subtracting-from list is a towering monument to John C. Calhoun, which includes the words “Truth, Justice and the Constitution” and little else. Like the fact that he provided the intellectual underpinnings for the Confederacy….

As a way of protesting the Legislature’s habit of telling local governments what they can and can’t do, it’s an excellent approach. A sign saying, “This monument is still here because the General Assembly won’t let us take it down” has merit — if, indeed, you do want to take it down (a subject on which I remain agnostic until you tell me which monument where, and give me time to think about it).

And beyond that, there is also merit to adding educational information to monuments, if we choose to leave them up. Perhaps this approach would be a good substitute for the current Heritage Act, if lawmakers would consider it.

At least, it would be a good approach in theory.

In practice, well… Can you imagine how hard it would be to get a truly representative group of people — by which I mean, representing every possible position regarding Confederate monuments, which is the kind of panel the Legislature would (and should) appoint — to agree on the wording of such a plaque?

By contrast, the decision to take a statue down or keep it up is child’s play…

Micah Caskey gives utility contributions to poor ratepayers

Micah Caskey general

So far, I have not once regretted having Micah Caskey as my state representative. I received this release from him today:

Rep. Caskey Donates SCANA Contributions to Ratepayers in Need

Former Prosecutor Caskey Seeks to Protect Integrity of Investigation   

(West Columbia, SC) – S.C. Representative Micah Caskey (District 89-West Columbia/Cayce/Springdale) announced he has donated all contributions to his political campaign by utilities to the Salvation Army’s Woodyard Fund. The Woodyard Fund helps residents in need pay their utility bills.  Rep. Caskey was recently selected to serve on the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee, which is charged with investigating the abandonment of the VC Summer nuclear facility in Jenkinsville, SC.

“The scale of this debacle is deeply unsettling and I am firmly committed to getting to the bottom of it all. I am looking at this entire situation with eyes wide-open and that includes looking in the mirror. While campaign contributions are vital to re-election, I cannot in good conscience keep contributions that might undermine my neighbors’ confidence in the integrity of my part in the investigation into this debacle.  As a former prosecutor and U.S. Marine, my deep and abiding sense of duty demands I do what I can to eliminate the possible appearance of impropriety,” Representative Micah Caskey stated.

Caskey chose to deliver the $1,750 in donations from Utility-related entities to the Salvation Army Woodyard Fund. The Woodyard Fund traces its roots back to 1816, when the Ladies Benevolent Society provided firewood to needy families during winter months. Today the fund works to help our community’s neediest families stay warm in the winter.

“I initially considered returning the funds directly to SCANA, but I decided that helping Midlands families who can’t afford the high cost of energy was a better use of the funds. SCANA just announced they made $121 million in profit last fiscal quarter – despite gross mismanagement of the Nuclear Project – so why not try to help someone else with their money?  Apparently, they have plenty; there’s no sense in giving it directly back to them.  I’d rather the money help our neighbors that need it most,” Representative Caskey explained.

S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas has called for Representative Caskey and 19 other House members to begin holding hearings next week to investigate and study the abandonment of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant construction and offer viable solutions.

“Hopefully, even this small amount will provide some relief to the hard-working people that need help.  I encourage my colleagues and neighbors to join me in supporting the Salvation Army’s Woodyard Fund. To the extent this can help reinforce people’s confidence in my commitment to be a voice for them, all the better.” Representative Caskey concluded.

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The State Grand Jury is hurting my feelings

Everybody I know is getting called before the State Grand Jury. The latest:

University of South Carolina Harris Pastides was one of the people who testified this week to the State Grand Jury in a secret session.

“He was called as a fact witness,” university spokesman Wes Hickman told The State newspaper Thursday morning in answer to a query.

Pastides is one of an unknown number of people who have testified in an ongoing public corruption probe involving the public relations firm of Richard A. Quinn….

Pam Lackey, Trey Walker. Now Harris? Who hasn’t been called? Next thing you know, John Monk’s going to write that Lizard Man was sighted entering the Grand Jury room.

Future witness?

Future witness?

I’ll tell you who hasn’t been called: Me! What am I? Chopped liver?

Of course, I don’t know anything about the subject of the investigation beyond what I read in the papers. I’d have nothing to tell. You might as well call anybody at random off the street. But I’m not entirely sure, given this growing list of luminaries, that knowing anything about the matter at hand is a prerequisite.

Any of y’all been called? I wouldn’t be surprised. When and where will it all end, Mr. Natural?

Cindi gets the Wilson-Quinn memo issue just right

Cindi got it exactly right in this column:

Here’s an excerpt from the column:

So Mr. Wilson was not asking for advice from a target of the investigation, which would have been a resign or be removed from office sort of infraction. And worse.Wilson cropped

What he was doing — what no prosecutor should do — was consulting his political adviser about a criminal case. Mr. Wilson points out that he was not asking how to prosecute a case. He says his concern was to get through the exchange with “a cordial relationship” with Mr. Pascoe intact; and indeed, Mr. Quinn suggested removing some snark and making the letter more diplomatic. (In the end, Mr. Wilson called Mr. Pascoe rather than sending a letter.)

But the underlying topic was still a criminal matter.

Pretend that Mr. Wilson’s consultant had been named John Smith or Jane Jones or anything other than Richard Quinn. Pretend that his political consultant had never met Richard Quinn or Rick Quinn or Jim Merrill. Pretend that Alan Wilson was the only South Carolinian his political consultant had ever heard of. It still would have been inappropriate for Mr. Wilson to consult him. It simply is not acceptable for a prosecutor to seek political advice about anything involving his job as a prosecutor….

The point here is that the memo was sent at a time when there was little or no reason to suspect that Quinn would at some time be a central figure in the investigation. So all that stuff from the Democrats about how Wilson should resign or be fired is off-base.

But it is improper for a prosecutor to seek political advice on how he’s dealing with a criminal investigation. The fact that all elected AGs most likely do it is no excuse.

So, if and when Wilson faces re-election to his post, and voters are tallying the pros and cons as to whether to vote for him, this should go in the “con” column. And that’s about it.