Category Archives: South Carolina

Gorgeous movie star picked to head DHEC! What? I thought you said Katherine Heigl…

4dfd1816d59fc0550a92bf131c664d25

So of course, when I read this, I immediately pictured the woman from “Knocked Up” — you know, the one who was way too hot, smart and together for Seth Rogen, or for anyone else you can name for that matter:

Catherine Heigel of Greenville, a corporate lawyer who has worked for utilities and state agencies, was chosen Friday as the new director of the state agency that oversees health and environmental protection.

The selection by the board for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control came after closed-door interviews with some of the 99 applicants for the post.

Their selection goes to the State Senate for confirmation….

But apparently, it’s not the same person. So I’m less excited now…

Of course Graham voted for Lynch, and good for him

When I saw the Post and Courier headline, “Loretta Lynch confirmed as attorney general today; S.C. senators split,” I didn’t have to read further to know that Graham had voted “aye,” and the other guy did the knee-jerk GOP thing and voted against.

That’s because of what Lindsey Graham says, believes and lives by — the principle that elections have consequences. A president gets elected, he should get to pick his team. The Senate should only refuse to confirm if the nominees is obviously, clearly unqualified — not just because the nominee might not share the senators’ respective political views.

As he said following the vote:

I also believe presidents should have latitude in picking nominees for their Cabinet, and Ms. Lynch is well-qualified for the job. My goal is to have a Republican president nominate the next Attorney General so we will not be forced to choose between Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch.

He’s not the only one who says this. John McCain says the same. But Graham practices the principle more consistently. (Graham voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court; McCain voted against.)

And of course, he’s right to do this. It shows he understands the proper roles of the president and the Senate under the Constitution.

If you want someone else for the job, work to elect someone else president. But if your candidate loses, you don’t spend the next four or eight years sulking and obstructing the process of governing.

We’re lucky that one of our senators understands that, and in fact understands it more thoroughly than most people in Washington.

A big weekend for SC Policy Council in the WSJ

I just received an email that reminded me of something…

This past weekend, there were not one, but two opinion pieces in The Wall Street Journal written by folks affiliated with the S.C. Policy Council.

The first wasn’t at all surprising, as it was written by Communications Director Barton Swaim, who is a regular contributor to the Journal, as well as to the Weekly Standard and other such publications. Barton is an erudite young man and a fine writer. His piece over the weekend put forth a modest proposal for a partial acceptance of the excessive use of the random “like” in common speech. All who love the language should read it, assuming they can get past the pay wall: “Managing the Decline of, Like, a Great Language.”

The second piece was by Policy Council President Ashley Landess, and it had this attention-grabbing headline: “The South Carolina Way of Incumbency Protection.”

You’d pretty much have to think exactly like Ashley to figure out what the piece was about based on that hed. For most people, that would be a leap. Basically, she argued against legislation making its way through our Legislature that would require groups that spend money to affect elections to disclose their donors, claiming ominously that this was some sort of plot by incumbents to silence political criticism.

Which, as I say, is something of a stretch. But a stretch you are motivated to attempt if you are the head of the Policy Council. And a message that would appeal to the editors of the Journal.

Anyway, I was reminded of both these pieces by an email from Barton this morning saying:

Did you happen to see Ashley’s op-ed in the WSJ on Saturday? If not, here it is: http://on.wsj.com/1DDDHDS

I’m hoping you vehemently disagree with it, because we’re holding a public debate on the topic of whether 501c3 groups like ours should have to disclose their donors and I’m looking for something to take the YES ABSOLUTELY position. You’re the first person I’ve asked, because you take contrary positions on just about everything!

It’s moderated by Charles Bierbauer, and it’s happening on Tuesday, May 19, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Think about it?

Barton

  1. Thanks for tweeting my eccentric little op-ed. I appreciated you calling me “our own.”

So I had to stop and actually read Ashley’s piece, and decide what I think of it…

Well, “vehemently” is a bit strong. But no, I don’t agree with her.

First, campaign finance has never been a thing I’m that passionate about (it’s about, shudder, money, which bores me, which is probably why I don’t have any). But when forced to think about it, I have tended to say “no” to spending limits, “yes” to disclosure.

The Constitution protects our right to stand up and speak out, not our right to secretly pay other people to speak for us. And a group that pushes transparency as the Policy Council does sets a bad example by wanting to be secretive. Ashley’s piece sort of rings hollow as I read it.

I’m slightly ambivalent about this. For instance, up to a point, I allow people to comment anonymously on my blog. But I restrict what they say more than I do people who are open about their identities. I don’t let them, for instance, criticize others anonymously.

So, given all that, I suppose I could be on a panel. But I’m not nearly as passionate or committed on this as Ashley.

I’ve asked for a few more details…

A Pulitzer for Charleston, more staff reductions at The State

From our media watch beat…

Doug Pardue just wrote the first line of his obituary, and I mean that in a good way. The Post and Courier just won the holy of holies among journalism prizes, the Pulitzer Public Service gold medal, for their “Till Death Do Us Part” series, which told “tales of domestic abuse survivors and of the 300 women in the Palmetto State who have been shot, stabbed, strangled, beaten, bludgeoned or burned to death by men during the past decade while legislators did little to quell the bloodshed.” Not only only did the paper address a critical, urgent issue that has long brought shame upon their state, but the series was followed by serious action in the Legislature.

The series was written by Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes and Natalie Caula Hauff. But I mention Doug in particular because I know him — he used to be in charge of investigative reporting at The State, a couple of decades back.

So way to go, Doug! And the rest of y’all, too.

As that news was spreading yesterday, my friends and colleagues at The State received another kind of news — more staff reductions are coming. The process will begin with voluntary buyouts. My sources say staffers will have the opportunity to volunteer to leave in exchange for a severance package. There’s no stated goal in terms of number of people who will lose their jobs, but there is apparently a monetary goal in mind.

What happens if the total salaries of those volunteering don’t add up to the goal? That apparently has not been stated. But we know what has happened in the past. I was laid off in one of several waves over the last few years.

I’m very sorry to hear this on a number of levels. I care not only because The State continues to be my newspaper, but because South Carolina desperately needs a vital, vibrant, dynamic capital city newspaper. Here’s hoping the reductions will be minimal.

(I learned of this when a respected colleague called me this morning. And no, that source probably isn’t one of the first ones you would guess, so there’s no point in guessing.)

At long last, the House stands up to the governor on roads

Finally, the House has done what it always had to do if it were to act rationally on financing road construction — raise the tax designed for that purpose, which had been kept ridiculously low:

The South Carolina House passed a bill Wednesday to pay to repair the state’s crumbling roads by increasing the state’s gas tax by 10 cents a gallon.

The proposal, which would raise roughly $427 million a year, passed 87-20, a large enough margin in the GOP-dominated House to survive a veto threat by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.

State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-York, said the “strong vote” shows House members are serious about fixing S.C. roads….

Here’s hoping House members continue to stand up against the governor’s nonsensical stance, and that the Senate acts reasonably as well.

So far, the governor has reacted in a predictable manner, demagoguing on Facebook rather than engaging lawmakers.

At Pearl Harbor, a vision out of South Carolina

C-47

Burl Burlingame is still posting pictures of fantastic sunsets over Pearl Harbor and tagging me with them, making me wish I could still be there — as if I needed such prompting. There’s nothing like a Pacific sunset.

Anyway, this morning I was looking for something unrelated among my pictures from my recent trip, and ran across this one that I had failed to share when I wrote about visiting Burl’s aviation museum on Ford Island.

It was a touch of home, one rivaling those sunsets in pulchritude.

On a display next to a C-47 — something that fills me with nostalgia, since it’s the first aircraft I ever flew on (in South America, over the Andes, when I was about 9 or 10) — there it was: The most popular pinup of South Carolina model Jewel Flowers Evans, whose face and figure was made famous by artist Rolf Armstrong.

Her obituary in The State in 2006 called her “probably the number one pin-up girl of all time.” Whether she was or not, she gets my vote. Here are some other images of her, including this photo that is apparently from the same session in 1941 that produced the one on the nose of that plane.

Anyway, that very same image ran on The State‘s obit page when she died, something that startled me sufficiently that I wrote about it on my then-young blog.

It was a nice surprise to see her again while visiting old haunts in Hawaii…

pinup

Body camera bill advances (too late for Walter Scott)

Just thought I’d share this report from John Monk with y’all:

A bill that would fund and require body cameras for all South Carolina police officers was passed unanimously out of a SC senate committee Wednesday morning.

The bill is now headed to the full judiciary committee for another hearing next Tuesday.

The body camera bill was introduced in December by Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington. It already has had three hearings this year in a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee led by Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg.

The bill also has bipartisan backing, with co-sponsors including Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, and Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, as well as Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, and Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley….

Would a body camera have prevented the Walter Scott shooting from happening? Yes, I think it would have…

The unraveling of Todd Kincannon

I’ve never known quite what to think, much less say, about local attorney, former state GOP director and social media provocateur Todd Kincannon.

Some of his detractors on the Web have less trouble labeling him, although they sometimes seem to be trying too hard, I suppose in an effort to match his own vitriol. The characterizations come across as strained: “chinless monster,” “Tea Party troll,” “‘Family Values’ Lunatic,” “‘Pro-Life’ Sociopath,” and so forth.

Not that he hasn’t asked for it (in fact, he has seemed to relish the attention).

The couple or three times I’ve met him, he’s seemed a contained, respectful young man, although eager to be heard — not very different from most ambitious young white men one finds in the background of the GOP these days. Of course, I haven’t seen him in a while. The last time was when we appeared together on Cynthia Hardy’s talk show on WACH-Fox, and that was several years back.

But the Todd Kincannon who has roamed the internet with marked aggression in recent years has been something else — a disturbing figure, a sort of poster boy for the phenomenon whereby social media bring out the very worst in some people.

He’s been banned from Twitter, his weapon of choice, twice for such eruptions as:

zulus ebola

And, if you’ll forgive me for repeating it, his most infamous utterance:

todd1

This seems a good time to make a point about words and the way they are abused in our political discourse…

A lot of people, particularly on the left, have a penchant for calling people they disagree with “hateful.” I’ll see the word “hate” used, and I’ll compare it to the comment or position that it’s applied to, and it just doesn’t match up.

Those Tweets from Todd Kincannon? Now those are hateful, even if he’s only doing it to get attention. Just for future reference, this is the standard for the word.

Back to our topic…

Todd is in the news again:

A former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party arrested Monday for charge of criminal domestic violence has been released on a $5,000 bond.JJTKINCANNONMUG

James John Todd Kincannon, 33, who is also an attorney, was arrested in connection with an earlier incident that caused his wife to tell deputies she was fearful for her life, Lexington County Sheriff Lewis McCarty said in a statement released Monday.

Ashley Griffith stated to deputies that on March 26 she was involved in an altercation with her husband who became angry with her after the two left an event, an arrest warrant alleges. According to the warrant, Griffith told deputies that Kincannon yelled at her and used profanity while driving near Irmo. Griffith also said that she lowered her window and yelled at passing motorists to help her while she pleaded with Kincannon to stop the car.

Griffith said Kincannon began driving the motor vehicle erratically and avoiding traffic lights while driving at a high rate of speed, the arrest warrant alleges. Griffith then tried to exit the car but Kincannon grabbed her arm in order to stop her…

For his part, Kincannon blames his behavior on the prescription, non-narcotic antitussive benzonatate: “I’d never taken it before, and took it for the first time last night. Basically, I went completely crazy after taking it.”

Folks, I’ve taken benzonatate. I took a LOT of it early this year, when I was having trouble functioning because of a cough I couldn’t get rid of. For a couple of weeks, I took it every eight hours. It helped some. It did not make me violent, or lead to any sort of out-of-control behavior. Yes, drugs affect different people different ways — the old prescription asthma medication Tedral used to make me paranoid if I took it with caffeine. I really thought people around me were deliberately trying to upset me. But I didn’t do anything about it, because I knew the reaction was irrational.

Benzonatate

Benzonatate

Of course, he does claim that he did the ONE thing you are never supposed to do with benzonatate: bite down on the capsule and break it before swallowing it. As Wikipedia warns, “Excessive absorption of benzonatate will occur if the gelcaps are chewed or allowed to dissolve in the mouth. This may lead to an overdose of the drug. Overdose of benzonatate may manifest as central nervous system side effects, such as mental confusion and hallucination, restlessness and tremors.”

Still, I don’t find benzonatate to be a persuasive explanation. It seems a bit too neat. It suggests that he’ll be fine if you keep him away from cough suppressants. And social media (was he on benzonatate when he posted those Tweets? no, because he said this was the first time he’d had it). And, I suppose, red kryptonite.

Here’s hoping Todd Kincannon gets it together, and soon. What we’ve seen over the last couple of years is the spectacle of a man unraveling. Now that it’s gotten to the point of violence, it’s pretty scary…

It’s not THAT unusual in SC for white cops to be charged with shooting unarmed black men

post shoot

That’s kind of a two-edged headline, isn’t it? On the one hand, it suggests that it’s not that unusual for white cops to shoot unarmed black men in SC. And indeed, The State recently reported that police have shot at people more than 200 times in the past five years.

But my point was that the charges against North Charleston cop Michael Thomas Slager for shooting and killing motorist Walter Scott are not unique.

That was in my mind last night when I was sort of surprised to see the story leading the NYT. But I was in a rush, and my laptop was taking an absurd amount of time to perform the most basic operations, so I didn’t stop to look up the recent incidents that were at the back of my mind.

But this morning, when I saw the Washington Post story (which The State led with) that characterized the charge as “what seems to be an unprecedented move in South Carolina,” I thought I should take a moment to do some basic research. I was further spurred by this quote from my old friend Joe Darby, also in the Post:

“I am surprisingly and gratifyingly shocked because to the best of my memory, I cannot think of another occasion in which a law enforcement officer was actually prosecuted for something like this in South Carolina,” said the Rev. Joseph Darby, first vice president of Charleston’s NAACP branch.

Warming to his subject, Joe further spread his rhetorical wings:

“My initial thought was, ‘Here we go again. This will be another time where there will be a cursory investigation. It will be the word of law enforcement versus those who are colored as vile perpetrators. People will get very mad, but at the end of the day nothing will change.’ This kind of changed the game,” Darby said of the video and Slager’s arrest.

When Joe says he cannot think of another case ” in which a law enforcement officer was actually prosecuted for something like this in South Carolina,” I believe him. But his memory is dead wrong.

Just in the last few months, there have been at least two such cases, which I found in just a few moments this morning:

  • State Trooper Sean Groubert was fired and charged with a felony, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, after his dashboard video showed him shooting Levar Edward Jones in the Columbia area. Groubert’s trial has not yet been held, but Jones  has received a nearly $300,000 settlement from the state.
  • Former Eutawville police chief Richard Combs was charged with murder in the May 2, 2011, shooting death of Bernard Bailey. A mistrial was declared in the case when the jury deadlocked in January.

Now, let’s be clear: As The State reported, no cop of any race has yet been convicted in any of those 209 shootings in the past five years.

And these three cases seem to be unusual in that there was video evidence in two  cases, and the other took place right in front of the courthouse in Eutawville. So this should certainly add fuel to the national movement to have cops wear body cameras at all times.

But it’s plain that these charges were not “unprecedented,” and that Joe Darby’s memory is lacking. And maybe the world’s press got excited over this “unprecedented” case for the wrong reasons. (Based on modern news standards, it’s still a good story, because of the video causing the authorities to reverse themselves. The horrific video itself — which you can see below — is enough for such a story to go viral. But it’s not man-bites-dog.)

Finally, I just noticed that the Post has corrected itself. Its current version of the story no longer contains the unwarranted speculation that the situation is “unprecedented.” But the story still leads the Post’s site. More to the point, thestate.com is still leading with the old, erroneous version.

SC shooting case leading the NYT

NYT homepage

I thought this was interesting. This story is leading the New York Times website at the moment:

A white police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing him shooting and killing an apparently unarmed black man in the back while he ran away.

The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, had said he feared for his life because the man took his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man fled. The North Charleston mayor announced the state charges at a news conference Tuesday evening.

The shooting in North Charleston comes on the heels of high-profile incidents of police officers using lethal force in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere around the country. The deaths have sparked a national debate over whether police are too quick to use force, particularly in cases involving black men.

Why? I suppose because the editors consider a situation in which South Carolina is prosecuting a white cop for shooting a black man a man-bites-dog situation, in light of stories that have made national news elsewhere in the past year.

Hey, we could be making headlines for a lot worse reasons than that. And we have.

So this is improvement.

Former lawmaker McMaster charged with burglary

I’m seeing several news reports out there about Joe McMaster, brother of Henry, being arrested and charged with burglary.

Joe McMaster

Joe McMaster

Here’s The State‘s version.

I was struck by the fact that none of the reports so far have mentioned that Joe is not just the brother of a politician. Joe himself served in the Legislature a few years back. He briefly held a House seat — I want to say just one term — before being defeated for re-election by Joel Lourie in 1998.

He represented District 78, the same seat held today by Beth Bernstein.

I wasn’t positive at first that he was the McMaster brother who held the House seat until I saw the mug shot released by the county jail, and thought, yep, that’s Joe. A little worse for wear, mind you, but that’s Joe. (In his defense, I should probably say what the character Ives said when a German remarked negatively on a POW ID photo of him: “I’d like to see one of you under similar circumstances.”)

Anyway, I thought that detail was worth taking note of…

Harry Reid’s leaving. So can we open Yucca Mountain now?

That was my first thought when I heard that at long last, Harry Reid will be leaving the Senate.

By Image by Daniel Mayer taken on 2002-03-25 © 2002 and released under terms of the GNU FDL. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Image by Daniel Mayer taken on 2002-03-25 © 2002 and released under terms of the GNU FDL. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, the place the nation decided long ago would be our permanent repository for nuclear waste MAY open, with its chief obstacle retiring. It’s long past time that Yucca Mountain provide South Carolina (and other states) some relief on this. That was the plan, and it was always a good one.

So now it can happen.

Hey, I can hope, can’t I?

But beyond that, can you think of anything about Reid’s tenure as majority/minority leader that was good? Neither can I. His name just conjures up a lot of unpleasantness for me. He’s not alone in that; I have similar impressions of names such as Boehner, Pelosi and McConnell. Together they’ve presided over a particularly ugly and unproductive period in congressional history.

Dare I hope he’ll be replaced by someone who will turn that around?

Ummmm… Maybe I should just stick to hoping for the Yucca Mountain thing. That’ll be tough enough…

The governor has really crossed a line when she’s managed to provoke Lucas to this extent

middle school

When I saw the above headline this morning, I immediately assumed that the quote came from a Democrat.

Not that most Republicans in the Legislature wouldn’t have been peeved at the governor over her latest outburst. In fact, privately, they would probably be more perturbed than the Dems.

But there’s a protocol to these kinds of things. Most lawmakers of both parties may be ticked off, but the Republican response to their own governor will normally be more muted, in terms of on-the-record comments, while the Democrats will say the over-the-top stuff in an effort to, well, get quoted in a headline. Because there’s no political cost for them in doing so.

So my eyebrows rose considerably when I read this part of the story:

Speaker Lucas took to the House floor Wednesday — flanked by House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, and House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland — and called the governor’s remarks unwarranted and unprovoked.

The speaker said the governor’s comments were inappropriate when speaking of lawmakers who include military veterans and working mothers.

“I believe the comments of the governor were below (her) office,” Lucas said. “I believe these are serious times with serious issues, and they demand serious people with serious answers — not name calling, not middle-school insults that serve no purpose but to poison the well.”…

The governor has really outdone herself this time.

We know she never had a good relationship with the former speaker. But he’s gone now, and good riddance. And he’s been replaced by a guy with a reputation for trying hard to work constructively with everyone, including Democrats, and especially with the governor of his own party.

Given Lucas’ reputation, he must have reached the point of thinking things are pretty far gone to have gotten up and said something like that.

Not that he’s wrong. “Middle school insults” is pretty much dead-on. I was thinking just this morning that the way our governor uses social media reminds me of the “slam books” that used to get passed around campus when I was in junior high in New Orleans all those years ago. If you don’t know what a slam book is, boys and girls, it’s like a particularly virulent form of low-tech Facebook. It was a notebook that got passed around, and kids would write things “slamming” their classmates, competing with each other to see who could be the most insulting.

But he must have concluded that things could not be improved by walking down to the governor’s office and having a chat with her. And that, as I say, indicates a pretty bad situation, the kind Strother Martin would decry as “a failure to communicate.”

Which is bad in terms of our chances for sound policy to come out of the State House.

After a couple of years in which not much got done while Bobby Harrell underwent his political Götterdämmerung, I had hoped for a more productive atmosphere in the State House. This does not bode well…

Below you can see and hear the governor making the remarks in question:

Showering Regularly Is Important

It’s almost as important as being polite.

“Because I know many of you are going to the State House, which I love, just make sure you take a good shower when you leave,” Haley told the S.C. Realtors on a recording of her speech posted on the governor’s YouTube page.

File this one under: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Sale of Palmetto Compress Warehouse to Close this Week

To quote John “Hannibal” Smith from “The A-Team”, I love it when a plan comes together.

Columbia businesswoman Rosie Craig is partnering with deep-pocketed Philadelphia developer Ron Caplan to purchase the historic Palmetto Compress Warehouse building from the city of Columbia.

The developers plan to convert the 320,000-square-foot structure into apartments, retail and possibly a hotel, sources close to the project said.

The purchase, expected to close this week, is for approximately $6 million.

“We, as a company, are very excited about the project,” said Dan Rothschild, of Caplan’s PMC Property Group.

You can count me as one of the people who were against the City of Columbia buying this building. As a fundamental rule, I don’t like the City government being in the real estate business. However, it looks like they didn’t mess this up. I’m looking forward to seeing this development take shape.

Lindsey Graham: Testing the Waters

I came across this piece in the Washington Examiner chronicling Sen. Graham’s recent trip to Iowa where he was testing the Presidential waters:

There is widespread speculation that Graham is running for president to make a point — and indeed, he is making them. Graham sees a world flirting with disaster. If the president accepts a bad deal with Iran over nuclear proliferation, “we’re on the road to Armageddon,” Graham said. If lawmakers do not reform entitlements programs to cut spending, “we will blow America up ourselves,” he says.

But Graham doesn’t think steering the debate and winning need be mutually exclusive. Quaint as it might sound — and to political cynics, perhaps it will — he thinks the right credentials and message at the right time could win votes.

“Stand by,” Graham’s wingman and best friend Sen. John McCain told the Washington Examiner.“A lot of people are going to be surprised.”

By all accounts, Graham is smart and strategic, and he is not blindly ambitious. If he weren’t a politician, one South Carolina Republican operative mused, Graham might be an operative himself. He doesn’t embark on fools’ errands, and to date, he has not run a race he did not win.

If Sen. Graham starts to get traction, he’ll surprise a lot of people, and I’ll be one of them. I just have a hard time seeing him winning a GOP Primary against the current field of candidates. He’d make an interesting Secretary of Defense, though.

Gamecock Sports Roundup

My apologies for a late Monday post, I had Court this morning.

Since bud liked the inclusion of athletic endeavors on Friday’s VFP, I’ll give everyone an extra helping of sports this Monday.

In Gamecock baseball news, we swept Kentucky in a dramatic third game on Sunday. It took a home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie it up, and then another home run in the bottom of the tenth to clinch it. The Gamecocks looked very good yesterday, displaying that never give up spirit that has a hallmark of the 2010 and 2011 teams. The embedded Tweet has the radio call of both home runs. I love a good home run call.

In women’s basketball news, the lady Gamecocks have an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament and now have an opportunity to host NCAA Games at the Colonial Life Arena. That’s a great honor that this team has worked hard to earn. Go support them!

In Gamecock football news, Spring Practice starts this week. The practices are open to the public, so these are really great for taking little kids out to see the team in a cost-effective way.

I’ll have something political for y’all to argue over later. Enjoy your Monday.

 

 

Are You Tired of Hearing about Ethics Reform?

A guest-column from Lynn S. Teague

“Brad suggested that I lead a discussion on ethics reform, since I’ve been working on it for three years now. Are you ready to tune this out because you’ve been hearing about it for three years? I am. I’d love to see the General Assembly pass strong reform, so I could sit back and rely on a sensible effective system of ethics requirements and enforcement and devote more of my time to other issues. Alas, so far it hasn’t happened. So I go on at the State House, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina. However, as usual in my comments here on Brad’s blog, this post is not an official statement of League positions, but a personal comment.

On-line discussions of ethics reform, whether in mainstream newspaper responses or other media, can usually be counted on to produce comments to the effect that our public officials are all rotten and it is hopeless to try to do anything about it. I wouldn’t have spent the past three years working on this if I agreed. What are we after? We want more information about where our officials get their personal income so that we can evaluate the extent to which it might influence their thinking on public issues. We want more information (any information would be more) about those who donate money to “third party” groups that actively oppose or support candidates. We want the members of the General Assembly to play by the same rules that members of the executive branch and local governments do by integrating them into a system of independent investigation of possible violations by a restructured Ethics Commission. To that some add a whistleblower protection provision, which I would agree is very important and should be passed, although I don’t think it is essential that it happen in the context of a big ethics reform bill.

There are actually many decent honest people in public service in South Carolina, and specifically in our legislature. Many members of the General Assembly have been willing to sit down and talk with reform advocates to find common ground, something we can all live with. There has been a lot of success, embodied in H.3722, sponsored by more than a hundred members of the House of Representatives led by Speaker Jay Lucas, and in S.1, with primary sponsor Senator Larry Martin. Neither proposed bill is my personal ideal, but both are realistic approaches to a far better system of ethics law in South Carolina. S. 1 has failed second reading in the Senate (although it could be reconsidered) but H.3722 has been passed the House and has been passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee as a reworked version of  S.1, only two senators dissenting.

There are two obstacles to reform. Some legislators oppose efforts to require disclosure of donors to third party groups, claiming it is an infringement of free speech. It is not. The language in both S.1 and H.3722 has passed federal court scrutiny and additional protections of advocacy organizations has been added.

Others oppose the bill because, as passed by Senate Judiciary, it includes a system of independent investigation of possible violations by members of the General Assembly in which no legislators are involved in investigation of their colleagues. Legislators still get to make the final decisions about civil punishments of their colleagues, but that stage is preceded by investigation and evaluation by a reconstituted Ethics Commission. Some senators object and say that the system will be too politicized and legislators could be subjected to frivolous attacks. They argue that only sitting legislators understand what their situation is and can inform the process.

This raises some obvious questions. In what way is the legal standard for ethical behavior different for legislators and other officials? (My answer – It is not.) How would keeping ethics investigation within the most politicized institution in South Carolina, the General Assembly, lead to less political influence on investigations than moving it to the Ethics Commission? (My answer – It wouldn’t, quite the contrary.) Does the current Ethics Commission have a history of partisan witch-hunts that would justify this concern? (My answer – No.) Do the citizens of South Carolina deserve a system of investigation and enforcement that they can trust? (My answer – Yes, they do.) Do the many honest people who serve South Carolina deserve a system that can credibly clear their names of false charges? (My answer – Yes, of course they do.)

So, that is how I see the situation as we move toward Senate debate on H.3722 next week. If you’d like to call your senator and tell him or her that you support the Judiciary Committee version of H.3722, that would be a very good thing. If you’d like to pay close attention to how your senator votes and hold him or her accountable for that vote, that also would be a very good thing.”

Your Virtual Front Page, Friday March 6, 2015

I’ll ease all y’all into my tenure in a nice comfortable way. We’ll start with a VPF today. (Tomorrow, the re-education camps will be open for business. On the bright side, coffee will be complimentary.)

1. POTUS comes to Columbia, SC: I drove by Benedict early this AM on my way out of town, so I missed all the hoopla. Did anyone do anything special for the Presidential trip?

2. Democrats vow to protect Boehner from Tea Party coup: I know the logic here is that the House Democrats would prefer to stay with Boehner than a more conservative Speaker who would be even less inclined to compromise, but it’s still a weird dynamic. I guess this is what passes for bipartisanship these days.

3. Iraq officials cast doubt on Spring offensive to re-take Mosul from ISIS: I guess if I were an Iraqi general, I’d be pessimistic about my military’s chances at accomplishing anything either. The Iraqi military seems to dissolve like sugar in hot water every time there’s serious fighting to be done.

4. Jenny Sanford applies for DHEC post:  She just sent them her resume. She’s a little on the thin side when it comes to experience, but she did say that while she was first lady of SC, “I spent a lot of time talking about health and wellness and disease prevention. Those are issues DHEC deals with seriously and consistently.” So she’s got that going for her.

5. Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail system might not have been very secure: I’m no tech expert, but I’m just going with the general idea that the federal government’s e-mail system is likely to be far more secure than anything that a private guy can set up for you in your home.

Turns out Obama loves us after all…

As you’ve heard, Rudy Giuliani recently said, “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me.”

Well, speak for yourself, Mr. Mayor.

We had kinda wondered whether he loved us here in South Carolina — as of when I wrote this post, we were one of only three states he had not visited as president — but now all our concerns are assuaged:

President Barack Obama will visit Benedict College in Columbia on Friday for a youth event, The White House said.

Obama has not visited South Carolina since winning the state’s Democratic presidential primary on Jan. 26, 2008….

Details about the president’s visit will be released later this week, The White House said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, has worked to bring Obama back to South Carolina.

“I’m pleased to welcome President Barack Obama back to South Carolina,” Clyburn said in statement provided to The State. “I thank President David Swinton and the Benedict College family for hosting President Obama’s event with students and youth leaders.”…