Category Archives: Uncategorized

I’m really, really ticked off at WordPress right now

I had just finished writing a lengthy, complex post with all sorts of links and such in it, and before looking for a video clip to add to it, decided to save as a draft, upon which I got one of those “retry” error messages. Which usually means I have to hit “back” a couple of times to get to my work before I can copy and paste it somewhere to save it from this technological hiccup.

But I went back, and back, and my work wasn’t there any more.

I haven’t had this happen in years.

Anyway, I blame WordPress. It recently upgraded, and I think this is a glitch of the upgrade. And I’m really, really ticked about it…

Stephen Colbert, Catholic Sunday School teacher

File photo -- Colbert in Columbia in 2007

File photo — Colbert in Columbia in 2007

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across something that made me want to look further. It was about John McCain’s appearance on one of the last shows of “The Colbert Report”:

He also forgot that Colbert teaches Sunday School, and got schooled on Bible verse.

I vaguely knew that Colbert was a fellow South Carolina Catholic, but I didn’t realize how involved he was with his faith. So I did some Googling, and among other things, I found this item cataloging six times when the real Colbert broke through the character and talked about his faith:

  1. The Time He Talked about Faith and Tragedy with The New York Times
  2. The Time He Explained Hell on NPR
  3. The Time He Embarrassed a Guy that Suggested God Caused Evil
  4. The Time He Argued for Christ’s Divinity
  5. The Time He Discussed the Importance of Humor in Faith
  6. The Time He Used the Bible to Advocate for Immigration Reform at Congress

As an example, here is one of those items:

Stephen Colbert is not a fan of Bart Ehrman. The religious scholar came on The Colbert Report to promote his book Jesus, Interrupted which questions the credibility of the Gospel and the divinity of Christ Himself. It got brutal. For nearly 7 minutes, Colbert deftly explained seeming contradictions in the New Testament, showed how Scripture supports Christ’s divinity and intellectually embarrassed the scholar in Zimbardo fashion. You can watch the entire exchange here.

I had no idea that Colbert was so serious about his faith, or indeed such a defender of Catholic orthodoxy. I thought his fans among you would be interested. And so, during this Advent season, when people of faith are supposed to be reflecting on such things, I share this.

Should all SC cops have to wear body cameras?

Or, to put it another way, should every county and municipality in South Carolina have to pay to buy and maintain body cameras for every cop in the state?

Two lawmakers think so:

South Carolina Senators Malloy and Kimpson File Body Camera Legislation

Senators Malloy and Kimpson will pre-file legislation tomorrow requiring all law enforcement officers in the State of South Carolina to wear body cameras that can record any and all contact with persons in the performance of the law enforcement officers’ official duties.

“As chair of the Criminal Task Force, Sentence Reform Commission, Sentencing Oversight Commission and author of numerous bills in the criminal arena, my experience informs me that police officers should be collecting more evidence all the time,” stated Senator Malloy.  “History has demonstrated that eyewitnesses are not always the most reliable form of evidence.  It is time for South Carolina to invest in common sense technology.  This investment is critical to preserving the integrity of our system of justice.”

“Disputed facts are often an issue in encounters with law enforcement as we’ve seen with the incident between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri,” stated Senator Kimpson.  “Right here in Charleston, there remains a dispute about what happened to Denzel Currnell.  It is important to note that while a dashboard camera did not stop South Carolina highway trooper Sean Groubert from shooting Levar Jones, it did lead to the officer’s firing and arrest.  Body cameras would provide everyone a clearer picture of the facts,” continued Kimpson.

Representative Wendell Gilliard plans to introduce a similar bill in the House when pre-filing opens on December 11th.  “I applaud Senators Malloy and Kimpson for filing this legislation.  Over the summer, I met with many representatives of the law enforcement community and neighborhood leaders who indicated that they would welcome this legislation.  Statistics confirm increased use of body cameras tend to reduce the number of confrontations,” said Representative Gilliard.

I suppose as reactions to Ferguson go, this is preferable to chaos in the streets. And indeed, we’ve had our share of problematic uses of force right here at home in the past year.

But I have to wonder whether this is overdoing it…

Black is the new orange

orange invert

I found this piece, end of last week, intriguing:

It sounds like a radical idea: Stop incarcerating women, and close down women’s prisons. But in Britain, there is a growing movement, sponsored by a peer in the House of Lords, to do just that.

The argument is actually quite straightforward: There are far fewer women in prison than men to start with — women make up just 7 percent of the prison population. This means that these women are disproportionately affected by a system designed for men….

Essentially, the case for closing women’s prisons is the same as the case for imprisoning fewer men. It is the case against the prison industrial complex and for community-based treatment where it works better than incarceration. But there is evidence that prison harms women more than men, so why not start there?

Any examination of the women who are in U.S. prisons reveals that the majority are nonviolent offenders with poor education, little employment experience and multiple histories of abuse from childhood through adulthood. Women are also more likely than men to have children who rely on them for support — 147,000 American children have mothers in prison….

I don’t know how practical the idea is, but I like that somebody’s thinking about it. We lock up way too many people in this country, period. I don’t think anyone who is not a danger to others needs to be incarcerated; it serves little useful purpose.

Of course, a certain percentage of male inmates are a danger; but very, very few women are. They’re more likely to be in for writing bad checks than for armed robbery.

So, let’s explore this…


John Oliver discovers the big ‘secret’ that legislatures exist

Another thing I talked about on the radio last night was my increasing peevishness that we call these “mid-term elections,” which underlines our unhealthy national obsession with national politics over local, and presidential politics über alles.

And this morning, I was treated to another bit of evidence of the problem:

“Look, state legislatures are hilarious. There’s only one problem,” the HBO host began. “Increasingly, they’re the places where most legislation is actually taking place.”

While the U.S. Congress has only passed 185 laws this session, the satirist pointed out that state houses have passed over 24,000 bills.

Oliver then launched into an extended lecture on the influence of the local lawmakers on issues from abortion rights to environmental policy to gun control.

One additional player is the notorious “conservative bill mill,” the American Legislative Exchange Council….

Notice anything odd about that piece? Yeah, it’s the implied presumption that government should not be going on on the state level, that there’s something sneaky and nefarious about that.

I’ll set aside the considerations of ALEC for another time. My point here is to say that yes, we do have local and state governments, and guess what? We’re supposed to.

But Mr. Oliver is right about one thing. Too often, “Americans aren’t watching.” That’s because we allow our views of politics to be formed by Mr. Oliver, and Jon Stewart, and CNN and MSNBC and the rest, and all they tell us about is national politics. Obsessively and excessively.

This has been a problem my whole life. I can still remember when I came out of college believing that national politics was what was important, and the rest was a distraction. It took me awhile — and some time covering state and local governments — to be disabused of that simplistic notion.

Unfortunately, I worry that too many still see the national as all that matters. And they’re wrong.

Oh, and it’s not state governments’ fault that you’re not watching. That’s your fault.


No blog for you! My laptop’s dead…

Here I am at a Barnes and Noble where I came to do a little blogging, and… my laptop won’t turn on. (I’m typing this on my iPad.)

I turned it off fully charged and put it in my bag two days ago, so the battery can’t be dead. And even if it IS, it’s plugged in to the wall. So the battery’s status shouldn’t matter. But it’s cold, and dead. No lights come on. No sound. No response whatsoever.

Allow me to indulge in a bit of British-style understatement: This is distressing.

Nikki Haley’s meek assurances to the neoConfederates

I wrote about this and posted it four years ago, and referred back to it yesterday.

But today, when the Sheheen campaign sent it out for the benefit of those who previously missed it or have forgotten, it occurred to me that they have a point: For the sake of clear comparison to Sheheen’s stand, it’s probably worth posting again.

Aside from her meek assurances that no, she won’t try to get the flag down, and no, she won’t succumb to “pressure” to change her mind, there are a number of bits that sort of make the flesh crawl — such as when her questioner (in a voice that even Hollywood might think sounded TOO stereotypical; it’s in the Strother Martin range) asks whether she realizes that “we do have the power to oust someone” if she misleads them, and that David Beasley “learned that the hard way.” Whatever the issue, you will seldom hear a political threat uttered in such naked terms. That part starts at 6:15.

Almost everything objectionable about flag defenders is on display here, such as the laughable conceit that they somehow have the monopoly on true knowledge of history. Hear the voice ask Rep. Haley (at 5:44) whether she understands that the Emancipation Proclamation, which “is supposed to be such a great document,” only freed slaves in states in a state of rebellion. It’s apparent that this guy thinks this is not only some great revelation (as though any student of history wouldn’t know it), but that he thinks it somehow delegitimizes the Union cause, and excuses the Southern one.

Nikki nods and smiles through all that. To her credit, I think I sense a little bit of, “Oh my God, what have I let myself in for here?” in her eyes.

But then she humbly assures these folks that she will do their bidding in office. And that’s the point here.

Benghazi obsession has a logo and everything now


Got a release today from a group called “Benghazi Accountability Coalition.” It says in part:

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) held the first public hearing of the House Select Committee on Benghazi last week.
While the session yielded some persistent questioning regarding failed security procedures in Benghazi and at other State Department embassies and installations world-wide, it did not get to the heart of the events of September 11, 2012, nor did it begin to address the lack of accountability for decisions that led to the deaths of four Americans that night. Particularly glaring was the failure to address the breaking story just two days before the hearing of former State Department official Raymond Maxwell’s account of witnessing the culling and potential manipulation or destruction of Benghazi-related documents in a basement room of Foggy Bottom.
The hearing, the topic of which was selected by Democrats and agreed to by Gowdy (“Implementation of the Accountability Review Board recommendations”), produced a tedious discussion of technical security procedures and, in large measure, assisted the Democrats’ slow-roll strategy to frustrate the investigation before leaving town for the November election (with the always-ready complicity, and in this case, dereliction, of the mainstream media). Having given such huge deference to the Democrats in this opening round of the committee’s public hearings, it begs the question if in fact Chairman Gowdy and/or the Republican leadership are committed to thorough and full accounting for the Benghazi attacks….

This group has a logo and everything.

This thing continues to have legs. Maybe Gowdy’s effort could turn into a standing congressional committee. Forty years from now, senior members of Congress would be jockeying for seats on the powerful “Benghazi Committee”…

Sen. Gregory makes the case for gas tax increase

Meant to post this yesterday, but got sidetracked.

On the same day that Tom Ervin was telling me how he had changed his mind and was now pushing for a gasoline tax increase to address the state’s road needs, Sen. “Greg” Gregory, R-Lancaster, had an op-ed piece in The State in which he used numbers to demonstrate why such an increase is needed.

An excerpt:

4: South Carolina’s rank among 50 states in miles of state-maintained roads.

41,460: The number of those miles.

47: Where S.C. fuel tax ranks among the states.

1: Recent ranking of Rock Hill for the nation’s cheapest fuel.

16.75 cents: South Carolina’s fuel tax per gallon.

1987: When the state’s fuel tax last was increased.

7.8 cents: Purchasing power of the tax today compared to 1987.

33 cents: What the per-gallon tax would be today if it had been adjusted for inflation since 1987.

6 cents: S.C. fuel tax in 1937, when paving began on many of what were then farm-to-market roads.

36.5 cents: North Carolina’s fuel tax.

$560 million: Transportation Department’s revenue from state taxes this fiscal year.

$451 million: Portion of that revenue derived from taxes on fuel.

62 percent: Increase in the number of vehicle miles traveled in South Carolina since 1987.

14: Average mpg for new cars in 1975.

33: Average mpg for new cars today.

54: Mandated average mpg for 2025…

And so on. The numbers made it pretty plain that for a number of reasons, the current tax is inadequate for providing roads that can stand up to today’s traffic.

My only beef is that he copped out slightly at the end, partly invoking some of the magical thinking that has informed the statements of other pols on the subject:

Inflation has reduced the purchasing power of our fuel tax by more than 50 percent since it was last increased in 1987. Higher-mileage vehicles have decreased it by another 25 percent. These trends are irreversible. These facts mean that South Carolina must increase funding for our roads if only to stave off further decline. From where should it come? Some say an increased fuel tax. Others say from growth in the state’s general fund. Both are correct.

“Growth in the state’s general fund,” as in Nikki Haley’s “money tree,” as in Vincent Sheheen’s proposal to rely on the revenue growth that occurs every year as a result of inflation and population increases. I refer you to the way Cindi Scoppe eviscerated that Sheheen plan:

If our Legislature decided next year to divert all the revenue growth to infrastructure, it wouldn’t be able to hire those 200 caseworkers that the Department of Social Services says it needs — and Gov. Haley says she supports — to get staffing up to pre-recession levels, and maybe keep a few kids from being killed by their parents.

And just as with the individual, it’s not merely a case of being unable to do anything new. Diverting all the revenue growth to roads and bridges means there’s no money to cover inflation — much less population growth.

We wouldn’t just be unable to hire those additional case workers; we’d have to further reduce the number we have, even as the number of families who need DSS supervision grows. We wouldn’t just be unable to expand 4K and hire reading specialists; we’d have to lay off teachers, even as the number of students increases.

No, you don’t necessarily have to cut government programs if you divert all the new revenue — for one year. But by year two, you have to start making some cuts. By year 20, well, you probably don’t want to think about how big those cuts would be. And you’d still have half the job left undone.

We do NOT have to further cannibalize the other, badly underfunded, essential services of state government in order to fix our road system. We have a mechanism for that, an eminently fair system that charges the most to those who use the roads the most.

It’s called the gasoline tax.

Get better soon, Burl!

Burl posted this alarming image during his stay in hospital, saying, " ?????? Does this mean I'm flatlining?"

Burl posted this alarming image during his stay in hospital, saying, “?????? Does this mean I’m flatlining?”

Just FYI, I see that one of our regulars was hospitalized over the weekend.

Burl Burlingame gave terse updates via Facebook, which I just now saw:

  • OK, here’s the deal. Blood clot in the right lung. Classic pulmonary embolism. Pumped full of anti coagulants and likely be released tomorrow.
  • Update– getting discharged in the hour! I’ll have some permanent lung impairment, so no more marathon running. Thanks everybody.

That last one was 23 hours ago. So, going by my own experiences with family members in the hospital, since they said he’d be getting out “in the hour,” he’s probably being released right about now.

I told Burl on FB that to show solidarity I hereby give up running marathons, too. There’s no need for him to thank me. I’m just that kind of guy…

At least he had a nice view from his hospital room in Kailua.

At least he had a nice view from his hospital room in Kailua.

I’m not quite as strong on fraud, but I AM willing to learn


And now that my temper is up, I may as well go on and abuse every body I can think of.
– Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

I’ve made fun in the past of the awful job-matching algorithm at The Ladders. Here’s my favorite email of that sort in recent days.

“Director of Fraud and Abuse.” True, I have plenty of experience abusing various politicos — some of you have remarked on the fact — but I’m a babe in the woods when it comes to fraud. I am, however, willing to learn. Would they send me someplace special?

What’s wrong with Sheheen’s road plan, in no uncertain terms

Today, Cindi Scoppe did what I should have done — tear apart Vincent Sheheen’s roads plan and show why, if anything, it’s worse than Nikki Haley’s complete refusal to tell us what her plan is.

For my part, I more or less just looked at it when it came out and saw it didn’t have a gas tax increase in it, and walked away dissatisfied. Cindi, who still gets paid to spend time doing this sort of thing (my only defense), did far more:

Technically, Sen. Sheheen has a plan. And Gov. Haley says she has a new plan, although she won’t reveal it until after the election. Unless she’s playing with semantics, her no-new-tax pledge leaves her no place to go besides where Sen. Sheheen has gone.

That’s because once you decide to take on the state’s $29 billion infrastructure backlog, you have only two options: Raise taxes or starve government.

I suspect that if the Republican-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate were to send a bill to a Gov. Sheheen to raise the gas tax, he would treat it the same way Gov. Carroll Campbell treated the Legislature’s last gas-tax increase, a quarter century ago: Sign it into law. Of course, we have no idea whether the Legislature would do such a thing, because most lawmakers who support a gas-tax increase say there’s no reason to even try it as long as we have a governor who is promising a veto.

But candidate Sheheen isn’t proposing to raise the gas tax. He proposes instead to divert 5 percent of the state’s general fund and surplus revenue to the Transportation Department, and rely on unspecified new revenue, to reduce the backlog by about a third to a half.

He says he wouldn’t have to cut existing programs to do this because he would rely on the revenue growth that occurs every year as a result of inflation and population increases.

That’s certainly not a new approach. To anything….

She then goes on to explain how it’s the same old approach and a bad one. Devoting new growth in revenues to roads means making the recession-caused cuts of the last few years permanent, and deeper, as inflation and population growth take more and more out of the general fund. And despite what the Grover Norquist acolytes will tell you, those cuts have not served our state well.

Here’s the ending:

If our Legislature decided next year to divert all the revenue growth to infrastructure, it wouldn’t be able to hire those 200 caseworkers that the Department of Social Services says it needs — and Gov. Haley says she supports — to get staffing up to pre-recession levels, and maybe keep a few kids from being killed by their parents.

And just as with the individual, it’s not merely a case of being unable to do anything new. Diverting all the revenue growth to roads and bridges means there’s no money to cover inflation — much less population growth.

We wouldn’t just be unable to hire those additional case workers; we’d have to further reduce the number we have, even as the number of families who need DSS supervision grows. We wouldn’t just be unable to expand 4K and hire reading specialists; we’d have to lay off teachers, even as the number of students increases.

No, you don’t necessarily have to cut government programs if you divert all the new revenue — for one year. But by year two, you have to start making some cuts. By year 20, well, you probably don’t want to think about how big those cuts would be. And you’d still have half the job left undone.

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

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

Sonic cannons: Is offshore drilling next?

Conservation Voters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Erwin adds staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We don’t need casinos to fund our roads

This came in today from the SC House Democratic Caucus:

Rutherford to propose legislation allowing casinos in Myrtle Beach to fix roads
Columbia, SC – House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford announced today that he plans to introduce legislation next year to allow well-regulated, upscale casinos in the Myrtle Beach area and use the new tax revenue to fix South Carolina’s ailing roads and bridges. On the June 10th primary ballot, 80% of Democratic voters supported the idea of modernizing our state’s gaming laws to fund road repairs instead of raising taxes. Rutherford said Governor Nikki Haley is being disingenuous by promising to tackle our roads without proposing a funding strategy.todd-rutherford
“Governor Haley doesn’t have a plan to fix our roads. She’s against everything and for nothing. That kind of stubbornness won’t fill our potholes, widen I-26, or create I-73. It’s time to get serious about how we’re going to pay for these repairs and Governor Haley’s mystical “money tree” is not a serious plan.
Allowing well regulated, upscale casinos in the Myrtle Beach area would create a new annual multi-billion dollar revenue stream that will allow us to fix our state’s crumbling roads, create thousands of good jobs, and keep taxes low. House Democrats will continue to push for innovative solutions to the problems Governor Haley and her Tea Party allies have created and now refuse to address.”
Rutherford says voters are taxed enough already and this proposal provides an alternative to a gas tax increase, which has no chance of passing the legislature.
“The people support this. Businesses support this. Many Republicans in the legislature are open to casinos. Anyone who loves individual freedom, personal liberty, and lower taxes should get behind this issue 110%.”
Rutherford also challenged those who may oppose casinos in Myrtle Beach to offer up an alternative plan that accomplishes the goal of repairing our roads.
“For those who oppose this idea, I challenge you to come up with another way to fund our road repairs without raising taxes. It’s time for fresh ideas and Governor Haley continues to offer up nothing but rhetoric and policies that are as broken as our roads.”

Folks, you really need to stop straining so hard for ways to fund road construction and maintenance in SC. We have a way — the gasoline tax. It hasn’t been raised in ages, and absurdly, it’s set as a per-gallon amount, instead of being set as a percentage, the way a sales tax would be.

It’s a pretty straightforward way of taxing those who are using the roads — both residents and out-of-staters. It makes sense, and it’s currently artificially low.

So stop straining to find an alternative. The answer is right in front of you.

Bryan Caskey’s shotgun tie

Caskey tie

I had lunch today with Bryan Caskey at his club.

We’d had drinks at my club recently, so it was his turn.tie closeup

We talked about the kinds of things gentlemen talk about at real gentlemen’s clubs (as opposed to the trashy kind) — politics, whether one can actually travel ’round the world in 80 days, shooting for sport, etc. Then in the middle of the shooting part, I noticed his shotgun-shell tie.

So I thought it only right to share it here.

Then we went back to harrumphing about those political chaps, most of them vile Whigs and Jacobins, don’t you know…