Tubman to replace Old Hickory; Hamilton to stay on sawbuck (Yay!)

Here’s some mighty fine news:

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department will announce on Wednesday afternoon that Harriet Tubman, an African­American who ferried hundreds of slaves to freedom, will replace the slaveholding Andrew Jackson on the center of a new $20 note, according to a Treasury official, while newly popular Alexander Hamilton will remain on the face of the $10 bill….

And the best part to me — with all due respect to Ms. Tubman and the noble role she plays in our history — is that Alexander Hamilton will stay on the sawbuck. As I’ve said before, if anyone needed to go, it was Old Hickory.

I celebrated that part of the news on Twitter the other day:

But I neglected to mention it on the blog, so I’m glad to have this opportunity to make up for that.Tubman mug

Jackson is one of my less favorite major American historical figures, despite his triumph at New Orleans. I consider his defeat of John Quincy Adams — possibly the best-qualified president in our history — in their second contest to be one of our nation’s low points.

And I feel something of a personal connection to Ms. Tubman — when my wife and youngest daughter moved up to Pennsylvania for a year so my daughter could study ballet there, they lived in part of a house that had been part of the Underground Railroad. Or, at least, its cellar had been.

So I’m quite pleased…

Alternative GOP universes: One with Kasich, one without

There are two non-overlapping universes out there among those who want to save the Republican Party from Donald Trump (and, if they truly care, from Ted Cruz).

The guy Republicans will nominate if they wan to win.

The guy Republicans will nominate if they wan to win.

In one, John Kasich — as the only other survivor of the original 17, and as the only candidate likely to beat Hillary Clinton in the fall — is the obvious alternative.

In the other universe, Kasich either doesn’t exist or exists only as an irritant who should go away, and quickly.

You know I live in the first universe, and praise its wise inhabitants on a regular basis.

Just yesterday, NPR was interviewing former RNC chair and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and he quite naturally mentioned Kasich as the one electable candidate out there:

BARBOUR: Well, I’m certainly a regular Republican. I’ve been a Republican since 1968. But people are looking at two things – electability – and today, in The Wall Street Journal, Clinton leads Trump by 11 points. Almost every poll shows Trump running under 40 in a general election. That’s very scary because if we have a presidential candidate that runs in the low 40s or below, then a lot of Republicans down the ticket are going to lose. They can’t overcome that.

SIEGEL: Does Cruz pose the same threat to the party as Trump?

BARBOUR: His numbers are not as bad today, but one has to worry about electability. And you look at Kasich – he leads Mrs. Clinton by six or seven points in the poll, not as well-known. But we have in Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the two most unfavorably seen presidential candidates ever….

Which, you know, should be obvious to everyone. Like, you know, duh.

Then there’s the other universe, which all-too-often asserts itself. Today I was reading a piece by Jennifer Rubin, who often (but not always) makes a lot of sense, headlined “It’s nearly time for that white knight to show up.” The piece mentioned some really esoteric, out there possibilities for who that knight might be:

That, however, presupposes a candidate, one on which the #NeverTrump forces could agree upon as their white knight. There will be those principled conservatives who want a champion (e.g. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, former Texas governor Rick Perry, former Indiana govenor Mitch Daniels, current Indiana Gov. Mike Pence), those who think only a respected public person with impeccable national-security credentials has a shot (e.g. retired general James Mattis), Mitt Romney supporters who want one more go at the presidency and still others who think a moderate with appeal to Democrats (e.g. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty) is the only feasible option. Lacking the benefit of a party primary system or caucus, the third-candidate supporters would not have the benefit of testing how contenders do with actual voters. The risk obviously is coming up with someone real voters don’t find compelling….

Who? Sasse? Mattis? Really?

Bizarrely, the column does not even mention Kasich, the one sane alternative who has actually put himself out there, and who has survived the brutal culling process to date. You know, the guy who came in second in Trump’s big win in New York last night.

This is because, apparently, Ms. Rubin really does not like Kasich.

But you know, once you eliminate the two unthinkables and go looking for a knight, the most obvious choice is Sir John, the only guy out there who is already in his armor and mounted up, and who has continued faithfully on his quest lo these many months…

The Whig and last summer’s anti-flag rallies

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Jeremy Borden brings to my attention a piece he wrote for a site called The Bitter Southerner. It’s about the role The Whig played in helping get the Confederate flag down.

Basically, the role is this: It was a gathering place — and a fertile one, for those wanting a better South Carolina — for the folks who planned the two anti-flag rallies last summer. That would be Mariangeles Borghini, Emile DeFelice and Tom Hall, pictured above in a photo by Sean Rayford. (And below in a grainy screengrab from video I shot at the first rally.)

That was a natural part to play for a bar located just yards away from the Confederate soldier monument. And this piece was a natural fit for The Bitter Southerner, which apparently has its roots in its creator’s bitterness about Southern bartenders not getting enough respect. No, really.

The piece appealed to me because I appreciate what Mari, Emile and Tom did. And even more because one of the owners and founders of The Whig, Phil Blair, is one of my elder son’s best friends. Remembering his days playing in local punk bands, I marvel at what a pillar-of-the-community successful businessman he’s become. Whenever there’s something going on downtown to advance the community, Phil is there.

It’s a piece with a strong sense of place, and that place is the very heart of our community. You may recall that, just as getting rid of the flag was, for The Whig, about “Neighbors… cleaning up their trashy yard,” Emile saw the banner as bad for his own business, Soda City. As I wrote about Emile in June:

He fantasizes about getting a bunch of Confederate flags, some poles and a few bags of cement, and driving them in a truck to the places of business of some of these lawmakers — their law offices, their insurance agencies and so forth — and planting the flags in front of their businesses and seeing how they like it…

Anyway, you should go read the piece. Excerpts:

In the wake of the murders, Hall and others had gathered mournfully at The Whig that same June week to try to digest the event’s enormity. And to make plans. Hall and two others — Emile DeFelice, Hall’s close friend and fellow South Carolina native, and Mari Borghini, an Argentine immigrant — began to stoke local furor. DeFelice described the trio this way: “Old, rich South Carolina,” he said of Hall. “Old, poor South Carolina,” he said of himself. “And a recent immigrant,” he said of Borghini. “Awesome.”

At The Whig, they planned protests they hoped would pressure the state’s leaders to bring down the flag they viewed as as plague on the statehouse grounds. But their plans had been made with some trepidation.

“Do we go for this now while these people are not even cold dead?” Hall asked. “And we all said yeah. Yeah, I’m grieving I don’t know them; I’ve never been to that church. But that (the Confederate flag) was his (the killer’s) Army, that was his uniform. We’re not waiting and not sitting back.”

As Borghini put it, “Why would they not do something about it?”…

Whig denizens don’t like the word “hipster,” and they’re probably right that the self-righteousness implied doesn’t fit — even if the bar’s detractors detect a whiff of it. The Whig is one of only a few eclectic gathering places in what many complain is Columbia’s often banal college-town existence wrapped in a family and church town’s restrained conservatism.

The bar differs from its stiffer neighbors in more ways than one. The statehouse politics steps away are usually divisive, ugly and superficial. But even many of those bow-tied politicians and operatives sidle up to The Whig’s bar, where the conversation is generally more elevated and congenial….

Phil Blair, the bar’s co-owner who runs it day-to-day, calls it “alcohol philanthropy.” He wants to do more than sling beer and burgers. “I’m from here,” Blair said. “I have that local chip on my shoulder that we’re trying to catch up to other cities around us.”

The Confederate flag on the bar’s front perch was yet another reminder for Blair and others that Columbia hadn’t yet entered the 21st Century.

Those who inhabit The Whig are usually passionate people who rail against the status quo from the sidelines….

rally 2

 

 

 

Legislators, stop telling local governments what to do

Wow, how many times have I said that over the past quarter century?

Actually, it’s easier to count the number of times I’ve been heeded by our solons at the State House. It’s somewhere around zero.

Through most of its history, South Carolina basically didn’t have much in the way of local government, especially on the county level. Our system of government was set up to serve the slaveholding class of big landowners, who didn’t cotton to bases of power other than their own. Consequently, rather than have separately elected county government, county legislative delegations ran things on that level. Today, 41 years after the Home Rule Act, we still have vestiges of that in the Richland County Recreation Commission, and those counties where the legislators still name school board members.

Supposedly, we empowered local governments with passage of the Home Rule Act of 1975, but lawmakers have remained jealous of their prerogatives on the local level, and continue to lord it over the governments closest to the people — that is, the governments that ought to know best the needs and values of their own communities. Remember several years back when lawmakers tried to keep Columbia and other municipalities from banning smoking in public accommodations? They only backed down when the Supreme Court made them.

Here’s where I could go off on another screed about subsidiarity, but I won’t. Or maybe just a bit…

I will state the basic idea: Governmental decisions should be made by the smallest, least centralized level that is competent to handle the matter at hand.

So… if the people of a given community want to allow anyone who says he or she is of a certain gender use the restroom consistent with that identity, that person should be allowed to do so.

And if communities that care deeply about marine life want to ban plastic grocery bags, they should be allowed to do so.

Lee Bright thinks otherwise. He’s wrong.

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Jay Lucas

Speaker Jay Lucas, whom I respect a lot more than I do Lee Bright, is also wrong on this point — although his position is more defensible. He has a plant in his district that makes such plastic bags, and it employs a lot of his constituents.

You might not think that’s a defensible position, but I disagree. It’s an essential feature of representative democracy that all voters should be empowered to elect representatives who stand up for their interest (although one always hopes that the larger public interest should prevail).

It’s not inherently wrong for a lawmaker to stand up for jobs in his district. That doesn’t mean the other 169 have to go along with him.

No, the problem isn’t that the speaker is protecting jobs; it’s that he’s telling people who live in communities other than his how they should arrange their local affairs.

One could of course argue that under the principle of subsidiarity, balancing the economy vs. the environment is more properly a state rather than a local matter. And that makes some sense.

But I tend to see this more as a part of a long and disturbing trend in South Carolina.

More sins against the English language (in my book, anyway)

First, just to be totally fair, I’ll pick on my own newspaper a bit. Just this morning, it reported that the University of South Carolina student newspaper “will cut the amount of days it prints in half.”

If you don’t know what’s wrong with that, here’s an explanation of the difference between “amount” and “number.” On second thought, don’t use that explanation, because it ends with “In any case, it’s always safer to use number in situations like this,” when it clearly should have said “… situations such as this.” So consult this explanation instead.

The paper also had a headline over the weekend that said “Black S.C. students suspended, expelled three times more often than whites,” when clearly, based on the numbers I saw, it should have said “three times as often…” I realize the “more” usage has become quite common, but it doesn’t work mathematically, or as clear and logical English.

But that’s not what’s got me worked up today. I’m writing because of an interview I heard this morning on The Takeaway with Robin Wright. No, not that Robin Wright, whom I might have excused. No, this one is a distinguished fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Center International Center for Scholars, so I expect more than I do from a professionally beautiful actress.

She was talking about this country’s relationship with longtime ally Saudi Arabia, which has been rather frosty of late.

The other Robin Wright.

The other Robin Wright.

First, she said, “… the greater independence of the us oil market has impacted obviously the dependence the United States has on imported oil, and that of course was the foundation of that relationship.”

No, it hasn’t. Because “impact” is not a verb. But you know what? Even if you fix that by substituting “affected,” that’s a really awkward sentence. Not Yoda awkward, but bordering on it. It’s sort of hard to believe this person was a journalist before going all academic.

Then she said, “Well, Saudi Arabia clearly feels that Yemen’s future will impact whatever happens inside Saudi Arabia…”

Ow! You just hit me again on that same sore spot! It’s like that time I was sparring in kickboxing class and my opponent broke four of my ribs in the first round. Of course, being an incredibly tough guy, I fought on, and then the guy hit me in the same spot in the third round, and I briefly dropped to one knee before getting up and continuing…

Sorry. I just like telling that story. I feel like it makes up for wimpy behavior in so many other situations in my life…

But you know what? Lots of people use “impact” as a verb, which is why I’m in such a constant state of dudgeon. And you know why I hate it so? Because it’s jargon-y and people think it makes them sound very official and knowledgeable, as thought they too are distinguished fellows at some think tank.

So that’s not what prompted me to write this post. What got me going was that later, Ms. Wright said this with regard to the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran. She said that the United States…

…wants Saudi Arabia first of all to embrace the Iran deal more fulsomely that it has in the past…

Yes, she did. I went back and listened to it over a couple of times, and she did say “fulsomely” when I’m 99 percent certain that she meant “fully.” (She says it 3 minutes and 38 seconds into the interview.)

Now, it is possible to say “fulsome” and mean “encompassing all aspects, completely” — in fact, this definition illustrates that by saying, “a fulsome survey of the political situation in Central America,” which suggests that perhaps this sense is popular in foreign policy circles.

But to most people on the planet who speak English and are familiar with the word “fulsome,” what she said was that she wanted the Saudis to embrace the Iran deal in a manner that isoffensive to good taste, especially as being excessive; overdone or gross…” “disgusting; sickening; repulsive…” “excessively or insincerely lavish.”

Such embraces are common enough in the world of diplomacy, but I don’t think that’s what we really want from the Saudis in this case.

Open Thread for Monday, April 18, 2016

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Flag of Ecuador. I used to be able to sing the national anthem, but it’s been awhile.

Let me just toss out a few topics before I go give platelets:

  1. Ecuador quake death toll rises to 350 — This might not hit home for you, but I lived there for the longest period that I lived anywhere in my peripatetic childhood. Small quakes that would move furniture in our house were a regular part of life.
  2. Dow Closes Above 18000 for First Time Since July — And if that floats your boat, I’m happy for you.
  3. Oil Slips After Output Deal Fails — Which is both good and bad news. Good because I really don’t want to go back to paying more for gas, and it’s been creeping up lately. Taking the long view, it’s bad from an Energy Party perspective. You know who is the world’s largest producer now? Russia. Because it costs a lot less to produce a barrel there than it does here.
  4. Supreme Court Sharply Divided on Obama Plan for Immigrants — Again, it would be nice to have nine justices!
  5. A cold-eyed view of allies has left Obama with few overseas friends — Which is not good, geopolitically speaking.

Beth Bernstein celebrates passage of HPV bill

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Since I missed this in the news last week –which means maybe you did, too — I thought I’d share Rep. Beth Bernstein‘s newsletter with you. She also makes passing reference to the Richland County Recreation Commission scandal:

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

This week at the State House, we were back in full force after our two week furlough.  One piece of news that I am particularly excited to share is the passage of my bill, H.3204, the Cervical Cancer Prevention Act.  The bill, with minor amendments, overwhelmingly passed in the Senate last week, and the House concurred with a vote of 107-1!  It will now be sent to the Governor for her signature, after a 7 year-long effort!  The bill will allow DHEC to provide a brochure about the human papillomavirus (HPV) to all parents of students entering into 6th grade and allows DHEC to administer the HPV vaccine. This is a monumental step for educating the public about the virus and stopping this preventable form of cancer.  Other notable bills discussed this week include a “Safe Harbor for Exploited Minors” bill, a requirement for literacy coaches to be trained for students with dyslexia, and a lengthy debate about our infrastructure and finance reform in South Carolina — the “Roads Bill.” 

In response to the most recent revelations concerning the Richland County Recreation Commission, Senator Joel Lourie, Representative James Smith and Ihave called on Sheriff Leon Lott to coordinate a special investigation of the Recreation Commission, its director and members of the governing commission.  We have had concerns for some time now over allegations of misconduct at the Commission, and we trust Sheriff Lott and the Richland County Sheriff’s department will give this case their full attention.

As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts and concerns on the issues.

Thank you for electing me to serve you and our community at the State House.

Best,

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So THAT’S where my platelets went

platelets

I thought this was kind of cool.

The Red Cross sent me an email telling me where my last platelets donation went. I mean, I guess they can’t tell me who got it on account of HIPAA and all, but at least I know where.

Which reminds me. I’d better go eat a big lunch because I’m scheduled to give today, at 5:15. I was supposed to give last Wednesday, but they were backed up that day, so I rescheduled.

I’d better go do my RapidPass — it’s another innovation that saves time after I get to the Red Cross on Bull St. I can answer all those embarrassing questions online. Which is less fun than answering a real person — you can’t ask, “What was that date again?” when they ask whether you’ve accepted money for sex since 1977 — but probably more efficient…

money for sex

Once, parties provided a hedge against excesses of direct democracy. No more…

I enjoyed seeing, in The Washington Post today, a Muslim from birth and son of an Islamic scholar explaining the American political system to Donald Trump, and other “real” Americans who are as confused about it as the Donald is.

I refer to Fareed Zakaria’s weekly column. An excerpt:

Having recently discovered how the nomination process works in the Republican Party, Donald Trump is furious. “They wanted to keep people out,” he bellowed. “This is a dirty trick.” In fact, Mr. Trump is right on the first count and wrong on the second. Political parties do have mechanisms to “keep people out.” But far from being a trick, they are the crux of what makes parties valuable in a democracy.

Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria

Clinton Rossiter begins his classic book “Parties and Politics in America” with this declaration: “No America without democracy, no democracy without politics, no politics without parties.” In a large and diverse country, to get things done, people need devices to navigate the political system, organize themselves, channel particular interests and ideologies, and negotiate with others who have differing interests and views. Political parties have traditionally played this role in the United States. And they have often played it as a counterweight to the momentary passions of the public.

At the heart of the American political party is the selection of its presidential candidate. This process used to be controlled by party elites — mayors, governors, legislators. In the early 20th century, an additional mechanism was added to test a candidate’s viability on the campaign trail: primaries. Still, between 1912 and 1968, the man who won a party’s presidential primaries became the nominee less than half the time. Dwight Eisenhower was chosen not by primary voters but in a complex, contested convention.

1968 was the year things changed….

… and not for the better. That was when the Democrats, and then the Republicans turned toward letting primaries decide.

Which was when the parties lost the one characteristic that made them useful — providing the service of vetting candidates so that total whack jobs didn’t show up on the November ballot.

I remember the late David Broder waxing nostalgic about what parties had once been, and he hoped, could be again: entities that asked candidates the key question of “Who sent you?” — meaning, what reliable person or people vouch for you? The problem he was lamenting is that too often, the answer had become “I sent myself.” Which is how you get socially dysfunctional egoists such as Trump — and Ted Cruz — threatening to take the GOP nomination.

My response to that was that to the extent parties played that vetting role in the distant past, there was no sign they were prepared to play it now. And as I said then and now, the evil parties do greatly outweigh any slight benefit they still provide.

Anyway, I thank Mr. Zakaria for providing this small history lesson to people like the caller I heard on NPR this week who wanted to know why convention delegates had any say in the nominating process….

 

Yikes! My ‘former newspaper’ endorses Trump

NYPost

I mean The New York Post.

Y’all remember when I worked for the Post, don’t you? I “covered” Mark Sanford’s infamous confessional presser for them in 2009. Which is to say, I was there, and I took notes, and I interviewed a person or two after, and I called in to consult with the editor — but I did not write one word of the resulting story. Someone in New York who had watched it on TV did that. But they gave me the byline, because I was their excuse for using a Columbia dateline.

Anyway, they seem to have surprised no one by endorsing Trump in the New York primary. They say “he reflects the best of ‘New York values’,” which I suppose is one reason why I live in South Carolina:

He’s from New York; it’s from New York. He likes to grab headlines with brash comments; it likes to write them.

Now, this relationship is going to another level. Surprising few, if any, the New York Post’s editorial board has endorsed Donald Trump in New York’s upcoming Republican presidential primary.

“Trump is now an imperfect messenger carrying a vital message,” the editorial board wrote. “But he reflects the best of ‘New York values’ — and offers the best hope for all Americans who rightly feel betrayed by the political class.”…

Here’s a direct link to the endorsement.

You know how, the other day, I said something about how editorial board members tended to favor Kasich, if they favored anyone in the GOP race? And how that was accompanied by pious, self-congratulatory language about how wise editorialists tend to be?

Well, a “consensus” doesn’t mean everybody. The Post goes its own way…

Halcyon days, when Americans were Americans

By that I mean, when Americans were Americans first, as opposed to seeing themselves as Democrats or Republicans or liberals or conservatives or Tea Partiers or what have you.

This fit of nostalgia was prompted by reading a book review in The Wall Street Journal today, of a book titled Harry & Arthur: Truman, Vandenberg and the Partnership That Created the Free World. After noting that upon the death of FDR, many (including the new president himself) doubted that Harry Truman was up to the job, the review continues:

Watching from the Senate, Republican Arthur Vandenberg wrote to the new president with words of encouragement. “Good luck and God bless you,” he said. “Let me help you whenever I can. America marches on.” In his diary, he was more pensive: “The gravest question-mark in every American heart is about Truman. Can he swing the job?” To which the optimistic answer came, “Despite his limited capacities, I believe he can.”download (2)

Those words seem extraordinary today. The Republicans had not won a national election since 1928. Roosevelt had ridden roughshod over them in Congress with his New Deal, broke the tradition of serving only two terms and fashioned a liberal Supreme Court. After 12 years of humiliation and defeat, FDR’s death could have provided Republicans with an opportunity to get on the front foot, to take advantage of an inexperienced and uncharismatic new president. And yet here was Vandenberg, one of the leading Republicans in the Senate, saying not only that he believed the man could overcome his limitations but also that he would do everything he could to help him.

Lawrence J. Haas’s “Harry & Arthur” is thus a story of bipartisanship at work. The subtitle, “Truman, Vandenberg and the Partnership That Created the Free World,” seems at first sight hyperbolic, at least concerning Vandenberg, but Mr. Haas makes an excellent case that Truman’s worldview could not have been implemented without the senator from Michigan. The two men shared a vision for America in the world and over the next six years, until the senator’s death from lung cancer in 1951, set about putting it place. Even a short list demonstrates the revolution in global strategy that would take place during the Truman years: the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, NATO, the U.N. Charter, not to mention the creation of the CIA, the Defense Department and the U.S. Air Force.

Those were indeed the days, when such alliances were possible…

Uphold has a problem: California is even worse than SC

As you’ll recall, yesterday I said this about the company that is precipitously deciding to move from Charleston (supposedly, although its presence in Charleston seems theoretical) to California over the Bathroom Bill:

I hate to break it to this guy, but there’s a distinct possibility that there’s a lawmaker in California just as loony as Lee Bright who will propose a similar bill. Then what is he going to do? It’s a significant feature of representative democracy that people who have a different worldview from you get to vote, too — and elect people like them. So there’s no way to guarantee that someone won’t file a bill that you find unfair, unjust or abhorrent.

Well, it turns out, that has already happened — although it’s a proposed ballot initiative rather than a bill:

California’s system of direct democracy — the voter initiative process — has produced landmark laws reducing property taxes, banning affirmative action and legalizing medical marijuana.images

Now there’s a bid to declare that “the people of California wisely command” that gays and lesbians can be killed.

You read that right.

The “Sodomite Suppression Act,” as proposed, calls sodomy “a monstrous evil” that should be punishable “by bullets to the head or any other convenient method.”…

You can always count on California to make the rest of us look sane, can’t you?

True, the guy proposing this isn’t a lawmaker, but he is a lawyer. Juan should love that.

I want all y’all to remember this next time you find yourself wanting more direct democracy…

Putinism on the high seas: Su-24s buzz U.S. destroyer

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Somehow I missed this yesterday, so I thought I’d share the picture and video in case you did, too.

This is Putinist machismo taken to the edge and beyond.

Remember in “Top Gun” when the captain of the U.S. aircraft career refused to tolerate Russian fighters getting within 250 miles of his vessel? Apparently, we’ve gotten a LOT more tolerant of Russian aggression since the Cold War (or, you know, “Top Gun” was B.S.). In fact, you can’t get any more tolerant without them losing a plane and us perhaps losing a ship.

The chief of naval operations gave the captain and crew of USS Donald Cook a big “Bravo Zulu” for “their initiative and toughness in how they handled themselves during this incident.”

Major miracle: John Oliver focuses on Special Districts!

After my post about the Richland County Recreation Commission — which is not a part of Richland County government, but one of 500 or so Special Purpose Districts created by the Legislature — Daniel Coble brought the video above to my attention.

I was stunned! As one of only two journalists in South Carolina who have taken much interest in SPDs during my career here, it seems to me a major miracle that John Oliver, an entertainer with a national audience, would actually devote a 15-minute segment to the problem.

And my eyes were opened by the fact that other states had the problem. I’ve seen it as a South Carolina phenomenon, since until 1975 we had no county governments, meaning that lawmakers created these little governments on an ad hoc basis as the need for services arose here and there.

Oliver cites a source saying that nationally, there are 40,000 such governments, which spend $100 billion annually.

What he says here definitely sounds just like South Carolina:

“Special districts are so ubiquitous, and sometimes have so little accountability, states may not even know how many they have, or how much they spend.”

That’s where we are.

He makes fun of Idaho launching an investigation with the aim of simply determining how many special districts it has, but hey, more power to Idaho — to my knowledge, we haven’t undertaken that task in South Carolina. When I say there are 500, that’s a guess made by reasonably informed people. I’ve been told that no one knows, really.

Last time I checked, not even the South Carolina Association of Special Purpose Districts knew for certain. On their website, they say “over 500” (which at least shows they are not pedants, else they would insist on saying “more than 500.”)

Anyway, it’s great to see the problem getting this attention. I hope the topic will get a lot more focus here in South Carolina with the latest allegations regarding the RCRC.

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Lourie, Smith, Bernstein call for probe of recreation commission

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I just got this from Joel Lourie:

For Immediate Release
April 13, 2016
Contact:
Representative James Smith, 803-931-2200
Representative Beth Bernstein, 803-609-1978
Senator Joel Lourie, 803-447-0024

Richland Legislators Call for Investigation of Recreation Commission, and Restructuring of Governance

Three members of the Richland County Legislative Delegation have called on Sheriff Leon Lott to coordinate a special investigation of the Recreation Commission, its director and members of the governing commission. Senator Joel Lourie, along with Representatives James Smith and Beth Bernstein, have asked for this investigation in the wake of media reports by The Nerve today regarding improper activity at the commission. “We have asked Sheriff Lott to coordinate with State and Federal authorities and pursue a thorough investigation of all actions of the director and any commission members that may have violated the law” said Lourie.logo

The legislators will also be filing legislation in their respective bodies to turn oversight of the Recreation Commission over to Richland County Council. “It only makes sense that the body that funds the Richland County Recreation Commission should also be its governing authority. Accountability and transparency are clearly lacking” said Smith.

These actions come after concerns have been raised recently by letters, emails and phone calls to the legislative delegation by various members of the public. “The people of Richland County deserve to know what is going on with their recreation department and it is incumbent among us as public officials to restore the public trust” said Bernstein.

Why would members of the legislative delegation get involved? Because the recreation commission is in no way accountable to country government. It is a Special Purpose District, a creature of the Legislature.

There are at least 500 such mini-governments, created on an ad hoc basis years ago by lawmakers, that are in no way accountable to cities and counties. Most were created before Home Rule was passed in the 1970s — before that, county governments didn’t exist. Local legislative delegations oversaw local government functions.

Well, now we don’t need them. But do they go away? No. Why? Because the public doesn’t know or care that SPDs exist, and the folks who run SPDs don’t want to lose their fiefdoms, so the only people lawmakers hear from are those wanting to keep them.

Another legacy of the Legislative State. Which is why we made a big deal about them in the Power Failure series — 500 redundant, unnecessary, unaccountable little governments. While we’ve seen progress on some things we wrote about in that series, we haven’t on this issue… And it’s been 25 years now.

Um, you don’t want to wait a minute or two and see if Bright’s Bathroom Bill actually has a chance of passing?

I’m reacting to this rather preemptive action on the part of a businessman down in Charleston:

A senate bill that would outlaw transgender men and women from using the bathroom of

Anthony Watson

Anthony Watson

their choice has caused a Charleston-based company to decide to move to the West Coast.

Anthony Watson, CEO of Uphold, described himself as an “openly gay, British CEO.” He said the company will move its U.S. corporate headquarters from Charleston to Los Angeles. Uphold is a financial services company that says it handled $830 million in transactions since its founding in 2014.

“I have watched in shock and dismay as legislation has been abruptly proposed or enacted in several states across the union seeking to invalidate the basic protections and rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) U.S. citizens,” he said on the company’s website….

Talk about being on a hair trigger. You don’t want to wait a minute and see if the bill gets any traction at all, much less passes?

I hate to break it to this guy, but there’s a distinct possibility that there’s a lawmaker in California just as loony as Lee Bright who will propose a similar bill. Then what is he going to do? It’s a significant feature of representative democracy that people who have a different worldview from you get to vote, too — and elect people like them. So there’s no way to guarantee that someone won’t file a bill that you find unfair, unjust or abhorrent.

People file stupid bills all the time, for all sorts of crazy causes. The time to worry, or for that matter pass judgment on the state in question, is when it looks like it’s going to pass, and be signed into law.

I’m not saying that won’t happen here. It’s disturbing that the bill was just introduced a week ago today, and there’s a hearing on it going on at this very second, as I type this.

But I chalk that up to the committee being chaired by one of Bright’s three co-sponsors, Kevin Bryant. It remains to be seen how many, other than those four, would vote for such a bill.

So, you know, before you make a multi-million-dollar decision, you might want to wait a minute. That is to say, Uphold might want to hold up…

Open Thread for Tuesday, April 12, 2016

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I hope Breakthrough Initiatives doesn’t mind my using this image of a “Starchip” on its way to another star system.

Once, I had to come up with a front page every day whether there was news or not. Now, if there really isn’t enough front-worthy news out there, I can do an Open Thread instead. It’s liberating. No need to find a lede! Nothing even has to be important!…

  1. Forget Starships: New Proposal Would Use ‘Starchips’ To Visit Alpha Centauri — This NPR story is very cool. It seems according to Stephen Hawking this other guy, before too much longer we should be able to send tiny, postage-stamp sized probes to other star systems, using sails (check it out, Brian) and lasers. And they’d get there in about 20 years. We’d send bunches of them, to make sure some made it. Interestingly, there are several different artists’ conceptions of what this craft would look like, such as this one.
  2. Despite Party Pleas, Ryan Rules Out Presidential Bid — That’s OK, I wasn’t holding my breath for this anyway. Besides, I think he’s doing a passable job as speaker thus far. Let him stick to that — if, you know, the GOP can hang onto the House when their nominee is Trump or Cruz.
  3. This white nationalist shoved a Trump protester. He may be the next David Duke. — Interesting piece on a guy who’s gone off the deep end.
  4. STIs may have driven ancient humans to monogamy, study says — Well, yeah… and maybe to drink as well. Because this was right about the time we invented beer. “STI,” by the way, is Brit for STD. This is from The Guardian.

I’m giving platelets again tomorrow. I urge y’all to join me

How is the Red Cross like the late Alan Rickman?

This way: They keep calling me and saying, “You. Our place. 5:30. And bring a friend!” (See above video.)

OK, I’ll admit, they’re a LOT more polite about it than that, but if you boil it down, that’s the gist. They call and ask me to give again, and to schedule it at the earliest possible time (because the need is great). And at some point in the conversation, they say, “And bring a friend!”

So, this is me inviting my friends.

I’m scheduled to give platelets at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. And just in case I’m inclined to put it off in any way, they sent me an email yesterday that includes this image:

urgent

So I plan to be there, because the guilt trip thing works on me.

But why should it just be me? Nobility loves company.

I’ve been honest with y’all about the fact that giving platelets is a bit of a hassle — it takes at least a couple of hours. So it would be especially awesome if more of y’all would agree to do it, and take some of the pressure off of me.

That said, if you haven’t given blood at all before, I urge you to go and at least give whole blood, the easiest process of all (I’ve given whole blood in just over five minutes).

And now they’ve got a new thing where you can answer all those prying questions (like whether you’ve been paid for sex, even once…) online ahead of time, meaning less time spent at the Red Cross facility on Bull Street.

So… consider it. The need is always there…

What?!?!? They’re having a HEARING already on the Bathroom Bill?

This is just bizarre, people. They’re already having a hearing on Lee Bright’s Bathroom Bill — Wednesday morning.

We’re talking about a bill that fits neatly, or should, into the “people can file a bill about anything, but that doesn’t mean it will go anywhere” category.

Lee Bright

Lee Bright

If anyone in the State House agrees with Bright that this is a needed bill, I’ve missed it. Oh, I’m sure some would vote for it, but I’ve missed the groundswell that called for immediate action.

And yet, in the blink of an eye by State House standards, they’re having a hearing on this? While critical legislation that speaks directly to lawmakers’ core responsibilities languishes? So did lawmakers deal effectively with road funding and DOT reform and ethics reform when I wasn’t looking, thereby clearing their decks for this stuff?

This thing was introduced less than a week ago. Unfortunately, the news story didn’t get into what I want to know, which is how this hearing came about — who decided to schedule it, and how. It doesn’t even mention which committee is holding the hearing.

In any case, it says Bright hopes he can have the bill to the Senate floor by next week. And given the speedy hearing, I suppose he has every reason to hope that.

This is absurd…