SCDOT disclaimer

Some of you may have noticed my disclaimer on commentary related to the SCDOT and issues involving that agency.

This year, the SCDOT is the subject of a number of allegations, as well as governmental restructuring discussions. As a public agency, it is the right of those who do not benefit from policy decisions affecting that agency to speak out. But is is also the responsibility of those who could benefit from those decisions to not exert undue influence or promote information which may be biased.

As I work for a highway contractor, it would be unethical for me to discuss SCDOT policies or anything which could affect the SCDOT. So, aside from the occasional satirical posts, such as the recent JC Hammer/Mike Reino episode, "Mike Reino: Missing in Action", and the "Mike Reino Memorial Nothing", you will see no discussion of anything involving the SCDOT on this blog site.

Further, comments on postings which stray into issues related to the SCDOT will be approved on a case-by-case basis. I may not reject all of them, but I may exercise some degree editorial review before approving them.

Any opinions you see here which may raise issues which might distantly be related to the SCDOT or anything else where my company has a business interest are my opinions only, and not to express any position or policy of my company.

In no way was this disclaimer motivated by any directive from my employer or anyone else - in fact, it's been an unspoken rule that I've tried to stick by. However, with the ongoing issues, I wanted to make my position and my policy on this matter clear.

Now that I've made this clear, let's get back to the blogging ...

Restructuring support in the Senate

In the six votes on restructuring the state’s constitutional offices (Adjutant General, Comptroller General, Superintendent of Education, Agriculture commissioner, Secretary of State, Lieutenant governor), the party loyalty showed, with the GOP making up the core of the majority that voted for the proposals, and the Democrats making up the majority of those in opposition.

Obedience by Republicans and disobedience by Democrats was key to the success or failure of the proposals. All but one proposal gained a simple majority, but only one broke got the thirty-one votes required to advance a proposal to the 2008 ballot: Comptroller General (thirty-two in the affirmative). Two others - Commissioner of Agriculture and Secretary of State – fell short by a single vote.

Considering the importance of party voting, a little analysis of who voted which way shows some interesting observations about party loyalty, or the lack thereof:

Crossing over: In averaging the votes, Democrats were twice as likely to vote in favor of the restructuring proposals (average 3.67 out of 20 members) than Republicans were to vote in opposition (average 1.83 out of 26 members).

Defections per vote: The GOP did much better, with more than two defectors on only two of the six votes (three for Adjutant General and four for Lt. Governor) than the Democrats, who lost more than two on four of six votes (six for Adj. Gen., five for Comptroller Gen., three for Ag. Commissioner, and five for Sec. of State).

Notable crossovers: Three Democrats voted for a majority of the proposals (Lourie – five, Setzler and Sheheen – four), while only Knotts voted against a majority of the proposals – four times. All other Republicans crossed over only once or twice, but two other Democrats crossed over to the GOP majority on three votes.

“New Democrats”?: Both Lourie and Sheheen are considered to be up-and-comers in the Democratic party. Both took GOP-leaning Senate districts by garnering considerable cross-over votes, and in these votes, it would seem as if they were maneuvering toward the center, by supporting these key initiatives of Governor Sanford. This won’t hurt them with their swing voters, and certainly help draw attention upon them as potentially-viable Democratic prospects for statewide offices in 2008.

The GOP holds the strategic high ground on this issue. With a little more work, or if another seat or two changes hands in 2008 (and there are far more Democrats in GOP Senate districts than Republicans in Democratic ones), it seems as if substantial restructuring of constitutional offices is simply a question of “when”. The Democrats face the challenge of restoring discipline on an issue which can reinforce GOP power, but which most voters could care less about either way.

If Republicans were to offer a deal to Democrats to offer “immunity” for the Education and Adjutant General offices in return for support for the Agriculture and Secretary of State’s offices, they might well get the additional vote needed to pass both.

Barring any reversal of political fortunes, it’s hard to see how the Democrats can hold this tide back much longer.

Goose Creek GOP breakfast club to honor Malvin Mann

This Saturday, the Goose Creek GOP Breakfast Club will pay tribute to the late Malvin Mann, their long-time chairman who passed away just before the holidays.

Malvin was also the Mayor of Goose Creek in the 60s and 70s, when the community was one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation, as well as a leader in the American Legion, and one of the most visible Republicans in Berkeley County for years. His service to his community, state, and country sets a high standard for us all to follow in our lives.

Please join us this Saturday at the American Legion on Howe Hall Road, at 9 a.m., to pay tribute to Malvin.

Sanford says "Grab a wrench"

A recent editorial from Governor Sanford challenges us to get behind a reform agenda to help move this state forward economicially. In looking at the reforms he points out - workers' comp., restructuring, cost of government, and DUI reform - I couldn't agree more with the need to prioritize these items:

In today's world, we're in a global race for jobs, capital and ultimately way of life with the other six and half billion souls on Earth. I have talked fairly incessantly over the last few years about what we all know at a gut level -- that change is real. Indeed, change is here, and therefore, we can't keep doing things as we've always done them in South Carolina government and thrive in today's world.

It is a long way from NASCAR's idea of fixing an engine, but many of us grew up seeing cars pulled underneath big oak trees that allowed their owners to pull the engine for repair with a chain and a hoist. The legislative session we're now in represents this year's chance to better tune the way things work in South Carolina. It also represents an opportunity for each one of us to grab a wrench and lend a hand. I write to ask that you join us in this year's engine work and to list a few things that are at the top of our work list.

While I've disagreed over the extent of restructuring the constitutional offices, I've argued that our state needs to commit itself to continually assessing and reorganizing state government to meet changing times and needs. Even reforms made in the 90s might be obsolete today.

It is Colder Dan ...

Outside ... it is colder 'dan sh .... well, you get the point.

If you think it's cold outside, try spending the entire night out in this weather. For the company quarterly newsletter, which I am responsible for, I spent part of Sunday night down on US 21, just south of Beaufort, on St. Helena Island, taking pictures of the night work we've got going on. They'll be out there for five nights a week for the next three weeks - talk about tough and hardcore.

The temperature when I got there at 6.30 pm was a moderate 56, by the time I write this, at midnight, as I thaw out for the ride home to Summerville, it was already down in the mid-40s, and headed for the mid-20s before sunrise.

For the newletter, I took some pictures and got to do some non-corporate communication stuff by helping with traffic control, moving barrels and waving the Stop/Slow paddle for a few minutes. We had one lane closed, so traffic was taking turns on the one lane that was left open.

For those of ya'll traveling through work zones, please be sure to SLOW THE HELL DOWN!!! There were plenty of people who didn't do that tonight, and thus far, nobody's been hurt - yet.

Here are some sobering statistics about work zone dangers:


  • Over the last five years, the number of persons killed in motor vehicle crashes in work zones has risen from 872 in 1999 to 1,028 in 2003 (an average of 1,020 fatalities a year).
  • Eighty-five percent of those killed in a work zone are drivers or occupants.
  • More than 40,000 people are injured each year as a result of motor vehicle crashes in work zones.
  • Approximately half of all fatal work zone crashes occurred during the day.
  • More than two times as many fatal work zone crashes occurred on weekdays as on weekends.
Sources: Federal Highway Administration - Fatal crashes and fatalities - Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) & Injuries - General Estimates System (GES)
We're just trying to do our jobs, so please slow down and watch out. That lets us get our work done a little sooner so we can get out of your way a little faster.

Who nose what will happen now?

In the 80s, Quiet Riot's song "Sign of the Times" warned us about the hazards posed to underage females when a band came to town:

Well I have street sense radar
Ooh, is supposed be news
You better lock up your daughters
You never know when we're due


Of course, some of you may have heard that Michael Jackson has chosen to return to the United States.

The silver lining to this news is that you can rest assured that no matter what else might come of this sad turn of events ... your underage daughters are perfectly safe.

Lake Marion Bridge opponent criticized in Capitol Hill rampage

House Majority Whip Jim “J.C. Hammer” Clyburn (D-SC) lashed out at a key critic of his plans to build a new bridge crossing across upper Lake Marion. The project hit a major roadblock when it was denied a water quality permit by DHEC officials, a move which he blamed on Mike Reino, a Florence County GOP activist and blogger.

Shortly after the permit was denied, there were reports of sounds of crashing and howls of rage coming from J.C. Hammer’s congressional office. Witnesses reported seeing a the wrecked pieces of a chair being flung out of a window which was claimed to be Hammer’s personal office, followed by several staffers.

According to reports, Hammer then stuck his head out the window, screaming at the staffers which were lying on the ground outside, awaiting medical attention. His comments included a string of obscenities and references to “that damn Mike Reino, it’s all his damn fault.”

Later, Hammer denied this incident, and lamented “the suicidal tendencies of my staff, who thankfully survived their falls”.

Later at a press conference, Hammer complained about Reino’s “regressive efforts in leading the opposition to this much-needed bridge project. His actions penalize the people of this region, who need the tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic development that this bridge will surely bring.”

Reino’s brief response was delivered in a hastily-arranged press conference at The Palms at Wyboo, a bar and restaurant in Clarendon County, near Lake Marion: “Yeah, right. There aren’t 100 squirrels who would benefit from that bridge”.

Keep the elected Comptroller General

Discussion is going to take place about the final reading of a bill to advance a referendum question that would remove the office of Comptroller General from the list of South Carolina state government officials who are elected by the voters.

I oppose this, and encourage the Senate to reject this bill, as a means of keeping this office on the ballot.

In last year's election, a shared theme by both candidates was that this office, as the state's auditor of its books, can and should be the independent watchdog of state government. Richard Eckstrom has used this to apply accounting principles to better monitor the state's budgeting process and asking tough questions. Last year's Democratic candidate wanted to create a direct connection for citizens to report waste and corruption in state government.

An appointed Comptroller General would not have the same freedom to ask tough questions and challenge the Legislature and Governor when necessary.

A similar argument has been validated with regard to the Adjutant General, whose independence helped insulate the state National Guard from cutbacks. His ability to act as an advocate for the Guard has allowed the Adjutant General to set policy in accordance to the needs of the Guard, and not politicians. The result is that South Carolina Guard units, when deployed overseas, have some of the lowest casualty rates of any.

Thomas Ravenel has argued that the Treasurer's office is primarily a bureaucratic office, with no real need for political independence. He may be correct in his belief that the Treasurer should be removed from the ballot. If it is eventually removed from the ballot, then the Comptroller's role as an independent watchdog will be even more critical than ever.

Keeping this office on the ballot is simple - the Senate can step back from this bill and it should do just that.

Leroy E. Brown Sr.: Rest in Peace

Leroy Brown Sr., a litte-known, but highly-important, part of South Carolina political history, passed away in Beaufort earlier this week at the age of 91.

The first black elected official in South Carolina in the 20th century, Mr. Brown was elected to the Beaufort County Board of Directors (now County Council) in 1960. This was four years before the Voting Rights Act opened the doors to allow blacks to vote in large numbers, as well as run for office, for the first time since the end of Reconstruction. He would later be part of the Council's first black majority in 1980 - a sign of how much and how quickly the progress he led took place.

While many followed in his pioneering footsteps to offices, both high and low, he led the way. As such, his role should not be forgotten.

For those who knew him, and those who should (and we all should), may his legacy and memory be eternal.

No good deed goes unpunished

No doubt there are many who feel that Viagra was a good thing. But in today's sue-happy world, you can bet no good deed will go unpunished. The latest example is a lawsuit filed by an AIDS organization suing the makers of Viagra, alleging their product is encouraging the spread of AIDS:


An AIDS organization sued Pfizer Inc. on Monday over ads the group says encourage use of Viagra as a party drug. The nonprofit group said such recreational use furthers the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The suit, filed in Los Angeles by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, calls Pfizer's ads for the impotence drug false and misleading. The suit echoes allegations made in an ad campaign announced by the group last month.

The nonprofit group alleges the marketing of Viagra has fostered an increase in the spread of STDs. Studies have found the drug is used — illegally — in conjunction with crystal methamphetamine to form a party drug "cocktail."

While crystal meth can heighten sexual desire, it also can impair the ability to have an erection, said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "In order to satisfy that heightened desire, you have to take Viagra," Weinstein told reporters.

-AP/Yahoo News

... and before you get run over by a drunk driver while jogging, you have to buy running shoes, so let's sue Nike and Reebok. What a load of crap.

Personally, I think this group is just looking for an out-of-court settlement to help them reach their fundraising goals. This is like suing the makers of running shoes for an increase in people getting run over by cars while jogging, because their product encourages jogging.

What would Bob Dole say about this (click on the photo to find out)?

Accept's Metal Heart

Most metal bands from the 80s had two or three really good albums. Accept did better than this, but as far as major-label releases go, their first three releases were clearly their best.

The last in that string was their Metal Heart album, which came out in 1985. Following their MTV splash with Balls to the Wall, this album debuted courtesy of a fast-moving video for Midnight Mover.

Trust me, this album is a non-stop rush, and best listened to when you're on the road and have the time to listen to it all the way through (and all the way up helps as well).

This may date me, but I've had this album in vinyl, cassette, and CD.

My favorite songs on the album? Midnight Mover was clearly my favorite, but others were Metal Heart, Screaming for a Love Bite, and Bound to Fail.

This is a great album. If you don't get it, then it's your loss.

Cheap Gas: In the Upstate

Great news about cheap gas in the Upstate, courtesy of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, which gives us the ten lowest priced gas stations in Spartangburg County:

Ingles Gas Express
8650 Asheville Hwy (SC-176) Boiling Springs, SC 29316
Price: $1.76 $1.86 $1.96 NA $1.78

Murphy USA
155 Rainbow Lake Rd Boiling Springs, SC 29316
Price: $1.78 $1.88 $1.98 $2.39 $1.78

Ingles Gas Express
4600 SC-9 Boiling Springs, SC 29316
Price: $1.78 $1.88 $1.98 na $1.78

Ingles Gas Express
2120 Boiling Springs Rd Boiling Springs, SC 29316
$1.78 $1.88 $1.98 na $1.78

Combo Stop
3840 Parris Bridge Rd Boiling Springs, SC 29316
Price: $1.78 $1.91 $2.34 na $1.78

Rainbow Corner
696 Rainbow Lake Rd Boiling Springs, SC 29316
Price: $1.78 $1.88 $1.98 $2.69 $1.78

Tornados
4080 SC-9 Boiling Springs, SC 29316
Price: $1.78 $1.88 $1.98 $2.39 $1.80

Citgo - Kangaroo Express
2745 Boiling Springs Rd Boiling Springs, SC 29316
Price: $1.80 $1.90 $2.00 $2.39 $1.81

Saving$
2740 Boiling Springs Rd (SC-9) Boiling Springs, SC 29316
Price: $1.81 $1.91 $2.01 na $1.84

Mystic Corner Mart
9620 Asheville Hwy (US-176) Inman, SC 29349
Price $1.84 $1.94 $2.04 $2.21

Go check them out and save some money! Thanks to Trevor Anderson, their staff writer who wrote the story.

The Family that Rocks together ... hhhmmmm ...

... if you've got an interesting other half to complete this statement, feel free to suggest it in the comments.


Last night, I took my little one to her first concert - Fall Out Boy, with three other bands on their Friends or Enemies tour, in Raleigh at the Disco Rodeo. With the weather being what it was, and me never having been to Raleigh (passed it lots going up and down I-85 and I-95, but never made the 40 mile side trip to check it out), it was a rather long and slow journey.

She had a little trouble with the noise at first, being her first concert, but as the photo would suggest, she finally got used to it, once we found a quieter place up in the balcony. The show wasn't bad, and given the teen appeal those bands had, there were a lot of teens and near-teens with parents in tow, but Bonnie was one of the few kids there under the age of ten (she's 8).

The bands were pretty family-friendly with no drunken rambling, a few four-letter words, but no drugs or booze in their comments or stage behavior. I guess one could rate the show a PG-13 event. Not bad, considering what else is out there. When she finally tired out, the concert had been going on for three and a half hours, and was probably thirty minutes from wrapping up. Not bad for thirty bucks a ticket.

On the way up, we finally figured out the call in number to Radio Disney on my Sirius radio, so she can call in on every contest they're doing now. This outta be interesting ...

Not a bad show, even if it wasn't exactly my kind of rock. It was definitely a good show to take kids to, which is rare these days, but since they're fixing to head out to Europe, you'll have to catch them next time they're stateside.

The validity of straw polls

Recently, I pointed out recent polling of South Carolina voters in the 2008 Presidential race, and I also commented about it on Sunny Phillip's blog. This data and a recent straw poll held by the Aiken County GOP couldn't be much more different in their findings, where the four top candidates were:

ARG Polling (12/21-23/06):

John McCain 35%
Rudy Giuliani 28%
Newt Gingrich 15%
Mitt Romney 5%

Aiken GOP straw poll (1/10/07):

Mitt Romney 35%
Tom Tancredo 16%
Newt Gingrich 13%
John McCain 10%

In looking at these two polls, we see a large disparity. This isn't the first time - Rick Quinn ran a spirited campaign for Treasurer, worked the party circuit, and as a result, he fared well in GOP straw polls. But party support didn't translate into voter support, as he didn't even make it into the runoff.

While polling is never an exact science, unlike straw polls, it is supposed to be based upon a sample taken which has demographic similarities to the population being sampled. Party regulars are not always representative of those who vote in primaries, and certainly not representative of general election voters.

Not only that, but party regulars have access to information and campaign representatives that most voters don't have. They get far more information via the party grapevines and networks than most voters will see from the usual television, radio, and direct mail marketing campaigns. In addition, while many voters are undecided until the closing weeks of a campaign, most party activists have their minds made up weeks and even months before the votes are cast.

Those who do polling know this sort of stuff and these reasons alone suggest straw polls may be fun, but they don't serve any real purpose of being able to measure voters sentiments or predict voter behaviors in upcoming elections. Nevertheless, campaigns (and sometimes even the media) embrace these numbers as if they're really important events.

So, today's question for discussion is this:
Aside from helping fill empty print space and air time on slow news days, just what are straw polls really good for?

... for fun, here's a link to the American Research Group's Margin of Error calculator. Play around with it and see just how many or few people it takes to complete a survey.

Al-Queda thug snuffed out

Congrats to the brave men and women of the Philipine military who removed another Al Queda piece of crap from the world:

A top al-Qaida-linked militant, accused of the kidnapping of three Americans in 2001 and of masterminding one of Southeast Asia's worst terror attacks three years later, has been killed, the Philippine military said Wednesday.

Jainal Antel Sali Jr., popularly known as Abu Sulaiman — a top leader of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group — died in a fierce gunbattle Tuesday with army special forces, military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said.

Sulaiman is the highest-ranking Abu Sayyaf commander killed by U.S.-backed troops. Washington had offered up to $5 million for his capture.

-Yahoo/AP News
While reward money is usually not paid to those who apprehend or kill a suspect in the line of duty, this is one case where an exception needs to be made. The world needs to know that if you pick one side, you'll be well rewarded, and if you pick the other ... you'll be hunted down without mercy and once you're found, what is left of you will ziplocked, after you're photographed for all your buddies to see.

Just like this piece of human scum.

Clyburn becomes "JC Hammer"

With the power vacuum left by the departure of Tom “The Hammer” DeLay, rising House star Jim Clyburn has announced his plans to step into DeLay’s shoes. As part of this plan, he announced that he will now be known as “J.C. Hammer”.

“Republicans have worked to challenge me and my agenda,” Clyburn said at a party fundraiser in Greeleyille. “But rest assured, it is truly ‘Hammer Time’. Face it, those who think they can stop me, they need to hear it loud and clear that ‘you can’t touch this’.”

When asked for comment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Uuuuuhhhh) defended Clyburn. “He’s too legit to quit, ever since DeLay left. DeLay may have thought he was the Hammer, but JC Hammer is the real deal.”

Republicans in his district were skeptical, including Mike Reino, a leading Clyburn critic. "We're not fooled," Reino said. "He's going to try to force that bridge down our throats. Hammer, please don't hurt 'em."

MC Hammer, whose name was connected to Clyburn’s new power grab, was not available for comment.

Cheap Gas Report

I found more cheap gas today ...

HOLLY HILL: V-Go, US 176 in town - $1.97/gallon
NEESES: Piggly Wiggly, US 321 at SC 4 - $1.99/gallon

Hats off to these guys! If you're that way, save some bucks and let 'em know you appreciate the savings!

Feel free to share your cheap gas reports here!

Balls to the Wall: Accept's breakthrough album

Doesn't that image just "grab" ya?

Thanks to Metal Mark and his recent posting on this band, which inspired this posting.

Accept was one of a few German metal bands who appeared on the American metal scene in the 80s. Led by Udo Dirkschnieder, a short, squat fellow who often appeared in camoflauge, the band was noted for songs that were blazing fast, and included heavy, choral-sounding chorus sections in its songs.

Their "breakthrough" came with their Balls to the Wall album, released in 1983. With exposure through a dark, heavy MTV video for the title track, as well as touring with Judas Priest, they developed a modest following in the United States.

The most notable thing on this album was a more steady approach to their music. Unlike the albums before and after it, there were none of the blazing-fast speed metal songs that the band was noted for.

My favorite songs on the album? Balls to the Wall, London Leatherboys, and Guardian of the Night.

This is definitely a must-have album for your collection.

Highway Workers?



I'm kinda buried with grad school for a few days, so here's something ya'll can talk about ... who says I can't poke a little fun at my industry?

If only all those political hacks out there could do the same.

AP and the Lebanese Pig

A friend of mine's blog covers Anderson County, and the current mystery at hand is the actual identity of several characters being referred to: AP and the Lebanese Pig.

It sounds like AP is a real garden implement, but unless I knew for sure who they were talking about, I can't really say what I think.

However, anyone who wants to speculate as to the real identity of these wild and crazy characters, either here on this blog, or where the actual comments are, go ahead and do so.

Who knows? You might even guess correctly!

Construction Safety DVD resources

For those who might be in construction, be it as a general contractor, or utility contractor, I have two DVD videos: SCDOT Work Zone Flagging, and Construction Hazard Communication.

If anyone wants a copy of either, drop me an email with a mailing address and I'll send you a copy.

Who really leads the Presidential race?

A little discussion here about news of a recent ARG poll of Presidential primary preference in South Carolina, on both sides of the party line. According to the respondents surveyed, if the Presidential primaries were held today, they'd vote for ...

REPUBLICANS

John McCain 35%
Rudy Giuliani 28%
Newt Gingrich 15%
Mitt Romney 5%
Mike Huckabee 1%
Undecided 12%

DEMOCRATS

Hillary Rodham Clinton 34%
John Edwards 31%
Barack Obama 10%
John Kerry 3%
Dennis Kucinich 2%
Joseph Biden 2%
Wesley Clark 2%
Bill Richardson 1%
Undecided 15%

Of course, a poll this early only reflects present standings, and it is very likely to change as many candidates still have yet to do the first serious marketing efforts, or to enter the mass media spotlights. However, it is interesting to note that McCain's numbers haven't lagged much from the percentage of the vote he earned in the Presidential primary here in February 2000 - six years ago.

Along with McCain, Rudy Guiliani, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, have enjoyed large advantages in terms of exposure that should normally be expected to boost their early numbers - McCain and Edwards from past campaigns that ran strongly here, and Clinton and Giuliani with years of media exposure.

In general, most political polling tends to get close to the actual numbers, so I tend to, more-or-less, believe what I see in terms of general trends.

As a graduate student, we're encouraged not to see findings of research as final, but rather as the first step to additional research. As such (and as somewhat of a political hack), I'm curious as to how deep this support goes. One way, and the race is already well on its way to over, and the other presents a world of opportunity for the right candidate who is willing to do what it takes to move the numbers.

I've been in politics long enough to know anything is possible, and not knowing the numbers myself, I'm not going to venture a guess. After two failed marriages, I've learned that, among other things, I'm not as good a mind-reader as I thought.

Having said my piece, I will now leave the floor open to those of you who'd like to share your opinion as to who leads the races, or if anyone really does ...

Huckabee won't "scare Democrats"?

A recent story on Mike Huckabee, the outgoing Republican Governor of Arkansas who is exploring a 2008 Presidential bid, looks at how he plans not to "scare the living daylights" out of Democrats.

Well, would he scare them? Maybe not.

When Mike Huckabee ascended to the Governor’s mansion in Arkansas in the early 90s, the GOP was surging across the South. Since then, the overwhelming majority of U.S. House and Senate seats shifted to the GOP column, as well as most Governorships, and the GOP, which then was the minority party in every southern legislative chamber, now controls a majority of legislative chambers. Where it doesn't, it generally holds a strong minority - except Arkansas.

Under Huckabee’s watch as the highest-ranking Republican in Arkansas, the GOP wave that swept the South beginning in the mid-1990s left the Democratic rule of Arkansas unscathed. Today, the Democrats hold both Senate seats, three of four House seats, three-to-one Democratic legislative majorities, and on the heels of Huckabee's retirement, the Democrats scored a clean sweep of all statewide offices in the 2006 elections.

The failure of the GOP to gain ground in Arkansas during Huckabee’s tenure as Governor while the rest of the South turned deep red is certainly worth questioning by those Republicans who are looking for a candidate who will help take back Congress.

When Huckabee says he doesn’t want to scare Democrats, it would seem as if he's already doing a good job of it.

In no way was any part of this posting been produced, approved, edited, or sponsored by any Presidential campaign, political organization, or anyone affiliated with, or employed by, any current or prospective candidate or organization. Supporters and opponents of this and any other candidate discussed at the Blogland are welcome AND ENCOURAGED to express their opinions via the posting of comments, or by emailing privately.

Back to School

With the halfway mark reached, it's back to school tomorrow as spring semester starts. This semester, I'm taking two action-packed courses: Rhetoric Theory and Risk Communication.

For me, school already started last weekend, as I spent a lot of my weekend preparing a presentation of my iconography research for the college's annual Graduate School research poster session. It's kind of tough to distill a 23 page paper that required nine months of research into a 54x40 inch poster.

I'm sure this all sounds exciting, right?

Well, my life ends (again) for the next four months. Getting home while it was light out, being able to sleep at night, trying to get a little bit of a life ... it was all fun while it lasted.

In the meantime, check these Graduate School humor links out:

Ya'll may as well have some fun and chuckles. God knows for the next few months, I sure won't.

As always, thanks for all those words, private and public, of encouragement and support.

Cheap gas in Charleston


While most gas stations in the Lowcountry are running from 2.15 to 2.20 a gallon for regular unleaded gas, I found one station that is selling it for 2.09: the V-Go on Savannah Highway, near Andolini's and Doscher's. That's a big price difference - so go check it out and save some money.

Restless and Wild: Accept's first major label album

This is the first of three album reviews of the German metal band Accept that you'll see this month...

Following a 1981 tour with Judas Priest, the German metal band landed a major record label deal, and from that came their first major release, "Restless and Wild" in 1982.

This album featured the fastest metal to date, and was clearly one of the precursors of the speed metal movement in which bands like Metallica and Slayer would make their names.

The opening song "Fast as a Shark" opens with a piercing scream and one of the fastest metal songs ever performed by any band. The rest of the album just comes at ya ... one after another.

My favorite songs on the album? Fast as a Shark, Restless and Wild, and Don't Go Stealing my Soul away.

Definitely an album you need to get, while you still can find it.

Time to rein in payday loans

Monday’s Post and Courier carries an editorial calling for the state to crack down on predatory lenders, to which I couldn’t agree more.

Predatory lending rides on state laws which allow virtually unlimited finance charges upon short-term loans without collateral. They offer a variety of services to get their money, including:

  • Pawn shops
  • Check advance/ “Pay Day” loans
  • Title loans
  • “Rapid” tax refund services
With tax filing time approaching, the tax refund anticipation loans will be flying, charging people exorbitant rates of interest to receive loans which are presented as “rapid refunds”. In reality, they would receive in a week or two if they filed it electronically.

Predatory lending practices upon employees in the construction industry are no small deal. The money lost to payday loans, where finance charges can match, and even exceed, the amount borrowed, has a real impact upon the standard of living of employees. Some of those suffering the worst seek raises to offset their borrowing costs, or seek new jobs which pay more money, but are beyond their abilities, and they soon find themselves unemployed.

While some of the information is probably a bit over the top, such as Julian Bond’s claim that payday loans drag middle class people into poverty, the proliferation of predatory lending practices are of real concern. Many states have worked to rein in this practice. The Department of Defense is pushing for action to protect military families. South Carolina should not miss this call to action.

Improving accessibility to Higher Education in South Carolina?

Some very good points are raised in yesterday's editorial in The State about the problems of higher education costs and how the "education" lottery is reducing accessibility for many South Carolinians:

Each increase in tuition puts a college education farther out of reach of the students who don’t receive a scholarship. As important as it is to encourage and reward our best students, we cannot afford to leave behind our decent students who fall just below the scholarship cut-off. They gain every bit as much as scholarship recipients from a college education, if not more: There’s such a strong correlation between high school performance and family income that for many recipients, the scholarship simply makes paying for college a little easier. But for less-affluent students, no scholarship means no college: A report earlier this year found South Carolina had one of the largest gaps in the nation between the portion of our richest and poorest kids who attend college. When kids don’t receive some sort of higher education, our state’s economic vitality suffers.

We were warned that the lottery would have a redistributive effect, in which money would flow from those least likely to receive benefits to those most likely. In effect, a Democratic governor did with the lottery what Republicans are always accused of doing: taking from the poor to give to the rich. Now, we are seeing this prediction become a stark and divisive reality.

In a state where one of our biggest handicaps is the education level of our workforce, and where many of the best of the new jobs that come here snatched up by those transferred or recruited from out of state, we can't afford to continue to move backwards on this issue.

As to the issue of duplication and turf in higher education, there is certainly plenty of it. While you'd think with 80 separate campuses, we could make higher education more affordable, we've only made it more expensive.

Which of these facilities are most wasteful, and which actually make sense? Stay tuned for the spring road trip of some of South Carolina's higher education facilities where we'll help find the ones we need, and the ones we don't.

December 2006 on my blog, in review

After the heated pace of the fall, where a lot of you were stirred up over the approaching elections, and the goings-on provided a lot of fodder for my commentary, things slowed down a little bit.

I was able to shift gears a bit, and take some time to focus on wrapping up my fall semester in grad school, as well as get ready for the holiday season.

I also got to shift my focus from 2006 towards the 2008 elections, more album reviews and some lighter fare that I’d long been waiting for the opportunity to put out there. But there was still plenty to talk about, both for me and my readers.

So, let's look back at which postings you had the most to say about during December …

12/1: U.S. 521: Now 4 lanes from Sumter to Manning
12/3: I died and went to Hell

Winners and losers of 2006

Having survived 2006, we can file the year away. Some are glad it came, and others, myself included, are glad the year is over.

For me - it wasn't a great year, nor was it a bad year. Just another year of the re-single life, where I juggle work, kids, college and sleep.

In 2003, I became single again.
In 2004, I thought it was safe to believe in dreams again.
In 2005, I found out that maybe I shouldn't.
In 2006, I decided to get my head out of the clouds, work harder, and I finally started getting somewhere.

Did it work? Well ...

Improved net worth: I grew my 401K by about $8K this year. Partially due to cutting financial corners at home, partially due to research and picking a better allocation. According to the plan website, I can now retire by 63.
Academic progress: I made it to the halfway point in grad school, had two papers accepted for presentation, including one at the national conference, and landed another award.
Job security: Work grew my portfolio of responsibilities considerably, not to mention more travel and work hours (but I like the travel).

Do I have a cynical attitude? Maybe - but I tried it the other way and that didn't work.

So who else had a good year, or a bad year, in 2006 ... ?

The Losers:
The GOP in both Houses of Congress: Over a decade of majority made them feel invincible and bulletproof. However, there hasn’t been a Teflon-coated Republican in Washington since Ronald Reagan. A combination of sleaze, Machiavellianism, pork fever, and arrogance gave the Democrats the break they couldn’t make on their own.
The Democrats in both Houses of Congress: To quote Tom DeLay, while Newt Gingrich’s first priority was the Contract with America, Nancy Pelosi’s was the Contract on Steny Hoyer. Having Robert Byrd as Senate Appropriations Chair will probably end up accomplishing little more than building more roads and Coast Guard facilities in West Virginia, and help the GOP shift the fiscal liberal label back upon the Democrats. Not a good start.
Mark Sanford: So much for all those high expectations of four years ago. The only thing that saved him was that the many Republicans his irrational approaches created were willing to set aside their grudges, not willing to repeat the mistakes of 1998 where GOP dissenters did much to help give the Governor’s mansion to the Democrats.
O.J. Simpson: Guess what? He still can’t find the “real killer” and in spite of hearing how he "would have done it, if he had done it", most of us still think he did it. Sounds like Frank Drebin and Police Squad are right on top of this case ...
Axl Rose: This was yet another year that promises of the “Chinese Democracy” album turned out to be … well, you didn’t really believe that album would ever happen, did you?
Saddam Hussein: His regime overthrown, his losing appeal only speeded up his execution. Now he's dead, and good riddance, I might add.
Al-Zarqawi: Retired by a combination of American firepower and Ziploc bags, just as dead as Saddam, only sooner.

The Winners:
James Bond:
Daniel Craig, as the new Bond proved that yes, there can be a blonde Bond, and initial concerns that moviegoers would bail on the new Bond to protest Pierce Brosnan’s ouster proved unfounded.
Thomas Ravenel: Last to enter the GOP field of Treasurer candidates, Thomas left them all in the dust, and went on to oust Grady Patterson in the fall.
Jim Rex: With a campaign that had more than its fair share of stumbles, but apparently none of them were lethal, he surprised the experts by being the only Democrat to win statewide, if even by a few hundred votes. Given the state of public education in South Carolina, he may find making substantive changes even tougher than winning an election.
Iron Maiden: While many of the 80s bands that are still out there put out albums that are often nowhere near as good as what they’d recorded in their heydays, their latest album, A Matter of Life and Death, is just as good as anything they’ve ever record.
Stephen Harper: He led the newly-united Conservative Party of Canada, formed from an alliance of the Reform Party and the withered Progressive Conservatives, to a come-from-behind victory to take control of Canadian Parliament.
Crystal Vanderford: One of my past mentor-ees at the College. Landed a great job as a sales analyst for Honda and is on her way in life. Great work, Crystal.
Higher Education in the Lowcountry: Two major events in 2006: Charleston Law is now ABA-accredited, thanks to an extraordinary team effort, and the Lowcountry Graduate Center, a collaborative effort from several SC public colleges, celebrated its 5th anniversary.
My academic work: First published paper appeared in print, first national-level conference paper acceptance, another presentation acceptance, and I won another award for my graduate work.
My company (U.S. Group): Several major highway projects done, and recently among the top 25 fastest growing companies in South Carolina, as well as one of the top 100 largest private-held companies in South Carolina.

I know this is a rather odd and eclectic mix (… but then again, so am I). If there are any noteworthy winners or losers, feel free to share them in the comment section, or email them to me. If I get enough, I may do a “Part Two” posting with some of the better ones.