Telemarketer harassment and West Asset Management

Recently, I began getting calls on my cell phone from a debt collection agency, asking for my 19 year old daughter, usually three or four times a day. Not knowing the caller, I didn’t answer it for a while, and they didn’t leave a message.

When I finally took the calls, I told them this wasn’t her phone number and didn’t know why she would have given them my number, the caller would demand to know how to reach her. When I said I didn’t know, and told them they needed to stop calling me about her problems, I was told they would keep calling me until they got their money.

According to Fair Debt Collection practices, debt collectors cannot discuss debts with third parties, nor call after they are told not to. In this case, they did both. However, they would not tell me what she owed for, or how much, unless I was willing to “help her out with her problem”.

How nice of them.

I did a web search for the number which showed on my called ID (443-550-7975), which led me to West Asset Management. Apparently, their telemarketing staff likes to use harassing and improper debt collection to shake people down, including third parties such as myself.

While it initally seemed as if a call to the agency (888-433-2886) to tell the lady who took my call that what they were doing was illegal, took care of it, the calls resumed, at a lesser pace. So I decided to get rude and insulting with the callers.

That time, the calls stopped. Apparently there are some times of people whose phone manners telemarketers find offensive (imagine that).

Those folks at West Asset Management are real jerks to whom nothing is off-limits in the pursuit of their money.

If you or someone you know is getting harassed endlessly, you have rights. Check out the FTC’s web page of information for Fair Debt Collection practices:

Perhaps the Legislature needs to look at what can be done to regulate debt collection practices at the state level, to protect the people of this state from these kinds of harassing practices.

Our readers share ...

For today’s filler content, we want to share with you something truly cool that we recently received from one of our loyal fans – pictures of Jimi Hendrix’ gravesite and memorial:

Which brings us to our question of the day: Have you ever been … have you ever been … to Electric Ladyland?

Operation Chaos in North Carolina?

The Barack Obama campaign stumbles out of Pennslyvania into a series of contests which are, for the most part, expected to be somewhat lackluster in his prospects. Super Tuesday II and Pennslyvania put an end to his streak of big wins, forcing him to signifcantly outspend Hillary Clinton. Thus far, his ability to outspend her has failed to score the knockout blows a spending advantge of 2 or 3 to 1 might normally give a candidate in an open race.

The only state where he stands to win big in the upcoming weeks is North Carolina, where most polling has put him in the lead by about 15% points.

But before he can take that for granted, rumors have begun to surface that GOP activists from Georgia and South Carolina, both heavily-red states, have begun planning to travel to North Carolina to assist (unknowingly) the Clinton campaign with it's get-out-the-vote activities. In fact, we got a call asking if we wanted to help ... sorry guys, that's my graduation week, I'd rather party.

In recent years, GOP Victory operations have turned out votes that were crucial to winning key statewide races in all three states, including the 2002 twin-upsets in Georgia by Saxby Chambliss and Sonny Purdue, South Carolina's 10 to 1 GOP majority of statewide officials, and the 2004 North Carolina Senate race. That's ample proof these people know the ground well.

As independent and blue collar white voters, a significant voter bloc in North Carolina, are starting to sour on Obama, the threat of an organized cross-over effort in a state where sneaky tricks by GOP (and Democratic) operatives are everyday business could pose a real threat. A close race there could cost him his last chance to score a pre-convention knock-out, increasing the potential for a brokered convention that could be damaging to the Democrats in the fall.

Or the Obama campaign could pull staff and resources out of Indiana and West Virginia, where they are expected to run close to Clinton, to protect their lead in North Carolina. This might work, at the expense of giving Clinton a good shot at winning most of the other post-Super Tuesday states, again keeping the game running until the clock runs out at the convention.

So long as their nomination battles continue to waste money and time, we're not surprised there are those out to make the most of the present situation.

Aces High on Ed Force One

Iron Maiden is on their ongoing world tour, flying on Ed Force One, a special 757 dedicated to the use of the band, their crew and their equipment. Piloted by none other than lead singer Bruce Dickinson, who apparently is a licensed pilot.

This "Maiden" voyage has enabled the band to hit nearly two dozen cities around the world in just over 40 days. Quite a feat.

Let's just hope Dickinson doesn't decide to recreate some of the RAF dogfighting tactics memorialized in their classic song "Aces High".

Drummond and Patterson: Two South Carolina legends

This year, two giants of the Senate are leaving: John Drummond from Greenwood, and Kay Patterson from Columbia.

While we think the rise of the GOP in state politics helped usher in much-needed changes in how state government was run, not everything that has changed has been for the best. Long-time Senators like Drummond and Patterson had the ability to raise their voices when and where others were afraid to rock the boat, or voices of reason were needed to urge caution.

While Democrats, their state and their communities were more important than their parties. On more than one occasion, Drummond supported Republicans. Patterson even spoke at Thurmond's funeral.

South Carolinians like these don't grow on trees, and in losing them, we feel like we're losing something special and important in state government that we may never see again.

Last fall, we talked about Drummond's pending retirement:

While partisanship and sticking to one's principles is important, that kind of perspective should give us something to think about. But even more importantly, Drummond's dedicated service to his Palmetto State should set a standard that, regardless of partisan identity, we should all aspire to.

On many occasions, Drummond crossed party lines to work with Republicans and even supported Senator Strom Thurmond. His party was important to him in his legislative service, but so was the best interests of his native state. It's a refreshing outlook on politics that we could use more of these days.

- John Drummond, a great South Carolinian, 9/24/07

Likewise, Patterson was a hard man to pigeonhole. Outspoken, unpolished, and often blunt, he had an uncoventional approach to politics.

Patterson’s departure will leave an elocutionary void in the sausage-making drill that is S.C. politics, friends and colleagues say.

Over the years, Patterson’s use of black dialect, often laced with well-placed invectives, has helped him to make his point and needle his opponents.

“They would call that ebonics in this day and age,” Patterson said. “But we didn’t have that terminology back in those days.”

Those who know Patterson and agree with his politics — such as his seatmate of 34 years, state Sen. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg — say Patterson’s departure will leave “the little man” voiceless in what they say are the increasingly hostile halls of the General Assembly.

- "Telling it like it is: elected as a firebrand, Patterson retires as a statesman", The State, 4/27/08

During the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, he dismissed Anita Hill's allegations, pointing out that in spite of the conduct she alleged, she continued to seek transfers to work with him, suggesting that if the charges were true, it "must have been some pretty good sexual harassment".

The first Senator to take on the Confederate flag flying over the State House became one of the ones who brokered the compromise to bring it down, and then joined those who criticized the NAACP first for not helping his effort, and then complaining the agreement was not enough.

In politics, it is one thing to disagree and another to be disagreeable. While Patterson's style may have come across as disagreeable, that wasn't his goal. When he believed it was important, he sought to disagree in a manner that made sure you knew it, and considered his point of view before attempting to move forward.

Our Senate is intended to reflect upon the tough decisions of governing this state and make sure that the courses of action we take are the best choices possible. People like Drummond and Patterson, in their own ways, helped make that institution work.

In doing so, both Senators have become unlikely legends of that instituation, and they deserve the appreciation of the people of South Carolina, Democrats and Republicans alike. They certainly have ours.

Obama campaign cons teens in Manning?

According to Mike Reino over at SC6, the Barack Obama campaign, possibly through a teacher or staff member at the high school in Manning, SC, attempted to con some teens into working a booth for them:

The funniest part of the day had to be the Obama booth. Apparently, the kids at Manning High School were asked to volunteer at the Festival. What a lot of them didn't know was that they would be working at Barack Obama's booth. Many left, and some parents wouldn't even let their kids work there. It would be interesting to see who's idea this was, and what relation they have to the campaign.

Having blown the whistle on more than one attempt to use our schools and colleges as Democratic political machines, several questions come to mind:
  • Who on campus helped the Obama campaign recruit students?
  • Why did they misrepresent the nature of the activity to students?
  • Were official inducements, such as extra credit opportunities, offered to get them to participate on behalf of the campaign?
Lying to people to achieve short-term political objectives ... and possibly using government resources to trick people into helping political candidates ... to us, sounds a lot like good ol' boy politics.

But when those things are being done by the Barack Obama campaign, the same tactics become ... (drum roll, please) ... "Change We Can Believe In".

We're certainly proud of the students who smelled a rat, and decided to go enjoy their weekend instead.

Makin' money and havin' fun with my radar gun

Over on FITS, they're talking about the continuing saga of the South Carolina Highway Patrol, which inspired us to reach into the memory closet and pull out a You Tube clip of a remake of the Bottle Rockets' song "Radar Gun":

Patrick Moore and the "middle ground" of environmentalism

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Patrick Moore describes how he fell in love with environmental advocacy, and then fell out with Greenpeace, an organization he helped to found:

In 1971 an environmental and antiwar ethic was taking root in Canada, and I chose to participate. As I completed a Ph.D. in ecology, I combined my science background with the strong media skills of my colleagues. In keeping with our pacifist views, we started Greenpeace.

But I later learned that the environmental movement is not always guided by science. As we celebrate Earth Day today, this is a good lesson to keep in mind.

At first, many of the causes we championed, such as opposition to nuclear testing and protection of whales, stemmed from our scientific knowledge of nuclear physics and marine biology. But after six years as one of five directors of Greenpeace International, I observed that none of my fellow directors had any formal science education. They were either political activists or environmental entrepreneurs. Ultimately, a trend toward abandoning scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas forced me to leave Greenpeace in 1986.

Such points of view are more common as environmentalism is maturing, and developing a sort-of "middle ground" of those favor the use of reason and science, as well as pragmatic approaches, like Moore, and those for whom environmentalism is not the end, but rather the means by which they can pursue a radical political agenda that challenges the democratic, market-based social and political systems that are the foundations upon which contemporary First World nations are built.

This presents more proof that Green is the new Red in politics, and people like Moore aren't looking for more politics, but rather workable solutions.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Ace of Spades - a Motorhead classic

We've said it before, and we'll say it again - Motorhead is more than just a great heavy metal band ... they are the most indestructable form of life on the planet. When the nuclear holocaust comes, and even cockroaches die, Lemmy Kilminster, their lead singer will live on.

Yep, we're still wierded out from working on this thesis ... could you tell?

Our all-favorite Motorhead song is the classic "Ace of Spades". Shown below, they performed the song for the BBC comedy series "The Young Ones" (as motley a bunch as Motorhead itself):

If you'd like to see the "regular" version, performed in concert ...

The end of the line (I passed)

Even though the title of this Judas Priest album is "Point of Entry, whenever I see this album cover, it seems more like "the end of the line" to me.

It's official - my thesis was reviewed, defended, and accepted. Having successfully defended my thesis, as well as paid $6.50 in library late fines, I'll get to graduate in two weeks.

My eight-and-a-half-year academic journey reached the end of the line, so perhaps it was fitting that I would think of this album today. Perhaps the end of the line, as the album cover says, is just the "Point of Entry" for whatever is to come next.

.... I want to thank my thesis committee members:

  • Dr. Amanda Ruth, my graduate program advisor,
  • Dr. Vince Benigni, who also supervised my senior project in '04, and
  • Dr. Elena Strauman, who (as expected) came up with some of the most insightful comments and recommendations.
Even though he was unable to participate in the thesis committee due to his usual overload of academic duties, thanks also go out to Dr. Robert Westerfelhaus, who has been a true friend and mentor through years of undergraduate and graduate work. He's been a real source of inspiration, a deliverer of torment and pain, and one of the people most responsible for how I've come as far as I have.

Thanks to them, as well as everyone else for the encouragement, patience, and prayers along the way.

The last stop before graduation - defending my thesis

Tomorrow morning (Wednesday), I'll be defending my thesis. This takes place in front of a committee of three, including my advisor. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, here's how it works:

The oral defense ordinarily will not exceed 60 minutes in length. Refreshments of any sort should not be provided by the student to the Thesis Committee.

The Thesis Advisor shall serve as chair of the thesis defense meeting. At the thesis defense, the student should prepare and deliver an opening statement summarizing the most significant findings of the research project. The opening statement should not exceed 10 minutes in length. All members of the Thesis Committee shall have the opportunity to ask questions on any topic relevant to the execution of the thesis project or the student’s program of study.

After approximately 60 minutes, the student will be asked to leave the examination room at the conclusion of the oral defense to allow for faculty discussion of the oral defense. Immediately following this discussion, all Thesis Committee members must cast a “yes” or “no” vote regarding the approval of the thesis. Students do not pass a thesis defense if more than one “no” vote is received.

The student will be notified of the results of the oral defense within 24 hours of the completion of that defense.

Sounds like a lot fun, doesn't it?

By Friday, I'll know if it's all over - just in time for the weekend. If I make it, I'll see y'all at the graduation party in a couple of weeks.

Stay tuned ...

William Shatner performs "Taxi"

We're not really sure what to say about this performance by Shatner, except "Back atcha, Mike!".

The Shat dude performs "Taxi" on the Dinah show, telling us the tale of flying high in his taxicab and getting stoned ...

... thesis is almost done folks, so the cheese will stop flying real soon.

Representative Erickson's bill shines light on the problem of punks in S.C. schools

In her first three months in the House, Representative Shannon Erickson is making things happen:

A measure that will give high school students who have been bullied more freedom to transfer and play sports moved closer to becoming law Wednesday.

The House Education Committee passed a proposal by Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, that allows students in such situations to become eligible immediately for athletics at their new schools. The measure moves to the full House for debate.

Erickson submitted the bill in February in response to a case involving Lauren Gentry, a star softball player at Battery Creek High who transferred to Beaufort High to escape harassment from an ex-boyfriend.

The S.C. High School League’s executive committee has twice denied her eligibility to play softball, citing a rule that students who change from one public school to another without a change in address cannot play sports for one year.

The committee ruled in March that Gentry’s case didn’t meet its hardship exemption, and Gentry missed her senior season of softball after being Battery Creek’s most valuable player in 2007.

“Our process, in this instance, failed Lauren Gentry,” Erickson said Wednesday.

If this bill passes, one can expect two-thirds of the students in inner city schools to apply for transfers.

Seriously, while we agree with this bill's premise and endorse its passage wholeheartedly, we're smart enough to see the real problem is one which this law can't address - the inability of our school administrators and boards to purge our schools of the troublemakers.

Common sense tells us that if the violence is such a problem that the courts get involved, the punks responsible should be out of school - permanently. Hopefully, making this a reality will be the next step.

Passing Erickson's bill is the right thing to do, but so is taking action to purge our schools of bullies, gangs, and thugs. We can only hope legislators will also see the greater problem and act to address it as quickly as they have moved Erickon's bill forward.

800 postings, and still nothing's on

This posting marks 800 postings in the Blogland - hooray for us ... right?

Frankly, we're amazed that we've made it this far ... even though lately, it's been a lot of strange stuff and bizzaro crap as we've struggled with finishing the thesis process.

We tried to ponder the importance of this milestone, and ... well ... uhhhh ... we didn't find anything profound to talk about. So instead, we'll talk about some of the other 800s that you will find out there.

There's Olde English 800 - a fine alcoholic beverage for discriminating individuals with sophisticated and refined tastes. You can bet whereever you see them drinking Olde English, you can see and smell the success.

Well, maybe not that, but we're willing to bet you'll see and smell things that you'll never forget. Something at least as profound and memorable as the Blogland itself.

Then there's another 800 ... last year, Liverpool, that city in England well-known for being the birthplace of the Beatles, celebrated its 800th anniversary.

Being "from around here" ... born at Roper Hospital and spending much of our youthful years on James Island ... we think we're from a place that is old and historic. But then you take a place like Liverpool that goes back over half a millenia before Charleston - well, THAT is something truly amazing.

Thanks for tuning in folks, and keep coming back. Be it high class or low class, may the luck of the 800 be with you this weekend.

... now back to the books ...

It's all at Wal-Mart

The Blogland's Quote of the Week comes from York Police Chief Bill Mobley:

"There's a lot of fender benders and things. You name it, it occurs. You've got bad checks, forgeries, thefts, husbands and wives getting into it. All at Wal-Mart."

Read more from yesterday's story by Matt Garfield on crime, law enforcement and Wal-Mart in the Rock Hill Herald.

Be sure to have a great weekend!

The Holy Low Rider

Yesterday at FITS, they ran a photo of the papal-mobile. A low-rider with some sharp-looking rims - where'd they find a ride like that?

It reminded us of that classic song from the 70s, "Low Rider" ... check out the YouTube of the opening of the Cheech and Chong classic "Up in smoke":

William Shatner believes that "You'll have time"

After watching millions of people on many planets, especially extras with the rank of Ensign, die horribly of many exotic causes, William Shatner has finally figured out ... we're all gonna die:

... and now ... back to the thesis. Mike, it's your turn. Try and top this!

Questioning the PACT scam

The folks at the Voice for School Choice blog (we think that's the SCRG?) recently looked at the ongoing debate over the great boondoggle that is the PACT test:

If South Carolina is serious about K-12 assessment, lawmakers need to look to the successfully model of private schools across the state. These schools employ commercially developed, off-the-shelf standardized tests such as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Stanford 10 test. Such tests cost a fraction of the PACT and allow for speedy, specific, and diagnostic results for each child. They are also being used by public schools in other states to meet NCLB requirements.

You know what? They're right.

Here in the Blogland, we've talked about the PACT test and compared it to other standardized testing which we're familiar with: the GRE exam which was required for graduate school admission, which is scored instantly, and the WorkKeys workforce skills assessment test, which is a broad test of skills needed in today's workforce, which is scored in about a week:

While comparing PACT to WorkKeys and the GRE may not be a perfect comparison, it stands to reason that if many standardized skill and educational tests take days, then it's simply inexcusable for the PACT test to take half a year to score.

One can't help but wonder if profit or children is the real priority behind those who advocate keeping the PACT test. That's what the SCRG people are asking, and it's something we'd like to know as well.

Headbangers - Mark your calendars

For those of you out there who love your rock and roll hard and heavy (like we do), be sure to mark these dates on your calendar:
  • April 20 - Megadeth plays the Tabernacle in Atlanta
  • April 22 - Whitesnake's new CD - "Good to be bad"
  • May 13 - Dokken's new CD - "Lightning strikes again"
  • May 18 - Jackyl plays the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach
  • June (sometime) - Judas Priest's new CD - "Nostradamus"
  • July 22 - Dokken and Sebastian Bach play the Lakewood Ampitheatre, Atlanta
  • Summer (sometime) - Motley Crue's new CD - "The Dirt"

Expect more concert dates to be announced in upcoming weeks as bands start hitting the road. We'll be sure to keep you up to date ... and you can bet if it's a great rockin' show - we'll be there!

Push polling in GOP primary races?

Without pointing fingers, the Blogland's crack(pot) investigative team has received reports of push-polling being employed in several legislative races around the state. Since the thesis work has us mired in the mud for a couple more weeks, checking into these reports is a little difficult right now. Since we don't have all the facts about what may or may not be taking place, it wouldn't be fair to point fingers ... yet.

We talked about push-polling a bit two years ago, when it was being used against Lt. Governor Andre Bauer's re-election campaign. Research shows it's not the most effective tool in the campaign arsenal, even if mudslingers hope it will work. What it DOES accomplish is to make the public a little more cynical about the political process while harassing them at home, and there are times when it is believed to have backfired upon the attacker. Those are good reasons why we're against such practices.

We'll be keeping our eyes and ears open for reports of push-polling. As we've done in the past, we'll give both campaigns a chance to state their case, as third-party groups seem to be doing a lot of these attacks and not the campaigns of the candidates.

If you would like to discuss push-polling that you are aware of, we invite you to contact us via email. Help us blow the whistle on these shady tactics and whoever is willing to stoop low enough to use them.

Holidays in the Sun

It's been three decades since the Sex Pistols exploded onto the music scene, introducing the world to punk rock and give the whole music world a swift kick in the rear.

While the band didn't last long, here's one of the most famous songs - a wild, frenzied rocker entitled "Holidays in the Sun":

... which we're planning on real soon, once this thesis is dead and buried ... any freakin' day now ...

The new Motley Crue song kicks ass

.. reporting live from an all-night writing and research session at the Addlestone Library on the CofC campus ...

Before long, the fossilized remnants of the band known as Motley Crue are expected to emerge from a strip joint somewhere in Southern California to release their new album, "The Dirt".

The first song on their new album, "Saints of Los Angeles", is a kick-ass, hard rockin' track comparable to their earliest days, before Theatre of Pain began their long slide into the pop gutter. Check it out - and make plans to buy the album when it hits the shelves.

Here's a YouTube of the audio clip:

William Shatner - the Transformed Man

As the thesis quagmire continues to suck me in (and believe me, it really does SUCK!!!) ... we in the Blogland present you with this You Tube video has the album cover and the audio of a spoken word performance by the Shat-dude from 1968 ...

... hey Mike, had enough yet?

Four ballads in two minutes

Folks, we're still on thesis hiatus but we didn't want to let this space go unfilled or make y'all think we'd forgotten you're still tuning in.

Today's "While you wait" filler isn't - believe it or not - more William Shatner. Instead, we wanted to share this video of the Stormtroopers of Death performing ballads about the lives of four notable music figures: Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Kobain and Tupac Shakur.

We're big fans of music, and believe us, few songs that we've heard have said so much with so few words.

Enjoy the video, and while you're at it, be sure to enjoy the weekend too:

Endorsement by solicitor's widow shakes up 9th Circuit Solicitor race

The 9th Circuit GOP race for Solicitor has all the potential for a highly-charged race - both candidates were deputy solicitors under Solicitor Ralph Hoisington, who died last year.

Blair Jennings was in charge of Berkeley County, and Scarlett Wilson was in charge of Charleston County. After Hosington died following a long fight with cancer last year, both intended to run to replace him. When Governor Sanford's intended "caretaker" appointee turned down the interim appointment, Wilson was appointed. Shortly thereafter, Jennings was out as the deputy solicitor for Berkeley County.

Yesterday, Michelle Hoisington, Ralph's wife, released a letter backing Blair Jennings for the office:

Friends -

Keeping our families safe by taking violent criminals off the street was always Ralph's passion. I believe Blair Jennings shares that passion. That's why I support him to be our Solicitor.

As Ralph's Deputy in charge of the Berkeley County Solicitor's Office, Blair proved himself to be an effective leader capable of getting the job done. Just look at his proven record of results:

(The list of accomplishments was removed to shorten this posting)

It is more important than ever that we have a Solicitor who has this kind of successful record. Blair's work ethic is unquestionable and I know he will work even harder when elected to follow Ralph in the 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office.

We need a Solicitor who will get the job done, not play politics with this important office. That's why I'm asking you to support Blair's campaign.

Whether it's a bumper sticker on your car or a sign in your yard, your show of support would mean the world to me.

You never know when your family might be the target of a violent criminal. As a resident of Berkeley or Charleston County, we must help elect the best candidate who can keep us safe. I know that Blair Jennings is the person we need as Solicitor.

We have the opportunity to continue Ralph's legacy by electing a hard working, honest, and proven prosecutor.

I hope that we can count on your support.

Michele Hoisington

WOW ... we're pretty certain that such an endorsement will fuel a long-simmering standoff that observers have long expected to explode into one of the hottest races in the Lowcountry.

In this race or any other, if you have news, please pass it along. Once this thesis stuff is done in a couple of weeks, we want to start covering the primary races on both sides of the party line.

Of course, we can't do that without your help, so your campaign news tips are always appreciated, and kept confidential anytime you request anonymity.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds

(You're probably reading this, thinking I'm still buried with that darn thesis ... well, you'd be correct.)

When you hear that classic song title, we're sure the first thing you think of is ... William Shatner.

In watching this, we can't help but wonder if Captain Kirk beamed up a few bong hits to come up with this one ... his rendition - or should we say the vicious, savage raping of - the famous Beatles song.

If you just finished eating or hate seeing a good song wrecked beyond recognition, you probably don't want to see this. But if your name is Mike Reino, you probably can't wait:

Ok, Mike, now it's your turn ...

Coming this summer: I-26 widening in North Charleston

My company, U.S. Group, Inc., was the lowest bidder for the Interstate 26 widening project in North Charleston.

This three year project will include adding one additional lane between Ashley Phosphate Road and Interstate 526, as well as rebuilding the interchanges at Aviation and Remount Roads. It's going to be a hell of a project - especially when the Remount Road interchange is entirely closed for several months to rebuild it.

This is probably the state's most complex and complicated urban Interstate widening and reconstruction project since I-85 at US 25 and I-185 in Greenville. At $74 million, it is one of the largest contracts they've ever issued. Especially for a project without a major bridge in it.

You can keep up with this project on the web at ... or you can let me know and I'll try to answer your questions.

For those of you who don't know, I'm responsible for public and media relations for my company's highway construction projects. That includes designing and updating project websites, organizing community meetings, liasions with community leaders, sending out media releases about lane closures, responding to public inquiries, and all sorts of other stuff.

It's not politics, by any means, but it's all part of being the ONLY highway contractor in South Carolina with an on-staff communication specialist and an in-house public relations program.

No offense to those of y'all who work in politics, but I'll admit that it's nice to have a stable job in the private sector.

"I speak English and French ... but not Klingon"

The great William Shatner Blogosphere Madness Marathon continues.

In this video, the great Kirkness himself assures us that while he may not be a Captain, or a cop named TJ Hooker ... he IS Canadian:

Iraq and Germany: David Stafford's post-war comparisons

In "Iraq is a mess. But Germany was, too.", an op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post, David Stafford compares the current post-Saddaam occupation of Iraq to the post-WWII occupation and reconstruction of Germany:

It would be harder to think of two more different societies than Germany in 1945 and contemporary Iraq. The former -- despite Hitler and the Third Reich -- had a long tradition of law, order, constitutional government and civic society to draw on in rebuilding democracy. Nor was it riven by deep-rooted ethnic and sectarian religious tensions that erupted to the surface once the dictator's iron fist was removed. And although Germany certainly had hostile neighbors -- especially to the communist East -- the threat they posed served to create, not crack, political cohesion.

Yet in looking at Iraq over the past five years, it's hard not to find poignant echoes of the post-WWII experience and to wonder whether a better knowledge of that history might have helped prevent some basic errors. Or even -- because there may be some small crumb of comfort for optimists here -- that it's too soon to declare that the mission has failed. Sen. John McCain's 100-year horizon for a U.S. presence in Iraq may be stretching things. But let's not forget that the postwar occupation of Germany lasted for a full decade.

There is no doubt that mistakes were made early on, and Stafford is honest about those as well:

In 1945, the Allies had a carefully thought-out plan for what would follow victory. For two years before his forces crossed the German frontier, Eisenhower and his staff at Allied headquarters worked on detailed plans for the occupation. The lines of command were clearly drawn, and everyone agreed that the military would be in charge. Thousands of soldiers were trained in the tasks of military government. Compare that with the chaotically devised schemes for Iraq that were cobbled together at the last minute amid squabbling between the Pentagon and the State Department. Or with the confused and confusing mandate handed to the hapless Jay Garner, the first administrator of postwar Iraq, to devise a comprehensive plan for its administration in a matter of weeks.

But the questionable decision to dismiss the military and political apparatus which governed Iraq, according to Stafford, was not without precedent:

Critics of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq point to the decisions by L. Paul Bremer, Garner's replacement, to dismiss Baathists from public office and to dissolve the Iraqi army as critical and disastrous turning points that created a vast legion of the unemployed and disaffected. Yet in 1945, the Allies implemented a similarly draconian policy in Germany. They dissolved the Nazi Party, carried out a thorough purge of Nazis in public office and even abolished the ancient state of Prussia, which they believed was at the root of German militarism. Millions of Wehrmacht soldiers languished in prisoner-of-war camps while their families struggled to survive.

It will be many years before a full assessment can be made of the invasion and post-war American (with its allies) efforts in Iraq. It is hard to imagine that these assessments won’t point out plenty of mistakes – especially in the first year or two. But is it fair to expect that mistakes would not be made? As Stafford points out, even in Germany, which was more advanced, educated, and where more planning was done beforehand and more forces committed during the occupation and reconstruction, these efforts were not easy.

There are signs of progress: growing reconciliation with the restive Sunni minority, the Kurds have opted not to separate from a post-war Iraq, and Maliki’s recent offensive in Basra forced Al-Sadr to back down and accept a cease-fire, in spite of early predictions of doom and gloom by the American media. Iraqi security forces are growing in number and ability. We see their economy growing, and their democratic institutions taking root.

Five Army brigades are being withdrawn, our forces handing over more territory and responsibility to the Iraqi military, as well as to armed Sunni citizens who have rejected radicalism for national unity, and overseas tours are being reduced from fifteen to twelve months. Those are signs of progress as well.

Progress in Iraq should continue to be measured in both terms – progress for Iraqis and progress towards our eventual disengagement. So long as we continue to see success by both measures, the next President should not arbitrarily pull the plug on finishing the job.

Beastie Boys' early punk days

For those of you who only know the Beasties as a rap band, here's a curveball:

They started out in the 80s as a hardcore punk band. Really.

Don't just take our word for it ... here are some YouTube clips from some of their shows from the early 80s:

It just gets worse

Things between this blog and Mike Reino's SC6 blogsite continue to spiral downwards.

That is our new-found sport of picking on William Shatner via YouTube clips. The stuff we discover just keep getting worse.

Today's Shatner jab is his cover of a Frank Sinatra song:

... Mike, now it's your turn.

March 2008: The month in review

March has come and gone, and most of us are still around. If you're reading this, then congratulations on making it through and thanks for coming by to see what we've got to say.

As usual, we talked a lot about politics, but this month, we took side trips to
Zimbabwe as well as the Twilight Zone. We tried, as we always do, to cover some different ground and get away from politics. So we talked about having marked one of the two final milestones of grad school before graduation in May, talking about Easter, talking about my day job, and attending judicial events.

When it was all said and done, it looked like almost none of y'all really wanted to talk about anything but state politics. Darn ... well, we tried.

Once again, it's primary season here. That time of year the mentally unbalanced and kool-aid drinkers revel in drawing attention to themselves ... and then most of them get their tails kicked in June, once the spring fever wears off. For those of us who are gainfully employed, it makes fun watching, because unlike them, when it's over in June, we've still got jobs, and they don't.

As always, our Month in Review is about what turned our readers on. In this, we tip our hat to our readers, and look at what they read the most, and talked about the most.

Ten most-read postings:

Inside Interview: Nikki Haley (3/10)
Congrats to South Carolina's newest (and coolest) judge - Kristi Harrington (3/25)
Fact-checking Club for Growth & House 117: Are they lying or just uninformed? (3/25)
Conflicts of interest? (3/4)
What would YOU do with $4300? (3/12)
Blogland forces seize 6th District GOP in morning coup (3/22)
Katon Dawson clears the air about Berkeley GOP breakfast club coup attempt (3/27)
Beware the Ides of March: Wheeler Tillman and that good ol' mudslinging (3/26)
"Operation Chaos" taking toll on Democratic Prez race (3/20)
Moye Graham for 6th District GOP delegate (3/14)

Ten most-discussed postings:

Fact-checking Club for Growth & House 117: Are they lying or just uninformed? (3/25)
Beware the Ides of March: Wheeler Tillman and that good ol' mudslinging (3/26)
Inside Interview: Nikki Haley (3/10)
My last exam (3/12)
What would YOU do with $4300? (3/12)
Moye Graham for 6th District GOP delegate (3/14)
Blogland forces seize 6th District GOP in morning coup (3/22)
Witherspoon, 9th Circuit Solicitor candidates visit Berkeley GOP Breakfast Club (3/1)
Remembering #161253 (3/1)
Katon Dawson clears the air about Berkeley GOP breakfast club coup attempt (3/27)

Back to hell, for the last time

For the next three weeks, I’ll be pretty buried between finishing my thesis and attending the Southern States Communication Association’s annual conference in Savannah, where I’ll be participating in a panel discussion, presenting my research in Cultivation Theory and political TV advertising.

So if you see less content here in the Blogland between now and May, don’t be surprised. Like the last month of every semester of grad school, I feel like I died and went to hell.

I’ve been writing an average of four pages a day for this thesis. So far, I’m at 80 pages, and by the time it’s turned in, it’ll be closer to 100 pages. For those of you who haven’t done this, turning in the thesis is only the beginning of a 2-3 week cycle in which the thesis is turned in, reviewed by three professors who then invite the author to meet in a small, cramped basement on campus for a two-hour defense session.

That means you sit in the basement while they bitch-slap you with two hours of questions. You don’t get the questions in advance, so you’d better know your stuff.

If you pass this torture session, you get to make some corrections and changes, and submit a few copies in printed and bound format for the college library and archives. If not, you might get to wait the fall to try again, which means you get to wait until December to graduate.

Since I’ve already sent out that invitations for my graduation party, I’d hate to let down all those friends, family, and assorted shady characters who I’ve invited – as well as lose the money I’ve put into the event.

Until that’s wrapped up, expect things to slow down a little bit.

If you’ve been a good friend and/or you're shady enough, we hope to see you there. Drop us an email and we’ll add you to the invite list.

Time to stock up on the porn

According to the AP, the State Senate wants to tack a 20 percent sales tax onto porno mags. Wow. That's a pretty steep tax, folks. Better stock up on porn before prices go up.

Since we know most people who buy Hustler and Playboy are highly-literate types who buy the magazines for the articles, we're sure they can count too, so you can expect mobs of porn tax protestors to mob the State House in protest.

In fact, they met at the Cheaper Sleeper motel in Jonesville recently to work out a strategy to fight this tax, as shown in this photo.

Reportedly, they didn't tell their spouses about the meeting.

Help a fellow graduate student

For what is probably the very last time, I'm asking my readers to help out a fellow graduate student. Anna-Fiona is working on a project on environmental marketing for a Quantitative Research methods course.

She's got a survey on survey monkey. It takes five to ten minutes to complete, with multiple choice questions. If you've got a little time on your hands, follow the link and help her out:

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to help out my fellow students over the last few semesters in response to my appeals for help.

Blogland readers challenge: Become certified to give First Aid and CPR

Today being April Fool's Day, I had debated doing a satirical posting today, but instead, I figured I'd talk about something a little more serious and constructive.

As some of you know, I am Red Cross-certified to teach First Aid, CPR, Biohazards and some other important life-saving skills. In the past, I've tried to convince some of my mostly-political readers to take some time out one weekend to learn some vital skills.

After all, we are all interested in politics out of a desire to serve our community and help others ... right?

Here's one occasion for those Blogland readers in the Beaufort end of the Lowcountry - one Saturday in May, I will be teaching a course in First Aid and CPR at the Palmetto chapter of the Red Cross in Bluffton, right off US 278.

A lot of people think you have to have a medical background to take this class, whicn is NOT TRUE. Many people, including teachers, law enforcement officers, construction personnel, and even teenage babysitters, take these classes to learn how to respond to save lives. All you need is five to six hours of your time on a weekend or a couple of evenings.

So, if all you care about is being a political hack who likes running off at the mouth, but could care less about helping fellow citizens, then sit back and don't attend. But if you REALLY care about serving your community and making a difference however you can, then please email me at and let me know you'd like to attend this important class.

One legislator and a couple of other readers have indicated they'll be attending, so put aside politics for a day and come join us!

There's a modest charge for the class, something like $30 or so. Email me and I'll give you details about when, where, and how much you'll need.

Since my free time won't be so limited by graduate school soon, if some of my readers elsewhere in the Palmetto State would like to organize a First Aid and CPR class elsewhere, please let me know. I've even talked with some Blogland readers in one county about challenging both parties into holding a bi-partisan class. Just find a half-dozen interested parties and I'll be glad to come to wherever you are and teach it.