The Bloggers - Righteous Dudes of the Year, 2008

This year's winner of the year award goes to a varied group of individuals who did much to shake up the landscape of South Carolina politicals - the electronic motley crew known as bloggers.

For a long time, the process of deciding winners and losers in state government has been a largely controlled process, where well-heeled special interests, powerful politicians and mainstream news media picked who would wield power and those who wouldn't. But in 2008, that grip was challenged by bloggers, who used their electronic talents, some creativity, perspectives outside of the Columbia insider realm, and more than a little gutsiness, to shake things up in Columbia.

Will Folks showed plenty of guts when he took on GOP State Senator Randy Scott, publicizing his DUI arrest, including jailhouse records which were ordered muzzled by a judge. Those content of those tapes, which crossed over into mainstream media, did much to create unflattering public impressions of the Senator, which did much to undo any potential political gain from his acquittal.

We did our share to contribute to the process. Our coverage of several judicial races helped push one candidate considered a longshot to an easy victory and shined the spotlight on two other candidates, who later withdrew. We helped push Representative Shannon Erickson's Lauren Gentry Act through the State Senate, where it flew through in just three weeks, and then with the help of other blogs, brought out her Democratic opponent's arrest record.

Bloggers from across the political spectrum shined the spotlight on the power play between House Speaker Bobby Harrell and Midlands State Represenatives Nathan Ballentine and Nikki Haley, and then rallied in support of Haley's legislation requiring recorded voting on legislation.

Increasingly, political bloggers are building trans-partisan alliances based upon specific issues, as well as other factors such as personalities and non-political interests. As the influence of bloggers rises, it will be interesting to see how these new approaches influence the overall political picture.

Newspapers regularly picked up our discussions (and amazing they even started giving us credit) in their own news coverage. Ian Leslie at the Beaufort Gazette (who has since moved on) and Jason Spencer at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal stand out as those who have given us the most respect, but there are a lot of other outlets who have been doing a good job as well.

We're not just influencing what goes on in the insular world of state politics. Many bloggers, including Folks, Ross Shealy, and ourselves, regularly speak to interested groups and lecture at schools and colleges around the state. In doing so, we're shaping how politics works on the inside as well as how people view it from the outside.

Probably the single biggest sign of the rising influence and credibility of bloggers is the Monday editorial content of The State, which has a section which quotes bloggers on current state issues.

In the year 2008, bloggers have come a long way in contributing and influencing the political process in South Carolina. In doing so, they've clearly earned the Righteous Dudes of the Year title.

Looking back at 2008

Here in the Blogland, it's been a hell of a year, and we'd like to thank all of you who've come along for the ride through the chaos and carnage. It's been, without a doubt, a very active year as we've continued to run our mouth, and if you don't mind, we'd like to take a look back at some of the damage we've caused in this year's 420 postings ...

We started out the year jumping into a couple of judicial elections in which we endorsed Kristi "Handcuffs" Harrington, also known as Wonder Woman, for a seat on the 9th Circuit Court and Ronnie Norton for a seat on the 15th Circuit Family Court. We also set off a lot of fireworks when we talked about another candidate for the 15th Circuit seat. Both Harrington and Norton are on the bench, and we've received a lot of good reports about their service.

In February, we blew the whistle on efforts by the heavy-handed GOP leadership in Berkeley County to squash that which they could not control. Later that month, we went to Washington for the annual National Workforce Boards Conference. Meeting Newt Gingrich, who addressed the conference, was definitely the highlight of the event.

Our Inside Interview series chugged along, giving you more looks on the inside of government in the Palmetto State. We talked with State Reps Nathan Ballentine, Shannon Erickson,
Nikki Haley, Phillip Lowe, 9th Circuit Judge Roger Young, Charleston County RMC Charlie Lybrand, elder abuse legal consultant Erin Gaddy, two of the state's foremost political operatives: Democrat Phil Bailey and Republican Wes Donehue, and the two candidates for the 9th Circuit Solicitor's office - Blair Jennings and Scarlett Wilson. Our series wrapped up the year with an interview with our first Democratic legislator, Senator Joel Lourie.

The 2008 GOP national convention was very much on our minds. We endorsed delegates, followed them to the convention, and also endorsed Glenn McCall, the state's new national committeeman.

Our first Legislative Awards recognize two outstanding retiring legislators:
Senator John Drummond and Representative Bill Cotty, and two great freshmen legislators: Senator Shane Massey and Representative Shannon Erickson.

We also followed Erickson's Lauren Gentry bill and strongly pushed for its passage until it finally became law. Later on, we signed onto Rep. Nikki Haley's legislative transparency initiative. In 2009, we'll continue pushing for Haley's bill, as well as other legislation that catches our eye.

We also called new media types, such as bloggers, the real winners of the 2008 elections.

On the spritual side, we talked about the
Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Akathist Hymn, Pope Benedict's praise of Melkite Catholics in "A thriving future for the Melkite Church", Orthros once and Orthros again. Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom, and the Psalms,

On a lighter note, a round of William Shatner regurgitations erupted, starting with "
William Shatner raps Julius Caesar?". It got even sicker with William Shatner redoes "Rocket Man" and culminated with "Shatner serenades George Lucas". Reportedly some people won't even turn on their computers after that one.

Eight years of college at night - four for my BA and four more for my MA - reached the finish line when I passed my comprehensive exam, defended my thesis, walking across the stage, and then
having a great graduation party, complete with free beer and a roast of yours truly that went on for about 40 minutes (click to watch some highlights). Finally, printed and bound copies of my thesis arrived.

With graduation past, it was time to hit the road for some kick ass concerts: in Atlanta with Sebastian Bach and Dokken, and
DC with Black Sabbath and Judas Priest.

There were certainly a lot of other moments that have gone by over the last year where we enlightened our readers a little, probably motivated them a little, and probably pissed them off quite a bit. But for whatever reason, some of you still love us - or at least haven't found the time to track us down and shoot us. For your time, friendship, and patience, we thank you all and look forward to a great 2009.

South Carolina's 7th District?

There's been a lot of recent speculation about South Carolina getting a 7th Congressional District. This is big news for a state that once had nine districts, but has only had six since Reconstruction.

Relative to a much smaller House of Represenatives, nine seats was several times the congressional voting power than the state's delegation wields today, where six seats is about 1.5% of the total membership of 435.

Where will the 7th District go? We think the driving consideration will center around representing large population centers. The four that don't have a representative are Aiken, Florence, Horry and Spartanburg. Since Florence and Horry are interconnected, and the Pee Dee and Grand Strand don't have resident members of Congress, a district could be drawn quickly without upsetting incumbents and give this region the ability to seat a congressman.

As Florence is also the only county Clyburn usually loses, we think he'd be ok with losing those voters. Pair Florence with Horry and some of the stray rural counties in that part of the state, and you should get a seat that favors a GOP candidate.

Swing the 1st back to Beaufort, restoring it's historic alignment, pull the 2nd out of the Lowcounty entirely to keep the district's partisan balance from changing much. Nor does the 1st District's change much. Considering Joe Wilson's stronger challengers come from Beaufort County and the rural Lowcountry offsets the votes he gets from the coast, we think Joe would be ok with it.

The 5th loses some population to the new 7th, but the overall political balance, as with the 1st and 2nd, changes very little.

We played around with a rough map of how the 7th could fit in, with some minor other adjustments to the map to speculate about other adjustments that would be required:

Rep. Olin Phillips dies

Cherokee County Representative Olin Phillips, one of the few remaining Democratic legislators in the Upstate, died of a heart attack this morning. According to The State:

Authorities say South Carolina Rep. Olin Phillips has died after having a heart attack in his Gaffney home.

Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler says the wife of the 74-year-old Democrat found him unconscious around 12:45 a.m. Saturday. Phillips died less than an hour later at Upstate Carolina Medical Center.

Phillips was a businessman and had served District 30 in Cherokee County since 1979.

South Carolina Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler served the same area as Phillips and said his colleague was a statesman who benefited every family in Cherokee County.

Phillips is survived by his wife and three children. Funeral services have not been announced.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and his long record of service to his community and state is greatly appreciated.

Christmas news flash

Since Ozzy Osbourne did not bite the head off Rudolph, there will be a Christmas today, and we hope all of our readers are off enjoying it with their families.

But if you've got nothing better to do, allow us to share a collection of some of our favorite holiday tunes:

Twisted Sister - Oh Come All Ye Faithful

Dokken - Santa Claus is coming to town

Skid Row - Jingle Bells

Twisted Sister - Heavy Metal Christmas

Giving thanks

In this holiday season, it seems appropriate to reflect upon the gifts that have been received here in the Blogland.

The Blogland is not just a rheotrical platform upon which to run my mouth - it has also been a learning experience by which yours truly has learned a lot and made a lot of new friends. I continue to be amazed by how so many of you have given so generously of your time and effort to present your ideas, views, and concerns to help the Blogland become what it has been.

Those experiences are the treasured "gifts" that I have received so abundantly, and for those gifts, I am truly and eternally grateful.

Thank you and may you and your family have a safe, happy, and joyous holiday season.

A message to Senator Mike Rose

Maite Murphy is well-known and respected Summerville attorney and former 1st Judicial Circuit prosecutor. She has a strong work ethic and when in consideration for a 1st Circuit judicial seat, she was found qualified by the South Carolina Bar review panel. While she did not make it through the JMSC screening process, we believe her experience and enthusiasm for public service is too valuable to let go to waste.

We understand that Murphy may be seeking a magistrate's appointment in Dorchester County. If so, Murphy is well-qualified to serve and her appointment to such a post would do a great service for the people of Dorchester County.

Help the Manning HS band play the Presidential inauguration

The Manning High School marching band has been chosen to play in next month's Presidential inauguration. Having been to events in DC, we know it's expensive for just one person or a small group, but according to the Charleston Post and Courier, it can be pretty darn expensive for a group as big as a high school marching band:

Thirty hotel rooms for four nights cost about $19,000; two charter buses for five days run $12,600. And then there are the uniforms.

"You guys are going to have to pay $80 for your clothes," Francis says.

Throw in another $8,500, $20 per student per day for food, and all of a sudden you are talking about real money.

That's $40,000 or more to take the Manning High School Golden Pride Marching Band to Washington in January — and the kids don't have it. So far they have raised $13,000. If they can't come up with another $27,000 in the next few weeks, they could miss out on their place in history.

We're asking our readers to give them a helping hand by donating to help cover the $27,000 shortfall for this event. You can send your donation to:

Manning High School Band
2155 Paxville Highway
Manning, S.C., 29102

Christmaas is a time for giving and making dreams come true. You can do both for this bunch of students by simply sparing next weekend's bar money or a couple of nights' dinner out.

More proof that news media bias exists

We've all heard that news media shows a bias, so this story shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, but yet it did, as we just never thought we'd hear it about the Weather Channel ...

The Dutch Fork reform team

The newest rising stars on the South Carolina political landscape didn’t win an election, nor did they run a major campaign (at least not yet) … heck, most of them aren’t even old enough to vote or run for office.

We’re talking about the students of Mrs. Kelly Payne’s civics class at Dutch Fork High School.

In the last few days, this bunch has gotten attention in the blogging world after they got a visit from our friends Representatives Nathan Ballentine and Nikki Haley. We decided to check them out after they got praise from Richard Eckstrom when he spoke down in the Lowcountry last week.

Every call we made confirmed this bunch is the real deal – they're fired up about the need for reform, doing their homework on the issues, and ready to get to work to shake things up. Their current focus is upon helping pass one of the most-needed legislative reforms – 100% roll call voting. They're written legislators and even talked about having “Transparency Day” at the State House to press the case for this important reform initative. As this issue is one near and dear to the Blogland, we appreciate their support.

What we see in this bunch of students kind of reminds us of this radical rabble-rouser who stirred the pot at James Island High School back in the mid-80s - a Mohawked half-nuts headbanger with a spray-painted army jacket and an intense attitude who spoke out about a state filled with corruption and inept leaders - and got involved in politics to help make a difference. Twenty years later, that nutcase is now running things in the Blogland (but the hair is a little longer these days).

We see that same fighting spirit in this bunch and we’re excited to see that they're ready to play a role in working for a better South Carolina. Our hats are definitely off to them and we hope to see a lot of them in the months and years ahead.

Shaken, not stirred

That's the news in the Lowcountry today. At about 7.40 a.m., while getting ready for work, the house was shaken for about 4 seconds and a rumble was heard, which was initially thought to a clandestine meeting between Governor Sanford, Speaker Harell, Nikki Haley, Nathan Ballentine and Ashley Landess. Or maybe a Marine fighter pilot getting a little fast during the morning flight time.

But it turn out to be a geniune real live earthquake and was felt from Summerville to Goose Creek to Moncks Corner, possibly caused by the same fault line which caused the great earthquake of 1888 (which is about a half mile from the home of yours truly). The official Richter Scale reports rated it a mere 3.6, which is far stronger than the half dozen or so 2 point something tremors that hit the Dorchester Road side of Summerville every year, but still pretty minor.

There were no reports of damage, but we've gotten a flurry of calls and emails from everyone wanting to know what went down and if all is well -it is, but thanks for checking in with us!

So that's the news. Go back to work everyone.

Richard Eckstrom brings transparency crusade to the Lowcountry

Last Saturday, State Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, called it like he saw it in Summerville at the December meeting of the Lowcountry GOP breakfast club, where he talked about his ongoing efforts to increase transparency in state governmental finances ... and the Blogland was there for the show.

Concerned that "government's never been that open", he talked about his latest initiative, the state's Spending Transparency website, where monthly and annual spending reports for state agencies are posted on the web. He also talked about his efforts to make this program available for local-level governments, working with banks to help local governments make their transaction data available online.

Eckstrom also passed out copies of this much-easier to read "Citizens Report", giving the highlights of state government finances for 2008.

We've been
big fans of his contined calls for increased transparency in state government, which is part of his mission to promote fiscal accountability. It's just the right thing to do and we're glad this guy is leading the charge for real fiscal reform in state government.

By the way – the group meets there every second Saturday at 9am sharp. It’s always a good show, so if you’re in that neck of the woods, don’t miss it!

On a final note ... While the Grim Reaper endorsed his opponent in 2002, he did tell us that he felt that might have a better chance at getting that crucial endorsement next time, saying “I should because I’m working my staff to death these days.”

Looking at Senate pre-filed bills

Friday we looked at the pre-filing at the House. Now we’ll look at what they’ve done over the Senate – and they’ve done a lot of it. Nearly 200 bills were filed, and it looks like a whole lot of them by Senator Robert Ford. From those 200 or so, we picked out a handful that seem like pretty good ideas, and ones that we hope will receive positive action from Senators:

Harvey Peeler is keeping his promise to support fiscal reforms by fulfilling of his pledge to continue pushing the transparency issue forward in the General Assembly. If passed, Bill 11, by Senator Harvey Peeler, known as the “Taxpayer Protection Act”, will require recorded voting on legislation in both Houses.

There are two bills which honor our state’s military veterans that we wholeheartedly support. The first is Bill 16, by Senator Joel Lourie, would allow the state to award high school diplomas to those who have completed military service who served in a time of war. The second is Bill 49 by Senator Ford, which would allow military veterans to qualify to receive free tuition at state colleges and universities.

Making classrooms safer is another major issue in the Senate. Bill 4 by Senator Glenn McConnell, known as the “Teacher Protection Act”, would allow teachers to bring civil actions against students who commit crimes against them, and to classify violent crimes against teachers, with the most serious of the three classes being a felony.

There are a few other bills that we like:

Bill 40 by Senator Ford would allow patients to designate their authorized visitors, regardless of the existence of a blood or legal relationship to the patient.

Bill 44 by Senator Ford would allow offshore drilling for oil and gas resources within the waters under the jurisdiction of the State of South Carolina.

Bill 57 by Senator Ford, would allow the chief administrative judges of a circuit to schedule court dockets. Our inside friends in the legal and judicial community liked this one.

Bill 121 by Senator Knotts, would allow the state to issue Second Amendment license plates, with proceeds from sales designated to go to the state Criminal Justice Academy (where now-retired Sgt. Capps used to teach classes).

Bill 128 by Senator Sheheen, would create a Department of Administration, which would absorb many of the administrative functions currently held by the Budget and Control Board.

Bill 155 by Senator Campsen, would protect visitation and custody rights of divorced military parents by not allowing the change in circumstances caused by military service to be used against them in court.

Bill 168 by Senator Cleary, would protect licensed health care providers from being held liable for civil damages when acting in a voluntary, non-compensated manner, except for acts of gross negligence.

Son of Rep. Whipper killed in I-95 accident

According to The State's website:

Jasiri Whipper, a reporter for The Post and Courier of Charleston and the son of astate lawmaker, has died.

The newspaper reports the 24-year-old Morehouse University graduate was struck by a car on Interstate 95 in Florence County late Thursday and died early the following day. Family members told The Post and Courier that Whipper crashed and was struck after getting out of his car to investigate.

Whipper covered North Charleston and Berkeley County.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said Whipper was considered a friend who cared about the community.

Whipper was the son of state Rep. Seth Whipper and Carrie Whipper, and the grandson of Lucille Simmons Whipper, who served for 10 years in the state House. He also is survived by a sister.

Our prayers and condolences go out to the Whipper family.

Showing love for wisdom

Prove your love and zeal for wisdom in actual deeds.

- Quote attributed to St. Callistus Xanthopoulos, Patriarch of Constantinople (14th century, A.D.)

It's pre-filing time in the House

It’s pre-filing time again – that wonderful time of the year where legislators flock to the State House to file the first of thousands, of pieces of legislation that will be sponsored over the next year, hoping to have their ideas become among the four or five percent of bills that make it through the legislative process, across the Governor’s desk and into state law.

We looked through the list of over one hundred bills that were pre-filed by House members. After wading through a list, a quarter or so of which seem to have been sponsored by Rep. Herb Kirsh from Clover, we found some good ideas, and some bad ones as well.

Here were several bills that stood out as good ones:

Bill 3020, by York County Rep. Carl Gullick – this bill would allow prosecutors the same number of jury strikes as are allowed to the defense in criminal cases.

Bill 3028, by York County Rep. Herb Kirsh – this bill would allow the court to order those who bring frivolous charges to pay legal defense costs.

Bill 3047, by Lexington County Rep. Nikki Haley – this is the much-talked about Roll Call voting bill. We’re so in love with this legislation that we sleep with a copy of it every night.

Bill 3064, by Richland County Rep. Chris Hart – this bill requires nursing homes to carry at least $100K in liability insurance (we can’t imagine any that wouldn’t carry far more than this amount).

Bill 3067, by Horry County Rep. Alan Clemmons – this bill would require candidates to file with one party, instead of using multiple-line filings to confuse voters and win third-party votes.

Bill 3075, by Dorchester County Rep. Annette Young – this bill would work to prevent a major problem in fast-growing areas, knowing as “zoning shopping”, where developers annex into property into a municipality to get more favorable zoning. If the county zoning is for lower density, then that zoning requirement must remain in effect for five years after annexation.

Bill 3090, by York County Rep. Herb Kirsh – this bill would address the “bundling” of campaign contributions by requiring a single campaign contribution cap to apply to business entities which are under shared control.

While most of the bills represent well-intentioned efforts to enact good ideas into law, we found one bill that left us scratching our heads – Rep. Gary Simrill’s bill to name the Marsh Tacky the official state horse (Bill 3044). We know this was an effort that was once spearheaded by former Senator Catherine Ceips, but it didn’t make sense to us any more now than it did back then. Perhaps Kirsh’s bill on frivolous prosecution needs to be amended to protect taxpayers from having to pick up the tab for frivolous legislation.

Several of these bills address issues near and dear to the Blogland, so please stay tuned as we focus on those bills. But good government doesn’t happen by leaving all the work up to legislators – it only happens when it’s a team effort between legislators and active, concerned citizens. We encourage our readers to find bills that represent issues of concern, as well as issues which aren’t being addressed, and make your voices heard with your legislators.

Anderson Independent-Mail: "Bauer, seniors have helped each other"

Hats off to America's Hardest-Working Lieutenant Governor, whose efforts on senior issues won him praise in today's Anderson Independent-Mail's op-ed section:

The irony of the nation’s youngest lieutenant governor willingly taking the South Carolina Office on Aging under his wing has turned out to be a good fit for both. Andre Bauer has matured in the office, and seniors have benefited from the programs he has implemented — and encouraged — in the last few years.

Some were state-mandated, others by the federal government. Yet others have come about because Bauer, as a former member of the state legislature, has forged a relationship with lawmakers and for the most part, has received their support. He’s been able to coordinate efforts to promote wellness, address healthcare issues, combat fraud, create and promote senior centers and demonstrate that particularly with the aging population, prevention of illness is infinitely more productive — and less costly — than long-term nursing care.

A new program to address fraud was the topic when Bauer visited with the Independent-Mail editorial board on Tuesday.

... to read more, CLICK HERE.

How much for the little ... Senate seat?

Two shady characters sit down in a restaurant in Chicago, a city well-known for corruption, and ask someone "how much for the ... "

The news about the brewing scandal over the attempt to sell (or trade) favors for the appointment to Barack Obama's soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat reminded us of a scene from the Blues Brothers where Jake, John Belushi's character, turns to the table next to them and asks "how much for the little girl?".

Bad joke, we know, but we couldn't help ourselves.

It's interesting to note that Blagojevich represented Illinois' 5th Congressional District, based in Chicago. The seat, which is currently held by Rahm Emanuel, was once represented by Danny Rostenkowsi, the House Ways and Means Chairman who was toppled by voters in 1994 when he sought re-election while under indictment for wire fraud, of which he was later convicted. In the fifty years from 1958 to 2008, four people have held it - one was Ways and Means Chair, one elected Governor and another became White House Chief of Staff, while two of the four have been nailed on federal charges.

Depending on how you look at it, it's a great seat to hold, or a terrible one. In any event, apparently some Fifth Districts are worse than others.

Your right (not) to know

In the opening lines of "Know your rights" by The Clash, listeners are informed:

This is a public service announcement
With guitar
Know your rights
all three of them

Here in South Carolina, it is becoming increasingly obvious that some believe the right to know what your public officials are doing is not one of those rights.

While this issue has been highlighted by the debate over roll call voting, recent findings by the folks at the S.C. Policy Council in their efforts to study spending by local school districts ran into a tougher stonewall than Union troops at Bull Run. It was similar experience to what was encountered by the folks at Voice for School Choice.

The friendly folks over at the Palmetto Scoop smell a rat, and we agree with them:

The state Freedom of Information Act allows districts to collect fees “not to exceed the actual cost of searching for and making copies of records,” and the act states “records must be furnished at the lowest possible cost to the person requesting the records.”

But it has become standard operating procedure in South Carolina for public entities to exploit that section to keep a would-be requester from gaining access to the information. Public school districts seem to be particularly fond of this tactic.

We would like to recognize the honest guys who spoiled the party for the other school districts by offering to share the records for little or no cost:

* Sumter District 1 (9,007 students) - Free
* Aiken School District (25,068 students) - Free
* Richland District 1 (24,663 students) - $337.80
* Florence District 5 (1,583 students) - $464.80
* Cherokee School District (9,286 students) - $525.00

This is contrasted with the worst of the stonewallers:

* Lexington District 1 (20,161 students) - $24,000
* McCormick School District (924 students) - $26,405
* Greenville School District (67,928 students) - $35,045
* Beaufort School District (19,276 students) - $55,388
* Greenwood District 52 (1,597 students) - $217,192

Our hats are off to those who did the grunt work as FOIA requests are seldom easy. In this case, the stonewalling may end up being a bigger story than the actual expenses.

As we push for greater transparency in government in South Carolina, it's important to make sure local government, including school districts, are included. According to the folks at the Policy Council, a budget proviso requiring the posting of spending records was stripped out during budget dicussions last spring. Making sure this proviso doesn't get buried should be a priority for legislators in the next budget.

As with roll call voting at the State House - knowing what's going on is one of our rights.

Louisiana - the new face of the GOP?

As we continue to talk about new directions for Republicans to consider, we look south and west to Louisiana.

Bobby Jindal, the state's Governor, has family roots in India and is the nation's first Governor of Indian descent. On Saturday, Republican Joseph Cao, who emigrated from South Vietnam as a child, ousted indicted Democratic Congressman William Jefferson in the New Orleans-based Second District to become the nation's first Congressman of Vietnamese descent.

In a state known for corruption and cronyism, as well as a Democratic lock on power that survived the GOP's sweep of many Southern states in the 1990s, these two won by talking about reform and promising to stand up to business-as-usual. That sort of positive, constructive message resonated well with cynical swing voters, and had much to do with Republicans recently sweeping most of the state's Constitutional offices, as well as quickly closing in on majorities in both chambers of the Lousiana legislature.

Cao and Jindal are part of the unusual mosaic of cultural and ethnic diversity that is the Louisiana GOP, where whites and non-whites, as well as Catholic and Protestants, work together. As the GOP seeks to reach out to those outside of the shrinking WASP population majority that it has long over-relied upon, Republicans would be wise to consider what the GOP has been accomplishing in Lousiana towards its efforts to broaden and diversify its support at the national level.

Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom

In the state's political culture, it's been a good week for pointing fingers, hurling insults, revenge and conspiracy theories, but a decidedly bad week for getting along. That's why we thought we'd wrap up the week with some uplifting and constructive thoughts in the form of the Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom:

  • O Lord, deprive me not of Thy heavenly blessings;
  • O Lord, deliver me from eternal torment;
  • O Lord, if I have sinned in my mind or thought, in word deed, forgive me.
  • O Lord, deliver me from every ignorance and heedlessness, from pettiness of the soul and stony hardness of heart;
  • O Lord, deliver me from every temptation;
  • O Lord, enlighten my heart darkened by evil desires;
  • O Lord, I, being a human being, have sinned; do Thou, being God, forgive me in Thy lovingkindness, for Thou knowest the weakness of my soul.
  • O Lord, send down Thy grace to help me, that I may glorify Thy holy Name;
  • O Lord Jesus Christ, inscribe me, Thy servant, in the Book of Life, and grant me a blessed end;
  • O Lord my God, even if I have done nothing good in Thy sight, yet grant me, according to Thy grace, that I may make a start in doing good.
  • O Lord, sprinkle on my heart the dew of Thy grace;
  • O Lord of heaven and earth, remember me, Thy sinful servant, cold of heart and impure, in Thy Kingdom.
  • O Lord, receive me in repentance;
  • O Lord, leave me not;
  • O Lord, save me from temptation;
  • O Lord, grant me pure thoughts;
  • O Lord, grant me tears of repentance, remembrance of death, and the sense of peace;
  • O Lord, grant me mindfulness to confess my sins;
  • O Lord, grant me humility, charity, and obedience;
  • O Lord, grant me tolerance, magnanimity, and gentleness;
  • O Lord, implant in me the root of all blessings: the fear of Thee in my heart;
  • O Lord, vouchsafe that I may love Thee with all my heart and soul, and that I may obey in all things Thy will;
  • O Lord, shield me from evil persons and devils and passions and all other lawless matters;
  • O Lord, Who knowest Thy creation and that which Thou hast willed for it; may Thy will also be fulfilled in me, a sinner, for Thou art blessed forevermore. Amen.
Having shared this, we hope our readers have a great weekend.

... for those who would like to know more about St. John Chrysostom, Orthodox Wiki has a lot of good nuggets of information.

House Speaker should show more restraint

News that House Speaker Bobby Harrell yanked Republican House members Nathan Ballentine and Nikki Haley from their previous committee assignments spread quickly today, along with the conspiracy theories.

There are two ways one can look at Harrell's actions: a vindictive House Speaker lashing out, or out-of-line legislators being rightfully disciplined through reassignments. In recent days, we've talked with those who believe one story or the other, and in some cases, some of both.

While it's very tempting to join into the many politicos who have begun to see this as a fight between Harrell and Haley, and there's a lot to suggest that's what this is becoming, doing so would remove the focus upon the issues, where it needs to be. As Speaker, Harrell is supposed to exhibit leadership virtues, which include restraint and tolerance, but one has to wonder if he's doing a very good job at that.

We would ask Harrell to consider the example of Newt Gingrich, whose political rise to power was driven by his combative style and continual challenges of the House Democratic leadership in the 1980s. While Gingrich became a favorite target of Democrats, who went so far as to wipe out his first Congressional seat, those attacks made him a heroic martyr in the eyes of many Republicans. When the smoke cleared, many of his enemies had been toppled and Gingrich was Speaker of the House.

If Harrell chooses to do things which fuel perceptions that he is being heavy-handed or vindictive, no matter how justified those actions may seem, he risks creating an even greater problem. As politics is often driven by perceptions, not realities, we hope he'll consider showing more restraint in the future.

Roll call voting - Mission Incomplete

Here in the Blogland, the recent House rules change which allows limited roll call voting is viewed with some degree of skepticism. While some may interpret it as a sign of progress, there are others who view it as a sell-out. From here, it's hard to tell which is the case.

Now that they have embraced the principle that recorded voting is important, legislators need to finish the job they've started. While fiscal accountability is important, the General Assembly deals with many other issues which have a real impact upon the lives of South Carolinians, including public safety, state government administration, restructuring, education policy, and economic issues. If an issue is important enough for legislators to address, then it's important enough for the people of this state to know where their legislators stood on that issue.

In today's Sun News, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom shared his thoughts in support of greater transparency, which roll call voting can help address:

Providing better government transparency - giving people more and better information on how government spends our money and knowing how elected officials make decisions that affect all of us - is a cause dear to my heart.

Too many decisions are made behind closed doors, diluting accountability of our elected officials and eroding public confidence in government itself. When elected officials make decisions in secret and without a record of their votes, they sometimes pass things they never would approve in full view of the public.

It is up to legislators to decide if the rules change will be an important first step towards greater accountability, or a compromise with old style backroom politics. The right thing would be for them to finish the work they've started by adopting legislation which requires 100% roll call voting - and to do it as early in the next session as possible.

Punky Brewster for Coroner?

One of this year's more amusing candidacies was waged in Spartanburg County, where Punky Brewster lost her bid for County Coroner.

Some of you may recall that Punky Brewster was the main character of an 80s sitcom series. While we're sure she's not the same person, there've been a number of occasions when we passed one of her signs and couldn't help but conjure images of some happy go lucky kid be-bopping through the morgue, or making cheezy sitcom-eqsque jokes at some horrible fatality scene.

Pretty scary thought, ain't it?

Perhaps one of our Spartanburg County readers, such as Mr. Beltram, would have some commentary they'd like to add to this, because eight months after we started seeing her signs, we're still not sure what to make of this candidacy.

While the Punky Brewster of the 80s was definitely not a politician, Montgomery Brewster, as played by Richard Pryor in the movie "Brewster's Millions", proved to be rather insightful about contemporary American political culture and had some helpful advice on what voters should do:

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Apparently some people don't get it.

The House GOP caucus is mulling a roll-call voting proposal that ... well, there doesn't seem to be much recorded voting taking place in this one.

Our request - let's make sure the vote to adopt this rule includes a recorded vote. We think voters deserve to know who thinks they don't deserve to know what is going on and who is responsible for it.

According to a report from our inside source:

No recorded vote on most legislation, except the adoption of the budget, and amendments that spend $10,000 or more. But there won't any of those amendments -- they will all be included in the budget, which gets the same up or down vote it gets now. There is NO recorded vote on the sections of the budget -- this is pure business as usual.

Keep in mind that just a few short years ago, another Republican House Speaker thought it would be ok to bend a few rules, so he bent them ... then bent a few more ... then covered up for a few of his buddies ... and then the voters threw a lot of his fellow Republicans, who accepted his BS, out the door.

Similarly, we believe that once the voters get their gut full of it, they'll do the same here. The voters aren't as stupid as some might think. Neither are we.

Guest editorial - Charlie Lybrand: "Message, Candidate and Hard Work"

Right now is just not a good time to be in the Charleston County GOP.

While things like loyalty tests and running a Senate candidate who lives and works in Lexington County have been recent priorities for their leadership, the 2008 election was a nothing less than a disaster. Democrats hold the first 6-3 Council majority in a generation, two "safe" GOP House seats have been lost (one of which the GOP has held since the 70s), and it was the first time since 1978 that a Democratic candidate for the First Congressional District won Charleston County.

To say it's time to try something different would be the understatement of the week - and because we've got a lot of friends in the Charleston GOP, we hope they do change course. To help inform and guide that process, Charleston County RMC Charlie Lybrand, a veteran of Charleston County politics who has held countywide office since 1990, has an op-ed that we'd like to share with our readers about how the GOP can repair its battered electoral ship:

Most of the dust has settled since the big Republican mauling of 2008 and the soul searching and finger pointing has begun. Meetings are now taking place all over South Carolina on how to fix this problem. The one I attended missed the real issue. It's not that the Democrats out worked us, that they were better organized than we were, that they bent or even broke the rules, or they had more poll workers than we did. All of that may be true but we did not have the right message or the right messenger.

Even if the stars had lined up in our favor, I think it would have been darn near impossible for Republicans to overcome the euphoria that President Elect Obama was able to generate. Everyone knows the sitting President gets either the credit or the blame for what happens on his watch. It's true the surge worked and the war is being won honorably but when your 401K is being devastated, the stock market has tanked and your bank is gone under, the surge is not the issue you want to hear about.

How do Republicans regain momentum? First we must have a message that resonates with the majority of America as well as a candidate that connects with the voters. We must also work harder than our opponents. Let me repeat, message, candidate, and hard work. That combination works in most elections. I don't believe there has been a sea change in South Carolina's conservative values or a shift to the left. What I do believe is: We must give the voters a reason to vote for us not a reason to vote against our opponents.

The Legislature and the Governor can't constantly be at each others throats. The Democrats will use that against us and I don't blame them. We must give the voters a reason to vote for us by standing up for core values like: less taxes, less government and more personal responsibility. I will admit that is a hard sell right now with all the bailouts that are going on in Washington but those are our core values.

We cannot expect to win elections if we remain a narrow-minded lilly-white party. We must have genuine outreach programs to attract the State's Hispanics, Blacks, Indians, Asians, multi-racial folk and any one else who shares our core values. We must also unite on what we agree on and decide which things that we don't have to agree upon.

I also believe we must unite behind a leader as soon as possible. Once the Democrats coalesced behind Senator Obama, they were unbeatable. We Republicans have a history of cutting, shooting, and tearing apart each other during the primary season and then leave a bloodied up winner to face a fresh face in the General Election. That has got to stop. The Republican Party is also blessed with many women's clubs and men's clubs yet they sometimes shoot at each other like the other is the enemy. That too must stop.

Remember: Message, Candidate and Hard Work. I think it's pretty simple.

We couldn't agree more ... Thanks, Charlie!

If you're in Georgia, Vote for Saxby Chambliss

... and if you're not, but know someone who is,
please take a minute to make calls and send emails
to get them to vote to keep Georgia's hard-working Senator!