Steele wins National GOP leadership

We want to congratulate Michael Steele, the new RNC Chairman, who trounced Katon Dawson, SCGOP chair. In the final round, it was 91 votes for Steele and 77 for Dawson.

We just spoke with a South Carolina black Republican activist who told us "I'm going out to get a bottle of wine and celebrate".

Michael Steele has South Carolina roots. His grandmother grew up near Orangeburg, so either way South Carolina has a friend at the RNC.

We look forward to the upcoming race for SCGOP chair, and hope that the state party will elect new leadership which is just as visionary and inclusive.

Facts over politics regarding One Stop Centers

Yesterday, fellow blogger Will Folks launched a salvo at the state's One Stop Career Centers, intending to continue his criticisms of the state's Employment Security Commission, which is battling with Governor Sanford over issues of power and money:

At the heart of this problem - not surprisingly - is the S.C. Employment Security Commission, which administers a massive job placement network that cost millions of taxpayer dollars to create (including individual offices with bureaucrats and staff in every S.C. county).

Sadly, though, this network is failing miserably when it comes to actually placing people in jobs.

Over the past eighteen months, the ESC’s “One-Stop” network has received 127,055 S.C. job orders - or open positions needing employees to fill them - but has filled only 57,250 (or 45.1%) of these positions.

Exactly 69,805 jobs have been left unfilled, which is interesting when you consider that there are exactly 68,071 people currently claiming unemployment insurance in South Carolina at the moment.

We like Will, we've stuck up for him on more than one occasion in situations where we were probably one of his few defenders, and we think he's gotten a raw deal on a few occasions. Even though we think he has some legitimate concerns on this issue, there was a lot more that deserved an informed response.

Yours truly serves on the Trident Workforce Investment Board. We oversee some of the One Stop Centers he questioned, working in partnership with the much-criticized Employment Security Commission. So that means I actully know what he was talking about, and a lot of it presented out of context and just plain wrong.

First, Workforce Investment Boards, which oversee the One Stop Centers, are oversighted by Governor Sanford’s Department of Commerce, NOT the ESC.
Quoting the SCDoC website:

In South Carolina, the Workforce Division of the South Carolina Department of Commerce is committed to ensuring that South Carolinians have the education and training necessary to fill the most in-demand jobs. The division works with a diverse array of public and private partners to carry out this objective, and all of the division’s activities are designed to achieve this goal.

Matching the needs of business for skilled workers and the training, education and employment needs of individuals, the Workforce Division seeks to provide customers timely information and services through a “One-Stop” system. The One-Stops assist in finding appropriate training for adults and enable smooth coordination with industries, education and economic development allowing customers to get the information and services they need. Adults are empowered to obtain the training they find most appropriate through individual training accounts. This system ensures that all state and local programs meet customer expectations.

Maybe that's a problem, but he needs to direct it to the Governor's office for an answer. Since they're not doing anything about dead kids or embezzlement at SC DSS, another Cabinet agency, maybe they'll have time to take his questions.

But that's not the only hole we saw in what he said. There were more.

The attempt to compare X number of openings to Y number of unemployed is not a good means of comparison. Many of those jobs are part-time or “executive pay” insurance sales scams, employers who fail to report they filled an opening (as an HR person, I’m guilty of that mistake more than once), etc., it’s going to look bad. If they were well-paying jobs, they often use recruiters or paid advertising to reach more targeted audiences in the first place

The One Stop and ESC staff are generalists with no ability or resources to reach out for candidates, such as trade publications and professional networks, or specific industry knowledge. They try to fill everything from fast food to warehouse to construction trades with whoever walks in the door and they often won’t be able to fill needs as fast as a private recruiter, or as well, for a more skilled or advanced position.

South Carolina has long had a shortage of skilled labor to fill many positions, which is a big reason why jobs aren’t getting filled. A lot of companies choose not to come to this state, and others leave, because of the lack of skilled workers. The Trident WIB recently set up a welding training program to help retain a defense manufacturer and won national recognition for the program all because the company could not find sixty welders - something that was shocking given the large population in the Charleston area.

This is what we're up against - a state which is not competitive with workforces in other states, and in some cases other nations. There are problems which deserve a close look and questions must be asked - one of which is why ESC even exists as an independent agency and not folded into some cabinet agency along with what the One Stop centers do. There are no easy answers or quick fixes and taking misinformed potshots isn't helping us get any closer to solving these problems.

Tort reform efforts move forward

There are many challenges which Southern states must overcome in making themselves more competitive. Among these challenges are addressing education and workforce quality, taxes, infrastructure, and local quality of life.

Another major challenge is reining in the litigious environment in which excessive judgments cost businesses and families, as well as scare the heck out of businesses looking to set up shop here in the Palmetto State. When companies are looking to open up a new plant and research shows that State A has higher potential litigation risks than States B, C, or D, employers will often strike State A off their lists of locations to visit.

While tort reform helps protect our state's competitiveness, it ultimately benefits our state's families by helping keep jobs, attract new ones, and reduce the costs of goods and services. As a businessman, Senator Larry Martin knows the problem businesses face and he's working to meet this challenge head-on with his recently-filed legislation seeking to reform civil litigation.

There's a lot in this legislation, but here are some items that stood out to us as no-brainers:

  • Allowing the non-use of seat belts to be considered in reducing awards when non-use is believed to have contributed to injuries.
  • Limiting appeals bonds to $25 million for businesses and as low as $1 million for small businesses.
  • Limiting non-economic damages to $1.05 million.
  • Creating accountability and standards for the hiring of outside legal counsel by the State of South Carolina.

Martin's legislation is a step in the right direction and it deserves a fair hearing from legislators.

Secret Agent Man, inspired by William Shatner

As more proof that the Blogland is not for sale, we offer our readers this posting.

We were recently offered a payoff by another blogger to stop posting Shatner videos. Since we're not on the take, we figured we'd share a video of something different - this performance of "Secret Agent Man" by someone acting like Shatner.

Contractors' legislative reception next Tuesday

We figured this picture might be more aesthetically pleasing than the stereotypical images of contractors, especially plumbers.

Since we've got your attention, via this photo, we'd like to ask our readers at the State House to mark their calendars for next Tuesday evening.

Next Tuesday evening - February 3 - Carolinas AGC, the regional chapter of the national organization of general contractors, will be holding its annual legislative reception at the Koger Center. We'll be there from 6 to 8 pm and would love to get to know you, learn about what's going on at the State House and share our concerns about the issues of the day.

Also, we'd like to assure our readers that this picture is not intended to suggest the Blogland is not entering the soft porn blogger market. We respect those who have mastered that genre, so our family-friendly imagery and drawn-out ramblings will pose no harm to the minds and morals of our readers, regardless of age - that is except when we bore you half to death.

Using E-Verify

These days, workplace immigration issues are no laughing matter. Working in the construction industry and being responsible for the hiring of workers, I know this better than most people.

I do the hiring processing for new hires, which includes checking their eligibility for employment using the E-Verify system. While the proper scrutiny of the identification documents which are required by the I-9 form should be enough, thanks to a lot of unscrupulous employers, it's not enough.

The E-Verify system is a good way to make sure a new hire is who they say they are. If they're not U.S. citizens and are presenting work visas, images of their documents are kept in the E-Verify database displayed on the screen for comparison to the documents which the new hire has presented - if it's not a perfect match, then you may be required to send them to the local USCIS office to clarify the issue, or release them from employment.

For most employers, the use of the system is voluntary, but in states such as South Carolina, which are mandating screening, E-Verify is something that you either are using, or may soon be getting accustomed to. If you're a federal contractor, there is a pending Executive Order which will soon mandate its use.

A word of caution - current employees or prospective employees cannot be screened, only new hires. Anyone using this to weed out their current workforce or screen applicants risks getting in trouble.

I use it regularly to screen new hires. Take my word - it's fast, easy to use, and protects your company from civil and CRIMINAL (yes, they prosecute these days) liability. A bonus for employers is that when using E-Verify, they can't be held liable for a wrongful hire that was authorized when using the E-Verify system.

Anyone who has any questions about using E-Verify is welcome to email me.

Immigration workplace crackdown - it's not a joke

Anyone who thinks the old status quo regarding immigration enforcement in the workplace is today's order of business, think again.

Immigration enforcement is being taken much more seriously these days. While there were twenty five criminal arrests and 485 administrative arrests by the feds in 2002, it has risen to 1,101 and 5,713, respectively, in 2008.

Some recent enforcement actions serve as examples which should make it clear that employers will be locked up and that pleading ignorance is no longer an option when hiring known illegals or failing to exercise due diligence when hiring workers:

On May 22, 2007, agents with ICE and the Social Security Administration ("SSA") raided a poultry plant in Butterfield, Missouri, arresting 100 suspected illegal immigrants. Likewise, in March 2007, ICE raided Michael Bianco, Inc., a military goods factory that was a party to government contracts. Three hundred sixty immigrants were taken into custody. Months after the raid, the president of the company agreed to pay a fine and serve up to 18 months in prison, pleading guilty to several charges, including hiring illegal aliens, helping to shield them from detection, failing to pay overtime, and fraudulently misleading the government. The company was fined $1.5 million.

In perhaps the most publicized worksite enforcement effort thus far, on May 12, 2008, ICE and other government agents raided Agriprocessors, Inc., the country's largest kosher meat processing plant and one of northern Iowa's largest employers. The government arrested 398 workers, most with fake documents. The founder, Brooklyn-based Chabad Lubavitch Rabbi Aaron Rubashkin, and his son have been charged criminally along with two human resources managers. In addition, the Iowa Division of Labor Services ordered the company to pay over $250,000 in back wages and proposed fines of almost $10 million against the company for violation of state wage and hour laws. Agriprocessors, Inc. filed for bankruptcy on November 5, 2008. In an interview with the online publication, the elder Rabbi Rubashkin said, "it's a shanda, a shame . . . what happened in Postville."

- Illegal Immigration Worksite Enforcement: How To Safeguard Your Company In An Era Of Unprecedented Raids And Regulations

On December 19, 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that IFCO Systems North America (IFCO), the nation's largest pallet management services company, had agreed to a record $20.7 million settlement of claims alleging the knowing employment of illegal aliens. This settlement agreement resolves only the corporate liability and does not encompass pending criminal cases against IFCO managers and employees. To date, nine managers and employees have pled guilty to various criminal charges, and four managers are awaiting trial in New York.

- Record Worksite Enforcement Settlement Sends Message To Employers Of Illegal Aliens

How best to protect yourself? Document, document and document some more. Also, don't forget to document. While saying "E-Verify" is a magic word, it's not perfect and paperwork is also a strong defense. Keep copies of I-9 documents and the identification documents (licenses, Social Security cards, etc.) that the new hires present.

Senator Rose charting a new course on magistrate appointments

Our readers know we've not always agreed with Senator Mike Rose, but on the issue of magisterial appointments, which was blown wide open by the man he ousted from the seat in the June primary, we think he's doing the right thing. Instead of picking relatives or political allies to fill the seats, the Summerville Senator announced that he would take applications from interested parties and appointed a committee to review those applications which were submitted:

Rose has appointed a citizens committee to review the applications, conduct interviews with the candidates and receive any other information from police agencies and citizens who use the Magistrates Court.

S. C. Court of Appeals Judge Daniel F. Piper is heading up the Dorchester County Magistrate Merit Selection Committee. Judge Pieper was elected to the Court of Appeals in May, 2007 .... Judge Pieper is joined on the selection committee by Family Court Judge William Wylie, Jr. who was elected to the position of resident judge for the Family Court for the First Judicial Circuit. He is a former Dorchester County Probate Judge.

Other citizen members are Dr. Tim Huber, a dentist who resides in Kings Grant and a retired 22 year veteran of the United States Navy; Ted French, a Coosaw Creek business man and a retired Colonel from the U.S. Air Force; Ernest Moultrie of Summerville who is in charge of Court Security for Dorchester County; Julie Anderson, a realtor for Horne Realty in Summerville and a former resident of Ridgeville, who chaired sister Jenny Horne’s campaign for the State House of Representatives in the June primary; Jim Emery, a resident of the Bridges of Summerville, an 18 year veteran of the New York State Legislature and a retired Colonel from the USAF; and Pegge Schall, an Ashborough resident who is a member of the Dorchester County Zoning and Planning Board and a former Republican Executive Committeeman and President of the Ashborough Precinct.

This early move by Senator Rose offers a constructive idea on how to address this thorny issue - and we think it shows a lot of promise. We hope others look at this experiment and consider how they can reform how magistrates are appointed in their communities.

Senate GOP sets out a reform agenda

The folks at the Senate GOP caucus are busy these days. Led by Confederate General Glenn McConnell and his trusty sidekick Harvey "the Milk Man" Peeler, they announced an ambitious 2009 agenda for reform, entitled "Sunshine in South Carolina".

This agenda aims to increase accountability, set new standards for transparency, and promote new government, aims to accomplish a number of objectives in this year's session of the General Assembly.

  • Establish spending caps,
  • Enact On the record voting (accomplished),
  • Implement Earmark reform,
  • Online check register,
  • Create a Department of Administration
  • Allow a referendum for joint Gov-Lt. Gov ticket
This agenda certainly challenges the notion that reform ideas have few, if any, friends in the State Senate. It's certainly ambitious, but we like it.

The low price for Hit and Run in South Carolina

Over the last couple of months, a lot of Blogland readers have asked how my daughter was doing after a recent hit-and-run incident. When my daughter was sore from her injuries, going somewhere and having someone ask how she was doing made her day a little better on more than one occasion.

This morning was court day at the magistrate's court for the driver, charged with leaving the scene of an accident, operating an unsafe vehicle and driving too fast for conditions. Having supposedly figured out who her insurer was, she finally produced proof of insurance so that charge was dropped. All said, after paying about three hundred dollars in fines, she's done and off the hook - no need to even appear in front of the judge to explain her actions, much less jail time.

That's all she got.

While many instances of hit and run which involve injury require an appearance in General Sessions court and the aggrieved party gets their day in court, apparently my daughter's incident was the exception to the rule.

The kind of person who can drive off and not care that they injured someone, or is so loaded or irresponsble they don't even notice, should be standing in front of a judge to explain their actions, and if found guilty, required to serve jail time.

Several legislators have been contacted about closing this loophole and they're willing to work on this. The Blogland will work to keep readers informed as to the progress of this legislative effort - and we'll be naming names along the way.

Stay tuned.

Mark Hammond's working for the clampdown

South Carolina's Dirty Harry, Secretary of State Mark Hammond, is working for a tough clampdown on those who abuse the trust of South Carolinians. While his initial efforts focused on a statewide sweep of counterfeit merchandise hustlers, working with local law enforcement agencies to make arrests and close fradulent retailers, he's not content to just focus on this problem.

Last week, the sentencing of Albert Salmon, the infamous self-proclaimed street preacher who exploited Charleston's homeless for hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal income, sent the message that Hammond's new targets for ramped-up enforcement efforts by his office will be those who abuse the goodwill and trust of charitable South Carolinians.

Salmon was convicted after a five-day trial last week on four tax evasion charges for not reporting more than $465,000 in income during tax years 1999-2002. Prosecutors contend while he was running the charity he also was a slumlord with extensive properties rented to the poor. One inspector found men living in partitioned trailers, a garage and a storage shed.

Salmon on Thursday also pleaded to other charges outstanding in the case, including under-reporting his compensation as head of the mission. Secretary of State Mark Hammond was in the courtroom and said the integrity of those records was vital for anyone inspecting the behavior of local charities.

Salmon's total sentence for all the charges included: a year in prison, four years of probation and 500 hours of community service. He also will have to pay back about $27,000 of the $93,000 prosecutors said it cost to pursue the case. State and federal investigators also can pursue civilly the tax debt Salmon failed to pay. About $36,000 is owed to the state and $157,000 to the federal government in tax debts, according to preliminary estimates.

When the Blogland talked with Hammond late last week, he told us that this was a cooperative effort with the Department of Revenue and other law enforcement agencies. While his office initiated the investigation, they were unable to pursue it alone, in part due to the limited staff and resources allocated to his office. He intended for this case, which was the first of its kind pursued by his office, to:

(S)et a precedent and let it be know that we're not going to let people take advatage of the generosity of the people of South Carolina. We'll be watching and when others step out of line, they can expect that we'll be there.

Not surprisingly, Wonder Woman - a.k.a. "Handcuffs Harrington", the Blogland's favorite judge, cracked the golden lasso of justice on the slimebag swiftly, guiding the jury trial to a verdict in five days.

Our hats are off to Hammond for his efforts, as well as to Harrington for her swift administration of justice in this case. Let's hope others who seek to pull future charity scams or use His name for their personal gain take notice of this case.

Save Greenville's University Center

Here in the Blogland, we've railed against the idiocy that has been represented by the duplication in our state's higher education system, especially by two-year "feeder" USC campuses which should have been merged into the state's technical college system, which specializes in issuing two year degrees.

But our argument is about "right-sizing" our higher education system as much as it is about "down-sizing" because higher education can play a vital role in developing our state's workforce, which is key to an economic development approach which brings quality jobs to our state, which pay higher salaries and tend to stick around longer.

The lack of a public college or university in Greenville County has never made sense to us, and this need is partially met by the University Center initiative, which is similar to the Lowcountry Graduate Center. Both facilities use collaborative approaches which cut the education bureacracy while allowing for flexibility and innovation. Needless to say, hearing that major budget cuts are planned for the University Center didn't sit well with us:

Gov. Mark Sanford's proposed $5.8 billion state budget includes cuts of $301,000 in the University Center's recurring-funds allocation for the fiscal year beginning in July. Fred Baus, president and chief executive officer of the University Center, said that would put it "in the position of going from $2.25 million to $650,000" in operating funds.

"That is not viable," he said.

Without the University Center, which serves about 2,200 students a year, Greenville would be the only major metropolitan area in the state without a public institution of higher education, he said.

Ben Haskew, chief executive of the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce, said, "I think closing it would be catastrophic for Greenville. We are on a mission to improve per capita income and transition to a new economy. It's all about education."

Bruce Yandle, dean emeritus of the Clemson University College of Business and Behavioral Science, said the University Center has been important and will continue to be important to the Greenville area because of the students it educates and the businesses it helps attract to the Upstate.

Without the consortium of seven universities that make up the University Center, calls would increase for a public university in Greenville County, costing a minimum of $20 million, said former Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore, member and former chairman of the center's board of visitors.

We hope the final budget will allow for the resources needed to keep this center open and operational. It's certainly a lot cheaper than building a college for the area, as well as an economic development investment that adds value to the Upstate.

Treehuggers unite (it'll make them easier to target)

In their ongoing efforts to deprive America's working families from affordable power, inhibit economic development in impoverished southern states, and force a greater reliance upon coal-fired power plants environmentalists are striking back. To help with their efforts to turn back the clock in South Carolina, Bonnie Raitt will be coming to perform at a love-in to help raise money to fight the intended expansion of the V.C. Sumner - which is a primary source of power for electricity for their benefit:

Singer-guitarist Bonnie Raitt will headline an anti-nuclear fundraiser March 21 at Columbia’s Township Auditorium.

Funds raised will help support the efforts of the S.C. Chapter of the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth – South Carolina, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service Southeast and Nuclear Watch South. Their efforts include a push to block licensing of two new reactors at the V.C. Summer power plant in Fairfield County and their opposition to plutonium reprocessing at the Savannah River Site.

We suggest they do their part to fight the expansion at this event by reducing electric power demand by turning off the lights, the amps, and just going the hell back home.

Dems fail to get Twilight Zone host to give State of the State rebuttal

Unconfirmed reports received by the Blogland claim that the first pick to give the Democratic response to Governor Sanford's State of the State address was not Kershaw County State Senator Vincent Sheheen. According to sources, it was believed that Rod Serling, the host of the classic science fiction show "The Twilight Zone" was considered the best selection for the slot.

We tried to conjure up an image of what that would look like. Yeah, it seemed pretty funny when we thought about it.

We tried to fish around to get to the bottom of this rumor, but when contacted for comment, Senate Democratic Caucus Director Phil Bailey was unavailable.

Gaza conflict question

Does anyone else notice the irony in how Hamas, whose members fire unguided rockets into Israeli communities and wire children with suicide bombs can be so critical of the conduct of the Israeli Defense Forces?

Or is it just me?

Do ACT and SAT tests matter?

Writing in the New York Times, op-ed writer Brent Staples raised questions about the value of the ACT and SAT college entrance exams:

Imagine yourself an admissions director of a status-seeking college that wants desperately to move up in the rankings. With next year’s freshman class nearly filled, you are choosing between two applicants. The first has very high SAT scores, but little else to recommend him. The second is an aspiring doctor who tests poorly but graduated near the top of his high school class while volunteering as an emergency medical technician in his rural county.

This applicant has the kind of background that higher education has always claimed to covet. But the pressures that are driving colleges — and the country as a whole — to give college entry exams more weight than they were ever intended to have would clearly work against him. Those same pressures are distorting the admissions process, corrupting education generally and slanting the field toward students whose families can afford test preparation classes.

Consider the admissions director at our hypothetical college. He knows that college ranking systems take SAT’s and ACT’s into account. He knows that bond-rating companies look at the same scores when judging a college’s credit worthiness. And in lean times like these, he would be especially eager for a share of the so-called merit scholarship money that state legislators give students who test well.

The Blogland has questioned the PACT test and questioned it often, but it wasn't just that one test we questioned. We also questioned the approach to education in which "teaching the test" has become more important than mastery of skills and broad subject material. Palmetto State students are more than a set of numbers and statistics and deserve to be assessed in a broader set of measures which consider the fuller scope of what it is to be a well-educated citizen.

Staples warned against the potential dangers of over-reliance upon standardized testing in assessing the ability and performance of students. When he points out that "inserting exams that weren’t designed for this purpose, the states have unintentionally encouraged students to believe that course work matters less than gaming the test that gets them into college", this is a point of concern that we have about education policy here in Soth Carolina.decided.

Our fallen Highway Patrolmen

On the website for the South Carolina Highway Patrol is a page dedicated to the memory of those highway patrolmen who died in the line of duty -

The names and stories on this website remind us of just how dangerous their jobs are - not only in facing the risks associated with stopping unknown individuals even though their nearest backup is often many miles away, but also the hazards that come from the traffic on our state's all too dangerous highways which are their daily beats.

They do a tough and often thankless job, and do it well. For this, our state's highway patrolmen and their families have our prayers and our most sincere thanks.

Legislative Freshmen to watch

With the legislative session about to kick off, we took at look at some of the new faces coming to the State House. Of the roughly two dozen new faces in the House, these four freshman Representatives seemed particularly worth watching:

Republican Tim Scott from the Lowcountry comes to the State House with over a decade’s experience on Charleston County Council, where he often served as Chairman. The chair of the Freshman Caucus, he is seen as a Sanford ally. Scott is a smart guy and hard worker with a record of building consensus, which suggests he’ll look before he leaps into fights. Learning the ropes in Columbia while providing leadership for the largest number of freshman legislators will be key challenges if he is to repeat his success in Charleston County politics.

In the House, those elected in special elections are considered freshmen until they complete their first full term. While this defines her as a freshman, we’d argue that what we’ve seen so far proves that Beaufort Representative Shannon Erickson is far from a rookie. Passing her first piece of legislation just months after taking her House seat, she has survived several strong electoral challenges. She balances an eternally-cheerful personality with a strong work ethic and keen eye for picking winnable fights. We think she's about to take off.

Last June, Republican Wendy Nanney ousted fellow Republican Gloria Haskins by a large margin from a Bob Jones area House seat where the Haskins name was once considered an untouchable institution. With long roots in Upstate GOP politics, and a proven ability as a campaigner, she's done well in Greenville. We'll be watching to see if she can do as well in Columbia.

Democrat Anton Gunn from the Midlands is an interesting individual. While he presents himself as a moderate, his political affiliations suggest he’s more liberal than the packaging would suggest. He’s proven himself to be eloquent and ambitious - good traits for any successful politico. In his second attempt at running for the House, he won an open GOP House seat and then sought three of four Freshman Caucus slots, winning none. Those who’ve talked to in Midlands politics peg him as either an overly ambitious or risng star. Stay tuned to see which is really the case.

While the Senate is a place where seniority rules and freshman legislators can spend years in the chamber before developing any serious degree of effectiveness, there are a couple of freshmen Senators who deserve close attention.

Beaufort Senator Tom Davis isn’t your typical new face in the Senate. He served as Chief of Staff to Governor Sanford and then went back home to Beaufort to knock out Senator Catherine Ceips in a hard-charging campaign. Having played key roles in developing initiatives and policies in the Governor’s office, he knows Sanford’s mindsets and priorities well, and can likely argue for them well. But in the Senate, a freshman is rarely able to lead the charge on legislation, so he’ll have to figure out how be an effective player for the reform initiatives that he’s long supported if he wants to do anything other than warm a seat for the next decade or so.

Like Davis, Summerville Senator Mike Rose isn’t a typical freshman Senator. He spent nine years in the chamber and is returning after ousting Senator Randy Scott in a close and high-profile race. Known for his willingness to stand up and be outspoken on issues important to him, Rose has his priorities, knows how the Senate works, and isn’t likely to be quiet for long. The most noted accomplishments as a Senator before was to challenge the legislative delegation system, working to devolve appointment powers from legislators to County Councils and leading efforts to implement weighted voting on legislative delegations. He’s already working to reform how magisterial appointments are handled in Dorchester County, so expect him to hit the ground running.

Katon Dawson: Not ready for the big leagues

A lot of buzz surrounds the six candidates for national GOP chair. We've got ones we think can do a good job, and SCGOP Chair Katon Dawson ain't one of them.

We like the guy, and think he's made some positive contributions to the SCGOP during his tenure as chair, but don't see where he's shown that he has what it takes to play in the big leagues of national politics.

While he did much to restore the state GOP to financial health following the tenure of former Chair Henry McMaster, the state GOP's health in recent years has been in question. The party holds the same number of Senate seats that it held five years ago, and has lost seats in the House during that time - all during Dawson's tenure.

Party infighting has broken out in several counties, as well as at the state level, and Dawson has been unable, or unwilling, to play roles in resolving these conflicts. These conflicts wore down the GOP in costly primary battles and left the party unable to make stronger efforts in the fall. The narrow losses of four legislative races in GOP leaning districts in recent elections could have been avoided if more was done to head off some of the infighting which bled the GOP dry in the spring. This certainly runs counter to the image of South Carolina as a GOP stronghold.

Dawson's involvement with groups with whites-only groups will create negative perceptions. Even though we're sure these affilations were not motivated by racism, in politics, perception is often reality. That's the kind of reality we can't have hurting efforts to grow and diversify the national GOP.

The next RNC chair has to be able to develop a vision of a restored GOP majority and help lead efforts to stop the current bleeding and reverse the party's declining electoral fortunes. It makes sense that whoever Republicans pick to hold that office have a record of doing what it takes to make this happen.

If Katon Dawson could do more to stop the costly and vicious party infighting and grow the party in South Carolina, we'd love to recommend him for this office the next time it comes open. But later is not now, and we can't afford to wait for someone to prove he can do at the national level what he has been unable to do in the office he currently holds.

Christianity and Western Civilization - Dinesh D'Souza

We did a little holiday reading, including a recent essay by Dinesh D'Souza, who argues that Christianity has contributed much to Western civilization. He sees faith as inseparable, and warns of the potential harm in the growing secularization taking place in contemporary society:

(T)here has arisen a new atheism that represents a direct attack on Western Christianity. Books such as Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great, and Sam Harris’ The End of Faith, all contend that Western society would be better off if we could eradicate from it the last vestiges of Christianity. But Christianity is largely responsible for many of the principles and institutions that even secular people cherish—chief among them equality and liberty.

For those of you who care about issues more philosophical in nature than the pissing matches which are the norm for discussion of South Carolina politics, we think it's an essay worth reading - so go check it out.

Odd search keywords and phrases

One of the biggest sources of traffic to the Blogland is from search engine referrals. Any given month, we get thousands of visits from those who go to sites like Yahoo or Google, type in some word or phrase and see a Blogland posting in the search results.

According to our Google Analytics reports, which track traffic to the Blogland, most months anywhere between 600-800 unique search words and phrases will lead people to the blogsite. While the overwhelming number of them include "Earl Capps" or "West Asset Manangement" (a posting complaining about their aggressive and underhanded debt collection practices is still a top ten read), there are often well over 500 of these search entries that generate just one or two visits.

In broswing through the reports, a number of last month's keywords stood out, making us wonder what the connection was between their searches and the Blogland:

Hitting mailboxes: "hit mailbox jail", "i hit a mailbox", "i hit someone's mailbox", "insurance mailbox hit", "law hitting mailbox with car", and "offense for hitting a mailbox with car "

Beating criminal charges: "beating cdv in s.c.", and "can my state parole be ran concurrent with my federal drug charges"

... and here are a few more odd ones. No matter how much we pondered them, we just didn't understand the connection between their search terms and the Blogland:

  • "dominitrix philadelphia"
  • "itchy powder olympics"
  • "nazi metal blog"
  • "south carolina govenor's whorehouse bonds"
  • "till the fbi come we gonna have a ball rap song"

Me in the news

I made the news last night (and no, not for drug possession or date rape). For those of you who wonder if I work in the private sector, or if I work at all, I offer my readers proof that I don't work for SCRG, the "Education Establishment", some supposedly RINO law firm, or anyone else in the realm of politics.

This Channel 2 news story was filmed last night on our Interstate 26 project, where our night work on widening the freeway has been plagued with everything from dangerous driving to outright assaults by passing motorists.

Click here to view the footage, including about ten seconds of yours truly.

... and if you're traveling through this or any other work zone, we ask you to please, please, PLEASE SLOW DOWN!

Diversifying the GOP majority in South Carolina, Part 2

As a follow-up to yesterday's discussion of diversifying the GOP majority in South Carolina ...

Republican strategists talk wistfully of cracking the monolithic Democratic support in the black community. There is much to suggest that just cracking that base can yield solid benefits. For example, doubling the share of the black vote could well have allowed the GOP to prevail over Congressman John Spratt in 1994, win all nine statewide offices in 2006, and probably even keep former State Representatives George Bailey and Wallace Scarborough in their seats.

But do they really want to win that badly?

In spite of calling their party “pro-business”, GOP leaders fail to apply time-proven business logic in reaching out to black voters. Any business that wants to grow its market share must reach out aggressively and bring buyers to their stores, and then prove their products can meet the needs and expectations of customers. While selling products and growing markets is second nature for any successful businessman, it’s something the tone-deaf GOP leadership has proven themselves unable, or unwilling, to do.

While black Republican candidates flounder terribly in majority-black districts, they represent an alternative voice in the black community that is willing to stand up and challenge the “same old same ol’” power structures in their communities. Until some of those challengers break through, GOP leaders can use their political majorities at the state level and in many of the state’s larger counties to chip away at Democratic power bases by appointing concerned and independent-minded black activists and community leaders to boards and commissions.

Black voters currently see the GOP as indifferent to their concerns. But when they see those in their communities who refuse to sell out to local Democratic leaders empowered via appointments, it could help defuse arguments that Republicans don't care about blacks and convince them that abandoning their traditional single-party loyalties may be to their benefit.

While many of those appointees may not turn into Republicans overnight, they would be hard-pressed to campaign against those Republicans who empowered them via appointments. Over time, as these appointees rise in prominence and influence in their communities via these offices, they could become credible advocates for the GOP with their traditionally Democratic constituencies.

While this could offer the GOP potential political benefits, there are also more noble reasons for this course of action. Many of the state’s urban and rural predominantly-black areas are falling farther and farther behind, and these statistics are reflected in the state's overall statistics on education, employment, incomes, health care, etc. This gives Republicans a real opportunity to help to reach into these areas to help address these problems.

Given it's present position as the majority party, the state's Republican leadership has the ability to act on this issue quickly in a manner which could bolster its majority for decades to come. But considering how the gradual growth of Democratic voting strength in South Carolina has begun to chip away at that majority, there may not be much time left to act.

Diversifying the GOP majority in South Carolina, Part 1

Recently the folks at FITSNews have raised some concerns about the leadership of the SCGOP talking a big game about racial inclusiveness, but delivering very little:

Just when you thought the SCGOP couldn’t get any more politically tone-deaf, it turns out their state Party Chairman and 2010 gubernatorial front-runner are both members of additional “whites only” societies.

SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson and S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster are members of the Camellia Ball and Columbia Ball, respectively, two all-white dance clubs that hold annual debutante balls at swankly local clubs.

Republicans who are serious about reaching out to the black South Carolinians who represent a third of the state's electorate should read these words with much concern. Despite the empty words and occasional window dressing, the leadership of the Palmetto State GOP has all but set up a cross in front of it’s headquarters and set it afire when it comes to reaching out to non-white South Carolinians.

We saw the racial exclusivity of the GOP leadership in 1994, when then SCGOP Chair Henry McMaster decided to add an advisory question about flying the Confederate flag over the State House on that year’s GOP primary ballot. We saw it again a few years later when efforts by black Republicans to convince former Governor David Beasley to appoint blacks, regardless of party affiliation, to a wide range of state boards and commissions were rebuffed. We see it yet again in the names of supposed GOP leaders who are involved in whites-only social clubs.

In spite of this, many Republicans seriously don't understand why black voters won't give them the time of day.

One of the most important lessons from the Barack Obama candidacy is that a growing number of Americans expect the membership of their social organizations, churches and political affiliations to at least somewhat resemble the demographic make up of their communities. Consistent with this trend, those who are interested in politics and are conservative may not join the Democrats after attending a mostly (or all) white GOP meeting, they’re increasingly going to be leery of joining a party that is sorely lacking in diversity, or whose leaders could care less about shutting the door in the faces of one-third of the state's population.

Time and time again, the support of the GOP grassroots for advancing black candidates for elected and party offices proves they aren’t racist and know the GOP needs to reach out and become more conclusive. As the actions of Dawson, McMaster and others run counter to those efforts, it's time for grassroots Republicans to insist their leaders do better, or step aside in favor of those who will make the GOP more welcoming to new constituencies. Given the recent strong performance racked up by Obama in South Carolina, as well as the slowly shrinking GOP legislative majority, there may not be much time to act before the Democrats are once more running the show in South Carolina.

We’ve got a lot more to say on this issue. Stay tuned for our next posting on this issue ...

The 2009 agenda

We survived 2008, and if you're reading this, then congratulatons for having survived it as well. We're not sure what that means, but we hope it means something for you.

On a personal level, 2008 wasn't a bad year, or a great year, but rather it was a lot like any other of the last few years - more college, more work, more writing, more parenting, and more realizing that singlehood is not going away for a while, for some good reasons:

  • The ones who like the "nice guy" with a career, community involvement, good with kids, etc. don't like the twice-divorced, "late bloomer" type,
  • The ones who are more conservative types who like the politics, but don't like the long hair and hard rock,
  • The ones who are more liberal who are ok with the hair and music don't like the politics,
  • The ones who like the "goes to church regularly" usually think Catholics are heathens and expect yours truly to be a saint (which I ain't),
  • The professional types ... yep, long hair, hard rock again, and ...
  • Those who are "reverse doormats" - their relationships are histories of taking crap from all sorts of losers and when they find someone who isn't a con artist or creep, they expect that person to jump through a million hoops (and end up ditching me for another total loser).

So don't hold your breath waiting for wedding invitations, which means the blogging will continue - but then again most of us bloggers are hopelessly single.

Or maybe we're just hopeless. Or maybe it's just me being the square peg in the round hole - the story of my life.

Ok, I've taken a rare opportunity to vent. I feel better now - now back to business ...

Since we're all about our readers in the Blogland, we thought we'd solicit your feedback as to what should be on the Blogland's agenda for 2009. You can select one or MORE of the choics in the poll below:

What to do in 2009?

View Results
Free poll from Free Web Polls

American Superheroes

After reading this story about American Superheroes in Rolling Stone, we didn't quite know what to think. We're certainly not talking the Incredibles or the Justice League of America, nor did it make us feel any safer.

But we think one of these two looks a lot like Sic Willie and the other one Mike Reino:

Master Legend races out the door of his secret hide-out, fires up the Battle Truck and summons his trusty sidekick. "Come on, Ace!" he yells. "Time to head into the shadows!"

The Ace appears wearing his flame-accented mask and leather vest; Master Legend is costumed in his signature silver and black regalia. "This is puncture-resistant rubber," Master Legend says proudly, pointing at his homemade breastplate. His arms are covered with soccer shinguards that have been painted silver to match his mask. "It won't stop a bullet," he says, "but it will deflect knives."

"Not that any villain's knives have ever gotten that close!" the Ace chimes in.

When Master Legend bursts into a sprint, as he often does, his long, unruly hair flows behind him. His mane is also in motion when he's behind the wheel of the Battle Truck, a 1986 Nissan pickup with a missing rear window and "ML" spray-painted on the hood. He and the Ace head off to patrol their neighborhood on the outskirts of Orlando, scanning the street for evildoers. "I don't go looking for trouble," Master Legend shouts above the engine. "But if you want some, you'll get it!"

Which one of these guys looks like a good date for Wonder Woman?