Seen some funny-looking highway signs?

If you've seen new signs going up on I-85 Business in Spartanburg, you may have noticed the new signs going up look a little different than others:

If you noticed it ... well, they're supposed to look different - and catch your eyes sooner as well. The new signs are the first of their kind in South Carolina using the "Clearview" font. Being in the highway construction business, as well as doing quite a bit of graphic design, this kind of stuff interests me.

Since the inception of the Interstate Highway system in the 1950s, signs on Interstates, as well as large-sized signage on non-Interstate highways and freeways, has used variations of what was known as the Highway Gothic font. Thrown into service without any research into visibility, it was used first on signs where die-cut lettering was tacked onto steel signs, and then other more modern methods of construction.

Research found the Clearview font is cleaner, neater, allows more space for lettering in signs because of the narrower width of the text, and is easier to read - especially for older drivers - than the existing Highway Gothic font. The use of signs with this font received initial approval by the Federal Highway Administration in 2004, which is responsible for setting and maintaining standards for such things, and has shown up in a number of states.

These photos to the right give you a chance to compare and see for yourself the difference between Highway Gothic and Clearview (it might've helped if the signs were both in good condition, but I've noticed the difference when good-condition signs are replaced).

The installation of new signs using this font was a first in South Carolina, but it probably won't be the last.

A recommended Upstate Equestrian Facility

For those Blogland readers in the Upstate and Midlands who are into horses and need a riding or boarding facility, we have a recommendation we'd like to make. Kelly Rodriguez is a trusted friend in the Laurens area -has a great facility at the Trinity Equestrian Center that we'd recommend to our readers.

Kelly went to middle and high school with yours truly and even back then had a passion for horses. It's always great to see someone being able to live what they enjoy, and if horses are your thing, you can rest assured riding and caring for horses is a passion of her as well.

Whether you're looking for somewhere for your horse needs we recommend you give her a ring at 864-901-2908 or email her at Even if you aren't actively looking, it wouldn't hurt to comparison shop - you might find her facility a better deal than your current one!

Pillows for Patriots - a worthwhile Lowcountry cause

One of the toughest things about serving overseas is getting a good night's sleep. To address that challenge, Beaufort resident Barbara Farrior and Beaufort-based Harris Pillow Supply are teaming up to provide free pillows for men and women serving overseas. According to the Hilton Head Island Packet:

Founded with the motto "They'll sleep better so we'll sleep better," a nonprofit group formed by a pair of Beaufort military moms aims to help troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan get a better night's rest.

Barbara Farrior was watching a segment on NBC's "The Today Show" last week about a Midland Park, N.J., sewing school that had sent more than 1,000 pillows to troops overseas. With her own son set to deploy to Iraq in less than two months, Farrior decided to take action.

"I called up a friend and asked if she wanted to sew some pillows," Farrior said. "I saw the pictures of those guys sleeping under Humvees and wherever they could and thought, 'You think you've had a bad night's sleep.' "

The end result is pillows which are custom-made for field conditions. Thus far, she's raised about $1000 for her efforts. Each pillow costs about $1.50 to make, but about twice that for shipping costs.

When contacted by the Blogland, Beaufort County State Representative Shannon Erickson had considerable praise for their efforts:

I am so honored to have folks in SC House District 124 who are so caring and innovative. A great collaborative between small business -Harris Pillow Company - and private citizens means huge success! We are blessed to have such fine men and women serving in our military, a pillow is just a small token of our thanks!

If you want to help out, you can contact Barbara Farrior at 843-525-9262 or email her:

Goose Creek Governor candidates' forum

On Saturday in Goose Creek, our friends at that Berkeley Republican Breakfast Club are having a gubernatorial candidates' forum, featuring four of the six announced candidates for Governor:

  • Gresham Barrett
  • Larry Grooms
  • Henry McMaster
  • Brent Nelsen

The event will be held at the American Legion at 166 Howe Hall Road, beginning at 9 a.m. As always, breakfast is served for five bucks.

A straw poll will be held following the candidates' presentations. While we expect local Senator Larry Grooms to be a favorite, anything is possible.

To get there from I-26, get off onto US 78 East heading towards Goose Creek and follow the map below. For more information, contact Charles Schuster at 509-6027 or Nancy Corbin at 688-4975.

Highway work zone safety

As my company's I-26 project continues, so do the hazards to which our employees are being exposed. Those who read Saturday's edition of the Charleston Post and Courier might have read the latest front page story about the ongoing problem which included yours truly:

Construction workers are being injured, and authorities are turning to the public, once again, and asking them to think about what they are doing when they travel through the work area.

If Earl Capps could write the manual for driving in a highway construction zone, it would all come down to three words.

"Be considerate, thoughtful and cautious," he said.

That simple advice works with the vast majority of drivers who are responsible and make efforts to be cautious when traveling through construction work zones. However, there are those drivers who just don't get it. Those drivers who don't want to drive safely and obey the posted speed limits get to meet the troopers who've been assigned to patrol the work zone. Those troopers work long hours and in some dangerous conditions. Having watched these troopers work on a lot of nights, I can't say enough about them.

But since the problem doesn't seem to go away, it's obvious that more help is needed - but in the current budget situation, more help won't be coming.

However there are legislators who have offered to help find ways to fund more troopers for work zones around the state without putting the cost on taxpayers. Expect more discussion on this subject in the upcoming months ...

Lance Armstrong looks to 2010

Usually the cycling world takes things one year at a time with its stars and premier races, but while this year's Tour de France is still ongoing, Lance Armstrong is proving his contined ability to command the spotlight. His plans to lead a new high-powered Radio Shack cycling team has drawn much attention in the cycling world, even as Alberto Contador, his current teammate, is headed to certain victory later today in the 2009 Tour de France:

For a start, it is now clear that Armstrong was not ready to win this year in any case, with 42 months of inactivity and a broken collarbone in training having taken the snap out of his legs.

Furthermore, no one doubts who’s the boss, even with Contador holding the yellow jersey and being a favorite to reach Paris on top.

Contador’s brilliant win in the Stage 18 time trial around Annecy was overshadowed Thursday by the announcement of Armstrong’s 2010 plans, with the 37-year-old breaking away from Astana to launch a new team backed by RadioShack that quickly changes the face of next year’s Tour.

Plans for what is effectively Team Armstrong have clearly been well underway for some time and offer conclusive proof that the Texan is not prepared to drift into retirement without having a good crack winning an eighth title.

From Tour king to retirement to supporting teammate to team leader - it'll be interesting to see where the next turn of Armstrong's career takes him and the sport of cycling. But for now, it's clear that while Armstrong didn't win this year's Tour, he is still very much on top of his sport.

Bill Gates bails on Facebook at "10,000" friends

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said he was forced to give up on the social networking phenomenon Facebook after too many people wanted to be his friend.

Gates, the billionaire computer geek-turned-philanthropist who was honoured Saturday by India for his charity work, told an audience in New Delhi he had tried out Facebook but ended up with "10,000 people wanting to be my friends".

Gates, who remains Microsoft chairman, said he had trouble figuring out whether he "knew this person, did I not know this person".

"It was just way too much trouble so I gave it up," Gates told the business forum.

At the risk of sounding - once again - like a cranky curmudgeon - this is more to the concern which has been raised here about how online social networking can serve to lessen the meaning of what friends are supposed to be.

Dutch Fork teacher is "It" for State Education Superintendent race

Recently, chatter has been going around that Kelly Payne (pictured on the right with blogger Will Folks), a Dutch Fork High School teacher who has turned her current issues classes into a must-stop for many of the Palmetto State's biggest politicos, is being courted to seek the GOP nod for State Superintendent of Education next year.

According to Will Folks over at FITSNews:

Payne and her students – the “It” kids – have become South Carolina political sensations after turning their current issues classroom into the state’s preeminent political forum. Among other S.C. political luminaries, Payne’s students have welcomed S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, Attorney General Henry McMaster, former Democratic leader Gilda Cobb-Hunter, S.C. Policy Council President Ashley Landess and S.C. Reps. Nikki Haley and Nathan Ballentine.

Previously, Payne has been politically active in the campaign, which teaches safe driving techniques to teenagers.

Frankly, we can’t think of a better choice for this position. Payne – who was a recent guest on FITS radio – would bring a level of energy to this role that’s been sorely lacking under the previous two adminsitrations. She’s also previously expressed an openness to any idea that will move the ball forward on academic achievement – including parental choice.

Dutch Fork High School has consistently ranked as one of the top high schools in America – obviously one of the few S.C. schools to earn such a distinction. Teachers like Payne have been a huge part of Dutch Fork’s success – which is something you’d think the education establishment would like to see duplicated statewide. You know, rather than duplicating failure – as seems to be the current policy.

It's hard to find the kind of hands-on leadership that Payne has shown in the classroom, as well as the the ability to get the attention and participation of such a wide range of political players in state politics. Those are going to be key skills for a successful education leader, which this state sorely needs.

Payne should seriously consider this race ... and if she's in, we're on board.

Following the 2009 Tour de France?

I don't know how many Blogland readers are cycling fans like I am, but this year's Tour is the best in years. With the drug scandals of the last two Tours behind and Lance Armstrong coming out of retirement, it's definitely a hell of a show.

Armstrong is a close second behind Astana teammate Alberto Contador. Armstrong came out of retirement, promising to lead his team and support Contador's bid to win this year's Tour. Initially Armstrong's strong performance gave fans reason to suspect he was preparing to seize the crown from Contador, but in later stages, he moved comfortably into second place, not attempting to close the time gap to overtake Contador's first-place standing. But his standing allows him to seize the lead of Contador starts to fall behind.

Armstrong's team has a modest overall lead in the tour as well, with three of its riders in the overall top ten. Today, he put word out that he had secured American-based sponsorship of the team for next year, which would be the first since the Discovery Channel team.

If you're interested in following the Tour, the best coverage online is at

Sanford's "Born Again" hypocrisy

A very common scene in the evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant circles is the "Born Again'er" con. That's the kind who leads a wayward life, but when cornered by circumstances of their making, they'll wave a Bible around, profess to be "saved" and proceed to mooch off those dumb enough to believe this person will turn their life around if they just give them one more chance. Once they're out of their present crisis, these types usually go back to their old ways, conning, backstabbing, and scamming until they get cornered again.

Sadly enough, they usually get away with it, using religion to dupe people for their own selfish reasons.

Having "crossed over" to the Catholic Church, I thankful that I don't have to watch that sad and often-transparent spectacle by the hypocritcal and truly unrepentant on Sundays anymore. However yesterday I was reminded of days past when I read Governor Sanford's pathetic letter of "apology":

In this regard I think all that has transpired will be particularly relevant in the way I deal with the legislative body and other state leaders going forward. Micah 6:8 asks us to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly, and as I begin these steps into the last 18 months of this administration, it will indeed be with a more contrite and humble spirit.

I’ve realized that as much as I have and will continue to advocate for things ranging from restructuring to responsible spending to school choice, my approach needs to be less about my will and more about looking for ways to more humbly present the greater principals and ideas at play. It needs to be less strident and more about finding ways to work with legislative leaders to advance the ideas so many of us believe in. It means less time fighting the tide - and a greater awareness of the fact that God controls it.

To be blunt, but honest, with my readers, the first thought to come to mind was "does he really think I'm dumb enough to buy that horseshit?".

It's not my place to judge the Governor on his personal actions (he'll have to be his own judge on that one). However, it is fair to hold him accountable for his failure to lead, his modus operandi of sowing divisiveness, dishonestly and hurt wherever his legislative agenda casts its shadow, and his history of waving around the Bible and saying he'll do a better job of working with people next time.

We heard this all before, to no avail, so why should he be believed this time?

If you've got some thoughts on this matter, please feel free to share them.

Me and my high school reunion

A number of individuals of you have bugged me to talk about how my high school reunion went last weekend, so since y'all are so darn curious, I'll tell you ...

Perhaps I'd have given a recap sooner, but I spent a lot of the last week doing a flurry of media coordination, nailing down as much earned media time as possible to publicize my company's pending closure of Remount Road where it crosses over I-26. Three TV interviews, two newspaper interviews, a news radio call-in, meeting with stakeholders, and so on ...

With that done and having had some time to sort some thoughts out, I will say it was one of the best weekends of my life! It was great to see how everyone turned out - and heartening to see that they all seemed to have done pretty well for themselves. It was good to reconnect with some friends, get to meet people I'd not really known back then and re-start on a positive note with others.

After the Saturday night social was winding down, a group of us, mostly friends from back then gathered in one of their rooms upstairs. It seemed a lot like what we'd have been doing back in high school ... except the hotel was a nicer, the booze was better quality ... and this time, we were all legal to be drinking.

In talking with some of them, I found a fellow James Islander who is also a big fan of South Carolina's coolest legislative freshman - Shannon Erickson!

So to my friends, I'll say thank you for a great time ... Angie, Alexia, Cynthia, Elaine, Jack, Jennifer, Julie (and her husband Tom), Kelly, Lance, Regina, Richardean, Risha, Sallie, Susie (and her husband Rory), Tiffany, TJ, and Worthy (and his wife Michelle) ... and thank all of you for forgiving me for my wilder and wierder days and not running away from me on sight!

Of course, much credit is owed to Sallie Baldwin Spangenberg, who planned and coordinated the event from her home in the DC area while pregnant and moving to Indiana. Talk about James Island Trojans Spirit!

Also, I have to thank Jennifer for talking me into attending. As I hadn't finished high school, I wasn't sure if I'd be welcome to attend. If she hadn't nudged me to have a little faith, the weekend wouldn't have happened - and I didn't even have to pick up her bar tab! What a bargain!

Walter Cronkite

With the passing of Walter Cronkite, we see the era of journalists as major movers and shakers - the "Gatekeepers" of news and opinion - passing farther and farther behind us.

Thirty years ago, Cronkite was the biggest star of mass news media when the rise of cable television was the beginning of a wave of technological change which transformed a world where Americans then relied primarily upon television news and newspapers for information. He leaves us in a time where newspapers are slashing large parts of their staffs and many rely on several sources of news inputs for their information.

In an era where you can get your news with all sorts of angles - partisan selectiveness, satire, short clips or long discussions - it seems a bit odd that the likes of Cronkite could lead a thirty-minute program of the news of the day and close it with "that's the way it is". We could go to bed, assured everything was alright. They'd covered everything of importance and there was nothing lurking out to worry about.

While we no longer have to rely upon the judgment of a few celebrity journalists channeled what they believed we needed to know, we now face questions about the fairness and accuracy of news media, both traditional and new media outlets. The likes of Cronkite prided themselves on their integrity and if it was presented, it had been vetted thoroughly before it hit the news. It's hard to find similar standards among many who present news and opinions.

Regardless of where news media is headed in the future, Walter Cronkite's ability to embody respectability and integrity in the field of journalism made him a truly great American. He will be missed.

And that's the way it is.

Lowcountry legislator caught in life of parties and children

The final installation of the Blogland's latest tale of scandal and lives gone wrong takes a look at the not so well known life of a Lowcountry legislator who, having gotten her kids grown up and out the house, led a life based on parties and children.

While it's rumored that some legislators adopt wilder lifestyles only after they get to Columbia, we have it on good authority that Beaufort Representative Shannon Erickson has lived this way for years. In fact, our investigations have shown that Erickson even drags her husband into some of her activities.

Sounds shocking, doesn't it?

This may sound like Michael Jackson, whose lifestyle showed us that children and parties really shouldn't mix, Erickson's out-of-Columbia life, to quote the J. Geils Band, "ain't no never-never land". Her concern for early childhood education began in the classroom as a teacher and grew as she entered the child care business.

Not only is she all about children, she is a gracious host who enjoys putting on parties at her way-cool waterfront home in Beaufort. She hosts parties and gatherings for friends, families, and recently, a Medal of Honor recipient.

While there are a lot of people in Columbia who don't have a lot of class, Representative Erickson is all about class. She's a great neighbor for her community, a good friend of the Blogland and a wonderful addition to the State House.

The only thing truly shocking about her is that good people like her not only exist at the State House - they thrive. For which we're truly grateful.

Midlands GOP leader caught in questionable computer activities

When the Blogland went sniffing around for the lowdown on reports that Richland County YRs leader Nettie Britts was heavily involved in what could be described as computer ... "activities" ... we found some things to be concerned about.

In fact, reports are that Britts is laying low this summer and in recent weeks, she has been ducking our inquires about what she's been doing. We don't know about what you might think, but this sounds like a cover-up to us.

A computer major at USC, Britts has clearly been involved with computers in a major way, which can only mean one thing. She may blog about computer classes at college, but we're not fooled. There's something more going on here.

We're not going to go into details - our readers are smart people, they can figure this one out for themselves.

Concerns grow about GOP strategist's trysts with alien species

While it's no secret that many South Carolina politicos have gotten in trouble over romantic involvement with various humans, we've been informed by reliable sources that you won't find Columbia-based GOP strategist Wes Donehue in the arms of another woman. In fact, you might not find him in the arms of a member of any terrestrial species - except for his wife.

According to reports from confidential sources, Donehue's problem isn't a "Strom problem", but rather one involving alien species. Of particular concern are allegations of trysts with
Orions, a race of alien humanoids best known for their greek skin and seductive ways.

Worse yet, we've been told that he's drug his wife into his exotic lifestyle. In an effort to placate his longings to "do something exotic", she has posed as a member of an alien species. Unfortunately, reports are these efforts have fallen short as her body was unable to tolerate ingesting large amounts of Green Food Dye #25, or even green beer on St. Patrick's Day.

While we have been unable to contact Donehue or his wife for comment, we recently spotted Wes in a Columbia park one evening with an individual dressed in a dark suit, who reportedly goes by the name Agent J. He was overheard saying "I never really look at them anymore, but they actually are quite beautiful."

Followed by a very bright flash of light.

Berkeley Senator entertains superhero fantasies

It's no secret that not everyone in politics is in it out of altruistic motives. The world of Columbia politics often attracts those who are ambitious, narcissistic, naive, possessed with feelings of inadequacy, and sometimes those who are truly mentally imbalanced.

It has come to our attention that Berkeley County's junior State Senator, Paul Campbell, may have to the political arena to compensative for a major inadequacy.

Reports are that Campbell is jealous of Superman.

Campbell, who managed the Alcoa aluminum plant in Goose Creek before retiring and seeking his Senate seat, has been called by many the Man of Aluminum, but is secretly jealous of the Man of Steel. Since he was unable to harness the powers that come from the planet Krypton, he has sought to soothe his feelings of inadequacy by entering the political arena and working aggressively to endow the Palmetto State with new powers generated from high-tech offshore wind mills and natural gas recovery.

Reports are the Man of Aluminum was recently seen in a mask near the Capitol grounds, attempting to leap over the State House in a single bound - an attempt which ended in failure.

Or maybe he was trying to kick the crap out of yours truly after he heard I was going to run this story. I'm not sure.

Judge Durden fights creepy monsters

We're not sure what Richland County Representative Jim Harrison was smoking, but we're thankful that Administrative Law Judge Deborah Durden (who we've featured in the Blogland) could see the obvious when she ruled that a funeral home that cut up bodies should remain closed:

A South Carolina judge Tuesday revoked the license of a funeral home where a worker cut the legs off a 6-foot-7 body so it would fit in a casket.

Administrative Law Judge Deborah Durden gave her decision immediately after hearing the appeal of Cave Funeral Home and owner Michael Cave.

The ruling may be the end the family business founded in Allendale 49 years ago. Cave's lawyer said his client would wait for the written ruling before deciding whether to appeal and the family is also considering selling the funeral home.

The state Funeral Board ordered the home shut down last month after Cave admitted his father, Charles Cave, used an electric saw to sever James Hines' legs at the calf because he wouldn't fit in the casket. The elder Cave does not have the license needed to embalm a body, but helped with tasks around the home like dressing and cleaning bodies, his son told the board.

Michael Cave said he should be allowed to keep his license because he wasn't in the room when the legs were cut and had no idea what his father was about do. He also said there were no other blemishes on his 26-year record in the funeral business.

"It was a terrible act," said Cave's attorney, Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Columbia. "But these aren't terrible people."

We understand that the accused have a right to counsel and representation, but anyone who says that cutting up someone's father and husband to keep the costs of a funeral doesn't make someone a terrible person has to be smoking some pretty strong stuff. A crime like this gives us the creeps.

Our congrats to Judge Durden for a job well done and shame on the now-closed funeral home.

Upstate legislator caught in out-of-state love affair

It would seem as if Governor Sanford is not the only Columbia politico battling reports of an exotic out-of-state love affair.

According to reports we're received, York County Representative Gullick has been enjoying a little out-of-state fun of his own. Our sources indicated to us that he's taken several trips out of state in recent months, and has planned even more.

Gullick, having been caught in this relationship, is now planning to give up his House seat over the situation. Reportedly the woman, who has been identified by numerous sources as "Lynn", is allegedly a successful doctor and healthcare executive.

When we contacted Gullick, who was about to head out of state for yet another meeting with this out-of-state woman, he confirmed these reports and bragged about her in considerable detail, concluding the interview with:

Yes, I'm going out of state to meet her again, but she's my wife, dammit. What's Sanford's excuse?

Unmasked in the Blogland: Parties, women, jealousy and more in state politics

In the wake of revelations over Governor Sanford's affair (not alleged, he admitted it - more than we'd ever want to know), there's been some discussion that stories were going to be told about other state political figures.

For a while, we figured that dragging out the mud wasn't going to solve anything. In fact, we were concerned that such revelations might make South Carolinians even more cynical about state government (how much more cynical can they get?). But then we decided that perhaps we'd share some stories with our readers.

Tomorrow morning, we're going to kick off a series which will tell you several stories about South Carolinians. We're pretty sure you may find these stories hard to believe, maybe shocking, and definitely amusing - but you'll definitely know it's the kind of information you'd only find here in the Blogland.

Stay tuned.

What if Operation Valkyrie succeeded in killing Hitler?

One of the biggest "what if" scenarios historians ask about World War II relate to the final - and most dramatic - assasination attempt on Adolf Hitler. The recent movie by Tom Cruise examines the Stauffenberg plot in some depth, showing a plot which was on the cusp of succeeding, but was foiled at the last minute when Hitler survived.

While some may assume a plot would have led to a best-case scenario of the Nazi Party folding in the wake of Hitler's death, alternative history authors Douglas Niles and Michael Dobson consider a very different outcome of a successful assasination effort. They consider the possibility that Hitler's death would have allowed more rational and ambitious Nazi Party officials, such as Himmler, to outmanuever Stauffenberg's plotters and seize power, overturning some of Hitler's irrational policies in an attempt to allow Germany to attempt to salvage a rapidly-deteriorating strategic picture.

In two books - "Fox on the Rhine" and "Fox at the Front", Niles and Dobson look at how a Himmler regime might have sought to reverse its decline by rationalizing Germany military decision-making and unleashing its best generals to make the best use of what is left. These two books examine the role which might have been played by General Erwin Rommel, pitting him in a series of battles in the West, including a military historial dream match of a Battle of the Bulge between Rommel and George Patton.

In addition to considering the potential for Stauffenberg to become a victim of his own success, they also consider the possibility that, no matter what deals are cut and undersupported high-tech weapons programs are accelerated, Germany may already be past the point of no return.

There are a lot of plot twists and turns that make these books rather enjoyable summer reading - but you'll have to look these titles up on Amazon to get them.

High school reunion time

A while back, I'd run across - and discussed - news of a 20th reunion of my high school class - the 1989 graduation class from James Island High School. Had my life gone according to plan, this is the bunch of friends and others I'd have shared four years of my life with before graduating and going off to college.

But as I've shared with my readers, my life didn't go that way - and it was a life much more difficult than it would otherwise have been.

In recent years, as I climbed the education and career ladder, I felt like I was getting my life back to the path it was supposed to be on. I returned to my old high school sport - cycling - last fall (the 7-10 hours a week of riding pale in comparison to the time I used to log back in high school), I reconnected with some old friends from school days and began to slip back into the rambling brainy-geeky mode that I used to be in back in those days.

I even bought another pair of checkerboard Vans shoes.

When I read about the high school reunion, I considered it, but I figured since I didn't graduate, I wouldn't be allowed to attend. After some prodding from an old high school acquaintance and fellow blogger, I decided that I would see if I could get into the upcoming event. For me, it presented an opportunity to connect with some old friends and tie up some loose ends from where my teenage life went astray.

Sallie Baldwin Spangenberg, the lead organizer of the event, graciously allowed me to attend the event - so that's where I'll be this weekend, and I'm looking forward to it! I'll report back on how things went.

Here's to hoping the rest of y'all have a great weekend!

The Blogland's latest winner

Sorry it's taken so long to name a winner, but with the unfortunate events involving Nettie Britts, Jenny Sanford (let's face it - she's been treated horribly in recent weeks) and my priest's family all hitting the same time, I felt it best to hold off on announcing a winner.

We had a number of people who named some of the individuals, but the first one to hit the nail exactly on the head as to who they were collectively was Brian Huckabee. Honorable mention is due to David Dangerfield, who just received his MA in History from the College of Charleston last month (with yours truly cheering him on). David's answer came just a little bit after Brian's.

The portrait was of the first African-American members of Congress:

Standing: Robert C. De Large, M.C. (R-SC), Jefferson H. Long, M.C. (R-GA)
Seated: U.S. Sen. Hiram R. Revels (R-MS), Benjamin S. Turner, M.C. (R-AL), Josiah T. Walls, M.C. (R-FL), Joseph H. Rainey, M.C. (R-SC), Robert B. Elliot, M.C. (R-SC).

Brian wins the prize, which is two free hotel nights anywhere in the US (sorry, no trips to Argentina at our expense!). Brian joins these other Blogland contest winners - Rick Beltram, Brian McCarty, and Mike Reino. Congratulations and thanks for tuning in to the Blogland!

Be sure to stay tuned to the Blogland for more fun and prizes from the only blog that is out to buy YOU - our readers - off.

Introducing the new State Fairgrounds parking area

With plenty of time to spare before football season draws hordes of Gamecock fans to the Williams Brice Stadium, my company wrapped up our work on rebuilding the State Fairgrounds parking area.

Those who have suffered through tailgating in a boggy parking lot will find assurance that these experiences will largely become a thing of the past, as well as a parking area which is far more aesthetically appealing that the empty open lot.

One of the most interesting aspects of the project is the innovative approach to handling stormwater. While the roadways were paved, the spaces were left grassed to help reduce runoff. In addition, an underwater stormwater retainage system - the largest of its kind in South Carolina - was put in place. Improved lighting will make things easier and safer for people parking there.

This project joins our portfolio of prominent Midlands projects, including the Lake Carolina and Lake Frances residential developments, as well as interchanges at Peach Road in Fairfield County and Sunset Boulevard in Lexington County, as well as the final phase of Clemson Road, near I-77.

You can learn more by visiting the project website, as well as watching a video on The State's website.

Facebook and "Friends"

Recently, I gave in to considerable pressure to join Facebook. Almost immediately, I got hit with a wave of friend requests from people I know, but I don't really know.

In other words, these are people I've heard of, or people who know people I know, but whom I have never met offline or worked with online or offline.

A while back, I discussed an article I'd read, which posed this question about how social networking has served to lessen (in my opinion) the meaning of the word "friend":

When I accept requests on a social networking site, often from people I don't know, they tell me,

- Congratulations. You have three new friends.

Really? Will they check on me when I'm going through challenges, celebrate my wins with me and share their deepest secrets?

Social networking "friends" cheapen the word, and suggest that all there is to friendship is to agree to be in each other's network.

I still agree with the premise of that article - social networking sites are serving to lessen the meaning of the word "friends". Even if I did join Facebook.

Maybe I'm not "with it" or I'm just being a jerk, but I don't feel like I've got to have an online club of hundreds of people I don't know and will never meet in person.

Maybe I just a bit old-fashioned and enjoy the human experience - even as anti-social and socially-clueless as I can be. For me, computers and technology should help mediate communication and facilitate human connections.

So if you're reading this and planning to send an add request, don't do it if you don't want to get to know me in real life - or at least are willing to buy me a beer the next time I'm in your neck of the woods.

Karen Fulcher

Karen Fulcher, the wife of Father Titus Fulcher, my priest - as well as a fellow blogger and Blogland reader - left this Earth this morning following a struggle with brain cancer.

When she was first diagnosed with cancer several months ago, early treatments had seemed promising. For a while, she had seemed more clear and focused than in any time I had known her, just in time for them to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary earlier this year.

Considering the degree to which the cancer had progressed when they had found it, even having the last few months together was a small miracle in itself.

Please keep Father Titus and their daughter in your prayers. If you'd like to share some words, you can go visit his blog directly.

For those who wish to pay their respects in person, funeral services will be Tuesday at Our Lady of Mercy on America Street in downtown Charleston, beginning at 11am. Visitation is at 10am. Burial will follow at St. Lawrence Cemetery at 60 Huguenin Avenue, Charleston, SC 29403.

"Nettie Lives"

The Blogland is absolutely pumped to share news of positive developments on the condition of Nettie Britts, a Midlands GOP leader and Blogland reader:

This is a screen capture from Nettie's Facebook page from about an hour ago.

While this is excellent news and a great gift in time for the 4th of July, there's still a long road ahead, so please keep her and her family in your thoughts and prayers. She certainly has been in mine plenty the last few days, as she has been in those of many others whose lives she has been part of.

Guess what? Bush didn't lie

Reports now indicate that the Bush-hating lunatics were wrong - Bush did not invent intelligence information to justify ousting Saddam Hussein. Evidence now shows the late dictator admitted to engaging in a massive bluff about having restarted his weapons of mass destruction program, afraid that vengenace from his neighbors was more of a threat than being found not in compliance with the terms of the cease-fire agreement from the 1991 war:

Unclassified FBI interviews conducted during his incarceration at a U.S. detention center offered new details Thursday about the late Iraqi dictator's life on the run — both before and after he was ousted.

The documents also confirm previous reports that Saddam falsely allowed the world to believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction — the main U.S. rationale behind the war — because he feared revealing his weakness to Iran, the hostile neighbor he considered a bigger threat than the U.S.

... but for those losers who kept harping on the "Bush lied" line - it never really was about the war. If it was, we'd see them raging mad about Obama's about-face over withdrawing troops from Iraq and closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

But they're not, which shows them for the gutless hypocrites they really are.

"International Driver's License": Fake documents, very real threats to employers

Recently I was talking with someone who, like me, does human resources in the construction industry. They were asking questions that had arisen from a recent incident where an injured employee was taken to the hospital and presented a so-called "International Driver's License" as identification, wondering if they should allow that employee to continue operating a company vehicle. I did a little research to get to the bottom of this matter and learned that not only are these documents bogus, trusting those with such fake documents could expose employers to some major financial risks.

These documents are manufactured and sold extensively in the state's Hispanic community, under the mistaken impression these documents will allow them to con an unsuspecting employer into thinking they are legal to work in the United States. As discussed recently, the state's Illegal Immigration Reform Act specifically states that a new hire is to be verified through E-Verify or must present a license or ID card issued by South Carolina, or any of the following states: AK, AZ, CT, FL, GA, ID, IN, ME (credentials issued after 11/15/08), MA, MI, NH, NJ, PA, RI, TX and VA.

I talked with a state trooper I knew about the subject. He told me these are invalid licenses and if he stops someone with one of those, they will be cited, could be arrested and if no legitimately licensed driver was able to take over, the vehicle would be towed at the vehicle owner's expense (the company if it's a company car).

South Carolina law is very specific about the requirement that anyone residing in this state must obtain and drive only with a license issued by the State of South Carolina:

If you are a new resident, you may use a valid driver's license from your former state for up to 90 days. However, you must convert to a South Carolina driver's license before the end of the 90-day period.


This means that if your employee lives here, they must have an ID or license issued by the state of South Carolina, period.

Further, this story in the Orangeburg Times and Democrat reports these are NOT valid drivers licenses:

Police pulled his car over Tuesday morning for a routine traffic stop. He said he had left his driver's license at home. When asked, the Hispanic man confirmed it was an International Driving Document.

Police are warning residents that such licenses are part of a scam foisting a comparatively expensive document as a legitimate driver's license.

"Let there be no mistake, these documents aren't worth the paper they're written on for the purpose of driving in the state of South Carolina," Orangeburg Department of Public Safety Capt. Mike Adams said. "They're not valid anywhere in the United States for that matter."


Next, I called someone in the construction insurance business to see if insurers would pay in the event of an incident involving an employee who does not have a valid license. He told me that in the event of a collision with a driver who did not have a valid driver's license, they would not pay any claim. This would create some potential problems for the company as the employer would have to pay for all costs directly, or risk a lawsuit.

Should an accident result in a lawsuit by an injured party, it seems jurors would give a generous award to the plantiff (and their attorneys) to punish them for allowing unlicensed individuals to drive. Given the general public attitudes towards illegal aliens, if the driver was an illegal, they may give an even larger award as a punitive measure.

Someone who presents a so-called International Driver's License when being hired may present two major risks to employers: state and federal penalities for hiring an illegal alien, as well as considerable financial risks if they get behind the wheel of a company vehicle. If a new hire cannot present a state-issued license, employers should ask themselves how much of a risk they are willing to take to hire that individual before they proceed with bringing them onto their payroll.

Sanford or no Sanford - the need for reform remains

For six years, Governor Sanford repeatedly called for sweeping reforms and increased accountability in state government. While his actions have show his commitment to reform to be hollow, there is no small irony in how his actions – and those of his administration - have helped make the case that the need for governmental reform is greater than at any time since the days of Operation Lost Trust.

This blog sounded the alarm about how Sanford, who once called out for cleaning up campaign finance in South Carolina, abandoned this reform effort as soon as large amounts of undisclosed third-party cash began working on his behalf. Without his support, campaign finance disclosure reforms are no closer to getting passed than before Sanford took office. This first test of his commitment to reform showed that Sanford was far more adept at political posturing than being truly committed to reforming state government, as well as the state’s nasty reputation for pay-to-play politics.

One must wonder how a Governor who disappears for days at a time can exercise proper stewardship of state government. The failures of SC DSS resulted in mega-million dollar fines which compounded the state’s budget shortfall, allowed millions to be embezzled, and asked no questions when children died in DSS care. Similar problems of neglect and lack of leadership plague other agencies under the Governor’s authority, including Corrections and PRT. It is little comfort in knowing that once caught, Sanford will pay the state back for his trips to Argentina. Real reform should ensure that effective checks-and-balances are placed upon all parts of state government to ensure that much-needed stewardship of each agency and department.

But the problems aren't just with Sanford. During his tenure in office, the state saw not just one, but two, constitutional officers removed from office and convicted on federal charges – the first such occurrences in decades. Orangeburg County – one of the poorest in the country – has struggled through a string of indictments and convictions of county and municipal officials. The sum total of these problems add up to a troubling pattern of problems which cry out for real reform.

There’s nothing to suggest that Sanford, whose record of working with others is virtually non-existent, will listen to the voices of Republicans who are concerned that Sanford’s negative ratings will gut his party in the upcoming 2010 elections and resign. While examples of voter backlash against the parties associated with scandal-ridden Governors in other states, most notably Ohio in 2006, support their concerns, there is little to be gained by the GOP-led General Assembly leading a high-profile witch hunt that consumes much of the agenda for next year’s legislative session.

Whether Sanford resigns this year, or leaves when his term ends in 18 months, he will soon be gone (as if his administration has any relevance anyway). Therefore the General Assembly should focus on the positive and work on long-overdue ethical reforms which can help ensure the next administration starts off on a more productive footing.

Enacting long-overdue campaign finance reform and setting higher standards for the stewardship of government in South Carolina should be among the top priorities for the General Assembly when it returns in January.