Backstabbing in the Berkeley GOP?

Just when we think it can't get any worse, the legal and ethical quagmire that is the Berkeley County Republican Party just seems to get worse. It seems as if check bouncing, missing funds and state ethics questions weren't enough for the county's GOP leaders. Now, they're attempting to bully the party faithful into silence over it.

As long-time attendees of the Berkeley Republican Breakfast club, we were a little puzzled that Berkeley County Republican Party sent this demand that Charles Schuster, the moderator of the Breakfast Club, step aside from the group that Schuster had run for years:

Berkeley County Republican Party
651 Leevy Drive
Moncks Corner,SC 29461

January 25,2008

Dear Charlie:

I would like to thank You for your service as Co-Host of the Berkeley County Republican Party Breakfast with the late Melvin Mann.

As Chairman of the Berkeley County Republican Party, I will be changing the format concerning the breakfast, hosts and moderators beginning in February. If you already scheduled a speaker for the February meeting, please advise me immediately.

Thank you again for your services and I look forward to your continued participation in the Berkeley County Republican Party.

Sincerely,

Wade Arnette
Chairman

Schuster was quick to respond to Arnette, challenging his right to interfere in a group that is not under the control of the county GOP:

Dear Fellow Republicans, 1/28/08

The Letter Below was not a suprise to me since on August 28,2007, The Berkeley County Republican Chairman (Wade Arnette), the Berkeley County Executive Committeeman (Wayland Moody) and The Widow (Roberta Combs) of the Berkeley County Republican Chairman (1992-Andy Combs) each threatened to do this if I(as Moderator) allowed Nancy Corbin to speak at the September 1, 2007 Berkeley County Republican Breakfast.

After She Spoke (with No Questions allowed from the Audience), the Berkeley County Chairman was invited to Speak and refused.

Since its founding in 1992, The Berkeley County Republican Breakfast has had itsown Checking Account and has NEVER Reported its Activities and Financies to the Berkley County Republican Party.

In December 2001 I and the Late Malvin Mann (Chairman) were honored by the Berkeley County Republican Breakfast for Our Service to the Berkeley County Republican Breakfast and Party.

The Berkeley County Republican Executive Committee did not vote on this since there has not been a Meeting since September 2007.

Charles Schuster may have to work on his grammar a little bit, but you get the point - they're out to get him, but he's not going without a fight. Nor should he. Come on ... it's not like he was fired from a job for embezzlement, stole money or bounced checks, now was it?

Charles is our friend and a big Blogland fan, so you bet your ass that we're behind him all the way. We're not sure if Wayland Moody and Roberta Combs are also in this, since the letter was sent from Arnette, but we hope they're smart enough not to further complicate a pretty embarrassing and difficult matter for Berkeley County Republicans.

We understand that Charles has met with an attorney on this matter, and Arnette will be informed that he has no control over the breakfast club, and therefore has no power to seat or remove Schuster - or anyone else - from his role as moderator.

We know that State GOP Chair Katon Dawson has attempted to brush this mess under the rug, in hopes that thing will eventually work themselves out. But it seems as if Arnette and others keep on using more of these bone-headed strong-arm tactics against their opponents. Dawson may be wise to let this situation play itself out without further efforts at "damage control".

This Saturday, Charles Schuster will, as he does every first Saturday, play host to speakers from the Lowcountry political scene. You can bet that we'll be there to show our support for him. If you'd like to show your support, come on down to the American Legion on Howe Hall Road in Goose Creek. Breakfast starts at 9am and only costs five bucks.

If you'd like to contact Charles, email him at schusterce@yahoo.com and let him know how much you appreciate what he's done.

On a final note, we recently obtained this video of the meeting in which it was decided to oust Charles:



Blogland defies predictions, reaches 700th posting

This is our 700th posting here in the Blogland. We don't know about y'all, but we're excited. So excited that we ... we're ... uuhhh ... well, we don't know what we're gonna do. But we'll do something, just you wait and see.

In case you didn't know, there is a town in Illinos named Elizabeth. This town has a population of exactly 700, which means for every person who lives there, there is a Blogland posting. Maybe we didn't write one for each and every resident of Elizabeth, Illinois. We certainly weren't even thinking of them when we wrote these postings, but darnit, if there is ever a person in that town who will die unless they have a blogger posting, then we're here to help!

Happy 700 to us!

Happy Birthday to Judge Konduros

We at the Blogland want to wish a Happy Birthday to 13th Circuit Family Court Judge Aphrodite Konduros, who is up for a vote for the Court of Appeals next Tuesday.

Naturally, anyone who is Orthodox sits pretty high on our list (being Eastern Catholic, we're close to Greek Orthodox), so we think she's pretty cool. As a veteran jurist, we think she's well-qualified for this promotion too. All the judicial insiders we know speak pretty highly of her experience, temperament and other qualificiations.

According to her bio, she enjoys "cooking, gardening, travel, and may be the worst avid snow skier in the history of the sport" ... so if you want to get her anything for her birthday, we recommend skiing lessons.

So we'll ask everyone to be nice to her today for her birthday, and for my birthday on Tuesday, be nice and put her on the Court of Appeals.

Democratic Divisions?

The South Carolina Democratic Presidential Primary has certainly done much to complicate their race. Had Clinton won, it would have continued to shift the momentum to her candidacy and probably allowed her to wrap up the nomination on Super Tuesday.

While polling has yet to really give us a look at what will happen in a week, Obama's upset in South Carolina will give his candidacy enough momentum to keep it viable, even if Super Tuesday is a good day for the Clintons. By keeping the contest alive and stirring up divisions within their ranks, the Democrats may find that the real winner of the South Carolina primary was the GOP.

Stuart Rothenberg questions where the Democratic race is headed:


If Clinton is nominated, some of Obama’s coalition of African-Americans, upscale voters, independents and new voters could easily resent the Clinton campaign and have trouble lining up behind the former first lady, particularly against a strong GOP nominee who reaches out to them.

Black voters aren’t likely to defect en masse to the GOP, but many might regard an Obama defeat as evidence that the Democratic establishment didn’t play fair and took whatever steps it needed to deny Obama the nomination. And you can pretty much bet that some high-profile black leader will comment that the Democratic Party is happy to get black votes but isn’t willing to nominate a black candidate.

Two Democratic operatives who don’t have a horse in the presidential contest told me this week that while Clinton almost certainly could succeed in persuading African-Americans to back her in the general election, she would be forced to spend time doing that rather than wooing independents or weak Republicans.

This, of course, opens up another whole can of worms. Would Clinton need to ask Obama to join her as her running mate, even though the two camps seem increasingly hostile? And if Clinton is the nominee and seems to pander to African-Americans to keep them energized for a ticket without an African-American on it, would that create problems for the party among swing voters?


Interesting thinking - but the guy has a lot of good observations, and I'm thinking this might be one of them.

This year may be the year that ends forever the sight of two pairs of white males leading the GOP and Democratic tickets. Clearly, the Democratic ticket won't be two white boys, and time will tell if the GOP has the guts to reach out with a running mate such as a J.C. Watts or Michael Steele.

Those who wonder how black voters would respond to an opportunity to put a black candidate into national office need only look at the hundreds of thousand black voters in South Carolina who went to the polls last Saturday to make the American Dream come true for one of their own.

If the GOP settles their nomination on Super Tuesday and the nominee picks a black preferred running mate, and then sets across the country, the sight of a white and black running team, contrasted against a growing Clinton vs. Obama feud, could reap rewards, especially in swing states with large black populations like Arkansas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania and put states like Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey into play in the fall.

That's something the Democrats can ill afford if they want to win the White House in the fall, while holding onto narrow Congressional majorities.

About those new blue SC highway signs

Some may have noticed the new South Carolina route market signs that have started to go up in the last couple of months and wondered what that was all about.

The traditional rectangular black-on-white route marker sign design, which dates back to the 1940s, simply displayed the route number and the initials of the state.

The new sign is entirely in Interstate standard blue, has the words “South Carolina”, a
blue image of the shape of the state with an overlaid white Palmetto Tree and crescent moon across the top. This new design was decided upon by the SCDOT last summer. To save money, plans are to replace the existing old style of signs as they wear out and need to be replaced.

Given that today’s highway signs are made of long-lasting aluminum sheeting with highly-reflective plastic overlays, and have design lives of a decade or more, this transition is gonna take a while. Six months into this ten-year cycle, very few of these signs have needed to be replaced yet, so it's gonna be a while before you see these signs everywhere. Thus far, I've seen them in four or five places around the state - Moncks Corner, Darlington, Irmo, and Marion that I can think of.

Some of these went up when new signs were installed after my company completed work on the widening of Lake Murray Boulevard (S.C. Route 60) in Irmo.

Compared to other states, South Carolina’s route markers were comparatively plain and boring. For comparison, I decided to download samples of the signs of some of our neighboring states.

Florida and Georgia incorporated their state shapes into their signs, North Carolina a diamond, and Virginia used a … falling bullet? Now, this puts South Carolina ahead in the all-important highway sign race.

We knew y'all would be so excited to hear this.

Piney Grove Road question

A couple of weeks ago, one of our readers had a question about the need for the bridge replacement on Piney Grove Road in the Irmo area.

I went out there last week and got some existing-condition photos, which have been posted to our public information website at
www.PineyGroveRoad.com. Whoever you are, if you're reading this (and any other readers), go take a look at the new page - "The Need" - which discusses the condition of the existing bridge, including some rather telling photos.

If you use this road to shortcut from St. Andrews Road to I-26 in the Irmo and Harbison areas, you'll want to bookmark this website until our project is wrapped up next year.

CainBo?

With General Norman Schwarzkopf, Sylvester Stallone and action movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer all supporting John McCain, it opens up all sorts of new avenues for his campaign's marketing approaches:


Here's your chance to get creative and suggest some new storylines and production ideas for this sort of a combination.

Support Ronnie Norton for the Family Court

According to Zane Wilson’s story in the Friday edition of the Myrtle Beach Sun News, the ongoing saga of Anita Floyd’s second attempt to get on the Family Court in the 15th Circuit appears to be continuing its downward spiral:

Ronnie Norton appeared to have enough votes Thursday to ensure that he will be elected judge of Horry County's family court.

A week ago, the race was a tossup, but now Norton has "a strong lead," said Rep. Vida Miller, D-Pawleys Island, who supported Floyd but said that is not because she has anything against Norton.

"He is a very nice person," and both candidates are "very qualified," Miller said.

Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, said both are "great candidates," and both have strong supporters, especially among Horry County's lawyers.

But it was the "flip-flopping" of the S.C. Bar Association report on Floyd that hurt her chances and raised questions among many legislators, he said.

A year ago, the bar, which interviews 30 attorneys who know a candidate, found Floyd highly qualified. In December, the same group said she was not qualified.

The Bar Association's director said such differences can arise when different lawyers are interviewed for the reports on candidates.

Norton, on the other hand, had "all positive" comments from the bar, which caused many lawmakers to pick him, Cleary said.

- http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/politics/story/326831.html

That Ms. Floyd is in trouble comes as little surprise to us. The image her supporters have presented do her no favors and in looking at several assessments of her qualifications, the findings have been inconsistent, presenting a record that seems somewhat questionable. When contrasted against Mr. Norton, it’s hard for them not to see some major differences, which probably has much to do with Norton’s lead.

We’ve talked with Ronnie Norton, as well as a number of his supporters. He’s a decent guy, thoughtful and deliberate, and his supporters have been positive and supportive of their candidate. We can see why he’s doing so well at picking up support from legislators.

Norton’s reviews have been 100% positive and supportive. No questions have been raised about him at any step of the way, and nobody has had anything bad to say about him or his qualifications.

In addition to the mean-spiritied and semi-literate rantings we’ve seen from Ms. Floyd’s supporters on this blog, the consistency of positive reviews has been another noticeable, and refreshing, difference between him and Ms. Floyd.

Those legislators who are supporting Mr. Norton are doing the right thing. We also support Ronnie Norton's judicial candidacy and ask those legislators who are still uncommitted to join us in supporting him for this well-deserved judicial seat.

Saddam’s fatal bluff

On Sunday, 60 Minutes will be sharing an interview with an FBI agent assigned to interrogate Saddam Hussein, the late tryrant of Iraq, while he was in the custody of American military forces prior to his execution:
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein kept up the illusion that he had weapons of mass destruction before 2003 because he did not think the United States would invade, an FBI agent who questioned him said.

In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" to be broadcast on Sunday, FBI agent George Piro describes conversations with Saddam in the months after his capture in December 2003.

Piro said Saddam, who was hanged from crimes against humanity in December 2006, wanted to maintain the image of a strong Iraq to deter Iran, its historic enemy, from hostile action.

"He told me he initially miscalculated ... President (George W.) Bush's intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998... a four-day aerial attack," Piro said.

Given the poor state of Iraq’s military, which was effectively wiped out in less than two weeks of combat engagement with five divisions of American and British forces, it is hard to envision them withstanding an brute-force invasion by two or three hundred thousand Iranians, no matter how poorly trained or equipped they might be.

With options like these, it is understandable that Saddam would want to bluff his neighbors into overestimating the combat effectiveness of Iraq’s military. Otherwise, the noose around his neck may well would have been wielded by Iranians, instead of fellow Iraqis. He just never figured that President Bush was the kind of man who would actually mean what he/she said - until it was too late.


Piro’s narrative in the interview bears warning that while Iraq’s WMD program had not been restarted, it was not for the lack of willpower, or future intentions:

The Iraqi leader had also intended to restart the weapons program and had the means to do it.

"He still had the engineers. The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there," Piro said. "He wanted ... to reconstitute his entire WMD program."

This confirms the essential argument that prompted the invasion – the threat posed by Hussein’s regime was real. It was just a question of when.

There is no small irony in how Saddam, in an effort to avoid his downfall, brought it about. Those who criticize the intelligence shortcomings that led to the United States invasion should have the intellectual honesty to recognize the impact that Saddam’s deception had over the decision to invade in 2003.

But that’s not likely, because the real agenda of many of Bush’s critics is not to objectively question the war effort, but rather to use whatever tools and issues they can to criticize him.

Even if the truth, and our troops, get in their way.

Robert Blake, Michael Jackson & OJ Simpson

... reportedly agreed on an album they all like:


Yeah, pretty sick joke, I know. At any rate, it's Friday, so go on out there and have a great weekend!!!

Research finds no link between voting for Obama and ending racism

On Saturday, those voting in the South Carolina Democratic Primary will have several candidates to choose from.

Our crack research staff, headed by this guy on the right, has determined that if you are white, but do not vote for Barack Obama, this does not mean you are a racist. In fact, our research has indicated that the likelihood of a voter in either the South Carolina Republican or Democratic primary is rather low.

Further, our research has indicated that the outcome of Senator Obama's candidacy, win or lose, will likely have little effect on racism in South Carolina. Racist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Brotherhood, Nation of Islam, the Legislative Black Caucus, and the NAACP expect to remain in operation, regardless of Saturday's election results.

However, our researchers have noted the resurgence of the ill-reputed "Dan Quayle" effect in which the decision-making mental processes of voters become influenced by a young, photogenic, low-seniority United States Senator from a Midwestern state whose mental capacity is ... questionable.

One political analyst we spoke to expressed his opinion that this means that "thanks to Obama, the Democrats can't say jack about Republicans and Dan Quayle anymore".

House 92 special election preview

David Dangerfield is a fellow blogger from the Lowcountry, running the Palmetto Ramblings blog. While I'm in my last semester of graduate school, he's in his first semester. I'm sure he's having a hell of a time learning the ropes, but I'm pulling for him to make it through.

He recently did interviews with two of the candidates for the upcoming special election for House District 92, down in Goose Creek - Jimmy Hinson and Joe Daning. For what it's worth, I think he did a great job chasing those two down, even if Daning's answers seemed a little canned and unimaginative. Go check out David's interviews at http://palmettoramblings.blogspot.com/2008/01/talk-with-candidates-for-sc-house-92.html

Watchdogs and Junkyard Dogs in Myrtle Beach

... so go ahead, trust us with your life savings, your condo at Kiawah and while you're at it ... your daughters.

That seemed to be what the folks at the Myrtle Beach Sun News were trying to say about us, having called us a "government watchdog":

... it was the Floyd-Norton contest that had many legislators, even those from other parts of the state, talking Wednesday and Thursday.

On Wednesday, they received a letter from five lawyers on the Horry County Bar Association's Family Court Committee asking that Norton be elected. Floyd is also a member of that committee.

Later that day, after Emery withdrew, a government watchdog blog posted an S.C. Bar Association report on Floyd which ruled her unqualified. Less than a year previously, the same report found her the most qualified of the candidates who were seeking a previous family court opening.

The story claimed that the "race for Horry County's family court judgeship sparked hotter than usual for these types of contests last week when Horry County lawyers started calling and writing legislators about which candidate they favored".

If you think what they wrote was red-hot stuff, y'all should take a look at what some of those lawyers wrote on our blog. Most notable among these comments were the numerous typos, misspellings and lousy paragraph construction by one "Kathryn M. Cook ,Horry County Attorney", including this snippet:

It is simple petty jealousy of the professional accomplishment of Ms. Floyd and their support of one of the other candidates in this race. The two female lawyers who testified before legislative committe were both represented in their own personal domestic matter by the cnadidate that has now dropped out.

We're not sure if this one needed her bar exam scores fixed, but we're willing to bet English wasn't one of her favorite subjects in school.

One of the targets of Cook's illiteracy responded to the (misspelled) allegations with:

Melissa Emery, the candidate who dropped out of this race, has NEVER represented me in any domestic matter or any other matter. However, Ms. Cook failed to mention Ms. Floyd was her attorney in her own domestic action.

We may be watchdogs, but at least we're not a junkyard dog, nor do we spell or rant like one. But if we are dogs of any kind, we'd like to think of ourselves as one of those cute, cuddly, toothless kinds of watchdogs who wouldn't hurt a flea.

Breaking judicial race news

We have been informed that the race to fill the Ninth Judicial Circuit seat has ended early, with Ninth Circuit Family Court Judge Jack Landis and Charleston attorney Bill Thrower having withdrawn from the race.

Ninth Circuit prosecutor Kristi Harrington will now stand for election to this seat unopposed. We at the Blogland have worked closely with her, in support of her candidacy, and believe she is well-qualified to serve on the bench.

The efforts of many others who supported Kristi, including law enforcement, crime victims, prosecutors, and fellow attorneys, along with key legislative backers, had much to do with Kristi's success in garnering support for this position. We appreciate their team effort.

It is not easy to seek a judgeship - in fact, from everyone we've talked to about this, and everything we've seen, it's a miserable process. After all the work that goes into this, it has to be a tough thing to look at the numbers when one is losing, swallow a little pride, and bow out gracefully, but that's exactly what they did. We appreciate their doing so, just as much as we appreciate them running.

While another judicial race we have discussed here turned nasty and bitter in the last two weeks, this race has been discussed several times here, with respectful and thoughtful discourse. It certainly stands out as an example of the kind of greater transparency that we deserve from our state's judiciary, and that Kristi believes in.

We believe this sense of humility and accountability to the people will serve her well as a judge. Combined with her work ethic and willingness to take on new challenges, don't be surprised if you see Kristi rising to the Supreme Court one of these days.

It may be a long way to the top, but mark our words, Kristi Harrington is gonna rock and roll:



A coastal Law Enforcement Academy?

No, we're not talking about THAT Police Academy!

In South Carolina, law enforcement officers must go through training and become certified through classes offered at the state's Criminal Justice Academy near Columbia. Those of you who travel the interstates from city to city around the state have probably noticed the proliferation of law enforcement vehicles from various departments, all heading towards Columbia. Now you know where a lot of them are headed.

As of late, there are concerns in the state's law enforcement community that the present system may be breaking down, due to class overload, and that this backlog is affecting the ability of departments to get needed officers out of the classroom and on to the streets.

Having grown up in a law enforcement household (my father was sometimes a firearms instructor at "the academy" over the years), such issues are near and dear in the Blogland:

Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen has 19 new officers coming on board during the next few months, but it could be a long while before some of them hit the streets to serve and protect.

That's because the state Criminal Justice Academy in Columbia is struggling to keep up with the demand for training new recruits, forcing police departments to wait months for classroom openings. At present, it's the only place in South Carolina for new officers to go.

Mullen wants to change that. He is proposing that Charleston lead the way in establishing a Lowcountry regional training academy to ease the state's burden and get new officers on the streets in a more timely fashion.


- Charleston Post and Courier


If the present system isn't working, then Mullen's idea seems worth considering, especially considering that many coastal region communities are two hours or more drive time from the academy in Columbia.

Thanks to Glenn Smith at the Post and Courier for a job well done on this story.

Certain about uncertainty: The present and future of South Carolina's GOP Presidential primary

Since 1980, South Carolina's "First in the South" GOP Presidential primary was once a vital gateway for the presidential ambitions of Republican candidates from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush. That was until last night, when a combination of a wide-open GOP field, voting technology, and competition from states envious of South Carolina's influence upon the nomination process broke that string, leaving the race essentially no closer to resolution than before the campaigns arrived in the Palmetto State.

While John McCain left for the upcoming Florida primary with the bragging rights for having finished first place in South Carolina, his first-place win was hardly conclusive. He only led second-placer Mike Huckabee by a modest 33-30 percent, and only carried three of the state's six congressional districts.

But indecision wasn't just McCain's fate. Each of the other leading GOP contenders left the state with very little change in their standings:

  • Mike Huckabee, desperate for a post-Iowa win, watched his early first-place standing in polls in South Carolina slip away since McCain's win in New Hampshire. As with other states, he leaves here without a much-needed primary victory - one he won't likely get in the upcoming Florida primary.

  • Mitt Romney, the biggest spender of all in South Carolina, bailed in the final two weeks to focus on squeezing out a close win in Michigan, followed by an obscure win in Nevada. His late decision to cut his losses here doesn't take away from the fact that he'd invested heavily here for a year, without results.

  • Fred Thompson, in spite of making South Carolina his sole campaign focus, stumbled along with dwindling voter support and limited campaign cash, and received a mediocre showing in a state chock full of conservative voters who were supposed to be Thompson's base.

Where South Carolina was once a pivotal state where the fortunes of Republican presidential aspirants were once made or broken, this year, the state's GOP primary was little more than a pricey sinkhole. The South Carolina primary did little to nothing to add momentum to good candidates, or help push failing ones out of the race. Overall, the GOP race remains essentially as murky and undecided as it was two weeks ago.

Was this irrelevancy a one-time aberration, or the sign of changing trends that will forever alter the role South Carolina plays in the race for the GOP presidential nominations?

Maybe next time ... stay tuned ...