What's getting done in Columbia?

That question is on the mind of Nathan Ballentine, one of our favorite House members:

With just three weeks left before the end of this two-year legislative session, I keep hearing the same question back home “What’s everyone thinking down there in the State House? Is anyone listening to the people?”

They remind me we have a Republican majority in the House, a Republican majority in the Senate, and a Republican Governor but we seem to not be getting what the citizens want accomplished.

They know what “this guy” thinks and what I’m working towards but I can’t speak for the rest of the body. I can only share what folks mention in passing at the grocery store, church, schools, and at neighborhood meetings:

Right on, Nathan!

Now, go read the rest of his posting.

Playing with photo perspectives

Jennifer, who I kind of knew a little in middle and high school, and got to know even more as a blogger, over at Four Weddings and a Funeral, did some really neat photographic tricks:

For more - go check out her original posting, and share some thoughts while you're there!

The Cow

If you've lived in the Lowcountry, or even just spent a lot of time there, then the Coburg Cow probably needs no introduction. But if you don't know what in the world we're talking about, our favorite cow made it into the May & June edition of the Charleston Post and Courier's Lowcountry Living magazine:

Bessie is almost 50 and looks as good today as she did in her youth – maybe even better. After all, back then she was hanging from a pole. Now she runs circles around the rest of us, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. She does stop temporarily in the event of a hurricane, but other than that, her life is “better than it has to be.” And she’s even been given special recognition by the city of Charleston, which means she doesn’t have to follow the same rules that her neighbors do.

In case you haven’t guessed, Bessie is the Coburg Cow.

If you wanto learn more about some of the more eccentric landmarks that help define the Lowcountry, it's great reading. It also makes for some light, but informative, reading for the weekend. Go check out the article.

Conservatism reframed?

Over at the New York Times, columnist David Brooks talks about the rise of center-right political movements, especially in Britain, where the Conservative Party looks like it is on course to take back power after the longest-ever run of Labour Party rule.

Brooks uses the British Conservative example of how the new political right parties are moving beyond the Thatcher/Reagan conservative models, adapting the old emphasis on individualism and free markets with a more progressive outlook that still values these bedrock conservative principles, but looks to the next destination along the way, wanting

(V)oters to think of the Tories as the party of society while Labor is the party of the state. They want the country to see the Tories as the party of decentralized organic networks and the Laborites as the party of top-down mechanistic control.

As such, the Conservative Party has spent a lot of time thinking about how government should connect with citizens. Basically, everything should be smaller, decentralized and interactive. They want a greater variety of schools, with local and parental control. They want to reverse the trend toward big central hospitals. Health care, Cameron says, is as much about regular long-term care as major surgery, and patients should have the power to construct relationships with caretakers, pharmacists and local facilities.

Cameron also believes government should help social entrepreneurs scale up their activities without burdening them with excessive oversight.

This focus means that Conservatives talk not only about war and G.D.P., but also the softer stuff. There’s been more emphasis on environmental issues, civility, assimilation and the moral climate. Cameron has spent an enormous amount of time talking about marriage, families and children.

While some of this, on the surface, may look a little unrecognizable to conservatives, beneath you find individual choice, localized government, free markets, and safe and stable communities, but without the social zealotry and economic Darwinism that often makes voters flinch at the idea of supporting conservative candidates.

If the GOP wants to challenge the soft paternalism offered by the Democrats, the British conservative experience may well offer points worth considering. As polling suggests voters are increasingly turned off by the "tough party for tough times" image that is often associated with contemporary American conservatives, a softer and more nuanced message may help lure them back into the GOP column before they become, as voters did for a half-century following the Great Depression, lost to the Democrats for two more generations.

Graduation party report

Moncks Corner, South Carolina, was ground zero for a good time today as the Blogland Graduation Party rocked and rolled the packed-to-the-walls Train Depot. Those of you who missed it ... missed a truly great time with great people.

But we're still trying to figure out who invited the riot squad.

While we were disappointed not to see big-time GOP leaders like Rick Beltram and Wade Arnette take time out of their busy schedules to join us, a lot of others did come - from work, academia, family, church ... and of course, plenty of politicos.

We were especially surprised, and appreciative, at the company of those who traveled from the Upstate to join us - longtime SCFRW leader LaDonna Ryggs and her husband Robert from Spartanburg County, our long-time friend Rep. Carl Gullick and GOP National Commmitteeman candidate Glenn McCall (who we support) from York County, and Dan Rushing of TELICS (not a politico-just a swell guy we've worked with a lot over the years on a professional basis).

We did receive an offer from the legendary FITSnews girls to do a strip show. We hated to do this, since we knew Moye was coming with great BBQ from three different counties (really Moye - THANKS!!!), but since there were kids there, we had to turn that one down. Darnit.

Fellow bloggers Mike Reino and Joshua Gross made it.
Mike's already sounded off on the event, and Joshua did one as well. The problem with bloggers is that you just can't keep a secret once guys like these show up.

Of course, the event wouldn't have gone down without mom, along with a few aunts and cousins.

The highlight of the event was clearly the roast. Indeed, we were roasted ... after years of dishing it out, an evening of taking it was ... well, better handled after downing a few beers. With Charles Schuster, the leader of the Berkeley County Republican Breakfast Club serving as emcee, it was full of non-stop laughs and some moments that I'll never forget. In a couple of days, we're going to share the video footage of the roast with our viewers, along with memorable quotes, so stay tuned.

Thanks again for all of you who showed up - and those who were invited but didn't show ... your loss.

Graduation night

It was a heckuva night for the Blogland down at the College of Charleston, as yours truly walked across the stage at the college's Sotille Theater to become one first to receive the College's new Master of Arts degree in Communication.

Having gone from a 10th grade drop-out with a GED to a Master's degree. Those who say the American Dream is dead ... well, they're wrong.

Here are some pictures from the evening's events:

Chatting with Senator John Land (caught collaborating, some say)

A hug from my little one

Me and my mother

The youngest graduate

... stay tuned for reports from tomorrow's graduation party.

"He was a cop, that's just a job"

Sunday's posting regarding the cold-blooded killing of Deputy Howell seems to have gotten the notice of a group of losers who seem far more concerned about the death of the person who killed the cop.

Initially we were hesitant to post the comments because of their selfish and callous nature, as well as the shocking degree of illiteracy many of them showed. But as we try not to censor commentary too much, we decided to post them. Here are some excerpts:

I will always love and miss Derrick (Duke)Buras.
(We guess his estranged wife, who he assaulted that night, didn't write that one)


Derrick Buras was a very wonderful person and did not deserve to die by some piece of trash wife. He was loved by many people I knew him personally and I loved him! He was a great friend. I hope they slam the book in her face for what she did. If the court system dont get her someone will its just a matter of time. RIP Derrick u will b missed!!


Needless to say, we were disappointed at the kinds of comments that we've received. The discussion on other sites was far more respectful of the deputy and did not try to justify or defend Mr. Buras.

We believe that Howell, and others in law enforcement, do indeed matter, and that being a cop is more than "just a job". When we lose one in the line of duty, we've lost a hero. Such things should touch us and make us stop to reflect upon their courage and say a prayer for them and their families. Such losses should also outrage us, for someone willing to kill an armed cop is afraid of no man, and respects no law. By attacking a law enforcement officer, they attack us all.

While we're sick and f***ing FED UP with the number of good cops who have been killed in the last couple of years in the Lowcountry, these comments make it apparent that some of our readers don't feel the same way.

We hope they're a small and angry minority of our readers.

If you have an alternative opinion that you'd like to express about the loss of Deputy Howell, click on this link to go back to the original posting and share your thoughts.

The Blogland Graduation Party:
This Saturday - don't miss it!

We’re having a graduation party to mark the end of graduate school and you, our readers, are invited to come join us. It’ll be this Saturday, at 3pm, near Summerville down here in the Lowcountry.

Even if you’re one of those people who read, but never post, and would like to help us mark the end of this ordeal, drop us an email and let us know you’d like to attend. We’ll give you the lowdown on the location and directions to show you how to get there.

For those of you who miss it, you'll have to settle for photos and small You Tube videos whenever we get around to posting them ... but why settle for rehashed digital photos, when you can be there, live and in person?

Drinks and lots of little edible things will be provided. We’ve even got beer, but it’s a kid-friendly event, so don’t think it’s gonna be one of those wild, drunken things … that was last weekend.

For those of you who don't wanna come out and have a little fun … remember that you’ve gotta fight for your right to party.

Senate upsets in the making?

Sources have indicated to the Blogland that two incumbent GOP Senators may be facing upsets in next month's Republican Primary: Jakie Knotts from West Columbia and Randy Scott from Summerville.

Knotts has come under considerable fire from a number of directions for his loud and vocal support for Democratic candidates for Governor, as well as a number of key legislative votes where he sided with Democrats. Caught in a squeeze between state Republican Women leader Katrina Shealy and the cousin of the State Representative he ousted in 1994 to begin his political career, Knotts reportedly is now polling slightly behind Shealy, with negatives near the 40% mark.

Meanwhile, in Summerville, continuing negative publicity surrounding Randy Scott has stalled his re-election campaign. While the outcome of the DUI charges may be in question, a number of well-publicized comments, including threats against the job of Sheriff's deputies and demands to get magistrates out of bed to let him out on bond seem to have hurt him, with undecided voters moving towards his challenger, Mike Rose. Initial numbers, which seemed rather promising for Scott, now appear headed in a downward spiral.

In what is the first case of new media tactics being employed on a large scale in a South Carolina legislative race, the incumbent Summerville Senator has been hit with less-than-flattering YouTube videos and recordings of phone calls he made while in the Dorchester County Jail.

Knotts and Scott can't be counted out yet, but when up against hard-charging challengers, anything can happen. These two Senate races are definitely going to be ones to watch.

Kudos to Richard Eckstrom!

As the first CPA elected State Treasurer and then Comptroller, Richard Eckstrom brings something that is hard to find in state government - actual financial and accounting knowledge. It's no small surprise to see him put such knowledge to use as a fiscal watchdog over state government.

Last weekend, on his blogsite, Watchdog for the Taxpayers, he went beyond the usual political chatter to talk about a more fundamental problem in today's society: the inability of many people to really understand personal financial issues.

Because of “Tax Day,” April is a month when many people take stock of their finances. Unfortunately, it is also a grim reminder for many citizens that their personal finances are in trouble. Our personal habits for saving, borrowing and spending not only have a big impact on the well-being of our families, they affect the health of our state and national economies, and even our national security. With this in mind, many community leaders are increasingly involved in efforts to ensure that America’s students have the sound financial literacy skills they will need to be successful in life.

Sadly, America’s lack of personal financial literacy has helped to create some very serious problems in our nation, from massive borrowing and personal debt, the sub-prime mortgage crisis with resulting home foreclosures, trade deficits, our national debt, the large number of people who file for bankruptcy, and high taxes to finance the “safety net” provided for those in economic trouble.

As part of my work as my company's corporate communication officer, the biggest issue that we discuss in our publications that is not related to work is personal finance - budgeting, taxes, avoiding predatory lenders, etc. It's a real problem that will require a lot of education to overcome.

Kudos to Comptroller Eckstrom for highlighting this issue. As is often the case, we in the Blogland couldn't agree with him more.

Campaign season bloopers

We in the Blogland would be nothing without our readers – they love us, they hate us, send us William Shatner video links, occasionally pick up our bar tab (talk about asking for trouble) … and sometimes they give us great story leads that are so good, even we can't make up.

Special thanks go out to our readers who shared these interesting moments from two Lowcountry State House races:

Know your candidate

East of the Cooper, GOP House candidate (and current Isle of Palms Mayor) Mike Sottile came under quick and early attack from Club for Growth, who endorsed Joe Bustos, his primary opponent:

His opponent, Isle of Palms Mayor Mike Sottile, seems to be running in large part to bring more state resources back to his home community. An article about his announcement quoted him saying that his coastal district needed “more state assistance.”

A recent mailing from Bustos seemed to challenge his Club for Growth backers, promising voters:

"Make no mistake about it - my FIRST PRIORITY will be to fight for our fair share of state government's attention - both in funding and law making.”

Maybe the voters aren't making mistakes, but we certainly have to ask ourselves if Club for Growth isn't making a few? It's a question we've asked before, and so has Bob Dalton at the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Different races ... more "mistakes".

Is it Lowcountry – or Low Country?

Up in Summerville, realtor and attorney Jenny Horne (either she’s real busy or maybe she can’t make up her mind?) is facing GOP Representative Heyward Hutson in a rematch of their fall special election primary battle. A Dorchester County native, raised up in Ridgeville, sent out a recent mailing referring to the “Low Country”.

Spelling “Lowcountry” as “Low” and “Country” is a grievous sin which is usually only to be expected from those who recently arrived from points far north of Ridgeville. While we don’t know if Jenny failed to proof-read her mailings or if she authored them, we’ll give her the benefit of a doubt and suggest that she reads this stuff before it goes out.

Got a blooper story of your own?

Help us keep a little humor and light-heartedness in this usually-nasty primary season. If you’ve got any good candidate bloopers,
drop us an email and let us know.

John Land to address the Blogland and CofC Graduate Students on May 9

This year’s speaker for the Spring 2008 graduation ceremony for Master’s graduates at the College of Charleston is long-time Senate Democratic Leader John Land. In attendance, as a graduating Master's candidate, is the Blogland’s own Earl Capps.

Believe it or not, this is purely coincidence.

We first met John Land a couple of years back, at the event marking the completion of work on the four-laning of U.S. 521 in Manning. His efforts to prioritize the widening of U.S. 521 from Sumter to the coast have borne considerable fruit, with nearly half that section of the highway widened since 2000. It’ll be a major asset for economic development in that region, not to mention a great help for hurricane evacuation for the booming Georgetown County portion of the Grand Strand.

Agree with the guy or not, he’s survived over three decades of South Carolina politics and come out on top of a lot of scraps and feuds. His wife is passionate about the College and we know he takes her concerns to the General Assembly, and we appreciate that.

While CofC doesn’t have the volume of alumni in the General Assembly that USC and Clemson does, having the Senate Democratic Leader’s wife on the college's board and Glenn McConnell as an active alumni (we talk with him every year at the big graduation week Alumni social) makes a big difference. Until this state gets a Board of Regents system for its colleges to rationalize the allocation of higher ed resources, Senators Land and McConnell go a long way to helping CofC offset the political muscle that backs Clemson and USC.

On May 9th, we promise to behave while he’s speaking, listen politely, and clap with everyone else. So if you want to see him interrupted by yelling, air horns, or the squeal of pigs, don't ask us to do it.

We’ll leave that to the Governor and his cohorts.

Deputy William Howell - Thank you

We wanted to take a moment to pay our respects to the family and colleagues of Orangeburg County Deputy William Howell, who was killed in the line of duty near Holly Hill last Friday night.

Howell was well-known across the Lowcountry and well-respected by many in law enforcement. Such people are hard to find, and impossible to replace.

We understand that Deputy Howell had a promotion pending, and was waiting for such a time that his entire family could gather to receive it. Sheriff Williams intends to honor him and his family by ensuring that he will receive this promotion as his final act of duty. We couldn't think of a more deserving tribute.

Stories on the Charleston Post and Courier and Orangeburg Times and Democrat websites have discussion, including testimonials and thanks for Howell's service.

This will surely be a difficult time for many in Lowcountry law enforcement, who have seen a number of their own lost in the last year or so. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Ironically, the piece of human crap who killed Deputy Howell, Derrick Buras, was killed shortly afterwards by his estranged wife. We consider this to be well-deserved justice for Mr. Buras.

No doubt Ms. Duras was under an unbelievable amount of duress that evening, after being the victim of an assault and watching a murder of a deputy. She probably believed that he would again be released on bond (he was already out on bond for another violent assault) and may return to kill her. Therefore, she likely saw killing Buras as the only way to save her own life.

We believe the justice system should be merciful towards Ms. Buras. If Derrick Buras is determined to have killed Deputy Howell, Ms. Buras should not be charged and be allowed an opportunity to get her life in order and make a fresh start. Especially considering the millions of dollars that would have gone towards trial and incarceration costs.

May is Safe Digging Month

You hear the ads and see the signs that say "Call Before You Dig" ... but you figure since not a big construction company or not working near a highway, that doesn't apply to you. Especially if you're doing something simple, such as laying water ines for a sprinkler system, placing fencing posts, tying into a sewer system, or planting trees.

Right? Wrong.

Many developments have utility easements on private lots which allow them to place underground utility lines, especially near the perimeters of lots. If you dig without calling, you can put yourself in harm's way, or disrupt utility services for you and your neighbors.

If you call 811, the national Call Before You Dig toll-free number, that will put you in touch with the PUPS notification service, which notifies most utility companies in South Carolina. But since state law (unlike most states) does not require all utility companies to be part of this system. Therefore, you might have to make more than one call.

A helpful guide is to round up your utility bills before you call 811. Let them know where you're planning to dig, and they'll tell you which utilities they will notify, and if there are any leftover, call their office number.

South Carolina law requires that once you notify, utility companies have three days to respond. That means they either have to mark the location of underground lines with flags or spray paint, or notify you there are no underground utilities where you plan to dig.

One way to help them is to "white-line" the area where you plan to dig, so they will know exactly where to mark the ground. Ordinary spray paint will do just fine. The helpful color code to the markings (as shown to the right) will tell you what they found, so you'll know if a wrong move will blow up the block, knock out the neighborhood's phone and internt, or just wash out your front yard.

Here at the Blogland, we're all about a better South Carolina, and that includes one where everyone works together protect themselves and the utility services that provide for our quality of life. Please do your part by CALLING BEFORE YOU DIG.

The Summerville Senate Slugfest

Editor's Note: In the interests of full disclosure ... while I live in Senate District 38, at the present time, I support neither of the candidates. In fact, at this point, I plan not to vote for either of them.

In recent months, the race for the GOP nomination for Senate District 38 seemed to take a backseat to more colorful primary battles around the state as incumbent Senator Randy Scott faced Mike Rose, who had been ousted from the seat back in 1997.

While Rose had begun an aggressive campaign, a benchmark poll I’d run on a number of Dorchester County races last fall for a planned political communication project, using Conquest Communication, suggested Scott held a significant lead over Rose. Survey results showed that 48% of voters surveyed held a favorable assessment of Scott, and negative ID of just 8%. By contrast, Rose scored a much weaker recognition standing, with positive name ID of 25% and negative name ID of 17%

If an incumbent has twice the name ID of their challenger, and only half their negatives, that’s usually a good sign. But that poll was conducted last fall, and a lot can change in six months – and in recent weeks, it seems to have done just that.

I moderated a candidates’ forum featuring Randy Scott and Mike Rose a few weekends back, and the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife (including the jerk from the Rose campaign who yelled at me because he didn't like the way I introduced Rose). Some video footage from that event later appeared on YouTube, courtesy of some tech-savvy Rose supporters. Media research indicates similar efforts have "viral" effects which have enabled them to play pivotal roles in some races, and accordingly, these videos have shown up on political websites and made the rounds among Rose supporters.

While the YouTube clips have yet to reach many viewers (traffic counts on YouTube reported just several hundred viewings), the fallout from Scott’s highly-publicized DUI arrest could present a serious challenge for his re-election campaign, depending on how the case should go.

Those who think a couple of bad weeks of misfortune will be enough to sink Scott’s re-election prospects should take note that he ousted Bill Branton, the then-incumbent Senator, by a two-to-one margin four years ago. Such feats are nearly unheard of in politics, and suggest that Scott is a tenacious campaigner. That his positive name ID, as shown in the polling, had changed little in the three years since his 2004 race suggests that he still has a lot of friends in his Summerville-based district.

For an incumbent to win, they only need fifty percent plus one of the votes cast in the upcoming GOP primary. Both sides of this race seem to expect a close and hard-fought race. Recent events are likely to make this even more likely, and we're pretty sure this will be one of the most closely-watched races in the June 10 primaries.

As for me, I'm content to sit back and watch this race spiral downwards, wondering if I'm the only one for whom “None of the Above” has become an appealing ballot option, just as it did in the Richard Pryor movie, “Brewster’s Millions”:

Shatner serenades George Lucas

For those of you who are cringing at the prospect of more William Shatner video footage ... including Mike ... here you are.

Today's heapin' helpin' of Shat is his performance of Frank Sinatra's "My Way". The chorus line of Stormtroopers is ... uummm ... original: