... IRREVERENCE, INSTITUTIONALIZED ...

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Leatherman Bolts GOP for Communist Party


For the second time in his political career, Hugh Leatherman, Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, is switching parties. FITS has learned that the not-even-moderately-tall (and not even moderately Republican) Florence Senator will announce tomorrow that he is bolting the S.C. GOP to become a member of the South Carolina Communist Party.

Leatherman did not return repeated phone calls from FITS seeking comment, but a senior Senate Finance staffer - who spoke on condition of anonymity - confirmed that the switch would be announced tomorrow.

"He's doing it," the official told FITS. "He's formally joining the Communist Party."

It's not the first time the raspy-voiced, big-spending, anti-reform, status quo (and did we mention, not even moderately tall?) Senator has switched his party allegiances. A decade ago, as Republicans began asserting their control over the South Carolina political scene, Leatherman left the S.C. Democratic Party. A decade prior to that, in 1986, Leatherman ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Gubernatorial nomination.

"Given his fairly established allegiance to the command economic model and fundamental commitment to big government, I can't say this comes as much of a surprise," said USC Political Scientist Jedediah Springfield. "I mean, this guy's idea of a free economy is slightly to the left of Hugo Chavez."

S.C. GOP Chairman Katon Dawson was caught off guard by the news, momentarily speaking in the first person, but quickly regrouped and began speaking of himself in his trademark third person.

"Katon wants to remind everyone that we have more money than the Democrats and that President Bush is still the President," Dawson said. "That's what Katon wants to remind everyone of."

S.C. Communist Party President Bill Gillepsie, who doubles as the State Economist, said he welcomed Leatherman's defection.

"Viva la revolution," Gillespie said. "A chicken in every pot."

Gov. Mark Sanford's office said it would comment on the announcement after it was made, presuming it could convince Doug Smith, Harry Cato and Jim Harrison to provide quotes for a press release.

Basket Weaving 101


Let FITS get this straight - according to a new law signed by Gov. Mark Sanford, Sweetgrass Basket Weaving is the Official State Handcraft?

Are you kidding us? Sweetgrass Basket Weaving?

Actually it gets worse.

If one of Rep. Gary "Check My Poof in the Roof" Simrill's constituents gets his way, Boiled Peanuts will soon become the Official State Snack.

Good grief.

In case you didn't know, we already have the Official State House, Flag, Tree (Palmetto), Songs ("Carolina" and "South Carolina on My Mind"), Stone (Blue Granite), Gem Stone (Amethyst), Animal (Whitetail Deer), Dog (Boykin Spaniel), Fish (Striped Bass), Fruit (Peach), Shell (Lettered Olive), Grass (Indian Grass), Dance (Shag), American Folk Dance (Square Dance), Waltz (Richardson Waltz), Spider (Wolf Spider), Amphibian (Spotted Salamander), Reptile (Loggerhead Turtle), Flower (Yellow Jessamine), Wildflower (Goldenrod), Tartan (Just a Tartan people, nothing to get too excited about), Opera (Porgy and Bess), Military Academy (Camden), Rural Drama Theater (Abbeville), Tapestry ("From the Mountains to the Sea"), Beverage (Milk), Hospitality Beverage (Tea), Music ("Spiritual"), Popular Music (Beach Music), Railroad Museum (Fairfield), Botanical Garden (Clemson), Insect (Mantid), Butterfly (Eastern Tiger Swallowtail), Bird (Carolina Wren), Wild Game Bird (Wild Turkey), Folk Art and Crafts Center (Walterboro), Tobacco Museum (Mullins) and Hall of Fame (Myrtle Beach).

Whew ... our brain hurts.

Not to mention we've got two friggin mottos. Don't most states have just one? Can we possibly have a problem here? Itchy naming finger perhaps?

Seriously, the "official state this, official state that" crap is getting out of hand.

Now, FITS understands that a classful of cute third-graders and two centuries of white guilt could conceivably achieve vortex in some legislators' mind, giving us the Sweetbasket, Sweetgrass, whatever the hell the handcraft thing is.

But Boiled Peanuts? The Official State Snack?

When is it going to stop?

It's not, which is why FITS has decided we're getting on the bandwagon. All you legislators pay attention, now, here's our list:

STATE RAP SONG - Thong Tha-Thong Thong Thong (a.k.a. The Thong Song)
STATE COLD STONE GROOVE - Black Biker Weekend
STATE PIMP - Flyguy from "I'm Gonna Git U Sucka"
STATE PIMP FOOTWEAR - Flyguy's Aquarium Shoes from "I'm Gonna Git U Sucka"
STATE RAP FOOTWEAR - RUN-DMC's Addidas
STATE BEER - PBR on Draft
STATE MIXED LIQUOR DRINK - Vodka Red Bull
STATE STRAIGHT UP LIQUOR DRINK - Annette Young's Perspiration
STATE DEERE - Model B
STATE PASTTIME - 'ho-in
STATE MALE DECOMPRESSION METHOD - Testicle scratching
STATE MALE RELAXATION METHOD - Watching Sports on TV
STATE FEMALE DECOMPRESSION METHOD - Sex & The City and Ice Cream
STATE FEMALE RELAXATION METHOD -Bubble Baths
STATE MOTTO - "I'm South Carolina, Beeyatches. Enjoy yourselves"
STATE GRASS - Kindbud
STATE "DUDE, I GOT THE MUNCHIES" SNACK FOOD - Cool Ranch Doritos
STATE CLOUD -Cirrus-Stratus
STATE CAR - Anything on cinderblocks
STATE HOME - Anything on cinderblocks
STATE BADASS - Johnny Cash
STATE 1990's GRUNGE BAND - Pearl Jam
STATE NECKLACE - Pearl, of course
STATE ROCK SONG - "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC
STATE PUMP FOOTWEAR - Manolo Blahniks
STATE BLOG - FITS, of course
STATE BAND - Anybody but Hootie
STATE HOOTIE MOMENT - You know dude, at that show, you know. Aww man I'm high.
STATE BREASTS - Hooters (and the Chicken wings ain't bad, either)
STATE FARM ANIMALS- Pork and Barrel
STATE FAST FOOD RESTAURANT- Bojangles
STATE SANDWICH - Cajun Chicken Filet
STATE LANGUAGE - Jive
STATE GREETING - Word is bond, yo
STATE CUTIE - Laurin DiDonna
STATE MILF - Darla Moore
STATE HOTTIE - Bess (Laurie's Dog)
STATE SWEET CAT - Chloe (Deb's Kitten)
STATE GOVERNMENT THEME - "Other People's Money"
STATE NICKNAME - The Mayor of Importantville!!!!
STATE RESTAURANT - The "Clubhouse"
STATE GOATEE - Scott English
STATE INANIMATE OBJECT - Andre Bauer's Brain
STATE LEGEND - Lee Bandy

Well there's our list. What's yours?

Seriously, you think we're kidding. All you've got to do is think of it, write it out and e-mail it to Gary Simrill - IT THEN AUTOMATICALLY BECOMES LAW!!!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Sic Willie Kidnaps Lobbyist Golf Toy


FITS has learned that occasional contributor and resident South Carolina political bad boy Sic Willie is in trouble with the law ... again.

This time, his "victim" is Columbia-based lobbyist J.J. Darby of The Palmetto Policy Group, a prominent local lobbying firm headed up by former Carroll Campbell Legislative Director Larry Marchant.

According to police reports and a ransom note left today in TPPG's downtown Columbia office building, Folks has "kidnapped" an office coat hanger (similar to the one pictured above) that also doubles as a portable practice putting green.

"I arrived at work this morning to find a ransom note demanding $118 in exchange for the safe return of my golf-themed coat rack," Darby told FITS. "Needless to say, I immediately contacted the authorities and filed a stolen property report."

Darby said Folks picked up the piece of furniture from his office on Friday with an unidentified female posing as a graduate student at the University of South Carolina. According to Darby, Folks and the unidentified female asked if they could borrow his golf-themed coat rack for use as part of a contest being sponsored over the weekend by the University Housing Office.

"I can't believe I fell for it," Darby said. "I mean, he's been coveting it for months and one day out of the blue he shows up with this cute girl and I let them walk right out the door with it. I knew something was up. Obviously it goes without saying I feel pretty violated right about now."

Columbia Police Chief Dean Crisp said his office has issued warrants for Folks' arrest on kidnapping and petty burglary charges but that no home address is available for the maverick miscreant. Earlier this year, Columbia Mayor Bob Coble identified Folks as the City's top public safety threat and announced the formation of a special task force to determine his whereabouts.

"We are working with the task force to determine Mr. Folks' exact location," Crisp told FITS. "As soon as we have that information in our possession, we will move in with all necessary force to extricate the kidnapping victim from the premises."

Crisp added that Folks' ransom demand coincides almost precisely with the median price of similar golf-themed coat racks available for purchase over the Internet.

Sic Willie did not show up at FITS headquarters this morning to collect his weekly paycheck of $0.08, according to FITS senior managing editor Laurie D., nor has he contacted the office since submitting a budget-related post on Chairman Dan "Coo Coo Ca Choo" Cooper (a.k.a. "Chairman Egg-Tooth") last Friday morning, just prior to the alleged kidnapping.

"I just want my coat rack back," an emotional Darby said. "It was a wedding gift from my wife and it means a lot to me. Plus, I putted like complete a** this afternoon at the Country Club. I need that thing to practice my putting after work in my office."

Vacuum Cleaner Beat Down


FITS kids you not.

A man was murdered in Anderson County over the weekend by a woman using a vacuum cleaner. According the Anderson Independent-Mail, Evelyn Pressley (pictured) of Belton, S.C., was charged yesterday with the murder of 53-year old Jerome Powers, her common-law husband.

According to police reports, Pressley beat Powers over the head with various vacuum cleaner attachments before strangling him to death with the vacuum cleaner's hose.

In a slightly less "made for Jay Leno" news clip, the Metro section of The State newspaper today featured an article with the headline, "Woman has difficulty finding job, paying utility bill."

Only in South Carolina, people.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Volume IV


It starts every November, when the leaves are falling, the pigskins are flying and nobody's pre-filed a bill yet.

FITS likes to refer to it as the "Era of Good Feelings," named after that sanguine period of American History from roughly 1817-1825 when America was at peace, partisanship was on the decline and culture and innovation flourished.

Here in South Carolina, we get to experience a mini-Era of Good Feelings each year, which usually lasts from November until shortly after the General Assembly is gaveled into session on the second Tuesday of each January. Everybody talks about getting along, working with each other, doing the people's business, etc., but sooner or later (usually sooner), something ignites the powder keg.

Realistically, take a maverick governor, 170 ego-driven lawmakers, hundreds of lobbyists, thousands of bills and billions of taxpayer dollars, throw them into a confined space where nothing is secret and see how long you can stave off a conflagraton - particularly in an election year.

This session, it didn't take long at all. First it was the House versus The State Newspaper-anointed "Business" Community over property tax relief. Then just last week it was the House versus the governor over the state budget. What'll it be next week?

Whatever unfolds, keep it tuned to FITS "Heard in the Echo Chamber" every week for the very latest on this year's deepening drama under the dome ...

SEN. SETZLER TAKES A WALK

Maybe he had to go to the little boy's room. Or maybe he had an important phone call to make. Maybe he just needed some fresh air. Or, could it be that one of the million-and-one lobbyists hired by the Billboard industry this session talked State Sen. Nikki Setzler into taking a walk last week during a critical veto vote?

Whatever the case, the State Senate overrode Gov. Mark Sanford's veto of a controversial new billboard law by one vote ... that's right ... one vote.

The bill, which effectively strips the ability of local governments to regulate billboards, represents a clear violation of home rule and is perhaps the most flagrant special interest-driven piece of legislation this state has seen since Sanford took office three years ago.

No doubt at the urging of a recent FITS post (we're kidding, of course), Sanford vetoed the bought-and-paid-for measure, which could make towns pay up to $400,000 for each billboard they wish to remove. And despite the gobs of money heaped on armies of lobbyists and multiple campaign contributions for legislators, it seemed that the State Senate might actually succeed where the scruple-less House failed and sustain the governor's principled, albeit politically-risky veto.

Believe it or not, the good guys were actually poised to score an important victory ... that is, until Sen. Setzler decided he needed some air.

FITS' NICKNAMES CATCHING ON IN STATE HOUSE

Mitch Dorman and his heat-packing House Guardsmen may be able to keep reporters Aaron Sheinin, John Frank and Jim Davenport at bay (not to mention the entire House Democratic Caucus), but not FITS' nicknames.

That's right, word on the street is that our little website (and particularly our homegrown nicknames for various legislators) are becoming so popular that legislators are even using them in sacred institutional settings like last week's closed door GOP caucus meeting.

While FITS is awaiting its transcription from Rep. Dan Tripp's "Office of Secret Intergovernmental Taping and Subsequent News Media Leaking," preliminary reports indicate that more than one member of the House GOP Caucus openly referred to House Ways & Means Chairman Dan "Coo-Coo-Ca-Choo" Cooper as "Chairman Egg-Tooth" during the nearly two-hour meeting. Reports also indicate that Speaker of the House Bobby "Pork" Harrell is now openly called "Mr. Mayor" by several of his colleagues, a reference to his now-infamous "Mayor of Importantville" moniker.

Given our rise in stature, FITS was under heavy pressure this week to run a photo of the animated hero "Shrek" on our website in homage to Rep. Chip Limehouse, but alas, our Google search revealed no images of the computer-generated cartoon character engaging in public breastfeeding. FITS was also unable to find a "Flounder" image suitable for a tribute to Rep. Thad Viers, but there's always next week on both counts.

AROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE

First off, Happy Birthday to the "Queen of the SC Blogosphere," Miss Laurin P. Manning. We at FITS wish you nothing but the best on your special day, and Laurie has that present you've been asking for ready for you whenever you want to stop by and pick it up. That's right, it's a Tommy Windsor doll that spits out your favorite quotes from Steel Magnolias ... including M'Lynn's "That sanctuary looks like it's been hosed down with Pepto-Bismol" and Annelle's "Miss Truvy, I promise that my personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair."

In other blog notes, Joshua Gross had a very insightful look at the County Convention scene last week over at his blog, The Body Politic (www.schotline.blogspot.com). And Ross Shealy, while still an a**hole, nonetheless gets a Gold Medal for funny this week over at the Shealy Barbecue Blog (www.scbarbecue.blogspot.com). Love him or hate him, his Olympic parody on Gov. Sanford and our favorite bad boy Sic Willie winning medals for "Jobsledding" and "Gurling," respectively, is one of the funniest things we've read in a long time.

Finally, in what may or may not be a real send-off, "Queer as Folks" blogger Paul Adams says he's retiring from the business. In characteristic adult-ADD fashion, Paul rambles through a barely-coherent farewell message that includes references to his new job, the death of his grandmother, his recent inheritance, charter fishing boats, the Grateful Dead, Will Folks and Kermit the Frog. And you thought Dwight D. Eisenhower's farewell address was disconnected?

FITS cannot possibly understate how hilarious this final "Queer As Folks" blog post is, so be sure to check it out at www.queerasfolks.blogspot.com.

Until next week ... be heard.

Friday, February 24, 2006

God Calls Lovelace, Urges Withdrawal From Race


In a voice sounding eerily-similar to the inimitable pipes of The State newspaper columnist Lee Bandy (right), God himself placed a telephone call to "Republican" gubernatorial candidate Oscar Lovelace late Friday evening urging him to withdraw from the race.

"Yeah, I made the call," God told FITS. "I had to correct the record."

Apparently the Lord was angered by a January letter Lovelace sent to his campaign volunteers (known as Oscar's Army) claiming his decision to enter the governor's race came as the result of "a still, quiet call from God."

"I'm gonna have to call bulls--t on that one," the Lord said. "I never called him and told him that. He's bearing false witness against his Maker."

Asked why he waited nearly two months to bring the issue to Lovelace's attention, God said "I'm frigging busy up here, people. You wanna try running this s--- for awhile? Jesus Christ."

Later in the letter, Lovelace tells his supporters they must "lace the state with love."

"Seriously, is he running for governor or president of GLAAD?" God asked. "Sounds like a disco-dancin', Oscar Wilde-readin', Streisand ticket-holdin', friend of Dorothy if you ask me. A real cake boy."

FITS attempted to alert God that he was plagiarizing a line from the movie Clueless, but was promptly rebuffed.

"I created the dude that wrote that movie, didn't I?" he said. "I got intellectual property on everything."

Lovelace could not be reached for comment, but his campaign consultant, puppetmaster and portable brain Rod Shealy accused God of backing Sanford solely because he is the incumbent governor.

"Look at all the incumbents that win primary races," Shealy said. "God clearly has a bias against challengers in Republican primaries."

"Bulls--t," God fired back. "I got a bias against a--holes like Rod Shealy."

For his part Bandy, a member of Columbia's First Presbyterian Church, said he was honored that God had chosen his voice to communicate with people here on earth, but added that it had made things a bit more difficult for him at the office.

"I have to do a lot more of my communicating through e-mail now because everytime I call somebody they start telling me about all of their problems and basically driving me crazy," Bandy said. "I get enough of that from Aaron Sheinin."

Bandy also said he was surprised to hear that God had a bit of a potty-mouth problem.

Cooper Moustache Projected to Grow by 12-16%


House Ways and Means Chairman Dan "I am the Egg-Tooth, I am the Walrus, Coo-Coo-Ca-Choo" Cooper today announced that his Hitler/Chaplin-esque moustache will grow 12-16% larger this year.

The announcement came following a closed-door session of the House Republican Caucus, during which Republican Gov. Mark Sanford issued a controversial press release challenging Cooper to keep his moustache growth to a more modest 5%.

"I have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of South Carolina," Sanford said in his prepared statement. "This kind of excess growth seems to me a pretty clear indication that some in the House are not keeping an eye on the Egg-Tooth's moustache."

Sanford's release, which included quotes from three fellow legislators also critical of the rampant, unchecked growth of Cooper's flavor-savor, was immediately labeled a "grenade" by House Majority Leader Jim Merrill.

"The press machine in the governor's mansion released three independently made statements as a unified attack on the Egg-Tooth - sorry, I mean Chairman Cooper, his moustache and members of the House leadership," Merrill said. "The implications made by the press release were unwarranted and unprofessional."

Informed that Sanford's press office was actually in the State House, not the Governor's Mansion, Merrill chastised reporters.

"I know where it f---ing is, you b----es," Merrill said.

Mayor of Importantville Bobby Harrell - a consistent champion of double-digit, pork barrel moustache growth - said the era of cooperation with the governor was over.

“I have been trying very hard to work with him,” Harrell said. “I am very disappointed that he would resort to an attack ... before they voted on the first hair.”

Cooper told FITS he was unmoved by the governor's rebuke, but that moustache growth may be checked to some extent as a result of the controversial release.

"I think we’ve come out somewhere between where the Ways and Means Committee is and where the governor is,” Cooper said. "On my moustache, at least. You better believe I'm still going to spend every last dime of new taxpayer money that comes into Columbia regardless of whether we need to or not."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Big Bang Ballin' on a Budget


Wow.

That's all FITS can say.

In his first year heading up the powerful House Ways & Means budget-writing committee, Chairman Dan "I am the Egg-Tooth, I am the Walrus" Cooper stirred up a political firestorm yesterday after details of his gargantuan (and taxpayer rebate-free) $6.5 billion budget hit the proverbial fan in Columbia.

Cooper's budget not only doesn't include a dime of the $400 per family rebate being sought by Gov. Mark Sanford, it cuts trust fund repayment by two-thirds and would also raise government spending in South Carolina by anywhere from 12-16% from last year's budget - which, incidentally, raised government spending by 9.1% from the previous year's budget.

That's a helluva lot of firetrucks isn't it, Chairman Egg-Tooth?

In fact, Cooper's proposed "Spend-A-Pallooza" was so over the top that this time - unlike previous attempts to soak the taxpayer dry at the expense of special interest-driven, vote-buying, pork "Harrell" spending - the governor isn't alone in resisting the boondoggling.

Joining His Excellency Marky Mark in raising the red flag of common sense this go-round are - among others - House Speaker Pro Tem Doug Smith, Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison and House LCI Chairman Harry Cato. With such high-ranking institutional support for fiscal restraint being shown so early in the House budget-writing process, expect last year's growing nucleus of "Taxpayer Heroes" (Murrell Smith, Nikki Haley, Ralph Norman and others) to expand further this year.

Joining Cooper on the dark side, once again advocating government growth at more than three times the growth of our economy, is the Mayor of Importantville himself, Speaker Bobby Harrell. And in a Michael Rentiers-esque display of stupid political conspiracy theories (see previous "Staton Campaign: Alive and Kicking?" post), Harrell yesterday attempted to blame the growing, high-level opposition to Cooper's budget on the fact that Smith, Harrison and Cato were his former opponents in last year's Speaker's race.

Typical thin-skinned Columbia politicos.

Harrell also ripped the governor's office for sending its press release during Cooper's Ways & Means Committee meeting, calling it "a pretty sneaky way of doing a press release."

The Mayor refused, however, to answer repeated inquiries from FITS as to whether or not he also believed Sanford's office and legislative opponents knew about President Jed Bartlett's attempt to hide his previously-diagnosed Multiple Sclerosis from the American people.

"That's The West Wing and not real life, you idiots," Harrell told FITS.

Citing shared ideologies, Bartlett Communications Director Toby Ziegler brushed off the Mayor's criticism.

"I'm not sure why he's dismissing us because we're clearly on the same team," Ziegler told FITS. "We're trying to grow government spending at unheard of, exorbitant levels up here, he's trying to grow government spending at unheard of, exorbitant levels down there."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Staton Campaign: Alive and Kicking?


FITS couldn't help but poke some fun at Bob Staton's campaign manager Michael Rentiers following his candidate's dismal third-place showing at the Spartanburg County Republican Convention Monday night.

Granted, it's got to be stressful spending 24 hours a day promoting the illusion that your candidate is a Republican, but Rentiers probably guaranteed the EOC Chairman an uphill Upstate battle with some ill-advised comments made to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.

Shortly after his candidate got trounced by 200 votes in the Spartanburg GOP Straw Poll - you know, those non-binding, marginally significant expressions of early support among party activists that are only real news if you respond like a moron - Rentiers, well, responded like a moron.

"(Spartanburg County Republican Party Chairman Rick Beltram) was on her payroll for a while, and he'll earn his money tonight," Rentiers told SHJ reporter Bob Dalton.

Expanding on the Oliver Stone-esque conspiracy theme, Rentiers went on to say that Floyd won the straw poll so convincingly because she had - get this - sponsored a reception prior to the event.

Floyd, who wisely took the high road in responding to the sophomoric barbs, nonetheless did not return multiple calls from FITS seeking comment as to whether or not she was also on the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza at the time of the Kennedy assassination. Floyd similarly refused to disclose to FITS whether or not she knew Lee Harvey Oswald, had ever served as a contract agent for the Central Intelligence Agency or had ever handed out leaflets on Canal Street in New Orleans promoting the "Fair Play for Cuba" Committee back in the Summer of 1963.

We hate to break it to you Mr. Rentiers, but the only "conspiracy" in this race is the fact that your candidate is running as a Republican and not the status quo, mo' money, anti-choice Democrat that he actually is.

Voters in Spartanburg and every other straw poll held thusfar aren't buying what you're selling and don't expect them to do so en masse come June, either.

Here's an idea, though: Enter Bob Staton in the Richland County Democratic Straw Poll for State Superintendent ... you might end up with a more satisfactory result.

Just a thought ...

Billboard Urges Billboard Veto, Gubernatorial Testacles


Gov. Mark Sanford has until midnight tonight to figure out what he's doing with the perhaps the most blatant example of special interest legislation the S.C. General Assembly has passed this session - the "I'm Scott Shockley With Lamar Advertising, Bitch" Billboard Reform Act of 2006.

Seriously, every lobbyist under the State House dome got a piece of this action, God only knows how many legislators got slipped campaign checks and worst of all, the bill includes specific new definitions of things like "anal cleft" as a part of the decency component used to lure Christian conservatives into the fold.

Anal cleft?

Oh, and did we mention that the bill reduces the concept of home rule in South Carolina to a purely transient notion - something the jokers in Columbia can take away whenever the checks being floated behind a particular bill are large enough?

Let's hope our governor follows the advice of the billboard above and exercises his Constitutional prerogative to veto this most brazen of special interest boondoggles.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Volume III


It was a close call, but the Quote of the Week for this installment of FITS' "Heard in the Echo Chamber" belongs to admittedly bottle-fed Charleston Rep. Chip Limehouse, who went on the record this week (lamentably, we think you'll agree) in support of his public breastfeeding bill.

In eloquence unrivaled since the Kennedy Inaugural - or at least since early Season III of "The West Wing" - Rep. Limehouse articulately extolled the myriad virtues of his most celebrated "feel good" legislation:

"There's no downside to breastfeeding, only good things can come out of it."

Ahhhh, yes ... to which we can only add, "True dat, Rep. Limehouse. True dat."

Universal as support may be for this very nipplesary (sorry, we meant neccesary) measure in the House, FITS has learned that Rep. Limehouse's bill may be substantially amended in the Senate, where Horry Sen. Luke Rankin is seeking modifications to allow for public breastfeeding only "when the chicks doing it are hot."

DOLLAR DOLLAR BILLS, YA'LL

Last week the state Board of Economic Advisors - you know, those people who routinely tell us the sky will fall if we even think about cutting taxes - announced that we've got an extra $236 million to play with in the upcoming fiscal year.

Really? And I thought we couldn't afford an individual income tax cut?

Anyway, Gov. Mark Sanford wants to use those dollars to increase the taxpayer rebate from his previously-proposed amount of $150 per family to $400 per family, but House Ways & Means Chairman Dan Cooper is having none of it.

So what is Chairman Egg-tooth's priority? The age-old governmental scam of "deferred maintenance."

People, it's 2006. The state's budget has increased by nearly a billion dollars over the past five years.

If you want to know the truth, the only "deferred maintenance" left in South Carolina is some long-overdue bridge work on the House Ways & Means Chairman's top front teeth, which we're reckoning would cost about $2,360 - not $236 million.

Of course we're sure there's probably also a fire truck that needs buyin' somewhere.

RED HERRING 101

Believe it or not, the Flo-Mo (Florence Morning News) wasn't the Slow-Mo this weekend for a change as reporter Andy Cole broke a big story Saturday about a proposed Inland Port in Marion County. To read the story in its entirety, click on the incredibly long hyperlink below:

http://www.florencenews.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=FMN%2FMGArticle%2FFMN_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1137834182902&path=!news

Embraced enthusiastically by Sen. Kent Williams and other representatives of Double-Digit Unemployment Land (a.k.a. The Pee Dee), the Marion County project is being backed financially by Grand Strand big-wigs Burroughs & Chapin and is based on a successful Texas model that also includes an industrial airport, industrial park and multiple nearby housing developments. The Texas Project, dubbed "Alliance Texas," was launched in 1998 and has resulted in $5 billion in capital investment and the creation of 24,000 jobs thusfar for the Lone Star State.

Of course, leave it to the Marxist-Leninists at the State Ports Authority and "Little Stalin" Hugh Leatherman to immediately object to any proposal that, oh, we don't know, seeks to actually bring jobs and capital investment to South Carolina. And leave it to them to use Red Herring 101 from Bob McAlister's School of Mass Communications.

"You need to be careful when you talk about ports, because you’re talking about unions," the diminutive Comrade Leatherman said. "If any industry came in this area that is unionized, I’d fight it tooth and nail.”

Of course you would, shorty ... which begs the question: Since 1,400 of the 1,800 employees currently working at the Port of Charleston are unionized, you wanna go ahead and shut down that little job-creating operation, too?

Moron.

FITS 20,000th VISITOR

We about couldn't believe our site-tracker the other day: 20,000 visitors. Are you kidding? Twenty-thousand people have logged onto our little corner of the world wide web?

Seriously, we're humbled, and we're accountants (or at least two of us are).

Laurie was all set, in fact, to kick off the FITS 20,000 celebration when something incredibly unfortunate transpired: Dianne figured out how to log onto our site-tracker's "unique visitor log" (which as it turns out is eerily similar to President Bush's domestic wiretapping program). Sadly, she discovered that 19,812 of our visits were from Queer as Folks blogger Paul Adams and his wife, Tina.

Oh well, girls can hope can't they?

WHO'S AFRAID OF THE BIG BAD WILL?

Hunter Howard of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, apparently.

Invited to appear on The Andy Thomas Radio Show last week, Howard, the Chamber's Executive Director, was eagerly clearing his calendar and polishing his pro-business credentials in anticipation of working the press until he learned he would be going up against Sic Willie, a weekly contributer on the program.

Evidently leery of our favorite bad boy's propensity to drop "bombs," Howard politely declined the request to come on the program.

In other Sic Willie news, our hero was named "The Terrell Owens of South Carolina Politics" by blog stalwarts Devinely Southern last week (http://devinelysouthern.com/?p=119) and even got the Sic Semper Moronis translators at Free Carolina to put down their freshman year Latin textbooks for a minute and tell some damn Will Folks' jokes for a change: (http://freecarolina.blogspot.com/2006/02/guest-blog-j-clyburn-pedestrian.html).

We're sure Ross Shealy over at the Shealy Barbecue Blog will attempt to reclaim his franchise this week, provided there's not a glut of Oscar Lovelace talking points to get out, at least.

Until next week ... be heard.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Business Leaders Reject Harrell Hunting Invite


In a sign of escalating tensions over the proposed property tax-sales tax swap, FITS has learned that several prominent South Carolina business leaders and higher-ups at the S.C. Chamber of Commerce and S.C. Manufacturer's Alliance have rejected weekend hunting invitations extended by Mayor of Importantville Bobby Harrell.

The group represents the core opposition to Harrell's proposal to eliminate property taxes in exchange for a two-cent increase in the sales tax.

Mayor Harrell, who contends his offer for the business leaders to join him this weekend on a duck hunt in Northern Beaufort County was "a good faith effort on my part to try and bury the hatchet," nonetheless refused to say Thursday whether he would still make the trip with Majority Leader Jim Merrill, Ways & Means Chairman Dan Cooper, Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison and LCI Chairman Harry Cato.

"I can't speak for the others who were asked, but for me the timing of this trip just wasn't right," said Carolina First CEO Mack Whittle, one of the business leaders who declined Harrell's invitation. "I'm not sure what it was specifically that made me feel that way, but a little something in the back of my head told me this might not be such a good idea."

Whittle was one of a select group of business leaders invited to join Harrell and his fellow legislators on the duck hunt. Others asked to join include Lake City Millionairess Darla Moore (above), Sonoco CEO Harris DeLoach and Roche-Carolina CEO Don Herriott. Also invited to attend were S. Hunter Howard, Jr., Otis Rawl, and Mark Sweatman from the S.C. Chamber of Commerce and Lewis Gossett, Sara Hopper and Russ Hightower of the S.C. Manufacturer's Alliance.

"I had a bad omen," said Hightower. "Something told me I had better stay home."

"Our representatives had some serious reservations about joining the Mayor on this particular trip at this particular time," said Hunter Howard of the State Chamber. "Obviously, we mean absolutley no disrespect whatsoever to the Office of the Mayor of Importantville or to our dear friend Bobby Harrell. His invitation was gracious and generous, and we regret that we were unable to accept it at this time."

FITS, however, has obtained secret tape recordings made by retiring Rep. Dan Tripp from a recent closed-door caucus meeting which may prove that the hunting trip invitations were not what they appeared to be at first glance.

"OK listen up, Jimmy (Merrill)'s got DeLoach and Herriott, Dan (Cooper)'s got Otie and Sweatman, (Jim) Harrison you take Gossett and Hightower," a voice alleged to be Harrell's can be heard faintly on the Tripp cassette recording. "Mack and Hunter are all mine, and (Harry) Cato you just flirt with the girls and keep them occupied, alright?"

Mayor Harrell disputed accusations that the recording masked a secret plot to "accidentally" shoot the business leaders and thus prevent their continued opposition to his proposed tax swap.

"Oh no, no, goodness no," Harrell told FITS. "What on earth would give anyone that idea? When I instructed my colleagues to 'get' someone, I just meant that those were the specific business leaders I wanted them to engage in substantive, issues-based conversation with. I can't think of a reason anyone would suspect otherwise and Harrison is a lousy shot anyway, even if he is trying to hit somebody on accident."

Darla Moore, for her part, said she rejected the invitation because her trigger finger was sore from a long week spent counting all of her money, and a spokeswoman added that she also doesn't like being forced to wear the color orange.

"Darla's always been a pastel and bold primary color kind of gal," Moore spokeswoman Roberta McAlister said. "Those ridiculous orange vests don't accent her peach facial tones well at all."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Top Ten State House Bald Sugardaddies


So the FITS gals got together and took a poll. The subject was "Top Ten State House Bald Sugardaddies."
Now we know this won't be as cool as "Who's Hot at the State House" but you know, bald boys need some love, too - especially since there are so damn many of them!!!

Yeah, that's right baby!!!! Bald is beeeeyootaafulll!!!

So without further adieu, here, above the tree line, in all their crowning glory, rub 'em if ya love 'em - are FITS Top Ten State House Bald Sugardaddies:

1. Richard Davis - Give it up for the King of the Hardwood Floor Cranium Club!!! Smoother than a fresh billboard wrap. More clients than anybody in tha biz don't hurt neither ...

2. Fred Allen - Awwwwww ... such a cutie. When you stutter like that are you for real or just playing cute??? Either way it's working. And your pad on Sullivans right across from the Gov ain't too shab.

3. Dwight Drake - Money done make you forget a lot of things ... ear hair, nose hair, in fact hair pretty much everywhere except on the top of his head!!!!

4. Jeff Gossett - We saw how much you make on the Internet. So how about shaving that last patch and come give a girl what she wants???

5. Alan Clemmons - If we're good, will you show us your special Mormon underwear? We promise we don't bite ... much.

6. Brenda Lee - Grace Jones got nothing on you, baby girl!!!!!

7. Scott Richardson - His middle name is "Head." Nuff said.

8. Gerald Malloy - I've seen The Green Mile, have you baby doll?

9. Wallace Scarborough - That's not your Representative from Charleston - that's a MAN BABY!!! Damn ... this ... thing ... won't ... come ... off ...

10. Richard Eckstrom - Sure they call you "Mini-Mark," but no girl can resist a man in uniform. Ready for drill, big boy?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Is Queer as Folks Dead?


FITS has noticed that there has been a slight uptick in the SC Political Blogosphere's ability to spell correctly, use punctuation marks and generally make common sense over the past two weeks given the absence of posts (and thankfully comments on other blogs) from ever-rambling "Queer as Folks" founder, Paul Adams.

Adams has not posted any original content (and we use the term "content" loosely) on his pink-and-purple web domain since Feb. 3, about the same time his various non-sensical tirades about Will Folks, Rick Quinn and Sen. Glenn McConnell stopped appearing on the comment pages of virtually every other political website in the state.

All of which begs our question: Is "Queer as Folks" dead?

The gramatically-challenged Adams did not return repeated phone calls from our crack correspondents seeking comment, but we at FITS sincerely hope that no ill has befallen one of our favorite bloggers of all-time. In fact, our most fervent wish for QAF is that after draining South Carolina taxpayers of unemployment benefits ever since Sen. McConnell beat Adams-led challenger Justin Kahn like he stole something back in 2004, perhaps our Lithium keyboarder has finally found a jobby-job.

In case you missed all the fun, though, here's the link: http://www.queerasfolks.blogspot.com.

Whatever the disposition of Mr. Adam's blog, a cursory glance around the SC Blogosphere this morning reveals that our favorite bad boy Sic Willie will not suffer long for lack of web vitriol being lobbed in his direction. The Shealy BBQ Blog (which we should remind readers is different from the Shealy Wagging Blog) has, in fact, once again revoked its vow to make "No More Will Folks Jokes" and posted a pretty funny article about our hero just this morning.

You can view the post its entirety at:
http://scbarbecue.blogspot.com/

Just remember as you read, however, that none of Bob Staton's four "R's" stands for "Republican."

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Volume II


Welcome to FITS second installment of "Heard in the Echo Chamber," a lazy Sunday afternoon wrap-up of behind-the-scenes news and notes in that crazy world we call South Carolina politics - a.k.a. the "Special Olympics" of American politics.

JOKERVILLE CONFESSIONS

It doesn't happen that often in "Jokerville," but every once in awhile somebody slips up and actually admits what's REALLY going on in your General Assembly.

House Labor, Commerce and Industry Chairman Harry Cato (pictured), a key leader in the Republican majority that raised government spending by three times as much as your paycheck grew last year, was asked this weekend about his new Political Action Committee (PAC) by Dan Hoover of the Greenville News.

We at FITS have got to at least hand it to Cato for being honest:

"It's a useul tool, in terms of me being able to help my colleagues who I - almost on a daily basis - have to go to for votes," Cato told Hoover.

To read Hoover's provocative Sunday column on PACs in South Carolina in its entirety, click on the following link: http://www.greenvillenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060212/NEWS01/602120319.

FUNDING LAWSUIT COSTS ECLIPSE 2002 GOVERNOR'S RACE

What's more expensive - running for governor or figuring out how crappy South Carolina's worst-in-the-nation public schools are?

While it could be argued that the two go hand-in-hand, it turns out the answer is the latter.

According to research conducted by The State newspaper, costs in the equity funding lawsuit have eclipsed the $12 million mark - half of which is presently being picked up by us, the taxpayers.

The other half is being assumed - for now at least - by the downtown law firm Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, but the firm hinted it might seek to recoup its share of the multi-million lawsuit from the state and then designate a "worthy cause" for the money.

Hmmm. FITS wants to know, exactly how is that different from what uber-lobbyist Dwight Drake already does at the State House?

NEW COMMERCE CZAR ALREADY "OFF THE RESERVATION?"

We hate to say it, but anytime The State newspaper fawns over a new government appointment, it's usually a bad sign. Enter the two-day love-fest shown to new Sanford Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor, former CEO of Southland Log Homes.

Well La Socialista may like the governor's choice, but we at FITS have heard that Taylor may be off the Sanford reservation already - and on one of the biggest economic development enchiladas of them all.

Specifically, the word is that Taylor opposes the kind of public-private partnerships at our state ports facilities favored by his boss - you know, those collaborative, investment-generating, job-creating ventures that would enable us to expand port capacity on the former Navy Base and down in Jasper County?

South Carolina can't afford to expand capacity with public dollars, yet refuses to enter into any agreement that effectively leverages the private capital we need. As the State Ports Authority twiddles its thumbs, within the last six months Alabama, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia have all announced gargantuan expansions with private capital. They're getting ready for the massive influx of new Asian shipping business - which by the way is a result of all the manufacturing jobs we've shipped over there the past decade, the last time our state's "business leaders" got caught napping.

PROPERTY TAX DEBATE A REAL 'DUD'

It was supposed to be the political equivalent of First Manassas, the inaugural fixing of bayonets in Importantville Mayor Bobby Harrell's populist "Rob Peter to Pay Paul" battle for election-year, pocket-shifting tax swappage.

It turned out to be about as rowdy as a Lawrence Welk episode.

The long-anticipated House floor debate (which had both Majority and Minority leaders all in a tizzy the week before) was in fact so dull that Charleston Post and Courier reporter John Frank was reduced to writing at one point about ... wait for it ... Rep. Skipper Perry's suspenders.

Oh well, at least the non-event was successful in one regard - it interrupted Ways & Means Chairman Dan Cooper's PAC fundraiser a block away at the Clubhouse Restaurant. No word yet on whether the Egg Tooth plans to reschedule the special interest shakedown session for a later date.

WHEN IS "MILLER TIME?"

Former U.S. Congressman Ken Holland is a pretty funny guy, but his witty one-liners are falling on deaf ears when it comes to George Allen for President field director - sorry, we meant Sanford for Governor campaign manager - Jason Miller.

The newest entry to a crowded field of Democrats seeking the gubernatorial nomination, Holland, a Gaffney native, joins Prosperity Medicaid Milker Dr. Oscar Lovelace, State Senator Tommy "Soul-Glo" Moore and some guy from Florence whose name people remembered a couple months ago but have apparently since forgotten.

Holland bandied a couple quips to State columnist Lee Bandy, but Miller was in no laughing mood, telling the Dean of S.C. Political Writers "there will be plenty of time for political give and take later."

Our theory is that Holland, who at 71 still plays guitar with his band "Capital Punishment," is just looking for somebody to have some fun with and running for governor seemed like a good way to make some new friends. But Miller, who has basically been regurgitating the "there will be plenty of time for politics later" line in response to anything and everything since his name started appearing in the paper a few months ago, isn't dancing.

Where is Sic Willie when we need him?

STATON FOR STATUS QUO

Speaking of our favorite bad boy, he finally submitted to FITS' front office a long-awaited, particularly scathing critique of Democrat-in-hiding Bob Staton's Superintendent of Education campaign (see post below).

Seriously, this column makes Will's State Newspaper hit on the S.C. Business Community look like a love tap.

We should point out, though, that Will was decisively outvoted by the FITS staff on the story's photo, however, having initially submitted along with his post a pic of comedian Al Franken to run with the story.

Laurie, Dianne, Deborah and I all voted for the winning Sam Tenenbaum pic, while our girls Maureen and Rebecca cast their votes for a photo of Sam's wife, Inez. Will was the lone vote for Franken.

Despite what some of you may think, FITS is a democracy after all!!!!

Until next week ... be heard.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Staton for Status Quo


Bob Staton is a “Republican” Candidate for Superintendent of Education … or at least that’s what his State Ethics Commission filing says. In reality, this 59-year old Chairman of the Education Oversight Committee has about as much business competing in a South Carolina Republican primary as Al Gore, Al Franken or Al Sharpton. Or for that matter, Sam Tenenbaum (pictured).

Staton is a Democrat, people. A status quo, Tenenbaum-esque, pour-more-of-your-tax-dollars-down-the-drain Democrat, and the fact that Republicans are allowing him to run as a member of their party is one of the strongest signs yet that the SCGOP is in real trouble.

Seriously, if Republicans had any sense they wouldn’t let this guy run for County Coroner, let alone State Superintendent of Education.

As evidence, let’s look at Staton’s so-called “platform,” which maintains we can turn around South Carolina’s worst-in-the-nation school system by adopting the alliteratively-appealing yet decidedly substance-free “Four R’s = Results” plan.

Honestly, we here at FITS have never read anything so long on hot air and correspondingly short on actual ideas, but we’ll let you be the judge.

Staton’s first “R” urges us to “refocus our attention on our children and their successes.”

Excuse me, but … what? Come again? Are we running for statewide office here or cutting a Richard Simmons workout video? Seriously, is that finely-tuned, feelgood rhetoric supposed to kick off a new statewide policy or something? And if so, exactly how much money is the giant new “Focus-On-Our-Children-O-Meter” you’re obviously hankering to put on top of the Department of Education building in Columbia going to set us back?

Translate that sentence carefully, folks. Anytime a politician says “we need to refocus our attention” what they really mean is “we need to spend more of your tax money.”

Well, we’ve tried that approach in South Carolina. Over the past four decades, no state in the nation has increased funding for education at higher percentages than we have. Our current per pupil cost is well over $10,000 – compared to less than half that amount just six years ago – and yet we’re still last in graduation rates and SAT scores, and a full quarter of our schools are rated either “failing” or “below average.”

What we really need to “refocus our attention” on is the validity of those like Staton who maintain that more money is the key to improving education in South Carolina.

Staton’s second “R” calls on us to “restructure the South Carolina Department of Education to focus on our children's educational journey.”

Hold on there, Bob. In case you don’t remember, Inez already “restructured” the Department of Education – she doubled the number of bureaucrats there making $50,000 or more. So when you talk restructuring, are you proposing we cut all those excess edu-crat jobs and put the money toward something worthwhile like, we don’t know, merit-based pay raises for teachers? Or what about the “SMART funding” reforms championed by Gov. Mark Sanford designed to trim bureaucratic waste, inefficiency and mismanagement by block-granting more education dollars down to the local level? Or what about consolidating school districts? Or privatizing the nation’s only school bus system – one that currently employs 4 out of every 10 Department of Education workers?

Our bet is that in the unlikely event the Staton campaign actually offers a policy-based (as opposed to soundbyte-based) restructuring plan, none of these common sense “restructuring” ideas will make the cut.

Staton’s third “R” is a call to “recruit and retain quality teachers and principals in all our schools.” And while he doesn’t specify how he intends to do it, it’s difficult to miss the all-too-familiar Democratic solution he invokes when he says ... wait for it ... “New programs must be developed.”

Oh yeah, Shiny New Government Programs, baby!

Last time FITS checked, teachers in South Carolina already make $300 more than the national average. On top of that, they get bonuses for passing some national edu-crat test, not for how well their students are actually performing in the classroom.

Our problem really isn’t our teachers, though, it’s the bureaucracy that’s holding them back. Take the PACT test, for example. Imagine how much more effective our educators would be if we reformed the PACT test to give them instant “item-analysis” on which questions their kids got right or wrong? Of course in his role as Chairman of the Education Oversight Committee, Staton was in the perfect position to fix PACT, but as is typical of status quo backers - nothing's happened.

Until we turn the PACT test into a legitimate diagnostic tool that our teachers can actually use in the classroom, it will continue to serve as little more than an annual reminder of how bad our public schools really are.

Finally, Staton’s fourth “R” advocates that we “renew our commitment to the value of education.”

Like his first “R,” this one is pure political fluff. Honestly. Renew our commitment to the value of education? From a policy perspective, that statement is about as concrete as Jell-O.

But what Staton is really saying here is easily translated – “Stop talking about school choice.”

A die-hard opponent of giving students more choices in the education marketplace, Staton adheres to the Inez Tenenbaum-SCEA school of thought that brands anyone who supports choice as being guilty of “abandoning our public schools.”

What Democrats like Staton and Tenenbaum fail to recognize is that choice actually makes public schools better. Take Milwaukee, for example. Since choice was implemented there in 1990, Milwaukee’s public schools have responded to the new market pressures by posting higher test scores, higher graduation rates and a higher percentage of students entering colleges and 2-year technical schools. Oh yeah, the public school dropout rate has declined, too.

Of course none of that hard, verifiable data matters to the Staton status-quo types, who would have you believe that choice would “destroy our public school system.”

Actually, what’s destroying our public school system in South Carolina is the total lack of real, honest-to-God accountability – the kind of accountability that only the marketplace can provide.

Staton is doing his best to convince people he’s a real Republican, which is perhaps one reason why there’s so little substance and so much fluff to his campaign platform.

Don’t be fooled. He’s the poster boy for the Tenenbaum-Mo' Money status quo in education, the only success of which has been to hold our state back from reaching its full potential.

Like 50th place? Well, vote Staton for Status Quo then, and in November 2010 that's exactly where we'll be ... still.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cooper's "Egg-Tooth" Foils Fair's Intelligent Design Drive


FITS has learned that Bible-thumping Upstate Senator Mike Fair is giving up the fight to have Intelligent Design taught in South Carolina classrooms after coming face to face with House Ways & Means Chairman Dan Cooper's "Egg Tooth."

"Chairman Cooper smiled at me in the State House this morning and it was then that I noticed he had a prominent egg tooth in the center of his mouth as opposed to the Scripturally-mandated two front teeth," Fair said. "As this is indisputable evidence of evolution at work, it is clearly time for me to rethink my position in this debate. Accordingly, I have no choice at the moment but to discontinue my efforts to have intelligent design taught in South Carolina's public schools."

"In most species the egg tooth falls out shortly after birth," said USC anthropologist Dr. Miles DeBrabham. "Once it punctures the shell with sufficient force for the hatchling to emerge from within, it has served its evolutionary purpose."

Dr. DeBrabham said that in some rare cases, such as Cooper's, the egg-tooth not only remains, but grows - positioning itself squarely in the center of the mouth while the other teeth are forced to grow in around it. Oddly enough, of the 145 examples of egg tooth re-introductus in South Carolina, 144 have been reported in Anderson County.

"Come to think of it I've never seen a picture of the Chairman smiling with his mouth open," said state Rep. Catherine Ceips. "Who would have thought he had an egg tooth?"

Fair's announcement came as a shock to State Board of Education Member and fellow Bible-thumper Kristen Maguire, who vowed to pick up where Fair is leaving off.

"There is an intelligent design in Dan Cooper's mouth and I intend to prove it," Maguire said, reaching for her lipstick and compact mirror.

Dr. DeBrabham said that Cooper's case could be an example of nature experimenting.

"Individuals with egg teeth can open wrappers faster, bite the tags off of clothing faster and are reportedly much more adept at foreplay," DeBrabham said. "So in many ways it's a blessing."

Cooper declined to comment on his egg tooth but House Speaker Bobby Harrell defended the dental disposition of his pork-protege.

"Tom Brokaw was on the evening news for twenty-two years and not once did you see his top row of teeth," Harrell said. "For all we know Tom Brokaw had an egg tooth. And Tom Brokaw wrote the Greatest Generation. So there's clearly nothing wrong with having an egg tooth."

Although disappointed that his year-long battle was at an end, Sen. Fair said he holds no animosity toward Cooper.

"Oh goodness no," Fair said. "He is a friend. I am just a little bit freaked out by it, that's all. I'm sure I will get used to it in no time, though."

"He is the Egg man, he is the Walrus, coo-coo ca-choo," said fellow Ways & Means committee member Jay Lucas.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Intelligent New Blog - Dems, Pay Attention


When FITS first saw the name of the blog "Me and My Diet Coke," we figured it was the handiwork of powerful Charleston Senator Glenn McConnell's first mate on the H.L. Hunley, John Hazzard.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Hazzard, you had better get to know him soon. He's been drinking about a dozen Diet Coke's every single day for the past decade-and-a-half so we're guessing his stomach lining is probably going to give out sometime within the next two to three months.

At any rate, FITS clicked on the site and was pleasantly surprised by what we found. Manned (or womanned, as it turns out) by a young female Democrat who calls herself CCS, "Me and My Diet Coke" is actually one of the smarter, sassier and politically astute blogs out there - very much in the same vein as the oft-celebrated Laurin Line.

Sister CCS does tilt a bit more to the left than Laurin, our beloved Queen of the SC Blogosphere, but the content on her site does include a Laurin-esque mix of political commentary, social and cultural musings and those random everyday occurances that make life what it is - pretty much random.

Plus, she's a very good writer.

Democrats running for office in South Carolina, who at present have managed to come up with precisely one idea after a solid year on the campaign trail (Dr. Oscar Lovelace's cigarette tax increase), would be wise to bookmark "Me and My Diet Coke" as a must-read SC Political Blog.

Do yourself a favor and check out this intelligent new addition to the SC Blogosphere at:

http://meandmydietcoke.blogspot.com/

Is Will Folks Worth 1,590 Words? Of Course ...


There's something about The State Newspaper Editorial Page Editor Brad Warthen you've just got to love.

Sure, if he were in charge of South Carolina we'd be shelling out 50% of our incomes to the government, annually forking over half the value of our homes in property taxes and paying a 30% sales tax on everything we purchased (well, except newspapers), but there's something about Brad's articulate misguidedness that begs to be engaged.

In particular, one of Brad's most endearing qualities is that he "gets" our boy sic Willie. While he never refrains from dispensing the high-brow pot shot, the condescending ivory tower snub or reinforcing ever-so-subtly the "tempermental misfit" type-casting of our hero, Brad has mastered the fundamental equation:

Will Folks = Controversy = Reaction = Newspaper Sales

Apparently, Will Folks also equals a hell of a lot of website comments, which is why Mr. Warthen devoted a full 1,590 words to rebuffing an original oped one-third that length.

So here, in its entirety, is Mr. Warthen's 1,590-word response to a 600-word oped submitted by sic Willie in The State last Friday (be sure to visit http://blogs.thestate.com/bradwarthensblog/ for more of Brad's musings):

OK, My Turn on the Folks' Oped
By Brad Warthen
Editorial Page Editor

OK, now that the comments on the Will Folks op-ed have reached critical mass of 34 comments and rising (including two from Mr. Folks himself), I will take a few moments to address some of the points raised by readers.

First, though, let me give you a brief summary of my thinking as it went before the piece ran -- before the storm, as it were.

When the proof landed on my desk, I saw Will's mug and thought, "Oh, man -- what, again?" Then I remembered the earlier conversation in which it had been mentioned that this piece was in the pipeline. A board member responded by asking, "Is it something we would run if someone else wrote it?" That's pretty much our standard response whenever the question arises whether we should give this person or that person space on our pages -- what if it were from someone else? If the answer is "yes," we generally go with it. The answer was "yes."

So I read the piece on the page and agreed with my colleague who had put it there that yes, if this had been from some other similarly situated advocate on that side of the debate, we would have run it. But note that qualification of "similarly situated": It probably (would) NOT have run if it had come in from someone who had never been a player of some kind in the debate. I say that because the arguments were pretty weak, and persuasive only to someone who already believes all this stuff, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Coming from Will Folks, its weakness was interesting in and of itself. Coming from someone unknown to the readers, it would have had little value.

To elaborate on that, some folks have asked why we would "give a platform" to someone who pleaded guilty to criminal domestic violence. Well, we wouldn't. But we would "give a platform" to someone who is writing on a subject that is important and timely and who:

-Was the spokesman, until quite recently, of the current governor.
-Demonstrated his temperamental unsuitability for the job a number of times during the four years he spoke for the governor, but continued to hold the position until, as I just said, quite recently.
-Is still advocating, as hard as he can, policies that are priorities for that governor.
-Writes with a tone and style that is much the same as the way he spoke when he was in the governor's office -- lashing out, dismissive toward those who disagree, etc.
-Brings to the surface, in a particularly stark manner, something that has been hinted at more subtly up to now -- the growing tension between the governor and those who think like him and an increasingly unified business leadership.

My friend Samuel Tenenbaum said "Shame!" over our having run this piece. But I feel no shame. Well, I will admit that one thing about the decision to run this does nag at my conscience just a bit: the fact that the piece was so weak in its arguments that it undermined Mr. Folks' point of view, with which I disagree. So should I have waited for a stronger piece expressing that point of view to come in? Well, if I had, I'd still be waiting. It's not like we had a strong piece and this one, and picked this one. This is what we had.

Another respondent says critics are attacking Mr. Folks, but dodging the substance of what he said. Well, let's discuss two or three points of that substance:

Will dismisses the financial acumen of some of the heaviest business hitters in South Carolina (or as he puts it, "prominent leaders of the so-called 'business community'"), and does so in a way that takes for granted that HE and the governor know better than they do what is good for business in South Carolina. He sneers at the "left-leaning S.C. Chamber of Commerce" (note to Hunter Howard -- better quit wearing those Che T-shirts around the State House). He calls Darla Moore and Mack Whittle "self-appointed dilettantes." To provide a little perspective, as the governor said to me awhile back about his having hired Will in the first place, "You take someone who was playing bass guitar in a rock 'n' roll band and you give him a chance." Yeah, OK, let's see -- to whom would I go for credible financial advice? Darla Moore, or Will Folks? Mack Whittle, or Will Folks? Harris DeLoach, or Will Folks? Don Herriott, or Will Folks? Ooh, that's a toughie.

While the governor can be said to have more experience in business than his former protege, to suggest that he is someone whose credentials suggest more real-world experience in financial dealings than the people Mr. Folks dismisses is ludicrous. Mr. Sanford's record in the private sector before he took up politics is by comparison to these people -- and this is charitably understating the case -- less than impressive.

Actually, I'm going to stop there, and not get into his strong suggestion that ONLY the kind of tax cut the governor wants could possibly help our economy, or his indulgence in yet another gratuitous slap at public schools ("unquestionably the nation's worst") or his mentioning that "state spending jumping another 9.1 percent" without noting by how much it had been cut in the several preceding years (some agencies, such as the Corrections Department, by more than 20 percent during that period). Basically, I'm tired of typing.

But before I go, let me address a few reader comments specifically:

Scott Barrow says "you're giving him credibility and helping him restore his bad name by printing his columns." I don't see how. If anything, I'm hurting the cause he advocates by running a piece from him (I already addressed the fact that my conscience nags at me about that, even though my conscience, yaller dog that it is, doesn't know what it's talking about).
Uncle Elmer asks, "Does Mr. Sanford really need cool-headed, articulate friends like this?" Well, no, he doesn't. In fact, the last time we ran a piece by Mr. Folks, the governor's office called to question our having done so.

Honesty says, "The fact that you found the need to edit his previous editorial due to his apparent dishonesty while deeming him worthy of now being published as a guest editorialist borders on bizarre." Well, not really. We edit everybody, and a lot of what we edit out are unsupportable statements that are wrongly presented as fact. Sometimes we miss such mistakes and instances of outright attempts to mislead, but we try.

Will Folks himself complained that "Just once... it would be nice to submit an article and actually have folks debate its merits instead of venting their spleens with all this anonymous speculation regarding a domestic situation they didn't witness and don't possess the slightest bit of insight into." Well, once again, Will, I tried. I refer you to the above.

Finally, Don Williams raised a broader complaint "about the plethora of conservative local columnists which have been given platform" on our pages. Well, first, I wouldn't call Will Folks a "conservative." I think that term refers far better to the "left-leaning" Chamber of Commerce than to him. And Mr. Williams lumps him in with Bob McAlister and Mike Cakora as being three who "arrive at the same conclusions time after time." Well, Bob works for those "dilettantes" over at the Palmetto Institute, and is therefore pushing very different views from Mr. Folks on these issues. Mr. McAlister is also a very conservative Southern Baptist, while last I read, Mr. Cakora was an atheist. I have no idea where Mr. Cakora (whom I met once, about six years ago -- a fact I thought I'd throw in for Mark Whittington's benefit) stands on the tax issue (maybe you can find out on his blog). Beyond that, we usually get complaints about running too many liberals. I don't know whether we do or not. I particularly don't know on local columns. Basically, we generally take what we're sent, and choose between them based on quality and relevance (and whether they've been published somewhere else, which is generally a disqualifier). Mr. McAlister sends us far more columns than probably any other local contributor -- more than we actually run, I would point out. Joe Darby -- who is no one's definition of a conservative -- probably comes in a distant second (we hear from him less since he moved to Charleston). Tom Turnipseed? I would say he submits columns less often that Mr. McAlister, but more often than than Mr. Darby. (Mr. Turnipseed is also regularly published elsewhere). We run letters from him more often, including a short one on Dec. 18.

As for nationally syndicated columnists, here's a blog by a fairly nonpartisan guy who takes the trouble to rate columnists according to how much they lean either Democratic or Republican. Of the ones on his list we run regularly, he sees five as Dems and only one as GOP. But then, he lists George Will, of all people, as being slightly Democratic, so... Also, he doesn't include some of our conservative regulars, such as Charles Krauthammer and Cal Thomas. I guess "left" and "right" are pretty much in the eyes of the beholder, which is one reason I hate using the terms.
That's all I have to say about that. For now.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Volume I


Welcome to the inaugural installment of "Heard in the Echo Chamber," FITS weekly look at the various rumblings of note heard in and around the "inner sanctum" of the always-entertaining South Carolina political scene. Each Sunday, we'll update you on the latest noteworthy happenings transpiring under the dome, in the SC political blogosphere and (occasionally) in the reporting of major in-state news media. Enjoy ...

PROPERTY TAX SHOWDOWN

The South Carolina House of Representatives is poised to debate the session's most-publicized issue this week - property tax relief. In a preview of the potentially heated discussions to come, House Majority Leader Jim Merrill and House Minority Leader Harry Ott (ordinarily among the State House's more composed characters) nearly came to blows last week on the House floor, signalling that this week's floor debate might devolve into something considerably less than genteel deliberation.

Look for Democratic Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter to bring her "A-game" to the combative proceedings as she and Ott spearhead what is sure to be an entertaining, albeit abortive effort to slow the "Bobby Harrell Tax Shift Express."

The real property tax train wreck, observers tell FITS, is likely to occur in the State Senate.

FIRST PROPERTY TAX CASUALTY?

In related news, Carolina First CEO Mack Whittle may be in danger of losing his coveted position on the USC Board of Trustees due to his involvement in the increasingly acrimonious property tax debate. Whittle, who like Darla Moore and the SC Chamber of Commerce, has never met a spending or tax increase he didn't like - particularly one related to higher ed - has nonetheless ruffled a lot of feathers in the General Assembly by laying down on the tracks in front of Harrell's property tax relief freight train.

Could it be that Harrell intends for Whittle's removal from the board to serve as a "shot across the bow" to other so-called business leaders who are currently opposing his plan?

If so, Whittle is already showing signs of squirming under the heat. For example, he told reporters last week that Legislative leaders are "probably not exactly correct" in assuming his opposition to the plan. Probably not exactly? Sounds like the start of a "Whittle-wiggle" to FITS.

STOSSEL FOR GOVERNOR?

Gov. Mark Sanford has been talking about school choice for going on four years now, but ABC News' John Stossel, a 20/20 contributor, has probably done more to advance the cause in four weeks.

Stossel's "Stupid in America" segment, which aired on ABC on Jan. 13 and prominently chronicles the failures of South Carolina's worst-in-the-nation school system, has combined with the introduction of a more palatable "Put Parents in Charge Lite" bill to give newfound momentum to the school choicers. Political analyist Joshua Gross of the Body Politic even went so far as to say that "PPIC-Lite" would pass the General Assembly this session during an appearance on The Andy Thomas Show's "Inside the Bubble" program last Tuesday.

Gross is probably over-stating things a bit, but one overlooked dynamic that may be fueling Legislative support for school choice is, ironically, the continued back-pedaling on the issue from the Governor's Office. After previous comments from the governor and a less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of the newly-modified PPIC bill from Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer, one legislator told FITS, "the more they run from it, the more likely we are to run towards it."

And who said Sanford doesn't know how to "get things done?"

DEMOCRATIC ADDITION

Richland County Solicitor Barney Giese is the subject of venerable columnist Lee Bandy's ink this weekend in The State after the son of former GOP Senator Warren Giese announced he was switching to the Democratic party last week.

Giese, whose defection was hailed as a landmark event by such political science luminaries as Neal Thigpen and Blease Graham, told Bandy that his relationship with local Republican leaders was frayed "beyond repair."

Still, for a party that can't field viable candidates for over half of the statewide Constitutional offices on the ballot in 2006 (and is forced to run their Superintedent of Education candidate, Bob Staton, as a Republican), the Giese defection really isn't as big a dent as Bandy's column would have you believe.

Of course the SCGOP's real problem is - and will continue to be - that it's tent is in fact far too big, incorporating big government, tax-and-spenders like Hugh Leatherman, Oscar Lovelace, Bob Staton, Luke Rankin, Verne Smith and dozens of recent party-switchers who are no more committed to the ideals of limited government and lower taxes than Madonna and Sean Penn were committed to the notion of monogamy.

SIC(K) WILLIE?

FITS about had a stroke when we learned that sic Willie was nowhere to be found at his favorite haunts The Clubhouse, The Back Porch and The Publick House for a full THREE NIGHTS IN A ROW this weekend ... like many of you we wondered, did Jakie Knotts finally make good on his pledge to "make that summmbitch disappear."

Turns out our favorite bad boy was laid up in bed with a nasty cold, which we verified on a visit to his undisclosed location in Northeast Columbia Sunday morning. As proof that our boy was not his usual deviant self, he didn't even crack a smile when we offered to send over his all-time favorite female FITS' intern to wait on him hand and foot in a french maid's costume complete with fishnets and stilettos.

Our Willie did manage to raise himself sufficiently, however, to pen a brutal critique of the South Carolina business community in The State newspaper on Friday morning (http://www.thestate.com/mld/state/news/opinion/13779905.htm), appear on the Andy Thomas Show Friday afternoon, and deliver a speech to "South Carolina Winning Women" on Saturday. Our boy, who followed Republican candidate for Superintendent of Education Karen Floyd at the event, was reportedly quite an affable and entertaining guest, although we at FITS are sure that his good behavior was likely attributable to his cold making him feel a tad listless and lethargic.

Whatever the reason, we look forward to notorious anti-Will bloggers Ross Shealy (www.scbarbecue.blogspot.com) and Paul Adams (www.queerasfolks.blogspot.com) having a field day with the idea of sic Willie addressing a women's group ... no matter what the pretense!

Until next week ... be heard.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Groundhog Flips Out at Sanford Press Conference


In the second "post-piglets" animal stunt to go horribly awry for the Sanford administration, a seemingly adorable groundhog by the name of Filibuster Phil (left) held the South Carolina State House hostage today for more than three hours during a gubernatorial press conference gone haywire.

"The plan was supposed to be that the governor would pick him up, cuddle with him for a little bit, and then if he saw his shadow, there would be six weeks of no filibusters," Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer told reporters after the harrowing ordeal. "We had no idea he was going to come out packing."

Lobbyists, legislators and reporters looked on in horror, however, when Phil emerged from his crate on the second-floor lobby carrying a fully-loaded Browning M2 automatic machine gun instead. His accompanying angry, staccato chirps were recognized immediately by Sen. Jakie Knotts as "Groundhog-ese." Knotts promptly informed the gathering crowd that Phil was demanding "immediate access to Sen. Glenn Reese's stash of creme-filled Krispy Kreme donuts."

"He said as clear as day that if we didn't give him the creme-filled donuts, every last person in the State House was going to die," a red-faced Knotts told reporters shortly before admitting that he himself had already devoured every last one of his colleague's creme-filled confections.

After repeated efforts to break the impasse by Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Protective Services and State Law Enforcement Division personnel had failed, Phil's siege was ultimately undone by the very legislative tool his presence in the State House was intended to undermine - the filibuster.

Named after early 19th Century Spanish and Portugese pirates called "filibusteros," who held ships hostage for ransom, the modern-day "filibuster" in South Carolina has been perfected by Sumter Sen. Phil Leventis.

"We knew the only way to lull the creature to sleep was to force it to listen to something incredibly stupid, boring, pointless and seemingly interminable," said SLED Chief Robert Stewart. "That's when everyone in the room thought of Phil Leventis."

Within minutes, Leventis was on the Senate floor filibustering legislation that would prohibit out-of-district residents from voting in State Senate races using their Morris College utility bills as proof-of-address. Approximately two minutes later, some three hours after the ordeal first began, the rodent version of Filibuster Phil fell sound asleep and was taken into custody.

"Uhhh ... I would simply say that, at the end of the day, when you look at the numbers, I'm probably done with animal stunts," Gov. Sanford said as authorities hauled his bipolar groundhog off to await arraignment at the Alvin Glenn Detention Center. "In fact, we were going to do a restructuring press conference using a striped bass I caught during my latest Brokeback fishing weekend with Chip Campsen, but I think I've learned my lesson now."

Filibuster Phil's attorney, Dick Harpootlian, did not return repeated calls from FITS seeking comment from his client.