... IRREVERENCE, INSTITUTIONALIZED ...

Friday, March 31, 2006

Pizza the Hut: Sanford to Blame for Bauer's Lead Foot


If you're in the market for some beachfront property in Cherokee County, then State Sen. Jakie Knotts (pictured, left) has a pitch you've got to hear.

According to His Royal Redneck Rotundness (a.k.a. "Pizza the Hut"), Lt. Governor's Andre Bauer's recent recklessness on the road is all Gov. Mark Sanford's fault.

With Bauer himself presiding, Knotts, the resident crew chief of Bauer Racing, Inc., angrily took to the Senate floor yesterday to argue that if Sanford had only approved a taxpayer allocation of $64,000 a year to provide full-time chauffering and security services to the part-time Lt. Governor (who's only paid $46,000 a year himself), "we wouldn't be in the predicament we're in today."

Major props to Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer, who in response offered perhaps the best quote of his tenure as the governor's Press Secretary:

"It shouldn't cost the taxpayers $64,000 to keep the lieutenant governor's speedometer in double digits," Sawyer told The Greenville News.

Elsewhere, other parts of Bauer Racing Inc. President Rod Shealy's damage control plan were similarly falling apart. It turns out that Constable certificate Andre was so excited about temporarily returning to SLED (you know, to demonstrate how he's not "above the law") wasn't even valid, as Bauer has failed to complete his required firearm and legal education training in each of the past two years.

Nice work, Shealy.

So in addition to driving illegally, it turns out Bauer was illegally posing as a Constable, too.

SLED Chief Robert Stewart is currently investigating why his agency didn't catch the omission sooner, but FITS is betting it probably has something to do with Bauer calling over and telling the front desk "this is SC 2."

The sad thing (sad, that is, if you're a member of the rapidly-shrinking Andre Fan Club) is that Bauer's first-day response, "I've got a lead foot and I'm sorry" was actually perfect. You apologize for recklessly endangering people's lives, skirting the consequences and lying about it -you take the hit, and you move on. Seriously, there are some things out there you simply can't spin (and shouldn't try to). You take the hit and you move on.

Fortunately for those of us who want a real Lieutenant Governor (not to mention a real Lieutenant Governor's Office), Bauer Racing Inc. has turned "shooting themselves in the foot" into a full-on slug to the cranium.

Shealy has rolled out this elaborate "Blame-Sanford, Reward-Andre-With-A-Driver-And-Bodyguard, Walk-12-Miles-To-File-For-Reelection, Temporarily-Return-Invalid-Constable-Certificate, Sic-Pizza-the-Knotts-On-Them" strategy that's only exacerbating (that means "making it worse," Jakie) the Light Gov's problems. Instead of his recklessness, immaturity and bad judgment being front page news for a day, Shealy's making it front page news for a week.

What's next in this brilliant damage control strategy? The Light Gov racing fellow speeders in Go-Karts?

Oh ... Good God.

Look closely - that skid mark you see behind the Lieutenant Governor's latest public relations disaster is Rod Shealy's growing incompetance and, FITS hopes, eventual irrelevancy and outright disappearance from the South Carolina political scene.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ravenel Files for Treasurer?


Out of nowhere, former U.S. Senate Candidate Thomas Ravenel has filed for the Republican nomination for State Treasurer today, joining a crowded field that already includes former House Majority Leader Rick Quinn, State Sen. Greg Ryberg and Jeff Willis of Pickens.

Ravenel, who ran surprisingly well in the 2004 U.S. Senate contest ultimately captured by Jim DeMint, brings a number of interesting attributes to the table in the State Treasurer's race - not the least of which is his ability to self-fund his campaign to the tune of $2 million or more, as he did two years ago. Also, his consultant from the 2004 race was none other than Andre Bauer advisor and resident "Dirty Trickster," Rod Shealy.

The son of former U.S. Rep. and State Senator Arthur Ravenel, Thomas certainly suprised a lot of folks with his announcement today, including all of us here at FITS. Frankly, we saw the Charleston businessman running for a higher office come 2008 or perhaps even a gubernatorial bid in 2010.

Ravenel has been active with the SC Club for Growth of late, serving on its board of directors and penning an oped just nine days ago decrying the double-digit spending growth in the State Legislature.

But Ravenel announcing for the Treasurer's Office at the eleventh hour in a primary with two well-known, well-organized and well-backed candidates who've both already been campaigning at full-tilt for nearly a year is very surprising indeed.

Sure, the Treasurer's Office is the next-to-last bastion of Democratic control among the state's Constitutionally-elected positions and its occupant holds a seat on the powerful State Budget & Control Board. But given how close Ravenel came last go-round in the Senate race (observers say he would have beaten DeMint for the runoff nod had he bought television in key Aiken and Rock Hill markets toward the end of the campaign), his instant war chest potential and his telegenic good looks, it would have seemed a downballot race like Treasurer wouldn't have interested him - particularly with the field already so well established.

Ryberg, who has veteran GOP'er Warren Tompkins' firm running his race, has said he'll spend "whatever it takes" to win the Republican nod and take the Treasurer's Office away from incumbent Dem Grady Patterson, and has hinted at hiring the same ad man who crafted Republican John Thune's winning message over former Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota's recent U.S. Senate shocker.

Quinn, who started his campaign by building a second-to-none grassroots network, probably won't need as much complementary "air war" TV commercials and radio spots to be effective in turning out the vote. Word has it Quinn is also enjoying a very successful fundraising quarter, which he will need to keep up in order to stay financially competitive. Another strength is that Quinn has been way out in front of the other candidates on message, touting his comprehensive tax overhaul/ property tax relief plan to rave reviews on the stump while the crux of Ryberg's more socially-conservative message seems to be "I'm with Sanford."

And then there's Willis, a nice guy who's done a lot better than observers initially though he would, but who is now faced with three gorillas in the ring instead of two.

How those three gorillas (who are incidentally affiliated with the state's top three political consultants) maneuver in the cage over the next three months is certainly going to make this one of the most interesting, most expensive downballot races the State of South Carolina has ever seen.

Shealy-ites Fight Back, Say Andre Should Have Driver


On the same day news broke that their standard-bearer, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, used and abused his office to avoid two speeding tickets (including one instance where the Light Gov. was traveling at 101-mph) - and then lied in an effort to cover it up - the Shealy Nation was already fighting back.

No surprise there. The "Redneck Mafia" based out of Irmo, S.C. has a lot on the line with Andre, and Shealy is pulling out all the stops to try and spin the disaster effectively.

Leading the charge yesterday was resident S.C. blowhard and Shealy candidate State Sen. Jakie Knotts (pictured above during his svelte phase), who had the audacity to suggest Bauer should be rewarded for his reckless endangerment of fellow citizens with his own security detail and a personal driver.

Gee ... there's a great message. Break the law, place the lives of countless other people in danger, abuse your position of public trust to avoid responsibility for your actions, lie about everything on top of it all, and BAM! The taxpayers of South Carolina should thank you by shelling out $65,000 a year to protect and chauffer around while you campaign for re-election on their nickel?

Only in the thick, Cro-Magnon skulls of Rod Shealy and Jakie Knotts does that make sense.

“Our lieutenant governor shouldn’t be going across the state late at night,” Knotts said in an interview with The State. “He’s very popular; everyone wants him to be with them. We should provide security for him.”

Actually, traveling across the state late at night is perfectly normal (in fact, thousands of people do it), it's the 101 miles per hour, "SC 2's" above the law mentality and after-the-fact cover-up that bother most people.

We think The State newspaper's editorial today spoke for the vast majority of South Carolinians (who, by the way, would probably still be in jail right now if they'd done what Andre did) in concluding that resignation, not receiving a reward, is the more appropriate course of action for our Lt. Governor to consider.

Next comes Step Two in Shealy's "Bauer Reputation Redemption Strategy," which was for Andre to temporarily surrender his Constable certificate with the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to make absolutely sure that, in Rod Shealy's own words, "the public understands that he is in no way above the law."

Unless of course the law has anything to do with him obeying the speed limit, accepting the consequences if he doesn't or telling the truth when people ask him about it.

Again, many of us in South Carolina are stupid, but it's not tattooed on our foreheads.

But these are the Shealy-ites. They protect their own.

Like when former State Rep. Larry Koon faced a competitive challenge from Nikki Haley two years ago. Shealy attacked Haley mercilessly with disgraceful racial and religious slurs that had nothing to do with her qualifications for office. Thankfully, the voters rejected these negative tactics Haley won her seat in a landslide.

Or like five years ago, when Sen. Knotts himself got his buddy Cameron Neal off the hook following his second Criminal Domestic Violence charge, persuading a Lexington County magistrate not to file charges against his friend.

"I believe there is a difference between a shouting and a pushing match and a real domestic violence case," Knotts told The State newspaper at the time, defending his intervention in the matter.

Of course, this is the same Knotts who intentionally leaked our boy Sic Willie's July CDV arrest to The State and other news outlets, despite the fact that "pushing" was all that was even alleged in that incident, to say nothing of proven.

Because Bauer is Rod Shealy's franchise ballplayer, the accusations against him raise the typical Shealy-ite "playing for keeps" mentality to another level.

Based on Day 1's efforts by the Shealy Nation, it would appear Winthrop political scientist Scott Huffman is correct in saying, "There is no way to spin this well."

But don't think that'll keep Rod and the Redneck Mafia from trying.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Just Don't Get in the Car With Him ...

Talk about a bad week for political consultant Rod Shealy, South Carolina's resident "Dirty Trickster" and the father of negative campaigning here in the Palmetto State.

Not only is Shealy's top client, Lt. Gov Andre Bauer (pictured left), the undisputed laughing stock of the South Carolina political community after his latest run-ins with the State Highway Patrol, the week kicked off with Shealy's number two client, gubernatorial candidate Oscar Lovelace, getting played like a fiddle at a recent Lace House dinner with the man he wants to replace.

What should have been a continuation of the "Why won't you debate me, governor?" story Shealy has been pimping with some success to the SC press corps for the past month instead ended up as a feel-good puff piece for Gov. Mark Sanford.

By dressing up three State Senators as waiters, designating their four adorable boys as "referees," and coming up with creative, taxpayer-themed names for various hors d'ouerves and entrees, the governor and his wife, First Lady Jenny Sanford, expertly managed the fluke appearance by Lovelace and other anti-Sanford Democrats at the Lace House Sunday evening. In doing so, they turned a potentially bad political story for the governor into an amusing and distinctly positive human interest piece.

Then yesterday morning came the shocking disclosure of Bauer's recent 101-mph "SC 2, passing through" in Chester County and 78-mph "running late, as usual" warning citation in Laurens County, two incidents that probably wouldn't have been quite as big a deal had Bauer not:

a) Been involved in previous public run-ins with law enforcement
b) Used his police radio and "SC 2" designation to successfully avoid receiving a ticket and,
c) Lied to reporters when he was first asked about the incidents

Prior to Bauer's latest Lieutenant Gubernatorial implosion, most polls showed the Bauer-Mike Campbell race as pretty much neck-and-neck, with Campbell holding a slight lead just outside of the +/-error margins in the last poll FITS saw.

Of course that's likely to change significantly the next time a poll gets put into the field.

Bauer's problem isn't what's being said in the Echo Chamber under the State House dome or on political blogsites such as this one, Devinely Southern, the Laurin Line or elsewhere. We all know the State House lobby and our political blogs are "inside baseball."

Bauer's problem is what's being said at water coolers, barber chairs, barstools and dinner tables all across the state. Everywhere you turn, real people who don't live inside the political bubble are saying to themselves and their friends, "You know, if I got caught driving 101 miles per hour ..."

Invariably, that sentence doesn't end with the person receiving a warning citation or a friendly wave-off.

Bauer, whose judgment was already suspect for previous reckless acts on the road, has now established a pattern of suspect behavior - to which the equally unflattering terms "above the law" and "dishonest" can now be added. Plus, as he had yet to formally file for re-election, the situation turns his official filing today or tomorrow into a media circus that will only keep the negative attention coming.

Capping off - for now, at least - Shealy's "Worst Week Ever" is the announcement of former FBI agent Bill Malinowski as a candidate in the Richland County Council race against hand-picked Shealy client Jim Holcombe. Holcombe, who probably didn't expect to encounter serious opposition, now has a real challenge on his hands in the form of a credible, down-to-earth candidate backed by many of the same folks who organized the overwhelming defeat of Lexington-Richland School District 5's November bond referendum. Holcombe, on the other hand, is married to one of the top saleswomen at the Mungo Company, which was the driving political force in support of the referendum.

Shealy has experienced bad weeks before - like when he was found guilty of election fraud after secretly hiring an unemployed black fisherman to run against his sister - but most observers agree this week probably takes the cake.

All we at FITS can say to that is you reap what you sow, Big Guy. Enjoy it.

Sanford Taps Andre "Ice Cold" 3000 As Running Mate


Former Gov. Carroll Campbell had "Operation Lost Trust" to thank for his success in restructuring state government.

Gov. Mark Sanford now has Andre Bauer.

The day after news broke that South Carolina's Lt. Governor (a.k.a. "SC 2") had been pulled - but not ticketed - twice in recent months for speeding (including one incident in which he was clocked traveling at 101 mph), Sanford publicly announced his intention to "nominate" rapper Andre Ice Cold 3000 (pictured above) as his running mate in 2006.

"Our Constitution doesn't permit me to pick my running mate yet, but I can't have people out there thinking I had anything to do with this idiot (Bauer) getting elected," Sanford said. "There's only room for one Andre in South Carolina politics, and I want to make it clear that my administration supports Andre Ice Cold 3000."

3000, a founding member of the popular rap group Outkast, told reporters he was qualified for the job because he is "down wit purple" and doesn't speed on highways.

"Naw, I ain't wit dat," 3000 said. "We creeps when we roll."

The South Carolina Lt. Governor's office is largely ceremonial, with the only real political power being the ability to cast the deciding vote in the State Senate in the event of a tie. If Andre 3000's Sanford-backed candidacy succeeds, however, it could mean a dramatic shift in the decorum of the Senate.

"Aw hell yeah fool 'dey gone be scared a dat s---," 3000 said, briefly outlining his vision to turn the Senate Chamber into a futuristic, space-themed urban ghetto with scantily-clad dancers surrounding the balconies and lining the rostrum. "Fo real we gone' bring dat A-T-L Geo-gia style up in dat muthaf---er."

Bauer could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesman said that the Lt. Governor and his consultant, Rod Shealy, were busy picking out "SC 2" a new moped.

Monday, March 27, 2006

ZZ Top, FITS Unveil 'Top 20 Hot Legs' at State House


They flew in secretly this morning just before noon from Houston, Texas, but by the time they kicked off their press conference with FITS’ leggy staff just an hour later on the ground floor of the Capital Center, a crowd numbering in the thousands had gathered to bid an enthusiastic South Carolina welcome to Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, a.k.a. ZZ Top.

The Rock-n-Roll Hall of Famers – still going strong after 36 years – immediately launched into a rollicking 20-minute mini-concert that included such favorites as “Cheap Sunglasses,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” and the song everyone was waiting for, “Legs.”

“I don’t know why you’re here,” Gibbons told the throbbing multitude prior to launching into the group’s 1983 classic. “But we’re here to talk about legs.”

Turns out so was the crowd.

So when the final notes had faded, the band turned the microphone over to a barely recognizable Sic Willie, who in addition to sporting an uncustomary suit (a dark charcoal Gieves & Hawkes), symbolically donned a pair of “cheap sunglasses” for the presentation of the awards.

“I’m probably about to get in a whole lot of trouble with a whole lot of people for this,” said our favorite bad boy, addressing the crowd from his perch onstage between four FITS hotties. “But I don't care. Here are the inaugural 'Top 20 Hot Legs at the South Carolina State House’ as compiled by FITS and ZZ Top.”

The envelope please …

Nos. 1 & 2 – Kristin Maguire – You know the best thing about Kristin? She’s a hugger. You know the second best thing about Kristin? She brings lots of homemade brownies to the State House when she comes a-callin’ on behalf of the Charter School Reform bill. You know the third best thing about Kristin? She’s hands-down (or legs down) got the best pair of strutters under the dome. You know the fourth best thing about Kristin? She ain’t scared to show ‘em off, as anybody who’s seen the famous forest green suit can tell you. Maybe the Mayor of Importantville should keep that Charter School bill tied up in committee just a little bit longer …

Nos. 3 & 4 – Kay Clamp – We can never remember who Kay lobbies for, we think it’s some fuel petroleum gas chemical export type thing … or something. We don’t really know. Anyway, this woman’s legs simply defy time, logic, gravity and whatever else it was you were staring at the moment she walks into the room. We don’t know what age-defying leg serum Ms. Clamp is taking, but whatever it is somebody needs to put it in a bottle and start selling it … fast. These smooth missiles command attention from everybody, whether you’re a freckle-faced page or BPS guard or one of the most powerful Committee Chairmen or Constitutional Officers in the state.

Nos. 5 & 6 – Peggy Boykin – The first “Who’s Hot at the State House” veteran to make the leg list, Peggy must be taking the same age-defying leg serum as Kay Clamp. Honestly, entire budget meetings have been known to go downhill faster than Bode Miller’s pre-Olympic hype because this excruciatingly hot State Retirement Director showed up in a pantsuit and not one of her trademark skirts – killing everybody’s anticipatory buzz. We don’t always know what Ms. Boykin is talking about when it comes to supplementary unfunded accrued annual liability deferred amortization thingies (truthfully, we never got past the “supple” part), but if she’s teaching “Accounting for Dummies,” count us in.

Nos. 7 & 8 – Karen Floyd – Is it just something about the letter “K” that naturally endows you with great legs? Must be, because six of our top eight “Hottest Legs at the State House” are attached to women whose first names start with “K.” Here’s something you should know about Karen, though – she doesn’t just run for political office, she runs marathons. That’s right, those 20-plus mile things that you do mostly with your legs. The results, which FITS’ staffer Maureen (formerly known as Becca D.) observed recently at a SC Winning Women luncheon where Floyd spoke, are indeed moving to behold. She’ll win her election because she’s smart, savvy, classy and she’s the only actual Republican running for State Superintendent this year, but good Lord if only those 4X8’s had a little more room on them …

Nos. 9 & 10 – Lindsey Bonds – You know we’re just not scared of Thornton Kirby anymore. Sure his dad was a big-shot FBI agent from back in the J. Edgar Hoover day, but not even the threat of a thousand G-Men could keep us from giving Miss Lindsey’s perfectly-proportioned limbs their rightful place on this list. The second “Who’s Hot” honoree to find herself on the leg list, Bonds’ “got legs, and she knows how to use them” (oh come on, you knew it had to be coming somewhere in this post so we figured we'd get it outta the way). In all seriousness, though, it’s not just having the goods, it’s being able to transport them as well, and Bonds has the best stroll going.

Nos. 11 & 12 – Kathy Shannon – Another K. Another remarkable set of exquisitely-crafted, perfectly-toned drumsticks. And though it’s rare that Ms. Shannon strays from the latest pantalon chic, if you hang out around the State House long enough you’ll get a glimpse or two every once in awhile. Besides, what is it they say about the girls that leave a lot to the imagination? In fact, we’re trying hard right now to imagine a rational excuse for overriding the governor’s veto of the billboard bill, and though we may not ever get there at least Ms. Shannon makes it an enjoyable exercise in mental gymnastics.

Nos. 13 & 14 – Lauren Eaves – The third and final “Who’s Hot” girl to land on our list, Miss Eaves has single-handedly quadrupled foot traffic into the State House Bill Room (you know, the closet opposite the johns on the First Floor, South Side). And with good reason. Ever since the 23-year old former Clubhouse diva stepped under the dome, drool, desperate stares and date invitations have headed in her direction faster than pork for Mayor Harrell’s Democratic supporters at a Ways & Means subcommittee hearing. Seriously, don't just take our word for it, check “the record” yourself.

Nos. 15 & 16 – Sherry Street – From the plains of Indiana say a hearty Heartland hello to two of the most well-formed stalks we backwards, backwoods Palmetto boys will ever have the privilege of laying our eyes on. Actually, we have no idea if there are plains in Indiana (or stalks for that matter), but we do know Sherry Street has some incredibly hot legs. Put Parents in Charge, Part Deux, is obviously quite high already on FITS' list of supported legislation, but we know exactly who we’re calling if we need a little more information. A former aide to Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, Street was somewhat surprised when informed today she’d made our list. Take one look and we think you’ll agree she’s crazy for thinking that.

Nos. 17 & 18 – Jamie Bach – If you haven’t yet strolled down to the governor’s appointments office to inquire about your fitness for service on one of our state’s two thousand-plus boards and commissions, you need to do so immediately. And be sure to bring dozens of marginally-relevant questions to ask about each specific board so as to prolong your visit once you get there. Why? Because the longer you stay, the longer you get to witness the perfectly fit for service legs of Mrs. Bach, who also happens to be one of the few genuinely nice people in the building. The former Jamie Van Riper (yes, she's the daughter of another pretty well-legged Republican hottie, Lisa Van Riper), Mrs. Bach definitely got the good end of this gene pool.

Nos. 19 & 20 – Barbara Melvin – So she works for the most stuck-up agency in state government, a conceited collection of my-way-or-the-highway, pseudo-communist, status quo windbags who are daily allowing South Carolina’s ports to be overtaken by our neighboring states. None of that, however, makes State Ports Authority Lobbyist Barbara Melvin’s legs any less long, any less sleek or any less tan. The shoe goddess of the lobby, Melvin doesn’t hurt her “standing” with a veritably panoply of pumps, sling backs and mules - all selected from the latest styles and trendiest designers (speaking of which - did anybody other than FITS happen to notice the patent red Jimmy Choo pumps she sported for today's budget week kickoff? Wowzers).

So there you have it … all in good fun, we hope. Of course, were it not for a combination of restraining orders, outright threats and various other enjoinders of some sort or the other, you’d have probably seen a slightly more expansive list (including honorable mentions of at least two other “Who’s Hot” recipients, one of whom may or may not have been No. 1), but alas, we do what we can.

FITS would also like to remind all of our readers that the members of ZZ Top, who joined Sic Willie in casting their ballots, were all born in 1949.

Finally, we’re starting a pool on which male lobbyist/ legislator will be the first to walk up to Kristin McGuire and say “So, which one is No. 1 and which one is No. 2?” Our money's on Doug Jennings.

Anyway, we hope you enjoyed the list and got a laugh or two amidst the real Pork-A-Pallooza that’s going on right now under the Capital dome … the state budget debate.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Volume VIII


Welcome to the eighth installment of FITS' “Heard In the Echo Chamber,” our Sunday afternoon rundown of what’s really bubbling beneath the caldron surface of insider intrigues and political power dramas that make up life as we know it beneath the Copper Dome.

And in case you’re just visiting us for the first time, you couldn’t have picked a better week to check out the S.C. political community’s favorite new behind-the-scenes source for scoop, a blog column that's quickly becoming “Monday must-read material" according to one top South Carolina political journalist.

But enough kissing our own asses, let's go ahead and get your posteriors up to speed ... it's going to be one buck-wild, out-of-control, stir crazy week.

THE MAYOR STRIKES BACK

It ran in The State, Charleston Post and Courier, Greenville News and God only knows how many other editorial pages throughout South Carolina earlier this morning. Crafted around some dubious talking points circulated March 22 via a secret e-mail to House GOP Caucus members, it insists state spending is only increasing by 4.8% this year and that government has only grown by 3.9% a year since Republicans gained control of the House.

"It" is an op-ed written by the "Mayor of Importantville" himself, Bobby Harrell, the first thermonuclear missile launched from House RINOs in defense of their 2006-07 Pork-A-Pallooza state budget.

Here's the only problem with Harrell's op-ed: It's got more holes in it than Sonny Corleone's car trying to get through a toll-booth guarded by the Tattaglia family. Harrell most assuredly brought some cheese with his whine this time, but unfortunately that cheese is of the Swiss variety. Appropriately enough, FITS hasn't seen holes this big since an offensive line known as "The Hogs" was busy paving the way for John Riggins and the 1982 Super Bowl Champion Washington Redskins.

Of course, what should we really expect from the biggest pig of them all but a squeal, right?

But is government really growing by just 4.8% this year as Speaker Harrell would have you believe? Sure it is ... except you've got to take out Lottery, EIA and Capital Reserve Fund dollars to get that math to work ... oh, and you can't count the massive supplemental appropriations bill that's got all the pet pork goodies tucked away in it. When you add those items (which last time FITS checked were indeed state expenditures), spending growth comes out to 10.15% over last year's budget - or more than twice the what the Speaker is telling you.

Nice try, Bobby.

Next the Mayor tries to sell us on the idea that government has only grown by 3.9% a year since Republicans took over in 1994. It's interesting Harrell picks 1994 as his year. Surely Brother Bobby knows the first budget our so-called Republican Majority had a hand in wasn't until FY 1996. Truth is, Republicans have actually grown government by 4.8% a year on average since they got their hands on the budget (a full percentage point above corresponding population plus inflation growth).

Also, that figure includes three consecutive negative growth years in which spending declined by hundreds of millions of dollars due to massive revenue shortfalls created by the recession of 2000-2002. Leading up to that crisis, the GOP-controlled House had taken it upon itself to jack up spending by a combined 23.6% during FY 1999 and FY 2000, spending all the new money the could get their hands on as fast as they could - just like they're doing right now.

Unfortunately, they did spend every penny they could get their hands on, which meant all that could be done when revenues did go south was budget-slashing, trust-fund raiding and unconstitutional deficit spending.

Translation? The GOP-controlled House spends like drunken sailors when revenues go up, which leaves government gasping for air when revenues go down. Sound like the behavior of someone with a substance abuse problem?

Again, nice try Bobby.

There are far too many other inaccuracies in this op-ed to address in just one sitting, but suffice it to say, it's about as trustworthy on the whole as Barry Bonds' insistence that he didn't use performance-enhancing steroids or Martha Stewart saying she never benefited from insider trading advice.

Oh, FITS does have just one last question, though, Mr. Mayor - Since you whine like a baby (or get other people to do your whining for you) every time the governor holds a press conference or puts out a release about the state budget, we were wondering if you bothered to share your latest missive with him or anyone on his staff before they saw it in the papers this morning? If not, you might consider dialing it down a notch when you read something you don't like in the paper.

Until then, go ahead and stick a fork in your oped .... FITS is done cooking it for you.

MORE ON TOWNSEND NOT RUNNING

Soon-to-be former Rep. Ronnie Townsend claims he's just ready to get back to private life. The RINO House Education Chairman insists he's had his fill of politics and is ready to move on.

Yeah, right.

Apparently, Townsend learned that video footage of him vigorously hugging Democratic Majority Leader Harry Ott while the two celebrated the 2005 defeat of Put Parents in Charge was, for lack of a better term ... "out there."

Townsend also learned that the video was likely going to be used against him in a television ad if he decided to seek re-election. Talk about a devastating message to counter - you're up there dancing a jig with the lead Democrat in the House after relegating thousands of South Carolina school children to yet another year's entrapment in the nation's worst public school system?

In other words, Rep. Townsend was not at all ready to get back to private life - turns out he really didn't have much of a choice in the matter.

One down ... lots more to go.

2008 GOP PRESIDENTIAL UPDATE

FITS broke a story two weeks ago about some key members of New York Governor George Pataki's team paying some under the radar political visits to the Palmetto State, sowing the first informal seeds for what could possibly become a serious exploratory effort by the dark horse, fiscally conservative Republican here in South Carolina.

We're keeping our eye on Pataki, but this week's chatter was about Virginia Senator George Allen, who paid a visit to South Carolina on Friday to talk about health care at a Florence-area hospital and, oh by the way, raise some cash while he happened to be around for 5th Congressional District Candidate Ralph Norman.

Allen's apparently coming back to South Carolina on April 8 (along with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who may have to formally declare residency here if he's not careful). Both are addressing one of those Republican rubber-chicken snoozefests where people don't actually go to listen, but rather to argue with other people about politicians they've long before made up their minds they're either for or against.

Allen, who along with Romney has been honing a particularly revival-esque brand of right-wing-ese to the fire-and-brimstoners during his multiple South Carolina visits, nonetheless took a break Friday from courting the state's 700 Club membership to woo a broader, more diverse demographic.

That's right, the Virginia Senator is making his pitch to intellectually-challenged individuals who say incredibly obvious things, of which there happen to be quite a few residing in South Carolina.

Here's an example of the Senator's new 'Captain Obvious' strategy at work:

"One of the things I've learned is that you find out a lot more about issues by talking to people involved in the issue," Allen said during his hospital visit.

Wow. They're really not kidding when they say he's the candidate that most closely resembles George W. Bush.

COMING TOMORROW ...

If you thought that FITS' "Who's Hot at The State House" list caused a stir a few months back, all we can say is grab your socks and hose and pull ...

Three special guests are flying into Columbia tomorrow to help FITS count down the Top 20 "Hot Legs at the State House." And we don't mean "legislators," "legislation" or "chicken legs," either.

The list will be released mid-afternoon, so if you want to whine about not being on it (or being on it, for that matter), you better grab a FITS staffer early tomorrow.

Until next week ... be heard.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Fab Flags For $6 Million? It's Your Money


Dear Hard-Working South Carolina Taxpayer,

Guess What. You're not getting any tax relief this year. No property tax relief, no income tax relief and you're sure as hell getting a $400 rebate back out of that $1 billion in new revenue you sent to Columbia.

Nope, the State Legislature is going to spend every last nickel of your money.

In fact, after passing a pork-laden budget that grows government four times faster than your paycheck - the South Carolina House of Representatives (a.k.a. "Mayor-ice's Piggie Park") is far from satisfied. In fact, they won't rest until they've identified every feelgood expenditure they can possibly find to justify denying you (and in turn, our state's economy) even a modest portion of the surplus we worked so hard to create.

The latest taxpayer-funded extravagance is the brainchild of prominent RINO (Republican in Name Only) Catherine Ceips, who last year spent $5 million of your tax dollars to dump sand into the Atlantic Ocean. Evidently unsatisfied with her "Dirt Jihad" against that irrepressible force of natural inevitability known as "Longshore Drift," Rep. Ceips is now waging a "Flag Jihad" against Lt. Col. Banastre "Bloody" Tarleton.

Here's the only problem - Tarleton, a brutal British dragoon commander during the Revolutionary War (not the Gulf War), shuffled off this mortal coil back in 1833. And unlike "Longshore Drift," which is scientifically unbeatable, Tarleton and his British buddies have in fact already been beaten twice by America (1781 and 1812).

Nonetheless, here we have Rep. Ceips sponsoring H. 4886, a resolution that passed the Piggie Park by a vote of 109-0. It instructs our State Budget & Control Board to "from its reserve funds ... immediately provide the State Museum with sufficient funding to buy or otherwise reclaim three battle flags of the American Revolutionary War captured by Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton during the Battle of the Waxhaws (also known as Buford's Massacre) in Lancaster County on May 29, 1780, and to request that the State Museum also seek private funding and donations to help secure these important artifacts."

So how much do these flags cost? According to Sotheby's, all three can likely be had for the bargain basement price of just $6 million - although Ceips says she thinks we can get them for only $3 million.

"All South Carolinians will appreciate these flags coming home," said Former Minority Leader James Smith of Columbia.

Um, James ... While we're sure the massive voting block of revolutionary war re-enactors, history professors, museum curators and other members of the "There But For The Grace Of God Go I" Club might agree with that statement, the rest of us would kindly appreciate it if you porkers quit coming up with new ways to unnecessarily spend millions of dollars that could be going into our pockets and growing the state's economy.

But Smith's comment didn't even come close to taking the cake, that honor was reserved for State Rep. Mike Pitts.

"Do we really want that flag in the hands of an enemy?" Pitts asked.

Whoa there, home slice.

Last time FITS checked Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair had been pretty good to the good ole U.S.A. (WWII, Desert Storm, etc.) Of course it figures a South Carolina State Legislator would completely scrap Anglo-American relations just because Tarleton's great-great-great-great nephew is a little hard up for some cash and as P.T. Barnum once said, "there's a sucker born every minute."

Look, we're sure these flags are historic and should be publicly displayed. That's fine with us, just let Darla Moore, Mack Whittle and John Rainey pay for them, not the unemployed textile worker in Greenville who can't find a new job because our State Legislature won't build a business climate that creates them.

Hell, if South Carolina's General Assembly ever took its head out of its arse (that's the British term) and worried about how we actually make this state more competitive as opposed to buying, moving, raising, lowering and generally wasting everybody's time talking about flags, we might end up moving our citizens into the current century instead of relegating them to previous ones.

It's up to you, taxpayer. And if you happen to live in District 124 in Beaufort County, you can start by showing Rep. Ceips that $5 million in vanishing sand, $6 million in Revolutionary War flags and her support of a budget that spends every last nickel of a billion dollar surplus you created isn't a performance that should be reprised come 2007.

Sincerely,

FaithInTheSound

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Cato to Workers' Comp Reformers: Shake My 'Fro


FITS has learned that "Ole Yaller Teeth" himself, Rep. Harry Cato, has upped the ante in the brewing fight over Workers' Comp reform.

Apparently, Cato told a group of keenly-interested parties who assembled for a private meeting in the Capital Center today that he's "got fifty Democrats" in the event an amendment is offered attempting to re-insert cost-saving AMA standards into the "Cato-gutted" Workers' Compensation Reform bill.

Oh, Ole Yaller. Goodness gracious.

And what does "I got fifty Democrats" mean, exactly? Are they in your pocket? Are they in your office at the Blatt Building? Perhaps they're hiding out somewhere in your Kim Jong-Il-esque bouffant?

In related news, the powerful Chairman of the Labor, Commerce and Industry committee also refused to identify any of the hair products he used when posing for the above picture.

"Harry's hairy," said one participant at the meeting. "And he's definitely got a wild hair or two on this workers' comp issue."

Seriously folks, implementing AMA standards is a critical component in slowing out-of-control workers' comp premium increases in South Carolina, something that would provide a sound (dare we say, actuarial) basis for limiting excessive payouts that can cripple a state's business climate and ability to compete.

In 2000, South Carolina had the second-lowest workers' comp premiums in the nation. Today, we're creeping into the top half of the nation. Last year workers' comp premiums across the nation dropped by an average of 6%. South Carolina's went up 11%, and that was after a 17% increase the year before.

But seriously, Old Yaller. Aside from the common-sense merits of reinserting AMA standards into the bill, we don't think you're thinking the politics of this one through. The Senate - home of Worker's Comp fat-cats John Land, Gerald Malloy and David Thomas, among others - probably won't even let the reform bill come up for a vote (let alone reinsert language that would actually make it an effective piece of legislation capable of improving our state's business climate).

Knowing that, do you really want it out there that you're lining up with fifty democrats? To say nothing of the fact that some of them could be hiding out in your expansive afro?

Oops - too late.

FITS Threatened With Legal Action (Twice)


Twice in one day, FaithInTheSound - your favorite source for political satire and the insider scoop on South Carolina politics - has been threatened with legal action.

Oddly enough, it wasn't because of anything we said (which is pretty damned surprising if you think about it), but rather as a result of comments that were posted anonymously on our website. Odder still, one of the two threats against us came from an individual whom FITS went to great lengths to publicly defend on this blog.

But what's oddest about all of this brewing litigiousness? How can Reps. Ted and Mike Pitts look so much alike and not be related? Why does former Sanford advisor Chris Drummond use scissors when opening a candy bar wrapper? If J.W. Ragley's and Lachlan McIntosh's combined political wisdom is a tree falling in the woods, is it safe to call that tree a Chokecherry sapling? Does Katon Dawson refer to himself in the third person when trying to get frisky with his wife? How many more intenstinal villi does Jakie Knotts have than the average State Senator? And finally, when he used to play legislative softball, which side of the plate did Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer hit from?

At any rate, our legal team (pictured above) reviewed the anonymous comments, found they were in no way libelous, and our editorial board voted unanimously to leave them in place - a decision in keeping with the right to free expression all Americans enjoy as participants in what legendary Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once called the "Marketplace of Ideas."

In fact, in the words of another legendary Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas, "Freedom of expression can be suppressed if, and to the extent that, it is so closely brigaded with illegal action as to be an inseperable part of it."

To which we here at FITS can only add, "Amen, brother."

Oh, and if somebody could pass us an Annette Young-sized tumbler to raise a toast to those freedoms, that'd be great, too.

What the individuals threatening FITS with legal action did not understand is that actionable libel against a private citizen includes five components - defamation, identification, publication, falsity and actual injury.

Known as the "Common Law Five," these elements come to our modern system of First Amendment Jurisprudence from the British legal tradition, a.k.a. the "Good Old Days." For public figures, these standards are broadened even further to include what is commonly referred to as "actual malice," meaning that the individual making the comments also must exhibit "knowing falsehood" or a "reckless disregard for the truth."

You see, free speech is so important to our system of government - not to mention making fun of Dan Cooper and Bobby Harrell - that the barriers associated with restricting it are practically insurmountable, and rightly so.

Most importantly, if what you have to say on this or any other website is in fact the truth - there is literally nothing under the law (or under the sun) to keep you from saying it.

At the end of the day, we here at FITS did take the extraordinary step of removing several comments from a previous post owing to another legal enjoinment, one which is scheduled to expire on March 28, 2006.

We look forward to telling you the full story of our ongoing fight to protect your First Amendment freedoms at that time.

Until then, FITS is proud to offer a $200 reward to any individual who can provide us with photographic evidence of Dan Cooper's "Egg-tooth" at work during an actual meal ($300 if the Egg-tooth is shown coming in contact with any kind of pork product).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Seer-Sucker Smack Down?


South Carolina's resident political genius, philanthropist, kingmaker and generally "too cool for school" multimillionaire John Rainey (pictured at left) today laid the proverbial seer sucker smack down on anti-Sanford "babblerouser" and Shealy Barbecue Blog author Ross Shealy.

In a provocative op-ed published in today's State newspaper, Rainey (Chairman of the Board of Economic Advisors) disputes the notion that he's an apologist for Gov. Mark Sanford's handling of our state's economy, as Shealy suggested in an op-ed published in the same paper back on March 3.

If anybody had any doubt whether Rainey is a Sanford apologist or not, they need look no further than the BEA's chief economist, Comrade Wilhelm Gillespie, Rainey's right-hand man. The seer sucker, bow-tie wearing Rainey has allowed Gillespie free reign in shooting down literally every major initiative Sanford has put on the table (income tax relief, tuition tax credits and government restructuring, to name just a few).

Using the time-honored Democratic "class warfare" argument honed in Washington by the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and Jim Clyburn, among others, Gillespie would have us believe that tax cuts destroy economic growth, tuition tax credits destroy public schools and government restructuring destroys, well, government.

Never mind that no evidence exists to support any of those assumptions, and ample evidence exists to disprove them all.

So no, Mr. Seer Sucker Eeyore, your status as a non-Sanford apologist is actually quite secure. And while it's nice that Mr. Rainey has taken the time to explain how South Carolina's improving economy (and growing revenue stream) is not to be misread as a sign of allegiance to the governor who appointed him to head the BEA in the first place, it would be nicer still if he realized that real economic growth means "We the Taxpayers" deserve our fair share of the excess revenue we've worked so hard to create.

But then again, we're sure Mr. Gillespie would have something to say about that ...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Comments on Comments


We here at FITS get a lot of comments - and that's a good thing.

Your opinions, ideas, diatribes, insults, input, criticisms and all that other mother jazz is precisely why we're here, and the second a blog starts infringing on your right to speak your piece, well, that's the second that blog quits belonging to you.

This is precisely why FITS maintains a very liberal comment moderation standard, allowing people to post anonymously and publishing pretty much everything that gets submitted. In fact, in the entire history of this blog, we've only rejected two comments out of the hundreds we've received - and both were instances in which someone's identity was deliberately hijacked. Nor do we bother tracking down IP addresses or trying to figure out who people are - it's just none of our business, to be perfectly honest.

We're not changing our policies either, because we figure if you are a real person with a real thought who can type it into a computer, then you deserve to be heard (even if your name is Will Folks).

Having said all of that, things can (and do) get pretty personal on the comment pages sometimes, and people's feelings can (and do) get hurt - which ain't cool.

We're here primarily to make you laugh, and every once in awhile to make you think. It's entertainment, people. What we're not here to do is make you cry, though, and we don't think you should be here trying to make other people cry, either. And while we can't (and won't) stop anonymous commenters from posting whatever the heck they want to say about other people, remember when you're typing that those other people do have feelings (well, most of them anyway) and that while you may not have to put your name on what you write today, St. Peter's gonna ask you about it someday.

"I think it's about forgiveness," Don Henley once sang, and we at FITS think all of us could probably stand to have a little bit more of it in our lives.

Alright, we're stepping off the soapbox now. You may resume the bloodletting if you want, like we said, we're not gonna stop ya.

Top Ten Reasons Sanford Shouldn't Debate Lovelace


Whether its the State's Lee Bandy, Rod Shealy, Jr. over at the Shealy Wagging Blog or Ross Shealy over at the Shealy Barbecue Blog, a growing chorus of about eight people (most of whom just happen to have the last name Shealy) are demanding that Gov. Mark Sanford debate his so-called "Republican" primary opponent, Dr. Oscar Lovelace of Newberry.

A recent "Top Ten" list outlined reasons the governor should debate Lovelace, so FITS is pleased to offer for your consideration the Top Ten reasons he shouldn't:

10. You have to actually be a Republican to a debate in a Republican Primary. Talk to Tommy Moore and Frank Willis, Oscar, that's the debate for you.

9. "I'm for raising our cigarette tax to create jobs," only takes a couple of seconds to say. Debates last for over an hour - and you want three of them. That's two more debates than your campaign has ideas.

8. You've got $64,000 cash on hand. The governor's got $5 million. Elephants don't debate fleas sitting on their asses.

7. We're all very sorry your consultant's sister got booted from the Worker's Compensation Board, but it really is about time all of you Shealy-ites got the f--- over it.

6. Riverbanks Zoo has a lot of monkeys, many of them with red, hairless butts. You're welcome to have a "Primate Debate" with one of them, but a "Primary Debate" with the governor is a little bit out of your league.

5. Incumbency has its privileges, one of which is not having to waste three hours on some idiot whose sole basis for running is his consultant's impotent rage.

4. Watching 'Desperate Housewives' actually is a better use of the governor's time than debating you. Heck, staring at a turned-off television set for an hour is a better use of the governor's time than debating you.

3. You probably wouldn't be able to understand the chart showing South Carolina's unemployment rate steadily dropping.

2. In order to participate in a Republican Gubernatorial Primary Debate, you have to be able to correctly spell 'Republican Gubernatorial Primary Debate.' Go on, take your time ...

1. The governor is just trying to spare you that awkward moment when the topic of "Medicaid Reform" comes up, forcing you to acknowledge that your medical practice is a case study for why we need it.

Now go and have some fun with the monkeys at the zoo, Oscar!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Volume VII


Every Sunday afternoon, FITS publishes "Heard in the Echo Chamber," a look at the week gone by in South Carolina politics from an insider's perspective. Collected by our roving team of Stiletto'd correspondents, it's the inside scoop on what really goes on in state politics - not all that boring, watered-down mumbo-jumbo you read in the newspaper.

We gotta admit, though - this week we're dragging.

With a packed 5 Points rocking out Saturday to the sounds of 7 Mary 3 and other bands at Columbia's annual St. Patrick's Day festival, it turns out the FITS staff was a wee bit over-served by the various purveyors of adult beverages. In fact, a particularly precocious (and quite over-served) Deb N. practically fell on top of 7 Mary 3 lead singer Jason Ross, who was hanging out after the show at The Clubhouse restaurant in the Vista.

On behalf of all the FITS girls, thanks for being such a good sport, Jason!

But in spite of it all, there's still work to be done, and we think the first item on this week's Echo Chamber report shows just how important it is that we get right down to it ...

LAST (AGAIN)

Geena Davis (pictured above) may be President on a lot of Palmetto State TV screens, but according to a report released this week by Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics, South Carolina ranks dead last in the nation in the percentage of women serving in its state legislature. Standing at a pathetic 8.2%, ours is the only state below 10% (Alabama ranks 49th in the nation at 10.7%). In fact, South Carolina's percentage of women legislators is a full 14.6% lower than (or three decades behind, depending on how you want to look at it) the national average of 22.8%.

Just as troubling, it appears the national trend line has hit the so-called glass ceiling. After scoring double-digit percentage increases during the Eighties and Nineties, girl power in state legislatures has plateaued - gaining less than half a percentage point since 1999.

Of course the exception to the South Carolina political rule (as usual) is Gov. Mark Sanford's Cabinet, which features four women and ten men. Then there's his senior staff, which in addition to First Lady Jenny Sanford, features women in such key roles as Communications Director (Marisa Crawford), Education Advisor (Charmeka Bosket), House Legislative Advisor (Rita Allison), Deputy Legal Counsel (Swati Patel) and Appointments Secretary (Jamie Bach).

FITS has heard rumors that a new effort is underway here in the PalMANo State to address this glaring disparity, to which the Stiletto Mafia can only say "Amen," and call us if you need us.
Previous efforts, like Kris Geddings' (wife of former Hodges Chief-of-Staff Kevin Geddings) "B-List" have stoked some media attention but have accomplished precious little in the way of results.

Count on FITS to keep you posted ... the Stilettos are quite angry about this, and you wouldn't like Diane S. when she's angry.

CALLING BULL-POLL ON THAT

State Rep. John Graham Altman insisted recently that bad poll numbers didn't play into his decision not to seek re-election to House District 119, a seat he's held for 10 years.

FITS has learned that bad poll numbers in fact played a critical role in Altman's decision, and that after seeing just how bad they were, the State Republican Party actually persuaded him to drop out of the race so that someone with a better shot could go up against formidable Democratic candidate Leon Stravinakis.

Sound familiar? It was only last year that Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum bowed out of her quest for a third term after polls showed her getting whipped in a head-to-head match-up with Spartanburg businesswoman Karen Floyd.

When are politicians going to learn?

BROKEBACK JOURNALISM?

FITS can't decide which Sunday column is worse - The State columnist Lee Bandy's latest heavy petting session with fake-GOP gubernatorial candidate Oscar Lovelace, or Post and Courier columnist John Frank's open mouth kiss of Charleston Rep. Wallace Scarborough in his second Capital Notebook column.

Seriously, thank God for Dan Hoover at the Greenville News for not attempting to make out with anybody in print this weekend ...

Bandy's suck-up probably deserves the most contempt, though, since it is part of an emerging pattern of the venerable columnist being fed "GOP" consultant and Lovelace campaign manager Rod Shealy's talking points and running them pretty much verbatim. As bad as this week's public make-out session with Lovelace was, Bandy's column last month about Gov. Mark Sanford attending the unveiling of a memorial to fallen law enforcement officers still takes the cake for ridiculously-biased and irresponsible journalism.

Sanford did in fact veto funding for the law enforcement memorial back in 2003, saying that the $500,000 price tag should go instead to fund more troopers, police cars and other in-the-field needs at a time when the state budget was low. His veto was endorsed by the State Troopers' Association, and Sanford himself offered to help raise private money to pay for the tribute. That offer was roundly rejected by State Reps. Shirley Hinson and Annette Young, however, a point Bandy completely ignored in his column as he allowed Shealy-sponsored blowhard Jakie Knotts to rail on the governor at will.

So egregious and slanted was the spin that one Sanford confidant went so far as to say, "I've lost all respect for Lee Bandy." We at FITS aren't ready to go that far, but it's pretty clear that the Dean of S.C. political reporters is rapidly turning into the Lovelace for Governor campaign's media mouthpiece.

SKATING ON THIN ICE

State Sen. Greg Ryberg has been skating on thin ice this whole winter, but he may have finally fallen through and landed smack-dab into the frigid waters of Lake Hypocrisy.

Raging indignant against the evils of video poker in press releases from his Senate Office, Ryberg has been careful on the stump to avoid staking himself out on the pivotal question of whether or not convenience stores that he owns actually housed the machines he now refers to as "the crack cocaine of gambling."

Well, turns out the Senator finally did stake himself out on that question last week during a campaign speech in Kershaw County, saying his stores never housed the machines that he now says offer players the "phantom promise of instant riches."

Whoops ... FITS is betting it won't be long before a smart reporter trots down to the State Department of Revenue and searches around for video poker licenses that may or may not have been applied for by Ryberg's convenience stores. While they're at it, that reporter might also place a call to the Attorney General's Office or the State Ethics Commission, which FITS has learned is looking into an anonymous complaint that Ryberg Senate Staffers may have conducted opposition research on former House Majority Leader Rick Quinn while still on the taxpayer nickel ... which of course is a big no-no.

In other gambling related news, a chilling special report in the Charlotte Observer this weekend proved conclusively what most of us already knew to be true - that poor people who can't afford to waste their money are the ones playing the "Education" Lottery. Take unemployed Junior Miller, for example, who spends $20 a week on Powerball tickets after paying for such trivialities as child support and food.

Of course the S.C. Lottery website still advises players to "think of the money you lose as the cost of your entertainment, like going to a movie."

Sure ...

SHOTS FIRED AT SIC WILLIE BUILDING

Five people were wounded and $30,000 of damage was done after shots rang out during a private party at the Capitol Center in downtown Columbia.

Formerly known as the "SouthTrust Building," the Capital Center is South Carolina's tallest office building at 25 stories and 348 feet. It is also home to Viewpolitik, the at-times real, at-times imaginary consulting firm of S.C.'s favorite bad boy and occasional FITS contributor Sic Willie.

The Slick One was evidently not present at the time of the shooting, and police say no evidence exists that he was the target of the would-be assassins.

Capitol Center officials refused to comment on the incident, but a source familiar with the building said security upgrades were already being contemplated in the wake of Rep. Catherine Ceips bill requiring SLED to grant a concealed weapons permit to any woman with a restraining order.

"Mr. Folks has every right to rent office space here and we certainly welcome his business, if not his retro wardrobe and chin scruff," the source said. "Of course, we are taking the necessary precautions to safeguard all of our tenants in the event there are changes to state concealed weapon permitting law."

Until next week ... be heard.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

FITS & The Queen: What the Cool Kids Read ...

The FITS' gals are famous ... again.

No, we're not talking about alt-rockers "Death Cab for Cutie" including us in their song lyrics (truth be told, we made that up), nor are we talking about our "Mayor of Importantville" or "Chairman Egg-tooth" nicknames all but appearing in the House Journal, nor are we talking about the unexpected 17-minute visit the U.S. Department of Justice paid to our website the other day (oops) ... we're referring this time to Washington Post political blogger extraordinaire Chris Cilliza hookin' us up with some national love on former MSNBC producer Howard Mortman's "Blogs The Famous Media Read."

Along with the Queen of the S.C. Blogosphere, Laurin P. Manning (above), FITS was described as giving "a great sense of what political people in the states are talking about." And while we probably don't deserve to be included in the same sentence (or even sentence fragment) as our illustrious and ubiquitous queen, we here at Stiletto Mafia Headquarters are honored nonetheless ... or nonetheless honored ... take your pick.

In all seriousness, this is the most tickled we've been since the politically-dyslexic folks over at www.leftyblogs.com added us to their list of "liberal" websites, along with resident S.C. Sanford-hater Ross Shealy. Oh well, one out of two is pretty good for a bunch of Marxist-Leninists.

Anyway, in case you haven't checked out Chris Cilliza's blog "The Fix," we strongly recommend it. "The Fix" is a great source for insider info on political races from all over the country, and Cilliza is consistently spitting out some of the best 2008 Presidential Primary analysis available anywhere. It's a must-read for political junkies who look at polling breakdowns the way the rest of us look at the Life & Arts section, unless of course you're a bunch of crazy political gals like us!!!!

Oh well, Happy St. Pattie's Day!!!!!

-Kisses, Laurie D., Deb. N., Maureen, Diane S. & Sic Willie.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

New House Ed Chair Stokes Controversy

One RINO moves on, another RINO takes his place.

FITS has learned that Republican in Name Only Ronnie Townsend, who only yesterday announced his retirement from the House of Representatives (GOOD), will be followed as Chairman of the House Education Committee by Bob "Walker, Spartanburg Ranger" (pictured, and BAD).

At the risk of succombing to roundhouse-related death ourselves, FITS will momentarily stop invoking Chuck Norris (or any of his popular primetime television programs) to focus on the dramatic political implications of Walker's impending ascension to this lofty legislative post.

First of all, expect Walker's selection to be vigorously applauded by status-quo backers like the S.C. Education Association, S.C. School Boards Association, S.C. Association of School Administrators and other whiny, educrat-windbag groups who believe that our state's four-decade experiment of throwing ungodly sums of money at the nation's worst public school system will somehow magically turn it into the nation's best public school system.

Incidentally, four decades later, South Carolina still has the nation's worst public school system.

Walker, who was recently (and rightly, FITS should add) passed over for the role of Director of the Deparment of Insurance, came out swinging immediately against his critics.

"First of all it's Bob 'Mile High Club' Walker, none of this 'Spartanburg Ranger' crap," the 63-year old legislator-pilot told FITS. "And second of all, there will be open and vigorous debate on the pressing issues of the day under my leadership of this committee."

In fact, Walker said the highly-contentious school voucher/tax credit issue would be settled once and for all by a swimming pool "chicken fight" featuring Inez Tenenbaum and Molly Spearman (representing the status quo) versus Karen Floyd and Kristin Maguire (representing the school choicers).

"They will battle in bikinis, best four out of seven," Walker said. "For my pleasure."

"Good grief," lamented Maguire, who in addition to stating her flat refusal to participate in the new chairman's "chicken fight," also said she would trade her short skirts for less-revealing pantsuits on any days she may be summoned to appear before Walker's committee.

Undeterred, Walker also announced that he would determine whether or not South Carolina finally provides its teachers with cost-saving, quick-return item analysis on the PACT test based on "whether the teachers they send to testify before me are hot or not."

"Works for me," said fellow RINO Caucus and Education Committee member George "Who Am I?" Bailey. "But if he's a pilot then I graduated from Washington & Lee University and was a U.S. Marine."

Cigarettasaurus Rex

State Rep. Rex Rice (left) and fifty-five of his good buddies in the House of Representatives are rumored to be dropping a bill today to increase the cigarette tax in South Carolina, with proceeds going to low-income health care needs.

Good for them. We need to raise the cigarette tax.

South Carolina's lowest-in-the-nation tax on smokes is nowhere near as high as it should be given where our neighboring states are, and whether you believe that for inflationary or health-related reasons, the bottom line is that 4 out of 5 of you believe it according to recent polls. North Carolina did the sensible thing last year and raised its cigarette tax from 7 to 35 cents, on the heels of Kentucky raising its tax from 3 to 30 cents. South Carolina should do the sensible thing this year and follow suit.

Unfortunately, we can't raise the cigarette tax in a vacuum.

For it to work, a cigarette tax increase has to be part of a broader, comprehensive overhaul of our state's antiquated tax code that materially addresses property, sales and income taxes, too. And beyond just addressing all of these things, that broader, comprehensive overhaul has to be a net tax cut for the people of South Carolina with its core objectives being job creation, capital investment stimulation and slowing the rampant growth of government in our state.

Gov. Mark Sanford pushed a cigarette tax-income tax swap back in 2003, but got shouted down by the General Assembly a lot like Rice gets shouted down every year he offers his straight-up cigarette tax increase. We then hear a lot from Republican leaders about the lack of "legislative appetite."

But Cigarettasaurus Rex is a gamer. The Greenville-Pickens Representative isn't afraid of a fight, no matter who's lined up on the other side of the line of scrimmage. In fact, one of the best urban legends in all of South Carolina politics is that he tried to have Gov. Sanford arrested by State House security the day he brought two piglets to the door of the House Chambers. And this time, as mentioned, Rice is bringing 50+ buddies along for the fight.

Buckle your chinstraps ...

FINALLY ...

FITS has learned that the RINO Caucus is about to be minus a very influential member. State Rep. Ronnie Townsend, Chairman of the powerful House Education Committee, is not seeking another term in 2006. Thank God. The Anderson "Republican" has been a stalwart opponent of school choice and a tool of the liberal education bureaucracy for the duration of his tenure as Chairman, and South Carolina is fortunate indeed that he is returning to the land of the Egg-tooth.

Now if only we can get the Ways & Means Chairman to join him ... hmmmm.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Norris' Political Impact Spreading Rapidly


In less than 24 hours since he was invested with supreme executive, legislative and judicial authority in the State of South Carolina, new Sanford Minister of Defense Chuck Norris is quickly establishing himself as a political force to be reckoned with.

First was yesterday's announcement by Rep. John Graham Altman that he would not seek another term, a move political observers attribute directly to Altman receiving specific instructions from the movie/martial arts superstar.

Now, according to the Florence Morning News, powerful Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman is also buckling under the "Norris touch," introducing legislation that would drastically alter South Carolina's self-defense laws to allow for more "deadly force."

Under Leatherman’s bill, the current self-defense law's requirement that victims must "retreat in the face of an oncoming intruder" would be deleted and "deadly force could immediately be exerted on the attacker to prevent bodily injury to or death of the victim."

Think we're kidding? Check it out for yourself at:

http://www.morningnewsonline.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=FMN%2FMGArticle%2FFMN_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1137834705348&path=!news

And over in the House, Rep. Catherine Ceips has introduced a bill (co-sponsored interestingly enough by Rep. Wallace Scarborough) that would allow SLED to issue an emergency concealed weapons permit to any woman receiving a court-ordered restraining order in - among other instances - criminal domestic violence cases. The bill is scheduled to be debated this afternoon by a Judiciary subcommittee.

Having roundhouse-kicked half of the state press corps only yesterday, Minister Norris was unable to hold a press conference to tout his accomplishments, but did issue the following two-word statement to the media:

"Bring it."

GOP Candidate for Saluda County Dog Catcher Endorses Lovelace

Earl, a Republican candidate for the office of Dog Catcher in Saluda County, added his name to an illustrious list of GOP luminaries backing the insurgent gubernatorial campaign of Newberry physician Dr. Oscar Lovelace.

"Oscar's Army is gaining momentum every day," said Earl, who has no last name. "I'm proud to join the ranks of a growing list of important Republicans who support his candidacy."

Earl's endorsement of Lovelace sparked a political firestorm across South Carolina, coming a day after FITS' favorite Homo neanderthalensis Jakie Knotts (formerly of "Republicans for Hodges") headed up a list of prominent GOPers endorsing Lovelace's campaign.

Also on the list was disgruntled Santee Cooper advocate Bill Mescher, who incidentally sounds an awful lot like Milton from the movie "Office Space" when he talks, and Horry County auditor Lois "Hot Lips" Eargle.

"This is a political juggernaut that spells real trouble for Mark Sanford," said Clemson political scientist Bruce Lee Ransom. "Earl's endorsement of Lovelace is infinitely bigger than former Gov. Carroll Campbell's endorsement of Mark Sanford was four years ago. It changes the whole complexion of the race."

In related news, the entire RINO (Republican in Name Only) caucus of the GOP-controlled House of Representatives took a break from growing government by 16% to hold a press conference announcing that it was endorsing former U.S. Rep. Ken Holland for governor.

Informed that Holland had already dropped out of the Democratic Primary, RINO Caucus Chair and Mayor of Importantville Bobby Harrell snapped back, "Well I guess I'd better get his ass back in it then, hadn't I?"

"I told you b--ches, I'm the Mayor of Importantville," Harrell added. "I do whatever the f--- I want."

Harrell declined to comment as to whether or not he would seek Earl's endorsement in the event he runs for governor in 2010.

"That's Jimmy (Merrill)'s problem, not mine," Harrell said. "Besides, who wants to be governor when you can be Mayor?"

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Woozy Sanford Abruptly Creates New Cabinet Agency

Gov. Mark Sanford, in an unexpected and uncharacteristic show of support for the expansion of state government, today issued Executive Order 2006-22 formally establishing a new “Ministry of Defense” for the State of South Carolina.

The executive order was issued hastily following what was originally scheduled to be a five-minute meet-and-greet with movie star and martial arts expert Chuck Norris, who reportedly was in South Carolina scouting locations for a new film. According to Commerce officials, Sanford was discussing benefits of the state's new film incentives bill with the actor, but then surprisingly tapped him to lead the new Cabinet-level Department.

Although Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer insisted otherwise, the governor appeared woozy, wobbly and nonsensical when he and Norris emerged from his office to meet reporters, and was holding his hand to the back of his head. FITS has since learned that two correspondents had it in mind to ask the governor whether or not he had received one of Norris’ fabled “roundhouse” kicks, but the new Minister of Defense had already read their minds and dropped them to the State House floor with two expertly-timed, forcefully-delivered variations of said maneuver.

“Anybody else thinking about asking me if I roundhouse-kicked the governor?” Norris asked members of the S.C. press corps who remained standing. “I didn’t think so.”

Norris, who went on to claim supreme executive, legislative and judicial authority throughout the State of South Carolina stemming from his new appointment, took only one actual question, but did not like it and subsequently roundhouse-kicked the reporter who asked it.

“Any more questions? I didn’t think so,” Norris said before returning into the governor’s office. “Now governor, come back here into my office when you’re done handing out those press releases to whoever’s still standing.”

Sawyer did his best to put a good face on the incident.

“The governor was not round-housed, he wanted Mr. Norris on board in this key new role for two reasons,” Sawyer said. “First, he’s a popular action hero who symbolizes strength and resolve to a generation of older voters. Second, he’s becoming quite a cult hero among younger voters with the rising popularity of Chuck Norris jokes on the Internet.”

Asked what the governor’s favorite Chuck Norris jokes were, Sawyer immediately pulled out a list of Sanford's Top 20:

20. In 1960, the year Chuck Norris was born, roundhouse-related deaths increased by 13,000%.
19. At the moment of his birth, Chuck Norris came out feet-first and roundhouse-kicked the doctor. Nobody delivers Chuck Norris but Chuck Norris.
18. The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain.
17. When Chuck Norris jumps into a lake or swimming pool, he doesn’t get wet. The water gets “Chuck Norris-ed.”
16. Chuck Norris doesn’t read books, he stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
15. Chuck Norris does not go hunting because the word “hunting” implies the possibility of failure. Chuck Norris goes killing.
14. Chuck Norris was about to send an e-mail once, but then realized it would be quicker to run.
13. If Chuck Norris is running late, time better slow the f--- down.
12. Chuck Norris does not get a “Brain Freeze,” Slurpees know when to back the f--- up.
11. Leading hand sanitizers can kill 99.9% of germs. Chuck Norris can kill 100% of whatever the f--- he wants.
10. A handicapped parking sign does not signify that the spot in question is for handicapped people. It is in fact a warning that the spot belongs to Chuck Norris and he will make you handicapped if you dare to park there.
9. Chuck Norris lost his virginity before his dad did.
8. Chuck Norris sleeps with a night light - not because he is afraid of the dark, but because the dark is afraid of Chuck Norris.
7. Chuck Norris can speak Braille.
6. Chuck Norris’ urine is so potent it is being marketed as an energy drink. In case you haven’t heard, it’s called Red Bull.
5. Chuck Norris once visited the Virgin Islands. They are now referred to as the Islands.
4. Chuck Norris sold his soul to the devil for his rugged good looks and unparalleled martial arts ability. Shortly after the transaction was finalized, Chuck Norris roundhouse-kicked the devil and took his soul back. Appreciating irony, the devil couldn’t stay mad. The two now play poker every second Wednesday of the month.
3. When Chuck Norris sends in his tax returns, he includes only blank forms and a picture of himself crouched and ready to attack. Chuck Norris does not pay taxes.
2. Contrary to popular belief, President George Bush and Governor Mark Sanford are excellent public speakers who rarely mispronounce words or wander off their prepared remarks. They only appear to be nervous and disorganized at times because they know Chuck Norris is watching.
1. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself … the only thing fear has to fear is a lethal roundhouse kick from Chuck Norris.

After releasing the list, Sawyer added that House Rep. John Graham Altman’s decision not to seek re-election was not the result of polling data or previous public missteps, but rather a visit from Chuck Norris instructing him not to run.

Monday, March 13, 2006

2008 Dark Horse Watch

A dark horse which had never been thought of … rushed past the grandstand in sweeping triumph.”

–Benjamin Disraeli, The Young Duke.

Thus the term “dark horse” was first used in 1831 by British novelist, poet and future Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli – in reference to racehorses that were blackened to conceal their true identities, thus increasing betting odds.

Thirteen years later, the expression that’s now synonymous with “unexpected success” made its way across the Atlantic and into the American political lexicon forever in the person of James K. Polk, who won the Democratic Presidential nomination on the eighth ballot en route to an improbable White House victory.

Of course South Carolinians know something about “dark horse” candidates themselves – having elected two of them in succession to the highest office in the state – but they may be surprised to hear the name of the latest “dark horse” potentially testing the 2008 GOP Presidential waters in this reddest of Republican states.

We all know Arizona Senator John McCain, and lately we’ve seen a lot of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Virginia Senator George Allen – both of whom are making serious early plays for support in the Palmetto state’s “First in the South” primary. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback are names we’ve heard mentioned as well, and even former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has paid a visit to South Carolina.

As it presently stands, McCain holds a commanding lead in the polls here, and rumors abound that former Bush strategist Warren Tompkins (the architect of McCain’s 2000 primary defeat in South Carolina) is even courting the Arizona Senator’s business. And why not? None of the would-be challengers to the McCain 2008 movement have picked up much in the way of traction here, despite their best efforts to the contrary.

Yet there is one “dark horse” who’s been absent from South Carolina – and as a result from our newspaper clippings, radio call-in shows and political blog discussion boards – a fiscal conservative with impeccable tax relief credentials, de facto ownership of the anti-terror issue and a strong anti-crime, pro-environment, pro-business, pro-welfare reform record that’s turned his state around despite the devastating impact of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Who is this “dark horse,” you may ask?

New York Gov. George Pataki.

Consider these impressive numbers since Pataki became New York State’s first conservative Republican governor in 1995:

- $100 billion in tax cuts
- 600,000 new jobs
- 1 million fewer welfare recipients
- 50% decrease in violent crime
- 1 million acres of newly-protected land

Pataki, 60, is currently the longest-serving governor in America – having been elected three times in a row in a state that’s bluer than Al Gore’s underwear.

In fact, since Pataki’s 1994 upset win over Democrat Mario Cuomo (who was endorsed by, of all people, Rudy Giuliani), New Yorkers have sent Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton to the U.S. Senate and outvoted Republicans 12 million to 6 million in the past three presidential elections.

Last July Pataki announced he would not seek a fourth term as governor, prompting speculation regarding his future aspirations.

But since then, as Giuliani and McCain’s candidacies have generated considerable fanfare, Pataki has remained remarkably quiet. And though Pataki is a friend of popular S.C. Governor Mark Sanford – who recently touted his “free agent” status in spite of his starring role in the 2000 McCain insurgency – neither the New York governor nor members of his team have treaded on South Carolina soil … until this weekend, that is.

Quietly, representatives of Pataki’s “21st Century Freedom PAC” slipped into Charleston and Columbia over the past two days for a series of initial, informal political visits as nonchalant as they were unreported … until now, that is.

While hardly planting a flag, Pataki’s crew certainly didn’t waste any time putting their ears to the ground.

Many say a socially-moderate, pro-choice candidate like Pataki doesn’t stand a chance in South Carolina. That may be true, as evidenced by the steady diet of red meat candidates Allen and Romney have consistently fed to social conservatives here as well as this weekend in Memphis at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, which Pataki did not attend.

Interestingly enough, though, abortions are on the decline in New York under Pataki’s watch, he’s been endorsed by a number of pro-life groups at various points in his political career and he’s consistently opposed partial-birth abortions, the new demarcation line on this issue among many independent voters.

Whether that combination is enough to ward off attacks in a state that still boasts a sizeable (albeit declining) mass of Christian Coalitioners remains to be seen, but the presumed suspicion of social conservatives is Pataki’s only glaring weakness in contemplating the South Carolina Presidential primary landscape.

Pataki’s strengths, on the other hand, begin with 9/11. While Allen, Romney and the others can mirror Bush’s 2004 re-election strategy by beating the drum against international terrorists, Pataki (along with Giuliani) can beat the same drum having personally taken their best shot in his home state – a crisis he’s brought his people and their economy back from stronger and more vibrant than ever. Add to the 9/11 bump Pataki’s impressive tax-cutting credentials and job creation numbers, and you’ve got the makings of a winning conservative message that should play incredibly well here in South Carolina.

So will Pataki run?

Who knows … with the entry fee for a Presidential bid approaching $100 million and the 2008 field already beginning to take shape without him, Pataki is approaching put-up-or-shut-up time if he wants to follow three former New York governors into the choice digs at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

If Pataki is seriously contemplating a run at the White House, chances are you’d start seeing some initial signs of political activity developing in South Carolina right around now … perhaps even a nonchalant, unreported visit or two by members of his team.

Wait a minute ... to be continued.