... IRREVERENCE, INSTITUTIONALIZED ...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Something is Off"

Ya think?

Really?

Once again, South Carolina ranks either last or next-to-last nationally in SAT scores, and once again - on cue - outgoing Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum has come up with another creative explanation that conveniently absolves our abysmal public school system of any blame whatsoever.

Let's recap ... one year it was because we weren't spending enough money, another year it was because we didn't have enough "accountability," another year it was because we weren't spending enough money, another year it was because the SAT just isn't an accurate measurement, another year it was because we weren't spending enough money, another year it was because we needed a pre-K bureaucracy, another year it was because we weren't spending enough money, another year we needed facility enhancements, another year it was because we weren't spending enough money, another year we didn't have enough teachers, another year it was because we weren't spending enough money ... and so on and so on ...

Ever the deflecting apologist, this year Inez is blaming the test itself, questioning SAT revisions and whether or not they "actually measure what is being taught nationally."

"Something is off," Inez told The State newspaper this morning.

Inez also claims that a $13 increase in the cost of taking the SAT discouraged repeat testers, thus driving down our scores.

Oh, and God forbid she should ever miss the opportunity to ask for still more money for a bureaucracy that's already doubled (along with per pupil funding) since she was elected, Inez is also asking for ... wait for it ... new programs! That's right, shiny new government programs, specifically funding for yet another accountability and SAT preparedness initiative for which she conveniently doesn't give a price tag.

Another year, another fresh batch of excuses.

Thankfully, this is the last summer of SAT shame in which we have to endure Inez's finger-pointing and incessant mo' money demands, but the litany of evasion and the ever-escalating drumbeat for more of your tax dollars is unlikely to end with the expiration of the Superintendent's second term in January.

Why?

Because sadly, the vast majority of legislators (including powerful Republicans like Bobby Harrell, Dan Cooper, Bob Walker, Hugh Leatherman and John Courson) are totally co-opted by the education establishment and don't mind spending more of your hard-earned money to prove it, actual value for the investment be damned.

Heck, Sen. Courson even suggested recently that we should all thank Inez upon her departure by "giving her a hug."

A hug for what? For eight years of the nation's worst SAT scores and graduation rates in spite of gargantuan funding increases, with no end to either in sight?

"Something is off," indeed.

The problem is that what's "off" is not the SAT, it's our General Assembly's blind allegiance to a system that caters almost exclusively to the financial needs of upper class bureaucrats while routinely ignoring the educational progress of the individual child ... thousands of individual children, as a matter of fact.

In the last decade, we've spent billions on new schools, new teachers, new programs, new equipment, higher salaries, a spiffy new accountability system, a massive new First Steps bureaucracy ... pretty much everything Inez and her educrat buddies asked for.

And what's it gotten us?

Well, we get to say "Thank God for Mississippi" or "Thank God for Hawaii" every three or four years when our kids' test scores rank 49th as opposed to 50th.

Until we get our educational loyalties more properly aligned in South Carolina, we can expect to see more of the same shoddy results in the years to come - albeit with different excuses - no matter who we elect Superintendent in November.

I'm Gonna Be Prez-O-Dent

If the 2008 South Carolina Republican Presidential Primary were held today, the winner wouldn't be John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, George Pataki, Mike Huckabee or any of the other big name GOPers making the rounds in Palmetto political circles ... it'd be this guy, John Cox.

Say what?

The reason is simple. Thusfar, Cox, a fiscal and social conservative, is the only declared candidate in the race on the Republican side, meaning he's got the field (for now) all to himself.

"We like to refer to him as the presumptive nominee," jokes Cox for President National Coordinater Nathan Martin.

But the Cox campaign is not a joke. In fact, the Illinois businessman who has run unsuccessfully in the past for the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate is set to notch another Campaign 2008 first - becoming the first candidate to go up on television.

According to Martin, Cox is set to launch a series of television ads introducing him and his positions to South Carolina voters after Labor Day - this year.

Since Cox has officially thrown his hat in the ring (and is about to run some ads to prove it), look for the first FITS candidate interview with this political unknown later in the week.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dawson To Break Pledge, Seek Reelection As Party Chair

FITS has confirmed from three independent, reliable sources that SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson will break his pledge to serve only two terms as Party Chairman and seek a third term.

Dawson, who has presided over a financially sound but ideologically fractured state GOP organization since his election in April, 2002, is likely to face a strong challenge from Columbia attorney Kevin Hall, a well-known ally of Gov. Mark Sanford, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint.

Dawson did not immediately respond to FITS' request for comment.

Stay tuned to FITS for more on this developing story ...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Echo Chamber - The Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda Campaign

It pains us to no end every time we see State Rep. Ralph Norman's campaign get manhandled (yet again) by incumbent Fifth District U.S. Rep. John Spratt.

Seriously, what the hell happened to this race?

When Norman announced last year, we thought for sure Spratt's big-spending goose was cooked.

Consider the advantages Norman has enjoyed.

He has the financial and political backing of the Rove (we mean Bush) White House. He has the unanimous, full-throated support of the state Republican establishment and SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson (which it should be noted he reserves for some Republicans at the expense of others). He's running in a district that's trending Republican (57% of 5th District residents voted to re-elect George W. Bush in 2004) and to top it all off, he's a solid candidate with unimpeachable fiscal conservative credentials.

Norman should be walking away with this seat, which Republicans need to win if they expect to offset losses elsewhere in the country and hang onto the U.S. House of Representatives come 2007.

But that's not what's happening ...

Instead, Spratt is out-hustling, out-thinking, out-fundraising and (most importantly) out-polling Norman, who is relying on a severely-dated campaign strategy and the inept, partisan bullying of Chairman Dawson and Congressman Joe Wilson, among others, who are trying desperately to paint a picture of Spratt as a liberal Washington insider.

The result has hardly been a Monet.

While 5th District voters are focused on real world issues like gas prices, education and their checking accounts, Norman's campaign and Dawson's SCGOP can't seem to break out of their petty, ineffective "inside baseball" mentality, launching a new press release almost every week talking about how Spratt is a "Nancy Pelosi liberal" or calling on him to denounce a controversial national TV ad he had nothing to do with, or demanding that he issue a public apology for calling Congressman Wilson "crazy."

Of course, Joe Wilson IS crazy ... and Spratt deftly "served" Norman's incompetent advisors Jimmy Connors-style by quickly denouncing the ad in question, making the attackers look like political opportunists (which they are) and essentially asking the Norman campaign, "what you got now?"

And as for the confoundingly stupid and electorally irrelevant Nancy Pelosi line of attack (what's her name ID in South Carolina again?), Spratt offered the following shot across the bow in today's Rock Hill Herald:

"When I first ran 22 years ago, my opponent said the first vote I would cast would be for (former Democratic Speaker) Tip O'Neill. They're still playing from that same old playbook. When I'm in Congress and decisions are made, I'll have a seat at the table. If Ralph is there, he'll be on a back bench."

That quote, in a nutshell, is precisely why Spratt will beat Norman like he stole somethin' if things remain as they are.

The truth is that Spratt is a fiscally liberal Washington insider, and Norman represents the perfect small government antidote.

Two years ago, nobody backed Gov. Mark Sanford's principled brand of fiscal conservatism in the South Carolina House of Representatives more aggressively than Norman ... nobody.

Norman supports strong spending limitations like the Taxpayer Empowerment Amendment, supports job-creating income tax cuts for small businesses and working South Carolinians and he's led the fight in the legislature against wasteful, pork barrel spending like it was his job, which come to think of it, it actually is.

But Norman's exemplary tax-cutting, job-creating, smaller government record isn't the core message of his campaign. Instead, it's all cookie-cutter negative, all the time, a cut and paste disaster that wreaks of everything that's wrong with politics today. Worse still, Norman has yet to acknowledge the gravity of his situation and put to pasture these DC and SC morons who are driving the Nancy Pelosi strategy and sending his campaign into a freefall.

Last week, Republican U.S. Senator and Norman ally Jim DeMint was in Rock Hill, the biggest city in the 5th District. After acknowledging his fellow GOP'er Norman would likely go down in defeat if the election were held today (how bad does that tell you Norman's polling numbers are looking), DeMint had the following things to say about Spratt:

"I consider him a friend."

"Spratt is a good guy."

Sounds like what a vast majority of the 5th District is probably thinking to itself after reading Team Norman's litany of amatuer hour attacks.

It's time Ralph Norman ditched the Pelosi-peddlers and started running the campaign he owes not only to the voters of the 5th District, but to himself.

Otherwise, it'll be "coulda, shoulda, woulda" time come November 7 when Spratt wins reelection ... again.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Inside the Seersucker Showdown

As promised, FITS had a ringside seat for this morning/afternoon's long-awaited showdown between GOP Treasurer Nominee Thomas Ravenel and the "Seersucker Kingfish," BEA Chairman John Rainey.

The so-called "Seersucker Showdown," which was shown live on statewide television by SCETV, featured two of the highest-profile members of the Republican Party doing battle over our state's unfunded liabilites, investment performance, credit rating and government structure.

Of course, we missed much of the first 20 minutes of the meeting (a.k.a. the "Rainey Soliloquy") staring intently at SC Retirement Chief Peggy Boykin's long legs and to-die-for high-heeled black slingbacks.

Anyway, leading the "discussion" (remember, we won't have an actual Treasurer's Office "debate" given incumbent Grady Patterson's deterioriating capabilities) was "The Talented Mr. Rainey," who demonstrated for those previously unaware why he is universally regarded as the most pompous, patrician and presumptuous member of the GOP's status quo, liberal-leaning left.

Aggressively defending Democrat Patterson's abysmal record and attempting to expose Ravenel as a "dilettante," Rainey appeared throughout the two-hour exchange as a rude, arrogant and narrow-minded dilettante himself, repeatedly interrupting Ravenel, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom and anyone else who attempted to break the steady stream of hot air emanating from his flapping gums.

Ravenel, on the other hand, surprised many inside-the-beltway observers by keeping his cool and not taking the Rainey bait, instead maintaining his poise, staying magnanimous and polite throughout the exchange, illustrating a solid command of the financial particulars up for debate and basically allowing Rainey to interrupt him repeatedly and vent his spleen for the vast majority of the session.

Ravenel scored solid "W's" in the core discussion categories of a) the impact of cost-of-living adjustments on our unfunded liability as a state, b) the underperformance of our retirement portfolio compared to similar large public funds and c) Patterson's ineffectiveness in managing communication between the state and credit rating agencies.

T-Rav also scored a master stroke at one point during the discussion of Patterson's poor performance with the rating agencies, using a letter Rainey himself wrote less than a year ago describing the actions (or lack thereof) of the incumbent as "bizarre," "cavalier," "failed" and "faulted."

Rainey was reduced to accusing FITS' own Sic Willie of leaking the letter to the Ravenel Camp, before huffing and puffing that he had held a "follow-up meeting" with Treasurer Patterson shorly after sending the letter that effectively resolved their differences.

Rainey also blamed Sic Willie for his "Kingmaker" nickname, which our favorite bad boy (on statewide television, no less) clarified as being "Seersucker Kingfish."

Aside from one or two minor stumbles, however, Ravenel dramatically exceeded expectations in this tete-a-tete with one of the most powerful, experienced and eloquent defenders of South Carolina's failed status quo.

Ravenel also staked himself out much further than at any previous point on what has emerged as one of the critical questions of the campaign - whether or not he would serve a full term, saying that he may even serve two terms if elected but that he would definitely serve a full term barring any "incredibly unforseen" eventualities.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

T-Rav Into the RINO's Den

The State House grounds will turn into the plains of the Serengeti this Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m. as GOP Treasurer nominee Thomas Ravenel sits down for his "RINO inquisition" at the hands of liberal GOP kingmaker and Board of Economic Advisors' chairman John Rainey.

Rainey, who has evidently forwarded a twelve-point agenda to Camp Ravenel for the meeting, seems primed to grill his own party's nominee on assertions Ravenel has made regarding the state's unfunded liabilities, Treasurer Grady Patterson's antiquated investment strategy and, oddly enough, what constitutes the "greatest economic expansion in human history."

Thursday morning's meeting is the latest in a three-week old spat between the two men, which began when Rainey attacked Ravenel publicly August 6 in the Greenville News, calling him a "dilettante" and insinuating that his election would threaten the state's fiscal stability.

Rainey's twelve-point agenda also fires a shot across the bow at GOP Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, challenging Ravenel to defend Eckstrom's performance during the latter's four years of service as Treasurer from 1995-99.

Aside from the presumptuousness of Rainey (a.k.a. the "Seersucker Kingfish") to demand such a meeting in the first place - let alone to insist on the location, agenda and attendees (which will include press) - the lengths to which he is prepared to go to defend Patterson's abysmal record is truly remarkable.

Ravenel, whose shoot-from-the-hip, "Damn The Torpedoes" approach to this race has paid dividends thusfar (that's just how he "rolls," remember), nonetheless should take care not to approach this meeting with too cavalier an attitude.

Rainey may be a straight up anti-tax relief, anti-school choice RINO whose BEA estimates have missed the mark by roughly $800 million since he took office, but no one can polish a turd as adeptly as he can, he's got an army of left-leaning economists (Bill Gillespie) in lockstep behind him and his liberal advocacy for our state's poorest school districts (he financed the "Corridor of Shame" documentary with Democrat consultant Bud Ferillo, remember) has forever endeared him to the press.

More importantly, Rainey doesn't have to prove anything tomorrow - all he has to do is argue semantics or find one number that causes T-Rav to trip up.

Make no mistake, T-Rav has balls as big as church bells for agreeing to "debate" Rainey, but he is clearly the man with the most to lose.

On a positive note, this is probably as close as we're going to get to a debate in the State Treasurer's race given Democrat Patterson's inability to formulate a complete thought or stand for extended periods of time.

That doesn't excuse Rainey's pompousness, but if T-Rav was looking for a worthy adversary, he's certainly found one.

Stay tuned to FITS for complete coverage of tomorrow's showdown at the Wade Hampton Corral ...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bad Graphic Art Week Continues

You know, we couldn't help but notice a striking resemblance between the new logo (right) for the Columbia-based political power brokerage of Tompkins, Thomson and Sullivan and this week's notorious Columbia City Paper cover artwork.

And it looks like Terry Sullivan's coming out on the bottom ... once again.

Seriously, is this a logo for the state's top political consulting firm or a promo poster for the 25th Anniversary re-release of the Tron video game?

We'd think long and hard before letting these guys design anything for your campaign ...

Hats' Off To Bradford E. Choate

According to recently-updated State Employee Salary information compiled by The State newspaper, 99 of the 100 highest-paid state employees work at one of three places - the University of South Carolina, Clemson University or the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

Starting with University of South Carolina Vice President Bradford E. Choate's whopping $303,850 salary, it obviously pays to be in higher ed in South Carolina - if you're not a taxpayer, that is.

No wonder South Carolina spends 17% of our state budget (compared to the national average of 10%) feeding the beast that is our bloated, over-extended, wasteful, duplicitive, inefficient, tuition-raising and utterly resistant to change system of higher education.

Hell, USC Vice President Choate's cost-of-living adjustment alone is probably more than a lot of honest, hard-working South Carolinians make in a year.

Seriously, what does Choate do to earn that kind of jack? Play golf with Department Chair Muhammed A. Khan ($261,732)? Sit in on a lot of important meetings with Provost Mark P. Becker ($250,100) and Associate Provost William T. Moore ($245,000)? Simultaneously give Athletics Director Eric Hyman ($288,750) a back rub while holding Steve Spurrier ($257,500)'s headphones?

We're not kidding, if this guy takes one red cent of per diem travel expenses, uses one single frequent flyer mile improperly or fails to double-bunk with USC President Andrew Sorenson ($235,877) on one out-of-state junket, he should be required to wash dishes at the Palmetto Club for a week (our bet is he wouldn't last an hour).

We'll have a lot more in the days and weeks to come on the updated state salaries (including the $117,114 Marxist Economist Bill Gillespie gets paid each year to lobby against tax cuts on behalf of John Rainey when the Legislature's in session), but for now it's safe to say that if you want to earn some real coin of the realm, higher ed's the place to be.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Echo Chamber - Over The Top

The FITS' girls were minding our own business Sunday afternoon, window-shopping along Saluda Street in downtown Columbia's Five Points area, when we happened to come across this week's edition of the Columbia City Paper.

Needless to say, we about dropped our Venti Blended Moccha Frapuccinos (with the Chocolate Drizzle) upon taking a good look at the cover art, which suggestively depicted two Trav Robertson-size children's toys engaged in a sexual position that most God-fearing Christian gals (like us) are quite unfamiliar with ...

... thankfully Sic Willie - using some Snoop Dogg lyrics - was there to give us a quick primer.

Even more shocking than the cover art, however, was the fact that the City Paper's over-the-top illustration was referencing none other than the alleged illicit affair of Charleston Rep. Wallace Scarborough and Beaufort Rep. Catherine Ceips - the paper's lead story of the week.

Are you kidding us?

Look, we're the pretty keen on the Biblical admonition "Let (them) without sin cast the first stone," and by no means do we consider this little blog a bastion of journalistic integrity - but come on, isn't this a little bit too much?

Sure, it's one thing to publish court testimony from a private investigator detailing the alleged affair of these two Republican Representatives, or to use their indiscretions as a launching pad for throwing rocks at the "family values" hypocrites among us (never mind that this kind of infidelity runs rampant in both political parties at the State House) - but seriously, where's the journalistic integrity in using play toys to depict two public figures having sex on your front cover?

Again, we're not going to judge here - obviously the Columbia City Paper made an editorial decision to run the controversial cover art in an effort to increase its circulation (the same issue also features a local tattoo parlor ad on its back cover with a bikini-clad female flipping the bird to the camera along with the caption "F--- you, we're #1").

Classy, right?

In addition to penning the lead "news" story, columnist Will Moredock (who broke the Scarborough story a few weeks back in the Charleston City Paper), vents his spleen John Monk-style in an accompanying editorial deriding the SCGOP for its "family values" hypocrisy. True enough. But as Moredock swings for the fences at this low-hanging fruit, we were struck by the final (and lone non-vitriolic paragraph) of his opinion column.

"Morality begins with personal behavior, not laws and constitutional amendments," Moredock writes in concluding his tongue-lashing.

Funny, Will, so does journalistic integrity.

As much as we generally loathe Ceips and, at times, Scarborough (and as much as they will both likely reap what they sow as this unfortunate matter continues to unfold in the public eye), we don't think either Representative deserved the kind of portrayal they received at the hands of the Columbia City Paper this week.

In putting the "graphic" into graphic art, the Columbia City Paper went too far in our humble opinion ... and how many times can you recall FITS saying something like that?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Grandpa Grady's Facebook Nation?

What is an 82-year old man doing on a college networking site whose primary functions seem to be rehashing the lastest episode of the O.C. and giving directions to the next frat house kegger?

Well, if your name is Grady Patterson, the answer currently amounts to little more than showing off your grandkids ...

We're sure Acting Treasurer Trav Robertson will tell us Patterson is just taking advantage of "a unique opportunity to reach the younger generation" or something like that, but based on a FITS review of the "Grady Patterson for State Treasurer" fan club on Facebook, it looks like the only younger generation Patterson is reaching via this particular "netroots campaign" is his own family.

That's right. As of this writing, Grandpa Grady's Facebook Fan Club includes a whopping five - count 'em five - members. And of those five members, three (including the Club's founder) have the last name Patterson.

The ringleader appears to be Clemson University Senior Jonathan Patterson, who is listed as the club's "creator," but also pledging allegiance to their grandfather's campaign are Spring Valley High School Senior Sarah Patterson and Orangeburg Prep Senior Cally Patterson.

The fourth member of the "Grady Facebook Nation" is none other than South Carolina Democratic Party spokesman Patrick Norton (USC '05).

The remaining 20% of the Greater Grady Facebook Universe is comprised entirely in the person of Duke University sophomore Frank Holleman, who has the distinction of being the only member of the club who isn't either related to Patterson or employed by the Democratic Party.

Grady's group has no pictures, no discussions, no recent news ... basically nothing except pictures of his three grandkids, Norton and Holleman.

By contrast, the Facebook Club "Students for Robert Barber" has 87 members (including Norton and Holleman), 42 pictures, quotes from the candidate, a link to his website and a recap of the Democratic Lt. Governor nominee's recent Conservation Voters' endorsement.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tommy Moore's Facebook group "Tommy Moore for Governor," boasts 55 members (including Norton and Holleman), 2 photos, quotes from the candidate, a link to his website and a recap of Time Magazine's article calling Gov. Mark Sanford one of the nation's worst governors.

Moore's page also includes numerous comments, including one girl who talks about meeting U.S. Sen. John Kerry at a Democratic Party event advertised on Moore's Facebook site (of course, we all know by now that Moore himself declined to be seen publicly with Kerry during his visit).

Recent national and local coverage has highlighted the importance of groups like Facebook and MySpace in the political process, particularly in the emerging world of the "netroots" - political-speak for web-based grassroots campaigning.

Sadly, we can't link you directly to Grady's Facebook page from FITS, but for those of you with Facebook accounts, simply log onto www.facebook.com and type "Grady Patterson" into the site's internal search engine.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Quite Possibly the Queerest Thing We've Ever Heard

... and by queer we mean "odd."

You may not know this, but Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who as far as we can tell has never missed an opportunity to suck up to anyone in furthering his Presidential ambitions, lists his favorite United States President as Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Now that's totally cool with us.

We like Ike ourselves, and consider his "Mandate for Change" and "Waging Peace" autobiographies to be among the best ghost-written Presidential memoirs of all time.

But Romney's love for the former President, according to The Atlantic Monthly magazine anyway, apparently goes beyond mere political convenience ... way beyond, if you ask us.

From the September 2005 edition we read:

"And then there's a story behind this," Romney said, pulling out a plate with a picture of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower painted on it. "Not only was Eisenhower one of my favorite Presidents; when we became grandparents, you get to choose what the kids will call you. Some call you Papa. I chose Ike. I'm Ike and Ann (Romney's wife) is Mamie."

Aye, Cabana Boy. Are you kidding?

Later in the interview, the Atlantic Monthly reporter clarified that this story was partly "wishful thinking" on Romney's part, saying that "Romney's son Tagg told me that although his granddaughter, the oldest grandchild, did in fact call (Romney) 'Ike' at his request, she was the only one of the eight grandchildren who ever did. When later grandchildren started to call him Papa, she went along."

Poor kid. She probably felt as weird saying it as we did reading about it.

Next to early GOP Presidential frontrunner John McCain, Romney has been the most aggressive 2008 campaigner and "cash-dropper" to local candidates and party organizations. Playing up his social conservatism here in the Palmetto State and in Iowa, Romney has also stepped in it a time or two, getting in trouble for calling the Civil War the "War of Northern Aggression" at a speech in Charleston, S.C., and referring to the disastrous Big Dig in his home state of Massachusetts as a "tar baby" at a campaign stop in Iowa.

And Ike's ... sorry, we mean Mitt's ... slogan - "There's just something about America," could sure use an upgrade.

After all, "there's just something about Canada," too, but that doesn't mean we want to live there.

Romney's S.C. aides are petrified about his Mormon faith adversely impacting his standing among South Carolina's social conservatives, never failing to point out that he is a man of strong faith and family values who opposes abortion and gay marriage.

Well, the fact that Romney is a Mormon has never bothered FITS.

Seriously, who can argue with an afterlife that features the male populating his own "spirit moon" with multiple wives?

No, Ike's biggest South Carolina problem - well, aside from his Hillary Care-lite universal health care proposal that would make the real Eisenhower and every Republican President who followed him turn cartwheels in their graves - is the the fact that he's just a little bit too slick and polished, a little bit too eager to please ... and a lot too cheezy.

Sorry, Ike (and a special sorry to our favorite lady in white) ... but that's just how we see it.

CONNECTICUT UPDATE

According to a poll released today by Quinnipiac University, Independent candidate and incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman leads Democratic nominee Ned Lamont 53-41% in a three way race, with the Republican nominee receiving a paltry 4%.

The poll also shows that 99% of Connecticut voters favor taking the second "C" out of their state's name or pronouncing it "Kuh-NECK-ta-kut."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hall Best Choice for SCGOP Slot

Sunny Phillips over at the Crunchy GOP has a great blog post today on the contenders for SCGOP Chairman, should current seat-warmer Katon Dawson decide to step down in 2007.

Thankfully, she included on her list the thinking man's choice for the position, Columbia attorney Kevin Hall.

While Hall has a few drawbacks (he's one of the lead attorneys for our pseudo-Marxist State Ports Authority, for example), his Republican credentials are otherwise unimpeachable and his intelligence, financial connections and business savvy are light years ahead of any other name mentioned on Phillips' list, with the notable exception of Beaufort attorney and Sanford confidante Tom Davis.

Hall, who is "in like Flynn" with camps Sanford, Graham and DeMint, would bring instant credibility to a position that desperately needs a leadership and intellectual upgrade. On the surface, the SCGOP appears to be bigger and badder than ever, but anyone who follows Palmetto Politics knows that the party is rife with internal divisions and has veered wildly to the left on fiscal issues.

On top of that, PR genius Joe Erwin and the Democrats have manhandled the SCGOP on the earned media front the past two years, a testament to the notoriously small and feeble minds Dawson has employed in critical positions with the party since taking over for Henry McMaster five years ago.

Hall would turn the SCGOP into a winner overnight, and anyone who doubts his ability to play the partisan role and deliver a punch should know this - his favorite musical artist is none other than legendary bad boy Johnny Cash.

ON BRAD CAIN

Former State Rep. Brad Cain was arrested on "public drunk" and cocaine possession charges in Anderson County the other day after passing out in a Domino's Pizza drive-thru.

We'll leave the political analysis of this local bombshell to the good folks up Anderson way, but the incident does raise a question for us: Since when did Domino's have drive-thrus?

Seriously, is that three medium pizzas for $15 deal still on?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What About Trav Robertson?

The FITS mailbag was bursting with questions this afternoon asking us why we left Acting Treasurer Trav "Skyresh" Robertson out of our "T-Rav/ John Rainey Cage Match" post (see below) ...

As it turns out, FITS was all set to break the news of Robertson's hiring by the Lilliputian government late last week (after he turned down a job with the Federated States of Micronesia), we just didn't think anybody would care ...

But for all you rabid Robertson junkies out there, here's a pic of Trav from his first day on the job (Hint: He's the one wearing red).

T-Rav, Rainey Schedule Tag Team Cage Match

Republican State Treasurer Nominee Thomas Ravenel (a.k.a. "T-Rav") and anti-tax cut philanthropist John Rainey (a.k.a. "Seersucker Kingfish") have agreed to resolve their differences via a WWF-sanctioned Tag Team Cage Match in downtown Columbia this Friday.

The match, which is designed to settle once and for all whether the $9 billion in unfunded liability from COLA's (Cost of Living Adjustments) should be added to South Carolina's current $18 billion financial sinkhole, will be held in the Budget and Control Board meeting room on the State House grounds.

In Rainey's corner will be State Treasurer Grady Patterson (a.k.a. "Grandpa Simpson"), whose abysmal record managing our state's investments has been stalwartly defended in recent days by the liberal BEA chief.

Also joining the fray on Rainey's "Triple-A Losers" team are liberal state economist Bill Gillespie (a.k.a. "Comrade Willie") and longtime Democratic PR advisor, school choice opponent and Rainey confidante Bud Ferillo (a.k.a. "Corridor of Pain").

The "Triple-A Losers" will wear seersucker tights in honor of Rainey.

Joining T-Rav on the "Taxpayer Tornadoes" team are former U.S. Navy boxer and current State Senator Jakie Knotts (a.k.a. "House of Pain"), Lexington-based political consultant Rod Shealy (a.k.a. "Rod The Bod") and Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom (a.k.a. "The Mad Bomber").

The "Taxpayer Tornadoes" will wear green dollar bill tights to highlight the $5 billion Treasurer Patterson has lost over the past three years by failing to achieve even an average return in managing our state's retirement assets.

"Using these creative dollar bill tights, we can demonstrate most of that $5 billion loss on Jakie's right butt cheek alone," Shealy told FITS.

Shealy also intimated that T-Rav's Tornadoes were likely to use Eckstrom as a projectile and not an actual wrestler in the cage match.

"Me and Jakie will probably end up just winding back and throwing Richard at 'em," Shealy said. "He'll probably take out Grady and Rainey in one throw, and then we'll just let T-Rav pound away on Bud while holding Gillespie in a figure-four-point-nine billion taxpayer leglock."

Refereeing the cage match will be Greenville News Columnist Dan Hoover, who has been covering the recent Rainey-instigated spat extensively.

"I'm going to insist on a clean match," Hoover said. "No biting, no punching below the belt, no gouging and in Mr. Patterson's case, no falling asleep and drooling on his opponents."

Tickets for the cage match will be available starting tomorrow morning here on FITS ...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Katon's Wikipedia Page And Other Musings

We've got to hand it to the good folks over at Wikipedia for hitting the proverbial nail on the head in describing South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson.

In case you haven't visited Mr. Dawson's Wikipedia page lately (we've got a thrice-daily habit ourselves), we'll save you the trip and republish the entry in its entirety:

"Katon Dawson is Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party. He lives in Columbia. He owns an auto parts store."

Yup, thatta 'bout sums it up.

And while we were tempted to open a Wikipedia account (a la Morton Brilliant) just to poke (post) a little fun at the chairman's expense, what more can you really say about the Forrest Gump of Palmetto Politics?

He is the chairman. He does live in Columbia. And yes, he does sell auto parts.

Dawson deserves kudos this week, however, for finally bringing someone on board at party headquarters with an IQ higher than 70 points.

The addition of former Sanford and DeMint campaign aide Kara Borie is a quantum leap forward for the SCGOP apparatus in terms of intelligence, political savvy and sound, fiscal conservative moorings.

And while the same probably could have been said had the party hired a semi-literate pipe fitter to replace the barely literate J.W. Ragley, Borie's statewide and national experience, diverse skill set and seemingly endless reservoir of contacts nonetheless gives the party a potent weapon for 2006.

Borie, who can incidentally fill a little black (or red) dress with the best of 'em, is well on her way to becoming one of the most sought-after political operatives of the 2008 election cycle.

2006 FALL FASHION UPDATE

We are pleased to report that FITS girl Stephanie S. is hard at work on our first annual "FITS Fall Fashion Preview," which should be available for your consumption within the next week or two - just in time for bargain-hunting the sale racks along Devine Street.

And while we're sure all the gals at the State House are eagerly awaiting our pearls of wisdom, odds are that the members of the "Metrosexual Lobbyist Caucus" (Larry Marchant, Ed Givens and Michael Gunn) will be the ones glued to their fancy Treo cell phones for hours on end upon its release.

Don't worry Larry, Ed and Michael, we'll be sure to e-mail you an advance copy!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Moore Ports?

A longtime backer of free market port expansion, FITS was intrigued to hear Democratic Senator Tommy Moore make mention of the proposed Port of Jasper the other day in discussing his economic development plans (such as they are, anyway).

Even "Moore" intrigued were we when Karen Guttman, spokeswoman for the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, actually took our call today, and then actually spoke with us (without hanging up), and then even agreed to go on the record with us in attributing the ongoing failure to get this project done (and port expansion in Charleston, too) to a "lack of leadership" on the part of Gov. Mark Sanford.

Generally, Moore doesn't have the foggiest idea what he's talking about when he criticizes the governor for "lack of leadership." He's always quick to throw the "LOL" card out there, but nine times out of ten the subject matter in question points back to yet another example of the governor doing what's right and standing up for the taxpayers of South Carolina - and doing so in spite of tremendous pressure from well-heeled special interests, RINO's and big government Democrats like Moore to make him cave to their failed, outdated way of thinking.

But just as the world's worst fisherman is bound to get a bite sometime, Moore may have accidentally stumbled into a valid point on the subject of port expansion.

"Moore" on that in a moment. First, a little background.

Last year, the board of South Carolina's State Ports Authority voted 5-3 to reject what are known as landlord-tenant deals - public-private partnerships that enable the state to retain ownership of new port facilities while private companies manage the terminal operations for a period of 20-30 years. Once the lease is up, the state - which owns the infrastructure - gets to decide who runs the terminals.

Utilized by every major port in America except Charleston and Savannah, landlord-tenant deals are the lifeblood of port expansion, enabling states to get the new capacity they need without having to fork over hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars.

According to SC Free Market Ports, 45 of the top 50 ports in the world currently use landlord-tenant relationships to expand capacity, and within the last two years Southern ports in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Texas have all announced massive capacity expansions leveraging private capital - critical economic development moves given the huge influx of new Asian shipping business that's headed to America in the coming decade.

But like so many other plain as day, common sense reforms that would actually reduce unemployment and stimulate capital investment in our state, the "Usual Morons" in the Legislature and on the State Ports Authority Board of Directors have refused to even consider market-based port expansion, instead clinging to a pseudo-socialist "total state control" model that expressly forbids these lucrative, job-creating partnerships.

Worse still, they've hired the consummate pay-for-play, RINO political consultant Bob McAlister to propogate the myth that free market port expansion will result in those evil, anti-capitalist labor unions gaining a foothold in South Carolina.

Never mind that 1,400 of the 1,800 employees currently working for the SPA are already unionized, with no visible ill effect on port operations.

For his part, Sanford personally supports free market port expansion. He's even instructed his board appointees Bill Stern, Harry Butler, and Carroll A. "Tumpy" Campbell to move forward with landlord-tenant agreements - and been telling them to do so for years now.

Unfortunately, Stern, Butler and Campbell have basically told the governor to go screw himself and wholeheartedly endorsed the Karl Marx model of port expansion, which, not surprisingly has failed to create any port expansion whatsoever.

Which brings us to Moore's "lack of leadership" charge.

Sanford, who has cut his political teeth on bucking the status quo in the face of powerful, institutional opposition to his limited government, pro-business reforms, has nonetheless caved completely to the Stern-Butler-Campbell triumvirate, refusing to remove them from their positions (prior to the 2006 election, anyway) because he fears political retribution from their wealth, power and - in Campbell's case - last name.

So does Moore's charge of "lack of leadership" fit in this particular case?

Positively.

But the follow-up question remains, would Moore be any better?

Aside from throwing out the typical lingo about "needing leadership to create jobs in low-income counties like Jasper," it's not entirely evident whether or not the Senator from Clearwater actually understands what free market port expansion is all about.

Plus, they don't call him "Moore Government" for nothing.

Guttman could not immediately tell FITS whether Moore, like Sanford, favors public-private partnerships, or whether Moore would, unlike Sanford, appoint nominees supportive of his position to the State Ports' board if he were elected.

And to Guttman's credit, why should she know?

Thusfar during campaign 2006, the mainstream press has virtually ignored this hot-button economic development issue, due in large part to the fact that neither candidate - until Moore's recent comments, anyway - has said anything about it.

Look for that to change, though.

In a campaign that is becoming increasingly fixated on dueling employment figures and competing economic outlooks, both Sanford and Moore will be looking for any opportunity to tout their ability to bring new jobs to South Carolina, and port expansion in Charleston and construction of a port in Jasper would bring them here by the thousands.

Sanford probably has the most to lose politically on the issue, given that he has had the chance to appoint pro-free market, business-minded conservatives to the Ports' board, but bowed instead to politics-as-usual in naming (and keeping) Stern, Butler and Campbell, all sworn adherants to the Hugh Leatherman philosophy of "progress by government monopoly."

Then again, it's highly unlikely that an insider like Moore would be able to succeed where an outsider like Sanford has failed, particularly given the cronyism and insider horse-trading that runs rampant within the powerful State Ports Authority.

Sadly, our best bet to finally achieve the long-overdue port expansion South Carolina so desperately needs appears to be a Sanford victory followed by a complete overhaul of the leadership and composition of the current SPA board.

Hopefully, a second-term Sanford with nothing to lose will be more inclined to do the right thing in pushing for port expansion than a first-term Sanford who suddenly finds himself facing a much closer re-election fight than he probably ever bargained for.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

T-Rav "Rolls" Rainey in Letter

John McCain may have the "Straight Talk Express," but it's becoming abundantly clear that the straightest talker in South Carolina politics right now is none other than GOP Treasurer nominee Thomas Ravenel.

In a blistering letter posted this morning to the SC Hotline website, Ravenel pulled no punches in responding to attacks leveled against him by so-called Republican powerbroker John Rainey, calling the BEA chief out for his consistent opposition to Republican ideas like tax cuts and choice in the education marketplace and including for his perusal a copy of the book, Economics for Dummies.

Unapologetically dispensing with the conventional political wisdom that would have had him strike a conciliatory note in responding to the liberal Rainey, Ravenel instead put Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" in the tapedeck and set the speakers to full blast.

The letter, dated August 7, also included a compelling indictment of the abysmal performance of incumbent Democrat Treasurer Grady Patterson, specifically citing South Carolina's 70% below average return on our state investment plan.

"If Mr. Patterson’s returns had merely achieved mediocrity during this time, our retirement system would have an extra $5 billion," Ravenel says.

To read a copy of Ravenel's letter to Rainey in its entirety, click here.

Now, would we here at FITS have advised T-Rav to send this letter? Probably not.

Of course we wouldn't have advised him to tell a reporter "that's how Thomas Ravenel rolls," either, but that little comment seems to have worked out pretty well for him among the GOP netroots.

Like his father, Cousin Arthur, shooting from the hip Bullworth-style is something that just seems to be in Ravenel's blood - and given the disinterested, disaffected, anti-incumbent, anti-politician mood of the electorate, it may not be an entirely bad strategy.

For his part Rainey, who is used to being coddled and having his ring kissed by every Republican who runs for office in South Carolina, is probably positively stewing at the moment.

Consumed with his public image and obsessively protective of his status as a "GOP heavyweight," FITS has learned that the currently Colorado-based "Seersucker Kingfish" practically blew a gasket when he read our little blog about him on Sunday.

Oh well ... like T-Rav said, "That's just how FITS rolls."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What's With These MoveOn People?

In the wake of U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman's stunning defeat in Connecticut yesterday at the hands of anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, we're going to be reading a lot more about the liberal activist group, MoveOn.org.

Founded during the Clinton impeachment proceedings under the slogan "censure and move on," the group has since snowballed into one of the most influential, well-organized and technologically-saavy Democratic front groups out there.

Not to mention one of the most liberal.

And while MoveOn has encountered mostly mixed results in the political campaigns in which it has been involved, Lamont's 52-48 defeat of Lieberman yesterday was nonetheless a big victory in its highest-profile race to date.

Just as MoveOn turned the Lieberman race into a referendum on his support of the War in Iraq, the media turned the race into a referendum on MoveOn itself.

For his part, Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, isn't finished. He's collected enough signatures to be on the November ballot and announced last night that he will run as an independent against Lamont and a Republican challenger in the general election.

So what's MoveOn's strength level in South Carolina?

Well, the group's 2004 Presidential candidate, Howard Dean, scored a lackluster fifth-place finish in the Democratic Presidential Primary here two years ago (with 5% of the vote), and the group has not seriously engaged in any big ticket Palmetto State campaigns.

In fact, most S.C. Democrats would probably view a MoveOn endorsement with about as much enthusiasm as an Osama Bin Laden endorsement.

But depending how the group manages its latest high-profile success, that could change. Polls show most South Carolinians - like most Americans - turning increasingly sour on the War in Iraq, which along with the scandals surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff is MoveOn's bread-and-butter.

Personally, we're hoping today is the high-water mark of the MoveOn success story, but it's clearly time for those of us who care about conservative ideas to start paying them some mind - even in the reddest of red states.

CHARLESTON CITY PAPER: THE SCARBOROUGH AFFAIR

It used to be that the romantic liaisons of politicians were off limits to the press. Hell, John F. Kennedy slept with everything that moved right under his wife's nose and nobody made a peep about it publicly.

This "hands off" approach is particularly true among the South Carolina press corps, which rarely writes about such indiscretions no matter how flagrant the affair may be.

That's why it was somewhat surprising to pick up this morning's copy of the Charleston City Paper and find this article outlining an alleged affair between Charleston Rep. Wallace Scarborough and Rep. Catherine Ceips.

Scarborough, who was already under fire (pardon the pun) after an incident earlier this year in which he fired a gun near two SCE&G employees working in the backyard of his parents' Charleston-area home, just isn't having a good summer. It's one thing to have your alleged affair generally acknowledged by everyone inside the Columbia beltway, it's something else to see it bandied about in the public eye.

For the most part, we like Scarborough here at FITS.

In fact, when he called us one day to object to a particular comment on our blog, we listened, saw his logic, concluded he was correct and pulled the objectionable comment.

Ceips, on the other hand, is pretty much worthless in our book. She's not particularly bright, over-reactionary in her approach to issues and tends to be a bit of a crybaby when she doesn't get her way.

How the story of this alleged affair will impact both Ceips and Scarborough's political fortunes remains to be seen, but count on FITS to keep you up to speed with the very latest developments ...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New Mexico: Proof Positive on Income Tax Cuts

First of all, kudos to Queen Laurin for her informative report today on New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

As our loyal readers are no doubt aware, we here at FITS have sung this tax-cutting Democrat's praise on numerous occasions.

And why not?

Unlike closet liberals John Rainey, Bill Gillespie and the rest of the big spending Republican bozos in South Carolina's General Assembly - all of whom have conspired to kill Gov. Mark Sanford's would-be job-creating, investment-stimulating and revenue-enhancing income tax cuts for four years in row - Richardson is a true fiscal conservative with a proven commitment to cutting income taxes and growing the economy, not government.

In doing so, he has flown in the face of the typical "class warfare" and "we can't afford to cut taxes" arguments so frequently employed by Democrats, RINO's and our own state Board of Economic Advisors.

No wonder South Carolina's economic growth remains modest at best thanks to our non-competitive income tax rate, and New Mexico's economy is surging thanks to Richardson's visionary income and capital gains tax cuts.

Don't believe us? Check the numbers for yourself.

On February 14, 2003, Richardson signed into law a sweeping capital gains tax cut and five-year income tax rate reduction, taking New Mexico's top marginal rate from 8.2% to 4.9% over a five year period.

When Richardson signed that tax relief bill into law three-and-a-half years ago, New Mexico's unemployment rate stood at 5.9% and its income tax collections were sputtering - down 11.6% (or roughly $90 million) from the previous year.

Today, unemployment in New Mexico has dropped by nearly two full points - from 5.9% to 4.1% - and the state is enjoying a $700 million surplus that's projected to grow even larger this fiscal year.

For all you thickskulled, numerically-challenged Republican legislators out there, kindly allow us to translate that for you:

When income taxes were cut in New Mexico, jobs and state revenues went through the roof.

So how would South Carolina - and its astronomical 6.7% unemployment rate - have fared if a similar plan had passed here?

Sadly, we'll never know.

Gov. Sanford's 2004 proposal to cut our top marginal rate from 7% to 5% over four years was shot down in the Republican-controlled State Senate after the John Rainey-led Board of Economic Advisors attacked the plan as being too costly.

More recently, what would have happened if we had taken some of our dramatic budget surpluses from the past two years and devoted them to job-creating tax relief as opposed to more than a billion dollars worth of new spending?

Again, we'll never know.

Instead of cutting taxes, Republican Legislators in South Carolina instead pushed a populist, revenue neutral tax swap with little to no economic value en route to growing government by 22% over the last two years.

Talk about a tale of two states.

Richardson's tax cuts in New Mexico are proof positive that income tax relief does create jobs, stimulate capital investment, encourage entrepreneurship and yes, enhance revenue.

South Carolina's continued failure to pass job-creating income tax cuts, on the other hand, is proof positive of why our state's unemployment rate continues to climb and our personal income levels continue to lag behind the rest of the nation.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Friends, Business, Politics, Etc.

"It's not show friends, it's show business," a character in the 1996 Cameron Crowe classic Jerry McGuire tells one of his clients, a brutal reminder of the modus operandi so prevalent in the modern day corporate environment.

Cutthroat. Callous. Cyncial. Competitive. Crazy busy. These are the defining characteristics of today's business world.

And as anybody who's ever worked professionally in politics will tell you, that corporate combustibility only intensifies when you add elections, votes and tax dollars to an already explosive mix of money, power, sex, alcohol, drugs, greed and ego.

"Today's Tom Sawyer ... he gets high on you ... and the space he invades, he gets by on you," Rush's Geddy Lee once sang, a perfect encapsulation of the new hypercompetitive but not-so-happy warrior.

It's no wonder the lines between friendship and professional affiliation - particularly in the political arena - are so often and easily blurred. Preemptive attacks, partisan scrapes and personal vendettas rein during the business day, only to be replaced at happy hour by petty jealousies, pernicious sarcasm and poorly disguised contempt.

"It's not personal, it's business," we hear often, or more often in our line of work, "It's not personal, it's politics."

But sadly, more often than not, the mere utterance of such a statement is sufficient indication of its inherent falsehood.

We can't just shut off the allegiance button at 6:00 p.m. or whenever it is we leave the office, can we? And should we really be expected to check our ideas and ideologies at the door of every conversation? And if something or someone we care about passionately has been slighted, is it necessarily wrong to show some emotion and offer a passionate defense?

Of course not. Most of us were not "built" with a separational discernment capable of compartmentalizing our lives from our livelihood, anyway, and those of us involved in politics tend to live, eat, breathe and sleep it.

We can't just put our loyalties in a box, to take out at the time and place of our own choosing. It just doesn't work that way.

So how does one achieve lasting friendships in a business that might as well be a minefield in the Korean demilitarized zone? How do we get an ounce or two of separational discernment in our personal lives that allows us to maintain our professional effectiveness ... and some semblance of sanity?

A big part of it, like drinking, is knowing "when to say when."

Political discussions are fun - that's why we have so many of them in and out of the workplace - but being able to recognize when somebody just isn't in the mood to have one is an essential skill. Saturday night we were reminded of this, when (in a rare reversal of the celestial course) our very own Sic Willie was on the instigating end of an after hours political discussion (usually, he's the one getting, not giving the earful once the sun has gone to bed).

Anyway, our bad boy's counterpart in the late evening counterpoint seemed to have had a long day, and was clearly much more interested in discussing the spicy aftertaste of their salad-wrapped pork (actual, not political pork, mind you) and the music of Belinda Carlisle than the "Who's Zooming Who" of 2008 Presidential politics.

Being able to respect somebody else's desire to shut it off for awhile is a gear a lot of politicos don't possess, but it's one everybody should learn how to shift into more often. After all, chances are they're going to shift down anyway and just tune you out, which means you'd be wasting valuable breath you could be using much more productively elsewhere.

Another good rule is to be quick to apologize when offending, and quicker to accept an apology if offended.

Just yesterday, a good FITS friend sent us a text message saying something we'd written was a "friendship ender." In and of itself, that's nothing new seeing as our blog is basically a glorified repitition of the climactic ending to Bridge On the River Kwai, but being able to apologize and accept apologies is what friendships are all about, and the faster apologies are offered and accepted, the stronger our friendships (and the easier our lives) become.

Finally, learn to talk about something other than politics with your political friends. Start a book or supper club, join a fantasy baseball or football league, set up a movie or concert night once a month, pick up a hobby like golf or croquet, or, better yet, establish a secret society whose sole objective is rid our state of liberal Republicans like John Rainey, Hugh Leatherman and Dan Cooper ...

... well, maybe that last one isn't a good therapeutic hobby, although we would certainly encourage anyone who wants to think along those lines professionally.

Life's short, people. Politicians, consultants, campaigns and all the media, melodrama and malarkey associated with them come and go.

Friendship is one of the things you're supposed to take with you.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Echo Chamber - A Hard Rainey's Gotta Fall

It's been awhile since we last blogged on BEA (Board of Economic Advisors) Chairman, multimillionaire philanthropist and would-be Palmetto political kingmaker John Rainey.

And that's a good thing, because when Rainey makes news, it's generally for attacking conservative ideas like tax cuts and choice in education - or for embracing liberal educrats and other big government backers who think more spending is the silver bullet for all that ails us as a state.

That's why Rainey's visceral, unprovoked attack against GOP Treasurer nominee Thomas Ravenel in this morning's Greenville News was not especially surprising.

What's a RINO s'posed to do but charge, right?

Simplistically labeled by News columnist Dan Hoover as the rantings of a "longtime Republican" and "GOP heavyweight," Rainey's latest diarrhea of the mouth, this time directed against a true Reagan Republican, proves once again that he's anything but - as if his repeated unleashing of liberal economist Bill Gillespie to attack Gov. Mark Sanford's pro-growth income tax cuts in 2004 or his adamant opposition to the governor's "Put Parents in Charge" proposal really left any doubt.

Arrogant, condescending, rude, pompous, self-aggrandizing and hopelessly moored to the failed liberal experiment that is South Carolina's big spending, high-tax, 1895 status quo, Rainey has emerged as the the Seersucker Kingfish of the left wing of the South Carolina Republican Party, a drawling, mint julip-slurping "Share the Wealth" leftist aristocrat. Truth is, Rainey has about as much business identifying himself with the Republican Party in South Carolina as lifelong Democrat Grady Patterson, or former Democrat-Socialist Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long for that matter.

But Rainey's historic anti-tax cut and anti-school choice proclivities are merely the surface threads of this intricate and evolving political melodrama.

Lurking just beneath the surface are two far more sinister, more pernicious realities that threaten an even further, faster unraveling of South Carolina's already fratricidal Republican Party.

THE LINDSEY FACTOR

As reported in this morning's Greenville News story, Rainey is a major contributor to centrist U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, whose public policy disagreements with the more conservative Ravenel have generated widespread speculation that a 2008 Senate primary race between the two candidates might be in the cards.

Ravenel has done nothing to squelch the speculation, but recent comments (including a well-publicized remark during the GOP Treasurer's primary debate) have hinted that a run for the Governor's Mansion in 2010 could be on his political radar.

Either way, Ravenel has refused to discuss his future political plans and instead stayed focused on the issues of the campaign - which revolve around Democrat Patterson's woeful management of the state's investments, his hefty contribution to the loss of our state's Triple-A credit rating, staunch opposition to a streamlined, efficient government structure and frequent votes in support of wasteful spending on the Budget and Control Board.

In fact, making an observation that would seem to undercut the political worry-mongering currently running rampant in Camp Graham, Ravenel recently told FITS that he "wouldn't be able to run for dogcatcher" unless he was effective in cleaning up the mess Patterson has made of the Treasurer's office.

Nonetheless, that hasn't stopped some Lindsey supporters - like Rainey - from trying to insert the knife into Ravenel's back.

Former Treasurer candidate and Graham backer Rick Quinn - whose father Richard Quinn is Lindsey's political strategist - certainly didn't do Ravenel any favors with his comments in Hoover's article, and Lindsey's camp - while publicly supporting Ravenel during the runoff - is widely rumored to have been privately providing his opponent Jeff Willis with information to use in negative attacks against the Lowcountry businessman.

Quinn, incidentally, was one of three candidates Ravenel soundly thrashed en route to nearly winning the GOP nomination outright on June 13 before coasting to a runoff victory with 77% of the vote just two weeks later.

Rainey's rebuke, however, is the best evidence yet of Camp Graham going hard negative.

Why else would Rainey - who has hardly uttered a peep all these years while Patterson was busy running the Treasurer's Office into the ground - all of a sudden vindictively go after a conservative candidate like Ravenel from his own party who, realistically, has no choice but to succeed in turning the office around if he expects to make any run for higher office in the future?
THE MARK FACTOR

The second troubling reality exposed by today's "Rainey reaming" is the continued inability of Governor Mark Sanford to distinguish his friends from his enemies in the political process, a curious case of naivete intermingled with what we can only describe as "political codependency."
Rainey was indeed one of the first people to encourage Sanford to run for governor in 2002, but honestly hasn't come up with a single good idea since, and has opposed practically all of the good ideas Sanford has come up with. Yet amazingly, the governor has kept him on board in this critical policy position despite the fact that Rainey's economic philosophy runs completely counter to his own.

This same dynamic is visible on the State Ports Authority (SPA) Board, where Sanford has allowed appointees Bill Stern, Tumpy Campbell and Harry Butler to openly flaunt their opposition to his stated preference for free market port expansion. Stern, Campbell and Butler - like Rainey - are all powerful political players, but they're not doing the job, and had they been removed from their SPA board positions a year ago it's likely we'd actually be building new port facilities in Charleston and Jasper County right now instead of watching as our neighboring states steal more and more of the growing Asian shipping business out from under our noses.

In the big picture view, Rainey's contribution to the defeat of income tax relief two years ago is just as crippling a blow to our state's economy as the SPA's decades-old inability to expand South Carolina's port capacity - yet in both cases Sanford refused to clean house and appoint true business-minded conservatives to these key posts.

But this time his hand may be forced - at least as far as Rainey is concerned.

Ravenel has been a vocal supporter of the governor's positions on tax cuts, spending limitations and government restructuring, continuing to publicly support Sanford even after the governor endorsed one of his opponents, Greg Ryberg, in the Republican primary.

Plus, Sanford desperately needs Ravenel on the Budget and Control Board. His vote could be critical in reversing dozens of 3-2 decisions that have gone against Sanford and his fellow fiscal conservative, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, over the years.

In short, keeping Rainey at his current post could end up costing the governor a lot more politically than jettisoning him.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ...

What a perfectly sublime weekend it was in the Lowcountry as our historic port city of Charleston played host to the National Governor's Association's annual meeting.

Sic Willie and the FITS' gals had a blast, crashing all the hippest parties, dining at all the swankiest restaurants, lounging at all the choicest digs and - of course - thoroughly ticking off all the right people.

We got to hear from a number of prospective 2008 Presidential prospects, too, including New York Gov. George Pataki and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, which was a real treat.

In fact, we'd love to elaborate further on our many political impressions from the weekend, but the vast majority of our visit to the Holy City was "off the record," as Sic Willie made a Friday night deal with the devil (who wore a stunning white strapless dress, by the way) forcing him to keep his poison pen in its pocket for the duration of our stay.

But no worries, there'll be plenty of time for poison pens in Presidential politics before it's all said and done.

For now, let's just say that the City of Charleston and the NGA host committee deserve a lot of credit for pulling off an amazing event - particularly given that they had less than half as much time to prepare for the NGA as previous host cities.

Every out-of-towner we talked to was completely enthralled by our state's coastal jewel, and local businesses no doubt made out like bandits, which is great news for our state's tourism economy.

Until next week ... be heard.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

McConnell, Confederate "Hunleymobile" Storm NGA

South Carolina Senator Glenn F. McConnell and a regiment of Confederate re-enactors took control of the annual National Governor's Association meeting this morning, storming the Charleston Place Hotel with American-made Springfield rifles and a life-sized "Hunleymobile" tank equipped with its own detonating spear.

"The War of Northern Aggression is avenged, the South has risen again," a jubilant McConnell proclaimed after siezing control of the meeting and imprisoning governors from states North of the Mason-Dixon line. "Our oppressors have been delivered unto us by the grace of Almighty God, and they shall receive no quarter from the Sons of the New Confederacy."

Also imprisoned in the surprise raid was South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whom McConnell proceeded to stip of all his Constitutional authority - which in and of itself was not entirely newsworthy as he's been doing it for the past three-and-a-half years.

McConnell's Hunleymobile slammed into the Charleston Place lobby at approximately 10:15 a.m. this morning, moments after witnesses observed the Senator, in full Confederate dress regalia and waving a sabre, shout "Ramming Speed! Go!!"

"As soon as the command was given, he dropped his arm, pointed his sabre toward the door and in they went," one witness told FITS.

Seconds later an explosion rocked the building, enabling McConnell's gray-clad warriers to pour through the breach and take control of the meeting.

Chris Drummond, former Sanford communications director and lead spokesman for the NGA host committee, called McConnell's assault "barbaric and shameful," but added that McConnell "was nonetheless, still a very attractive man."

McConnell, who declared himself Emperor of the South, said a fleet of Hunleymobiles was being assembled to move on Washington, D.C. "come the Spring thaw."

"As Sherman rendered Carolina, so my Hunleymobiles will render the whole Yankee nation."

After assuming the role of emperor, McConnell also issued orders making "Dixie" the national anthem, grits the national food, shag the national dance and also suspended habeas corpus and eliminated the sales tax on black hair dye.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Rasmussen Poll: Moore Pulls Within Ten of Sanford

According to a new Rasmussen monthly tracking poll released today, Democratic gubernatorial challenger Tommy Moore has pulled within ten points of incumbent Republican Mark Sanford, 47-38%.

Last month's survey showed Sanford up by 12 points, 51-39%.

To view the new poll in its entirety, click here.

We'll have some insights and observations on this poll later, as well as the first of our weekend posts from the National Governor's Association in Charleston.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Top Ten Reasons Will Folks is an Idiot

We thought it was pretty funny today when an anonymous commenter accused FITS of censoring your posts on our blog.

We mean, like, really, as if.

If anything, we pride ourselves on being the one blog in South Carolina politics that lets it all hang out - and lets you do the same. Good, bad, ugly, pretty, smart, stupid, perverted, scandalous or just plain funny, people have brains and we trust them to use those brains to figure things out for themselves.

But in keeping with our desire to provoke you just a little bit every once in awhile, Heather S. has done some research that is sure to spark more than its fair share of comments regarding the the number one "most slammed man" in the entire SC blogosphere - our very own Sic Willie.

So, without further adieu, here are the "Top Ten Reasons Will Folks is an Idiot," as compiled by our very own Heather S.:

10. Thought “Kendall Jackson” was a folk singer. It’s actually a brand of wine.

9. Thought the name of Elton John's hit song was “Private Dancer” and that Tina Turner’s hit song was called “Tiny Dancer" (it's actually the other way around). Still pompously maintains that he is right and the CD burned for him featuring both songs is a forgery.

8. Did not learn of the existence of the female urethra until age 29. Most kids pick up this little anatomical tidbit in grammar school.

7. Thought a U.S. President could serve two terms, sit out for four years, and then run again. In fact, actually wrote 250 pages of a political novel with this dynamic as its premise before someone showed him a copy of the 22nd Amendment.

6. Couldn’t tell Santee Cooper lobbyist Geoff Penland and DOE lobbyist Pierce McNair apart for the better part of two years. Still calls them by the wrong names everyonce in awhile, but then again so does everybody.

5. Remains convinced that Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts will one day win the Super Bowl and that his beloved Gamecock football team will win a national championship.

4. Cannot compute simple percentages (or any other fourth grade math, for that matter), even with the help of a calculator.

3. Knows absolutely nothing about computers. In fact, urban legend is that his infamous blog, FaithInTheSound, was created completely by accident while he was trying unsuccessfully to post a comment on another blog.

2. Once burned himself attempting to light a fart.

1. Subconsciously believes that he is a canine. In fact, has been tape recorded barking, growling and whimpering in his sleep. And you thought him thinking he was five women was crazy!

Enjoy, and we look forward to reading your responses ...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Greed: How Failing Public Schools Are Stealing Your Tax Cut

Leave it to South Carolina's last-in-the-nation public school system.

Give them a needle-sized loophole enabling them to waste even more of your tax dollars on a failed, flawed, bloated and monopolistic system, and they'll drive a fleet of Mack Trucks through it.

After all, why bother to actually fix the problem when it's so easy to milk the system and brand anybody who gets in your way as "anti-public education?"

The education bureaucracy in South Carolina - and the 20 public school districts who followed its instruction by arbitrarily and outrageously jacking their 2006-07 budgets this year - are quite simply a cancer on our state.

That's right, a cancer, the medical term for a destructive organism that knows nothing but mindless growth.

Despite the best efforts of leaders like Mark Sanford to hold them truly accountable (at long last), our public schools have ignored the best interests of our state's children for years, putting them second to an ever-expanding bureaucracy, consistently providing them with an abysmal product, stonewalling real reforms like parental choice (which would raise per pupil spending, incidentally) touting bogus accountability half-measures and laughing all the way to the bank as fearful, incompetent and bought-and-paid-for legislators keep doubling their funding every 10 years.

And every year, when our SAT scores and graduation rates come in dead last in the entire country (again), when one out of four schools is rated as failing or below average (again) and when minority students in our state's poorest areas are left even further behind (again), there's always the predictible refrain: "Mo' Money, please."

And we give it to them. Or in the case of these 20 districts seeking an end-around your brand new property tax cut (roughly one-quarter of all districts in South Carolina), they just take it.

Fortunately, a few brave legislators have finally taken the blinders off and wised up to this organized scam.

Today, Sen. Larry Martin, Rep. Thad Viers, Rep. Kenny Bingham and others gathered to call out these 20 districts for a blatant tax grab which, in some cases, will completely negate the impact of the recently-passed Property Tax relief bill.

"What some of these districts have done is take advantage of our willingness to work in good faith by padding (2006-07 budget) increases," Sen. Martin said.

Putting it more succinctly, S.C. Taxpayer Association President Don Weaver said "How pompous can a school board be to cite no real reason to raise millage other than to simly build their base for the future. This isn't for the children; this is for the fat cat administrators to pad their coffers for the future at the expense of the taxpayers."

Amen.

Predictably, the South Carolina School Boards Association, the driving force behind the massive cash grab, sees it differently.

"Any increases were made following substantial open dialogue," the Association's President Paul Krohne said in a statement.

As if the fact that they're stealing politely makes a difference.

People, it's time to finally call a spade a spade when it comes to these cash-sucking purveyors of perpetual ignorance.

It's also time to stand up and tell them that those of us who support school choice - and SMART funding, merit-based pay raises for teachers, money-saving PACT reform and dozens of other common sense education reforms - don't actually hate public schools, we just hate failure - oh, and the fact that every year, their failure costs us a couple hundred million dollars more to sustain.