February, 2011 posts

Whiskey Tango Revue live tonight at Art Bar

Whiskey Tango Revue

If you missed the Columbia Museum of Art’s second “Arts and Draughts” event last night, you should be bummed.  It rocked.  Among the acts who performed at the event were Columbia’s own rockabilly favorite, the Whiskey Tango Revue — “South Carolina’s least feared country band.” Lucky for you, it’s not too late to miss WTR in the Midlands this weekend.  They’re playing again tonight at Art Bar in the Vista.

Read about WTR and their “Moon-Spangled Banner” in Otis Taylor’s September column in The State here …with a shoutout to yours truly.  (I’m their biggest fan.)  Listen to WTR’s salute to our awesome state using the cute little widget embedded below:

About that SEC Championship hotel room…

Jim Davenport’s AP story on Lt. Gov. Ken Ard’s post-election campaign spending frenzy notes that among the “campaign” expenses was a $279 expenditure at the Hyatt hotel on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta on Dec. 5, the weekend that the University of South Carolina Gamecocks played in the SEC Championship.

In case you’re wondering if we’ll hear anything from Attorney General Alan Wilson on Ard’s misuse of campaign funds, well, it appears that he too wrote off an Atlanta hotel room for “fundraising” the weekend of the SEC Championship — $503 at the Westin hotel in downtown Atlanta.

Alan Wilson SEC hotel room

The Ard-uous task of abiding by state ethics laws

Ken Ard

(Pardon the almost-pun in the title.  Couldn’t resist.)

I’ve been stewing over the slew of stories about Lt. Governor Ken Ard and all of his ethics troubles that have recently come to light. I keep trying to give him the benefit of the doubt since so many folks say he’s such a nice guy, but at some point one has to wonder, “Is a guy who couldn’t be bothered to file the campaign disclosure paperwork required by law in 2005, 2007, and 2008 and racked up over $45,000 in penalties really fit to be next in line to serve as governor?”

Cathy Hazelwood, the head lawyer for the South Carolina Ethics Commission, notes that Ard received at least “half a dozen notices” before being slapped with a $45,700 fine for failure to disclose “income, business dealings and gifts on required forms,” so clearly Ard had ample notice and opportunity to straighten things out.  The fine was reduced to $1,100, but it’s noteworthy that the Ethics Commission staff opposed the fine reduction, writing that “(i)n view of Mr. Ard’s repeated noncompliance, the staff recommends the commission affirm their decision” and deny the appeal. (The commission lowered it anyway.)

At some point the ignorance excuse doesn’t work anymore, and the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Ard doesn’t believe the rules apply to him.  These forms aren’t *that* difficult to fill out, y’all… especially on the small scale of a county council race.

And you’d think that after incurring a $45,700 fine in 2007 for failure to file his disclosure forms in 2005 that he would make a concerted effort to get things right when he filed the ethics paperwork for his 2008 election, right?

Wrong.  Instead he just didn’t file the paperwork at all.  Again.  And the State Ethics Commission apparently hadn’t noticed until Democratic Operative Tyler Jones bothered to stop by their office this week and ask them about it.  Unbelievable.

Yet another #facepalm for South Carolina.

Mark Byrnes: Keep Fear Alive!

Editor’s Note: Dearest Readers, meet Mark Byrnes.  Mark is an associate professor of history at my alma mater, Wofford College, in Spartanburg, SC.  He blogs at The Past Isn’t Past.  Over the last year or so I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his thoughtful commentary on politics and current events, so I asked him if he’d be interested in cross-posting at SC Soapbox from time to time.  He said yes!  So y’all be nice and welcome Mark to SC Soapbox.  I hope we’ll be seeing a lot more of him around here. – Laurin

Why does it so often seem that those who most loudly proclaim America’s exceptional greatness seem to also have the least faith in its traditions and principles in practice?

This week we’ve been treated to the spectacle of South Carolina Republican State Senator Mike Fair following the lead of Oklahoma in proposing an “anti-Sharia” law. At the same time, Glenn Beck has been calling events in Egypt evidence of the “coming insurrection” that will create a new caliphate from Iran across North Africa, and up into western and central Europe. In both cases, these baseless fears are grounded in the idea of the inherent fragility of western civilization’s most basic institutions (otherwise, there would be nothing to fear). What’s going on here?

This is beyond mere paranoia. These are completely manufactured, utterly irrational, and potentially self-destructive fears that tell us far more about the speakers than their targets.

According to Talking Points Memo, Fair initially admitted his bill was aimed at Sharia: “This bill has been called anti-Sharia law, and I suppose it does deal with that,” Fair said. “There are some localities around the country that have imposed Sharia law in lieu of local laws.” Later, perhaps realizing that he had let the cat of the bag, he retreated and stated that the target was “foreign law,” and that he didn’t want his proposal to be interpreted “as anti-Sharia law and statute.

There’s one big problem here: there are no localities that have imposed Sharia law in the U.S. It’s a simple fact. Yes, I know there are many websites that claim it is true.  But the only so-called “evidence” ever cited to support this crazy claim is a court case that never once mentions Sharia law. It was a case of a wife accusing her husband of sexual assault, in which a judge decided that the state of mind of the defendant was relevant and that he lacked criminal intent. And even that ruling was overturned by a higher court.

That’s it. That’s the extent of the alleged imposition of Sharia law in America.

And what about that “new caliphate“?

In his TV rants, Beck claims that the recent unrest in North Africa is a sign of the “coming insurrection” which aims to establish a new caliphate. Today Morocco and Spain, he says, are “on fire.” Having just returned from a visit to both countries, I can assure everyone that neither country is currently in flames.

Beck sees in the street protests of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen not popular unrest provoked by undemocratic regimes, but a larger conspiracy (one that involves everyone from both presidents Bush to Obama to ACORN) to restore the Islamic caliphate. There is about as much chance of a new caliphate in North Africa and Europe as there is of Pat Robertson becoming grand ayatollah in Iran.

What do these cases have in common (beyond the pathological paranoia)?


Fair says that his bill was prompted by concerns over “people who are accustomed to their religion and their civil laws being inextricably connected.” You don’t need a degree in psychology to see the irony here. This is a state that banned tattoos until 2004, in part due to Biblical injunctions against the practice.  (In 2006, a tattoo parlor in Columbia was initially denied a license because it was located within 1,000 feet of a church.) To this day, when I go food shopping on a Sunday, I cannot pick up beer or wine from the Bi-Lo because of religiously-inspired blue laws. And this is a state that recently re-elected Jim DeMint to the Senate, who has a 100% rating from the Christian Coalition.

Fair’s objection (and that of many South Carolinians) is not to religion and civil laws being intertwined—their problem is with the wrong religion and civil laws being intertwined.

And Beck? In his simplistic view, world events are not complicated and multifaceted, they are all explainable by a single, malevolent intent. Someone (else) is trying to impose his vision on everyone. No one is an independent actor; everyone is the tool of dark forces. Tellingly, his interpretation of events in Egypt coincides nicely with the Mubarak regime’s take—it is not authentic, spontaneous, or legitimate.  It is the work of “foreign agents.”

The irony here is that Beck makes himself the mirror image of radical Islamists who see the United States behind every problem in the world, seeking to impose its control over everyone and everything. Not only that, but by darkly hinting that American presidents have been in on the plan for the new caliphate, Beck even agrees with the Islamists that ultimately America is in control of events—only in his telling, it is the “bad” Americans out to destroy the “real” America.

Both Fair and Beck represent essentially the same thing: fear of the unknown. Both feel beset by a world far too complicated for their simple minds to understand, and rather than seeking knowledge, they give in to their own ignorance and seek to make others fear as much as they do.

Mark Byrnes is an associate professor of history at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC.  He blogs at The Past Isn’t Past. Mark’s obsessive interest in politics goes back to watching the Watergate hearings as a child (seriously). You can follow him on Twitter at @byrnesms.

Morning Suds: Master of (Huntsman’s) Domain

  • Dr. Don Fowler — the guy who turned me into a Democrat — penned an op-ed in The State comparing Rahm Emmanuel’s residency challenges to those of 1974 Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee Pug Ravenel.  Fascinating read.
  • Charleston City Paper’s Chris Haire dings Haley Chief of Staff Tim Pearson for not being forthright about the infamous Haleygate text message exchange of which he was a party:

    But Pearson is not playing a game of truths. He’s playing a game of dodge and duck, lie and spin. And this was clearly evident when he proclaimed in a smarmy, nearly disinterested manner to Robertson that the Sheheen campaign had resorted to spreading lies in the final days of the campaign, a charge that Robertson rightly denied. After all, hadn’t Haley failed to pay her taxes? Hadn’t she failed to release her legislative e-mails? Hadn’t Haley failed to disclose income she had received as a consultant? These are facts that cannot be disputed. But that apparently doesn’t matter to Pearson, who squirmed in his seat and chewed on his pen like a schoolboy who had been forced to set through yet another boring discussion about the East India Company and its role in the rise of the British Empire.

  • Democratic Operative (and my friend) Matt Ortega of The Right’s Field owns ObamasAmbassador.com and has posted a giant picture of Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, possible Republican presidential contender, and President Barack Obama on it.  From Ortega:

    “For the last two years, Republicans have labeled the president a ‘socialist’ that is an ‘enemy of humanity’ with a ‘Kenyan anti-colonial worldview.’ So how can they nominate Obama’s ambassador?” Ortega told POLITICO in an e-mail.

Afternoon Suds: SC close Presidential race in 2012?

In the poll, Obama trailed Mike Huckabee by a six point margin, 49% to 43%. He also lagged seven pints behind Mitt Romney, 49% to 42%. While neither result is really close enough to make the race a toss up, they do show the contest being slightly more competitive next year.

However, if the GOP nominates Palin or Gingrich — or even tea partying native son Sen. Jim DeMint — the race is a wholly different story.

Against Gingrich, Obama eked out a slim 44% to 43% lead in the poll. He did even better against Palin, comfortably leading her 47% to 41%. And Obama evem came close to DeMint, the state’s popular conservative Senator, trailing by just two points, 47% to 45%.

  • Tea Party Crazy Rep. Michelle Bachmann to visit Sparkle City in February.  That should be entertaining.
  • Lt. Governor Ken Ard can’t seem to get his act together with ethics reporting.  (In his last county council race, he didn’t file any disclosure at all!)  Has anyone figured out how he managed to spend over $20,000 SINCE November’s election?  Including $800 at Cynthia’s, a women’s clothing store in Florence?  Holy mother of pearl.