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Op-Ed: Campaign Cash for Criminal Defense? Please.

By Jamie Murguia for
Dec. 19, 2014

You wouln’t have expected a meeting of the House Ethics and FOIA Ad Hoc Study Committee to be a good show. But it was.

Most of the meeting was taken up by Rep. Ralph Norman (R-York) contending for stronger language in a committee proposal. The majority of members didn’t care for the stronger language, and eventually things started to crackle.

A proposal out of Rep. Kirkman Finlay’s (R-Richland) Campaign Finance subcommittee was pitched to the committee as a ban on using campaign funds to pay fines, fees, or other charges as a result of a criminal matter. There was a catch, though – as there often is when lawmakers are proposing laws that eliminate their special privileges: the prohibition would only apply once an elected official is found guilty of the crime. Read the rest of this entry »

It All Started with BBQ – SC’s Weird and Wonderful History

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

Last week I had lunch with three old friends. All of us are proud South Carolina natives, amateur history buffs and great fans of BBQ. We decided to meet at a new BBQ joint that we were all anxious to try.

As a member in good standing of the SC BBQ Association, I felt it was by solemn duty to educate my friends to the fact that BBQ was invented in South Carolina – as indeed it was. This led to one of the more interesting lunches I’ve had in a long time, as we attempted to one up each other in our knowledge of state’s weird and wonderful history.

Although, as a reader, you can’t indulge with us in the joys of our slow-cooked feast with spicy mustard sauce, I can elucidate you as to 11 of the most interesting facts about our state’s history, as determined that day by the SC BBQ Gang of Four.

First, the BBQ. We really did invent it here. Going back forever, Native Americans had been cooking deer, alligator, turkey and all sorts of local critters using the slow, pit-cooked method we call BBQ. It was only when the Spanish showed up with pigs at Santa Elena (Parris Island) in 1566 that the grand delicacy of BBQ was born. It’s all true – look it up at

Second, an atomic bomb fell on South Carolina. The good news is that the atomic part of the bomb did not go off or you would certainly have heard about it before now. It was on a chilly March morning in 1958 that a B-47 jet dropped a nuclear bomb 15,000 feet into the backyard of Walter Gregg and his family of Mars Bluff, just east of Florence. The plutonium core didn’t explode, but the 6,000 pounds of conventional high explosives detonated, transforming the Gregg’s vegetable garden into a vast muddy crater and destroying their house. There’s a historic marker there.

Third, we make more tires in SC than any other state – including those huge tires that are known by the technical term “Big Ass Tires.” Gov. Nikki Haley talks about this all the time – the number of tires, not the Big Ass part.

Fourth, Larry Doby from Camden was the second black man to play major league baseball after Jackie Robinson. (Nobody remembers #2.) In 1947, Doby played for the Cleveland Indians – so that would make him the first to play in the American League.

Fifth, when it was built in 1793, the Santee Canal was the largest public works construction project in the world since the Pyramids in Egypt – at least that what the exhibit says at the welcome center. The planters needed the canal to ship their products from the outlying plantations to the port of Charleston.

Sixth, Andrew Jackson was the only US President born in South Carolina. North Carolina tries to claim him but we all know you can’t really trust folks from North Carolina – they also stole our name.

Seventh, as long as we are trashing our neighboring states, let’s not forget Georgia and peaches. We grow more peaches than Georgia, a lot more. In fact in some years both Edgefield and Spartanburg Counties grow more peaches than the whole state of Georgia. And we surely have the biggest peach; you can see it just off I-85 not too far from Gaffney.

Eighth, we have had four Nobel Prize winners from South Carolina – sorta. Charles Towns was from Greenville, went to Furman and invented the maser (a cousin to the laser). Joseph Goldstein was born and grew up in Kingstree and he did some of the breakthrough work on cholesterol. I don’t know the details but I don’t think he likes SC very much as he left the state and has never really come back. Robert Furchgott of Charleston won in 1998 for medicine and Cary Mullen, who won the Prize in Chemistry in 1993, went to Dreher High School in Columbia. Some folks say that’s where he came up with the idea that got him the Prize; my lunch boys had an extensive debate about that.

Ninth, Ben Bernanke, the just retired chairman of the Federal Reserve grew up in Bennettsville. Thus, the man often called the second most powerful man in the world was a product of South Carolina public schools. Ironically, they didn’t teach calculus in his school so he taught himself. This knowledge came in very handy in his first job – as a busboy at South of the Border. No kidding, that was really his first job.

Tenth, there were more Revolutionary War battles fought in SC than any other state. Now most of them were really just neighborhood scraps, but they count.

And last, but not least at eleven is the Topper archeological site in Allendale County. Scientists there have found evidence of human habitation going back 20,000 years. That would make it the oldest site of human life in the entire Western Hemisphere. There are some scientists who think the math is all wrong and it should be dated later. We at lunch decided that the older date had to be right – according to our vast knowledge of complex carbon dating techniques. Archeologists at the site also found one of those cheap US Senate key chains that Strom Thurmond was always handing out.

So there it is folks, the 11 things that you probably don’t know about our state’s history. Actually, we only came up with 10 at lunch but one of my friends couldn’t leave it alone and called back later about the Revolutionary War stuff.

The moral of this story? Eat more (SC) BBQ. There’s no telling what you’ll learn.

Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and President of the SC New Democrats, an independent organization founded by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform.

“Good Guys” by Stuart Neiman

"Good Guys" by Stuart Neiman

“Good Guys” by Stuart Neiman

“P.C.” from The Times and Democrat

"P.C." from The Times and Democrat

“P.C.” from The Times and Democrat

“Alien Thoughts” from The Times and Democrat

"Alien Thoughts" from The Times and Democrat

“Alien Thoughts” from The Times and Democrat

“Do Over” from The Times and Democrat

"Do Over" from The Times and Democrat

“Do Over” from The Times and Democrat

Media kept out of SCHSL meeting

by Travis Jenkins

The Chester News & Reporter was one of two media outlets denied entry into a South Carolina High School League meeting on Thursday afternoon.

According to an attendee of the meeting, the subject of discussion was to be competitive imbalance in the A and AA athletic classifications. In attendance were members of a statewide committee formed to study the problem. Increasingly, public schools in the the state’s two smallest classifications have difficulty competing with private and charter schools athletically. In the 2013-’14 academic year, private or charter schools in Class A won state titles in girls cross country, boys cross country, golf, baseball, boys soccer, girls soccer, Division I-A football (two state champs are crowned in football), volleyball, girls tennis, boys tennis, boys track and field and girls track and field. Public schools only won titles in boys and girls basketball, softball and Division II-A football. Private schools have won every Class A boys soccer title in the state’s history, all but one Class A girls soccer title, every girls cross country state title, nine of 10 titles in golf, five straight in volleyball and three straight in track and field. Christ Church, a private school in Greenville, has won four straight football state titles and is currently on the longest winning streak in the state’s history. In AA, Bishop England (a private school in Charleston County) has won 15 straight volleyball crowns and private/charter schools have won eight of nine boys soccer championships and all but one girls soccer title all-time. Plans ranging from establishing separate public and private school state titles to having Class A and AA secede from the league entirely are said to be among the fixes being considered.

According to the same attendee, a News & Reporter column on the subject was included in the information packet for the meeting.

The News & Reporter asked a league representative Wednesday whether or not the meeting would be open and was informed it was not. Jed Blackwell, of the Spartanburg Sports Report, spoke to South Carolina High School League Commissioner Jerome Singleton Thursday morning to inquire as to whether or not the press and public would be allowed to attend. Blackwell said Singleton indicated he would seek legal advice and call him back.

The News & Reporter sought an opinion from Bill Rogers, Executive Director of the South Carolina Press Association, which advocates for open government.

“I think they are a public body and have been going out of the way to announce public meetings,” Rogers said in an email. “I don’t know what reason they are giving for closing this one. I would ask what section of the law are they closing it (under).”

Blackwell then spoke to Jay Bender, South Carolina Press Association Attorney, who said the league (which is the governing body of prep athletics in the state) had been found in previous court cases to be a public body. According to the State’s Freedom of Information Act, “every meeting of all public bodies shall be open to the public unless closed pursuant to Section 30-4-70 of this chapter.” Exemptions to the law typically center around personnel matters, contractual situations, investigations into criminal conduct and some economic development matters. Even in those situations, public bodies first convene an open portion of a meeting, then go into executive session. Any votes must take place in open session.

Upon arriving at the league office in Columbia, Blackwell (and Richard Brockman of the Spartanburg Sports Report) met briefly with Singleton, who told them (then the News & Reporter, which arrived a few minutes later) that the meeting was closed. Singleton said the meeting was not open because it was not “a meeting” in the traditional sense, but rather a workshop where no votes would take place. Blackwell and the News & Reporter pointed out that the FOIA does not distinguish between formal meetings and workshops, that both are to be open. Failure to allow the press or public in constituted an illegal meeting, Blackwell and the News & Reporter said. Singleton agreed to send both his reasoning (in writing) on why the meeting could be legally closed.

Rogers said the league clearly erred in disallowing the attendance of the media at the meeting.

“It is disappointing to see the (South Carolina) High School League take a step backwards on openness,” Rogers said. “If public business is being discussed, the meeting must be open…whether a vote is taken or not.”

Rogers said that “the fact that such a meeting was closed without a valid reason sends an unfortunate message to the public: ‘We are doing something in secret and you don’t need to know about it.”

Lawmaker’s Resignation Tendered after Nerve Investigation

By Rick Brundrett for
December 10, 2014

If Kris Crawford needs guidance these days from the Bible, he might want to ponder the proverb, “Physician, heal thyself.”

In 2012, the emergency room doctor and then-state House member was convicted on four misdemeanor counts of willfully failing to file state income-tax returns. He received no jail time and was ordered to pay $21,380 in fines and costs.

Despite his criminal conviction, the Florence County Republican kept his House seat and was easily re-elected last month to a fifth two-year term. But in a surprise announcement Tuesday, Crawford, a married father of four, said he was resigning immediately from office, citing the need to spend more time with his work and family. Read the rest of this entry »

South Carolina (Republicans) Have an Attitude Problem

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

by Phil Noble

When I was a school boy, there was a kid down the street named Rodney who had an “attitude problem,” or at least that’s what the adults called it. To me and my friends, Rodney was just a jerk.

He had a big chip on his shoulder and was always complaining that others were taking advantage of him or whining about things not being fair to him. Rodney didn’t have any friends, and our parents pretty much forced us to include Rodney in our activities.

Recently I read two articles about how our state was dealing with two important issues, government finances and education, and it made me think about Rodney. I’ve decided that we in South Carolina (especially Republicans) have an attitude problem about the federal government – and as was the case with Rodney, our attitude makes us seem like jerks.

Truth be told, this has been the case with our state since its earliest days, going all the way back to Colonial times. South Carolina was founded largely by the aristocratic “second sons” of England. The first son inherited the family title, manor house and estate. The second son pretty much got nothing and was often looked down on as second class. Many of them packed up in disgust and came to the New World in general and Charleston in particular.

Thanks to the plantation system – i.e. slave labor, cheap, fertile land, and vast waterways to provide transportation – these second sons got filthy rich very quickly. By the time of the Revolution, nine of the ten richest men in America were South Carolinians. The per capita wealth of (white) Charleston was six or seven times that of Philadelphia, New York or Boston. These second sons were now far richer than the first sons back home in England and quickly developed a “to Hell with them” attitude. Put another way – why do we need them, let’s start our own country.

And indeed they did. And having once won one revolution, a hundred or so years later their sons and grandsons who inherited the same attitude (along with their plantations and wealth) tried it again. It was called Secession and the Confederacy; this time it didn’t turn out so well.

However, being the stubborn, hard-headed types that we are, we didn’t let losing a war change our attitude. Indeed, now, having nurtured this resentful attitude for over 150 years, it has only intensified, and our animus is once again directed toward the federal government – AKA the Yankees, outsiders, Washington, and everything and everyone that is not “us.”

All this brings me to the two news articles that I recently read. The first was about a Pew Trust research study that examined the amount of money we in South Carolina get back money from Washington. We rank 8th in the county in the percentage of our state gross domestic product that comes from Uncle Sam. While the national average is 19%, we in SC get about 27% of our GDP from Washington.

It is indeed ironic that our state is so dependent on federal spending, yet our state’s politicians (mostly Republicans) spend so much of their time telling us how everything Washington does is bad and how they are protecting us from this evil monster on the Potomac. And, in fairness, they aren’t just railing about Obama, as they were just as anti-Washington when the last two Bushes were in the White House.

Now think about that for a moment. What if you had an uncle named Sam who favored you over most of your other cousins but you trashed him every chance you got? Well, you get the picture.

The second story was about the new educational standards called Common Core. Predictably, many of our state’s (Republican) politicians are ranting and nearly foaming at the mouth in their opposition to the “federal mandates” of Common Core. To listen to them, President Obama himself sat at his desk in the Oval Office and personally wrote out this wicked plan, and is forcing it on the states under threats not seen since the days of Lincoln.

The truth is just the opposite. In reaction to the failings of the No Child Left Behind education policies of the Bush era, the bi-partisan National Governors Association and Council of Chief State Schools Officers came up with Common Core. And, as was the case with most states, in 2010 the SC Board of Education and the Education Oversight Committee adopted the Common Core standards. Need I remind you that we had a Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature at the time?

Now, the extreme right has decided that Common Core = Obama (ObamaCore, as some have taken to calling it); thus opposition to it means scoring cheap political points. And so our Republican-dominated Legislature is in the process of tearing up a set of rational, state-based standards, and is instead ramming through a bunch of ideologically-driven nonsense. The result is that our children – already stuck in a failing education system — will suffer even more.

Although I felt sorry for him, I never liked Rodney. Even as a child I knew his rotten attitude was wrong, unjustified and just made life unpleasant for those around him.

It’s the same with our state today. We (especially Republicans) need to change our attitude and quit blaming others and get on with the business of doing positive things that move us toward being the great state we can be.

Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and President of the SC New Democrats, and independent reform group started by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform.

“Underwater” from The Times and Democrat

"Underwater" from The Times and Democrat

“Underwater” from The Times and Democrat

“Set Up” from The Times and Democrat

"Set Up" from The Times and Democrat

“Set Up” from The Times and Democrat

“Wife Shopping” from The Times and Democrat

"Wife Shopping" from The Times and Democrat

“Wife Shopping” from The Times and Democrat

Turkeys, Obama’s Amnesty and America

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

In my family, it’s a tradition that my daughter does all the cooking for Thanksgiving. Like all good traditions, it is a part of the fabric of our family holidays. On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, she and I went to the local Publix to buy all the ingredients for this special dinner. I know that it’s special as the tape read $157.23 for this one meal’s fixings, but we’ll have to save the high price of groceries for another column.

Toward the front of the store, there was a special section where they had grouped all the items needed for the traditional Thanksgiving feast. The store manager had gone all out with decorations. There were several oversized crepe paper turkeys and colorful Pilgrim cardboard cutouts surrounding the big cans of yams, cranberry sauce, creamed corn, etc., and a six foot pyramid of boxes of stuffing mix. It was impressive.

Standing in the midst of this holiday orgy of multi-colored cardboard figures, corn stalk decorations and food, was a Latino family looking totally overwhelmed and bewildered. They were a young couple, probably in their twenties, with two small, squirming children with big dark eyes in the shopping cart. From the looks of their clothes, it was clear that they were struggling to get one hand on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. The father’s thin fleece vest had the logo of a lawn service company.

The mom was juggling some hand written notes and a few glossy page recipes with beautiful food pictures she had torn out of a magazine. The father was trying to read the store’s shopper tabloid with all the specials. My Spanish is pretty bad, so I couldn’t understand much they said, but over and over I did hear the heavily accented word “Thanksgiving.” They were struggling with strange customs and strange food in a strange land.

They were new immigrants struggling to be Americans.

I have no idea what country they came from. I don’t know anything about their immigration status. All I know is that this young couple was struggling with the harshest realities of life at the bottom of the American economy, while at the same time struggling mightily to adopt the customs and heritage of America for themselves and their young family.

Lest we forget, America is a county of immigrants. This is our heritage. This is who we are.

Other than Native Americans, and African Americans who were brought here against their will, all of us can trace our family roots to someone who pulled up stakes in some far away country, left their family and familiar life, and came to America.

They came for one simple reason: they wanted a better life for themselves and their family. They were willing to risk it all to make this better life a reality for themselves and their children.

They could have stayed in their home country. Most all around them did stay, but these special ones who came were different; they had the courage to take a chance. For many, they risked deprivation and hardships – even death – to get here.

These are extraordinary people. They personify the spirit that made America.

My family is Scots-Irish. We came to the New World in 1730 and wandered into South Carolina in 1756. We were not welcomed with open arms. A Charleston newspaper called us “the scum of two nations.”

In later years, it was the Italians, Greeks, Poles, Jews, and Russians that took the same risks and faced the same hostility when they got here. Today, there is not a county in the world that doesn’t have its people on our shores.

We should be glad to have them.

Now before anyone goes off on an anti-Obama rant about “amnesty” and such, let’s all agree on some basics: yes, we must control our borders; yes, we need an orderly immigration system to regulate the incoming flow; yes, everyone needs to pay their taxes and play by the rules.

That said, I’m still inspired by the young family at Publix. I wonder if someday the little girl in the cart will grow up to create their own family tradition of her cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I hope so.

I also wonder how many of us who had the great fortune to be born here, who take all the blessings of this country for granted, would have the courage and audacity to voluntarily – even eagerly – go through what they have to be Americans.

When I sat down for our $157.23 Thanksgiving Dinner, I remembered my friends in the grocery store. Though separated by 393 years, the Latinos in the Publix and the Pilgrims in Massachusetts share the same Thanksgiving and immigrant tradition. They both embody the best of what America is all about.

So, I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving – and give thanks for what it represents, then and now.

Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and is President of the SC New Democrats, and independent reform group started by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform.

Dylan Thompson run

Gamecocks QB Dylan Thompson picks up a few yards on a run.

Gamecocks QB Dylan Thompson picks up a few yards on a run.

Please remember to include the writer’s name and the name of the newspaper.

Mike Davis run

Clemson defense attempts to stop a run by South Carolina's Mike Davis.

Clemson defense attempts to stop a run by South Carolina’s Mike Davis.

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Seckinger stunned

Clemson tight end Stanton Seckinger is helped off the field following a collision.

Clemson tight end Stanton Seckinger is helped off the field following a collision.

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Gallman stopped

The South Carolina defense stops Wayne Gallman

The South Carolina defense stops Wayne Gallman

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Scott scores touchdown

Clemson's Artavis Scott scores on a 53-yard touchdown pass.

Clemson’s Artavis Scott scores on a 53-yard touchdown pass.

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“Michael Brown” by Stuart Neiman

"Michael Brown" by Stuart Neiman

“Michael Brown” by Stuart Neiman

“Fairy Tale” from The Times and Democrat

"Fairy Tale" from The Times and Democrat

“Fairy Tale” from The Times and Democrat