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Noble Column: Draining the Swamp in DC and SC

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

Since Donald Trump was elected, the phase ‘drain the swamp’ has become media/political shorthand for all the changes that he is going to bring to politics as usual in DC. Although I didn’t vote for him, I do absolutely believe that there needs to be a lot of swamp draining in DC – and this got me to thinking about swamp draining in S.C. as well.

First, DC. The swamp draining in DC is all about the corruption of big money, lobbyist, special interest, campaign donations, etc. The DC insiders see presidents come and go but the political class is always there and represent the way Washington works. The current gridlock is at least partially due to the entrenched special interest that represent this politics as usual mentality of both Democrats and Republicans. And, the justifiable hostility towards DC really is bi-partisan as Congress has a 13% approval rating.

There is reason to believe that Trump is at least trying to bring in some new people, but what is not at all clear is if these new people have the basic competence to do the job. For example, it makes me very nervous when the woman appointed to be Secretary of Education is multi-billionaire Betsy DeVos (a Koch brothers ally) who has made a career out of funding groups that bash public education – neither she or any of her four children have ever even been to public schools. It appears that her principle, perhaps only, qualification is that she gave a lot of money to Trump’s campaign.

And, not to demean our Governor who is to be our nation’s next Ambassador to the UN, well let’s just say that when it comes to her international experience, it’s a strectch. As my 26 year old son said, “I’ve been to more countries than she has…”

But, let’s not judge Trump and his appointments too harshly just yet and let’s give them a chance and see what they do. He won the election; he will be our president and we should all want him to succeed – and that includes success with the swamp draining.

So, what about the South Carolina swamp. Well, in some ways it’s a different type of swamp but there are still plenty of the same types of alligators, snakes and other scary creatures about.

Let’s start with the similarities. Most of all, things in the S.C. Statehouse are run by the same influences as in DC – corruption, big money, lobbyists, special interest, campaign donations, etc.  Obviously, the amounts of money, number of lobbyists, size of campaign donations, etc. are comparatively a whole lot smaller, but the system is still the same.

Many, perhaps most, S.C. legislators – in one way or another – make money off of their official position beyond the salary they receive. (At approximately $10,000 in salary and another $10,000 in expenses, the pay is too low which is part of the problem, but that will have to be the subject of another column.)

Setting aside the outright illegal things that some legislators may do (see the ongoing corruption investigation by Solicitor David Pascoe) many legislators legally make money from consulting contracts, legal business, retainer fees, etc.  Some are hired (or family members are hired) by all sorts of special interest to do little or no work for exorbitant fees. This is pretty much the same pattern as in DC.

Campaign contributions are the same deal as well. Lobbyists work for all sorts of special interest groups that want to persuade the legislators to do their bidding – provide special tax breaks, get them contracts or in other ways look out for their special interest. In S.C., lobbyists can’t give money directly, but the ‘lobbyist principals’ or their family members can and do make contributions. This is what drives the vast majority – in some cases over 75% –  of Statehouse campaign contributions. Here in S.C., in the last legislative session there were 873 registered lobbyists and with only 170 members of the S.C. House and Senate, this is more than five lobbyists for each legislator.

Of course, not all of these ‘special interest groups’ are evil and wicked; some are trying to do good things such as protect our environment, educate our children and help those with special needs. But, the problem is that these ‘good guys’ are forced to play by the same sleazy rules and when they go up against the bad guys with lots of money –  well you can guess who usually wins.

But, there are also some differences between the swamps in DC and SC.

Most importantly, there is a viable two party system in Washington. On some issues, Democrats win and on some issues Republicans win. The system is at least competitive. In South Carolina, there is no effective two party system – the Republicans run everything and have done so for about a generation now.

Sure, there are some Democrats in the state House and Senate, but their numbers have been reduced to the point that they are largely irrelevant on the big issues. The Republicans control all eight statewide offices, have huge majorities in the state House and Senate, they have eight of nine members of the US Congress and both US Senators.

But, this is not to say that somehow all the Democrats are pure and all the Republicans are corrupt – far from it. When it comes to the big issues – big money, lobbyists, special interest, campaign donations, etc. – it’s pretty hard to tell one party from the other. They are both members of the same party – the Politics As Usual Incumbent Party.

Another interesting factor in the swamp draining business in South Carolina is the role of soon to be Governor Henry McMaster. The sniping has already begun as a recent S.C. Democratic Party email said, “our very own Whites-Only Country Club member-in-chief will get his chance to lead our state right back to the 1950s.”

A fervent backer of Trump from the beginning, one would think that McMaster would be firmly in the swamp drainers camp, but in South Carolina … not so much. McMaster is an insider’s insider; he’s been in one political job or another or running for some office for over 35 years.

With his rise to the Governor’s Office, one could argue that McMaster is now simply the biggest alligator in the swamp.

We’ll have to see how all this passion and fury for swamp draining turns out, both in DC and S.C. What’s not really clear now is who are the real swamp drainers and who are the real swamp monsters.

So, stay tuned folks – it will be interesting to watch.

Phil Noble has a technology firm in Charleston and writes a weekly column for the S.C. Press Association. Contact him at phil@philnoble.com and see his other columns at www.PhilNoble.com

“Trump Foreign Policy” by Stuart Neiman

"Trump Foreign Policy" by Stuart Neiman

“Trump Foreign Policy” by Stuart Neiman

Living on Purpose: Finding our own reason for the season

Dr. William Holland

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

I have read articles over the years about how Christmas is a combination of Christian and pagan symbolism along with some folklore traditions and for the most part this is true. I also realize that most people do not want to hear about such things. Beyond the bah humbug, I will admit that even though Christmas is not as much fun now as it was when I was a kid or when our children were young, I still enjoy the season. To me, Christmas has always been a special time and heaven forbid I use the term, “magical” but as a child, my overactive imagination had no problem believing the Christmas story especially after I learned about Saint Nicholas that knows everything and can give every child in the world exactly what they want. Now that we are adults, it seems we still hold onto the memories of Christmas past and even have a little excitement left for Christmas future no matter how old we are.

I was thinking about some of the things I do not enjoy about Christmas like for example, the traffic when trying to shop is a headache and how it seems people are not always in a “Courier and Ives” festive mood. The high level of stress and anxiety to make sure everything is perfect, attempts to turn our happy celebrations into something that resembles a torture chamber. The pressure of making sure the house is decorated just right, the food is delicious and finding the perfect gifts, take an exhausting toll on all of us. And let’s not forget about the intense commercialism that bombards us with advertising and turns everything into a money driven frenzy. But, for the sake of all those involved, we will continue our merry traditions until we cannot do it anymore because spending time with our loved ones for the holiday makes us all happy. What is there not to like? The lighted tree, feasting at banquet tables with the most rich delicacies of the year and everyone enjoying themselves are the ingredients for a wonderful occasion. Remember the carol that reminds us, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

Still, in the back of my mind, I keep thinking about the spiritual parts and pieces of a supposedly Christian holiday, after all, I was also taught this was when Jesus was born. Come to find out, it seems more like a good opportunity to blend in all types of traditions and rituals into one grand finale. We have a nativity on one side, the historical pagan contributions and the Santa story all at the same time. I understand for those who are not a Christian, this is no big deal because a party is a party, but the Bible says that the more we learn the more we are accountable for. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to live because who am I, besides everyone is going to do whatever they want. I also believe we can become so legalistic that we turn away those we might have a chance to discuss subjects like this. If we are against everything and end up living alone in a tent, I cannot see how this is a good idea. On the other hand, I have wondered how many would celebrate Christmas if it was only about Jesus coming to save us. It’s popular to remember him as a new-born as this connects with the birthday concept, but what if there were no Christmas trees, or an obese man dressed in red with a white beard? What if Santa had no supernatural powers like being omnipresent and the ability to visit every home in the world in one night? Without the sparkling lights, the shiny wrapping paper, the ham and pecan pie, the music, and the children getting all excited about the gifts, Christmas day would probably pass by quietly like groundhog day. And this is what concerns me. Beyond the wise men, the sun god traditions and the flying reindeer, we will all choose our own reason for the season.

Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author, outreach minister and community chaplain. To learn more visit: billyhollandministries.com

“Counting Grapes” from The Times and Democrat

"Counting Grapes" from The Times and Democrat

“Counting Grapes” from The Times and Democrat

“Thinking” from The Times and Democrat

"Thinking" from The Times and Democrat

“Thinking” from The Times and Democrat

“Funny TV” from The Times and Democrat

"Funny TV" from The Times and Democrat

“Funny TV” from The Times and Democrat

 

All in a day’s work (service dog edition)

Photos and Story by ANNAMARIE KOEHLER-SHEPLEY, Carolina Reporter

Bustling shoppers, flashing lights, and festive music — not to mention Santa’s North Pole set up right in the middle of pedestrian paths—all signal a shopping mall during its peak holiday season.

But two-year-old Shack is cool under pressure. Despite the cheerful chaos, the service-dog-in-training waits patiently for cues to walk, to stay focused, and to not get distracted by all the sights and sounds of Columbiana Centre mall.

Shack, a Golden Retriever Labrador mix, is training for his certification test so that he can officially be released to his future handler. The test, already impressive in length and content, has the added difficulty element of taking place at the mall.

Shack is a 2-year-old Labrador and Golden Retriever mix who is currently in advanced training to officially be released to future handler Dori Tempio.

Shack is a 2-year-old Labrador and Golden Retriever mix who is currently in advanced training to officially be released to future handler Dori Tempio.

“The mall is kind of like New York City,” said Shack’s Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services instructor Maureen Leary. “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”

At the mall, Shack practices disregarding French fries on the floor of the food court, walking past stuffed-animal displays—his favorite toys—without blinking an eye, and keeping his eyes on his handler, even when the most friendly children walk up ready to shower him with attention.

Shack is in advanced training: He completed his basic training but is now putting in extra hours so that he can be comfortable and prepared to assist his future handler Dori Tempio, whose wheelchair adds a new dimension to Shack’s job. Leary said that Shack is adjusting to walking at the right pace by Tempio’s side.

All dogs and clients go through an in-depth matching process where a committee reviews clients’ needs and dogs’ abilities. But Leary said that Shack and Tempio had a feeling about each other from the very beginning.

“The first time Dori met Shack, he went right to her and kissed her right in the face,” Leary said.

Leary said that dogs are very visual learners and even though they have practiced with wheelchairs in training, Tempio’s chair is a little bit different.

“Some dogs aren’t as comfortable with the chairs,” Leary said. “But Shack had no troubles.”

Their relationship is plain to see as Shack rests his head peacefully on Tempio’s lap.

Dori Tempio is the community outreach and consumer rights coordinator for Able South Carolina, an organization dedicated to providing independent living services to people of all ages with all disabilties. “[He's] wonderful,” Tempio said.

Dori Tempio is the community outreach and consumer rights coordinator for Able South Carolina, an organization dedicated to providing independent living services to people of all ages with all disabilties. “[He’s] wonderful,” Tempio said.

PAALS Board of Directors’ Vice President Sheri Jordan says that it’s easy to tell if a dog is comfortable if you’re familiar with dog behavior. Shack’s relaxed, swinging tail and wide, alert eyes trainers know that he is comfortable and focused on his work.

“We’ll never put a dog in a job that the dog doesn’t like,” Jordan said.

Tempio, community outreach and consumer rights coordinator for Able South Carolina, has had service animals in the past and knows the drill when it comes to the certification test. Tempio’s office walls at Able S.C., an organization dedicated to providing independent living assistance to people of all ages with any disability, are lined with photos of her and her husband and of course, her service dogs through the years.

“I’ve taken the test every year for the last – you don’t even want to know – how many years,” said Tempio. “Still I get nervous. There’s a lot of external factors that can have nothing to do with you that can cause you not to pass.”

Shack, who is a teenager in dog years, is working on focus and tempering his natural enthusiasm before the test.

“Life is very exciting, and Shack loves life,” Leary said. “There’s a lot of things that are very normal things for dogs to do but that he can’t.”

Things like greeting everyone he meets and sniffing out food on the ground are against the rules for service dogs.

Compared to normal dogs, though, the list of things that Shack can do is exhaustive—helping Tempio get dressed in the morning, retrieving lunch from the refrigerator and opening handicap doors are only a few of Shack’s impressive skills.

Opening handicap doors is one of the ways that service-dog-in-training Shack will help future client Dori Tempio. Shack has been trained for over two years and can do everything from turning light switches on and off to helping Tempio get dressed.

Opening handicap doors is one of the ways that service-dog-in-training Shack will help future client Dori Tempio. Shack has been trained for over two years and can do everything from turning light switches on and off to helping Tempio get dressed.

Shack, along with Tempio’s previous service dog Casper, are two of more than 40 dogs that have been specially trained and placed by PAALS. Dogs come from all over the country, and once they get to be about six months old, they begin their extensive training, which lasts about two years.

PAALS rigorous program can be likened to college for service dogs. And just as colleges face routine accreditation, PAALS also goes through a strict accreditation process every five years with Assistance Dogs International, an umbrella organization for service dog training groups. Just as graduates prepare a final thesis before graduation, dogs are certified before finally starting their career.

The PAALS building is even set up as a school, with a main office, a cafeteria and a playground, where the dogs have recess.

But it’s not all treats and playground time for these dogs.

Training includes hundreds of hours of instructional time with trainers and a two-week boot camp with their future handlers, which Jordan calls “exhausting for everyone concerned.” Training also includes things like the PAALS Prison Program, where dogs spend time at the prison during the week and get trained by inmates, and the PAALS Foster Program, where dogs spend the weekend with a volunteer in his or her home.

Labrador and Golden Retrievers are successful service dog breeds because of their energy levels and temperments. “It’s really cool to see the person’s demeanor changing as they see how the dog is going to help them,” said intern Rachael McGahee.

Labrador and Golden Retrievers are successful service dog breeds because of their energy levels and temperments. “It’s really cool to see the person’s demeanor changing as they see how the dog is going to help them,” said intern Rachael McGahee.

 

Rachael McGahee, an intern at PAALS, says that the Foster Program allows the dogs exposure to normal aspects of life that they might not necessarily get at the PAALS Grampian Hills Road location.

“Little things like vacuuming help,” McGahee said. “So that when [the dog] does get placed one day, he’s not like, ‘What in the world is a vacuum?’”

This extensive training doesn’t come cheap: From start to finish, training a dog can cost between $25,000 and $40,000. As an ADI accredited service dog organization, PAALS doesn’t directly charge clients for their dog. Most of the cost is met through fundraising, with clients, excluding veterans and first responders, contributing around $5,000 in tuition for the boot camp training.

McGahee says that spending time with puppies at work is great, but that her favorite part is seeing the direct impact the dogs have on people.

“I met a veteran who had PTSD and he was paired with one of our dogs named Cookie,” McGahee said. “You could tell that his whole life was changing just by seeing how this dog was going to help him. Seeing him work with this dog and seeing it happen was really cool.”

Service dogs help with post-traumatic stress disorder by easing the individual’s fear or anxiety and acting as a buffer between the individual and the world. PAALS also trains dogs to assist individuals with autism or physical disabilities, such as with Tempio, or to work in educational or healthcare facilities. servicedogsg1web_fix

As a component of PTSD, Jordan said that some PAALS clients have experienced traumatic brain injuries, which can make remembering all of the training cues difficult.

“They can be struggling so much and then they get this dog that can help them so much, but it’s a whole new struggle,” Jordan said. “The dogs really help them, though, once they get through that.”

Jordan and Leary both stress the importance of the team effort between the dog and the handler, an aspect Tempio and Shack seem to have figured out.

“I love my Shack,” Tempio said. “[He’s] wonderful.”

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Noble Column: Saving S.C.’s Natural Treasures: The Edisto River

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

Recently, I was invited to speak to the Friends of the Edisto and I met Hugo Krispyn who lives on the headwaters of the North Fork of the Edisto. He wrote this about the dangers facing the Edisto and other S.C. rivers.

Before pavement was laid across the rolling sandy hills of the South Carolina Midlands, the railroads came. In fact, even now, if you make your way downstream on the North Fork of the Edisto River from I-20, you’ll come to a quiet spot just a mile or two upstream from the Highway 113 bridge where the “Swamp Rabbit” railroad once ran, and where a line of pilings mark the site of the trestle crossing the North Fork near Seivern. It’s a reminder that things change, and that what we see in the moment isn’t necessarily the way things will always be.

It’s hard to think of anything as evocative of “all things South Carolina” as the Edisto River. It is the only one of South Carolina’s major rivers existing entirely within the state’s boundaries. The Edisto is over 300 miles of free flowing blackwater river, draining over 3000 square miles of South Carolina’s heart as it flows from the Midlands, across the Coastal Plain, through the ACE Basin, and then around Edisto Island to reach the Atlantic Ocean.

As it scrawls and loops its way across the state, the Edisto winds through a diverse ecosystem that owes its very existence to the dark pulse of the river’s waters. Dyed to the exact hue of a cool glass of sweet tea by the rich tannins of the wooded river bottom it traverses, the Edisto provides habitat for a diverse mix of flora and fauna, including an ever-increasing number of humans; people who call South Carolina their home. If you ask them, these people will tell you that they love the Edisto. Unfortunately, the increasing demands that people place on our rivers – including the Edisto – threaten their futures. We’re in danger of loving them to death.

If you’ve followed the news in recent years, you might have noticed that the Edisto River has been prominent in a heated discussion about the rules covering withdrawal of surface water from rivers in South Carolina, and how the rules for agricultural withdrawers are different than the rules industrial and municipal users of the same resource must operate under. What may have been lost in that conversation is the focus on protecting our rivers in a sustainable way, guaranteeing the resource’s future for all stakeholders.

The rivers of South Carolina are by law public waters, held in trust by the state on behalf of the citizens. The state is duty bound to protect not just the water in the river, but the health, vitality, viability, and sustainability of the web of life that depends upon our rivers, in all of their beautiful complexity. Whole watersheds are reliant on these rivers. Allowing water withdrawals that could permanently damage and degrade entire watersheds represents an abdication of responsibility on the part of those legislators and regulators charged with caring for our rivers.

There has been a concerted effort to frame this issue as a conflict between agriculture and so-called “environmental extremists”, and the history of South Carolina’s efforts to create effective surface water laws has certainly featured a robust and polarized debate between the conservation community and other groups, including agricultural interests. Keep in mind, the world of water policy development within South Carolina is a small one, with a limited cast of characters, and memories are long there. The incendiary reactions to the most recent chapter of this saga can perhaps be attributed more to long held grudges than to the issues themselves.

It seems obvious and undeniable that it is in the best interest of South Carolina, and of South Carolinians, to develop laws and regulations that protect our rivers from damage. It is equally obvious that within those protective measures there will be space for responsible use of our rivers by a diverse range of stakeholders, including farmers. Surely, though, the absolute basis and foundation of any such measures should be the overarching goal of sustainable stewardship of the rivers themselves.

Viewed in that light, our current law falls short of providing adequate protection to our river resources. In a recent letter from the “Friends of the Edisto” stewardship organization, FRED President Tim Rogers phrased it like this:

“Love of and respect for our state’s rivers are certainly mutually shared values upon which our policies should be based. So is our desire for our river systems to be clean and healthy and sustainably viable for our use and for future generations.

Our state law recognizes this principle by incorporating and defining minimum in-stream flow requirements necessary to the sustainable health of our rivers. Notwithstanding the emphasis placed on this provision, there seems to be some ambiguity as to whether or not these requirements apply to agricultural users.

We would advocate a clarification of this issue by provision that minimum in-stream flow requirements would apply to agricultural registrations, in the same manner as to other users. Flow measurement would be based at the point of withdrawal, utilizing data from the closest downstream gauge.

We should agree upon a clear, unambiguous and enforceable remedy that would be available to state regulators in response to violations of in-stream flow standards.

We would also advocate public/stakeholder notice requirement for new agricultural registrations. Transparency and access for public participation should be advantageous to all parties involved and certainly is consistent with other values in our legal and political system.

These steps could constitute an attempt to secure some additional protection for our rivers, pending the ongoing surface water availability studies, watershed planning process, State Water Planning process, and other such initiatives.”

Obviously, the development of South Carolina’s water policies is an ongoing process, and the other participants in that process have a legitimate voice and a place at the table. The only workable solutions are going to be those that treat all stakeholders fairly and equitably, while providing adequate protection to our treasured public waters. If this is an issue you care about, take the time to explore it for yourself, and then get engaged in the process. When you contact your legislators, they listen. Your voice can have an effect.

Phil Noble has a technology firm in Charleston and writes a weekly column for the S.C. Press Association. Reach him at phil@philnoble.com and read his other columns at www.PhilNoble.com

“Fidel Castro” by Stuart Neiman

"Fidel Castro" by Stuart Neiman

“Fidel Castro” by Stuart Neiman

Living on Purpose: The blessing of being a cheerful giver

Dr. William Holland

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

Every year at Christmas time, it’s common to see the bell ringers all over town standing at the red kettles of the Salvation Army. Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with Major Randall Davis to learn more about the goals of the organization. According to Davis, there is a standard operating policy that applies to every community pertaining to donations and distribution. All contributions received within a county remains in that same community to be used for needs such as food pantries, clothing, youth camps, serving meals, nursing home visitation, emergency financial assistance, holiday food boxes and toys. Giving is not limited to financial gifts but anyone who would like to roll up their sleeves and lend a hand is also much appreciated. Their mission statement which emphasizes the great commission of Matthew 28:16-20 reads: “Our Christian message is based on the Bible; our ministry is motivated by the love of God and our mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to help those in need without discrimination in the name of the Lord.”

It is no secret that top executives of well-known charitable organizations make staggering salaries, however the Salvation Army Commander who by the way manages a 2 billion dollar per year ministry, makes a very modest annual income of under 20 thousand dollars. While some charities are only left with pennies on the dollar after salaries and expenses, the Salvation Army gives an amazing 93 cents of every dollar to help those in need. They are actively involved with trying to help the poor in 121 countries around the world and their main office is located in London England where it was founded in 1865 by William and Catherine Booth. In the beginning, these enthusiastic missionaries faced harsh opposition because as they preached the gospel on street-corners, those who were going in and out of the bars were being spiritually transformed by the power of God. By publicly presenting the message of grace through faith, God’s Word was having a positive influence on those who needed deliverance from sin while having a negative impact on the lucrative businesses that sold alcohol and all the other forms of carnality. According to Davis, he says throughout the years there have been many devoted Christians who have embraced the battle-cry, “heart to God and hand to man” and he testifies how this has been the driving force of his own personal vision and faith for over 50 years. While dedicated to intervening on the behalf of the misfortunate, the ultimate goal has remained the same and that is to lead men and women into a personal relationship with God.

Wealth is not the answer to all of our problems as there are treasures in our poverty if we know where to look and how to see. It’s much easier to toss in a few dollars and go our merry way without seriously thinking or praying for those who are desperately in need. Even though giving is admirable and associated with caring, it’s the spiritual love and compassion we have for one another that is much more valuable than our contributions. When basic needs have been taken care of, this bond of trust can develop friendships and open the doors of opportunity to share about God’s plan of salvation and actually was the pattern that Jesus used in His earthly ministry. The poor are always the first to be impacted whether the economy is struggling or booming and those who are insensitive will be the first to accuse individuals who struggle for not trying to work more but this is not always the magical solution in every situation. There are many reasons for perpetual poverty including individuals with disabilities, the elderly that live on limited incomes and all the innocent children just to name a few critical situations. The Bible does not ask us to analyze with our judgmental opinions but rather to respond with mercy, compassion and obedience. “The generous will also be blessed because they share their food with the poor.” Proverbs 22:9.

Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author, outreach minister and community chaplain. To learn more visit: billyhollandministries.com

My Brain on NASCAR: ‘Hatred ranking’ and Jimmie Johnson

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

I have a question for you guys this week: Why are so many people hostile toward Jimmie Johnson?

Honestly, from about five minutes after the end of the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway to this very moment, I’ve had to ardently defend JJ at least 100 times (a conservative estimate, by the way), and I don’t even pull for the guy.

Johnson is many things, what a savvy publicist would call a “total package.” Articulate. Charismatic. A dedicated family man. An incredibly talented race car driver.

And oh, yeah, he’s also a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, joining “The King” Richard Petty and “The Intimidator” Dale Earnhardt Sr. to increase the membership of that elite club from two to three. (On a side note, Johnson needs to get himself a cool nickname, something people can really get behind. Given the current public sentiment, “Uh-Oh” might work.)

Here’s the deal. Just because we don’t care for a particular athlete – and by “don’t care” I really mean “hate” – that doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving of our respect. As a Tarheel girl and someone who has probably (OK, definitely) made tens of thousands of inappropriate jokes about Christian Laettner over the years, I know whereof I speak. And don’t even get me started on Mike Krzyzewski.

I am writing this in an open-air, marina-side restaurant in North Myrtle Beach SC, soliciting opinions from the folks next to me. One of them turns out (I think, he was a little sketchy on the details) to be Mike Posma, a former pro hockey player and coach who tells me stories about hanging out backstage with Warren Zevon at Saturday Night Live and The Late Show with David Letterman, (as a guest of Warren Zevon). Another is Mike’s girlfriend, Doris, who loves Dale Sr. and loathes Bill Elliott, for reasons of which she is somewhat unclear.

Yet another diehard Earnhardt fan and a friend of mine, Russ, once told me a story about attending the Southern 500 and having the misfortune of sitting next to a random Rusty Wallace fan who – and I quote – “stood up and gave Earnhardt the finger every single lap for 500 miles.” Now, that’s some dedicated dislike.

In sports, an athlete’s “hatred ranking” can sell just as many logoed souvenirs as his popularity quotient. After all, what is a hero without a villain?

This is by no means specific to NASCAR. For every beloved Michael Jordan, the patron saint of not one but TWO cities, there is a disgruntled “I don’t get the respect that’s coming to me” Kobe Bryant. For every iconic Arnold Palmer, there is a fallen-from-grace Tiger Woods. For every so-perfect-he’s-just-on-my-last-nerve Tom Brady, there is an All-American golden boy Peyton Manning.

In sports, sometimes hate for one team or athlete spawns irrational love for another. The two emotions cannot exist independently of each other.

This, I think, is the genesis of the Jimmie Johnson backlash. As NASCAR fans, we have spent most of our lives with Petty, and later Earnhardt, at the forefront of our collective consciousness. They were the absolute best, the undisputed greatest drivers of all time. Their records could never be broken.

Until they were. Until another driver showed us that, while The King and The Intimidator were truly legendary, the records they set just might not be unbreakable after all. Those big personalities and trademark hats are burned into our psyches as symbols of what a NASCAR champion is supposed to look like, but just because a guy doesn’t fit into the boxes of our preconceptions doesn’t mean he is undeserving.

In NASCAR, titles are earned, not bestowed.

We now have a reigning champion who is virtually guaranteed to represent NASCAR in superlative fashion over the course of the next year, just as he has six times in the past. In a time when ratings, attendance and the like are waning, isn’t it interesting that in 2017 and beyond we have the chance to see history not only be matched, but made?

The central figure in this equation is Jimmie Johnson, who next season will embark on a quest to become NASCAR’s first eight-time champion. It doesn’t matter whether you love him or hate him, you know you’ll be watching … and so will I.

“The Bubble” from The Times and Democrat

"The Bubble" from The Times and Democrat

“The Bubble” from The Times and Democrat

“New Here” from The Times and Democrat

"New Here" from The Times and Democrat

“New Here” from The Times and Democrat

“Med Overload” from The Times and Democrat

"Med Overload" from The Times and Democrat

“Med Overload” from The Times and Democrat

Noble Column: The New South Carolina: A New Leader

Phil Noble

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

This column is part of a continuing series on The New South Carolina, about the changes that are transforming our state.

February 15, 1956, Silas C. McMeekin, President of the South Carolina Electric & Gas Company got together over lunch in Columbia with four of his business friends and decided to create a nice private club where they could have lunch and do their business. They went to work selling membership, picking a name, buying a site and building the club.

Finally, in February 1961, with grand celebration, the Palmetto Club at 1231 Sumter Street opened its doors to the business elite of the city. Of course, all the members where white and male. For years, the only African Americans or women allowed in the Club were the black waiters, servers and cooks thru the back door and the white wives of members through the front door.

In time, these white leaders decided to create a more exclusive group of business’s leaders that would include men from outside of Columbia as well. Thus, the Palmetto Business Forum (PBF to insiders) was founded in 1975 as a “non-partisan group of business people, selected from major businesses in South Carolina, organized to formulate positions and voice opinions on state and national issues bearing on the survival and health of the American Economic System.”

Selected is the key word here in that one cannot apply, but only be selected by existing members. Even today, the PBF doesn’t even have a website; if you are a member, you know about things, and if you are not a member, well…

Beginning with 25 members (it has now grown to 40), the PBF was and is a veritable who’s who of major business leaders in South Carolina. Above all else, they are a safe, judicious, responsible, solid, sober group of (white) men. They have since selected a smattering of women, but best I know they have never had an African American member.

In researching for this column, I found a transcript of a November 1976, presentation to the PBF by then Governor James Edwards. (It’s amazing what you can find on the internet.) It provides insight into how the PBF operated then – and largely still today. Edwards brought with him the state’s treasurer, comptroller general and several other state officials and he began his presentation with ritualistic language about cutting taxes, reducing spending, reducing the number of state employees and ‘responsible’ management of state government.

His presentation had the feel of a company president making a report to the board of directors – and in a sense, that is exactly what it was. For years, the PBF was (and perhaps still is) the de facto board of directors of the state.

So, fast forward to the present.

Picture a commanding, slightly intimidating, African American woman named Joan Robinson-Berry walking into a PBF meeting not to serve lunch but as a new member – as the General Manager of Boeing South Carolina, the largest private sector employer in the state.

Welcome to The New South Carolina.

So, who is this woman who became one of the most important business leaders in South Carolina the moment she set foot on the tarmac of Charleston Airport in June of this year?

Joan Robinson-Berry grew up in La Puente, Calif., a gang ridden suburb of Los Angeles where violence was the one constant in her community. In a recent SC BizNews interview, she said, “I have literally been through every major drama you can have — watching your brother die (he was killed by a relative), learning about your father’s death on the news (he was a policeman), having my sister die (of Lupus), having the Watts Riots in our city and seeing bodies in your neighborhood from gang violence. We had a lot of tragedy.”

In the same interview, she talked about how she reacted and how she found her way out. “I didn’t focus on that (the violence) …You cannot give obstacles power. You have to really focus on using that as the strength of building character, perseverance and the desire to want more.”

She said of some of her friends growing up, “We were all in the hood, and we made this little club. We said, ‘This is who we are today, but it’s not who we can be.’ We said that, even though we couldn’t see ourselves in other people yet. … There were no black Barbies. There were no girls in engineering. … The Cosby Show wasn’t out yet. We were still watching The Brady Bunch.”

Her father introduced her to mechanics at an early age – and something clicked. She was good at math and traveled the area competing in math competitions. Despite her obvious talents, at school she was discouraged from pursuing math and engineering and was told that these subjects were for boys and she “could never compete.”

But, she did.

She went to California State Polytechnic University and was one of the few women, particularly black women in the course; they didn’t even have a women’s bathroom in the engineering department building. She has said of her time there, “It was a miracle from God that they brought in this career counselor…I remember thinking, ‘I can see the vision out of the neighborhood. It’s there.’”

Robinson-Berry got a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology and two master’s degrees. Even while in school, she worked for General Dynamics part time and with seven other students launched an engineering start up that grew to 19 employees. She then went to work for McDonald Douglas which in 1966 merged with Boeing and she’s now been with Boeing for over 30 years.

She has worked all over the country with Boeing in engineering, human resources, supplier management, business operations and program management positions. She held jobs in Boeing’s commercial, defense, space and corporate divisions.

But as impressive as this personal and corporate resume is, it’s only part of her story.

At a recent Urban League reception in Charleston to introduce her to the community, she made clear her commitment to “change the reality in Charleston.” She cited the all too familiar stories about our failing education system, the issues of racial equality and the divisions within our community and state saying, “…we have work to do.”

And, clearly this woman intends to go to work and she challenged us all to work alongside her.

South Carolina’s business and political leadership is not used to dealing with a woman like Robinson-Berry – and it’s pretty clear that she does not really care much.

She is a woman who knows how the world works, has risen to the top in an unfriendly if not downright hostile environment – and she intends to have a real impact not just in business but in the life of our state. We should all be thankful she’s here.

The boys in the Palmetto Business Forum back at the Palmetto Club had better take notice.

Welcome to The New South Carolina.

Phil Noble has a technology firms in Charleston and writes a weekly column for the S.C. Press Association. Contact him at phil@philnoble.com and see other columns at www.PhilNoble.com

“Things to Come” by Stuart Neiman

"Things to Come" by Stuart Neiman

“Things to Come” by Stuart Neiman

“Thankful?” from The Times and Democrat

"Thankful?" from The Times and Democrat

“Thankful?” from The Times and Democrat

“Paying Gig” from The Times and Democrat

"Paying Gig" from The Times and Democrat

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"No Excuses" from The Times and Democrat

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Living on Purpose: Let Us Exalt His Name Together

Dr. William Holland

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, we are grateful for all that God has done and aware that He has provided abundant blessings throughout the year. Even though our concept of worship is usually built around the idea of church music, we are discovering that giving thanks and expressing our adoration to God goes far beyond singing songs; it is how we live each moment. When obedience and appreciation becomes a state of mind, we will begin to abandon our thoughts and be more connected with His. Embracing this level of personal intimacy with our Creator establishes a beautiful communication exchange which evolves into a demonstration of loving Him with all of our strength and soul. It will take serious dedication to learn how to discipline our minds to concentrate on how worthy He is of our worship! “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:3).

If our thoughts about Thanksgiving are only based on Pilgrims and Indians, we have missed the point entirely. Besides, it seems the stories we learned in school were not exactly accurate when describing the reality of what actually happened and confirms that praising and thanking God for all that He gives is more of a lifestyle than an annual feast. Every song that has ever been played and every book that has been written can only scratch the surface in describing God’s glorious Majesty. Brother Lawrence, whose seventeenth century work, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” details his determination to re-train his mind in order to become so discerning that he might consider everything as an opportunity to serve Christ. By allowing our thinking to be transformed, we not only have an opportunity but a responsibility to develop a higher level of spiritual maturity. We are learning that the Christian life is about establishing and maintaining a bond of holy devotion with the Lord as we allow our heart to be changed into a reflection of His image. The goal is not just about the world watching us worship Jesus; it is about them sensing God’s presence in our daily lives! People are weary of hearing about religion; they long to witness the love of heaven! It is true, the most powerful sermons are not always spoken.

Those who desire a deeper relationship with God, must choose to deliberately pursue Him! As we become more serious in our interest about Him, worshipping who He is will become as natural as breathing. We come to know Him by spending time with Him, and this is exactly what He desires from us. It is enlightening to discover that bringing our thoughts and concerns to God is not limited to traditions or rituals, but simply being honest and sincere with Him. One day when we stand before Him, the amount of our conscience we allowed Him to occupy will reveal what meant the most to us. Jesus can truly become our Lord when we decide that His will is much more important than ours. This is when we realize that knowing and loving Him is the true meaning of life. “Give unto the Lord, O ye kindred’s of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His Name: bring an offering, and come into His courts. O worship The Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:7-9).

“Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this special day, a time set aside to remember your goodness toward us. We thank you for a roof over our heads, our health, and more than enough food to eat. We appreciate the relationship we have with you and the love we share with our family and friends. We are grateful for your comforting presence that has helped us through the difficult times we’ve had this year. Thank you for our blessings and for always loving us and taking care of us. Thank you Jesus for going to the cross and providing the glorious gift of eternal salvation. We love you, amen.”

Dr. Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author, outreach minister and community chaplain. To learn more visit: billyhollandministries.com