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“First or Right” from The Times and Democrat

“First or Right” from The Times and Democrat

“Your Wallet” from The Times and Democrat

“Your Wallet” from The Times and Democrat

“Advanced Social Security” from The Times and Democrat

“Advanced Social Security” from The Times and Democrat

South Carolina’s Impending $19 Billion ‘Robbery’?

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

“Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.” Woody Guthrie

Full disclosure: I have nothing against the state’s utilities. Back in the 1980s and 90s when I was Director of the Palmetto Project, two of our board members were Virgil C. Summer, retired Chair of the Board of SCANNA (the parent company of SCE&G) and Al Ballard, head of the Electric Co-ops of South Carolina, the retail distributors of Santee Cooper’s power. Virgil was the founding Chairman on the Palmetto Project. Both of these men exemplified the highest values of corporate integrity, accountability and putting the people of our state first. A more recent full disclosure is that in the last few years I have solicited, without success, financial support from both SCE&G and Santee Cooper for non-profit projects.

In 2008, South Carolina Electric and Gas and Santee Cooper applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a permit to build and operate two nuclear power reactors in Jenkinsville, 20 miles northwest of Columbia. The facilities were to be built next to the existing Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station that has successfully been in operation since 1984.

The power companies also received permission from the S.C. Public Service Commission to raise their rates by $1.2 billion (2.5%) during the construction period to partially finance capital cost. The two facilities were to go on line in 2016 and 2019 and the original combined cost for both was $11 billion with SCE&G’s share at 55% and Santee Cooper at 45%.

Since then, things have gone from bad to worse to disastrous.

Today, both projects are still unfinished. They are not even close – 33 % competed. A Morgan Stanley analysis in March projected that the cost of completing the project could be $22.9 billion, if the project is competed at all. This $22.9 billion is double the original cost. By comparison, the entire budget for the state of South Carolina for this year is about $7.5 billion.

At the root of this tangle of financial issues is an insidious little legal provision called the “base load rate.” In 2007, the power companies got the legislature to pass a law that said the rate payers will have to pay in advance for the construction cost of new power plants – plus the power companies would be guaranteed a profit of 10.25%.

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Living on Purpose: A young patriot willing to give all

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

Every summer we look forward to July fourth because it’s filled with fun things to do, like barbequing, picnics, games, family reunions, fireworks and of course it’s a paid vacation day. Along with the excitement and activities, let us also remember and be grateful for those who have served our country so that we can enjoy our freedom. Independence Day is all about the courage of many Americans who fought against Great Britain in the Revolutionary War and with much blood-shed declared the victory and helped establish this great nation. On July fourth, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, declared the sovereignty of the United States of America as they signed the Declaration of Independence which is recognized as our nations birthday.

There is an interesting story of a young man who was a soldier in this war and in every sense of the word defines the meaning of a true American hero. Nathan Hale of Coventry, Connecticut was born in 1755 and grew up to be a highly educated and handsome young man who had every prospect for a happy and fulfilling life. Those who knew him commented on his love for sports, his kindness and strong Christian convictions. As tension increased about a possible conflict with the British, Nathan like many other enthusiastic young men, joined a local militia and was quickly advanced to the rank of sergeant. When the war officially became a reality, many chapters of Connecticut militia rushed to Massachusetts to help their neighbors during the Siege of Boston but Hale was unsure whether to join these forces or to wait and see what would unfold. He was a young professional teacher that had a lot to lose especially with not being clear about what was happening. In early July 1775, Nathan received a heartfelt letter from his best friend, Benjamin Tallmadge who had seen the war firsthand and was now relaying about the situation. Tallmadge told Nathan that teaching school was truly noble but at this time it was critical to consider the responsibility of defending this glorious country. The day after receiving this letter, Nathan Hale resigned his teaching position and became dedicated to the call of duty.

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My Brain on NASCAR: Kyle Busch

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

2015 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch is not a happy camper.

How do I know this? Are we super-secret pen pals and he shared this with me in confidence? No. Did he tell someone else, and I saw it on Twitter because people can’t keep anything to themselves these days? No.

But I definitely know that Kyle is not only unhappy, but downright ticked off. You know it, too, and you know the reason why just as well as I do.

He isn’t winning.

For probably 70 percent of the competitors in NASCAR’s Cup Series, putting up the numbers that Busch has earned in 2017 would constitute a successful season. Two poles. Four stage wins. Nine top-10 finishes. Six top fives. A current ranking of fourth in the driver standings. Not too shabby, right?

Wrong. I can’t help but think that for someone like Kyle Busch – if in fact there is anyone else like him – a no-win season so far feels more like a bed of nails than a cushy La-Z-Boy recliner.   The guy is much more than a driver; he is driven.

Back in 2010, Denny Hamlin went on a bit of a racing rampage, taking eight checkered flags and finishing the season in second place, behind – who else? – Jimmie Johnson. When he crossed the start/finish line at Darlington, Hamlin radioed his crew these five words: “All we do is win,” a phrase that ran as a headline in media outlets all across the country and eventually ended up on team T-shirts.

Anyone can have a great season, but a great career is a different matter entirely … which brings us back to the subject at hand. I am frequently asked that if I could choose just one driver to root for over the course of an entire season, who would it be?

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DOT Commission: Go. Just go.

By Hannah Hill for TheNerve.org
June 29, 2017

In less than a week, Governor Henry McMaster will acquire the power to fire any or all the Department of Transportation’s commissioners. It was a DOT-reform element in the the gas tax bill that was passed this year. It takes effect July 1.

The commission has been responsible all along for the condition of the roads. Ultimately, it decides what to fix  and when, how to do it, and how to spend money allocated by the General Assembly.

While the gas tax bill didn’t fix everything, it did give us clearer lines of accountability — if we will use them.

That’s great, because no one is happy with how the commission has handled its responsibilities. Read the rest of this entry »

The Sorry State of Women in our State

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

It has always been a source of great bewilderment to me the huge hypocritical gulf between how we as Southern men talk about women – and how we treat them.

Our historic culture is that we put women on a pedestal, we dress them in hoop skirts, we praise the Scarlet O’Hara strong women types, are chivalrous defenders of the virtues of Southern womanhood, always looking to help a fair damsel in distress – and on and on.

On the other hand, we beat and kill women regularly, work them like a borrowed mule, pay them less than men, expect them to hold down a job, raise our kids, cook and clean our house, satisfy our sexual urges – and on and on.

And, because we occasionally do the dishes or take the kids to school, we think we have done our part.

Yes, this may be an overstatement but here are the numbers for South Carolina … read ‘em and weep.

Economics – Women earn 27% less than men; 20% of women live below the poverty line and 36% of households headed by women live below the poverty line. Regardless of age, women are more likely to be left out of the labor force than men. Women who do work full-time earned approximately $15,800 per year less than men.

Health – South Carolina is 12th in the nation in teen pregnancy rates, 5th in the nation for STDs and maternal mortality rates are above the national average.

Crime and Violence – South Carolina has the 5th highest rate of women killed by men and 93% of these women are killed by people they know.

Politics – One would think that because 51.7% of the state’s population are women, that women would be well represented in political offices. Not so. Women are generally discouraged from running for office and instead are encouraged to be ‘volunteers.’

Nikki Haley’s election to governor is the exception not the rule. She is only the fourth woman ever elected to any statewide office – Nancy Stevenson was Lt. Governor (1978-82) and Superintendents of Education were Inez Tenenbaum (1998-06) and Molly Spearman (2014 – present). And, only 13.5% of the members of the state legislature are women.

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“The Chopping Block” by Stuart Neiman

“The Chopping Block” by Stuart Neiman

“Dashcam” from The Times and Democrat

“Dashcam” from The Times and Democrat

“Gullible” from The Times and Democrat

“Gullible” from The Times and Democrat

“Mute Please” from The Times and Democrat

“Mute Please” from The Times and Democrat

My Brain on NASCAR: The Times They Are a-Changin’

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

 “Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.” – Bob Dylan, “The Times, They Are a-Changin’”

I’ve been preaching for a number of years now that our NASCAR, the one we grew up with, the one that broke into the mainstream thanks to the drivers we have watched and supported for years, is in a transition phase. In five or maybe even three years from now, it may be nearly unrecognizable. It pains me to admit it because I’ve never really thought of him as a NASCAR prophet, but it seems that Bob Dylan saw it coming long before I did.

Some people don’t want to think about this. I have friends who get so emotional when the subject of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s impending retirement comes up that they actually get tears in their eyes. My own mother sniffled through all 400 miles of Jeff Gordon’s last race. This season, I find myself pulling for the No. 14 every week until something or someone reminds me that Clint Bowyer, not Tony Stewart, is behind the wheel.

We saw this in action at Michigan International Speedway on June 18, when Kyle Larson, after starting the race from the pole position, held off Chase Elliott to take the checkered flag, his second NASCAR Cup Series win of the season and the third of his career.

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Living on Purpose: When life doesn’t make sense

Dr. William Holland

By Dr. William Holland

There are times we become confused and will not be able to figure out a way to solve our problems. Life is not always a smooth interstate and it’s good to remember that God is with us when we encounter unexpected roadblocks and detours. In these stressful situations, we can know that delays do not necessarily mean denial but could be an opportunity for us to stretch our faith and learn more about trusting God. There is a fascinating story found in Genesis chapter 22 about a man named Abraham and his wife Sarah. They were not able to have children and were now in their nineties but one day an angel came to them and relayed a message from God that they would give birth to a son. Miraculously, they did have a child just like the Lord promised, but when Isaac became a teenager, the Almighty asked Abraham to do something very confusing and heart-breaking.

God told him to take the boy and a bundle of wood to a certain place and build an altar. He was to bind his son with ropes and lay him on top of the wood. This promised child that had been given as the most joyful gift in their life was now to become the most devastating sacrifice they could imagine. Even though Abraham did not understand, he trusted God and raised the knife in obedience to God’s request. At the last second, a voice called out to stop him and said that Abraham had proved that he loved God above everything in the world. Amazing to say the least. We do not always understand what God is doing and this is exactly why the Christian life is based on faith and trust. I know it sounds easy to tell someone to “have faith” or “just believe” when their world is falling apart but this is the message from heaven. Jesus wants us to know that He is aware of what we are going through and to sincerely release our fears over to Him. He is God and He can handle it! Never lose hope no matter how impossible it may seem. “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me, and heard my cry” Psalm 40:1.

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The Best Schools in the U.S. … and S.C.

Phil Noble

By Phil Noble

Did you ever wonder what a truly great school looks like?

Politicians, business people, teachers, etc. all talk about how we need, want and deserve great schools. But no one ever really describes what a great school looks like.

So, in doing research with the U.S. News and World Report rankings of high schools, I was amazed to learn that the top three high schools, and five of the top seven in the country, were all run by BASIS – a chain of 27 tuition free, charter, private and international schools in five states, Washington, D.C. and China.

There are lots of organizations that rank and rate schools but most people generally agree that U.S. New and World Report is one of the best and its website is certainly one of the most useful. Go and look around on the site as they have tons of information on 22,000 high schools, charter schools and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) schools nationwide – all broken down and searchable by state.

On the site, there is data about individual schools including the ratings of the top 47 high schools in South Carolina. Academic Magnet School in Charleston was rated #1 in the state and 11th nationally – that’s pretty terrific. (Also, in a different ranking by another organization, Laing Middle School in Mt. Pleasant was recently named as the #1 STEM middle school in the country – that’s even more terrific!)

But, for the state’s other top 17 high schools, the site shows their ranking among the 22,000 high schools nationwide – it’s pretty depressing. Today, South Carolina’s #2 school ranks 271 nationally, our #5 school ranks 918 nationally, our #10 school ranks 1,580 nationally and, our #15 school ranks 2,348 nationally.

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“Real or Fake” from The Times and Democrat

“Real or Fake” from The Times and Democrat

“Fine Print” from The Times and Democrat

“Fine Print” from The Times and Democrat

“Bubble News” from The Times and Democrat

“Bubble News” from The Times and Democrat

“The Rule of” by Stuart Neiman

“The Rule of” by Stuart Neiman

My Brain on NASCAR: Forever the Wood Brothers

Cathy Elliott

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

I am willing to wager that mine wasn’t the only dry eye in the Palmetto State when Ryan Blaney claimed his first-ever Monster Energy Cup Series victory at Pocono Raceway on June 11, driving the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing. In fact, I’m a little surprised our little ol’ state didn’t wash away entirely on a sea of happy tears.

Way back in the 1990s, I lived in Illinois for three years. Specifically, I lived in Chicago, home of deep-dish pizza, excellent music, Al Capone during his time as “Public Enemy Number One,” the always beleaguered Cubs, and the famous 12-foot statue of Michael Jordon in mid-flight, its granite base bearing the inscription: “The best there ever was. The best there will ever be.”

I had a blast, save for one thing. I lived in a different state in a different part of the country for three years, but all I remember about Illinois is Chicago.

Those of you who enjoy a little roulette with your road trips have probably traveled to Nevada a time or two. After a long flight, Las Vegas rises up out of the desert like the Emerald City, if the yellow brick road was crowded with casinos, the munchkins were dealing blackjack, and Dorothy wore a feathered tiara along with her ruby stilettos.

The earliest human skeletons found in the U.S. were hauled out of a cave in the Silver State, and Levi’s blue jeans were invented there, but all I really know about Nevada is Las Vegas.

Back on the eastern side of the country lies South Carolina, home of one of America’s top three beaches (Myrtle Beach) and its number-one dining destination (Charleston). As the home of stock car racing’s original superspeedway, however, as far as sports fans are concerned, Darlington is the true home of NASCAR, and that’s all they really know, or care, about South Carolina.

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