Thursday, December 27, 2007

Brave Bhutto assassinated

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated at a rally in at a park in Islamabad.
Bhutto was a brave and bold proponent for democracy in Pakistan.

For more:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A crazy republican or a republican that isn't crazy?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wilmington book review

Here's a great book review of Don McCallister's Kings Highway

By Ben Steelman
Staff Writer

"You should have seen the Atlantic Ocean in those days," says Burt Lancaster's aged hustler in the movie Atlantic City. And you should have seen Myrtle Beach in those days, too - before the condos, before the monster outlet malls, before the eight-lane highways and the seawalls, before lap dancing replaced shag dancing.

Columbia, S.C., author James D. McCallister remembers it well, and his first novel is an exercise in a sort of rueful nostalgia.

King's Highway takes us back to the spring of 1978, through the recollections of Ray DeKalb, a slacker before his time at "Southeastern University" in Columbia.

Ray isn't sure who he is, or what he wants to be, but he's emphatically clear on what he doesn't want to be: a small-town up-country lawyer with political impulses, the future his daddy has mapped out for him, and the one that his brother, Jenkins, has already embraced.

Ray's a kind of passive-aggressive rebel, surly but not daring enough to do much to jeopardize the trust fund checks that keep him in beer, vinyl LPs, paperbacks and low-grade marijuana.

The South Carolina public school system and a few semesters at Southeastern have given him a patchy, unsystematic education: We know Ray's read the usual undergrad classics of the period: Catch-22, Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning and a little Harlan Ellison. (He quotes the title, at least, of Ellison's "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.")

Ray's main passion, though, is music, especially Warren Zevon's Excitable Boy, which he's just discovered. (The chapter titles in King's Highway are all Zevon singles from that album.)

Eventually, angst and a half-hearted, busted romance send Ray packing his bags and heading for his old Nirvana of Myrtle Beach, to rent a motel room, find a job and figure out what happens next.

At least he checks off a couple of goals. In a day or two, he's swinging a broom at The Pavilion, a real-life Myrtle Beach amusement park. In a few days more - given his smart mouth and a low-grade talent for voice impersonations - he's scored a promotion to top clown in the dunking booth.

Ray also gets lucky, first with his fairly-well-preserved landlady, then with Jamie, with "her little flip-up bangs and her golden-brown skin," a Jersey runaway who's just split with her smalltime-dealer boyfriend. Fortunately, she made off with some of the merchandise before she left. Life is good. For a while.

Like most 20-year-old philosophers, Ray isn't quite as brilliant, or as original, as he thinks he is.

There's a certain satisfaction in feeling superior to the Pavilion customers who think chili dogs are an appropriate diet for their toddlers. And, of course, Ray sees right through the aging beach bums and the hairy hangers-on who keep talking about the epic sci-fi novel they're going to finish one of these days. What he can't see is that he's no different than they are, and heading in the same direction.

Nor does he realize that a mutual affection for energetic sex and controlled substances is a shaky foundation for a deep and lasting relationship.

Naturally, this being Myrtle Beach, and this being the '70s, tougher drugs than dope soon enter the picture, and meaner characters as well.

There's not much surprise about where King's Highway is heading, and McCallister leaves a few of his characters only half-sketched. Perhaps, too, there needs to be another ironclad rule: Just as white people probably shouldn't try to reproduce African-American dialect, maybe Southerners should avoid trying to reproduce fluent New Jersey-ese.

The author hits the bull's-eye, though, with his main character: Myrtle Beach itself, the Cloud Cuckoo-Land of misspent youth - what it felt like when we thought the fun would never end, and what it felt like when it finally did.

Ben Steelman: 343-2208

Pastor Billy Ball

Next Saturday's Pride event may not be all fun and games or slaps and tickles. Supreme nutcase, Pastor Billy Ball, is scheduled to protest the S.C. Pride event and this guy has been to more gay parades than a pair of rainbow-colored bicycle shorts. The tragically named wacko even has a special collared shirt tailor made for the event, perfect for a round of golf and a quick dinner at Saluda's afterwards.

Maybe Pastor Ball is only comfortable around gays. And statistically speaking, the size of his family may very well produce a homosexual in the next generation or so.

Here's a picture of Pastor Billy Ball's grandkids.

Some of them have well coifed hair and fashionable little T-shirts while they strike poses (not to mention being completely disinterested in their sister). What if one of them eventually came out as a gay adult? Would Pastor Ball damn one of these cute little guys to Hell?

Most people want to punch Billy Ball in the face but my guess is all that will happen on Saturday is a wink and a pat on the ass. Ryan Wilson of S.C. Pride announced a press conference this afternoon regarding his attendance and chances are, they’re coming for you Pastor Ball, so pucker up!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Michelle Malkin's poor logic

Joe Biden and Bill Richardson are the voice of the Democratic Party?

-- Corey Hutchins

In her recent column “The Democrats’ gun owner -bashing YouTube moment,” disseminated in corporate alt weekly panderers to the evangelical right-wing conservative advertising bloc, she makes a pretty laughable assumption about “The Democrats’” view on the Second Amendment in her labeling of Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Bill Richardson both as “leading presidential candidates.”

In fact her whole argument stemmed from the answers of Biden and Richardson as if they were the gospel voice of the Democratic Party.


Because if Joe Biden is not only a “leading presidential candidate” but also speaks for the entire Democratic Party then the next time I see Sen. Brownback verbally masturbating to everything between Genesis and Revelations or Ron Paul saying how we should end capital punishment, I’m going to go ahead and take that as The Right’s Holy View…by proxy of course, which is exactly what Malkin did.

She also uses the “Liberal” audience’s silence on Biden’s “snide” remarks about gun owners and the mentally ill to cement her argument that Democrats don’t believe in the Second Amendment and also have no compassion for the disabled. But Malkin probably forgot how many top key Republicans in the CPAC audience laughed and applauded when Ann Coulter called John Edwards a “faggot” at the convention.

To her credit-- though we don’t need Michelle Malkin to tell us this-- the Democrats typically do have a pussy-foot stance on the Second Amendment, which is a shame. But it probably does work for them and, really, trying to take that issue away from the Right would be like Gov. Mark Sanford saying the Right should take the environmental issue away from the Left. It’s just not gonna happen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Ron Paul problem

"Lower-tier candidates" get the media backhand

-- Corey Hutchins

Just around the corner from City Paper’s office was a stenciled “Ron Paul for president” sign spray-painted red white and blue on a slab of particleboard similar to the "Deer hunting" signs of Upstate New York or the "Happy birthday Wayne, from T-bones" in other parts of the country. In Five Points, one of Columbia’s shopping, restaurant and bar areas, the Ron Paul sign was tacked to a telephone pole and directly below it was a similarly constructed job that read “Ultimate Fighters Wanted” with a listed local telephone number.

Also, on a nearby freeway there exists low-budget Ron Paul banner that hangs off a pedestrian bridge as if it were advertising a college fraternity toga party for this Saturday night.

So needless to say hearing that Paul currently has more cash on hand for his campaign than John McCain was a only a little puzzling. Personally I feel bad I haven't gotten a chance to get to know about Ron Paul-- I somehow managed to give up the time not spent between my two jobs, checking Facebook and scrolling through blogs to Columbia’s service industry.

But the Ron Paul campaign hasn’t really pulled me in yet— even with its hipster stamp of approval— and, to a more specific point, his moments in the debate were never projected ad osmosis from the voice boxes of Chris Mathews or Tucker Carlson and he somehow managed to stay out of the pages of the New Yorker, Esquire and Vanity Fair while only tickling my funny bone in anything from Mother Jones, The New Republic or

And while Hillary Clinton and John Edwards recently got caught saying they believe the other candidates aren’t "serious" and the Democratic pool should be narrowed down, I wonder if this “blunder” wasn’t actually calculated by their individual campaigns to only appear like one.

As for whom Clinton/Edwards are talking about, i.e. Dennis Kucinich et al, I'm not even sure that's the absolute correct spelling of Kucinich's name. I once overheard The Nation’s Washington Correspondent, John Nichols, say that Kucinich’s problem was "about six inches" and I remember reading something somewhere once about "a 5' 7" divorced Jew." I know he shook my hand at the Hunter Gatherer in Columbia a few years ago and afterwards I said, "Who was that?" My roommate looked at me like I was Charles Manson.

And while everyone always says “the media picks the president” we do hear an awful lot about John Edwards (most notably in Men's Vogue in the waiting room of the gay barber), we hear about Hillary Clinton from everyone with a mouth and Barack Obama from every ambitious young black or-- ahem-- "just very progressive" young person in the South (maybe that's too much of an indictment), and , of course, Obama Girl (what a chick) but for the others in the running you really have to go and dig stuff about for yourself. You know… take the time to Get To Know The Candidate.

I too want to get to know Paul and Kucinich, maybe even Mike Gravel, just to understand their ideas and see if I think they’re “electable”— make sure no one can really hammer me for it— but I don't know if I'll be wasting time getting hooked on another Nader wagon like I supported in 2000. And this is coming from a guy who’s shared a few afternoons with John Taylor Bowles.

One thing I don't want to do though is spend my energy bashing the people who support the "lower-tier candidates," (as they’re being labeled by both the other candidates and the media in wink-and-handshake fashion) because democracy, even one as muddled as ours, is all about choices and restricting those choices would go against the same ideological principles that pragmatic, reasonable, progressive people believe in.

Besides, someone needs to be getting millionaire-rich off of "Don't blame me, I didn't vote for him/her" stickers if only to one day show us how wrong we were.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hillary video

Hillary Clinton works to soften her image with some humorous campaign videos.

Michael Moore

Mike demands an apology from CNN for Dr. Sanjay Gupta's biased reporting on 'SiCKO' and for helping the Bush administration lie us into a pointless war.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The World Speaks

Ever hear some redneck say we should remove the troops so we can nuke them all?

Video link suggested by City Paper columnist Ismail Lagardien

Monday, June 25, 2007

Landmark Resources attempts to shut down block of Five Points nightlife

Here's the letter from Landmark Resources to the businesses in Plaza Center. Check out the story at


From our political satire buddy David Martin.


by David Martin

Paris Hilton is back in jail and has apparently found God. She was recently spotted carrying a copy of the Bible and now says that her prison experience has changed her and made her “much more spiritual.”

However, it appears that Ms. Hilton’s Bible is not the King James Version or the New International Version. Rather, it seems that she is reading from her own personal version of the scriptures as evidenced by the following passages:

Oprah 3:15

“Be not constrained by the bars of prison but go forth and announce your state to the world. Whomever you choose to call, do so with grace, modesty and a guaranteed 15% audience share.”

Barbara 5:13

“Let not thy View be impaired by the darkness of your cell. For there is another cell called a phone which shall be thy lifeline to the throngs who long for news of your stay. Call when the spirit moves you and fear not that ye shall wake me for the good news is on a 24-hour cycle.”

Phil 4:23

“And the child did lamp unto the feet of the healer and cried out: ‘Why have you forsaken me, Dr. Phil?’ But lo, I have not forsaken you my child but instead I have reserved a fortnight’s worth of episodes to bring you back into the fold.”

2 FOX 6:12

“Know ye that wherever you go, God is with you as is FOX and all of her many channels. Praise the cable universe and the certain wealth that shall be rained down upon you at our most generous rates.”

Numbers 2:23

“Yea though ye serve your full sentence, know that the numbers will continue to rise. Based on the findings of the ones called Neilsen and Gallup and Pew, surely you will be seen by more of the people than you could previously have imagined. Do the time and you will earn the abundance of the Lord.”

Revelations 8:12

“And the people looked heavenward and cried as one: ‘Give us more news of the one they call Paris for we must know whereof she speaks!’ And the one called Paris looked down upon the masses and smiled for she knew that her penance would profit her for all time.”

2 ET 4:26
“The picture taker will live with the gossip monger, the broadsheet will lie down with the tabloid, the news and the entertainment and the trivia together; and an overgrown child shall lead them.”

Sunday, June 24, 2007

S.C. commits another murder.

Columbia, S.C. -Calvin Shuler was executed by lethal injection on Friday at Broad River Correctional Institution. Shuler was convicted of a murder that occurred during a botched robbery of an armored vehicle that killed James B. Brooks on Dec. 3, 1997.

Ever since City Paper slapped Governor Sanford’s home and vacation numbers on the cover of December 1st, 2005 issue South Carolina has done a good job at keeping it quiet when they are about to kill another criminal that didn’t commit a premeditated act.

Bottom line is South Carolina continues government-sanctioned murder for those that aren’t the worst of the worst and Gov. Sanford does nothing to stop it.

Hopefully these powerful state officials will get a T-Bone steak and have time to reflect on their judgment day.

- Paul Blake

S.C. Department of Revenue collecting from drug dealers

The most mind boggling thing in this past cover story on crack had to be South Carolina's tax stamps for cocaine, heroin and mary jane.
Here's one of the stamps and the form needed for paying taxes on your illegal substances.

Read the full article here if you haven't read this yet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Numbers Don’t Lie

By Wendy Brinker

Many boast that America is the best country in the world. Indeed there are a few superlative qualities unique to America that go unchallenged. One area where we absolutely reign supreme is in our insatiable consumer practices. Americans only constitute four percent of the world population, but manage to annually gobble up one fourth of the world’s resources. That’s pretty impressive, considering there’s no ecosystem in existence that can mathematically sustain that type of predation for very long. We are superbly practiced in the art of compartmentalization, so the impact of our voracious appetites on the planet never really enters the equation.

Because we are so superior in theory and practice to the average world citizen, it’s difficult for us to extend equal human value past the Canadian border and ever since that “Freedom Fries” thing it’s even more difficult. So what if we’re considered terrorists by the international community? The world is our oyster and we’ve got all the Texas hot sauce you can handle. We're some gun toting, democracy loving, bible pounding marauders and if you’re not with us, you’re an evildoer so who needs you anyhow?

But this is no recent development in American attitudes. The notion of our special brand of U.S. grade-A white dominion stepped onto the shores with our ancestors and has remained a basic staple in our philosophical diet ever since. They brought with them a Western European notion created at the dawn of the sciences of archaeology and anthropology that asserts Caucasians possess a brain capacity superior to all others. Our indoctrination into the world using this model that puts us at the top of the human food chain has forever tainted our country's history, our self-perception and our relationship to the world. It is the subconscious brick on the gas pedal for white America when we characterize a people or country as barbaric or primitive or to whom we assign and extend “civility.”

This is how we lovingly forgive ourselves and even romanticize the genocide of the native people who lived on this continent thousands of years before we arrived. They were simple, hostile savages and besides, it was destiny – divine providence. God wanted us to live here. This is also the very quality that allowed us to kidnap and hold Africans in captivity for centuries for the express purpose of providing free labor. We just couldn’t find it in ourselves to assign any intellectual prowess or spiritual worth upon those who are so obviously inferior. And this is precisely how we live with the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Why start extending any benefit of humanity to people who are so obviously different from us now?

The news media refuses to show us the reality of carnage in Iraq, so unless you’re some kind of tree-hugging, bourgeois liberal, you probably don’t seek out this sort of morbid imagery. But our modern theatres and sporting arenas, the places you learn community/family-sanctioned hatred for people wearing another color or sporting another logo, provide a perfect measure. The toll of American deaths has recently exceeded 3,500. This grim assembly would fill up the four orchestra floor sections and the first and second balcony at the Township Auditorium with 300 waiting on Taylor Street to get in. The number of troops bloodied and wounded in Iraq (25,830 as of June 6, 2007) would constitute a capacity crowd of 18,000 at the Colonial Center and the overflow would nearly fill the Carolina Coliseum with its capacity to accommodate 12,000.

A Johns Hopkins University study released last October put the number of violent Iraqi civilian deaths since the invasion in 2003 at 600,000. The Bush administration puts the toll at 30,000. That’s quite a discrepancy. Since the White House refuses to account for innocent Iraqi lives lost, it is nearly impossible to know for sure. Let’s consider a figure of 200,000. This would fill Williams Brice Stadium (capacity of 80,000) two and a half times over. Many of the excess deaths are a result of aerial bombardments, with women and children being frequent victims. In fact, you would have to reserve in excess of 30,000 seats if you wanted to make a special kid’s section for all the Iraqi children who’ve died for democracy.

Our elected officials lied to us about their motivations for invading Iraq. Our innocent American children are forced to march on through hostile bloody sands bearing the gift of our superior way of life. So what if we have to kill them to teach them a better way to live? They’ll thank us for it in the end.

Besides, good Americans probably shouldn’t think about it too much.

Wendy Brinker is an artist and filmmaker in Columbia, S.C.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ravenel Indictment

Shortly after losing the state Republican nomination for a U.S. senate run to Jim DeMint in 2004, real estate developer-turned-S.C. Treasurer, Thomas Ravenel, explained that his gracious endorsement of DeMint was an example of how he "rolled." "That's just how Thomas Ravenel rolls," he said.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

City Paper web site update

One Stop Shop now has all the information you need:
up to the date live music listings , movie listings, weather, on-line sudoku games, Restaurant listings and you can even find the lowest place to buy gas.

Don't worry there's still plenty of web extras of the Handwriting Doctor, Radio Free, Ted Rall, Statehouse Report, Savage Love, Red Meat, Bum of The Week, Letters to the Reader, David Axe's War is Boring, and unique sports coverage you won't see anywhere else.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The State newspaper picks up Christian Exodus story...two weeks later

Two weeks after City Paper reported the founder of the religions, conservative, secessionist group, Christian Exodus, planned to lead an emigration to the South Carolina Upstate in order to take over state politics, the state’s largest daily newspaper ran an Associated Press report about the “breaking news.”

We’re sure it just took two weeks for one of the “boys in the newsroom” to go outside to buy a Coke and a Starburst and stumble across Columbia’s only locally-owned alternative weekly, but hey, better late than never.

-Corey Hutchins

Monday, June 04, 2007

Murder, robbery & burglary on the rise

It will be interesting to see if these stats released today end up making crime a major campaign issue. - P.B.

Violent Crime

* Murder: Is up 0.3 percent overall. The number of offenses increased the most—6.7 percent—in cities with a million or more residents and decreased the most—11.9 percent—in non-metropolitan counties.
* Forcible rape: Decreased nearly 2 percent overall. Only two population categories experienced increases, both with populations less than 100,000.
* Robbery: Rose 6 percent, the highest increase in any violent or property crime category. Each population group except non-metropolitan counties saw an increase.
* Aggravated assault: Experienced a slight overall drop of 0.7 percent. The largest cities experienced the greatest declines.
* Regional breakdown: Three of four geographic regions (except the Northeast) showed violent crime increases. The largest increase was in the West, with 2.8 percent.

Property Crime

* Burglary: Increased slightly, 0.2 percent. The greatest increase—3.3 percent—came in cities with 500,000 to 999,999 residents.
* Larceny-theft (down 3.5 percent overall) and motor vehicle theft (down 4.7 percent) experienced decreases in every population category.
* Arson: Is up 1.8 percent in all but one population group. Arsons are tracked separately from other property crime offenses.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A successful concert series

The summer concert series is here.
It starts at 7pm tonight at Finlay Park.
It is amazing how successful an event can be when it isn't controlled by corporate interests.

It is totally free and kicks off tonight with a blues band.
Bring chairs and have a picnic but no glass bottles or alcohol. (we say flask it!)
Have fun, as there is always something fun to do in Columbia!

You can also check out our movie times at the official City Paper site.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why the Fair Tax army grows

There is a “catch,” however, and that is why so many people were inspired to travel to Columbia from all over the country for a Tuesday evening FairTax rally. The “catch” is that enactment of the FairTax eliminates Congress’s ability to grant favors in the income tax system. Read the guest column written by the National Communication Director of, Ken Hoagland.

Military laughs while blowing up Mosque

This video may explain the new video game themed recruitment ads.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Columbia suspect makes America’s Most Wanted

Authorities are still looking for two suspects related to the heist of 10 million from an armored truck.

Read more at America's Most Wanted

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A reflection on Bill Clinton’s visit to Columbia

By Judit Trunkos

Columbia is definitely on the political map these days. Aside from the recent presidential debates, former President Bill Clinton made an appearance at the 29th Annual Freedom Fund Celebration hosted and organized by the NAACP last Friday.

Clinton used his trademark sense of humor to ease into serious issues such as health care and the global and domestic economies, but the common denominator in the many issues Clinton addressed was the global economic trend of interdependence.

In the latter part of his speech, Clinton explained that the worlds “interconnectedness” has so far been the major distinctive feature of the 21st Century. He didn’t place the U.S. in the position of the world’s policeman, but instead emphasized cooperation and global community using the example of President Bush’s supportive reaction to the victims of the 2004 tsunami that decimated the coasts of the Indian Ocean. Clinton pointed out that by providing assistance to Asian countries, the U.S. not only helped many people in great need but also improved America’s image among the global community. In other words—unlike many candidates in the 2008 presidential race—Clinton promoted soft power over military power with respect to the global community.

Interdependence, as he explained, is both bad and good and referred particularly to the sharp division between the northern and southern hemispheres with respect to distribution of wealth. In order for things to change, he says, people need to work together to initiate change, partly by choosing the right leader and partly by acting as a community... a global community.

At the conclusion of his talk, Clinton emphasized the significance of improving health care, education, low wages and high unemployment inside the U.S. before focusing on other nations’ problems. He also urged his audience to step up and act as a community—not only with fellow Americans but with the rest of the world.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Hollywood Huckabee?

By Corey Hutchins

Former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee not only dropped the pounds since declaring his candidacy for U.S. president but seems like he might be styling himself to be the next American Cutie.

But Kevin Spacey, who campaigned for Jimmy Carter in ‘76 and Ted Kennedy after that, probably doesn’t like anything about Mike Huckabee except maybe that his not-so-liberal look-alike hails from the same small town as Bill Clinton— Hope, Arkansas.

It may be that “hope” is all Huckabee has left in his corner after his 38 percent viewer approval rating at following the Republican debate last night. (Rating checked at 2 a.m. EDT.)

What Happened Hucky, didn’t you see The Negotiator?

Friday, April 13, 2007

City Paper writers: a hot commodity for corporate weeklies

The editor of a Columbia free weekly contacted at least two City Paper contributing writers last week and offered them jobs. Possibly responding to a public or internal outcry against said corporate weekly’s dependence on pre-written press releases, advertisements masked as news and its seeming obsession with ballet cover stories, the beleaguered editor tried to reach a City Paper contributor as far away as Greenville.

Click here to read the entire article at

Monday, April 09, 2007

Senator Bill Mescher dies

Lowcountry Republican Senator Bill Mescher died early Sunday after friends say he suffered a stroke.
Read More

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Using Homer’s Iliad to better understand the actions of Stephen Garcia

By Corey Hutchins

Using Homer’s Iliad to better understand the actions of Stephen Garcia


Nineteen-year-old USC quarterback recruit and current media falling star Stephan Garcia is the definition of a hero. Struggling against difficult and powerful forces, the young USC athlete, built like a Greek god with long brown flowing hair, has indeed manifested himself into a modern day Achilles.

Read more at the City Paper web site.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Stephen Garcia Vandalism Update

The State picked up the story this evening. Adam Biggs, the victim/witness, seemed evasive and reticent to talk to me this morning (which is why I withheld his name). I find it curious that no charges have been filed against Garcia. If he is found guilty, Spurrier needs to quit making excuses and get this kid under control.

-Todd Morehead

USC quarterback Stephen Garcia accused of vandalizing car, under investigation

South Carolina star quarterback recruit, Stephen Garcia, appears to have been accused of vandalizing a car parked in front of the university’s Thomas Cooper Library on March 1, according to a library incident report obtained by Columbia City Paper. So far, no incident report has been filed by campus police, a spokeswoman said, as the case may still be under further investigation.
read more

comments closed

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Teacher arrested for sex with minors

Twenty-three-year-old-female middle school teacher Allenna Ward was arrested there today after officials say she may have had sex with five boys between the ages of 14 and 15.

The semi-cute teacher is being held on $110,000 bail and there’s no word yet on if the sex, which authorities say may have happened both inside the school, at a nearby motel and a park behind a restaurant, was worth it.

The students were from Bell Street Middle School.
-Corey Hutchins

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Form Letter From Congressman Joe Wilson

February 20, 2007

Mr. Todd Morehead
PO Box xxxx
Columbia, South Carolina 292xx

Dear Mr. Morehead,

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding
H.Con.Res. 63, a non-binding resolution opposing the President's
plan to increase troops in Iraq. I appreciate your taking the time to

I understand your concerns and welcome your interest in
this matter. H.Con.Res. 63 was introduced by Representative Ike
Skelton (MO - 04) on February 12, 2007. Since that time, it
passed the House on February 16, 2007 by a vote of 246 - 182. I
did not vote in favor of this resolution. H.Con.Res. 63 is a non-
binding resolution that only serves to undermine our efforts in Iraq.

I believe that defeat in Iraq would have disastrous
consequences for the United States. Instead of working to advance
our mission in Iraq and promote victory, there are some members
of Congress that are committed to opposing President Bush's
efforts but offer no substantive alternatives. This is a resolution
that provides no solutions for the war in Iraq. Debating war is
positive and a guaranteed right that is offered to all Americans, but
empty resolutions with no policy directions do not move this
country forward and are primarily political.

My convictions are deeply derived from personal
experience and a historical perspective. My concerns have been
developed as a member of the Armed Services Committee, through
which I have visited Iraq six times, as a 31-year veteran of the
Army Reserves and S.C. Army National Guard, and as the proud
parent of an Iraq veteran. President Bush has laid out his plan for
realizing victory and pledged the United States' continued support
- contingent upon the Iraqis' commitment to step-up their efforts
toward achieving stability. This plan will require more of our
brave soldiers to join with Iraqi Security Forces to quell the
violence in Baghdad. Through combat experience, Iraqi forces
will mature and will more quickly assume full control of Iraq's

The stakes in this war are too high and the consequences of
defeat too catastrophic. Al-Qaeda has openly stated Iraq is the
central front in the war on terror. As a member of the United
States House of Representatives, I have a responsibility and
obligation to the people of the 2nd District of South Carolina to
ensure that their safety is never compromised. Please be assured
that I will keep your views in mind as the debate on the War in
Iraq continues.

It is an honor to represent the people of the Second
Congressional District of South Carolina, and I value your input.

If I may be of further assistance to you, please do not
hesitate to contact me.
Very Truly Yours,

Joe Wilson
Member of Congress

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lounge Lizard Man Spotted Crooning in Columbia

By Coleman St-Genesius

Several months back, I had a terrible nightmare. I dreamed my partner was begging me to attend a Billy Joel concert. I emphatically declined, as I had no desire to spend two hours packed in an elevator, which is the only place I’ve heard Billy Joel tunes in the past decade.

However, my incubus was real: My partner had purchased tickets online for himself and several other Billy Joel fanatics at 6 a.m. on a Saturday. A week later I learned that the concert was on Valentine’s Day. Geez, if I had known the event was on our national day of love, I probably would have been willing to succumb to several hours of tepid lounge music just to be with my valentine sweetie. So I told my partner to get me a ticket, which he did: three sections away from his B.J. posse. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

If you took all the piano entertainers the world over, from John Tesh to Liberace, and put them in a blender, the result would be Billy Joel. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’re not talking Kenny G-level entertainment. But it’s not Green Day, either.

Except for the Colonial Center staff, there wasn’t a single person of color in attendance. Being surrounded by 8,000 middle-aged WASPS is a rather odd sociological experience, especially when one witnesses thousands of Caucasians attempting to clap in unison.

Mr. Joel hardly strayed from his standard of collected hits, including the extraordinarily annoying, but historically-motivating, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “The River of Dream,” which has always struck me as plagiaristic knockoff of the ’50s hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

When the pianomeister fired up “The River of Dreams,” I found it necessary to leave my seat and wander the Colonial Center. (To be honest, I didn’t want to barf on the two teenage bimbos in front of me, whose banshee screams reminded me of something from The Simpsons’ annual Halloween episode.) Like a Dante in music Purgatory, I stumbled in circles, passing cotton candy booths and $50 T-shirt vendors, wiping the drool from my mouth that was caused from a barely audible rendition of “My Life,” when I heard the unexpected opening riffs of a truly classic rock-and-roll tune.

I rushed back to my seat and found myself shouting insanely for an unknown, fat Joel groupie named Chainsaw, who torched the stage with a white-hot cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” This was far and away the highlight of the night, but things quickly returned to their lukewarm state, as Mr. Joel followed with a ludicrous rap version of “Big Shot,” wherein he nearly decapitated his saxophonist with his microphone stand. (Joel might be a New York Jew, but he’s certainly no Beastie Boy.)

Actually, one has to give Billy Joel some credit. Most lounge lizards would slough their skins at the thought of being upstaged by a groupie. But Mr. Joel is impressively comfortable with himself: He spent half his concert making self-effacing remarks about his panus and balding pate. Of course, he made no excuses for his music.

Don’t get me wrong: How many pop musicians credit Aaron Copland, Beethoven and Chopin as inspirations? Billy Joel is an accomplished pianist, and despite the fact that he has some amazing musicians on the stage—especially the trumpeter, whose solo on the Joel attic song “Zanzibar” was pure music heaven—I’d have found the whole evening more tolerable if the stage was just a piano and piano man…and a wet bar.

As expected, the concert concluded with “Piano Man,” which, no matter what you think of Billy Joel, is an American classic lounge song. Of course, for my money I would have rather seen Sammy Davis Jr. belt out “Mister Bojangles.”

Did I mention Harry Connick Jr. is playing at the Township Auditorium in March?

Where have all the Sammy’s gone?

Billy Joel appeared in concert at the Colonial Center on February 14.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Breakfast with presidential candidate Chris Dodd

Analysis by Todd Morehead

Early Saturday morning Mac’s on Main is overflowing with local Democrats. Over at the buffet line people crack jokes, shake hands vigorously and slap each others backs while the major players in the local Democratic party hang to the side in blue suits sipping coffee from Styrofoam cups and talking among themselves. On the other side of the front window, a homeless man in low slung red sweat pants bends deeply to examine some form of detritus on the sidewalk before shuffling on, while a local television news affiliate prepares for a live feed.

Everyone is awaiting the arrival of Sen. Chris Dodd who, along with Sen. Joe Biden, recently called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the S.C. State House grounds. But when Dodd arrived and took the stage at Mac’s he stuck to the party line, calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq and stressing the importance of improving the country’s public education system. Barack Obama said the same thing at his Friday rally. So did John Edwards at a recent book signing in Columbia. Doubtless Hillary Clinton will echo those sentiments at her Allen University town hall meeting Monday.

But, Dodd did stray from the party line at least to address issues like predatory lending and President Bush’s recent abrogation of Habeas Corpus.

The current chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Dodd called for stricter regulations on predatory lending and vowed to “go after credit card companies, too.”

The senator’s Web site features a large banner calling for the reinstatement of Habeas Corpus and he announced to the breakfasting Democrats that on Tuesday he introduced a bill to restore Habeas Corpus protections to detainees that will also limit presidential authority to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions.

After his brief talk, Dodd took a few quick questions before flying back to Washington, D.C. to attend a rare Saturday session with the Senate. Democrats, now in control of the Senate, called the emergency session for a procedural vote to advance a nonbinding resolution criticizing President Bush’s plan to boost the number of U.S. forces in Iraq.

“But I’ll be back soon,” Dodd said. “You’re going to be sick of seeing me down here

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The hidden destruction of the Appalachian Mountains

It’s called “mountaintop removal” mining. In West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, coal companies blast as much as 600 feet off the top of the mountains, then dump the rock and debris into mountain streams. Over 300,000 acres of the most beautiful and productive hardwood forests in America have already been turned into barren grasslands. Mountaintop removal mining increases flooding, contaminates drinking water supplies, cracks foundations, and showers nearby towns with dust and noise from blasting.

The Mountaintop Removal Road Show features a beautiful and thought-provoking 22-minute slide show with traditional Appalachian music and culture by Lexington, Kentucky environmental activist Dave Cooper. Discussion to follow the program.

Monday Feb 19 @ 4:00

Green Quad, Learning Center, the Lounge

The Green (West) Quad Learning Center is located at the corner of Wheat

and Sumter Streets. Call 777-1994 for more information.

Sponsored by SAGE, Students Allied for a Greener Earth, and Green (West) Quad Learning Series

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Project goes south on North Main

City council members to meet with North Main residents Feb. 15

By Todd Morehead

The Elmwood, Cottontown, and Earlewood communities of North Main Street house one of the greatest concentrations of middleclass residents in Columbia alongside Shandon and Rosewood. Many feel the historic area should be a feather in the cap of city officials who have invested themselves so heavily in the revitalization of downtown. Yet some homeowners in the North Main area worry that Columbia City Council may welsh on a streetscaping project they’ve been promising for years.
“Elmwood has long been neglected because it is located between two [city council] districts and not in the heart of a single member district,” says Elmwood area resident Chris Barczak. According to him, city council members should look at what is healthy for a city as a whole rather than district members attempting to pacify their individual districts.
“That’s the problem with single-member districts,” he said. “They should represent the city as a whole.”
City Council will vote soon on potential funding for the beautification of the 1.2 miles of North Main Street between Elmwood Ave. and Parkside Drive. The beautification plan could include landscaping, resurfacing the road, burying utility lines, putting in new street lights, traffic signals, crosswalks and sidewalks. Sam Davis and other council members will present an update on the status of the project and take questions from the community Feb. 15 at Reformation Lutheran Church on the corner of River Drive and Union Street. Residents of the area are encouraged to attend, they said.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

You Say Tomato...

Free Times staff writer, Ron Aiken, was quick to correct a reference in Todd Morehead’s article “Dirty Dancing” in the Jan 31 issue, in which Morehead referred to him as a restaurant reviewer.

Aiken, who coined the phrase, “Whigtastic Breakfast Sampler” in a December column, told City Paper, “I am not a restaurant reviewer.” City Paper regrets the error and would like to assure readers that Mr. Aiken’s following articles are also not restaurant reviews:

“Of Sin and Salty Nuts” Vol. 20, Issue 4 (Salty Nut Cafe)

“The Trouble with Truffles” Vol. 20, Issue 3 (USC Wine and Beverage Institute)

“Ten Course Dinners at Solstice Slam Dunk” Vol. 19, Issue 46 (Solstice)

“ ‘C’ is for Cookie” Vol. 19, Issue 40 (Jammin’ Java)

Al Gore Nominated for Academy Awards and for Nobel Peace Prize

By Judit Trunkos

This year started with great success for former Vice President Al Gore, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as well as an Academy Award for his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. In order to get his message about global warming across, Gore decided to try a different type of mass communication and as a result of the documentary, his message was heard this time.

After losing the presidency on a recount of votes in 2000, Gore stepped down from public life to spend more time on issues he felt were more important than his popularity. He teamed up with David Guggenheim to produce a documentary on global warming in order to shake people up and make them realize the consequences of pollution. In the film, Gore and Guggenheim demonstrate and explain the phenomenon of “Greenhouse Effect” and how the industrialized world is responsible for changing the temperature of the climate by increasing fossil fuel burning. An Inconvenient Truth makes the viewer realize the imminent danger and long-term catastrophe that our world will face if no changes are made to our environmental policies and restrictions.

So far, the documentary has garnered international attention and the two nominations—both in the worlds of entertainment and science— have undoubtedly increased the awareness of global warming and have also attracted attention to Gore. After viewing the sudden popularity of the former vice president, many feel that this is only the beginning of a well-planned presidential campaign for 2008. When asked, Gore did not confirm or exclude the possibility of trying one more time.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Brownback speaks, pounds pulpit in Columbia

Analysis by Corey Hutchins

“I’m down with the brown.”

That’s what one S.C. Republican operative campaigning for the Kansas senator, said in the buffet line prior to GOP presidential hopeful Sam Brownback’s luncheon speech Friday, Feb. 2 at the fairgrounds in Columbia.

The banquet room was packed with folks awaiting the senator’s announcement, which when it finally came sounded more like a sermon than the average campaign speech. For their part, members in attendance peppered Brownback’s more religious quips with the obligatory “amen.”

Knowing full well he was in the midst of a Republican stronghold and not an event at the Politically Correct Police Academy, Brownback opened his speech with anecdotes of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, calling him a “good man.” (Brownback spoke about Thurmond for three minutes before identifying himself or declaring his candidacy.)

From then on, the Midwest farm boy talked of how we can’t let God be run out of the public and how the United States needs to end cancer in the next 10 years. Reverting back to his days on the farm, Brownback pulled a piece of cloth from his pocket proclaiming that half of it was made with cotton and the other half corn. He used his prop to push for the use of ethanol and covered his “grass to gas” idea.

“I’m not talking about marijuana,” he joked.

While the senator insisted he did not have plants in the audience, those who asked questions following the speech lobbed them like helium balloons, which Brownback swung at as if with a road sign.

Abortion: “I will help to end abortion in America.”

“Amen,” said members of the crowd. “Amen.”

War: We’re in a “poorly named war” (war on terror) with a militant, fascist Islam and “we have to win.” He also does not think the troop surge is the right way to go.

Illegal immigration: “I supported the fence,” he said, and he wants Social Security to work together with the INS.

“Amen,” they said. “Amen.”

Healthcare: He’s for price transparency, for medical information being private and expansion of health savings accounts.

The last question, which Brownback said he feared would be a high-inside fastball, came out more like a knuckleball, both unexpected and tricky. How will the senator deal with the issue of gang activity in America? Brownback stared down the knuckleball and scanned the dugout for his favorite bat, the old standby, the one with the grips worn down until it shone like sun on a wheat field. The senator smiled and swung away.

“Have to involve faith,” he said.

“Amen,” they said. “Amen.”

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Lunch at the Patio, Part 2

By Todd Morehead

City Paper recently revisited the best Cookin’ with Ass of 2006 which featured a review of The Patio Cafe at Patterson Hall, an all-female undergraduate dorm at USC. On a recent press day one of our more twisted associates was so inspired by the re-run that he invited the staff to lunch at The Patio (though not, we would later learn, on his tab).

Paul Blake, publisher of the City Paper, seemed particularly excited at the prospect and urged Sean Rayford and myself into taking lunch at 10:45 a.m. though we were already behind schedule on the issue.

“I think they open at eleven,” he said, breathing heavily.

“Is it cold out?” Rayford yawned from under a leather coat on the couch. He’d slept in the office again and until the lunch invitation arose, we hadn’t bothered to wake him.

“You’ll be warmed up once we get there,” Blake said. “Trust me.”

Ten minutes later, Blake jerked his car into a parking space on the far side of Pickens Street and exited the vehicle almost before the engine had time to shut off. He jogged toward the sidewalk, rubbing his hands together more from jittery excitement than from the cold. His zipped up his sport sweater against the wind and sped on ahead of us.

Rayford lit a cigarette as he walked. “Look at us. Three creepy old dudes heading to have lunch at an all girl’s dorm.” He still had red streaks on the side of his face from the seams in the couch cushion, a cowlick blowing lightly in the breeze.

“We’ll just play it off like we’re German grad students,” I said.

“Let’s go,” Blake yelled up ahead, “Trenholm’s already up there.”

“Is he back in school?” I asked, trotting to catch up.

“I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure he commuted downtown for this.”

We had to slow to a brisk walk up the Pickens Street hill before we veered into the park and crept up the back pathway toward the dorm. As we made our way around Patterson Hall, I found myself winded from trying to keep up with Paul. We passed a row of pink and purple bicycles chained to a rack and he began to pick up his pace.

After City Paper reprinted the original restaurant review for The Patio, we expected the place to be full of lecherous old men. But only Trenholm was there, waiting for us in the lobby. He grinned broadly when we approached. A few undergrad girls in Palmetto T-Shirts and flip-flops had begun to trickle in to wait for the cafe to open. A brunette chewed on brightly colored pen and blew an errant curl out of her eye while she made notes in the margins of her textbook.

Blake’s phone rang.

“Hello?” he answered, still panting from the walk.

A gaggle of blondes in low-slung jeans sauntered by, giggling to each other.

“Yeah,” he raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to the side to take in the view, “we’re putting the finishing touches on the issue right now.”

He spent a few moments on the phone while the rest of us sat and made small talk and before long a Patio buffet attendant unlocked and opened the doors for business.

We were disappointed to find that they no longer offered chicken fingers on Wednesday and realized we’d have to make do with something healthy. The freshman girls had formed a long line at the salad bar, so Rayford and I grabbed our trays and made way for the pizza line. Trenholm and Paul had apparently discovered some type of stir-fry station across the room. Standing in line and gazing out the large windows, I realized that our original review was right; a middle-aged man on an upper floor of the Park Circle apartments could probably read the menu boards at the Patio with a high powered telescope. Though unlike the days when Paul used to live at Park Circle, the menu boards at the Patio now conveniently feature a calorie count next to each entree.

“Did you notice the calorie counters?” Rayford asked when he slapped his tray down at our table. I couldn’t tell if he was impressed or peeved by them.

We sat and pigged out on pizza and salad and traded stories about various jobs we’d been fired from while herds of coeds giggled quietly from nearby tables and slurped loudly on pink scrunchy straws. Before long, it was time to return to the office.

Stuffed to the gills from lunch, we found that we had to make slower progress through the park on the way to the car.

“That was pretty good pizza,” I said to no one in particular, zipping up my jacket against the chill.

“Yeah, we’ll have to come back when the weather warms up.”

“Mmm. For the fresh fruit?”

“No. The mini skirts.”

Bottom of the Barrel

Military Recruiter and Cheerleader Coach Engage in Sex-ploitation of Sixteen Year Old Student

By Tom Turnipseed

The Ware Shoals High School scandal is scorching the front pages of South Carolina’s newspapers with a sordid saga of alcohol, sex, and shady shenanigans involving a 28 year old married cheerleader coach, a 29 year old South Carolina National Guard recruiter and a 21 year old guardsman with 16 year old high school cheerleaders. It includes a sexual rendezvous at a local motel during school hours with the cheerleader coach/counselor and the military recruiter having sex in one room while the other guardsman had sex with a 16 year old cheerleader in another room. Two 16 year old cheerleaders went to the motel and both were given vodka by Jill Moore, their cheerleader coach.

Marjorie Riddle and Chuck Crumbo reported in the State that a male student had sex with Ms. Moore too, and that Moore also had sex at the National Guard Armory with the recruiter, Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Fletcher.

According to law enforcement investigators, Sgt. Jeremy Pileggi, has admitted having sex with the 16 year old cheerleader but the local sheriff’s office said it would not file charges against him because the age of consent in South Carolina is 16.

Seanna Adcox of the Associated Press reported on Jan. 28 that some members of the South Carolina General Assembly think the investigation into the Ware Shoals High School scandal will spur the legislature to change the age of consent from 16 to 18.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell said, “We should certainly change that to 18. The fact that a 16 year-old can consent is not something I was aware of until this occurred. I suspect a lot of members of the Legislature and citizens of South Carolina did not know.”

However, Spartanburg prosecutor Trey Gowdy said he wished the legislature wouldn’t raise the age of consent. Gowdy feels the best way for lawmakers to respond to the problems presented by the Ware Shoals scandal is for the legislature to enhance sentencing against the adults violating and abusing their positions of trust. If the allegations are correct “Entrusting your children to a school system and military department the most troubling aspect”, said Gowdy.

Jill Moore has been charged with supplying alcohol and cigarettes to the female students and contributing to the delinquency of a minor for the motel sex-capades.

Meanwhile, Sgts. Pileggi and Fletcher have been suspended by the National Guard. The Guard said that if its investigation reveals what the Greenwood County sheriff’s office has concluded, the soldiers might be charged with: Failure to obey a military order; dereliction of duty; false official statement; accessory after the fact; and wrongful appropriation of government property The last charge would derive from sheriff’s reports that Moore and Fletcher had sex in the recruiter’s office at the Ware Shoals armory.

Army regulations, applying also to the National Guard, prohibit recruiters from having sex, dating and drinking alcohol with “all high school students.” Pileggi and Fletcher could be fined or jailed and kicked out of the National Guard if they are found guilty.

Maj. Gen. Harry Burchstead, the Guard’s deputy adjutant general and a former S.C. assistant attorney general and prosecutor said, “This type of misconduct is intolerable, and we are currently reviewing recruiting policies and procedures to ensure something like this cannot and will not happen in the future.”

Burchstead also said the Guard’s soldiers were “serving honorably in harm’s way," and, “the alleged actions of these individuals in no way reflect the standards of conduct of members of the South Carolina National Guard.”

Misconduct cases against military recruiters increased more than 50 percent to 630 in 2005, from 400 in 2004, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

On Saturday, John Hendren reported on ABC-TV’s World News that the new troop surge in Iraq and President Bush’s call to expand the ranks of the Army and Marines by 92,000 troops was putting pressure on standards for military recruits for the all volunteer army. Will there be enough high‑quality recruits to fill the expanding ranks? Eli Flyer, a former senior manpower analyst at the Department of Defense, points to a disturbing development: Army officials are giving more waivers for troops with medical conditions that might otherwise disqualify them, and more waivers for troops with criminal records.

"There is no question that standards will suffer if they have to, in order to meet the specific year goals," Flyer said.

Stephen Green, who is charged with raping and murdering a 14 year old girl and her family last year in the Iraqi town of Mahmudiya, had previous criminal convictions and mental problems that might otherwise have made him ineligible.

"The increases here," Flyer said, "will have the effect of giving more turnover within the Army, more behavioral problems, more psychiatric problems."

As President Bush pushes his escalation of the Iraq war we are scraping the bottom of the barrel to find the necessary manpower. The military recruiters like those who violated their public trust in the sordid scandal of alcohol and sex at Ware Shoals high school are examples of what we might expect as we hit the bottom of that barrel.

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and political activist in Columbia, South Carolina.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

FIve Points Association Internal Memo Leaked!

Our news editor recently slept with Amanda, the new Five Points Association intern, three minutes after meeting her at Chubbys and she left this behind at his apartment. Woops!

(Jokes! This memo isn't real, but you could imagine a recent FPA memo reading something like this......)

Five Points Association
c/o members only

Hey team!
I take it by now you’ve all read the ginormous front-page write-up by Jeff Wilkinson in (drum roll plz) The State this Sunday (Kelly, tell him the check’s in the mail, lol!) but what a good job!, hehe. I’m sure the letters are totally pouring in from Rock Hill to Orangeburg with people wondering like what the hell is 5-points and why is it on the front of their paper. It’s like crazytown what we can do when we all work together! ;)
Anyway, on to biz-nass. I guess it’s obvious that we goofed on the “Free Generica” campaign by trying to be too “ironic.” Like what’s up, people, hello! I thought irony was in. ugh! Anyway, Dennis, I got the proposal from The Gap this weekend and they said they’re right on track (and, duh, they totally loved the article too) so what I’m thinking is if you can get that guy you know on the zoning board to, like, re-zone Harper’s? we can put the Red Lobster there and we just won’t have to worry about parking AT ALL!!1
So, okie-dokey (<--- big dork, I know), well I’m really excited about all this and ya’ll should be too! Not just anybody can spin an entire city block of stores going out of business into a positive thing (and I can’t stress it enough how we have to stay. On. Track. With. The. Positive. Thing. [Denny if that means taking more workshops with Dr. Schwartz then we’ll expense it out as “petty-cash,” lmao) NOT a problem. Hello! Can we say Three Rivers, whaaaaat?
ALSO, I keep getting these angry letters from people who aren’t in the club but it’s totally mostly the (finger quotes) “local business boo-hoos” so I know I shouldn’t let it bother me, but dammit sometimes they can be soooo mean. I just keep sending them Starbucks gift certificates like Debbie said. Oh and Mr. Whit, remind everybody that the parking meter people are ONLY SUPPOOSED TO GIVE TICKTZ to ppl from OUT OF STATE. There’s one guy down there who is just giving them to seriously, like evvverybodddy.
And omg Merritt I almost forgot I still need your information so I can take that grant writing course for you on Pheonix University Online this week.
OKay well, I don’t want my “first official memo” [evvvvrrr} to go to long so I’ll finish it in like two shakes of a clams tail with just the information on who we’ve got on board to move to 5-points once we get all these family-shmamily businesses out of here like Councilwoman “bad hair” Sinclair in a constituency representation, um, thingie or something (I’m trying, ppl!). So…here’s what we got:
• Move over Groucho’s and paint me like a clown— Ronald McDonald is coming to town.
• Hot Topic (but they said Salty’s will totally have to go)
• Starbucks. (Seriously, in the BATHROOM of the one that’s already here… their idea, not mine!)
• A Border’s satellite store to replace Dr. Books.
• Super-DUPER-cuts
Holla for a Dolla
• Yesterday’s is just that—yesterday, lol, Ruby Tuesday’s, guys! We got ‘em.

So there it is, team, my first memoranDUMB, hahaha! I hope it’s OKay for everyone and if you need anything just tell my uncle and he’ll fax it over to me or leave it on my desk (which is like amaaaazing by the way, Thanx, Debbie for the pink EVERYyyerything).

Your new intern,

-----document obtained by Corey Hutchins------

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

First Friday’s in Five Points start Feb 2...Bring Your Glock

Despite the Five Points Association spending $90,000 on the Clean & Safe project, a few USC students found on Friday that the area is anything but safe.

The Five Points Association is kicking off one of its first events geared towards helping retailers, First Fridays. Starting Feb 2, evening events will be scheduled for the area and retailers will be open till at least 9pm.

The extra hours will give concerned citizens plenty of time to pop into businesses owned by Association board members and ask why money was spent to build a second fountain instead of installing extra lighting and police call boxes.

Perhaps the Clean & Safe crew will be present in their yellow Bat Mobile truck to keep us all safe with their push brooms while we shop. Bring plenty of quarters for parking meters if you plan on arriving before 7pm… and of course bring your glock.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Minimal response from workers on minimum wage issue

By Todd Morehead

The South Carolina chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) fell far from the tree on Friday with only two of its estimated 100 members gathering to rally outside Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Columbia office.

The organization is calling for Senator Graham to support the proposed federal minimum wage hike without tacking on a bill that would attach special interest tax breaks. The original bill, first introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), would raise the federal minimum hourly wage for the first time in nearly a decade from $5.15 to $7.25 in three phases over the next two years. The U.S. House already passed the bill with no tax breaks attached.

Senator Graham, however, has vowed to only support the bill if it comes as part of a larger package, stating that simply raising the minimum wage would deny job opportunities for young people as small businesses-- financially strapped from paying higher wages-- wouldn’t have enough revenue left over to afford to create positions for teenagers.

“If you’re a full time worker with skills and the ability to produce, you’ll blow by the minimum wage in about sixty days,” Graham told conservative radio talk show host Mike Gallagher in August. “Nobody is making the minimum wage that is a full time worker with a good work ethic...”

Ideally, according to Graham, the bill would also include tax credits for tuition, would provide tax cuts for married middle class families and would do away with the current death tax, which Graham described as “socialist.”

Hector Vaca, a lead coordinator with the SC ACORN chapter, isn’t buying it.

“Over the past decade Congress has given themselves nine raises, yet the people haven’t gotten anything,” he pointed out at the Friday rally. “Working class families deserve to be paid for their hard work.”

Doubtless, the workers of South Carolina would support a hike in pay, yet they seem reticent to publicly rally in support of the bill.

“I can’t get anyone to come out,” says Jean Busby, who heads up ACORN’s Columbia office. “I think that a lot of people believe that nothing can change, that this is the way it just has to be. A lot of people are afraid that they’ll lose their jobs if they rally in public.”

ACORN isn’t letting the low turnout dampen their spirits, though.

“If they don’t pass the [minimum wage] bill on a federal level,” said Vaca, “we’ll push to have it passed on a state level.”


Truth Hurts

Here's the audio from the first article on FPA.
One unhappy camper claimed they were misquoted, so I figured they have told that lie to enough people at this point that it was a good time to post the audio.

The real lies in this audio are the claims that I can pick up bank statements for FPA at Carolina First, which is not true...and the promise to provide me with board minutes and surveys.

We've been asking for this information and more since May and the FPA continues to intentionally violate open records laws.

I wonder why?

- Paul Blake

Five Points Swindle
Editorial by Paul Blake

The Five Points Association gets hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars. Too bad the association is currently defunct.

The S.C. Secretary of State’s office confirmed on Monday the Five Points Association (FPA) had failed to file required financial records with the state by the Aug. 15, 2005, deadline.
“The organization is expired,” Melissa Dunlap, the chief of staff at the secretary of state’s office, told City Paper.
Dennis Hiltner, the president and acting treasurer of the association, was required by law to file by the deadline but failed to do so. When City Paper asked questions, including why the association missed the deadline and whether holding both the office of president and treasurer created a conflict of interest, Hiltner told the newspaper, “I won’t be the treasurer after next meeting.”
When asked why, he said, “I just decided.”
Five Points Association Executive Director Merritt Brewer announced during the Aug. 24 membership meeting that the association received $220,000 in hospitality tax funding for 2006.
During that membership meeting, FPA Vice President Jeff Whitt announced decisions about the allocation of the funds. Part of the money will be used to finance and advertise a future pub crawl involving Budweiser, the purchasing of pub crawl t-shirts designed by Virginia-based Portico Publications, owner of the Free Times, and the hiring of C.C. Riggs Advertising Agency.
Columbia City Council's approval of funding for a defunct organization should raise questions from Five Points merchants and Columbia taxpayers. How can the city give hundreds of thousands of dollars in hospitality tax revenue to an organization that has failed to file proper paperwork with authorities?
“The city gets a full copy of financial statements before they are awarded money,” Brewer said, claiming that the decision to provide funding likely came before the FPA was required to file paperwork with the state.
Mayor Bob Coble said he didn’t know whether the city looked at the FPA’s previous financial records before giving away hospitality tax money.
“Obviously the Five Points Association is a well-known entity,” Coble said.
Coble also said he was aware of a new organization that merchants had started in Five Points and also said he believed Hiltner has done a “very good job” with the FPA.
But that “very good job” would certainly be debatable for anyone taking the time to look at the tax return filed for special events in 2004.
According to records obtained by City Paper, some of the FPA’s special events— which are subsidized by public money— are money-bleeding operations.
Paint Five Points, for example, lost $20,607 in 2004.
The Five Points After Five event lost $8,926, but the year prior (2003) shows a $6,037 profit. Why the $14,963 difference in just one year?
More questionable, though, is the incredibly popular Saint Patty’s Day festival. For the 2004 festival, the FPA claims it made only $64,080 in profit. Not bad, eh? Well, that’s after claiming a whopping $279,723 in expenses.
Where did all the money go?
City Paper doesn’t know. And neither do taxpayers.
When asked about the expenses, FPA representatives assured the newspaper that they would be forthcoming with the details of these expenditures. So far, the organization hasn’t been.
“I think it’s a situation where they are doing the same thing over and over,” said Randy Dennis, who thinks Five Points After Five should be breaking even and not losing money.
The supposed “successful” concert series creates a great amount of exposure for Budweiser. The beer company, in turn, writes a tax-deductible check directly to the association. This “donation” gives Budweiser tens of thousands of dollars worth of advertising placed by the association as well as signage at the event. The hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars funneled to the association by City Council, tax exceptions and synergistic partnerships make it a sweet deal for all involved, including Free Times, a City Paper competitor that has not reported aggressively on the FPA.
Meanwhile, many of the daytime merchants located in Five Points feel excluded. In May, 18 merchants formed a new organization called Our Five Points, as first reported by City Paper. One of the founders, Elizabeth Cromer, owner of It’s All In The Name, claims the group now has about 30 members.
The most recent Paint Five Points this summer left out two obvious Five Points merchants.
“I’m a new gallery in Five Points and I wasn’t aware of Paint Five Points and they didn’t tell [Portfolio Art Gallery owner] Judy either,” said Laura Brown owner of The Artists Basement.
City Paper has had its own experiences with the FPA. In May, the first meeting that representatives for this newspaper attended, Hiltner added to the agenda his complaint of black City Paper newspaper boxes chained to lampposts and trash cans. His concern was over destroying expensive green paint. This concern came the same week that City Paper reported on the formation of Our Five Points.
City Paper has since moved offices to Five Points and joined the FPA at the Aug. 24 meeting. The newspaper immediately offered to sponsor Five Points After Five. Brewer agreed to allow the sponsorship.
But Brewer, of course, is outranked by President Hiltner. Brewer later wrote in an e-mail to City Paper, “I can only have 1 print sponsor. They give us a great deal too. The Free Times has long been a part of this event and they promote the hell out of it! The are necessary (according to my surveys) for the success of the event. Your being a part of the association is great... and because of that I will help you with whatever you need, but I can’t have 2 print sponsors for 1 event.”
This “successful” event lost $8,926 in 2004.
Meanwhile, the official sponsors for the event include 10 bars and restaurants and two radio stations. Brewer promised to provide City Paper with the “surveys” in the next two weeks.
“They are not representing the merchants in Five Points,” said Cromer of It’s All In The Name. “I think new leadership would be a good thing.”
When repeatedly asked why the association filed in 2004 with Hiltner’s signature but not 2005, Hiltner raised his voice. “I forgot, Paul,” he snapped. “Hang my ass.”
Instead, I think we’ll just show our readers the rope.