Open Thread for Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do, so y’all find something, or somethings, to talk about.

Some suggestions:

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens calls the court’s recent campaign finance rulings “a giant step in the wrong direction,” which have created a situation in which “The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate. It’s really wrong.” Discuss.

New leadership in the Midlands. I was intrigued by this piece pointing out how many new people are in leadership positions in Columbia, in both the private and public sectors. Will it make a difference? Let’s hope so. (Blast it! I can’t find the story at! Well, here’s a picture of it from my iPad that should be legible. The above link is to the mobile version, which is a bit confusing since the pictures aren’t paired with the corresponding text.)

With Stone brewery likely lost, lawmakers are working to change SC law to make it easier to recruit the next Stone — and maybe even this one. FYI — for some reason, this Greenville News story waits until the 23rd graf to tell you what the legislation will do, which is to allow brewpubs to produce up to 500,000 barrels per year instead of being limited to 2,000.

And in the big news so far of the day — which I’m tempted to hold in case I do a VFP, but what the hey — Michigan’s ban on affirmative action is upheld.

But go ahead and choose your own topics…

62 thoughts on “Open Thread for Tuesday, April 22, 2014

  1. Bryan Caskey

    Darn. We lost the ability to get a Stone brewery? They actually make some really nice beer. Another example of stupid government over-regulation preventing the creation of jobs (and beer).

      1. Bart

        Yep, the Arrogant Bastard ad did it, no Stone Brewery for SC. Probably insulted the ABs in Columbia who decide these things.

    1. Norm Ivey

      I’ve seen the Stone operation in San Diego on TV and in beer mags. It’s a destination in and of itself. I’d love to see one here, but the article doesn’t make it sound very promising.

      One of my favorite Stone products is their Enjoy By IPAs designed to be consumed as soon as possible after brewing. Interesting that they weren’t typically available in SC until the last year or so. Really good stuff, but NoDa’s IPA is every bit as good (available for growler fills at Total Wine a month or so ago).

      The growth of the brewing industry in SC is exciting, but it’s just ridiculous how big it’s getting in NC. We better wake up and smell the hops–there’s a real opportunity here that our state is missing out on. 18 breweries in SC? There’s some I don’t know of, apparently. I believe I’ll do an Around the State in 18 Breweries Tour this summer…

  2. Mark Stewart

    As a middleman myself, I really detest the way middlemen and distributors have a stranglehold on political influence.

    We should have the right to buy a Tesla direct from the manufacturer. Or a beer from the brewery/brewpub. Distributors should have to compete in the marketplace as does everyone else. Claiming efficiency while stymieing access is not a business plan that politicians should support.

    1. Silence

      Mark, I completely agree that you should be able to buy a Tesla direct from the manufacturer. The current “Three Tiered” system of alcohol distribution that most states use was set up to prevent monopolies, ensure taxation, and avoid some of the more unsavory criminal stuff that happened during prohibition. Just be glad that SC isn’t a state-run ABC state.
      In practice though, there’s no reason why we need liquor wholesalers these days. Having worked in both retail and wholesale beverage companies, I think the current system stymies competition, innovation and makes it more difficult for new products to enter the marketplace, particularly those from small producers.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      It sounds a bit like what Stone envisions is something like the British system, in which the pubs are run by the breweries.

      Or am I reading that wrong?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I think the British system would have been pretty hard on tourists, before the Web. You sort of had to be a local and know where all the pubs of this brand or that one were.

        When I was in Oxford, someone said on my blog that I should try Fuller’s ESB. All I had to do was check the web on my laptop at the B&B, and found the nearest Fuller’s pub was right on my daily walk into the downtown area, across the Folly Bridge — the Head of the River. That was a place I had intended to check out anyway, so that worked out well.

        But what would I have done without the Internet?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I wasn’t that crazy about the ESB. But I loved Fuller’s Bengal Lancer IPA — which, unfortunately, they don’t export to this country, unlike the ESB.

      2. Silence

        No, not quite the British system. Stone et al want to be able to have a larger-than-micro-scale brewpub that would produce 2001+barrels/yr and also sell at other retail outlets without going through a wholesale distributor. Instead of imagining a large “Hunter Gatherer” think of a small “Budweiser” brewery with a restaurant/pub onsite. 500,000 barrels is a lot of beer. It takes 2 “kegs” to make a barrel, near enough, or a barrel is around 46 six packs.

        So we are talking about a planned brewery that produces 23,000,000 six packs of beer annually. That’s industrial scale brewing, and not exactly your local brewpub.

      3. Norm Ivey

        Stone’s setup in San Diego is an enormous restaurant/bar/beer garden on the grounds of the brewery. You tour the brewery, and then enjoy a real meal with flights or pints of beer along with a full meal prepared by real chefs using organic/local products. They have a couple of locations in Southern California. However, you can get Stone products in places that are not owned by Stone, so it’s not like their products are only sold in their own establishments a la Standard Oil or something. As a company, they ARE Arrogant Bastards, but they have the product and mission Stones to back it up.

        It sounds like what they want to do is set up one of those establishments here.

  3. Doug Ross

    “what the legislation will do, which is to allow brewpubs to produce up to 500,000 barrels per year instead of being limited to 2,000.”

    Because 2,0001 barrels would cause such a big problem? When these market killing regulations get implemented, it’s usually because one or more politicians were bought off by someone who would lose business.

    The TESLA situation is a prime example. Local car dealers in bed with local politicians to protect their turf. Anyone who claims we have a “free market” is living in a dream world.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I think TESLA should be able to sell directly, too.

      But I object to the idea that politicians have to be “in bed” with the dealers. You know, a politician could actually be concerned about local businesses and local jobs. Just because someone disagrees with you on a philosophical point doesn’t mean he’s corrupt.

      1. Doug Ross

        Why not be concerned about the larger number of local citizens who would be able to (perhaps) buy a better product at a lower price?

        Market forces drive efficiency and innovation. Regulation stifles both. Short term, minority interests should not drive behavior.

      2. Doug Ross

        And we can be pretty sure The State would support banning Tesla as well to protect its own revenue streams.

        1. Doug Ross

          And rather than banning Tesla, we should be working to get them to build a factory here… why not take the lead for once instead of wallowing in the status quo?

          1. Silence

            We could start putting in 220V credit-card operated charging stations in around town, at parking meters and in local parking garages. SCE&G should offer to come install a charging station in customers’ garages at no cost. That would sell a lot of kilowatts, and help with building demand. I know the city already has some charging stations in the Taylor street garage.

            1. Silence

              I think are free right now, but it would make more sense to have them be metered, and paid via CC for power used. Long term providing “free” power to EV owners is not sustainable, nor a good idea.

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              No, not long-term. It’s more of a “let’s encourage electric cars” promotional thing by the city right now. Like the hydrogen fueling station down near the marionette theater…

              I had to take three tries at spelling “marionette” just then. Double R? No. Double N? No…

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Actually, Doug, you can’t. I am not aware of any position ever taken by The State — certainly not in the 22 years I worked there — that was taken in order to protect a revenue stream.

          Quite the contrary. I know of at least one position we took during my tenure as EPE that cost the paper hundreds of thousands in lost ad revenue — far, far more than my department’s budget, including payroll. It created some other business-side problems as well, beyond advertising. But we stuck to it. (At this point, Doug — who likes names named — is wondering who the advertiser was. And I’m not satisfying his curiosity because the paper has a good relationship with that advertiser now, I believe, and I’m not going to rip open old wounds.)

          We weren’t TRYING to run off an advertiser; I took no pleasure in doing it. That would have been childish. But it was the only honest position we could take.

          Doug will now say yet again, “Why didn’t you advocate, in particular, for removing the sales tax exemptions on newsprint?” And the answer is, because our position was that ALL sales tax exemptions, in the aggregate, were a problem, and all of them should be on the table for elimination. The newspaper exemption was in no way worse than any of the others. The only one that we would ever single out was the particularly absurd one on automobiles. That WAS one that, to an objective observer, was and is worse than others.

          And of course, even if I were hypocritically lying about that, it wouldn’t be the same thing as protecting a source of revenue, would it?

    2. Silence

      The power of the car dealer lobby was evident when GM started downsizing its dealer structure as part of their bankruptcy.

    3. Bryan Caskey

      “When these market killing regulations get implemented, it’s usually because one or more politicians were bought off by someone who would lose business.”

      That’s why there’s a difference between being pro-free market and pro-big business.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Bryan, I’m not sure, but I think you’re saying what I said in response to that comment — that just because people disagree philosophically doesn’t mean one or the other side was “bought off.”

        Disagreement does not imply corruption.

        Some people just honestly believe in protectionism.

  4. Harry Harris

    Our upside-down auto sales tax is a good example of the auto dealers power supporting bad policy. We should exempt about the first 10-12k of a cars’s sales price and tax the rest. If you can buy a 50k car, you should be able to pay the tax. Some high-end buyers would go to another state, but local dealers can compete in other ways. State law could allow them to charge an extra fee for work done on cars brought in or the use tax could be amended to charge them the difference.

    1. Silence

      The sales tax isn’t where they catch us car owners, its’ the annual tax. And I’d gladly pay the sales tax if I didn’t have to pay the annual property tax on it. When I was just a poor boy, my old car (registered in my home state) died and I had to buy a new one, and quickly. I bought a new, $20,000 car, my first one ever Nobody at the time told me that there’d be an enormous annual tax bill from the county arriving shortly afterwards. Right now it’s about $27 per $1000 of vehicle value.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, and you see how that works, don’t you? The state gets its taxes without making the dealers collect them…

        It’s bogus. We should pay more at point of sale, and less, or nothing, in subsequent years.

        Of course, it doesn’t have much impact on me, because our three vehicles are a 2000 Buick Regal, a 2000 Ford Ranger and a 1998 Volvo. Not much of a tax bill…

        1. Silence

          Which is how my previous state did it. Full sales tax up front (I think) and then $32/year after that. Of course this way you end up paying a crapload more over the life of the car.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yes. But this way you go ahead and BUY a car to begin with, which makes the dealers happy.

            And the dealers are apparently better organized in making their wishes known to lawmakers than the rest of us are.

            Out here among the unwashed, there’s just this general feeling of being overtaxed, to which the personal property tax contributes. And lawmakers respond to that generalized resentment by doing such stupid things as removing the responsibility of supporting schools from owner-occupied homes, simultaneously jacking up taxes on businesses, and increasing the sales tax (on the relatively small number of things we actual pay such taxes on) to an uncomfortable level.

            That’s what they call tax reform. Instead of true, comprehensive tax reform, which would do things like eliminate most sales tax exemptions, tax services as well as goods, do away with the car sales tax exemption, lower or eliminate the personal property tax, and restore a rational balance to the three-legged stool, spreading the burden more thinly, making the system fairer and making the state’s revenue stream less sensitive to economic stresses.

        2. Silence

          I must say that as stretched as I was financially at the time, I was pretty miffed that nobody at the dealership had mentioned that I’d be getting a county tax bill. Not that it would have stopped me from buying a car, because you pretty much need one when you need one, but at least I could have prepared myself mentally for its arrival.

          1. Mark Stewart

            In some states you pay the sales tax at the full rate AND the annual property tax on the valuation. So basically a new vehicle ends up costing 150% of the purchase price over ten years, ignoring financing costs.

            The thing to do in SC, from a tax-advantaged perspective, is to live on Lake Murray and drive older vehicles. The tax subsidy is actually better with low-country waterfront property but then one has to factor in the insurance premiums so the tax savings become far less material. So with Lake Murray waterfront you can wave at every passing powerboat that was trailered up to the lake as a thank you for their kind tax subsidies of your real property.

  5. bud

    There are a lot of good comments here regarding the evils of overbearing, and unneeded middlemen. But this is not a new problem. The Ben Arnold company has had a middle-man strangle hold on the liquor industry for decades. This is a clear example of how government can interfere with the free-market system in a negative way.

  6. bud

    As for the growth of the brew-pub/micro-brewery industry this has all the earmarks of a short-term fad. I imagine there will be a huge growth in the number of players in the game followed by a fleshing out at some point. NC may have a huge number of these operations but I suspect that will change in a few years. In the meantime drink up, but if you plan to enjoy the ride do so with a designated driver.

        1. Mark Stewart

          Oregon is great in July and August. And one can do a (urban) beer and (rural) wine tour across the state. What’s not to like?

    1. Norm Ivey

      The craft beer market is growing fast, and it’s doing it in large part at the expense of Inbev (Anheuser-Busch) and MIller-Coors. The gargantuan brewers are losing market share at slightly slower pace that the growth of the craft beer industry, but they are scrambling to stem the losses all the same.

      NC is #14 in terms of the economic impact of the craft industry. I don’t think we are in the bubble stage yet–the big boys still have plenty of market to share.

    2. Silence

      bud – I agree with you, the Palmetto Boom will be followed by the Palmetto Beer Bust. Unless our drinking habits change significantly. Now we must get to work to keep these places in business.

  7. Doug Ross

    Another excellent column by Cindi Ross Scoppe on the difficulties of getting rid of incompetent teachers.

    It’s too bad that most teachers are unwilling to comment on their peers who perform badly. There is a “circle the wagons” mentality in the profession — similar to doctors. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that a certain percentage of teachers ARE incompetent? I mean we’ve all had them, haven’t we? There are the ones who can’t control a classroom, the ones that are burned out and don’t try, the ones who think they can skate by (like the teacher my daughter had in middle school who spent a large portion of her class time working out the details of her wedding). It”s worse since they have cellphones and internet access in the classroom. Hand out an “assignment” and surf the web for 30 minutes.

    1. Norm Ivey

      I have no problem with Thurmond’s bill. My experience tells me it will have little impact on the quality of teachers in my district.

      There are incompetent teachers. Any teacher will tell you that. We know who they are. Administrators know who they are. THEY know who they are. They tend to weed themselves out. Several years ago we lost one 3 days into the school year. I’ve known a handful that didn’t last their first year. It’s not hard to get rid of an incompetent teacher. There are just not as many incompetents (my experience is limited to RSD2) as some would like to believe. I’ve never known a teacher with more than a few years of experience who could be considered incompetent. If Scoppe’s experience is typical (I concede it probably isn’t), she had one incompetent teacher out of 50–a 2% incompetence rate. I can’t think of a single teacher in my own educational experience that I consider incompetent. There were plenty I didn’t like very much, but that was my problem. There were a few I didn’t learn from, but again, that was me.

      Until we choose our own careers, there is no profession we are exposed to more than that of a teacher. Everyone has sat in classrooms and had both positive and negative experiences. Those experiences convince us that we all know what good teaching is and isn’t. I like this teacher, so she must have been a good teacher. I hate this subject, so he is a bad teacher. I suspect those classroom experiences tell us more about ourselves than about teacher quality. We learn what we like and don’t like, and we learn how we learn best. If a teacher doesn’t teach me what I like, or provide enough opportunities for me to learn the way I learn best, she’s a bad teacher. Nothing to be done about the former issue, but the latter is constantly addressed through in-service and collaboration with colleagues (LOTS of in-service).

      The time and emotional commitment required of teachers is enormous. I have a close friend who came into the profession after a career with IBM. He was dedicated and professional. He was an incredible teacher not just in his content, but as a role model and moral leader to his students and his colleagues. After just a few months teaching 6th grade math, I asked him what he thought. He told me The public has no idea what this job is all about. He stayed with us for about 5 years before he left us. I bought him several beers trying to convince him to stay, but he just couldn’t do it anymore. God bless him.

      I spent 22 years in the classroom before becoming a Technology Coach. It wasn’t until I was out of the classroom that I realized how hard I had been working for those 22 years. I have friends who have been doing it for nearly 40 years. I am in awe.

      If there is a “circle the wagons” mentality, it’s because these people are our colleagues and friends. We stick together because we know only another teacher can fully appreciate what a teacher does on a daily basis.

      1. Doug Ross

        I don’t think I suggested it was common to find incompetent teachers but having had three kids go thru 13 years each in Richland 2, we had our share. More in high school than other levels. They are all still there, years later… some don’t teach, they just hand out trivial assignments…some try to be buddies with students..some are just miserable people who hate their jobs but can’t do anything else. I’d put the percentage at around 5% in our experience… and they should be fired, not allowed to spend any more time in the classroom. If I am lousy at my job, I can be fired immediately..why should it be different for teachers?

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yep, Cindi’s on a roll.

      The topic, of course, is an old one for us. During my time as editor, the board repeatedly advocated making it easier for principals to get rid of bad teachers. It’s the kind of REAL education reform that we seldom talk about, ever since Mark Sanford put the idea of paying parents to abandon public schools entirely on the state’s front burner more than a decade ago.

      And so it’s encouraging to read that some consensus is forming around the proposal.

      Frankly, as I think back to my own school career — and, more relevantly to this discussion, my children’s — I find it hard to think of many teachers I thought were bad at their jobs. But my kids generally attended pretty good schools.

      Ironically (from Doug’s point of view), when I think “incompetent teacher,” the very first who comes to mind was one who taught one of my kids at a Catholic, not public, school. Those who believe as an article of faith that government can’t do anything as well as the private sector may have a problem with that, but there it is.

      1. Doug Ross

        I can only give my anecdotal experience… don’t recall many bad teachers in my elementary school experience… and the class sizes were much larger than today. Had a gym teacher who forced a friend to run for an entire gym period which resulted in the kid ending up in the hospital. In middle school, we had a French teacher who spent a good portion of the day drunk (hitting a bottle he kept in his desk – everyone knew about it). Some of the braver/bully types would openly mock him about it. In high school, we had one English teacher who felt that playing Jeopardy every week was a learning experience… or maybe it let him sit and read the sports page in the paper instead. One of the teachers in our computer class knew nothing about computers. Most of the freshmen (like me) were teaching him what to do. All of these teachers had long careers.

        As for my kids, we had a first grade teacher who could not control a disruptive student for the entire year. Not a single student in the class qualified for the advanced program for second grade. That year was a killer in terms of impeding development. My daughter had a science teacher (male) who assigned a couple Powerpoint presentations and walked around outside with the kids but spent a good part of the time gossiping with the girls in class or having his much younger boyfriend come into the classroom to “help” him. He’s still working there. My son had a couple classes that never had homework and consisted of watching movies like Forrest Gump and Finding Nemo to understand mental illness and separation anxiety.

        As Springsteen sang last Saturday night: “We busted out of class, had to get away from those fools.. I learned more from a three minute record than I ever did in school”.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          I had an incompetent chemistry teacher, for one. DuPont hired all the good chemists, so the schools got what was left. Maybe if they had paid as well as Savannah River…I doubt I missed out on a career as a chemist, but my classmate struggled mightily to catch up at MIT. My dad, who started his career as a chemist, was disappointed that the focus, such as it was, was on Boyle’s Law and other cumbersome-without-a-calculator formulae, when chemistry could so easily be made interesting and relevant to everyday life. He should have been a teacher, but….

          I also had a social studies teacher in fourth grade who did not realize that when a girl gave a report on Indiana, the Hooster State, there was an error there. I did. Fortunately, my dad got Time and Newsweek, back when they were credible news sources, and left them in the bathroom.

      2. Silence

        I had a teacher in high school who took a sabbatical year, during his sabbatical he was paid a little visit by customs & border patrol, along with the FBI for illegally importing child pornography. Needless to say, he did not return from his sabbatical. He was never inappropriate towards me, though. I just searched his name on Bing, and see that he’s become quite the Philanthropist.

    3. Kathryn Fenner

      You know, come to think of it, pretty much everybody struggles with the calculus first, and even second time around. I wonder how much of Cindi’s struggles were attributable to her teacher’s failings.

      Professor Fenner believes that it is wrong to channel everyone in advanced math through calculus. Discrete math could be more useful for those not likely require calculus in their work.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        You know what I hated about the honors calculus class I took at USC, the one semester I went there?

        The prof would ask me in front of the whole class to state the chain rule. Not to show how it worked mathematically, or to explain its use, but to state the rule in words. Which, even though I’m much more of a word person, I thought was ridiculous.

        So even though he would ask me time and again, I refused to go look it up and memorize it when out of class so I could parrot it back to him. I was a stubborn kid.

        And he kept embarrassing me in front of the class — they’d all giggle when he turned to me and started asking the question. And day after day, I would respond by saying, “Would you like me to go to the board and show you how it WORKS?” No, he just wanted me to state the rule.

        Finally, he wore me down, and I spent a minute one day memorizing it, and recited it to him next time he asked. I probably forgot it five minutes later. I can’t begin to tell you what it is today, or show you how it works.

        It really ticked me off to have to perform that way, demonstrating a knowledge that as I saw it was utterly unrelated to my understanding of calculus…

        1. Doug Ross

          “Finally, he wore me down, and I spent a minute one day memorizing it, and recited it to him next time he asked. I probably forgot it five minutes later. I can’t begin to tell you what it is today, or show you how it works.”

          Doesn’t that apply to a big chunk of the educational process? Learning stuff to parrot back and then forget. So much wasted time…

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    No comments on the affirmative action ruling? That sort of surprised me. I mean, beer is a compelling topic in which we all take an interest, but still…

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      I think race-based affirmative action is not as useful as class-based. There are plenty of middle class black and Latino kids now who don’t need a boost, and add little cultural diversity. If a poor kid can get close, a boost is justified.

    2. Bryan Caskey

      Eh, I’m not sure it’s that big of deal. Without reading the opinion (who has time for that?) it seems SCOTUS didn’t rule that race based admission factors were unconstitutional. I think they just said (by a 6-2 majority) that states once having created such preferences could legally remove them.

      Apparently, two Justices don’t like citizens amending their state constitutions.

  9. Silence

    I didn’t see anything about it on here, but I think it bears mentioning: The story in yesterday’s State newspaper about the Richland County park proposals, or potential projects. $87.2 M worth of them, not all of which will see the light of day, and one of which is completely secret.
    $20M water park at Farrow & Hard Scrabble
    $19.3M baseball/softball complex “somewhere”
    $16.5M indoor multi-sport arena at Bluff & Atlas Roads
    $14M ampitheatre @ Broad River Road & I-20
    $12.1M pool and splash pad on Garner’s Ferry Road
    $5.3M ampitheatre, trails and pier at Kelly Mill Park
    and the double-secret “Project LM”

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