Friday, March 30, 2007

An historic Presidential election is upon us

Rarely does the term, "once in a lifetime" apply to us in reality. The 2008 Presidential election season might be one of those moments. For the first time in 56 years and only the second time in 80 years, Americans will deal with a Presidential election that does not either feature a sitting President of the United States or sitting Vice President of the United States.

The last time such an election happened was way back in 1952 when retired General Dwight D. Eisenhower faced Senator Bob Taft in the Republican primaries and Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois in the election. Before that, one has to go to 1928 when Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover defeated New York Governor Al Smith for the Presidency.

Thus, only once in the past 56 years, and only twice in the past 80, have a sitting President or Vice President not been a factor in a Presidential election.

If you doubt that assertion, just take a look at the facts. Listed below are the sitting Presidents or Vice Presidents running for the White House.

2004 President George W. Bush
2000 Vice President Al Gore
1996 President Bill Clinton
1992 President George H.W. Bush
1988 Vice President George H.W. Bush
1984 President Ronald Reagan
1980 President Jimmy Carter
1976 President Gerald R. Ford
1972 President Richard M. Nixon
1968 Vice President Hubert Humphrey
1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson
1960 Vice President Richard M. Nixon
1956 President Dwight D. Eisenhower
1952 the last time neither a President or VP ran
1948 President Harry Truman
1944 President Franklin Roosevelt
1940 President Franklin Roosevelt
1936 President Franklin Roosevelt
1932 President Herbert Hoover
1928 the second time in 80 years no sitting President or Vice President ran.

What does the above mean? Well, first, it means both nominations for President of the United States are wide open, and so is the general election. It also means that we in South Carolina have perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a difference in either party primary in a once in a lifetime race. I have to note that such a an election has only happened once in my father's lifetime and only twice in my grandfather's. And, my father was not eligible to vote the last time it happened.

In other words, 2008 is going to be a historic and watershed year. Despite what the pundits tell us, history tells us the Presidency of the United States is wide open. Perhaps that is why outsider candidates like former Senator Fred Thompson are making headway in the Republican Party and that someone so inexperienced as Senator Obama is making headway in the Democratic Party.

As the old Chinese proverb goes, we are both cursed and blessed to live in interesting times and have a chance to be a part of them. Right here, in South Carolina, we might have a chance to do something that frankly, as I have pointed out above, comes around only once in a lifetime. Pay attention folks, and be a part of it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Blood on the floor at the Budget and Control Board

The debate about the status of the SC Budget and Control Board is heating up. Longtime employees are retiring or finding other jobs. Other employees, including good employees with solid records, are looking for a way out. Each and every day, employees of the South Carolina Budget and Control Board are stressed out wondering what their futures are.
I realize some think that the Budget and Control Board should be eliminated. I agree with that premise to some degree. But, there is a situation developing in which good people are trying to find a way out of state government service.
Longtime employees are frustrated and confused. They wonder if their years of service mean anything. Those who can are jumping out of state government service. Governor Sanford seems to be oblivious to what is happening, though the rank and file members of the State Budget and Control Board seem to blame the Governor for the situation.
One employee of the State Budget and Control Board confided to me recently that it was his belief that the Governor wanted people to quit or retire so the Governor could appoint his own friends to the jobs that would hand out big state contracts.
I do not know if that is true, but I do know that perhaps the agency in the state government with the most power is being demoralized and demeaned, for whatever reason.
As I said before in this space, I would like to see the Budget and Control Board eliminated, and replaced with another administrative agency under the Governor. However, if any Governor is seeking to reform that board in a way that can only reward his friends that is wrong.
Currently, the State Budget and Control Board is governed by Governor Mark Sanford, Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, Representative Dan Cooper and Senator Hugh Leatherman. Political rumors are flying that Cooper is about to retire and that Leatherman has a tough re-election battle ahead in 2008. That leaves the former three, who seem to be in lock step when it comes to Budget and Control Board issues. As one politico put it to me recently, “Thomas Ravenel calls Mark Sanford to make sure which way he (Ravenel) should vote in Budget and Control Board meetings..”
Again, I have not problem with reform. But, if one set of good old boys and gals is replacing another at the perhaps the state’s most important agency for another, in the name of so called reform, than something is wrong. Sure, there are plenty of employees at the state Budget and Control Board who ought to be shown he door for not working and the like. But, to replace them with just more political hacks does a disservice to the people who actually work at the Budget and Control Board and to the people of this state. South Carolina deserves better. The people of South Carolina, and the employees of the Budget and Control Board who work hard everyday do not deserve such treatment

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Tubby Smith and college coaches

Tubby Smith had enough. After several years as the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball program, he left to become the head coach at Minnesota. Smith had been at the center of controversy since taking over the Kentucky program, despite leading them to a national championship and to the NCAA tournament every year he coached the Wildcats.

From day one as Kentucky head coach, Smith faced controversy. He had racist threats and the like. It seemed that the people supporting Kentucky had no problem with black basketball players, but a had a real problem with a black head basketball coach. In an era of parity in college sports, Tubby Smith kept Kentucky consistent in a changing world. It is simply not realistic for a college to believe they can dominate a sport like before. Times had changed. Despite that Tubby Smith kept his wildcats in the thick of things when it came to the NCAAs. He was rewarded for that with criticism that few have dealt with.

I am glad he said "enough" and went to school were he will be appreciated. Tubby Smith is not alone, though. There seems to be a problem from white boosters in the South with black coaches.

Take Clemson basketball for example. Clemson is coached by Oliver Purnell, a great coach, but his teams failure to make the NCAA Big Dance had sports radio callers calling into question his ability. Never mind that Clemson has no real basketball tradition, and that Purnell is steadily building a solid program.

Similar rumblings are heard down in Mississippi State about MSU head football coach Sylvester Croom. He overtook a program on probation and in shambles. However, fans seem to want him out for not winning fast enough.

I do not know if it is race, or just boosters and fans wanting success at a level that is unrealistic to expect. Whatever the reason, good men like Tubby Smith are being ran out of their jobs for all the wrong reasons.

College sports are meant to be something that helps build character in young men and women. They are in effect just kids playing games. Coaches are to be mentors for life, not just the games. What is happening to college sports,( the big money, the demand for instant success, the political and racial involvements), is taking away from the beauty of amateur sports. Such is what happens to something that once was a diversion that is now a business and political venture.

The Tubby Smith situation at Kentucky is just one example of how college sports have become a business out of control. Politics and money have now entered into what was once a diversion.

Maybe that is part of the world today. But, it is a shame. I love the game of basketball because it is a place that all the worries of the day are not present. I have played the game and I have coached the game. But, now big money and politics are part of that game I love. What a shame.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

America loses another old hero

Haskell Maroney, Jr. passed away this week at age 80. He was a hero of World War II. He was my great uncle via his marriage to my grandfather's sister, Ruby. To those of us in our family, he was known as "uncle Junior." He was part of the celebrated Rainbow division of World War II.

"Uncle Junior" did his duty to his country, returned home and had a life in rural Lexington County. Like so many of the greatest generation, he did his duty, went back home to live his life without complaint.

As I sat in his home this past Friday, trying to find some comforting words for my great aunt, I could not help but think I was in the home of an true American hero and was not only attempting to comfort a family member, but the widow of a true American hero.

Throughout the nation, the heroes of World War II, like my family's "Uncle Junior" are passing away from ailments. We should remember that those heroes did their duty to the country and then acted just as heroic by going on to lead relatively normal lives without complaint about their service to the country.

It is humbling to think about what those men did to save this country. They were heroes the likes we rarely see today.

I regret not knowing my "uncle Junior" better, but I hope to honor him here in death. He was a real American hero, both during his service in the military and afterwards. He did his duty and had the love of a good woman for his life. His was a life that should serve as a example of what an American life should be.

Please join me in saluting Haskell Maroney, Jr. as a real American hero and join me in praying for his wife, children, grandchildren and friends. They have lost a giant, as we all have.

Men like "uncle Junior" saved this country and defined this country as land of heroes who did their duty in service and at home.

It is humbling. God be with "Uncle Junior" and his wife, children and grandchildren.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Daylight Savings Time Nonsense

This weekend, we set our clocks forward one hour early Sunday morning to put them on Eastern Daylight Savings Time. Normally I would not care to comment about this little oddity of time change we do in the United States.

However, last evening I heard something on an ABC radio news report that struck me. The reporter said that this weekend we would get an extra hour of sunlight early because of the act Congress passed in 2005 changing the dates of so called daylight savings time.

I cringed. Did that reporter really mean to come across as saying the United States Congress can add an hour of daylight to the Earth? The hours the sun shines upon the Earth do not change, merely the time we assign to those hours changes.

The reporters can not really be blamed all that much. For the Congress and the Bush Administration both hailed the change in time standards as giving an extra hour of sunlight and thus lowering energy costs. It boggles the mind of reasonable person who knows even the most basic facts of science.

The crux of the argument for saving energy is that with more evening daylight hours, people will use lights or heating less. That might make sense until you consider on Monday morning, the average family, which is usually up by six or six thirty in the morning to get everyone off to work and school, will wake up to darkness. Thus, they will use their lights in the morning that they would otherwise use in the evening. (Also there will be school children standing at bus stops around the nation in darkness.) Further, heating costs are determined by the actual temperature outside. As most people follow their energy company's instructions and keep their thermostat on one setting all the time, the change of time will make little, if any, difference. The hours of heating sunlight will remain unchanged. Because, believe it or not folks, the Sun is not under the control of the Congress and President.

Even the Bush Administration's Department of Energy is skeptical about the savings this time change will bring. As such, they are spending money on a study to find out what difference the time change makes. Even under a Republican President, the government is going to spend money to see if a cockeyed idea saves money. Go figure.

I realize there are plenty of ignorant people in the United States. I saw a report one time when the NBC show The West Wing was popular that three per cent of the American public thought Jed Bartlett, the name of the character who was President in the show, was the President of the United States. It is my guess that a far greater number actually believe that the acts of the Congress and President determines the amount of time the sun shines upon us.

And, we wonder why we get our behinds kicked in science, math and business by China and others.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Voting Under the Influence Presidential Straw Poll

With all of the attention being given to straw polls in the Palmetto State recently, I decided to conduct a blog straw poll here on Voting Under the Influence. If the Republican or Democratic Presidential primaries were held today, who would you vote for. You can respond through the commenting feature. Also, feel free to let us know why. The votes will be tallied at the end of the week. Have fun, and thanks for participating. We will see if the Voting Under Influence straw poll gets it right.