Sunday, December 30, 2007

Huckabee for President

Voting under the Influence is proud to endorse Mike Huckabee for President of the United States. Now more than ever, the United States of America needs a President who is sincere in his convictions and can bring about the real change needed in government.

For far too long, politicians on both the right and left seem to be bought and paid for by big money, not big ideas. Mike Huckabee is a man with big ideas. His biggest idea is embracing the Fair Tax, a national consumption tax that would replace the federal income tax. Voting under the Influence will dedicate an entire posting to the Fair Tax in the coming days.

A brief summary of the benefits of the Fair Tax will be offered in this post. First, the Fair Tax would collect money from everyone in our economy, including the illegal aliens who work and live in the United States put pay no taxes. Second, it would eliminate special interest tax loopholes that are essentially written by lobbyists for special interest groups. Third, it would provide a provision for lower income folk to get vouchers to offset their consumption tax. Fourth, it would give people a better idea of just how much government costs when they are in the checkout line and inspire limited government. Last, but not least, the Fair Tax would give Amercian businesses a fighting chance to compete against businesses from other nations that have cheap labor and manipulate their currencies.

The Fair Tax is not the only reason to consider Mike Huckabee. There is his experience in life and in public office. He was a minister for years before entering public office, and that experience gave him the right mix of conservative values with compassion for others. Huckabee was an effective Republican Governor in a Democratic state, bringing about tax reform, education reform and government reform. Huckabee has been a consistent voice for gun rights, conservative values and reform.

Do not be misled by some of the attack ads against Huckabee stating he is a tax raiser. While is true some taxes were raised under Huckabee's time as Governor, what is left unsaid is how other taxes were lowered in a reform effort to make taxes fairer and government smaller.

There is also a very personal reason I support Mike Huckabee. It is his personal will and discipline to overcome Type II Diabetes. Several years ago Huckabee was diagnosed with the disease. He chose to fight it by changing his diet and excercising. Huckabee's efforts paid off with him losing substantial weight and getting his blood sugar levels under control. For the first time ever publicly, I state that I share the same battle. As I have worked to lose weight and control my blood sugar, I have come to appreciate the personal discipline of Mike Huckabee and the compassion one suddenly feels for others when you find yourself fighting a chronic disease. It makes one understand he is not superman and that God controls a whole lot more than we think.

So, there we have it . A humble, disciplined man, tested in politics and in personal health standing to be President. No amount of foreign travel or big money or time in the media spotlight can equal the experience of a man who has been tested in the ministry, in government, and his own personal life. America's best Presidents have always been men tested by some adversity of sorts that led them to be comfortable with who they were and what they believed.

Mike Huckabee is that kind of man. Mike Huckabee will make a great President.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Big Political Stories of 2007

One word can sum up 2007 in political, cultural and sports worlds: unpredictable.

In the sports world, all kind of crazy things happened. First, my beloved Gamecocks went 6-1 and were ranked #6 in the country, only to lose five in a row and not be invited to a bowl game. Lowly Appalachian State beat Michigan at Michigan! Major League Baseball crowned a new home run king in Barry Bonds, only to see Bonds indicted for lying to a federal grand jury investigation steroids. After years of fans having a love-hate relationship with Clemson football coach Tommy Bowden, the coach and the school inked a multi-million dollar deal that will likely keep Bowden in Clemson for years to come, just weeks after fans were calling for his coaching head.

Politics took a lesson from sports. The big stories have been unpredictable, even to the most learned of political observers.

First, there was the Thomas Ravenel story. Who would have believed that the rising star in the Republican party and newly elected State Treasurer would resign in disgrace over a cocaine scandal? Outside of a few hardcore Grady Patterson fans, only those with intimidate knowledge of Ravenel saw anything close coming.

Then there is the Governor of South Carolina. Who would have thought that the man who portrays himself as the ultimate clean politician would get caught directing mixed state and private funds for the Governor’s Conference in Charleston to his private political movement organization? I have been a critic of the Governor, but even I could not foresee something so brazen and/or politically stupid.

Add to that the bar exam scoring controversy. With one apparently political tone deaf act, the South Carolina Supreme Court has the legislature talking about talking away the court’s exclusive control over lawyers. While I have contended that I do not believe that the court acted in an unethical manner whatsoever, it has to be noted that in the first time in our state’s history, a movement to redefine how lawyers are regulated is politically viable. Perhaps their very own non political nature got the best of the Court in his regard. It proves that even if a court acts judicially without regard to politics, politics can come back to undermine the court.

In the South Carolina House, with key retirements in 2006, Speaker Bobby Harrell solidified his power. Also, the Speaker began appearing in several “public service” announcements which look an awful like early gubernatorial campaign ads to get his name out statewide. The Speaker also had his own television show appearance on ETV when the legislature was in session.

Some political stories have been predictable, just to prove the unpredictable rule of 2007. The ongoing saga in Anderson County between County Council member Cindy Wilson and County Administrator Joey Preston took the usual twists and turns and as I covered this story more, I could all but write the sides each would take and how each would act. The same is true for the Governor versus the General Assembly. The Governor does not like them. The General Assembly in general does not like him. Yawn. We got it a couple of years ago.

Other stories, like some of the ones mentioned above have been more unpredictable and help define this year. Who would think that a hefty number of real property tax payers would see their tax bills stay roughly the same or even go up after the legislature added a penny sales tax to shift money for education from the local property tax to the state sales tax?

Who would have thought the Republican Presidential Primary would be so wild? While I admit I knew who Mike Huckabee was and especially liked his Fair Tax plan this time last year, I did not believe he would be the leader in the polls in South Carolina at Christmas this year.

John McCain faltered from front runner status to also-ran only to rebound a bit as the year closed. Rudy had surprising political staying power, only to fade a bit as the year closed out. Fred Thompson, who seemed like the Savior of the GOP right in the Spring, ended up being a political bomb of sorts so far. Thompson is fighting for his political life in Iowa as you read this.

The one that was easy to foresee in the Presidential race was something I stated earlier this year. Romney got nasty. He has the money and the people around him to get nasty and go positive at the same time. He did so not only in South Carolina but around the nation.

The last, and perhaps most significant unpredictable political story of the year is the subtle rise of the influence of President George W. Bush. The troop surge he pushed in Iraq appears to be working. The Democratically controlled Congress has approval ratings that hover in the low to mid twenties, a full ten to fifteen points below the President’s. As a result, the President, who was dubbed a lame duck and caretaker this time last year, has become a real player in the budget process this year. Regardless of whether it was something the President and his people done this year, or things like the hundreds of thousands of dollars Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent on flowers, one thing is certain, the President has a heck of a lot more influence than any pundit could imagine as 2008 begins. I still believe Bush will be all but politically radioactive on the campaign trail in most of the country this year, but his strong close of this year gives him a real seat at the table on governing issues.

I could go on with more political stories, like the resignation of Tommy Moore, the election of Converse Chellis as State Treasurer, and on an on. But, I have already been pretty longwinded. Let me know what you think the big political stories were in 2007. Between now and the end of the year I and the crack staff of Voting under the Influence will give our bold predictions of the political scene for 2008 Stay safe out there as you enjoy the holiday season and thanks always for reading and commenting.

Monday, December 24, 2007



Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Humble Birth of Christ

The Christmas story is one that has always fascinated me. While, I, like everyone else, enjoy Santa, fun songs, and getting together with family and friends, it is the humble beginnings of Jesus Christ that make me humbly reflect upon myself and the time we live in.

Imagine what it must have been like for Joseph and Mary. The government was forcing them to travel to their hometown, where they no longer had a residence, for a census. They were poor people and such a trip was not an easy one. Further, they had absolutely no social status. Mary had become pregnant before marrying Joseph. Now we look upon her as the Blessed Virgin. However, with human nature as it is, one knows that that name was probably not the one Mary was called by some around her. Indeed, if you doubt the low status of Joseph and Mary, remember that a pregnant woman far along in her pregnancy could not even get a room in a simple inn for the night. She and Joseph were put in a barn. We call it a manger, and romanticize it today, but it was a barn, with animals, animal smells, and just a bit of hay to sleep upon.

It was about the humblest place anyone could enter this Earth. Yet, that is where God chose to have his only begotten Son born. A star did appear upon Jesus's birth and wise men did travel to give him gifts that signified royalty. Yet, that does not strike me nearly as much as the humble start.

Two humble people, poor and without power, were chosen by God to raise His Son. Great scholars were not chosen. Kings and Queens were not chosen. What we would consider the least among us were.

I suppose if Jesus were born into today's world instead of the time he was in, it might happen to a faithful couple who worked at a farm, in a factory or in a Wal-Mart and lived in a single wide trailer home. I know that will make some people uncomfortable. But, the birth of Christ is supposed to.

It needs to make us uncomfortable in how we judge one another so easily. Even the most pious of us write off the prisoner, the "redneck," the guy riding the trash truck, or the immigrant picking fruit and so on. Yet, if those people are faithful, in God's eyes they are equal to us, if not our betters if we do not have their faith.

The concepts God teaches us through the life of his Son are hard to accept easily. It goes against human nature. It is so easy for us to judge the man or woman who are broke, or made a mistake, or who don't have the things and success some of us do. But, if one takes the time to think on the humility of the Christmas story, and indeed the humility of the life of Christ, it becomes clear that God wants us to have compassion and understanding for one another, even if our instincts seem to makes us more inclined to judge instead of love.

Sometimes I actually have some pity for the innkeeper. Had the innkeeper knew who was about to be born, he surely would have given up the finest room he had in the inn. But, he did not, and acted out of human nature. The innkeeper is an example of how many of us act, myself included, toward people when our human nature takes over. However, like the innkeeper, we really have no idea of just who we are dealing with when we issue a slight, deny forgiveness, deny mercy or judge.

The Christmas story has been dubbed the greatest story ever told. And, it is. In one simple story, God reveals to us He has love for all of us, regardless our station or past, and what we all should think of one another.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sorry, Governor Romney

Sorry Governor Romney, a picture is worth a thousand words. Ex- Governor Mitt Romney's pro-life stance took a blow recently when a Boston newspaper released a photo of him attending a Planned Parenthood fundraising event in 1994. Romney's wife also cut a check to the group at the event.

The Governor had this to say from the Boston Globe:

"I attend a lot of events when I run for office. I don’t recall the specific event," the former Massachusetts governor said as he campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination. "I think I’ve made it very clear. I was pro-choice, or effectively pro-choice, when I ran in 1994. As governor I’m pro-life and I have a record of being pro-life and I’m firmly pro-life today."

So, lets get it straight. When Romney was running for Senator from and Governor of Massachusetts, he was pro abortion, to appeal to the voters. Now Romney is running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, he is pro-life, again to appeal to the voters he faces in the primary.

I am not judging the man on his stand on abortion. It is his right to choose to be on one side or the other. What bothers me is that appears to be a man who will appeal to whatever base he faces, without principles. That just adds to his slickness.

Add that to the half truths he is using to attack former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and well, it seems Romney will use any words at his disposal to try to become President. The picture of him at the Planned Parenthood fundraiser is worth a thousand words. Two of the words that come to mind for me are "slick opportunist."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Calhoun Falls school closings show that old mill towns are going the way of railroad stop towns

There is quite a measure of controversy in Abbeville County today. The Abbeville County school board voted to close Calhoun Falls High School and Calhoun Falls Middle School this week. The vote was so controversial that the two members of the Abbeville County School Board from the Calhoun Falls area promptly resigned their seats.

Everything from educrat envy to a Louis Farrakhan group buying land in the region has been cited as a reason for the move by those who know Abbeville County politics. I personally wonder how the logistical nightmare of busing students from the Calhoun Falls area to Abbeville and Due West schools will play out. There will be kids next year who will be on a school bus for hours before and after school.

That said, I see something else at work other than the cries of jealousy and racism. I see the situation in Abbeville as a prime example of an upstate mill town going the way of the old railroad stop towns.

Not only in the upstate, but throughout South Carolina, little towns were created because they were fueling stops for railroads. You can note which towns fit in that category now by seeing that the towns are one sided, so to speak, with all old town buildings on one side of street facing the old railroad. One can also note that in the vast majority of those old railroad stop towns, the economic engine is dead.

An example of such a railroad town can be found in Abbeville County in Donalds. Donalds was once a rather thriving little area. There was a town built facing the railroad stop. When the train had to stop to refuel with water, coal, wood, whatever, the little town thrived. When the trains no longer had to stop, Donalds began to shrink away. Though it even kept a policeman on duty until the 1980s, the little town is now a shell town. There is a gas station, and branch of bank that prides itself on rural services, an antique shop and a small collection of houses. Donalds still has a post office, but it is not what can be considered a real town.

On the other side of Abbeville County sits Calhoun Falls. Calhoun Falls saw its heyday during the textile mill era. As the mills needed workers, the workers moved to the town, lived there and spent money there. As textiles moved out, the town’s population and money dwindled.

Now, Calhoun Falls is dealt the ultimate death blow to any small town’s identification: the loss of its public schools. In South Carolina, small towns rally around their local high schools especially. They take pride in their sports teams and the like. Losing that sense of pride is often the beginning of the end of any small town.

Thus, Calhoun Falls’s loss of its schools is a stark example of the textile town now going the way of the railroad stop town. Other former textile towns such as Ware Shoals, Belton, and my home Honea Path had better take note. Either such towns should take immediate action to bring in economic development and keep its people and money, or lose itself forever.

If you doubt that, not only note Donalds, but think of the town of Chappells, South Carolina. This little dot on the road map was once a full blown town. The essence of the town is now in ruins, off of Highway 39, rotting in the woods. While there is a little post office still, the old town itself fades away in the leaves of each autumn.

The question that should concern us in South Carolina about the Calhoun Falls school situation is not who did what when in Abbeville County local politics. We should instead ask ourselves what can be done to the old textile towns to keep them from rotting away in the leaves of future autumns.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Fiddling while Rome burns in Anderson County

Emperor Nero of Rome supposedly was so out of touch with reality that he fiddled while the great fire of Rome was going on. After reading various news accounts of the ongoing saga of Anderson County Council Member Cindy Wilson versus Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston, I am beginning to wonder if Ms. Wilson, Mr. Preston and the local newspaper did not take music lessons from Nero.

Ms. Wilson has had several years on Anderson County Council, and Mr. Preston has had several years as Administrator. Who is right or who is wrong in their saga seems to have gripped the actions of county government and county political discourse.

Through her intense efforts, Ms. Wilson got some credit card receipts from cards held by the county. From them, she released to the media that the cards had been used to get fast food and food at Hooter’s, among other minor instances. That stands as Cindy Wilson’s crowning accomplishment after years of service on council.

To Wilson and her supporters, such a find is proof that the end of the world will certainly come if Mr. Preston is not burned at the stake. For Mr. Preston and his supporters, Ms. Wilson is a nutcase that has committed an illegal act.

To those of us who live in Anderson County and have the sense to see some of the problems around that we face, we are tired of this political game.

Anderson County is a unique place in that it has two very different economies. First, there is the growth that springs from being in close proximity of Greenville. There are serious growth issues to be dealt with in those areas. Second, there are the old textile towns in the southern part of the county, which face going the way of the old railroad fuel stop towns if something is not done to improve infrastructure, bring in economic development, and work to find ways to do some environmental cleanup at the old mills. The EPA had to step in in nearby Ware Shoals after a huge fire. Belton, Honea Path and Iva should have county leaders that act before such a thing happens.

There are bridges in the county fire engines can not drive over. There are secondary roads in desperate need of repair, especially in Wilson’s district.

Yet, Wilson fiddles away about who went to Hooter’s. Just once, as one of her constituents, I would like to see her use the obvious gifts of determination, tenacity and stubbornness she has to fight for the people of her district the way she fights Mr. Preston.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Braggin' on Grandma

My grandmother, Nettie McCarty was one of the four nominees for Greenwood County Neighbor of the Year. The award is presented by the Chamber of Commerce.

From an article in the Index Journal on December 9th:

" McCarty is the founder of the 96 Mill Village Neighborhood Association. She was nominated by Regina Berry, the association president. McCarty has lived and worked in Ninety Six for more than 40 years.

She began her own clown ministry, entertaining and ministering to her community. Although she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, McCarty still contributes and supports her community through numerous volunteer projects. After having her grandson committed to a drug and alcohol rehab facility, McCarty put together a committee to establish a “March Against Drug and Crime,” that more than 200 people participated in. Through McCarty’s inspiration the 96 Mill Village Association has been able to turn their neighborhood around and begin to make a difference in the community, Berry said.

“Netty McCarty proved the theory of the Power of One,” Berry said. “(She) made a huge difference in the lives of many and deserves recognition for her efforts.” "

What the article does not say is my grandmother's Parkinson's is advanced. She struggles with it each and every day, yet she finds the strength within to be active in her community.

She an outstanding example for all of us.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Day that will live in Infamy

December 7th, 1941 started out like any other Sunday on the islands of Hawaii. Military men off duty awoke hung over from their night before. Those on duty got up with a laid back attitude. It was a sort of an off day. A good many senior officers were on shore leave. Those men left to man the ships and the base were thinking of drinking some coffee, going to chapel and getting in a fairly easy day of duty.

What they got at 7:55 AM was the ultimate wakeup call. The Japanese Navy attacked Wheeler Air Field and Pearl Harbor naval base with furiousness. The attack would leave thousands dead. Not until September 11th, 2001, would the United States face such a direct assault on its soil.

While it would be easy to go on about the heroes of that day, and there were some real heroes, I will talk about politics. (One hero that comes to mind is the one the now late Jim Cooley told me about. He saw a man who kept firing his machine gun at the planes as they came over Wheeler. The man fired until the water cooled machine gun, without water to cool it, burned the man’s arm.)

Those in the major media and in the Republican Party would have you believe that the Democrats going after President Bush and his team over September 11th are unprecedented in their criticism of a sitting Commander in Chief. They are wrong.

Politics has always been present. In the almost immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Republicans in Congress were hinting that President Roosevelt knew of the attack in advance and let it happen to get the United States into war. Indeed, there is now documented evidence that suggests that Roosevelt’s 1944 Republican opponent for the Presidency was set to make Roosevelt’s knowledge of the attack a campaign issue before being talked out of it by General George Marshall, who did not want the Japanese to know the United States knew their code.

There was a heated Congressional investigation in 1946 into the Pearl Harbor attack. The investigation broke down on strict party lines. The Republicans screamed to the high heavens. The Democrats defended the then late President Roosevelt.

Roosevelt now ranks among the people and professional historians as one of our greatest Presidents. But, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, his political opponents went after him full throttled. The debate continues today. Just search “Pearl Harbor Roosevelt” and you will get a slew of websites and blogs dedicated to the idea Roosevelt knew about the attack in advance and did nothing.

That is not much different than what President Bush faces today. Just switch the party labels and you get pretty much the same thing: blame being readily laid at the doorstep of the President of the United States of the opposite party.

Things are not nearly as strange politically as some would have you believe. Politics has always been a tough game.

Another thing that has not changed is the heroes in the midst of tragedy. Who knows what President knew what when. But, one thing is clear on December 7th, 1941, like September 11th, 2001, a lot of good people died serving their country and communities. It is for them, those brave people who died that day 66 years ago we should never forget Pearl Harbor.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

British teacher’s plight in Sudan tells us the lunacy we are up against

On a regular basis, the media tells us how we in the United States must be more tolerant of Islam and even Islamic extremists. Those voices seem to contend that if we just tolerate their views, we will have peace.

A case developing in the Sudan shows otherwise. Gillian Gibbons, a 54 year old British teacher who went to Sudan to help, is now imprisoned over what some would call a downright silly thing. Gibbons decided to name a teddy bear in her class room “Muhammad” after the class she taught decided that the teddy bear should be named after one of their more popular classmates. There are various news reports on the subject, but the link found at gives a clear picture about what is going on.

Islamic extremists are rallying by the thousands to call for the death of Gillian Gibbons for insulting their prophet. It is noted that Islamic leaders in the United Kingdom seem to oppose this and are working for her release. I commend them for that. However, the very notion that the simple naming of a teddy bear would lead people to call for one’s death shows us the difference in the cultures we now face.

Think about it for a moment. Suppose someone named their teddy bear “Moses.” Sure, some Jews might be offended. However, it is inconceivable that those offended Jews would call for the death of the person who named the teddy bear. Suppose someone named a teddy bear “Jesus.” Perhaps a handful of fanatics would be upset, but again, I can not see them calling for someone’s death.

A more likely example for Christians would come in South America, where a good many children are named Jesus. It is not conceivable that devout South American Catholics would demand the death of a teacher who allowed her students to name a teddy bear in the classroom “Jesus” after a popular school mate.

One can not also see Buddhists calling for the death of some teacher who named a teddy bear Buddha.

Some pundits call the Islamic extremists evil. Others call them insane. Take your pick. There is something wrong with any religion that demands the death or even the imprisonment of a human being over something as simple as the name of a teddy bear chosen by children. What compounds this wrong is that the woman who is at the center of this pure hate is a woman who went to Sudan to help.

The calls for her death are outrageous and hateful. They are based upon the evil or insane manipulation of the ignorant by a handful of power hungry monsters that seem to care more about showing their power than communing with and understanding God. It is a clear example of the hate and lunacy we in the western world are up against.

Yet, we are asked by some among us to tolerate those who hate us so and who would kill innocent people for insane reasons. Christ did tell us to pray for our enemies, but he did not tell us to let them dictate to us how to live or what is civilized.

The treatment of teacher Gillian Gibbons should be called for what it is: flat wrong on all accounts, civil, religious and moral. It should also be a wakeup call for those of us who think that extreme Islam just wants to live in peace with us. They do not. They want to kill us over the least of things.