Friday, May 29, 2009

Pardons and Judicial appointments would make Governor more powerful

Governor Mark Sanford has correctly pointed out the weakness of the current state of the office of Governor of South Carolina. Though modern era governors such as Strom Thurmond, Ernest Hollings and Carroll Campbell used the force of their political personalities to be effective leaders, the fact remains that South Carolina’s Governor is among the weakest in the nation. Sanford has emphasized eliminating elected executive offices. However, that move, even if it came to fruition, does little to give the Governor real power. Real power for an executive in government comes from the ability to pardon and to appoint judges.

The constitution of 1896 that Sanford criticizes actually gave the Governor power over pardons and parole. However, the term of Governor Coleman Blease from 1911-1915 changed that. Blease all but abused his pardon powers, sparking the legislature to take such powers away from a Governor and place them with the Pardons and Parole Board. Now, all a Governor can do himself is to commute a sentence. Restoring a Governor’s right to issue absolute pardons would add real power to the office.

However, the truest source of power for the national executive and for a good many state executives is the power to nominate judges. President Obama reminded of all us this past week. As it stands, the South Carolina General Assembly appoints a board to review judicial candidates, selects three, and then votes on who should fill the position. The General Assembly has complete control over the Judicial Department of South Carolina in that it controls who the candidates for judicial positions are and decides who to elect from among them.

Judges, from Family Court to the Supreme Court, affect South Carolina lives each and every day. There is no greater influence an executive could have than to nominate someone to the courts and have that nominee serve well past the executive’s term of office.

In that, the federal system is actually pretty good. The President, the executive, nominates a judge, and then the legislative branch, through Senate confirmation, gets a chance to weigh in on the decision. Both branches have their say over the third branch.

Such is not the case in South Carolina. The appointments to the various levels of the Judicial Department are controlled by the Legislative Department. The Governor or the Executive Department has little if any say.

With Presidential aspirations on the line, it is baffling that Governor Sanford worries more about his successors being able to appoint the Commissioner of Agriculture than judges. If the Governor of South Carolina had the power to appoint judges, with the advice and consent of the South Carolina State Senate, the power of the office would increase dramatically. Such would put a check on the Legislative Department and make the Judicial Department accountable to both the Executive and Legislative Departments, which is the spirit of the “republican” form of government created by the founding fathers with “checks and balances.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Howard Rich's SC GOP

There is a lot of talk about RINOs these days. Such RINOs are defined as Republicans in Name Only. Among the list of RINOs that bloggers and politicos are attacking are stalwart Republicans like state senators Harvey Peeler and David Thomas.

David Thomas was working to elect Republicans while most of the well paid puppets for Howard Rich and Mark Sanford were in elementary school. While those who scream about private school tuition credits were trying to please their fourth grade teachers in, gulp, public schools, Republicans like David Thomas were out fighting for Carroll Campbell and Ronald Reagan.

What does Thomas and others like him get for that lifetime of service? Insults and attacks from well paid bloggers who frankly have no clue what went into to building up the South Carolina Republican Party. Stalwart Republicans like Thomas and Harvey Peeler and others are attacked and maligned simply because they do not take the Sanford/Rich money and allow themselves to be puppets.

Let’s be clear about what has happened to the party of Carroll Campbell and Strom Thurmond. Under Campbell and Thurmond, the South Carolina GOP became a party in which people who agreed on things like family values, gun rights and lower taxes were welcomed. Not so in Mark Sanford and Howard Rich’s new SC GOP. If you are not on the payroll of Howard Rich and you dare to believe in anything Rich does not tell Sanford to support, you are labeled a RINO and quickly attacked by well paid operatives.

One cannot blame the bloggers and politicos who are paid well. A man and his family need to eat. However, it would be refreshing if those bloggers and politicos who so quickly label people as RINOs and attack anyone who disagrees with how they are paid to respond would just come clean and let us all know that they are getting paid, and paid well, to attack folks.

Frankly, for those of us old Republicans, or I guess RINOs, since we are not getting paid by Howard Rich and friends, it is insulting that those who are nothing more than political mercenaries pretend that they have the good of the public or the party at heart. People with sense know better. Those operatives are getting paid to destroy the coalitions built over years by the likes of Campbell and Thurmond. Those operatives are paid political hacks that come into South Carolina, like their benefactor’s money, without having a clue about the history of the state and how a Democratic state was transformed into a Republican one.

Instead, with their big checks from whomever out of state, those operatives use their well paid for voices to attack and label people who built the SC GOP from nothing. Those well paid operatives have no understanding of the state and its history. They only know how to espouse the views they were paid to espouse. Fair enough. Those operatives are bought and paid for. But, if SC elects more Democrats than it should, despite the money, those well paid operatives should not sit around and pout, but take responsibility for running the so called RINOs out who built the GOP’s strength and who delivered it wins for years. Indeed, having a New York real estate mogul run the GOP show in SC would make Strom Thurmond spin in his grave.

Let’s be frank, the SC GOP has been hijacked by well paid political mercenaries who really don’t give a damn about how things in South Carolina turn out, as long as the checks clear.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

North Korea's tantrum

North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Il, aka “little Kim,” is at it again. The reportedly porn loving dictator has been a thorn in the side of Presidents of the United States for the past fifteen years. Indeed, North Korea has a pattern of testing American Presidents early in their administration.

Kim, acting as de facto leader of North Korea for his then ailing father, tested Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1994 by threatening to invade South Korea and restart the Korean War. Clinton went to South Korea and delivered a speech promising the annihilation of North Korea if it attacked. President Bush was tested in 2001 and 2002 by North Korea pursuing nuclear technology and selling arms to terrorist states and groups. Bush declared North Korea part of his “Axis of Evil.” Neither Presidents Clinton nor Bush did anything of substance to solve the North Korean question.

For whatever reason, the two previous Presidents were caught flat footed so to speak when it came to dealing with North Korea. President Obama is no exception. Just last week, President’s Obama’s State Department saw the North Korean situation as quiet and did not even have a full time staffer devoted to the Six Party Talks dealing with North Korea and its nuclear weapons.

Much has been reported over the past fifteen years about the potential madness of Kim Jong Il. Kim’s love of porn and luxury are pointed out as signs of his potential madness. Recent questions about his health have surfaced. Frankly, such questions are a distraction to the main question that faces the President and his team. What does Kim Jong Il want?

Over the past fifteen years, when Kim misbehaves, he is after some sort of concession. Testing a full sized nuclear weapon that for years he denied he really had suggests that Kim is after something big. Is it support from China for his son to succeed him? Is it to shore up domestic political questions? Is it to gain direct talks with the United States, putting him on par with the President of the United States? It is to have sanctions lifted?

Unless Kim is truly mad, he would never use his nuclear weapons on Japan, the United States, China or Russia or even South Korea. The result would be the destruction of his regime and his nation. The Obama Administration needs to find out what Kim wants to achieve by his misbehavior and make sure Kim does not get what he wants.

One strong gesture the Obama Administration could make is pull out of the Six Party talks. The Six Party talks were basically a concession to North Korea by previous administrations and they have not worked. Further, the Obama Administration could form some sort of missile defense pact with Japan.

Chances are neither measure suggested will be taken. Instead, there will likely be back channel concessions by the United States and the others in the Six Party talks. That is exactly what Kim wants. Crazy indeed.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Boys of Saluda and beyond

Perhaps we forget about what Memorial Day is all about. With the big races and the barbecues, it is easy to forget what the holiday is really about. It is about my grandfather’s brother, Sgt. Ira J. “Pete” McCarty, a tank gunner who died in the closing days of World War II in Germany. Pete was one of those Boys of Saluda whose name marks a monument on the Saluda Courthouse grounds that honors the farm boys who gave up their lives, their sweethearts and their dreams for the rest of us. My grandfather served honorably in the United States Navy, and went on to live without his dear brother.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the war for our freedom continues. Each and every day, some boy of Saluda gives, regardless of where he is from, the full dedication for the rest us. Every soldier lost is a boy of Saluda. Take a moment to think of those boys of Saluda and the boys of your hometown who gave the full measure of devotion to us all. That is what Memorial Day is really all about.

I have had the high honor to attend a dear friend’s funeral at Arlington. But, the deepest of chills are felt when I read those names of the Boys of Saluda on that courthouse yard monument. I think of the lives those young men could have had. I think of the dreams they had. I think of their sweethearts waiting for them in vain. I read out loud the names and I think of the debt we all owe those Boys of Saluda for the very freedoms we enjoy.

God bless the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. God bless the souls of those who have given this nation the full measure of devotion. May we all realize and appreciate the sacrifice of those like the Boys of Saluda and beyond. That is what Memorial Day is all about.


How bout them Bears

Congratulations to the Belton Honea Path Bears baseball team, the 2009 state champions. VUI is proud of the Bears and wishes all of them the best as they pursue careers in the minors or college level baseball. Thank you Bears, for making folks in Belton and Honea Path proud. How bout them Bears!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Anderson County Council: Where's the Beef?

After nearly six months and tens of thousands of dollars spent on lawyers and accountants investigating the previous county council and administrators, the people of Anderson County have yet to get specifics on wrong doing. One Council member summarily dismissed a few months ago on the telephone VUI's suggestion to let SLED investigate such matters.

While VUI certainly was no fan of the previous Anderson County Council or its previous Administrator, after all the taxpayer money spent and the time spent, it is time for the new council to release something that is of substance and produce the evidence that could lead to the criminal charges that the new council inferred.

In short, Cindy Wilson, Bob Waldrep, and cohorts, God Bless your hearts, but where's the beef in your accusations? Are we the taxpayers to keep paying thousands a month for investigations that produce nothing? You have had six months. It is time to show us what you have.

Governor Sanford out of his league on lawsuit

Last week VUI pointed out that Henry McCaster’s attack on Craig’s List could come make him look weak and petty. After Craig’s List fired a lawsuit back at McMaster, it is becoming clear that McMaster’s move on Craig’s List could be a stunt too far in the long run. McMaster had the chance to declare victory when Craig’s List reformed its adult section. Instead McMaster pushed, and now he faces civil litigation as he is almost forced to push would likely be a weak criminal case against the website.

Governor Mark Sanford faces the same problem. Rumors inside and outside the Governor’s Mansion have Sanford running for the White House in 2012. As such, it is understandable that Governor Sanford wanted to make a principled stand against the stimulus money coming from the Obama stimulus package to shore up his standing among conservatives in Iowa and beyond.

If Governor Sanford would have stopped at the veto, he could have claimed that he stood up against his own party, on principle, and vetoed a budget using the Obama stimulus money. Ads could have been crafted without giving major ammunition to other Republican candidates and the Obama team.

Yet, as he has done time and time again, Governor Mark Sanford does not know when to stop. The Governor is reportedly filing a lawsuit in federal court to stop the General Assembly from using the stimulus money in this year’s budget. If he loses, he might still claim something, but if he wins, it will derail his White House dreams.

Here is how. His Republican opponents and the Obama team will portray Sanford as a Governor so hellbent on his own out of the mainstream views that he hired high priced lawyers to make sure kids in public schools did not get the funding that they needed, that public safety officers did not get the money that they needed, and the prison system did not get the money it needed to keep prisoners behind bars. Further, they will talk about the chaos and the cost to South Carolina to have its General Assembly hauled back into session.

Of course, those who support Sanford and those especially who are paid well to espouse his opinion through organizations and websites will tout Sanford’s lawsuit as an act of true courage. Perhaps it is. It also takes courage to set one’s own head on fire. That does not mean that is the smart thing to do.

There is simply no way that Mark Sanford can stand up in Ohio or Florida in the fall of 2012 and explain to the moderate voters there that typically decide the Presidential election that using lawyers and lawsuits to deny money to core services is something they should buy into. The rhetoric and vetoes were a stand of principle. The lawsuit is an act of ego and self political destruction. It evens opens criticism from more conservative elements of the Republican Party that loathes bringing lawsuits into politics.

For all those pundits out there who think VUI is wrong on this, fair enough. We will see come 2012, if not before. Seven years ago, Mark Sanford won despite his eccentric ways because South Carolina is a very conservative state. Add to that, as much as VUI hates to admit it, but Sanford came across as the nicer guy compared to Peeler and then to Hodges. Tommy Moore had no real chance from the start. In other words, Sanford did well hitting the pitches in AA ball.

But the race for the White House is the major leagues. Like in major league baseball, everyone is very good and a mistake is amplified one hundred times more than in the minors. If the Governor pursues his lawsuit, it is a huge mistake, one that will likely even keep him for the Republican nomination. Even if President Obama fails miserably in the next three years, his personal charisma will only allow him to sink so low. Republicans will be looking for a winner. Frankly, it is hard to see that winner being someone who sued his own legislature to cut off funds his people will already have to pay for. The ads will be numerous.

One could read like this, “Governor Mark Sanford hired high priced lawyers to sue his state to cut funding to prisons so thousands of prisoners could be turned loose on South Carolina streets.” Another could read, “With the lowest education performance in the country, Governor Mark Sanford sued his state to make sure teachers were laid off and class room sizes were expanded.”

Sanford and his people play the game of politics like checkers, swapping jumps. The folks in the major leagues of politics play the game of politics like chess, thinking two or three moves ahead. The Obama team and some Republican teams are likely hoping Sanford wins his lawsuit. Ironically, Sanford’s team would probably think winning the lawsuit was a great victory.

If the Governor wants to be President, he is playing a dangerous game and he and his well funded team appear to be out of their league on this issue.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Perhaps the Two State Solution is a Mistake

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited President Obama in Washington for talks before President Obama's trip to Egypt next week. Commentators are raising their eyebrows at Netanyahu's refusal to openly back a two state solution.

Perhaps the two state solution is a mistake. It treats as equals a terrorist backed authority and a legitimate state government. Further, the Palestinians have not lived up to their agreement in 2003 to go after terrorist organizations. Indeed, their government is led by one. With the rhetoric of Hamas and others sounding eerily like the rhetoric of the Nazis, it is over optimistic to think that they will allow a two state solution. They want the Jews gone.

In 1948, the Jews agreed to a two state solution and making Jerusalem an international city. The Arabs refused and attacked. That has been the story for the past 61 years.

Indeed, all the extreme rhetoric seems to come around to one thing, getting rid of the Jews. Jews are taught to be hated in schools, mosques, and in homes. Palestinians have it ingrained to blame the Jews for their problems, their poverty and the health. So, naturally, some of them buy into it and go and kill some Jews having dinner at a pizza place. Israel gets angry and blows up a couple of apartment buildings were the murderers are. In doing so, they kill a few civilians. More fuel for the fire.

The world and the United States put pressure on Israel to pull back from some of its security measures. Indeed, Israel is more likely to be condemned for defending itself than any other nation-state on Earth. The United States certainly would not give up the things the United States asks Israel to give up. The idealism that created the state Israel was based upon the idea that a people who had been a victim of genocide would be safe and free from that threat. It was also said back then, never again. Well, ask the Christians in Darfur about that one.

Benjamin Netanyahu is savvy and smart. It is no shock that after 60 years of being told no for all sorts of reasons by the Palestinians that he did not embrace the two state solution. In is in the interest of the United States that a democracy such as Israel remains free and secure. It is immoral to not make sure that a people that went through so much are not allowed to be secure in their own borders now. After sixty years of the two state solution being tossed about, perhaps it is time to consider some other solution.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Your tax dollars at work

Here you will see an interesting video from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. The video is part of the "Palmettovore" campaign to encourage people to buy South Carolina vegetables. There is nothing wrong with the goal of the program. But, is this really the best use of taxpayer money the Department of Agriculture could think of this tough budget year?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

BHP Plus 20

After attending my 20 year high school reunion on Saturday night, I got to thinking about life and how it changes us and how it sometimes stays the same. By and large, most of the people I met again at the reunion were friendly and I enjoyed their company. I had a good time. It was also refreshing to see people who are my age with less grey in their beard. Like in any group, there were a couple of malcontents, but that did not stop me and the rest from having a great time fellowshipping with old classmates.

What really struck me is how life hits us all pretty hard. Whether classmates ended up in jail or in positions or power and prestige, one thing is constant, time changes us all. There were women there as pretty as they were as high school girls. There were guys there who were once great athletes but now carry 300 pounds. A good many were like me, nothing personality wise like I was when I was that eighteen year old kid who took that diploma.

But, the thing that really struck me is how, no matter what life threw at them, the people of the BHP Class of 1989 have turned out to be good people by and large. They raise their families. They work hard at their jobs. They give to their communities. In short, the vast majority of my old class are good people who live and work hard and who are nice and courteous in conversation today.

Now, in the twenty years since I took that diploma at BHP, I have been through a lot. There have been good things and there have been bad things. I saw and done things I am both proud of and not proud of. I suppose my life is defined more on the twenty years since BHP then my years in the BHP school system.

But, after spending an evening with my classmates, I have never been more proud to be a BHP graduate. I have written about all the living rooms I had been in South Carolina and about what I think about the people of South Carolina. Those old classmates are among the best. It was a pleasure to spend an evening with them. Like any group, the class of 89 has a few nutcases and bad folks. But, by and large, the Class of 1989 of BHP is a class I am proud to call myself a member of.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How bout them Bears

Congratulations to the Belton Honea Path Bears baseball team for winning the upper state championship Friday night. Good luck to the Bears as they square off against Camden for the state title next week.

Further, good luck to the track team members that will be competing at the state competition on Saturday.

How bout them Bears. All of those competing for championships make the towns of Belton and Honea Path proud. Go Bears!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Barrett,Haley and Grooms

No, VUI is not writing about some law firm. Congressman Gresham Barrett, Rep. Nikki Haley and State Senator Larry Grooms are all announced candidates for Governor that seem to fall within the category of being an heir to Mark Sanford.

Congressman Gresham Barrett has to be wondering what is going on. Barrett hauled in some big money, including money from those tied to the Sanford crowd. Despite his money, Barrett has failed to gain the traction to reflect the money rose. Perhaps that is why the Sanford crowd has Nikki Haley and Larry Grooms in the Governor’s race. Rumors have state senator Tom Davis of Beaufort, a former chief of staff under Sanford, considering the race as well.

There are several possibilities as to why Barrett is no longer the darling of the Sanford movement. First, his flip flop on the government bailout money has not played well to the Republican base. As such, the big money behind the Sanford movement could be placing their bets on another candidate in the race. Second, Barrett’s surprising weakness could have caused the financial backers of the Sanford movement to reach deep into their pockets and finance several candidates, in hopes that at least one makes the GOP primary runoff. Then, there is the possibility that Barrett insisted on being his own man, so to speak. The people who finance the Sanford movement do not tolerate that.

One thing is for sure, the conventional wisdom among some just a few months ago, including the sources of VUI, is shot. The notion that Barrett was the Sanford crowd’s guy, McMaster was the Quinn guy and Bauer was the Shealy guy is now invalid.

If fielding several candidates for Governor is what the Sanford crowd is up to, it is a high stakes gamble. It could either divide those who favor Sanford and result in two candidates in a runoff without Sanford ties or it could deliver two candidates with Sanford ties in the runoff. But, do not for a minute think that Nikki Haley and Larry Grooms got up one morning and said to themselves, “hey, I think I can be Governor,” without knowing they were going to get the money to do it.

Politics makes strange bedfellows

Earlier this week Will Folks over at FITSNEWS was again criticizing Adam Fogle of Richard Quinn and Associates for something Fogle wrote on his blog, the Palmetto Scoop. Those who read either of their blogs know the two scrape at one another from time to time.

But, it seems that they have found a common enemy: Lt. Governor Andre Bauer. With Folk’s pet candidate, Rep. Nikki Haley of Lexington County in the race for Governor, and Fogle working for Richard Quinn, who is handling McMaster’s campaign, the two found friendship yesterday in writing about charges that Lt. Governor Andre Bauer’s chief of staff will resign due to some sort of scandal with Senior Shield. Folk’s FITSNEWS post even cited Fogle’s Palmetto Scoop post. Wow.

The casual political observer might wonder how two men who scrape with one another seem to now join forces, as least for a post. It is simple, both Haley and McMaster need Bauer out of the picture. Haley needs the Lexington County GOP vote without any other Lexington County power in the picture. McMaster needs to be the only candidate with statewide ties on the ticket. There is also some of the aged old sentiment of “I hate that guy, but I hate that guy more,” involved.

The problem with the Folks and the Fogle posts is that neither offers any details about the alleged scandal revolving around Jim Miles. Those two guys are plugged in and it is unusual for them not to lay out the red meat details. Until the details are laid out, VUI reserves judgment on Bauer or Miles. As of now, this smacks of an effort to make political moves to ease Bauer out of the race.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

McMaster still going after Craig's List

Attorney General Henry McMaster has performed a solid job as Attorney General. For, example, his prosecution of those involved in the HomeGold/Carolina Investors scandal is laudable. It is not easy for a Republican to go after white collar crime, but McMaster did that and did it well.

That is why McMaster’s obsession with sex ads on Craig’s List is disappointing. Of course, no one really wants to defend the seedier side of life that the erotic services ads on Craig’s List had upon it. However, after Craig’s List operators moved to remove that section from their website and replace it with a monitored adult section, McMaster said that did not satisfy him.

Fair enough. However, if McMaster is going to go after Craig’s List, he had better be ready to go after AT&T. While it is true that AT&T is a big political donor to the state, AT&T clearly offers ad space in their yellow pages to escort services. If one believes that all of those escort services who advertise in the yellow pages are just for someone to show up with a man at a function with, there is some ocean front property in Belton you might be interested in.

Of course, South Carolinians will not hear McMaster threatening AT&T as he is threatening Craig’s List. There are reasons for that. First, AT&T is active in South Carolina, employs South Carolinians and makes sizable donations to politicians in both parties. The website Craig’s List does not. Thus, Craig’s List is a safe punching bag for the Attorney General to score moral points with the Republican primary base for next year’s gubernatorial primary. In other words, the attack on Craig’s List has less to do about the law than it does with politics.

That is disappointing. Henry McMaster has developed a fine reputation as a capable Attorney General. He has put the law before politics several times before in his office. However, it seems that now that his eyes are on the big prize of Governor, McMaster is ready for stunts to get attention.

Before McMaster allows this stunt to develop any more or add more stunts to his job, he should consider his predecessor. Charlie Condon was a respected Charleston prosecutor, who when advised by many of the same people that offer McMaster political advice, used stunts to get attention as Attorney General. As such, he finished a distant third to now Governor Mark Sanford and former Lt. Governor Bob Peeler in the 2002 GOP gubernatorial primary.

Attorney General McMaster is better than that. He has a record better than that. Here is hoping that he will not let well paid political consultants lead him down a road that makes him appear as a grandstanding carnival act in next year’s primary. For if McMaster pushes the Craig’s List issue and loses legally, which he could, he could join Condon as a well intentioned, ill advised also ran.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The South Carolina bashing is getting old

Perhaps we have to blame Governor Sanford. After all, it was Governor Sanford and his pack of out of state carpetbaggers that started bashing South Carolina about eight years ago. They told us that our state legislature was filled with crooks and clowns. They told us our state government was racist and our schools were a dismal failure. They told us that opportunities were limited for people in South Carolina. Never before in the history of the state has a Governor and his backers seemingly thought so little of South Carolina and got elected and re-elected.

Part of it has to do with the clichéd pseudo intellectualism of the “in” class in both parties. Being proud of South Carolina’s natural beauty, its people, its accomplishments and its rich culture and history is frowned upon by the chattering classes. If a politician wants big money from out of state and wants to lock up the transplant vote, he has to talk about how bad South Carolina is and how things are done better elsewhere. On the Democratic side, self loathing seems necessary for South Carolina Democrats who want to appease the Obama Administration’s early strikes against Sanford.

There are problems to be dealt with in South Carolina. However, the success of South Carolina is ignored by the Governor and his opponents. There are several things to be proud of that get ignored.

South Carolina has an outstanding State Park’s system that showcases South Carolina’s beauty and rich history. I have seen other places. But, the view of Jones Gap from atop Ceaser’s Head and the view of a sunrise on Hunting Island are among the most beautiful natural scenes that there are. There are the Carolina Bays, the Congraree Swamp, along with the waterfalls of the upstate. There is the Harbison State Forest in the Midlands. There is the history at Rose Hill Plantation and Charlestowne Landing.

South Carolina has remarkable people as well. While there are writers, singers, artists, comedians, commentators, politicians and astronauts that call South Carolina home, it is the average South Carolinian that ought to be spoken up for. Over the years, I have been thousands of living rooms from Sunset in Oconee County to Bluffton on the coast and all points in between. Most of us are more alike than different. Rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, it does not matter. By and large, South Carolinians are courteous, work to find a way to better their lives, and have the things that they are proud of on display in their homes. They are not stupid. They are not backwards and waiting for some politician to save them or their children. With the exception of some pockets of failure, most South Carolinians have their kids in public schools, and are proud of their kids and their school. They attend plays, recitals, ball games, and help with homework. They volunteer at ball games selling concessions, join the booster clubs and the PTO. Other South Carolinians give generously, even with meager means to their church and to charities. The people of South Carolina are generally a good people and they do not deserve the snake oil being sold to them by those who keep telling them how bad their lives are.

There are so many other good things to address about South Carolina, like the high tech jobs at BMW and other places in the upstate, the research done at Clemson and the University of South Carolina, and how a network of small colleges and technical colleges around the state make higher education a realistic goal for people of any age.

Over the past eight years perhaps no one in South Carolina has taken a harder hit than those in public education. We are told constantly that our schools are failing and are backwards. Reform in administration and curriculum is needed, but again, by and large, most teachers are hard working and dedicated to their jobs and get the job done. Frankly, most of South Carolina’s public schools do work. They turn out future doctors, lawyers, businessmen, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, soldiers, writers, artists and teachers. It is simple minded and ignorant of political activists to label public schools as a failure just because they choose to not let their children attend them or are paid by someone to attack public schools. The people who work hard to make their public schools work do not deserve that.

But, it is not about deserve. It is about big money from outside the state and national politics. I wish I could say that South Carolina will not get bashed anymore in the next few years, but chances are it is going to get worse. As it gets worse, chances are economic opportunities will decline. Part of the reason that Mark Sanford has not had a “BMW” type deal is because he runs down the state. It is hard to sell South Carolina as a place to come build a plant and live when the Governor himself calls education a failure and government broken and has his own paid for Greek chorus backing him up. (I wonder how many of the private school advocates will get that reference from a public school education.  )

Past Governors, Republicans and Democrats, and Republican leaders like Strom Thurmond and Floyd Spence always spoke well of the state, even if they wanted to change things. Not so in the Sanford era. Here is hoping that candidates for Governor in both parties dwell more on what is right about South Carolina and less about what is wrong. The South Carolina bashing is getting old.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

State ran private schools are coming and here's why

For several years, now there has a been a great debate in the South Carolina General Assembly about private school tuition tax credits. Outside money has poured into South Carolina, and paid political operatives well to contend for the issue. Never mind that legal precedents show it will result in private schools being regulated by the state or that it will not help the people that those who argue for the measure say it will. If not in this legislative session, at least by 2010, private school tuition tax credits will be a reality in South Carolina.

There are several reasons for the above. The first is legislative fatigue. The members of the General Assembly are human and frankly they are sick and tired of the tuition tax credit issue being such a big part of their legislative sessions. There is a sense, especially among Republican legislators, of just passing the legislation so it is not talked about anymore.

There is more than talk as stake as well. Legislators, especially Republicans, are growing weary of facing ne’er do well candidates in primaries who are well funded by outside of the state interests. The people of South Carolina seem to be too disengaged to care about how their state is being bought by outside interests, so their representatives are tiring of the fight. They will be likely to go along just to get a primary race out of the way.

Further, there is just a feeling of “let’s do this and move on” among many members of the General Assembly. The pro tax credit crowd has beaten down the General Assembly. Those guys seem to just want to do anything that will not bring up the issue, the money and the candidates again.

Also, the pro-public education crowd that opposes the tuition tax credits and the like has been weak and disorganized. There are well paid political operatives who dance to the same tune, so to speak on the side for private school tuition tax credits. Those well paid operatives are also willing to attack anyone involved personally at the least sign of opposition.

The pro public education crowd simply does not play by the same rules. They bring a political knife to a political gun fight. The pro public education crowd is divided on their message and weak when it comes to going for the political jugular. It seems the pro public education crowd lives under the illusion that the truth of matters will win out in politics. Their stance is naïve.

The pro tuition tax credit crowd plays hardball politics. That is why it would not shock VUI if some Senator or Representative shelved the tuition tax credit bill being considered now until next year. Next year will be an election year. Legislators tired of the argument and tired of facing ne’er do wells well funded by out of state donors will be more likely then to hold their noses and vote for the tuition tax credits to make the issue go away.

That is why VUI contends that either this year or next, tuition tax credits for private schools will become a reality in South Carolina. The pro public education establishment simply does not have the political chutzpa to prevent such.

However, knowing how the court system works, chances are a few years from now private schools will face government regulation. It happened to private colleges. It will happen to private K-12 schools. But, reading the political tea leaves, so to speak, it is inevitable. Taxpayer money will go towards private schools and with that money private schools will have to dance to the government tune. So much for real choice.

Such is the consequence of today’s political world. The better financed side wins, despite the fact that their argument might eventually hurt the people it claims to help. Helping people is not important these days. Doing what one is paid to do is.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

After 60 years, the Darlington Dream remains

About 60 years ago a Darlington landowner and farmer named Harold Brasington had an idea about creating a paved super speedway racetrack for the new stock car series that would become NASCAR. Locals thought he was nuts. Yet, Brasington pressed forward and worked to create the first NASCAR paved super speedway track. That is right, before there was a Daytona, there was Darlington.

The famed eggshape of the Darlington track came about because Brasington had to avoid a nearby pond and the wet land related to it. That egg shape became legend and the track became a test of legends such as Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordan. South Carolina boasts perhaps the most difficult race track on the NASCAR circuit and the perhaps the one most steeped in rich tradition.

The Daytona 500 has earned the nickname, “The Great American Race.” However, before there was the “Great American Race” there was the “the Great Southern Race,” and that was at Darlington, SC. NASCAR’s best will be fighting it out Saturday night to tame the infamous “Lady in Black” that is Darlington and stand among the legends who raced and won at Darlington. Fans will flock to the track and will revel in parties right up until the the green flag is dropped to start the race.

Indeed, Saturday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington will be a renewal of a great South Carolina tradition. South Carolina can be proud to have Darlington Raceway as part of it and have the nation looking to it Saturday night. VUI plans to be there and will bring more coverage of the legendary track and its legendary race. For, now, as Fox’s Darrell Waltrip says, “Let’s go racing boys, boogity, boogity boogity!” Tonight, we will do it Darlington style and showcase South Carolina.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Gay Marriage and Rights Issues

Thousands of years of Western civilization have recognized marriage as between a man and a woman. It did so not out some sort of moral superiority as those ignorant of history on the far left contend, but did so because the institution of marriage was created to protect the legitimate rights of children. While there were certain religious values considered, the marriage between a man and woman legally gave the children a stake in their parents’ estate.

The trend continued with the advent of the Social Security Insurance program in the United States in the 1930s. Spouse survival benefits and benefits for children under 18 were meant to benefit family units and to protect those who still had children or those who had helped raise children during their lives. Not until this day, has the social argument been about giving rights to someone just for being in a committed relationship with another.

As for that, gay rights activists claim to be helpless in such matters without marriage. That is simply not true. Gays are as helpless in such matters as single people or even married people who do not take the time to plan their estates and health care decisions. It is irking that those with political benefits to be had encourage gays to be victims instead of being proactive about using the tools at hand to have things as they want them. .

If a gay couple enjoys a committed relationship, they can have one another as beneficiaries on life insurance policies, designate powers of attorney for one another, created wills and living wills dictating who decides what and who gets what. The only exception is if the individual is in a heterosexual marriage, then the omitted heterosexual spouse can claim the elective share of one third of the estate. There is nothing that prevents a gay couple from having real property or bank accounts with joint rights of survivorship.

Further, making homosexuals a protected Civil Rights class is tricky and could be filled with potential fraud. Race and gender are clearly visible. Homosexuality is a behavior. One can claim he or she is homosexual and unless the potential contractor or employer is privy to the bedroom of the applicant, that potential contractor or employer has no way of knowing for sure.

Frankly, potential employers should not know such things. Opening the door to create a protected class out of one set of human behavior could lead to more behaviors having to be discussed. Life in America is already too intrusive. Questions about eating habits, tobacco use and now sexual preference are factored in deciding who can do the best job. What’s next a protected class for men who prefer overweight redheads who have tattoos?

Another tricky provision that passed the United States House of Representatives recently is the idea that speaking against homosexuals could constitute hate speech. That seems to fly in the face of religious freedom. Muslims, Christians, Jews, all have those among them who teach against homosexuality. Will that become a crime?

Perhaps we in America should go back to letting people live as they want to, as long as they do not demand the rest of us endorse it. It is simple isn’t it? If you are gay or you like to swing with the neighbors, who really cares, as long as you do not ask the rest of us to pay for it or give you some sort of recognition for how you live. Blame that on my business background. I do not care what someone does in their bedroom and who they do it with if that person offers me the best product or service for the best price. That is business. That is the true American way.

It is the height of arrogance for anyone, gay or straight, to ask that they be a protected civil rights class for sexual preferences. Gays are typically among the most affluent among us. They simply do not have the strength of the arguments other protected classes have had over the years. Further, it is arrogant and ignorant for gay activists to demand the right to marriage, an institution clearly designed for pro-creation.

I realize that my remarks will be called by some as homophobic. That is the cliched response of the far left. I have no fear of homosexuals. I do not judge them. I think people who go around screaming at them or trying to “deprogram” them and things like that are unsavory. I have worked with and respected gay people in the business place. But, by the same token, as I would not tell a homosexual how he or she should live, I ask in return that they not demand that my government and my tax money be made to cater to them. I ask that they not demand the government call cherished religious values hate speech. It is time the far left learned that live and let live works both ways, not just for them. The heterophobia needs to stop.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

China cuts off the tab

The past six months or so, the federal government of the United States, under two different Presidents, has spent money like a drunken sailor. The United States has been able to do so, in part, because China has floated the United States money for the tab. China has been doing so for over the past several years. However, apparently, the Chinese are now worried about whether or not investing in US bonds is a safe investment.

Though the Chinese probably have their own national foreign policy interests in play with the move, the acts of the United States Congress and President have given them the opening to play the concerned investor. So far this year, the deficit of the United States is around $958 billion at the halfway mark of the fiscal year. If the trend holds, this year’s deficit could top $1.9 trillion dollars. Let that sink in. Not since World War II has the deficit been such a large percentage of the nation’s Gross National Product. The overall debt the United States federal government owes is around $11.2 trillion, and could hit the $12 trillion mark by end of the fiscal year in October.

While those numbers are staggering, the Congressional Budget Office sees them getting worse. According to the CBO, by 2019, the debt of the United States will be over eighty percent of the Gross National Product. That is a recipe for complete financial collapse.

With foreign investors backing off financing the federal debt, the Federal Reserve is forced to buy up more and of the federal debt, which will eventually put inflationary pressures upon the American economy. If the United States chooses to print money to finance its deficit spending, inflation will come.

China knows that. They have traditionally been a patient and courteous people as they work to destroy their perceived enemies’ strengths. The military of the United States is strong, however the economic engine of the United States is what makes it a power that can force its way into any issue it chooses around the world. Perhaps destroying our strength is what the Chinese are up to.

It is a good plan when one thinks on it. First, China creates an atmosphere in which it sells cheap goods to the United States, leaving the United States with a smaller and less diverse manufacturing base. Then, China takes the hard currency it got from selling the goods to the United States to help the government of the United States finance its debt. Then, China politely finds a reason that the world will generally accept to stop financing the American debt. China sits back and watches the United States fall into relative financial collapse. That relative collapse will result in the United States having a lesser role in world affairs, especially in China’s backyard. All the while, the American public keeps buying Chinese goods and worries about Islamic terrorism.

Further, it would not be surprising if before the collapse, China came to the United States and offered to help continuing the financing of the national debt as long we stopped defending Taiwan’s interests.

The United States is one helluva financial fix. Even a booming economy could not erase trillions of dollars of debt overnight. Years of having a federal government bought and paid for by the lobbyists and ran by the highly paid political operatives who fight for this and that money have lead to extraordinary over spending, over taxation and the once most powerful nation in the world facing the harsh reality that foreign investors who do not have the interests of the United States at heart could be in a position to dictate terms.

Yet, you will not read about such in most American news media outlets. They are more worried about gay rights, what Obama named his dog, or who got voted off American Idol. There are stark defense issues not being discussed at large as well, and VUI will address those in a future post.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Earl Capps for SC GOP Chairman

Fellow blogger Earl Capps is mulling over whether or not to challenge “the anointed” one Karen Floyd for Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party at next Saturday’s convention. VUI thinks that Earl Capps should run and if he does, VUI endorses him for Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.

There are several reasons why. First, Earl is from the lower part of South Carolina, which is crucial in the future elections. The voting population of the state has shifted to the coast, and having an old hand at coastal politics could prove invaluable to the state party. Second, Earl is a communications professional with the education and experience to know how to communicate the party’s message to all sorts of people. As the state’s demographics continue to change, having someone with that background is key to the continued success for the Republican Party. Third, while Earl’s years of working to elect Republicans give him his GOP bona fides, Earl is not beholden to any camp financially or otherwise. In other words, a party divided by the money flowing to various consultants would have an honest broker calling the shots for the state party. Making Earl Capps Chairman would be like when Major League Baseball made Kennesaw Mountain Landis Commissioner. The state party would be worried about electing Republicans and not doing the bidding of any particular faction.

Then there is the “anointed one” Karen Floyd. The Republican Party has been through this before with Karen Floyd. Three years ago, Floyd was all but anointed by the party establishment to be the candidate for Superintendent of Education. Floyd was a disaster as a candidate, coming off fake and too polished. Though she outspent her Democratic opponent in a Republican state, Democrat Jim Rex won. Floyd espoused a narrow agenda focused on only one aspect of education, public money via tax credits or vouchers, for private schools. Regardless of how one stands on that issue, Floyd’s lack of ability to understand other issues was disturbing. It led to her upset defeat.

The Republican Party faces a time in which it simply cannot have a litmus test wielding state chairman committed to one faction of the party. Whether we Republicans like it or not, President Obama has energized Democrats, including those in South Carolina. Further, President Obama has created an atmosphere, even in South Carolina, where middle of the road voters are leaning his way. The last thing we need is for people who agree with Republicans to be told they are not welcome in the party because they disagree with the new Chairman on something such as tuition tax credits. Indeed, anyone with a brain that can understand how elections work knows that the people who give Republicans victory in the fall are RINOs to the true believers. They are the voters who believe in about 80 percent of the party platform and vote Republican and work for Republicans. If we create an atmosphere in which those so called RINOs are not welcomed, we lose in statewide races.

For an example, go back to the Rex victory over Floyd in 2006. That pure campaign lost. If it is applied to the entire state party operation, Fowler and her folks will be chomping at the bits. So what if a person wants to be a Republican but disagrees with tuition tax credits? So what if a person wants to be a Republican but thinks Sanford should take the money we already have to pay back? If that person is for tax cuts, limited government, against gun control, against abortion on demand, against gay marriage, for a strong national defense, and even just feels welcome to call himself and vote Republican, why purge him from the party?

That is why VUI supports Earl Capps for Chairman, or anyone like him that might step up. The Republican Party is the party of ideas, not one idea that all had better adhere to. The Whigs tried that back in the 1840s. A decade later, they were gone. Ten years from now, remember this post. If the South Carolina Republican Party chooses to elect a Chairman who espouses a litmus test for who is a Republican and who is a RINO, then ten years from now, South Carolina will be a blue state.

Trying to live like John Wayne in a piss ant world

I was either blessed or cursed in having a childhood surrounded by heroes. There was my dad, a stand up guy by any standard. Add to him my great grandfather Lude Kirkland, who understood life and politics like few ever will. There where influences like Tom Moore, who fought polio and had a great life, war heroes like my grandpa, and Frank Garrett , who taught me how to treat people who worked for you, and Bill Ashley, who was a Marine in the Pacific islands who I hauled hay for. Add to them the late Carroll Smith. There is the late Dr. John C. Taylor, who was a professional mentor. Those men were a walking John Wayne movie. Their values were simple. A man should do his best, he should not complain, he should not have his beliefs bought, and he should always stand for what is right. I was raised among those who stood tall for American values. I was taught to be respectful of those who deserved it, thank those who helped me, and make the right call, especially when that call affected other people’s lives. There were other simple things, like being respectful to the dead and to widows and remembering to have mercy as God has mercy upon me.

The problem is at age 38, I seem, especially when it comes to politics, a man that time has passed by. Being decent and paying common respect is no longer part of today’s politics. Being a stand up guy is laughed at as being naïve. Not being bought and paid for to espouse a political opinion makes one not a real player in today’s political game. The news media types and the professional politicos will not take someone seriously until they know what faction is paying the person to espouse his or her opinion.

It is part of what America is now. The Left with Obama pays big money and does their best to make out manhood as something wrong. It would be better to be metrosexual in their eyes. Sanford and his crowd get paid to espouse their issues. Neither side has likely spent one moment in a living room in South Carolina. A man with any sense of honor and respect for himself finds it hard to be a part of either side. Both sides are filled with men and women who don’t know honor and have no respect for the old American values.

They do not know what it is like to have fought and killed in a war. They do not know the simple honor of doing a job right or growing a garden. They have no idea what the folks in Bamberg or Belton think in their living rooms. They do not care to know. They have never said no to money for what they thought was right. Yet, the paid political operatives on both sides try to tell us how to live. Forgive me if I quote the late Lewis Grizzard and call them a bunch of piss ants.

I realize I am not a great man or political power. But, I was surrounded by great men growing up and I sat in hundreds of livings throughout South Carolina. I have seen the best of South Carolina and the worst. There was the living room I sat in that had a sliver star for valor displayed. There was the living room that showed the graduation picture of the family’s first high school graduate. I could go on.

Growing up among those I did, and seeing the state like I did, the values espoused by John Wayne in his movies make sense. That is how it ought to be done. But, unfortunately, those of us who try to live like John Wayne now live in a world of piss ants, on the right and the left.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cinco de Mayo

It is Cinco de Mayo, better known as the Fifth of May in English. For over one hundred years now, the Fifth of May has been a celebration of Mexican culture and life in the United States. It has also been a day to party. While not all of Mexico celebrates the holiday, people in the United States do. There will be parties, parades and festivals.

It all goes back to the victory over a French army by the Mexicans at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. The United States had its own problems at the time with something known as the Civil War. One of the reasons the United States embraced the holiday early on is because the victory by the Mexicans kept the French and other European powers from being too eager to take advantage of the Civil War in the United States.

While there would be Mexican criminal elements the United States would go after, the victory on Cinco de Mayo by the Mexicans help to forge a close relationship between the two countries. It is little wonder that the holiday will be celebrated perhaps more in the United States today than in Mexico.

Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Just say no to government ran private schools

The so called school choice bill passed a hurdle recently when it passed out of committee in the South Carolina Senate. That caused a chorus of rejoicing from the highly paid political operatives that advocate for the bill. Look for those highly paid political operatives and the Governor’s people to issue the classical political “full court press,” over the closing weeks of the legislative session. While it could be argued that the “school choice” bill should be about 10th on the list of legislative priorities to debate, political forces will make that bill near the top of the list. There is too much money and potential power at stake.

Make no mistake; this argument comes down to money and pure politics. While there are “true believers” out there, the major players in the debate are well paid political operatives and people with alternative agendas. Kids and parents are played to, not championed.

Take liberals like Robert Ford. Not only does Ford like the big money that now flows to his campaign coffers, but liberals like him can use the school choice legislation to open the door to government ran private schools. Historically when government money, directly or indirectly, goes to a private institution, it eventually comes with strings attached. It happened to private colleges when they accepted students with government tuition grants. Even a memo from the South Carolina Policy Council touting the Pennsylvania private school grant program noted that parents could only choose from schools that met government standards. Frankly, parents who choose private school and poor parents who want to help their children are being misled.

Think about that. Perhaps an example should be presented. Most South Carolina parents who choose private schools do so for social and politically incorrect reasons. Take for example the parent who wants his child to have Bible study and Christian principles ingrained in his child’s education. As such, that parent sends his child to a Christian school that currently only accepts Christians and teaches Christian principles. With the eventual strings that come with government money, that school would face government regulation to get students with government money. Suddenly, the parent who had the choice to sacrifice to make sure his child got a Christian based education could have no real choice. The private school close enough to choose could become quasi public, compromising its principles for the money. How does that foster real choice? Does it not hand left wing liberals who have long resented the private schools, especially in the eastern part of South Carolina, a way to bring government control of the private schools that they loathe?

Of course, there is always the false argument that poor parents can send their children to private schools with the legislation. Let’s take a look at the poor example. Suppose a single mom in Allendale works two jobs to make about $35,000. That salary is used to support the single mom and two children. The closest private school is miles away, and its tuition is around $10,000 per student. How is a tax credit of $3500 going to help that parent make a choice?

So why are so many hell bent on opening the door to government regulation of private schools and misleading poor people? The answer is money. The money spent on the issue of so called school choice in South Carolina is unprecedented. So far, that money has not had results. Add to that a Governor who has been well financed by proponents of vouchers or tax credits for private schools from within and without the state is not so quietly seeking the Presidency. The political operatives and the Governor have to prove that they are worth the money spent on them. The political operatives with their groups and blogs have to win one to get paid again elsewhere. The Governor has to win one to get the money for his Presidential campaign.

So, look for the old “full court press” in the following weeks. Senator Ryberg’s twelve legislators behind on state taxes will likely be offered a deal to vote for the school choice bill and never be named. Look for the $700 million in stimulus money the Governor is holding up to somehow come into play. Do not be shocked if Governor Sanford compromises on the taking that money if the school choice bill passes. Look for the paid bloggers to go full forced against members of the General Assembly and people who work for this and that organization. Forget the economy; forget the chaos in DSS and the Department of Commerce, the Governor and his cohorts will stake it all on the choice bill. They have to. The money backing them wants that.

Who knows who will win the great urinating contest that will happen between the well paid school choice advocates and the education establishment? The losers are clear. The losers are the parents and children who are in the South Carolina education system. If the school choice advocates win, a small number of parents will get a tax break for sending their kids to private schools, but at the potential cost of ceding control of those schools to state control. If the establishment wins, the status quo, which is failing so many, prevails.

There has to be a better way. There has to be some way that the average parent who cannot afford private school, even with tuition tax credits, can expect some sort of public school reform. There has to be a way that big money and political power does not dictate what happens to the average man and his children. Let’s be clear. The school choice advocates are not conservatives. They advocate a government role in private schools. That is big government. The education establishment just wants to hold on to their fiefdoms. VUI says no to government ran private schools, and instead calls for public education reform.