Monday, March 30, 2009

Robert Ford: the new face of the Sanford crowd


State Senator Robert Ford is one of the true characters of Southern politics. He always knows how to go out and get some money. Back in the 1990s, video poker was handing out money in various ways to anyone who supported it. Robert Ford was there. Now, that the Sanford/Howard Rich/SCRG crowd is handing out money to whomever supports funding private schools with public tax dollars, Robert Ford is on board. At least Ford does not claim to be a true conservative or true Republican.

Robert Ford is embracing the pseudo conservative concept of spending tax money on private schools by saying that it will help poor children. It is the same mantra that big government liberals use to get tax money every time. They are eager to spend that tax money, without even knowing if the program will work to solve the problem that they claim to want to solve.

Robert Ford and the RINOs who support his spending of taxpayer money on private education do not even pause to consider how their program really will not work. A $4000 tax credit for private school tuition will not empower poor children to go to private schools. In most private schools $4000 will not even cover a semester of tuition. Further, a family would have to have the money to spend in the first place during a year to file for the tax credit at the end of the year.

Also, a growing number of private schools are not too keen on the idea. Their student bodies are limited and many don’t have the capacity to accept new students. Further, there is concern that with government money eventually comes government regulation. That is what happened to private colleges and universities that accepted federal and state tuition assistance programs.

Also, public schools are obligated to provide educational opportunities for the most difficult of students. The physically and mentally challenged, the unruly, the mentally ill, all are to provided some sort of public education. So, if the parents of such a child could scrape up the money with the tax credit assistance, chances are most private schools would deny them admittance. Thus, their child would be left in the same public school with less money.

Then, there is the argument that the money should follow the child. Fair enough. If people have no children in public or private schools, can they be exempt from paying any taxes towards public schools or taxes for private school tuition tax credits? That is where the money should follow the child logic eventually flows to. (For those who think that notion is silly, remember that the TERI program was meant just for teachers but the courts ruled it had to apply to all participants in the state retirement system, and that nearly broke the state.)

Further, do those who support Ford’s bill really believe that it will lead in smaller government spending? Politicians and lobbyists will find a way to replace the money lost from the public education money spent on private school tax credits. Thus, we will have the status quo in public education plus a new government spending plan to assist private schools. It is baffling how so many who see the Earned Income Tax Credit as a government spending plan do not see a private school tuition tax credit as the same.

Even worse, it is a government spending plan that will not help those it claims it will and will do nothing to bring about the needed reforms to public education. It is fitting a liberal Democrat who seems to always be under the influence of the big money spenders of the day is heading the effort this year. It is telling that the Sanford crowd embraces him so eagerly. It seems a lot less about children and a lot more about getting campaign money.

Friday, March 27, 2009

No to Capitol Police Force


It is has been interesting to watch this session of the South Carolina General Assembly and how it has dwelled on things that really do not matter to the rest of South Carolina. One of the best examples of such was the South Carolina State Senate passing a bill out of the judiciary committee to establish a state capitol police force with statewide police powers.

Currently, security for the State House and grounds is handled by the Bureau of Protective Services. There is nothing to indicate that Protective Services has not done a good job. There are no major security problems at the State House that have been reported.

The problem seems to be that the Bureau of Protective Services falls under the Department of Public Safety, which is within the Governor’s cabinet. While South Carolina has the nation’s second highest unemployment rate, the legislature and Governor are in a urinating contest over who staffs the metal detectors at the State House doors.

According to various sources, the rancor on the issue between Governor Sanford’s office and Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell got so bad that McConnell started the initiative for the General Assembly to have its own police force. Thus there is another urinating contest that will end up costing taxpayers money.

Further, the legislation gives the same arrest powers as SLED to the Capital Police force, gives the new force control over security for the South Carolina Supreme Court, and will be controlled by a committee composed of three appointees from the Speaker of the House, three from the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and three from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In other words, the General Assembly and Supreme Court will have its own police force to enforce the laws. While supporters of the legislation will likely talk about how the new force is to be limited to the State House and Supreme Court, the legislation explicitly gives statewide law enforcement powers to the new force.

Frankly, that sort of defeats the idea of separation of powers. The legislative and judicial departments have no business in directly running a law enforcement operation. That is the executive department’s job. Remember it was one of the things learned in elementary school. The legislative department, as we call it in South Carolina, makes the laws, the judicial department interprets the laws, and the executive department enforces the laws. Such created the classic notion of “checks and balances.”

That notion of checks and balances has worked for a couple of hundred years or so. A urinating contest between a powerful state senator and a maverick/pain in the neck (take your pick) Governor does not warrant throwing that ideal to the side. All those who respect the constitution should oppose the proposed Capitol Police Force.

The extremes of public education discipline


The South Carolina Court of Appeals handed down a ruling this week that a 14 year old girl was wrongly expelled by Richland County School District Two. Apparently, the girl went into the boy’s restroom after a comb a boy had taken from her. The school administrators deemed that a sexual offense and expelled the child. Then, the school district spent thousands of taxpayer dollars defending their decision, only to have both the Circuit Court and Court of Appeals rule against the expulsion.

While there should have been some sort of punishment for the child’s act, expulsion did seem extreme. But, that is the culture of public education today. Nowhere else in the state will you find bigger egos and more overreaction to events than in public school administration. Not all public school administrators fit that description but a growing number do as “zero tolerance” policies are embraced.

Our schools are a place where far too many administrators treat far too many students like criminals from the first day of class. Law enforcement is criticized for using profiling methods, yet teachers and administrators use it everyday. While there are some teachers and administrators out there who want to reach children, far too many just want to handle the children and get through the day.

Far too many administrators are eager to show their complete control. It has got be an incredible power trip to know that one can ruin a kid’s life with a response to just one mistake. Add to that the ever growing nature of policy and legal concerns, and a surreal atmosphere is created in schools.

Take for example the case of the little girl in West Columbia a few years ago. Her mother packed a butter knife in her lunch box for the girl to cut an apple with. Years ago, some teacher would have taken the butter knife from the student, and called the mother and gave it back to the mother. However, in the modern education world, the little girl was suspended and faced possible criminal charges. That suspension will follow that kid for the rest of her academic career.

Also, years ago, if couple of boys got into a fight, they were separated and sent to the principal’s office. Today, chances are, they will face criminal charges. God help a little girl if she has a crush on a little boy and pecks him on the cheek on the playground.

Indeed, chances are some of the teachers and administrators who work in education today would not have their jobs or their degrees had they been held to the same standard that kids are held to today.

It is a different world that children grow up in today. With gangs on the rise and anything the human mind can think of available online, it is difficult to maintain order and discipline. However, when simple mistakes are made in school and are treated like major incidents, it only reinforces the negative influences.

It is often said that people live up to or down to the expectations of those who influence them. The same is true of children. There should be no surprise if a child who is treated like a criminal over a childish mistake grows up to be a criminal.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why Honea Path is always first


I sat in stunned silence and in correct politeness. My father hammered into me in my teen years to always respect another man’s home and never start any trouble in another man’s home. Yet, deep down, I was seething. I was in Columbia, at an otherwise festive occasion, and was enduring ridicule about the town of Honea Path.

Chances are my hosts meant no disrespect, but the words from them and their other guests about the small town I call home again hit me the wrong way. It was summed up when someone asked, “Why in the world would someone like you ever move to place like that?”

I kept silent upon the question, remembering my father’s lesson about starting trouble in another man’s home. Of all the lessons my father has tried to teach me, that one resonated more than any other. I held my tongue.

But, I am not in another man’s home now, so I feel free to answer to one and all. First, I will address the “someone like you,” remark. Who is “someone like me?” I thought about that when it was asked. While it is true I lived in Columbia for over a decade and saw the state through politics and work, I always held Honea Path close to me. My brother and parents lived there. I kept a portrait of its downtown on my wall. Indeed, there has never been a day when I have not been proud to be from Honea Path. In fact, being from a small town made life easier for me when I sat in small town living rooms over the years.

“Someone like me,” remembers being able to walk or ride my bicycle all around town to places like the library or Wilson’s Dime Store to buy baseball cards. I remember small town legends like the late Sheriff E.E. “Duck” Cooley, coming into the barber shop and putting his gun on the sink as he got his hair cut and we boys looked wide eyed at him and the gun. I remember Bill Ashley, that old marine who fought in the Pacific, teaching me how to stack hay and telling me, “I am going to show you this one time boy and one time only.”

“Someone like me” hauled hay, cut grass, and worked in the local mill. No politician I ever worked for or any big client ever taught me as much about life as growing up in Honea Path did. In Honea Path I found heroes. My neighbor growing up, Tom Moore comes to mind. He had polio as a kid, but that did not keep him from teaching me the game of basketball. His grandson carries on the family honor flying helicopters in Iraq today. There was Dr. John Taylor, who taught me how a professional ought to be and conduct his career. There was the before mentioned Bill Ashley and so many others.

Honea Path is as much a part of who I am as the stories from my family about our family in the other small town of Saluda. If someone has to ask why I choose a small town as home, they do not know me at all. I tried the other way. It does not work. The small town values of hard work, a bit of honor and doing what’s right do better than the big time ways. Besides, Honea Path has the best of high speed internet access, some great local restaurants, great people, and is a high traffic area. Honea Path is a great place to live and has great people living and working in it.

So, you see, someone like me finds it easy to call home a place like that. That is why, when it comes to raw politics, I will always put Honea Path first. It is home. It is South Carolina.

One Solar Storm could wreak havoc on modern life


That headline seems a bit melodramatic to some, but according to a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, a solar storm could send electrical charges that would wreak havoc on the modern way of life.

Such storms have happened before, as a recent at 1859. In such storms electrical charges are sent out upon the solar winds and hit the Earth. In 1859, it was not a big deal. Today, it would be devastating because of society’s reliance upon electricity and electronics for even the most basic of human needs.

Think about it for a moment. If the electric grid was fried somehow, things would grind to a halt. Fuel and water could not be pumped. Supply shipments would be halted, with lack of fuel and the lack of the use of the computer programs that run the shipping and delivery industry. Communication systems would be disrupted. Health care for so many would be halted. There would be chaos and civil unrest. People would die prematurely.

While there are some who will dismiss the report by the National Academy of Sciences as just some document to scare people into giving science more money or inspire some SciFi Channel movie, the report should be taken seriously. It is a reminder that human beings ought to remain humble. It is ironic that science would offer such. Call it an act of God, as I do, or an act of nature, as others do, but one simple act by that uncontrollable force could make all of modern humanity’s advancements and gizmos irrelevant.

So, if you are one of those who go around emailing from your blackberry or your laptop while you are driving your car with the electronic fuel injection, know that one day, the Sun, of all things, could spew out a little charged plasma towards the Earth and leave you stranded on the road and incommunicado. VUI does not remind of you such to make you fearful or paranoid, but just to remind you to be a bit more humble and thankful for the ease of modern life. For even the poorest among us live better than kings of the past in many ways. (Remember greats like Caesar had no flush toilet, and Churchill and Roosevelt ran a war without the internet or even a fax machine.) The report from the National Academy of Sciences reminds us how fragile the modern life so many of us live, in comparison to history, really is. Despite advancements and our vanity, the truth remains we human beings do not really run this place.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

what are we afraid of?


With these difficult times, South Carolinians are demanding that their General Assembly works in a bi-partisan fashion to address the states problems. There are growing job losses, falling revenues for state programs, and a growing crime problem, especially with gangs.

Well, the South Carolina General Assembly seems ready to work in a bi-partisan fashion after all. While it is not on the issues that are first on the people’s minds, there seems be bipartisan cooperation on making sure that petition candidates have a harder time getting on the General Election ballot.

If that issue is not at the top of your agenda, you are not alone. But, the bill snaking its way through the South Carolina Senate to make it harder for petition candidates to run has widespread support from both parties. It seems the leaders of both political parties want to enjoy their two party monopoly on state government and will have none of this independent candidate nonsense.

The Bill working its way through the State Senate would require petition candidates to file when candidates seeking a party nomination for office do. Further, it would forbid signatures from voters in a party primary from the petition candidate’s petition to be on the ballot.

In other words, if you are a voter in Chesterfield County, where most of the offices are decided in the Democratic Primary, you have a tough choice. Suppose you thought that the independent or petition candidate for Sheriff was best for your county. You would have to give up voting on other local offices to sign the petition for the Sheriff’s candidate you preferred in the General Election if the Senate bill came to fruition.

It is disappointing that someone like Harvey Peeler, a great voice for the people in his district, actually sponsored this kind of legislation. The legislation denies people their freedom to choose their leaders as they see fit. What will be next? Those who voted in a party’s primary will not be allowed to cross party lines in their general election ballots for some offices?

One of the best things about South Carolina is our open primary system and how we allow petition candidates to run. Further, voters should not be punished for voting in a party primary. If the voters can vote for whomever in the general election, they should be allowed to sign up on a petition candidate’s petition for the General Election.

It is hard enough to get people to care enough to vote in primaries or the General Election without adding one more rule about what the voters can not do. While it is clear that the two dominant parties in South Carolina think that this law will shore up their status, both parties are missing a greater opportunity. Suppose a Republican leaning candidate lives in an area where running as a Republican can not win. So, he runs as a petition candidate. His independence might give Republicans another voice in Columbia. The same is true of the Democrats.

There are those who worry about how petition candidates make parties spend money they otherwise would not. Those parties will find no sympathy here. If either party is afraid of facing some independent that has the signatures of the people behind him, well, that is telling. No party, especially the Republican Party, should fear such.

After all, we live in a free society. We Republicans should be eager to allow for the debate of our ideals against others, and not act as cowards to make sure there is less debate. Our ideals are best for the people, so why act like we fear the petition candidates? Why not let them run and beat them with our ideas?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

how does the naacp justify this


Ron Morris, a respected columnist for The State’s sports section wrote recently that the presence of the Confederate Battle Flag on the grounds of the South Carolina State House was keeping South Carolinians from reaping the rewards of hosting a NCAA tournament basketball venue.

Perhaps Mr. Morris is correct in noting that the NCAA is controlled by the NAACP in determining NCAA tournament sites. However, Mr. Morris and the NCAA need to be reminded of the compromise reached years ago on the matter. There was a group called, “The courage to compromise,” that brought together members of the community and the legislative black caucus, along with strong Republican and Democratic factions, to move the so called “flag” to where it is today. It was agreed back then that the confederate naval jack flag flying over the South Carolina state capital flew in a vacuum, which allowed its presence to be defined by fringe groups. By moving the flag to the Confederate Soldier’s Monument and by funding a sizable State House grounds monument to African Americans in South Carolina, a true compromise was struck that created the only situation in the United States in which the grounds of a State House honored both Confederate dead and the contributions of African Americans to the state’s history.

The latter seems to be missing from columns like Mr. Morris’s or other major media reports. The NAACP does nothing to help. After initially signing off to the compromise, they have held “emergency” meetings on the presence of the Confederate Battle Flag on the South Carolina State House grounds and issued more boycotts of the state. Those emergency calls usually are issued in fundraising letters.

While VUI certainly understands the need to raise money for one’s political cause, it can not help but note how disingenuous the NCAAP’s call against South Carolina is. South Carolina’s leaders compromised on terms that the NAACP once agreed to. If Mr. Morris or any commentator has a beef with the current situation, Mr. Morris should look to the NAACP and how it walked away from the deal it helped broker, not the state legislature.

Isn’t far past time for the NAACP to recognize South Carolina as the only state that has a monument to African American history on its State House grounds, instead of criticizing and condemning South Carolina for honoring Confederate war dead who died defending their homes and by and large owned no slaves? When will those in power stop looking at how to make a buck or a political point and just be satisfied with the truth? Besides, if the NAACP is successful in keeping tourism out of South Carolina, don’t they realize it hurts African Americans the most? There are far more hotel workers needing work than politically correct sports columnists. How does the NAACP justify keeping African Americans from work?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sanford's chess move


Since his election in 2002, Mark Sanford has had sort of a love-hate relationship with those who serve in state government with him and those who are politically active in state government. To those circles, Sanford is either a principled guy who stands up for what he believes is right or a self centered rich boy who is dumb as a rock on getting things done. I have always seen him as a man who brought the tactics of one of my favorite games, chess, to politics.

Until now, the general public has had another view of Sanford. That view was mostly positive or indifferent. Sanford’s open collars and cookouts and references to his four boys humanized him to a point where South Carolinians just chuckled if the Governor proposed something that they thought was quirky. Indeed, the quirkiness itself seemed to add to the Governor’s public perception.

That could be changing. Several published reports around the state show that more South Carolinians are getting angry with Governor Sanford on his refusal to accept federal stimulus money. Not since then Governor David Beasley called to remove the Confederate Battle Flag off of the Capital Dome has there been such a furor expressed towards a South Carolina Governor. More and more of this state is growing to either love or hate Mark Sanford.

Typically, a growing love-hate feeling from the people towards a politician is bad news for that politician. Such a situation guarantees a tough election fight to come. However, Sanford has no re-election to seek, and with the two offices he might consider running for, he might benefit from the situation. Like a skilled chess player who will sacrifice a pawn or two to make the move to take out a knight or queen, Sanford is sacrificing short term in state political popularity for the next move.

Some hushed rumors have Sanford considering challenging Jim DeMint for the United States Senate in the 2010 Republican primary. Though unlikely, if Sanford decided to challenge DeMint in the Republican primary, the Governor’s recent acts would give the Governor strong credibility among the party’s right wing. There is no better way to frame a campaign against a sitting Senator then to battle Washington, regardless if DeMint supported the stimulus or not.

Chances are, Sanford has another office in mind. Over the years South Carolina governors always seem to fancy themselves as contenders for the White House or at least the Republican ticket. Sanford is no different. Free from having to face voters in 2010, Sanford can play the national game of chess and make his moves against Obama and for the Republican activists that will be key to his nomination in 2012. While it might not be the best thing for South Carolina today, it is good politics for the Governor in the long run. Sanford’s refusal of the stimulus money is just another chess move. Unfortunately, South Carolinians are the pawns he sacrifices for the big move to come.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Comptroller General Eckstrom is right on SC Budget and Control Board’s action

The South Carolina Budget and Control Board voted 3-1 to cut state spending two percent across the board for the remainder of the budget year. Again, the unwise move of across the board cuts was embraced instead of targeted cuts that funds first things first.

The South Carolina Budget and Control Board is composed of the Governor, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the Comptroller General and the Treasurer. The board, the only one of its kind in the nation, is limited to across the board cuts when the General Assembly is not in session.

However, the Board made this cut while the General Assembly was in session and could address targeted cuts that made more sense. Comptroller General Eckstrom pointed that out and wanted to delay the cuts so that the General Assembly could deal with the matter. Governor Sanford, through his spokesman, shared the same sentiment. (Sanford did not caste a vote because he was absent due to obligations to the Air Force Reserve, according to the Governor’s spokesman.)

VUI has butted political heads with the Sanford crowd on a number of issues, but on this one, the Comptroller General and the Governor are correct. Across the board cuts have always been dimwitted and a political copout. But, to make such a cut while the General Assembly is in session calls into question the wisdom of having such a board at all. Its existence has created a situation in which two members of the General Assembly and one constitutional officer decided a solution to the state budget crisis while the sitting Governor was opposed their actions and the General Assembly was in session.

That is not to say Dan Cooper, Hugh Leatherman, and Converse Chellis did not do what they thought was right. VUI will not join others in criticizing those public servants with ad hominem attacks. Those men made the best call they thought that they could make. The problem is the Budget and Control Board system allowed for them to make such a dramatic state government decision without debate in the General Assembly or input from the Governor.

Thus Comptroller General Eckstrom was right in his “no” vote and his stance that the General Assembly should have been involved. Cutting millions of dollars from an active state government budget is something that the entire General Assembly needs to debate and address.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

As for AIG executives, the late Johnny Cash says it best

While VUI is more concerned with how veterans are treated under the plans of the Obama Administration, we recognize the American public's fixation on AIG bonuses after AIG begged to be bailed out by the federal government of the United States. The President of the United States and members of the United States Congress are calling on the executives of AIG to not take such bonuses for non-performance. From various reports, the executives do not care about public perception, and want to get paid. Fair enough. As believers in God, the staff at VUI offers this video to remind the executives at AIG as to what is coming. Wait and see.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Obama Administration's kick to veterans


According to various published reports, the head of the American Legion and the leaders of other veteran organizations are upset about a plan the Obama Administration has for charging a soldier’s private insurance company for a soldier’s serviced related health care.

While there is no doubt some well meaning money cruncher came up with the idea, it is a kick to wounded veterans. Throughout the history of the United States, there has always been an understood obligation for the country to pay for the care of those who are injured or otherwise obtain health problems in connection with service to the United States. To so many Americans, paying for such is a matter of sacred honor. For that group, there is no price on honor.

Sacred honor aside, it also hurts soldiers with their personal financial lives. Suppose a member of the National Guard goes to Afghanistan and is injured in combat. As a part time soldier, that guardsman likely would have a private insurance policy with his full time employer. If the Department of Veteran Affairs demands that private insurer to pay for the guardsman’s health care costs, then that information goes to a database insurance companies look at. Chances are if that guardsman tries to get private insurance, he will find it difficult to obtain or be forced to pay higher premiums. With the myriad of state laws on insurance, it is difficult to truly measure if and how much those who sacrificed for the country will be punished for doing so.

It is puzzling why the Obama Administration would move to make such heroes exposed to any punishment for their service. While one certainly hopes that the Obama Administration is making its move based upon the best of motives, the results could be devastating for those who America owes the most to. While Obama supporters will likely contend it is making big insurance pay, the result will hurt veterans.

Indeed, VUI completely agrees with American Legion Commander David K. Rehbein, who stated, "This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ' to care for him who shall have borne the battle' given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies. I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America's veterans!"

Amen, Commander Rehbein, amen.

Happy St. Patrick's Day


Today is the day to honor the patron saint of Ireland. There will be festivals, parades, and flowing green beer. However, VUI offers a very brief take on the man the holiday is about.

St. Patrick was a Roman-British born cleric who went to Ireland and became legend for banishing snakes from the Emerald Isle. Beyond the legend, historians seem to agree that St. Patrick was a major figure who refused gifts from kings and the wealthy and did things as he saw right, whatever the consequences. St. Patrick was at times beaten, robbed, and imprisoned. He was unafraid to speak truth to power and act accordingly. He seemed like a guy VUI would give a guest post to.

So, here’s to St. Patrick. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Right or wrong, Congressional earmarks are here to stay


Politicians on both the left and the right have made a political football out of Congressional earmark spending. That earmark spending is when individual members of the United States House of Representatives or the United States Senate insert provisions in various spending bills that allocate federal money for a specific project back in their home states or districts.

That practice has the Washington, DC, chattering classes in frenzy. The Obama Administration joins conservative Republicans in criticizing earmarking, but doing very little about it. There are several reasons both sides talk against it but let earmarking happen.

First, there is the national discussion of politics versus the local political realities. The national outrage at earmarking is tempered with the local outrage of a member of Congress not being able to get federal money to help repair a bridge or buy a fire engine for a town and things of the like. Voters might be outraged at money earmarked for a project in some far away state, but they are usually happy to get the earmark money for projects close to home. As such, a member of either house of Congress might get blasted by President Obama or Fox News for inserting an earmark for a local project, but the people who elect that member of Congress will be grateful to get the money. Indeed, some even contend that Congressional earmarks are a protection of local rights in that some bureaucrat in Washington does not decide if federal money should be spent to repair the local bridge, but the local Congressman does.

Further, that political factor is stronger than the actual cost of earmarks. Congressional earmarks for local projects, if all added together, still are a small percentage of the federal money spent in the budget. In other words, earmarking is a tool that members of Congress can use to serve their constituents/help their re-election campaigns,(take your pick), that are not at a high enough cost to actually force the reform various folks on the right and left are calling for. The average guy sits around and says, “If Congress can give hundreds of billions to banks that messed up, why can’t my Congressman find some money to fix the bridge down the street?”

That is the political reality. Washington pundits on the right and the left will talk about earmarks and how horrible that they think they are. But, when it comes down to the districts and states that vote in the Congress, there is no will to change the process. Thus it will not happen soon. If Social Security is the “Third Rail” of American politics in that it can not be touched, than realistically, earmarks are the “Fourth Rail.” No member of Congress, on the right or left, really wants to tell his constituents why he voted to bail out AIG, but did not work for money for the local bridge or fire engine. If we lived in an idealist world, earmarks would not happen. But, we live in the real world, full of real politics that go beyond think thank studies and pundit columns. In that real world, right or wrong, earmarks by members of Congress are here to stay.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Governor Sanford brings SC into big time politics


While VUI does not necessarily agree with Governor Mark Sanford’s decision to balk at some of the federal stimulus money, it is interesting how much Sanford’s stand is playing to national and even international media.

Sanford’s stand is drawing the political ire of pundits in the United Kingdom and around the United States, political operatives in the Democratic National Committee and the Governor of Maryland.

The DNC is planning to run an anti-Sanford ad next week. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley described Governor Sanford as “fringe.” Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who is also the United States House Majority Whip, has sounded off as well.

Welcome to the big time, Governor Sanford. No longer are you sparring with Jakie Knotts and Speaker Harrell, you have picked a fight with the big boys, and they will be coming for you.

There is some political wisdom in the Governor’s approach. If a politician is going to pick a fight and lose, he might as well pick a fight with the President of the United States. It sure beats fighting some state senator. While even Republicans take issue with the stands and tactics of Governor Sanford over the years, the Governor is among the best politicians operating today. Picking a fight with the President has propelled Mark Sanford onto the big stage and set a difference in points of view that sets up the Governor for a solid run at the Republican nomination.

However, now that Governor Mark Sanford is in the big time, people are going to take a long look at him. That might hurt Mark Sanford and South Carolina. Look for South Carolina to become a political punching bag.

First, look for Democratic operatives to talk about the dramatic loss of jobs in South Carolina under Sanford’s time as Governor. The continued failure of certain areas of the state in public education will be brought up. In fact, it is no coincidence that the President mentioned South Carolina’s “Corridor of Shame” in his recent address to Congress. Further, do not be surprised if the presence of a the Confederate Battle Flag on the South Carolina State House grounds comes up in national media in the next few weeks or months.

Then, there is Sanford’s record as Governor. Look for national media to pick up on the fact that the Governor can not work with a legislature ran by his own party and how departments in his own cabinet have some serious problems. That will put pressure on Republicans in the legislature as the Sanford tenure as Governor closes. Those Republican legislators might find themselves in a position of choosing what they think is right for their constituents and helping the DNC arguments against Mark Sanford or doing things to help the Governor and thwart of the efforts of the DNC.

For better or worse, South Carolina’s Governor and the legislature are now playing in the political big time. Watch and see what happens.

Friday, March 13, 2009

It is time to get over it

As the spring approaches, I am facing, gulp, my 20th year of being out of high school. Blame my nostalgic nature, but I have been reaching out to people from my old high school class recently and those related to them.

Frankly it is amusing that some still think they are kings of the universe because they were popular in high school 20 years ago and others still think of whatever ever slight was given to them 20 or more years ago growing up.

Maybe it is because I spent the past 20 years getting some pretty interesting life experiences traveling around the state, but I just don’t get the folks who think they are still “cool” and the people who are still “pissed” because of something that happened back in high school days.

Maybe it is victim culture that we live in today. Everyone has to be a victim of something. I just don’t get it. Back in the old school days, I was probably less than average when it came to who liked me or not. But, college redefined me, then law school, then the years on the road with work and politics. I have lived hard and fast over the past twenty years, and I thank God for it. For, when I come across an old Belton Honea Path classmate on Facebook or in person, I want to shake their hand and find out how life is treating them. Childhood grievances or childhood senses of superiority do not cross my mind. Frankly, I have lived and seen too much as a man to ever consider such things. I am just curious to see how folks turned out and what they do today.

One old high school classmate asked me recently why I would ever move back to Honea Path. Well, there is a simple reason. I spent over a decade traveling this state and saw each and every town in it up close and personal in living rooms. After all that traveling, I realized that the little town of Honea Path was one of the best places in South Carolina to live. I was always proud to be from Honea Path, and I am proud now to live here again.

A relative of a classmate recently told me that his relative had nothing but pain to remember from the time growing up here. I tried to not to be too dismissive, but I was shaking my head when I heard such. It is sort of a clich├ęd, Dr. Phil type thought to find some sort of problem in the small town you grew up in to blame your current life on. Dr. Phil and his like give people a pass on their own behavior. Those people just blame it on being mistreated when they were a child by the cool kid.

Most of us had setbacks as children. The thing to realize is those who might have picked on us or made us feel bad were just children themselves. Those who still have that feeling of superiority from their double wide after twenty years deserve pity, not loathing. For certain, all the people in a little town need not be brought into to some sort of childhood loathing about who treated one right or who is cool.

I say listen to the Eagles and get over it. But, of course, I saw the state and the world before I chose that my hometown was the best place to be. There is a sense of self confidence that comes from accomplishments. There is a sense of compassion and wisdom that comes from experience. The cool kids from high school don’t worry me, because I have been with cooler. The old bullies don’t worry me, because, frankly, I have been in situations in which they pale in comparison. The girls who rejected me don’t worry me, because I have had better. The reject kids are not rejects to me because I know that they are real people. Twenty years of really living changes a man’s outlook on so much. It is sad that far too many of my old classmates seem mired in the past. It reminds me just how lucky I am to have lived the life I have lived.

If all you have after 20 years are painful memories of who treated you what way in school or of how you were a big man on campus in school, well, that is just plain sad. It is time to get over it.

The education debate in South Carolina needs to shift


Bloggers, other pundits and politicos are bantering on about who will run for Governor, Gresham Barrett’s Congressional seat and whether or not South Carolina’s current Governor is going to run for President. Lost in the bantering is the rumor that Superintendent of Education Jim Rex will not seek re-election. Further, there seems to be no names being tossed about from either party for the seat should Rex decide not to run for re-election.

There is no shock at that. The education debate in South Carolina has been considerably “dumbed down” in recent election cycles. It started with Inez Tennenbaum’s emphasis on little kids in her races, (remember those signs with schools buses with little kids on looking out the windows?) Then, came Howard Rich and his friends and their money that paid for this and that political hack to attack public education and cry out for tuition tax credits to help middle and upper class families send their kids to private schools. The education establishment had a knee jerk reaction to that and started a vigorous defense of the status quo in K-12 public education. No wonder there are few who want to step forward and get in the middle of a debate framed on those terms.

The education debate in South Carolina needs to be reframed. While K-12 education has its importance, in these economic times, the debate needs to shift to adult education. Tens of thousands of South Carolinians need to be retrained to compete in the world’s struggling economy. Further, an adult in the home who is educated will be more likely to spur his or her child to achievement in education. A six year old can not get some training and in a year or so turn into a taxpaying worker. That same six year old will not succeed if his parents don’t value education or are not able to answer simple homework questions.

Yet, we in South Carolina are dwelling on K-12 issues and virtually ignoring the fact that education is a lifetime endeavor.

Whoever steps up to run for Superintendent of Education needs to not let the Rich crowd or the education establishment crowd define their campaign or agenda. It is time to shift the debate to things that make immediate differences in South Carolina’s economic competitiveness.

VUI has some ideas for readers to consider. First, South Carolina needs to have adult learning centers, especially in places like Allendale and Marion counties, where people are taught even the simplest of things, such as basic job skills and how to fill out a job application. Second, the lottery scholarship money needs to be made available to adult students who show achievement in higher education. For example, if a man or woman goes for a year to a Tech school or college and maintains a B average, let them have some lottery scholarship money for their next year. Third, the state needs to work with employers better and find out exactly what they need from the workforce and work to provide it.

Those are just three ideas to consider and debate. But, the debate needs to shift. If Mark Sanford and the Rich crowd got what they wanted, if parents are not educated enough to make a decision, the problem areas that drag the state down will still exist. The same is true of the education establishment crowd. If they are fully funded, but the adult at home does not care about their child’s education, or could not help their child with the homework even if they wanted to, the problems stay the same.

Adult education will have quick economic impacts and flow down to K-12 improvement. It is time our political leaders start addressing it and stop letting narrow interests define the debate.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The cuts at The State and the new American business culture

The folks over at FITS News are in a virtual egasm over the layoffs at The State newspaper. You can check out their remarks at www.fitsnews.com. One would think they found another shot of Brittany Spears without underwear with the excitement and glee the FITS News folks are showing.

Forgive VUI for not being so gleeful. While not one member of the VUI staff thought soon to be ex-editorial page editor Brad Warthen was right on a good many issues, VUI did respect him. Mr. Warthen was not getting paid to espouse this or that opinion. He was getting paid to write his opinion on things. Mr. Warthen had no rich sugar daddy to make sure he got paid as long as certain opinions were espoused from time to time.

However, the layoff of Mr. Warthen and others bothers VUI on a deeper level. The State was one of the papers in his corporation to make money. Those people who lost their jobs recently at The State are part of a growing trend in American business. No longer can making money for the company keep one employed.

American business, especially American big business, has moved away from basic market principles like making a profit. Instead there is financial gamesmanship and politics based upon who has what college degree and who went to what college and who is of what gender or race. There is no sense of loyalty for years of doing a job well anymore.

Then there is how financial “gurus” are now making management decisions, especially in this short term credit crunch. The machine operator who has ran her job well for twenty years is likely among the first to be laid off because her wages are higher than the machine operator who has less experience, makes more mistakes, but is paid less. In the short term, it makes sense, with immediate reduced labor costs. In the long term, it is flat stupid, as the customers are likely to get frustrated with a poorer product and go elsewhere. That is why, for the bulk of American economic history, financial types were not the managers of businesses and did not make management calls.

That has changed. The people who brought you the great banking mess of last year have their brothers and sisters calling the shots at far too many big American businesses. They are joined by those politically correct types who worry less about who makes money and more about who has a MBA. There is no wonder China and India are kicking our business asses.

That is why VUI is not gleeful about the layoffs at The State. Sure, VUI disagreed with Brad Warthen more often than not. But, when a corporation fires people in a division of it that made a profit to help offset acceptable failure elsewhere, it just does not make business sense. It is just another example of how the American business culture has shifted from its old mantras of “the best man for the job,” or “make money for the company,” to the current hodgepodge of political correctness and financial gamesmanship. Unfortunately for American business, businesses around the world operate by the old American standard of making money and thinking long term. Thus, American businesses are getting their asses kicked.

If you do not believe that, think on this. Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s, was a high school dropout. But he knew business. Thomas got his start in the Kentucky Fried Chicken company. Thomas managed franchises and amassed enough money to start his Wendy’s hamburger chain. In today’s American business climate, his lack of formal education would limit him to working the drive thru window. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, could not even get an entry level job at most tech companies because he dropped out of college.

Such is the culture of modern American business. So, no, FITS News, there is not one thing to be happy about when a paper that made money for its company has to lay off people. It is just another symptom of how wrongheaded American business has become.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The pizza delivery incident in Lexington County

The entire staff of VUI enjoys a good pizza. Pizza Hut offers the some of the best. However, the entire staff of VUI stands in agreement to just say no to Pizza Hut from now on.

A tragic incident happened in Lexington County last Saturday night. From published reports in The State, some teenagers ordered pizza from Pizza Hut. Again, according to the reports, the teenagers allegedly attacked the pizza deliveryman. Allegedly the deliveryman tried to flee, but was pursued and beaten, suffering a broken nose. Then, allegedly, the pizza delivery man pulled the firearm he had a concealed weapons permit for and fired to protect his own life. Tragically, one of the alleged teen attackers died as a result.

There is no way not see this as tragedy. The pizza delivery man, who is a husband and a father, will have to live with having to face that gut wrenching decision of protecting his own life for the rest of his life. The parents of the kid will have to live with their loss. Reports of why it took paramedics nearly a half of an hour to the scene need to be answered as well.

And, frankly, Pizza Hut has its own questions to answer as well. According The State, the deliveryman has resigned from his job because it is Pizza Hut policy for employees not to have firearms. Never mind that the pizza deliveryman legally had the firearm or that local law enforcement appears to think the man acted properly.

Frankly, VUI does not get the Pizza Hut policy. If Pizza Hut asks their delivery personnel to carry money for change and to go to any door, how can they find it either safe or sensible for their delivery people not to carry a firearm if they get the proper training via the Concealed Weapons Permit program?

Of course, VUI believes in the free market, and Pizza Hut or any business should be free to set whatever employee policies they choose. However, that same free market leaves us free to never buy from Pizza Hut again.

Prayers go out to all involved. Everyone, including Pizza Hut, needs them. This was a real tragedy and leaves VUI asking why on so many levels.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The slipping away of the small town festival

There is no better indicator that times are bad then when a small South Carolina town cancels is annual festival. South Carolinians love a good festival in their towns.

There are too many to name, but a few stand out. During the spring and summer, there are festivals like the Poultry Festival in Batesburg-Leesville or the Gilbert Peach Festival. The late Senator Storm Thurmond rode his horse in the latter once. There is the frog jumping contest in Springfield and Hillbilly Days up in Mountain Rest. Then there is Belton’s Standpipe Festival. When the fall comes, there are festivals such as Wagons to Wagner which used to bring in hundreds of campers to the little town. Even Honea Path has its Fall Festival, complete with a honey soppin’ contest.

The most famous of the fall festivals has to be the Chitlin’ Strut in Salley. Traditionally held on the weekend after Thanksgiving, because frankly, it is just wrong to prepare chitlins when it is hot, the Chitlin’ Strut has been one of South Carolina’s little cultural gems, complete with a parade featuring Santa Claus. (For those who you do not know, chitlins are hog intestines which are boiled and then fried to eat.)

Once on the list was the Maize Days festival in Santee. Count that festival off for this year. According The State and The Times and Democrat, the town of Santee canceled the festival, and in a true sign of the times, is considering a town wide yard sale instead.

Perhaps it is a larger sign of the times that such local festivals are struggling to survive. In the age of instant entertainment, it is no longer a big deal to have a small carnival come to a small town and to have locals try to make a buck on their cooking and crafts. There is no thrill in seeing some small time act or ex big time act come perform when one can download every song they ever performed.

Such festivals were also political. At one point in South Carolina’s history, a politician ignoring them did so at his own political peril. As recent as the late 1990s, such festivals were a chance for people to actually meet statewide candidate office seekers of all stripes.

Perhaps the move by the town of Santee is a sign of where things are headed in South Carolina. Perhaps such festivals will now only be a source of memories. As a child, the “Honey Soppin,” in Honea Path was a big deal. I rode a Ferris wheel, albeit a small one, for the first time at one. I saw Porter Wagner stumble through his concert, which now I would judge him as pretty drunk. I got to camp at Wagons to Wagner. I did not know what a chitlin’ was but was pretty happy to go with my parents to the Chitlin’ Strut. As a young adult in 1994 working for the Bob Peeler for Lt. Governor Campaign, I got my first really big dose of retail politics helping throw out candy along side the famous Peeler Cow in the Gilbert Peach Festival Parade. I also got a dose that day of South Carolina humility. I was proud of the Peeler Cow, and bragged on it to one of my great aunts, who simply remarked she was there to hear the gospel singing.

On this blog and beyond, I advocate governments funding first things first, so I have no problem with Santee canceling their festival on that level. I understand. However, forgive me for taking a moment to lament the slipping away one of the better things about South Carolina culture, the small town festival.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Daylight Savings Time and where we are headed

One of the more irritating things about the change to Daylight Savings Time is how otherwise rational and educated people blather on about getting an extra hour of sunlight. Congress did not help the matter when it called the time change "Daylight Savings Time." Former President Bush did not help the matter when he signed the legislation making the "Daylight Savings Time" longer by stating it would help with energy costs. Various studies have showed little if any change. The costs of the expanded time have met any savings. (For example the California Energy Commission found no change in energy consumption.)

There is a reason for that. The Sun shines on the Earth the same amount of time no matter what time of day a government assigns to the Sun shining. The folks in California and other government entities could have saved their money studying the matter. The Sun warms the Earth for the same amount of time. Those who have to be up and work early in the morning will use their lights and other energy needs as those who do not work early don't with the time adjusted. It is a wash.

VUI admits it is a popular wash. People seem to get excited about that extra hour of daylight that they think they are getting. Further, when one tries to explain to an excited individual that the sun is still shining the same amount of time, the excited individuals eyes glaze over. You might as wall be explaining how the stock losses by percentage were worse in the 1930s then they are now.

It is the world we live in today. There are actually people out there who believe that the government can decide how many hours the sun shines on the Earth. Typically, those are the same people who think we are in something worse than the Great Depression. They do not have a clue. Try to tell them that more than half of the banks in the United States failed in early1930s, some places in the South had 80% unemployment, and that particularly in the South, even those with jobs lived without electricity and running water, much less a cell phone, and well, you get that blank stare. Do not even attempt to explain how Hoover's and Roosevelt's spending creating a second depression in 1937 or that the McDonald's Dollar Menu was not an option for men and women who sometimes went days without eating anything at all.

VUI does it best to be optimistic about America and South Carolina. But, when so many people actually believe that Daylight Savings Time actually saves daylight and that a hardship is not being able to watch American Idol in high definition, it does make one wonder just where this nation is headed.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Governments should fund first things first

In these hard economic times individuals and families around South Carolina and the nation are making hard economic choices. They are forced to prioritize what needs to be paid for first. The rational individual or family pays for the rent or mortgage first, then utilities, food and essential clothing, insurance, taxes and creditors. After those things are paid for, they spend money on extras. It is a sensible way to operate in tough times.

Government, at all levels, does not take the same approach. Special interests from the local level to Washington seem to dictate the budget priorities of governments.

There are some things that the vast majority of us agree are important government functions at the various levels. There is public safety, such as police and fire protection, first responders, and court operations. Then there is the maintenance of infrastructure such as roads and water and sewer systems. Other obligations to education and certain social safety nets come to mind. It would make sense if governments at all levels looked to those types of issues first when writing budgets and then paid for other things with what was left after paying for first things first. It is what most Americans do everyday.

Instead, governments at all levels do not do that. Influenced by lobbyists and other special interests, they tap dance around cutting the non essential things from government out. Take the state of South Carolina for example. The South Carolina Budget and Control Board is famous for its across the board budget cuts by a certain percentage. It gives politicians cover from the special interests, but it makes little sense.

Does it make sense that essential services such as SLED or the courts system is asked to cut their spending by the same percentage as a non essential service such as the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism? In a perfect world, the state could fully fund both. But, we are not in a perfect world. And, if given the choice of fully funding an essential service and cutting out a non-essential government service, most would opt to fund the essential service.

However, the problem is that the vast majority of South Carolinians who prioritize their own finances have little voice with those who govern them. They do not have lobbyists or the money to pay for lawyers to sue over this and that government issue. They do not host lavish receptions for elected officials.

Instead the average South Carolinian turns over more and more of his or her money over to governments at all levels via taxes. Their governments then spend that money with no rational sense whatsoever.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Third District Congressional race

With Gresham Barrett seeking the Governor's office, some names are surfacing on the Republican side to take Barrett's Third District Congressional seat.

The first name that keeps coming up is State Senator Kevin Bryant of Anderson County. Though Bryant had a tougher than expected re-election to his state senate seat last November, he is personable and popular with conservatives in the upper part of the Third District.

Another state senator, Shane Massey of Aiken County, also comes up as a possible candidate. Massey's reform approach and youth make him appealing to the lower part of the district.

According the various sources, the 500 pound political gorilla in the race could be Solicitor Strom Thurmond, Jr. of Aiken County. However, it appears unlikely that Thurmond will seek the office.

There are other names being tossed around, but the above three seem to be true contenders for the seat. Let VUI know what you think and of any people out there that you know of who might be considering running for the open Third District Congressional seat.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The more the legislature meets....


With the tough economy getting even tougher for people like those at the steel mill in Georgetown that has been recently shut down for a while and the deadlines for if and how South Carolina will spend some of its federal stimulus package money looming, members are addressing some interested issues.

First, there is the measure allowing 18 year olds to get tattoos without parental permission. On the surface this seems to make sense. If a young man or woman is 18 and living on their own, say by serving the military, they do not need their parent’s permission to get a tattoo. If you are old enough to vote, enter legal contracts, and fight and die for your country, you ought to be old enough to buy a tattoo, even a beer for that matter. But, there is no chance the latter will ever come to pass in South Carolina. The only problem VUI has with the legislation is how many 18 year olds are out there suffering under the current law? Does the proposed change justify the time and work of the General Assembly?

Then there was the sign bill defeated recently sponsored by Mac Toole of Lexington County. While VUI acknowledges that far too many roads, bridges, overpasses and stretches of highways are named after politicians for the strangest of reasons, the General Assembly was correct to defeat Toole’s bill. The changeover to his proposal of only naming such areas after soldiers or law enforcement members who died in action would have been costly and it would have denied local communities the right to name such places after people that they saw fit. For example, it bothered VUI that Toole left firefighters and other first responders out of his legislation.

The legislature is moving right along on a measure to make the Employment Security Commission and the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs part of the Governor’s Cabinet. While those two agencies have had their troubles in the past few months, VUI hesitates embracing the legislation because of the current Governor’s unwillingness to deal decisively with the problems in the Department of Social Services, which is within his cabinet. If the Governor will not act decisively with an agency in his cabinet, what makes the General Assembly think that he will address problems with two new agencies in his cabinet?

The next two measures being considered by the General Assembly this week frankly make VUI think that the General Assembly should meet less. Those people simply have too much time on their hands.

The first, sponsored by Senator Darrell Jackson of Richland County, proposes making it illegal for adults to smoke in their own automobiles if a child under ten is in the automobile. Talk about getting into the micromanagement of people’s lives! VUI wonders if Senator Jackson would be eager to support a measure that made it illegal to play music with violent or explicit lyrics with a child in the car. How about eating a cheeseburger or some fried food in front of a child? While Senator Jackson is to be commended for his work at his Atlas Road church, this proposal of his is legislation at its worst. At best it is wasting legislative time, at worst it is a stark invasion of privacy.

On the other side of the aisle there is the Republican backed measure to allow people to have a handgun under their seats in their automobiles. Again, one wonders how many people are suffering because this is not the case? South Carolinians can already carry a firearm in their automobiles in a trunk, console or glove box. Those with a Concealed Weapons Permit can carry one on their person in their automobile. Criminals are not going to pause and say, “wait a minute, that weapon I have laying on the passenger seat needs to be under the seat.” It is just another example of legislators trying to pass legislation for the mere purpose of looking like they are actually doing something.

The late Coke Stevenson, who was Lt. Governor and Governor of Texas, was asked why he supported moving to make the Texas legislature only meet once every two years. Stevenson, known at the time as “Mr. Texas,” simply replied, “The more the damn legislature meets, the more damn laws they pass.” Amen, Governor.

Atlantic Beach just part of the growing crisis of local governments

Atlantic Beach Mayor Retha Pierce is in the news again. The Atlantic Beach Mayor, who has been arrested multiple times by Atlantic Beach police, the last arrest happening on January 28th, 2009, is suing several town officials in United States Federal District Court.

According to the Myrtle Beach Sun News, the Mayor is alleging that a few town officials conspired to prevent the Mayor from doing her duties as Mayor. The article can be found at http://www.thesunnews.com/news/local/story/807124.html. Please note the nastiness of the comments section. Allegations of drug abuse, criminal activity, etc. are found. As such VUI finds the local government in Atlantic Beach to be the nastiest fight in the state. Even in Anderson County things like drug abuse are not tossed about.

Frankly, VUI does not know who is really right in Atlantic Beach. VUI does know that the losers are the people of the small coastal town. Atlantic Beach is struggling to keep its town charter. Instead of its leadership spending money to stay alive, it will be spending money on lawyers.

It is a growing trend around South Carolina. More and more town and county elected officials seem to be unable to work out differences as rational human beings and “lawyer up,” so to speak. Then there is the corruption in places like Union, whose former Mayor was recently sentenced to over five years in federal prison.

The local government system in South Carolina is in a growing crisis. Spending by local government has skyrocketed in recent years, and there are not many tangible things to show for it. There are several theories out there as to why such is the case. Some contend that local politics is more personality and self interest than policy and in today’s litigation society, that leads to the large amounts of local taxpayer money being spent on lawyers and accountants. Others contend that the local governments get the second string of elected officials, and those who are more able seek higher office. Some blame Home Rule and how it allowed a mishmash of local governments to create an inconsistent mess of spending and governing around the state. Perhaps even more telling is how most property owners in South Carolina are paying higher property taxes now than before the state legislature came in and paid local and school tax relief.

If a taxpayer pauses and realizes that his or her taxes are paying for things such as the melodrama in Anderson County and the nastiness in Atlantic Beach, it is frustrating to see how little respect a growing number of county and local governments have for the people who pay for them.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Rush Limbaugh is Obama's latest Boogie Man


Last week, Obama Press Spokesman Robert Gibbs had a boogie man in CNBC's Rick Santelli. From the lectern in the White House press room that is where the United States is represented to the world, Gibbs went after the news network commentator who dared to question the stimulus package backed by the Obama Administration.

This week, there is a new boogie man: radio talk show legend Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh made remarks over the weekend criticizing the Obama Administration's huge government spending. As such, Limbaugh got the wrath of Gibbs. Various news sources have Gibbs saying about Limbaugh, "it would be charitable to say he doubled down on what he said in January in wishing and hoping for economic failure in this country."
"I can only imagine what might have been said a few years ago if somebody might have said that on the other side relating to what was going on in this country or our
endeavors overseas,"

Those are powerful words coming from the White House lectern. It seems has Gibbs wants to caste Limbaugh as un-patriotic for not supporting the President's spending plan.

Whether you agree with Limbaugh or not, it is frankly disturbing that the most powerful politician in the world has his spokesman single out commentators who dare to disagree with the President's policies. If the Obama Administration is too thin skinned to take criticism from commentators like Santelli and Limbaugh, how will they ever find the necessary thick skin to deal with world leaders, some of which want to do the United States harm?

Indeed, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote scathing columns against President George W. Bush. However, the White House did not come out and attack her at press conferences. Indeed, even Governor Sanford's people don't use the Governor's press spokesman to go after commentators that are critical of the Governor.

Such just is not done. Even Nancy Pelosi gets that. By having a boogie man of the week, the Obama Administration presents itself as both thin skinned and determined to silence dissent. Such is a far cry from their promises of inclusiveness and openness in government. Perhaps Obama only meant such for those that agree with his point of view. More importantly, use of boogie men makes one wonder just what the Obama Administration is trying to distract the American people from at the White House press room lectern.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Okay, VUI will address Anderson County Council

Some of those who have commented keep asking for VUI to address the issues in our own back yard, those issues being Anderson County Council. Fair enough. VUI thinks that the last county adminstrator was a big government liberal and that the last county council was pretty dadgummed abusive in how they spent county money. The folks at VUI loathed the past county council of Anderson and its past adminstrator, and made fun of both.

However, the new Anderson County Council seems little better. They seem to be out for their own financial interests, in making moves to get paid for legal fees and the the like, and dwelling on the past.

The Mayor of Honea Path addressed Anderson County Council last year and made the case against the former County Council. Unfortunately, the same is true of the current Anderson County Council.



Indeed, when will Anderson County Council get down to doing the business of the people? When will the Anderson County Council get to the business of real conservative reform and stop allowing the ex-adminstrator to dictate what they do?

The behavior of the Anderson County Council makes no logical sense. Perhaps it is love or money that makes them act so crazy and against the interests of the people that elected them. Perhaps we in Anderson County are watching Council member Cindy Wilson play out the role Glenn Close played in Fatal Attraction in a political nature. Ms. Wilson will not be ignored. Or perhaps is she playing a political Captain Ahab leading her band of followers on council on a hunt for the white whale in the form of putting Joey Preston in jail.

Frankly, VUI thinks the Anderson County government is nuts and sees it as an impediment to making lives better in Honea Path and the surrounding areas. The majority of county council seem to have an unhealthy political obsession with Joey Preston and the former council members they defeated at the polls. The acts of Anderson County Council makes one question the sense of home rule in Anderson County.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Let it snow


Forecasts vary, but is appears that a large portion of South Carolina could see anywhere from a dusting up to five inches of snow Sunday and Sunday night. VUI enjoys snowfalls as much as anyone, but we are a bit puzzled as to why the media acts as if a snowfall in the South is such an odd event.

Sleet, freezing rain and snow all fall on the upstate of South Carolina a few times every winter. It would be odd if such events did not happen. Last year, it snowed in the upstate on the day of the Republican Presidential primary.

Admittedly, the winter of 08-09 has been different. While it has been very cold at times, the precipitation has not been present. Only a few sleet pellets and snow flurries have fell upon the upstate so far. That does not mean that the people in the upstate of South Carolina are going into some public panic over the forecast of a few inches of snow. Sometimes the reporting, especially from the national media outlets, makes one want to scream at the television or computer and say, " I have seen snow and ice before. I know how to drive in it. Get a grip!" If the weather forecast calls for five inches of snow in Miami, then the national media can go into overdrive.

Anyone who has lived for anything length of time in South Carolina knows that this time of year can be wild with weather. It can be in the 60s with thunderstorms one day, and snowing the next. It has been that way since South Carolina was settled. Old diaries and other sources remark about March snowstorms. Indeed, the most snow to every fall in a twenty-four hour period, officially 21 inches, happened in mid March in 1974. That day started off with most stations reporting temperatures in the high forties or low fifties.

Again it is hard to understand the fascination those who have not lived in South Carolina, especially the upstate, have with snow. A good many people don't help with that. They act like we have not seen it before and make the traditional bread and milk runs on the grocery stores. For those with a brain, a March snowstorm is no cause for panic. The beauty of the snow is enjoyed with the knowledge that in a few days, it will be gone and all be back to normal.

So, let it snow. Have fun with the snow, but please, folks, act like you have seen it before.