Thursday, April 30, 2009

Watch out, the novelty lighters are going to get us

Back in the 1930s, a reporter asked Texas Lt. Governor Coke Stevenson why he supported having the Texas Legislature meet every two years instead of every year. Stevenson replied, “The more the damn legislature meets the more damn laws they pass.” Texas still has the once every two year sessions.

South Carolina’s General Assembly has one of the longest sessions in the nation for a state its size. Because of the extra time on their hands, the General Assembly has come up with off the wall legislation from time to time. Recently, such legislation was introduced in the South Carolina Senate.

With the worst unemployment rate in the South, with the Department Social Services in disarray, with the state facing the possibility of releasing thousands of prisoners early, with our public education system in dire need of real reform, the South Carolina Senate took on the pressing issue of novelty lighters. Republican Senate heavyweights Thomas Alexander and Jakie Knotts backed the measure.

The supporters of this all important legislation cite the support by some firefighter groups and some safety advocate groups. The supporters further contend that novelty lighters seem like toys to children and thus children are more likely to set fires with them. The State newspaper reported Alexander as contending that one third of fires started by children were started with lighters. However, apparently Alexander did not say what kind of lighters. Also, Alexander cited there were 2 deaths related to such lighters. Chances are more people died from stubbing their toes on furniture last year; do you suppose the State Senate should ban the sale of furniture without rubber bumpers?

If a parent has a novelty lighter that looks like a toy, then as a responsible parent that individual should keep the item out of the hands of the children. It is not the state of South Carolina’s responsibility to be the nanny. This is another example of how government, at all levels it seems, gives parents a pass on not doing their jobs.

With real problems and real crimes being committed, it is baffling that Republican State Senators would advocate adding going after novelty lighter merchants to the burdens of already underfunded law enforcement in the state. It is even more baffling that the argument to ban novelty lighters is based upon one of the premises gun control advocates use to call for banning handguns.

I grew up in a home with a novelty lighter, (it was a knight in armor), and guns. My parents had the sense to keep me from either when I was too little to know not to do something, and made clear to me how not to handle either when I was old enough to understand.

Alexander and Knotts are doing what usually liberal politicians do. Instead of holding human beings responsible for their actions, they instead blame a tool. It is easy politics. It does not offend irresponsible parents, or punish bad kids; it instead lifts the blame from them and places it upon an evil tool. Further, like any good politician, Alexander and Knotts will work to make sure government rides to the rescue of the irresponsible from the evil that is the novelty lighter.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SC's leaders show no courage on education

For several years now, the main debate when it comes to education policy has been the issue of private school tuition tax credits. Money flows on both ways of the debate. Regardless if one supports school “choice” or is opposed to the tax credits, the truth is that regardless of who prevails in the debate, it will not change South Carolina education.

To change South Carolina’s educational system and prepare the people of South Carolina to compete in a global economy, issues that probably seem impossible to address have to be addressed. Giving K-12 students parents a tax credit is no silver bullet. The status quo does not work. We in South Carolina have to face the hard questions and address the difficult political issues.

First, we must address curriculum in K-12 education. We must check political correctness at the door, because in a competitive world, political correctness only weakens our ability to compete. The state must emphasize the basics of mathematics, sciences, the classics of literature and history, and civic responsibility. We need to graduate students who understand why plants need the Sun, how to balance a checking account, what their civic rights and duties are more than being sensitive to a politically correct group. How can we ever hope to compete in a global economy when our graduates do not know basic chemical formulas, or even basic civics? Tolerating a gay couple will not get one a job in the global economy. Being sensitive and full of self esteem will not pay the bills.

Second, we must act to make administrative cuts and make schools more efficient in their financial operations. The administrative overhead in South Carolina schools is an outrage. Instead of buying computers for teachers and students, we spend millions on salaries of administrators at various levels who jobs are basically to talk to one another. There are ideas floating around about reducing the number of school districts in the state and that is a good start.

Also, the state should look at redefining school administration. Let the Principal have control over teachers. Let the Superintendents have control over their principals. However, the business operations, things like janitorial staff, maintenance staff, cafeteria staff and transportation staff should be under the control of a business manager. It is simply inefficient to have people trained to be educators given jobs to act as business people. Simply put, the business operations of schools should not be ran by people trained in education. One would not ask his lawyer to do his heart bypass surgery, so why do we ask educators to handle the business operations of schools? Frankly, I would take a guy who ran a fast food operation efficiently calling the shots in the school cafeteria over a guy with a PHD in education.

Third, we have to realize what we are truly up against. South Carolina has far too many adults who are undereducated and do not appreciate the value of education. That is where the real debate should be. If we have tuition tax credits, reform the curriculums and institute efficiency, it will not matter if parents do not have the skills to understand their choices and foster a culture that teaches their children that success is not an option for them.

The state can act by making adult education more accessible. Make no mistake that is South Carolina’s biggest challenge. Thousands of jobs, and the tax revenues those jobs could have created, have gone elsewhere over the past few years because our adult workforce was not skilled and ready to compete. Because of that thousands of South Carolinians either remain unemployed or take low skill jobs. When those South Carolinians come home at night, they see no better way for their children. The cycle of failure spins around, and no amount of tax cuts and tax credits will stop that cycle.

South Carolina’s political leaders in both political parties have to have some courage. They have to stand up for people that have not made big campaign contributions. They have to stand up against lobbyists who say the status quo is okay. They have to step on the toes of constituencies who would rather play the victim. To truly reform South Carolina’s educational system and move the state forward, South Carolina’s leaders must transform parts of South Carolina from a culture that celebrates failure into a culture that celebrates achievement.

By achievement, I am not talking about the classic ideal of a college education. Frankly, a good electrician is probably more valuable than a guy with a degree in Art History. If South Carolina can shift the areas in the culture of failure to people who are skilled and proud of their trades, and know how to compete, then the problems of low education ratings, low health ratings and high unemployment ratings will be solved.

Governor Sanford and his cohorts think that they have the silver bullet to fix this state with tuition tax credits. The education establishment types think they have the silver bullet to fix this state with more money for the status quo. Both are well paid to be wrong. If there is a silver bullet with education, it is doing the hard things with curriculum and administration, and educating adults to be skilled.

Fixing education is key to making South Carolina competitive in the global economy. The problem South Carolina has is that its leaders seem unwilling to have the courage to do the real work needed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

James Smith disappoints

James Smith, a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives penned an op-ed piece in the State paper recently criticizing the Republican members of the South Carolina House of wanting to keep people from voting. Smith, who is usually rational and sane in his debates, seemed like a guy throwing red meat to Democratic primary voters in his remarks.

Two lines in Smith’s op-ed stand out. The first, Smith writes, “ With the hands being dealt by House Republicans, many more voters will lose their chance to vote.” In that remark, Smith went from moderate Democrat to left wing bomb thrower, all but accusing his colleagues of being against people voting. It is a classic far left tactic meant to scare Democratic primary voters and donors.

Smith goes on to conclude his remarks with the following: “As early voting is curtailed, more pressure will land on election offices in the last days before an election. As lines lengthen, many voters will have to choose between voting and their other responsibilities — from getting to work on time to picking up their children. Some voters will simply not have the stamina for the longer waits. The longer the line, the more likely it is that you will drop out.
And House Republicans are betting on it”

With those remarks, Smith offers some great left wing propaganda. Smith tries to convey the idea that the Democrats are just average folks and looking out for average folks who have kids and jobs and the like when it comes to elections. Smith tries to get you thinking about your mama or your grandmamma standing in line. Then, he appeals to morals, saying that House Republicans are “betting” on keeping folks from voting.

Smith could have some credibility had he offered a solution to a bigger problem in voting: fraud prevention. However, discussing voter fraud prevention is not done in the Left Wing of the Democratic Party. In that respect, they are not like the average man or woman who works everyday and votes. The left wing has databases of people to go pick up and take to the polls, along with get out the vote money or as one Democratic operative told me one time, “street money.”

Do not let the propaganda fool you. The Democrats want a definition of voter fairness that benefits their political chances. If a proposal was made to allow for a larger window of early voting, but was coupled with validating voter identification and eliminating rides to the polls by candidates or parties, the Democrats would cry out as if murder had been committed.
Indeed Smith and the Left Wing of the Democratic Party seem to not care about how the rights of legal voters are trampled when illegal votes are cast and counted. Why isn’t Mr. Smith talking about that? Is it not an affront to justice that a man or woman, who works hard, plays by the rules and castes his or her vote could have that vote negated by someone who voted illegally? Why is Mr. Smith and the Democratic Party so silent on protecting the rights of legal voters?

Further, why do Mr. Smith and the Democratic Party continue to cheapen the value of the vote by thinking it is something we should do while out shopping in the mall? A vote is a sacred thing. People died for us to be able to vote. Decisions made at the polls impact the history of our cities, our counties, our state and our nation. If someone could give his or her life so a person can vote, it seems that person ought to have the self dignity and the gumption to stand in a line a while or fill out a form. (On personal note, I had to stand I line last November for a while. I did not think how unfair it was I had a wait a few minutes. I thought, my great uncle died for this, my grandpa and some friends fought for this, the least I can do is wait my turn.)

But, of course, asking people to have a little self respect and gumption is not how the Left Wing of the Democratic Party operates. No, they would rather bus in their voters, no questions asked, to pile up numbers to give power. The more those voters feel like victims, the better it is in the Left’s eyes.
The ultimate irony is while Democrats like Smith go on about voting, they stand against factory workers having private votes for unions. In other words, while Democrats go around screaming to the high heavens about people’s voting rights, they want to make sure factory workers who vote against a union are known and thus open to harassment. They want three guys showing up a factory worker’s home at dinner time asking them to sign for the union to replace a private vote.

Then, they have the audacity to pretend to lecture about voting rights. The hard truth is both parties really do not care, by and large about your voting rights. They work to find ways to win. That is probably not what some Republican friends want to read, but the truth is the truth. What is so irritating about Smith and Democrats like him is they pretend they are looking out for average folks. They are not. They are looking for a way to win power. It is disappointing to see James Smith join that game. VUI thought he was one of the good guys.

Our neighbor Greg Holder will be missed

Voting under the Influence takes a moment to pause and pay respects to Greg Holder, who passed away last Sunday. Greg was a great neighbor and friend to so many, and a big fan of John Deere tractors. Voting under the Influence offers prayers and sympathy to Greg’s loved ones. Greg will be missed. Hats off to Greg.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Our children must be taught to compete

I shook my head when I saw a recent episode of HBO's Real Sports which contended that public schools were eliminating competitive sports like dodge ball in favor of activities that made every child feel good. I decided to look into the matter. Unfortunately, I found that more and more of America's public schools are moving away from any sort of competitive sports to activities that make all children feel good.

Frankly, I feel especially enabled to speak on such matters. As a young kid, I was goofy. There is no way around it. I was not gifted in sports in anyway. It was not until high school that I found some sports luck with my beloved game of basketball, but that was after going for a time named a "zero," my point total In college, I fared a bit better in intramural competition. I went on to help coach young folks to championships.

But, as a middle school kid, was I a great athlete? No, not my any measure. In my middle school years, I felt bad about how poorly I performed. That actually led me to practice the sport of basketball everyday. I shot hoops, I lifted weights, and I read about the game's greats. Such experience made me a better student of the game of basketball, and me a fair player in later life and a championship coach. Such experience gave me lessons about life itself.

Of course, I always hold a weak spot for the goofy or awkward kid who keeps trying to be better. But, eliminating the reality of the competition that is life from that kid does not help him or her. Today's kids should have the value of the experience I had. I knew I could not cut it, so I endeavored to cut it. It was the feeling of being a "loser" that motivated me to achieve. It was one of the greatest feelings I have ever had to develop to the point where I hit the championship shot and I helped coach the championship team.

The notion by educrats to create programs that produce no losers and no winners actually robs the losers of a chance to improve. Chances are such a notion is foreign to the educrat. But, there are important lessons of life to be learned by those who win and lose at so called childhood games. Some of those who are destined childhood winners end up in jail. Some of those childhood losers end up motivated to the point in which they achieve at life in ways unimangiable. That, frankly, is life. People learn from losing and improve.

The educrats now want to rob of us that. Instead, they propose a notion that no one loses and everyone wins. The educrats go on and on about how every child matters and such. Fair enough. But, when a child enters the real world, where he or she must compete against China and the rest of the world, no one will care how much that child cares about his or her self esteem. The world will compete. It will reward those who can compete.

There are real competitions out there for our children. Competitions that mean more than any dodge ball game result or basketball game with no score kept. The rest of the world is playing for keeps and competing. We are cheating our children if we allow them to grow up believing that everyone wins and that there is no real competition out there.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The North Myrtle Beach area fire

The finger pointing has already begun in regards to the huge wildfire in the North Myrtle Beach area. Some point to a guy ticketed for a trash fire violation, though the Forestry Commission is quick to ask people to reserve judgment. Some are blaming the Forestry Commission for not having enough controlled burns of the area. Others blame developers for building housing developments so close to areas that are historically prone to big fires because of the nature of the vegetation found there.

VUI does not pretend to know the causes of the fire and who is to blame. What is important now is that we all pray for the victims who have lost their homes and for the firefighters out there fighting the blaze and trying to keep it under control.

Further, the North Myrtle Beach area fire is a reminder that we human beings are not in as much control as we like to pretend that we are. Every now and then an Act of God or Mother Nature, however you prefer to address it, comes along and slaps people back to the reality of their lack of control. When such an act happens, humanity is tested. True character comes out. Does one first seek out someone to blame almost as to give comfort to the notion that there is no act beyond human beings and that human beings are the cause? Or does one think of the victims and the responders first, and pray that they find comfort and strength?

Such an abstract test of human character means nothing to people who have lost their homes or their cars. It means nothing to the tired firefighter who goes in for one more around against the blazing beast. It means nothing to the relief volunteer who finds a victim a bed or a hot meal. Those folks have already passed their test of human character with flying colors.

Instead it is those of us who report the news and pontificate our points of view that are to be tested. Will we call for aid and prayers or will we first point fingers?

As for VUI, we will pray for the victims, the firefighters and the relief workers. Further, VUI encourages you to join us in prayer and in donating to the American Red Cross and any other charity that is helping deal with this event. The time for finger pointing will come later. For, now, let's pray for and try to help those folks in the North Myrtle Beach area.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Polls are easily manipulated

According to an article in The State newspaper, 43 percent of African Americans surveyed in a poll conducted by a group funded by Howard Rich wanted government funded tuition scholarships for private schools. It seems like significant news. But, is it?

First, let's discuss the illusion of such polls. Often questions are tailored for a certain result. Indeed, if you poll folks who usually want big government to do something for them and ask them in general terms if government should pay for something for them, they will agree. Further, leaving out the details can also give the poll taker the results desired.

Suppose the poll question is "do you want government to pay for you kid to go to private school?" Chances are those who typically favor big government will be in favor. But, if you get into the details and say something along the lines of "Private school tuition is around $12,000 per year, do you favor a plan to give a $3,500 tax credit to parents who can afford to send their children to private schools?" The result would be entirely different.

Such manipulation of polling has went on for years in South Carolina. If a poll asked, "if you could get your child out of a failing school would you?" Who in their right mind would answer "no?" The other side does it as well, with questions like, " would you take money away from public schools to fund private schools?" Again, most would answer "no."

Manipulating a poll and then presenting its results as the will of the people is one of the oldest political tricks in the trade, so to speak. Results never tell the true tale of a political poll. The people called, the time that they were called, the questions asked, how the questions were asked, in what order, and such are far more important to understanding what is going on in the public then simple results.

For example, a polling firm could be hired to find out the popularity of President Obama. However, since that firm was paid to poll by a pro-Obama group, it might phrase questions and weigh its sampling accordingly to give the folks paying the bill what they want.

The same could be true of the school choice poll The State reports on. So, forgive VUI for not really believing the spin on the poll that seemed timed just right for the Senate debate on school choice. When someone independent of both sides of the education debate funds a poll and makes public its questions and methods, VUI will take those results seriously. Otherwise, it is just more political illusion from those paid well to manipulate the scene.

The potential Pakistani Nightmare

The Secretary of State of the United States, Hillary Clinton, testified before the United States Congress yesterday that the growing problem in Pakistan is a “moral threat,” to the world. Such language is extraordinarily strong for a diplomat, especially for one with the experience on the world stage Secretary Clinton has.
Secretary Clinton’s strong language is no exaggeration of the situation. Pakistan is a political and security mess. Since General Pervez Musharraf stepped down as President of Pakistan in August of 2008, Pakistan has been on a slippery slope to control by the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

According to the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) the Taliban now has control of the large Swath Valley area, with the government giving it power to enforce Islamic law instead of national law. The Taliban is now in control of the local areas just a little more than sixty miles from the Pakistan capital Islamabad. Thousands of Pakistanis are fleeing the region as schools are closed and strict adherence to Seventh Century Islamic law is enforced.

While the United States and its allies has kept, albeit with a few setbacks, the Taliban from returning to power in Afghanistan, where the terrorists trained for the September 11th attacks, the real prize for the Taliban might be Pakistan. In terms of economic wealth, infrastructure and military prowess, Pakistan is decades beyond Afghanistan. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and from various reports, the means to deliver such weapons to Israel and India. If the Taliban takes control of the government in Pakistan, there will be no need to worry about Iran’s nuclear intentions any longer. Islamic extremists will have, with control of Pakistan, control of a modern military complete with nuclear weapons.

There are several reasons why such a movement by the Taliban is happening. First, they are fanatics, and fanatics never stop until they are dead. Fanatics negotiate to live and kill their foes another day.

Second, the United States appears weak. People who are willing to die and kill innocent people do not respect our queasiness over light torture. The constant media attention about what the Obama Administration will do to the Bush Administration over light torture of enemy combatants does not win President Obama or the United States favor. Instead, it is seen as weakness. As criminals will not stop entering homes and stealing if homeowners remove their locks, the terrorists will not stop attacking because President Obama wants to play nice.

Further, the United States appears weak because it no longer appears invincible. In the immediate aftermath of September 11th, then Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Pakistanis that they were either with us against us. America was powerful and filled with a terrible resolve, so Pakistan stood by the United States. However, with a public that no longer seems to have the resolve for war, a economy in crisis and a Pentagon that had secret plans to the new F-35 hacked into and stolen, the terrible giant seems to our enemies tired and weak. To them, now is the time to attack and defeat us.

To her credit, Secretary of State Clinton sees the situation in Pakistan as it is. The problem that the Secretary and all other Americans face is whether or not the seemingly naïve President she works under and the pandering leadership of the United States Congress understand what is going on as well. Indeed, the fall of Pakistan into Taliban hands could unleash nightmarish consequences.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who the Hell is Perez Hilton?

The mainstream media has been in an uproar over Perez Hilton. No, Perez Hilton is not Paris Hilton's hot sister, it is celebrity blogger Maria Armando Lavendeia, Jr., who goes by the pen name Perez Hilton.

The openly gay Lavendeia blogs on celebreties and gay rights issues under the pen name Perez Hilton. (Maybe he wants to be Paris Hilton's hot sister, VUI does not know and frankly, does not want to know.)

Somehow, Lavendeia became a judge for the Miss USA contest controlled by Donald Trump last weekend. Using his position as a Judge, "Hilton" asked Miss California about gay marriage. Miss California, according to various reports, points ahead on all measures before her answer, summed up that marriage was between a man and a woman.

That led Lavendeia aka Perez Hilton, to call Miss California a "dumb bitch," on his blog. It also led to Miss California losing the Miss USA crown.

Frankly, VUI has never been a fan of beauty pageants. A quick survey of the staff found that no one was watching the Miss USA event when the exhange took place. However, all of us have seen it on the news or youtube.

The situation does beg a few questions. How does a second rate blogger get to be a Miss USA judge? When did women in such an event get judged on what their opinions were instead of how they presented them? Has a judged ever asked a question so selfishly related to their political point of view? What ever happened to to the beauty part of beauty pageants? I mean isn't asking a gay guy to determine the hottest woman in a beauty pageant like asking a lesbian to pick her favorite Chipendale dancer? Indeed, for those who call out against such events as degrading to women, is there anything more degrading than a woman posing for someone who has not an inkling of her sexual attractiveness and instead judges her on a political question?

Here's the exchange. Notice the beauty of Miss California. She could probably make a few gay men go straight with those looks. Perhaps that is what ticked off the so called "Perez Hilton" so much.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Things to remember when you are disheartened about America

There are times when it is hard to believe in the greatness of the American experiment and the state of South Carolina. Headlines blare how political correctness cost of all people, a beauty queen, of her next crown. Pick your side, either former President Bush or President Obama do boneheaded things. Politicians such as Governor Sanford and Democratic Superintendent of Education Jim Rex fund their political operations legally, but not right. Nearly every political figure, from Senator Chris Dodd’s sweetheart loans to former Senator Ted Stevenson’s discount home improvements seems on the take. The 24 hour cable news networks feed the notion that something is wrong. Indeed, all the shouting at each other about every conceivable issue is played up and cooperation is downplayed.
Plant closings, protests, war, petty political fights, they all have their time on the stage. It can be disheartening.

But, there is a lot not talked about. First, there is the greatness of the American experiment that allows us to shout at one another. No society in human history has had the freedom of the American experiment to opine so about political opinions. Sure, going against political correctness sometimes has its price, but no one is jailed as in China or Russia for such dissent. No one is shot as in Venezuela or Cuba.

Further, for the American bashing that seems to go on around world, perhaps the world should pause to think that the United States is the only nation-state in the history of the world to spend so much to rebuild its enemies it defeated in war. Indeed, a little over sixty years ago, the United States rescued Europe from the tyranny that was Nazism. All the United States asked for was a few hundred acres here and there to bury its war dead that liberated Europe. When the world had no answer to Soviet Communism, the United States spent its blood and treasure to place the old Soviet style communism into what Ronald Reagan called, “the trash heap of history.”

Now, there is the enemy of Islamic extremist terrorists. Let there be no mistake about how anti-Liberal (note the use of the capital L), and anti-Western those who contend for such are. First, they kill innocent women and children for political purposes, which is against the teaching of the Koran. Second, they live centuries behind the rest of the world in the cultural norms of women in the workplace and certain criminal laws. If you doubt that, think about the nephew of an old woman who dared to enter her home unescorted recently to give her some bread. Saudi law caused the young man to be executed and the old woman imprisoned. Their crime was that an unmarried male should not be alone with the old woman. Only the truly perverted would see a nephew stopping by his aunt’s house to give her food as some of sort of sexual thing. That incident happened in the country the United States calls an ally.

That brings up the issue of domestic politics. Sure, here in South Carolina, it is plain wrong that our Governor has a campaign still in operation for the 2006 Governor’s race and that others hire consultants who are obvious political hacks. It is wrong that outsiders pour in millions trying to buy our government. It is wrong that the United States Congress seems more and more to be bought and paid for, regardless of party.

But, our leaders are not ordering executions based upon their sexually perverted thoughts or ordering women that they cannot vote nor have a job.

There are real problems with government in the United States and in South Carolina. There are several ways we have failed at reaching out highest ideals. However, overall, there has never been in the history of the world a government in a nation or state more benevolent to its people and its enemies. Neither Presidents Bush nor Obama compare to the likes of Genghis Kahn or Stalin. In a world whose history is filled with cruelty, truly mad men, dictators, those who thought that God chose them to inflict harm, and conquerors, the United States remains the best hope for mankind to treat one another with respect and dignity. Perhaps it is not politically cool to remind people of that truth. But it is a truth that is found everyday someone criticizes the President, the Governor and others in government without being imprisoned or killed. Every critical word of those who are in power, whether one agrees or disagrees with it, is a reason to believe in this great historical experiment that is the United States of America.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The old man of NASCAR wins

Mark Martin has spent decades being a class act. When he retired a couple of years of ago, Martin was lauded as the best driver never to win a Cup Championship. When Martin decided to end his retirement and part time racing schedule and return full time to NASCAR at age 50, some shook their heads.

However, those heads are not shaking now. Many thought the big story out of the Rick Hendrick racing team would be the return to dominance of Jeff Gordan in his #24 car or the rise to championship level driving of the sport's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in Hendrick's #88. But, it is the old man in the #5 car that is this year's big story.

Mark Martin won at Phoenix Saturday night, becoming only the fourth driver in the history of NASCAR to win a race over age 50. Martin is the third oldest race car driver to ever win a NASCAR cup event. It has been 16 years since a driver as old as Martin won a race.

In victory lane, Martin was the class act that he always has been. He thanked Hendrick for the chance to race, his wife for letting him come out of retirement and so many others. Younger and more popular stars in NASCAR, such as Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson came to Victory Lane to congratulate Martin. Even Martin's old race car owner came up to congratulate him.

With declining attendance at races, NASCAR could not have had a better night. Mark Martin, the old man of the circuit, who is widely respected for being a class act, pulled one out. To signify the difference in his approach to a victory, he declined to do the burnouts done by the younger drivers to celebrate victory and instead honored the late Alan Kulwiki with a "Polish victory lap." The late Kulwiki's first race win was at Phoenix and that is where he started his "Polish victory lap" tradition.

Younger NASCAR fans were probably scratching their heads trying to figure out why Martin was taking a lap backwards around the speedway. Older fans got the gesture to one of Martin's late friends.

While VUI realizes it is not political, it is good to see that a good guy, even an old good guy, can still win and then celebrate that win with class and dignity. Congratulations Mark Martin. VUI hopes to see you in Victory Lane again.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jim Rex, lawsuits and rallies

VUI has been hard on Governor Mark Sanford on things like his continuing 2006 Governor’s campaign and his stubbornness not to take stimulus money that South Carolinians will have to pay back anyway. However, as the old saying goes, “what is good for the goose is good for the gander.” There are some serious problems with how South Carolina Democrats are playing their political hands right now.
First, there was the article on the Huffington Post blog by South Carolina Superintendent of Education Jim Rex. In the article, Rex seemed to be more of an Obama Administration mouthpiece than then a constitutional officer in South Carolina. Frankly, VUI could not find any other instance in South Carolina’s state history when a sitting constitutional officer attacked a sitting Governor so on the national stage. One wonders if the political operative Rex’s Department of Education has paid thousands of dollars in consulting fees wrote the article and Rex just signed off on it. Rex has had his good moments, such as his idea for public school choice, but his essay on the Huffington Post was perhaps his lowest moment in office so far. It appeared to be a petty attempt to not only attack the sitting Governor of South Carolina, but to get some national attention. The days of South Carolina constitutional officers showing courtesy and respect for another seem to be gone.

Sanford has some blame for that. His supporters treat Rex as a political piñata. However, Rex joined them in the mud.

That brings to mind the lawsuit filed by an 18 year old kid asking the legislature to go around Governor Sanford and take the stimulus money. While it is hard to doubt the sincerity of the kid, it is hard not to see how politically staged the lawsuit is. Dillon County schools found their way into the conversation, as they did in President Obama’s address to Congress. Dick Hartpootlian, the Democrat’s Democrat, is one of the attorneys involved. The lawsuit has a lot more to do with politics than law.

Then, there is the scheduled rally to “save our schools” in Greenville coming up. It is sponsored by the Greenville Democratic Party, and urban contemporary station 107.3. The rally supposedly is to be made up of people who will protest to demand that Governor Sanford take the $700 million in stimulus funds he is holding up.

If you believe that the acts of this week by Democrats are not being coordinated, perhaps you might be interested in some ocean front property in Laurens County. The Democrats are acting in classic form. First, they have some voice with some type of authority blast away, then they sue, then they take to the streets to protest. They act so with the hope that the people will buy into the illusion of growing momentum for their cause. However, it is nothing but political stagecraft and legerdemain.

While VUI does not agree with Governor Sanford on not taking the stimulus money, you should not buy into the illusion that the Democrats and litigants care so much about you or your children. It is all politics to them as well. Sure, some sincere pawns will be used, but make no mistake, the people behind it all are worried about the politics first and making one of contenders for the GOP Presidential nomination in 2012 look bad.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

President Obama not getting the start he hoped for

The Obama Administration is not off to the start it had hoped for. Millions take to the streets to protest taxes and Obama’s stimulus plans at “tea parties” around the nation. The President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, is reported in European papers to say that President Obama is weak and meek.
Obama has also had the first American ship taken over by pirates since Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States. North Korea launched their test missile without seeming to care what President Obama thought. China refused to finance more United States government debt by buying and holding less bonds.
Israel seems ready to deal with the Iranian nuclear weapons program in their own way, whether President Obama likes it or not. Pakistan is cutting deals with the Taliban, despite President Obama’s espoused surge against the Taliban. More and more United States financial institutions are miffed in why the Obama Administration will not allow to them to pay back TARP money and run their own businesses.
The list can and does go on. There are the issues related to Obama cabinet appointees who had to step aside for not paying taxes. There is the disgruntlement, though it is unofficial, of the military in how some command appointments have been made. It goes on and on.
Indeed, it has not been the glorious “100 Days” the Obama Administration envisioned. President Obama ran a campaign that claimed the Obama Adminstration would be center of the road politically and include all voices.
While no President since Franklin Roosevelt has had his first “100 Days” measure up fully to expectations, Obama’s first “100 Days” is measuring up to be a complete failure. The reaction of the Obama Administration and its supporters shows the frustration that they are feeling.
Take for example the response to protests against the huge spending bill Obama and the Democrats in Congress dubbed a “stimulus package.” When voices were rasing questions, the President of the United States simply stated to the people that he “won the election,” and he was going to get his way. Fair enough. Now, that millions poured into the streets to protest via “TEA parties,” Obama supporters, as one on CNN said, “are concerned over how uneducated white people are upset with the election of Barack Obama.”
If that is not enough for you to question how the Obama Administration operates, there is the report from the Department of Homeland Security touted by Secretary Janet Napolitano that states that what she calls “right wing political extremists” are a terrorist threat. According to an article in the Washington Times, Secretary Naplitano, despite protests from Democrat Congressman Bennie Thompson, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, stands by her remarks that veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts should be watched as potential terrorists.
While the Obama Administration claims that there is not ideological profiling going on, one has to wonder why Secretary Napolitano dwelled on conservative groups and left out far left groups like the environmental nuts who put spikes in trees to hurt loggers. The same illusion of policy can be found in Obama stating he does not want to go after people’s gun rights, but his Attorney General speaks for such.
The first three months of the Obama Administration have showed several things. First, all the rhetoric about restoring individual constitutional rights from the formation of the Department of Homeland Security and other security measures was just rhetoric; the Obama Administration, more than the Bush Administration, seems to be tramping on rights for political purposes more than ever. Second, Obama’s rhetoric about being a middle of the road President who listens to everyone is just rhetoric. When the “rubber met the road” so to speak, Obama proved to be a big spending liberal, using every leverage of power he had to push through his liberal spending agenda and control over business in the United States. Third, for all the Obama rhetoric about restoring respect for the United States around the world, respect is now at an all time low. Everyone from the President of France, to the tin horn dictator of North Korea, to some Somali pirate with and AK-47, sees President Obama as weak.

But, hey the First Family has a new dog, and the American media loves it. Unfortunately that seems to be the biggest accomplishment of the Obama Administration so far. By the way, do you remember this guy, candidate Obama.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cuts to Local Government Fund putting the squeeze on local governments

A little over a month ago, something happened in the South Carolina House that did not gain widespread attention. The South Carolina House voted to suspend the law related to the Local Government Fund for this budget year before passing the House’s version of the state budget. That act, if it holds in the South Carolina Senate, will pass the budget buck so to speak from the members of the General Assembly to local governments around the state.
Let’s look at what the Local Government Fund is. Back in the early 1990s, the money collected by local governments for the state were distributed back to local governments in various convuloted methods. The Local Government Fund was established to make the matter simpler and it did. The General Assembly determined that the Local Government Fund had to be at 4.5 percent of the previous state budget. That would be roughly $122 million for this budget year. The House voted to suspend that law, and cut the Local Government Fund by some $50 million in its budget. Other proposals still floating around have cutting the Local Government Fund by $70 million.
While these are difficult times, all the measure really does is shift decision making on taxes and budgeting to county and municipal governments. It smacks of classic political blame shifting. However, the state hamstrings county and municipal governments in how they deal with such cuts from the Local Government Fund. Millage can only be raised so much, even if the leaders and members of a local community desire it. Further, budgets can only be cut so much since the state requires this and that of county and muncipal governments. That leaves couny and municpal governments in a real bind.
The objective of the Local Government Fund legislation in the 1990s was to establish stability in expectations of state funds county and municipal governments could expect. It was meant for times like these most of all. However, the decision by the House was another illusion by politicians.
As it stands a member of the General Assembly can say to a citizen in a town that he did not vote to raise taxes or cut services. That member can blame the local town council. However, the South Carolina House broke its deal with local governments and shifted the political fallout to the local officials. Such smacks of the sleazy pass the buck mentality of used car dealers.
County, and especially muncipal governments, are where the “rubber meets the road” so to speak. It is where the essential services such as police protection, fire protection, water and sewer , and trash pickup are done. If your local fees happen to go up this year, before you blame the local leaders, take a look at the General Assembly. For, if the House has its way, it will cut the money due to local governments, and dictate how they can raise revenue or cut their budgets.
Think of it this way. Suppose you and I were in a compact agreement such as the relationship between state and local governments. Suppose I said to you, you have to spend $100 this way, and another $100 that way. Suppose I then said I would promise you $50 towards that. Then, out of the blue, I said, “Hey, this is a bad year for me, I can only give you $20, but you still have to spend the $200 and you had better not raise taxes more than $10.” You would be stuck scrambling for a way to find the other $20. All the while I would tell people in your town it was not my fault.

That is the situation the local governments in South Carolina, especially the municipal governments, are facing. The General Assembly is in the process of passing the buck and putting the squeeze on.

"But, she's the Mayah"

VUI is big fan of municipal governments. The Mayors and members of town and city councils around the state do an often thankless job at the most relevant point of government in most people's lives. However, the mess in Atlantic Beach can not be ignored.

While those of us in the upstate were dealing with storm damage and joining the rest of the state in celebrating Easter weekend, Mayor Retha Pierce of Atlantic Beach was getting arrested again. The Atlantic Beach Mayor was arrested for a hit and run accident on Good Friday.

It is the Atlantic Beach Mayor's third run in with the law in the past year or so. The Mayor already as pending cases for resisting arrest at a traffic stop in 2007 and for disorderly conduct and trespass at the Atlantic Beach town hall in January of this year.

In case you missed it somehow before, here is Atlantic Beach's leader, in the Atlantic Beach town hall, being led away by police.

The Mayor's latest arrest for hit and run could result in her being removed from office. If a Grand Jury indicts her, do not be surprised if Governor Mark Sanford finds that a crime against moral turpitude and temporarily removes her from office.

One thing is for sure, the antics have people around the state going, "well, at least we don't live in Atlantic Beach."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why is the Sanford for Governor campaign still operating?

It has been been nearly two and one half years since Governor Mark Sanford was re-elected to a second consectutive term as Governor of South Carolina. As such, Governor Sanford can not seek the Governor’s office again in 2010. However, the Sanford for Governor Campaign is alive and kicking.

Looking over the Sanford for Governor’s campaign discloures from 2008 forward, it is apparent that the Governor is using his campaign for a November 2006 election for political purposes now. The Governor’s campaign has spent thousands on mail and printing since his re-election, including $6993 to the Lukens Company of Arlington, Virginia, on December 5th, 2007, and similar sums to other printers and mailing houses. The Governor’s campaign has maintained campaign mobile telephones and computer services.

Red Sea, LLC is the most notable name in direct payments. Since May 2nd, 2008, Mark Sanford’s campaign for the November 2006 general election has paid Red Sea, LLC $29,315 in consulting fees. The Mark Sanford for Governor campaign has also reimbursed various people for expenses and travel. Among them, now state senator Tom Davis, who the campaign reimbursed $681.99 on November 30th, 2007, more than a year after the election the campaign was formed for.

Senator Davis is not alone. Since November 21, 2007, Governor Sanford has been reimbursed $1,667.47 from his operation set up for the 2006 election. What is interesting is that Governor Sanford is not hurting for travel and expense money. According to his 2008 financial interests statement, he gets use of a state car for $1.00 and the state plane for $1.00. Further, the Governor got his travel to Aspen, Colorado paid for by Forstman Little Co. on September 22, 2007 and a by Koch Industries on July 8, 2007. Though Sanford’s folks try to tell us that the Club for Growth and Sanford are not closely intertwined in political moves, Club for Growth did pay $417 for Governor Sanford’s travel to speak in Manlapan, Florida on March 30th, 2007.

The money funding the continuing campaign from 2006 seems to come mostly from interest payments on the nearly 1.7 million dollar campaign fund. Though, two odd contributors should be noted. On June 17th, 2008, David B. Chittock of Hiram, OH, gave the 2006 Sanford for Governor campaign $500. On June 30th, 2008, Stanley Rumbough, Jr., of Palm Beach, Florida, gave $100. One has to wonder why someone in Ohio and in Florida would give money to the Governor of South Carolina’s campaign that was over in 2006? There are no debts to pay off. Why would people donate so?
Indeed, the entire continuing operation of the 2006 Sanford for Governor campaign smacks of hypocrisy. While it is probably legal, (several thousands have been paid to reputable accountants from the campaign), it does show that Mark Sanford is not the clean guy he portrays himself as.

Sanford and his people like to portray him as a Mr. Smith goes to Columbia type. They try to create an image of a man who is above normal politics. Well, by continuing to raise and spend money from a campaign fund meant for an election over two years ago, Sanford appears as the guy who says “do as I say, not as I do.” There is simply no credible way that Sanford can justify, using his own professed code of ethics, raising and spending money from a campaign fund that finished its public purpose over two years ago.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The grand illusion that is politics

When I was a kid, I hated magic shows. Most of my friends enjoyed them. I did not. Instinctively, I knew the pretty woman was not really sawed in half and put back together again. I knew it was not wonderful magic, but that someone was trying to trick me into believing that magic happened. My brain and common sense knew better. So, as a kid, I sought out to learn how the famous “thin box sawing” was done. Once I learned how it was performed, I never looked at magic shows or life the same again.

Then, I went to work in politics as a young adult. My experiences taught me that politics was little different from the illusions presented by magicians. Politicians still tried to fool people; the only difference to note was that while the magician only presented his tricks to entertain someone, the politico presented his tricks in an effort to gain power and money. In short, the magician wants you to believe that the pretty lady disappeared or was sawn in half and restored to give you entertainment. The politician and political consultant want you to believe that they actually care about your well being and the well being of your children.

A few years ago, the Fox network presented a series of shows by the masked magician. Fearful of retribution from his colleagues in legerdemain, the masked magician remained unidentified as he showed how magic tricks were done. Frankly, VUI has no such masks. With the exceptions of the staff who offer me ideas and pointers from time to time that I refuse to name, there is no hiding here. Yet, I am going to tell you frankly what goes on in politics in this state, especially in the great education debate.

The illusion is we have one side, claiming to support parental choice in their child education pitted against a side who wants only the best for public schools students, including the poorest amongst us. The illusion divides average people in a fevered pitch. The problem is it is an illusion.

The hard cold truth is that the well paid political operatives on either side of that issue, or frankly any other, do not really care about how their espoused positions hurt or help people. It is in, the terms of the magic show business, a grand illusion. Political operatives who otherwise would not have gainful employment have been linked up with money from Howard Rich and his associates to argue for private school tax credits. Add to that some of those associates have an interest in establishing corporate private schools for profit. On the other side, political operatives, who like their opponents on the issue, could not otherwise find gainful employment, are funded by education elites and unions to argue for the status quo and more money to flow to the status quo. Those political operatives fight out the grand illusion while making good money. Regardless who eventually prevails, all the operatives get paid and the taxpayer gets his money sawed in half with no hope of a magical restoration.

Regardless the issue, any great issue of the day in politics has well paid lobbyists and political operatives spinning their illusions to the people. Funding this or that group or consultant, contributing to this or that candidate’s campaign, it is all is part of the illusion being pulled on the people. Those operatives earn their money in that they know how to frame arguments in the favor of those who pay them and how to work on people’s fears and dreams to whip up frenzies of support. Such is no illusion; it is the reality of modern politics. Money and manipulation are the masters of the illusion.

Frankly, it makes me feel sort of bad about hating the magic shows from my youth. At least the magician did not pretend what he was doing would help me or mine make my life better and he had some pretty ladies on display. All we the people get from the illusionists that are political operatives is patronization and a tax bill.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The PETA nuts are at it again

I love animals. I love watching them in the wild, and I love my official pets, an old basset hound named Sir Winston (after Winston Churchill), and a stray kitten I adopted last summer dubbed Governor Palin. However, the nuts of PETA seem to go too far in their love of animals.

First, they went after one of my favorite past times, fishing. The folks at PETA do not care if I practice the conservationist approach of catch and release. No, they see the very act of fishing as torture of the fish. Never mind that fish do not biologically have the nerves to feel the hooks. The PETA nuts see fish as characters in Finding Nemo or Sponge Bob, with personalities, feelings and souls. Perhaps such stories are nice for children to fantasize about, but when adults go to extremes to protect such fantasies, it is insanity.

The insanity does not stop there. The PETA nuts when after the mascot of the University of South Carolina a couple of years ago. It seems my Alma Maters "Fighting Gamecocks" offended PETA in that they saw it as promoting cock torture through cock fighting. Now, while I will admit that there was not much fight in my beloved Gamecocks football team in the last three games of last year in football, PETA's stand is just plain ignorant. The origin of the South Carolina mascot comes from the nickname of General Thomas Sumter, who as state senator was a leader in taking steps to create the University of South Carolina. Sumter's nickname was the "Fighting Gamecock."

However, ignorance does not stop the PETA nuts. In 2007. they attacked a group of South Carolina monks for selling chicken eggs. That's right. They attacked monks for selling chicken eggs. Some of the most peaceful and humblest among us in South Carolina were subjected to PETA's insanity.

Now, PETA's nuts turn to the city of Charleston and its carriage rides. PETA tells us that taking a horse drawn carriage ride in the Holy City is not only cruel to the horse, but dangerous. They cite that there have been six reported carriage accidents in the last fifteen months or so. Frankly, one has to ask if the PETA nuts care about how many automobile related accidents happened in the Charleston in the same time period. It is a safe bet that riding in a horse drawn carriage is a lot safer than riding in an automobile.

Facts, however do not matter to an extreme group like PETA. A group like PETA is made of chiefly of two factions. The first faction is truly nuts. They are the people who believe Nemo and Mr. Ed really exist. The second faction is made up of well paid political activists who have to manufacture issues to make sure the first group keeps sending them checks. The second faction is despicable, for they take advantage of the borderline legal insanity of so many to take money from them.

When the PETA nuts were throwing paint on fur coats of rich New Yorkers, frankly, I will admit it did not bother me. But, now that their nuttiness is attacking fishing, my beloved Gamecocks, and now the romantic dignity of a carriage ride through historic Charleston, well, I say enough. I wonder what is next. As a Carolina Panthers fan, am I to expect some protest against the Panthers because their mascot, Sir Pur, is often a comedic figure on the field? Will PETA be angry because the "Rally Cats" are human women and not actually cats, and that somehow women in cheerleader outfits demean felines? Will PETA move to ban John Wayne movies? There is only one way to describe PETA: nuts.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The He-Man RINO haters club

Twenty years ago, the Republican Party in South Carolina was fighting to gain a majority in the General Assembly and among the state’s constitutional officers. While some of the now prominent role players in South Carolina Republican politics can be understood for not knowing that in that they were working in other states, still in grade school, or lurking about the bars of downtown Columbia, the truth remains it was a struggle to gain Republican dominance in state politics.

The late Carroll Campbell was instrumental in bringing about that power shift. Campbell brought Ronald Reagan’s “big tent” policy to the South Carolina Republican Party. If someone agreed on seven or eight out of ten things the Republican Party stood for, they were welcomed to join the party. As Reagan put it once, “a half of loaf is better than none.” The “big tent” philosophy made it comfortable for lifelong Democrats and Independents to vote Republican and give Republicans big election wins.

Twenty years later, a lot has changed. Reagan, Campbell, and the founder of the modern SC Republican Party, Strom Thurmond are all dead. So is their idea of a big tent. Instead, their idea of a big tent for the Republican Party has been replaced by the He-Man RINO haters club’s pup tent.

No matter how long one has worked to elect and support Republicans, disagree with one thing on the agenda of the He-Man RINO hater’s club, and you will be deemed a liberal Democrat out to destroy God and America. The operatives in that club have money from the contacts around a New York real estate tycoon who supported Jimmy Carter for President, but now wants to fund operatives and candidates to define who exactly is a Republican.

Take for example that group’s pet issue of tuition tax credits for private school tuition, i.e. a government spending plan for private schools. One can be pro-life, against gun control, against gay marriage, for tax cuts, against Obama’s stimulus package and budget, but still find himself a RINO for not signing off on that crowd’s government spending proposal. The well paid operatives will say, “a real Republican wants school choice, who cares about the other stuff.” Well, I say, a real Republican uses his brain and realizes that tuition assistance to private colleges and universities brought in government regulation.

Regardless of where one stands on tuition tax credits or vouchers, creating litmus tests for people to identify themselves as Republican is politically dimwitted. Using the methods of the He-Man RINO haters club, Ronald Reagan would never have been elected and the Republican Revolution of 1994 would have never happened. What Reagan and Newt Gingrich knew was that in order to build a successful political coalition you find things that most agree on to talk about and you do not pick a fight with someone who would otherwise support you on this or that issue. Indeed when I think about some of the things Republican stalwarts like Reagan, Campbell, Goldwater and even Gingrich addressed, I can not help but think some well paid operative would call them RINOs today in South Carolina politics.

What those men knew, and the well paid punks running around calling themselves real Republicans now do not know is that there is a great middle ground out there with voters. The average middle of the road South Carolina voter who decides the elections does not want his guns messed with. He is not comfortable with gay marriage and he supports the troops. He is worried about his job and is no fan of Obama’s. Yet, his kids are in public schools. Is the new South Carolina Republican Party now going to tell that guy he’s not welcomed in the party because he’s not comfortable with the tuition tax credit idea? The guy likes Jim DeMint’s stand on the Fair Tax and earmarks, but can not understand why Mark Sanford refuses money taxpayers are going to have to pay back anyway. Does that make that guy a RINO and not welcomed to donate or vote Republican?

Indeed, we in South Carolina who call ourselves Republican are in a crisis of conscious. Are we the party of Reagan and Campbell, or are we going to be a cult of personality revolving around Mark Sanford and those who finance Sanford and his backers? Make no mistake, the agenda espoused by Mark Sanford and his supporters, who are mostly well paid, has nothing to do with traditional Republican politics or even conservatism. It has everything to do with carrying out the vision of Sanford and an eccentric billionaire from New York. If you support that agenda, the money will flow to you. If you question it, and dare to argue sincere conservative principles, get ready to be called a RINO and have some things flat made up against you.

It defies political logic. After nearly 20 years of being involved in South Carolina politics, I have never seen a movement so hellbent on running off potential supporters instead of finding ways to embrace supporters. We Republicans have a choice over the next few weeks. Will we embrace the big tent or the pup tent? If we embrace the pup tent, do not be shocked if in 2010 and beyond Democrats make unexpected gains. Remember, the He-Man woman haters club from the Little Rascals met in a tree house. With the demographic shifts in South Carolina, the He-Man RINO haters club might relegate the GOP to the same venue over the next few years.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The last thing the SC Highway Patrol needs

The South Carolina Highway Patrol is filled with men and women who serve the public with honor in often a thankless job. The media does not write stories about the trooper who walks up alone in the middle of the night to the car with Florida plates. Instead, the media pounces on troopers who do wrong.

That is why the last thing the fine men and women who serve in the South Carolina Highway Patrol need in this budget cutting year is the saga of Trooper John D. McGaha, of Horry County. Trooper McGaha first came to the public's attention when he was pulled and ticketed by a fellow trooper for driving 131 MPH on Interstate 20. Supposedly, Trooper McGaha was to work the Carolina Cup in Camden and was late. Whatever the reason, McGaha got the ticket and a suspension from work, along with the supposed dishonor of being sent back to work in a marked patrol car.

The media was not done with McGaha. The State newspaper, and other media outlets pressed to look at McGaha's record. What they found was shocking. It appears that trooper McGaha had his own South Carolina Driver's license suspended from December 3, 2008 until February 20, 2009. According to published reports, the license suspension resulted in McGaha not paying taxes and registration fees on a personal vehicle. Whatever the reason, McGaha drove a highway patrol car and made arrests and ticketed drivers during the time his license was under suspension. If you or I would have been pulled over driving with a suspended license, we would have been cuffed and taken to jail.

Now, VUI does not judge those with suspended licenses. People forget to pay things and mistakes get the best of us all. However, it does give pause when someone charged with enforcing the very highway laws and regulations of the state drives a state owned patrol car and no one seems to notice. Think about it. For over two months, a state trooper operated a highway patrol car and made arrests without anyone knowing that his own driver's license was suspended.

Such a situation is an insult. It is an insult to the troopers who work bravely and honestly on an often thankless job. It is an insult to the people of South Carolina. It is just plain outrageous that in this age of instant information that the South Carolina Highway Patrol can not know immediately that one of its troopers has a suspended driver's license. It should not take a media request to find that information.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol is part of the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. It is within the purvey of the Governor. While it is understandable that Governor Sanford and those around him have been occupied with how to deal with federal stimulus money and things like that, perhaps they ought to consider something like constant instant license checks on state troopers. It seems common sense that there should be some way that the SC Highway Patrol could instantly know if the DMV suspended the driver's license of a state trooper.

The most unfortunate result of Trooper McGaha's offenses is how it lets the media hit the South Carolina Highway Patrol. The men and women out there working the roads deserve better from their leadership. McGaha and the guys from the videos of a year or so ago do not define the rank and file troopers. The vast majority of state troopers are brave and hard working.

Think about it a moment. It's 3AM on Interstate 95. A car with Florida plates is speeding. A trooper flashes his or her lights and pulls that car over. The trooper notices several people in the car pulled, yet walks up to it all alone. Is the car filled with drug runners who will do anything to get away or filled with Florida retirees speeding to watch a Yankee's baseball game? That trooper does not know. Yet, the trooper does his or her job.

For that South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper, VUI contends that the Governor and his cabinet should do more to insure that troopers who break the law do not soil the honor of the troopers who uphold the law. Letting a system continue that raises questions about the integrity of state troopers is the last thing the South Carolina Highway Patrol needs.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Rumors about the 2010 Attorney General race

It is not proper political etiquette for Republicans interesting in running for Attorney General in 2010 to express open interest until the incumbent, Henry McMaster, announces he is not running for the post and is in fact running for Governor. That does not prevent a certain buzz about who will run for the likely open office in 2010. Several names keep popping up around the state.

The first is Trey Gowdy. Gowdy has served as Solicitor for the 7th Judicial Circuit since his election in 2000. Prior to that Gowdy worked as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office. By most accounts, Gowdy is considered to be an able prosecutor who runs an efficient office. The biggest factor working against Gowdy might be where he is from. In 2000, Gowdy was the benefactor of the turmoil that is Spartanburg County Republican politics in that he knocked off a longtime incumbent in the primary. However, there is a recent pattern in which Spartanburg Republicans seem to "eat their own" when it comes to one of them rising to some sort of statewide position of power, (i.e, Bob Walker, former SC House Education and Public Works Chairman defeated in the 2008 primary), or run for statewide office, (i.e., the aborted campaign of John Hawkins for Attorney General in 2002 and the lackluster home county support of defeated Superintendent of Education candidate Karen Floyd in 2006.) Secretary of State Mark Hammond seemed to survive the Spartanburg mess to be elected, but if one looks closely at Spartanburg politics, Hammond is the exception that proves the rule.

The second name being tossed about is SC House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Harrison. Harrison has served in the SC House for nearly twenty years and has an impressive resume, including a stint as general counsel for the South Carolina Alcohol Beverage Commission. Harrison also served in the Army Reserve and was deployed to the the Desert Storm campaign, and the operations in Haiti and Bosnia. Harrison knows the ins and outs of Columbia, but his lack of prosecution experience could hurt his chances.

The third name that comes up is Ken Wingate, the darling of Christian conservatives. Wingate, the son in law of a former Governor, ran for Governor in 2002 and lost in the GOP primary, but gathered a following. That propelled his state senate race in 2004, in which Wingate lost to Joel Lourie. However, Wingate remained a popular figure withing certain Republican party circles, and Governor Mark Sanford tapped Wingate to be Interim State Treasurer in the immediate wake of the Thomas Ravenel cocaine scandal. Wingate's character is lauded even by his opponents, so do not be shocked if his name comes up again. However, Wingate's lack of prosecution experience and his failure to win in the past will be detriments to any possible run.

The fourth name out there is Alan Wilson. Wilson, the son of Congressman Joe Wilson is no ne'er do well political son seeking to ride on his father's name. Before recently joining the prominent law firm of Willoughby and Hoefer, Wilson spent his legal career prosecuting crime in the 11th Circuit Solicitor's Office and in the South Carolina Attorney General's office. Wilson is a proven crime fighter. Add to that his service in the South Carolina National Guard, in which he holds the current rank of Major. Wilson was deployed to Iraq in 2004. Wilson also served as clerk for the late and respected Judge Marc H. Westbrook. Further, Wilson's wife Jennifer was one of the most popular reporters for the largest television station in South Carolina, WIS. That said, one of Wilson's greatest assets, being the son of Joe Wilson and learning first hand from him, could be a detriment in that Mike Campbell's clumsy 2006 campaign for Lt. Governor soured voters towards legacies. That is not fair to Wilson, who has an impressive resume all his own, but it is reality.

The fifth name that keeps coming up in conversations about the Attorney General's race is US Attorney Walt Wilkins. Wilkins has an impressive resume that includes many awards as an assistant US Attorney. More recently as US Attorney, Wilkins led the effort to bring corruption charges against the Mayor and Zoning Director of the city of Union, SC. Wilkins is a Greenville native with strong upstate political ties. It is likely that President Obama will replace Wilkins in the coming months, so it makes sense that Wilkins might seek the office of Attorney General. Wilkins will be able to raise money to mount a serious campaign, but the detriment he faces is being so closely tied to Greenville. For whatever reason, with the exception of Jim DeMint, modern coastal voters do not embrace Greenville ties.

It is the coast that has VUI curious at this time. Talking to several old political hands around the state about the 2010 Attorney General's race, no coastal Republican came up in conversation. There has to be someone out there from the coast. If any reader knows of such a candidate, comment and let us all know.

The Democrats have to be mentioned as well. One Democrat VUI talked to expressed how much he wanted to see Columbia attorney Steve Benjamin seek the post again. Chance are, that is not going to happen. It appears that the former Democratic nominee for Attorney General is going to run for Mayor of Columbia.

That leaves Democratic Solicitor David Pascoe of the 1st Judicial District as the Democrat getting the most political buzz for the office. Not only do political hands in both parties mention his name, but Pascoe made clear his interest in considering a run in an article in the Orangeburg Times and Democrat newspaper. Pascoe is a career prosecutor who has served as Solicitor since his election in 2004. In order for Pascoe, or any other Democrat to have a legitimate chance at the job, they have to have no real primary opposition and start running for November early. Rumors are Democrats are trying to do that with all statewide offices, as they did in 1998, their last successful year.

That concludes the rumors VUI is hearing from various sources now. If you know of anyone else, in either party, to add to the mix, feel free to comment. It promises to be an interesting race, providing Attorney General McMaster does as expected and seeks the Governor's office instead of re-election.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Governor’s office to back tax credit for private public safety choices

Citing the continuing need for choices in government, a source inside the Governor’s office made clear that the Governor will be asking for tax credits for those property owners who choose to secure their property with private security or fire services.

“It is not fair that I have a 1.3 million dollar home and have to pay for the private security in my gated community and pay taxes for educrats, policecrats and fat fireman,” stated one upstate member of the House who supports the Governor’s measure.

The Governor’s spokesman pointed out by not having state paid for private public safety choice, South Carolinians were getting inefficient police and fire services. “Police officers and fire fighters are as bad as teachers in masking as heroes when if in fact they are just lazy bureaucrats who need competition from the private sector, “ the spokesman stated.

The money for the private public safety tax credit program is planned to come from the remainder of the local government fund in the state budget, leaving some to believe that local public safety agencies will see drastic cuts.

“Those cuts are what’s needed,” stated a blogger who supports the Governor, “I have dealt with law enforcement personally, and I say the fewer of them, the better. Maybe now we can make prostitution legal.”

“Besides,” stated the upstate member of the House with the 1.3 million dollar house, “if some people can not afford private public safety fees, perhaps they are not supposed to make it. This is the real world, and not everybody’s a winner.”

More on this issue as it develops.