Monday, August 31, 2009

Federal Government looking to take over private internet networks in emergencies

The focus of the debate about federal government issues has been on health care for the past few months. While a healthy debate on the federal government's role in health care is fitting, there are other issues that ought to get some attention.

one issue is Senate Bill 733, sponsored by Jay Rockerfeller of West Virginia and co-sponsored by Olympia Snowe of Maine. The bill gives the President of the United States authority to declare a "national cybersecurity emergency" and empower the federal government to take control of private computer networks. A cursory reading of the bill finds that it is vague on what would constitute a "national cybersecurity emergency" and just what powers the federal government would have in the end over private computer networks.

Further, the bill requires certain private computer networks to be administered by people who have obtained federal certification. Again, the language is vague as to what would qualify a private computer network to need a federally certified security administrator.

Various reports have the Senate Commerce staff arguing that the bill is not going to give the President the right to take over the internet and is fact needed to address cyber terrorism or natural disasters. Fair enough.

However, what Rockerfeller and his committee staff do not see is the potential ramifications of the legislation and frankly, just how creepy it seems. Assuming that they, and President Obama, have the best of intentions, they are opening the door for someone else to use the legislation to interfere with the free flow of ideas on the internet. Legislation, especially legislation about the free flow of information on the internet, should be created not by thinking about what the writer would do or what the current President would do, but what someone who would exploit such legislation would do. That is the best way to protect the American people.

As such, Senate Bill 733 is not very well thought out. While is it assumed that the writers of the bill and the President have the best of intentions, the bill opens the door for a serious restriction on the flow of information and on private businesses. There needs to be more specific definitions of what is an emergency and what measures can be taken for the bill to be acceptable in American life.

Perhaps it comes to down to whether or not we as a people are afraid of freedom. Freedom is not for the faint of heart. Believing in freedom of information means the guy who hates your guts and lies and espouses beliefs you would die fighting against has every much a right to state them and put them online as you do. Having the courage to allow that freedom is not easy. Therefore a federal government measure that could restrict that freedom under vague terms is a dangerous thing. Some politician, some day, will be all to tempted to use it for reasons other than a true emergency.

But, to those of us who believe in freedom, we know it is freedom of information that eventually wins in the marketplace of ideas if the ideas are espoused. People are not all evil. The vast majority of people are good, and they want what is best for themselves, their families, and their communities. Businesses who service the internet want to serve those people. If you believe in people, and in private enterprise, there is no fear about what computer networks would do in a crisis. The best of America would come out, with or without the federal government. Perhaps China or Iran has to have such powers of the state over the internet, but in the United States we do not.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sanford's resignation would lead to redemption

Years ago, as a stupid teenager, I acted like an ass at a friend’s house in front of that friend and his parents. Now, they were kind of enough that they eventually forgave me for being the stupid kid I was. But, my dad took a hard stance on my behavior. There were two enduring lessons my father’s hard stance taught me that will be with me until the day I die. First, a man does not show his behind at another man’s home, period. Second, there are sometimes when simply saying I am sorry is not enough. There has to be a real price paid in trying to find redemption.

As a teenager, my redemption was paid by not only an apology to the folks who I acted up in front of but hard physical labor in the form of digging up tree stumps that my dad found for me to do and considerable restrictions on my freedom imposed by him and my mother. I count myself lucky to have such a father who laid out reality to me. Simply asking for forgiveness was not enough. An apology was not enough. A price had to be paid.

As the facts keep coming in about Governor Mark Sanford and his affair and possible misuse of the state plane and whatever else that might come out, I wonder if Mark Sanford had a dad like mine. Governor Mark Sanford seems not to know that there are some things done that an apology is not enough. With those types of things, a man has to step up and pay a price.

I understand Mark Sanford more than most would think. I was born with that independent streak the Governor has. Just read some of the archived posts on this blog if you doubt that. I call my own shots, and sometimes I have paid heavily for it. I can be difficult man to deal with. But, I learned as a teenager what Mark Sanford does not seem to know now. When that independent streak actually hurts other people, a man has to step back and see his mistakes and then step up and pay the price for them.

Before Maria, Mark Sanford made hundreds of mistakes as Governor in how he dealt with fellow elected officials in the South Carolina General Assembly. The hostility between the Governor and members of his own party is unprecedented. But, the Governor made mistakes that hurt people, including his own family. That cannot be chalked up to being independent. That cannot be dismissed as politics and hoped to be solved with some press conferences with apologies. Sometimes, sorry does not cut it, action does.

The fact that the SC House Republican Caucus spent time talking about what do about Sanford over the weekend should be the ultimate wakeup call to the Governor. He is not 16 and full of beans. The Governor is a grown man. While the Governor need not dig up any stumps, his resignation would be a nice down payment to the people of South Carolina for redemption on the damage he has done to them.

Perhaps the Governor is unable to do such. I thank my father for my being able to call it like I see it, not only in sports and politics, but on myself. The latter is the hardest thing to do. No one really wants to admit that they hurt people and are not accountable. Further, no one really wants to get help when they have done wrong. It takes time for a man to realize that those who held him accountable were helping, not hurting.

So, Governor Sanford, when you read this post, or you listen to a legislator friend who encourages you to resign, they are not out to hurt you or get even with you. They are trying to help you find true redemption. Resign, and find your way to a better day. Stay on and fight, and well, even if you stay on as Governor, you will always be remembered as a man who put his selfish interests first and the state behind them. It comes down to how you want to be remembered by folks. Do you want to be remembered as a man without the sense of a headstrong teenager, or do you want to be remembered as a man who put his family and his state first and walked away with some sense of dignity?

I say, Governor, forego the silly press events in Greenville or Conway. Be a man. Pay the cost for redemption. Resign. I can assure you Governor resigning will be easier than digging up a tree stump. 

High School Friday nights starts on a Saturday night in Ware Shoals

It is late summer. Schools have started again, and so has high school football. There are few things in the South that can rival a local high school football game. People from all different backgrounds gather to cheer on their teams. Further, with the economy in the shape it is in, and ticket prices at the major colleges going through the roof, a high school football game is a great family night for folks. A ticket to a South Carolina High School League costs six dollars. The cost for a ticket at Clemson or South Carolina is nearly eight times that. A father and mother can take their three kids to a high school game for less than the cost of one major college ticket. Further, concession prices are far more reasonable at a high school game, and the revenue goes to help the local booster club or the marching band. The money one spends on tickets and concessions at a high school game goes to help the local team, not to pay the country club dues of a coach making a half a million a year.

There are some rather highly paid coaches and full blown big programs at the AAAA level, but again, it is still a reasonable night out for a family or individual. There is some seriously good football played at places like Byrnes and Summerville. During the season, VUI plans to write about a few AAAA programs.

That said, the really interesting traditions and community feel for the local boys and coaches is at the AA and A level. Little towns around South Carolina rally around their local high school teams. There is a sense of pride and tradition that is not really found at the big urban schools. People know kids on the team, cheering or playing in the band.

No place is that sense of pride and tradition more apparent than in Ware Shoals. Last year, VUI found that to be case in two games covered there. That is why the decision was made to kickoff this years Friday Nights line of posts in Ware Shoals, the four time defending region champions.

However, it turned out that the Friday Nights line would be kicked off on a Saturday night. Due to bad weather, and out of consideration for the fans, the game between Ware Shoals and AA opponent Saluda was postponed until Saturday night. The fans found the game was worth the wait.

As typical on a evening in late August, it was hot. The heat had its effect. But, the atmosphere was electric for small high school football. The town of Ware Shoals had placed purple flags up upon the light poles lining the street to the school. Ware Shoals, with its old field house that is from the turn of the century, was sporting renovations to the stadium. Fans for both Ware Shoals and Saluda turned out to watch their teams.

Both Ware Shoals and Saluda had the typical first game bugs to work out. For that matter, the officiating crew did as well. in the first quarter, there were missed assignments, dumb penalties, and even missed calls from the officials. The officials missed 12 men being on the field for Saluda once. There were several holding calls on both sides missed. But, such is to be expected in an opening game. The kids are nervous more than they or their coaches will admit and the officials have to get used to working with one another. Such are the kinks of opening night.

But, eventually, the game settled down to be good entertainment for a football fan. Ware Shoals came out to its entrance, as reported here before, one of the best in small schools anywhere.

Ware Shoals sputtered at first on offense, but then found their way with touchdowns by Chris Suber and Nick Davis, along with one kicked extra point and one two point conversion to take a 15-0 lead.

That lead did not last long, as on the ensuing kickoff, Saluda's Keke Clark ran 82 yards, and with the PAT, Ware Shoals led 15-7. Again, both Ware Shoals and Saluda had their offensive sputters, and the score remained 15-7 at the break.

Saluda, under new coach Doug Painter, came out less sluggish in the second half. Saluda cut the Ware Shoals lead to 15-13 when Drew Mitchell hit Tornelius Glover for a TD pass. Then with a little over six minutes left, Saluda took the lead on the leg of Brian Bushey's 41 yard field goal.

Trailing 16-15, and time ticking away, Ware Shoals faced a third down
and a long three. That is when Shamaryea Smith broke for a 57 yard touchdown run. Ware Shoals converted on the two point conversion and took a 23-16 lead.

However, Saluda was not finished. The Tigers drove inside the Hornets' ten yard line before having to give up the ball after four tries at the end zone. Ware Shoals got a first down on their next series and ran the clock out, sealing a 23-16 win over Saluda.

I thank the staff of Ware Shoals for their hospitality. If you want to see some good old fashioned football, go watch Ware Shoals and its old style offense and its small town program steeped in tradition. The atmosphere is great there. The concessions are reasonable. It is a place you can take your kids and feel safe and not have to raid their college fun to pay for the tickets and the hot dogs.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Humor and being a RINO

Tonight's post was going to be about high school football. Friday night was the kickoff to the high school football season. Unfortunately, bad weather postponed the Ware Shoals and Saluda game VUI was set to cover. VUI will cover it Saturday night.

That said, there have been some rather interesting emails sent, and a few comments posted, about the humor on this blog. Well, get over it. I personally like to laugh and find humor. The members of the VUI staff like to laugh as well and they point out things to make fun of. If you are an elected official, a staffer, a political handler or a self important ass, well, maybe you should read VUI with your medication or a stiff drink nearby. We are going to have fun, period.

Then there is the RINO stuff. I have never really got why that label is attached to me and VUI. Since I was 17 years old, I have worked for Republican campaigns. For over twenty years, I have towed the Republican line. In fact, it even started earlier than that. My mother reminded me that in 1980, I made a poster for a school project for Ronald Reagan for President. I have never looked back.

Indeed, until the day I die, I will be pro-life, pro-gun, for limited government and for lower taxes on the people of South Carolina and the United States. I learned how to be a Republican from the likes of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Strom Thurmond and Carroll Campbell. I will never support government, at any level, paying for political investigations of political opponents or for private school educations. I will always stand up for limited government, a strong national defense, and freedom. I will always put South Carolina first and question anyone who is funded by someone outside the state and rides in to do a political hack job.

If that and the sense of humor I and the staff of Voting under the Influence have makes me a RINO, well, I can live with that. I was working for Republicans while most of the people calling me a RINO could not find South Carolina with a chauffeur and a road map. As long as I can, I will make sure VUI stands up for South Carolina, core Republican values and has a little fun along the way. If that makes me a RINO, well, I will wear that badge with honor. At least I did not have to fly to Argentina to get it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Top 9 reasons a man will drink

With our name, we know drinking. After discussing issues with the staff and readers and just people out there, we came up with a top nine reasons a man will drink. It ain't pretty, but it's real. Everyone one the reasons is a real reason we have heard from people over the years. Uh, yeah, that's right. Here we go.

9) Your brother-in-law moves in for a few days until he gets his court case settled. He tells you to ignore all those deputies looking for him.

8) You son in law asks you if you can cover the bad check he wrote to the church in the offering plate last Sunday.

7) Your wife says, “Never mind Jose being naked. It helps him cut the grass better.” She goes on to say, "yes, I know there is no grass to be cut on our living room couch, but it helps him concentrate."

6) For whatever reason, your college buddies think that you actually want to see an email of the most perverted thing that they have ever found on the internet. What really gets you to pour a shot is when you call a college buddy; his wife answers the phone and then asks, “how did you like that video we emailed you? I worked hard on that.”

5) A cousin you have not heard from in years calls you and starts off the conversation with “you are still a lawyer, right?”

4) Your 15 year old daughter tells you she learned all sorts of new things on her first day at school and then asks, “where can I get a dental dam really cheap? Jim Bob asked me out.”

3) Some guy in a sedan shows up and says, “We are from the government. Congratulations, you have been selected for a special one on one meeting with Speaker Pelosi and President Obama.”

2) After you recover from a heart attack, you find out while you were in the hospital that your buddies drew straws on who would have the first shot at your wife.

1) As a resident of South Carolina, Governor Mark Sanford keeps blaming you for why he won’t resign and leave us alone. He hints at showing up at your doorstep.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Parody: Sanford won't resign

Governor Mark Sanford made clear again today that he will not step down as Governor of South Carolina, rejecting Lt. Governor Andre Bauer’s offer to serve out the rest of the Sanford term and not seek the office in his own right.

Sanford remarked, “While for my soul mate and four little boys, I would love to leave this job, there are, uh uh uh, some factors at play. First of all, some uh, very uh, important, uh, folks don’t want me to quit, and I have to uh, respect their wishes.”

Sanford went on to say, “Those, uh, folks like Nikki Haley. I like her too. Nikki is an exotic and beautiful woman who, uh, embraces, uh, my agenda. It would be, uh, sort of unfair to her and the folks who backed me and now back her for me to uh, resign. Nikki is uh, like my political soul mate, and I just can’t, uh, resign on her now.”

The Governor’s response led to several comments from various members of the South Carolina political scene. Attorney General Henry McMaster pledged he would “do all in his power” to make sure the Governor and Nikki Haley had not used Craig’s List. Congressman Gresham Barrett simply stated, “Look ya’ll, I ain’t had nothing to do with any of this crap.”

First Lady Jenny Sanford was very clear in her remarks. She stated, “Look, I don’t know who this Bauer fellow thinks he is, but if anyone is entitled to be Governor if my sorry husband resigns, it is me. Get that? I am the one wronged here, and I should get the job, not some guy that looks like Jeff Gordan. I will not be ignored.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Glen McConnell simply stated, “Look I don’t want to be Lt. Governor. I wonder if Harvey would take the job.”

House Speaker Bobby Harrell had no comment, as he and his staff were huddling with consultants and House members to determine what was best to do.

Democrats were not so unsure. “Keep Sanford,” former state Democratic Chairman and Dwight Drake supporter Dick Hartpootlian stated.

“With President Obama’s numbers going down, Thank God for Mark Sanford,” stated another Democratic operative.

Of course lost in this political saga was the personal discomfort of Maria Sanchez, a Honduran woman who flew into Columbia to visit family recently. As Ms. Sanchez came through the airport, she was met by harassing bloggers, who asked where she was staying and if she intended to see the Governor. Ms. Sanchez, an attractive woman by all accounts, did not understand the questions and rushed away to a taxi. The result was several bloggers posting that Mark Sanford’s lover had came to Columbia. Upon reading the blog posts, Maria Sanchez’s brother, Paco, a former middleweight boxing champion, issued a hard hitting statement that in sum said his sister was not desperate enough to have an affair with a middle aged gringo Governor. Paco’s challenge to fight those who questioned his sister’s honor went unanswered, though several members of the General Assembly, after seeing photos of Maria, offered their personal aide and comfort to the Honduran visitor.

Paco did his part, comforting the Lt. Governor, telling him, “Andre, you did all you could.”

Democrats Dwight Drake and Vincent Sheheen were reportedly in negotiations with the country duo Brooks and Dunn to use their hit "My Maria" on their campaign stops.

A complicated man who lived a full life

Senator Edward Kennedy passed away this week from his battle with brain cancer. The Senator's political views were not in tune with the views of VUI. Further, the Senator certainly had his personal low points. However, Edward Kennedy did serve his state and his causes in the United States Senate for nearly 47 years. As an elder statesman, he gained the respect of people on both sides of the aisle.

Now that Senator Kennedy has passed, it is time to measure him by the full time of his service and note his courage in the end. VUI offers the last major appearance of Senator Kennedy, at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver less than one year ago. Though it is easy to disagree with Kennedy's point of view, his courage to give the speech itself must be respected. Kennedy was all but blind from surgery and could not read a teleprompter and was in considerable pain. Yet, like an old pro, he gave a memorable speech. So here is to the greatest player on the opposition's scene in the past decades and how he suited up one last time. Prayers and sympathy go out to Kennedy's friends and family.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sanford saga is just sad to watch

Lt. Governor Andre Bauer is catching a lot of heat from some pundits and bloggers for doing one of the few right things so far in the Sanford saga. Lt. Governor Bauer was correct to offer foregoing the 2010 campaign if Governor Sanford stepped down for the good of the state. Sanford’s response to such in his letter to the Lt. Governor and in his press conference is just sad to see. Sanford’s eccentricities have caught up with him. Sanford’s feelings of being against the world of South Carolina politics makes it seem as if his reason could be slipping. The Governor’s assertions as to his own investigation about plane travel just reinforced Bauer’s assertion that the next few months are going to be about Sanford and not about South Carolina.

When the Governor of South Carolina groans on about the press after him and how he is being “railroaded” and one adds to it his bizarre interview with the AP a few weeks ago, those who care about this state and its governor wonder about our governor’s state of mind. It is so sad it is hard to watch and it is hard to write about. No one who loves South Carolina wants the Governor’s trials and tribulations talked about on CNN or in Vogue Magazine or to see the sitting Governor of South Carolina look so small and defensive. Any decent South Carolinian is saddened to see his state in the middle of such a drama. Any decent human being is saddened by what Governor Sanford and Mrs. Sanford are doing to one another and themselves on such a public stage.

There is some comfort in knowing that it has been worse. Coleman Blease was Governor of South Carolina from 1911-1915. Blease was not only a strong racist, but his reason and scruples were both questionable. Blease thought Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola soft drinks were evil, and even mentioned such in his Inaugural Address. Blease pardoned over 1500 people, some just for the heck of it, which led to the pardon powers being taken away from the Governor. Further, when Richard Manning was elected to succeed Blease as Governor, Blease was so upset that he resigned five days before the end of his term so he would not have to hand the office over to Manning. When it came to the press, Blease not only complained about them, he wanted reporters who published his speeches jailed. Sanford and his supporters can take comfort in the fact that after several years outside of politics Blease got elected somehow to a term in the United States Senate. (Of course Mrs. Blease was not giving interviews to the hip magazines of the day.)

Though Sanford is a very different Governor than Blease, it is clear that he shares with Blease the huge personal ego that led Blease to act in a way that divided his own party and weakened the office of Governor. Such is indeed ironic. Mark Sanford, the man who was elected on a platform to increase the power of the Governor of South Carolina, might, as a result of his dogmatic stance to cling to office, weaken the office as no Governor has since Coleman Blease. It is just sad for South Carolina to watch.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Top 9 Reasons President Obama is going on vacation

Again, VUI offers 9 reasons, because we ain't smart enough to come up with ten. Here are the Top nine reasons President Obama has for taking a vacation this week:

9) Ever spent seven months looking across the table at Nancy Pelosi?

8) The taxes on bourbon and cigarettes in D.C. are killing me.

7) Tigar Woods said he would play golf with me and throw the match.

6) You can only yell at a man and his health care plan so much before he breaks.

5) One more memo from Hillary and I will will nuke someone.

4) Hey, W. did it, why can't I?

3) Quit asking questions. Don't you know I am the man?

2) Sometimes, Joe Biden has to have something to do.

1) Relax, people, I am going to Maine with my wife, not to Argentina without her.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sanford resignation would end Democrats' giddiness

An old Democratic hand I talked with recently was giddy over Sanford staying in office so that the Democratic Party would have Sanford to punch around next fall in the statewide elections. There is serious debate going on within the Democratic Party about what to do about Mark Sanford. According to various sources, some contend that impeaching Mark Sanford would do enough damage to the SC GOP and give the Democrats an upper hand next fall. Others believe that the GOP standing by Sanford enough to keep him in office will be even more devastating next fall.

One man could end the debate within the Democratic Party and within the Republican Party. If Mark Sanford had the courage to resign his office, he would disarm the South Carolina Democratic Party as it licks its political chops for next fall. The Democrats remain giddy because it appears that Mark Sanford does not have the sense to remove himself and his personal issues from the scene so that his party can campaign on issues and not on him in 2010.

A few weeks ago, VUI called for Mark Sanford to resign as Governor. The call was not made in personal animosity as Governor Sanford and his remaining supporters have suggested such calls were. It was made because the staff of VUI understands political realities. As we pointed out, the longer Mark Sanford remained governor, the more embarrassing the details and digging the press would do. Since that call, Mark Sanford gave his embarrassing “soul mate” interview; his plane travel is under high scrutiny, and Jenny Sanford made not so subtle digs at Sanford and his lover in a Vogue magazine interview. Such things not only hurt the image of the South Carolina Republican Party, but the image of South Carolina itself, in a time in which South Carolina is struggling to create jobs for its people.

The honorable and right thing for Mark Sanford and, yes, even Jenny Sanford to do, is to exit the public stage. As stated a few weeks ago, if Sanford resigned as Governor, he could work on his private life more privately, and South Carolina and the South Carolina Republican Party could get back to business. The longer Sanford remains in office, the more the press and the bloggers will dwell on his personal life, his travel issues, and colorful things like where his lover is. Mrs. Sanford can keep feeding that as well with her own campaign in the press.

However, if the Sanfords left the scene, they could possibly one day rehabilitate their public images. It happened on a bigger scale in 1974. Richard Nixon believed until the day he died that he did nothing really wrong in regards to Watergate. However, in August of 1974, Nixon had the sense and, yes, even the sense of personal love of country and honor, to resign the most powerful office in the world so that his country would be spared more scandal and division. There are those who contend there would have been no Reagan election in 1980 had Nixon fought to the bitter end. Nixon saved his country a longer ordeal and saved the GOP from complete destruction by resigning. As a result, Nixon emerged in his elderly years as an elder statesman whose counsel was called upon. People bought Nixon's books.

Governor Mark Sanford faces a similar situation. Perhaps it is not fair or right in his eyes or in the eyes of his supporters that he faces resignation. However, the political realities are what they are. If Sanford stays on, he will hurt the Republican nominee in 2010, he will hurt the agenda he claims to care about so, and he will make himself a man who is remembered as small and petty. As members of the State House consider articles of Impeachment and the Democratic Party leadership tries to hide their collective giddiness, it falls on Mark Sanford to find the courage to shut all of that down by resigning his office and leaving the public scene.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Some ideas on health care

Health care reform is the rage of the day. I thought I would offer some ideas I have on the subject. T

First, medical malpractice insurance and lawsuits must be dealt with. I had a conversation with a dentist recently who told me that, while he has never been sued for malpractice, he pays more for his annual insurance premium than he pays his dental assistant. There is something wrong with that. Perhaps capping punitive damages in medical malpractice lawsuits would be a start. Beyond that, incentives should be created for insurance companies to give reasonable rates to doctors who have never been sued or who work in low income regions. In return for that, state medical boards should be encouraged to be more dogged in their discipline of doctors who are sued or who are incompetent. It seems easier in most states to get a lawyer disbarred or an engineer’s license taken away than for an incompetent doctor to be barred from practicing medicine. That has to change in order for liability insurance companies and the public to accept major malpractice reform.

Second, there is the issue of access to health insurance. The vast majority of those uninsured are people who are unemployed, self employed, or work for small businesses. An insurance pool should be created for those people so that they can get a policy under the same “required” coverage that governments, unions and big businesses enjoy. In order to help those who have little means, a tax credit up to $5000 for an individual should be created for health insurance premiums. As most union and government workers don’t have to worry about pre-conditions, the same deal should be given to the pool created.

Third, there is the issue of costs. The rise of health care costs in the United States is far beyond the growth of the cost of any other good or service over the past 30 years. There are two reasons for that. First, there is the ever growing for profit health care systems. Second, there are the ever growing government regulations that require more and more paper work.

I will use my birth as an example. In 1971, I was born at Self Memorial Hospital. It was nonprofit. There were a handful of clerks who handled basic records and billing. Medical people far outnumbered the clerical ones. The bill my dad was handed was around $500. In 2009, a child born in a hospital faces a much different situation. The doctor who delivered the child has to factor in his own insurance costs, which are about twice what the parents make a year. The hospital has to pay clerks to make sure HIPPA and other regulations are followed to government standards. The hospital administrator has to make sure that the hospital makes a profit. The health insurance company has to make sure that the hospital met its requirements and was in network, paying someone for that. After it is all said and done, the happy father is handed a bill for a few grand, after his insurance has paid its part, providing some clever insurance clerk does not find a way to deny the claim. Is there any wonder why people are getting tired of health care costs?

One idea to solve the growing costs is to provide incentives for communities to have nonprofit health care providers. Perhaps that could come in the form of making charitable deductions to a nonprofit health care provider unlimited. In other words, if you made $100,000 in capital gains in a year, and gave $100,000 to a nonprofit health provider, you pay no taxes. The town doctor used to be a man who lived comfortably, but was not about having the big house or the like. He was about serving the people first. He left the money to the business people. We have to somehow instill that again in the medical profession.

Another idea to drive down costs is to untangle the regulations. The health care industry should be about the health care provider and the patient. Having clerks and that is what they are, regardless their titles, shuffle this form and that form back and forth is unnecessary. There is a direct link between the rising cost of health care and the amount of clerks who shuffle forms back and forth to satisfy government regulations. If we can get back to health care being between the provider and the patient, with minimal clerical work, costs would drop dramatically.

Fourth, there are the patient’s and doctor’s rights. Health care decisions should be made by the doctor and patient. There should be no clerk from the insurance company or the hospital involved. The malpractice reform noted above would keep the doctor from ordering tests to satisfy his legal counsel. The costs cutting measures noted above would allow a doctor to decide to keep a patient in the hospital an extra day or two without some clerk from the insurance company or the hospital saying it is time for the patient to go home.

Also, we should work to eliminate the in network situation for emergency care. Unlike the economic purchases of a shirt or television, people cannot often shop and compare when it comes to health care. If you are being rolled into the ER at Self Regional after an auto accident, you really don’t think to say, “Hey guys, uh, take me to Anderson, they are in network and cheaper.”

I don’t pretend that the above ideas are the only answers. I do know that health care in the United States has become a costly mess and that millions of Americans are afraid of those costs and don’t seek the care that they need as a result. While I will never agree with ideas such as taxing people for having great insurance plans or the rationed care that would be a public health plan, I do realize that there is a problem. As there is a problem, ideas should be offered and considered.

Obama at the crossroads

When President Obama took office in January, he had an incredible approval rating. Nearly 70 percent of the public approved of him. People wanted him to do well. Seven months after taking office, the President is hovering in the upper forties or lower fifties, depending on the poll. President Obama is in worse shape than Jimmy Carter in 1977, and in about the same shape as President Bush in 2001 before the terrorists attacks.

Democrats want to believe such is the case because President Obama is tackling big things. Republicans want to believe such is the case because President Obama is spending too much money. Both sides might have a point to be considered, however, the biggest reason that President Obama’s standing is slipping is the weak leadership he is exhibiting.

Take the health care debate as a prime example. The President stated he wanted health care reform, but offered no specific package, instead he let Congress come up with the details. As such, when the President is out on the stump for health care reform, he can defend no specifics and looks like he is waiting for someone else to do the heavy lifting of leadership. The President increasingly looks like a man who is all hat and no cattle on health care. Trial balloons are sent out by his administration and he looks like a man who has no hard beliefs he will draw a line on.

Making matters worse for the President is how his White House has handled the growing angst in the nation that questions his actions. Instead of appreciating free speech and engaging people, the President’s supporters have spent their time attacking average Americans, without political power, who dare to question. That is a sign of weakness.

In sum, the Obama Administration has lost 20 percent in approval ratings in seven months because it appears to be indecisive and reactionary to those who dare to question. President Obama is at the point in which he must realize that he is the President of the United States. Perhaps that seems silly to some. But, the President of the United States does not wait to say what he believes until Congress tells him. The President of the United States does not fret the comments from those out of power who exercise their rights of free speech.

The next few weeks will be telling for President Obama. Forget the health care debate and partisan politics for a moment. If President Obama does not start acting like the President of the United States and assert his leadership, right or wrong, his Presidency will be a weak one. If President Obama continues to allow Congress to decide his priorities on major issues, the institution of the Presidency will be weakened. Thus, President Obama is at the crossroads. Is he going to be a President or a glorified prime minister?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

How to defeat SC's culture of failure

For the past decade or so, the education debate in South Carolina and revolved around K-12. Be it accountability, reform, funding, or tuition tax credits, the debate on education in South Carolina has been about children.

There are reasons for that. People are sentimental about children. People are instinctively geared to siding with whatever political side that convinces them that their approach is better for children. Such an approach whets the appetite of the voters, but it might not be the best way to approach the problems that plague South Carolina’s education system and its economy.

South Carolina has pockets of poverty that are in stark contrast to areas that are relatively prospering, even in these hard economic times. Those pockets of poverty are where incredible education disappointments are found. The areas correspond in an undeniable fashion. No amount of money spent, innovations, or school choice can change that until the parents themselves have a hope of finding the skills to make their own lives better. With that hope, those parents will believe in the hope for their children. Without that hope, they will not.

That is why it is time for the education debate in South Carolina to shift a bit. It is time that the leaders of South Carolina reach out to businesses and ask them what they need in skills from potential employees. Of course, on paper, that sort of thing is mouthed. But, again, the truth of the matter is that debate is not the focus of the education debate. Businesses get lip service only. Adult education is an afterthought. Millions are spent on both sides on the K-12 debate, yet finding out what businesses want in a workforce, and giving people a chance to get those skills to have hope in the American dream is the key to bringing up South Carolina.

Talking about what businesses need in their workforce and lifting up adult education is not politically sexy to the politicos, lobbyists and bureaucrats. But, such deserves a shot. After all, the debate over the past decade or so has produced the highest unemployment rate in the Southeast and some of the poorest education performances in the nation. It’s time for a new approach that embraces what businesses need and gives adults opportunity to succeed for themselves and show their children that education can make a better life. That seems to be the only way to defeat the culture of failure that envelops so much of South Carolina.

This week's Top 9

Again, VUI offers a Top 9, because were are not smart enough to come up with a Top 10.

Here are the Top 9 ways to know you are about to have a bad day:

9) Your boss’s son in law calls you asking for a “little favor.”

8) You go ahead and take advantage of that email offer to help you get your unknown uncle’s assets in Nigeria.

7) You find you have a wife in Texas you never knew about. She has your checking account number.

6) The guys in the sedan who have been parked across the street for the past week decide to come on over.

5) In your influenced wisdom, you offer the state trooper who pulled you over a swig from your flask.

4) You are named Administrator of Anderson County, SC.

3) You follow that gut feeling and take out a loan to bet on Clemson winning this year’s national championship.

2) Your doctor is out in the hall reading a book on how to perform your hemorrhoid surgery. He skips the part about anesthetics.

1) Your secretary walks in your office and says, “Excuse me, sir, but two women named Jenny and Maria are here to see you. They are both rather insistent.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Parody: Anderson County leaves SC and the US

After WAIM’s Rick Driver made clear that his website had some unwanted outsider voting in a poll, and the South Carolina National Guard did not do the Anderson County Council’s bidding, Anderson County Council Chairman Eddie Moore said enough was enough for the Anderson County Council.

As such, Moore led an effort for the Anderson County Council to vote to secede from the state of South Carolina and the United States. “Now,” Moore said, “we don’t have to worry about SLED or the Attorney General or the National Guard. We run the show now in Anderson County. We are our own nation. People had better learn to conform to what we want and conform now. Cindy, what else do I need to say? ”

Rick Driver’s radio show was filled with radio bliss upon the 5-2 vote of the Anderson County Council to secede from South Carolina and the United States. Said one caller, “Oh, Thank God, Eddie Moore is my new President. Thank God. We will be so much better off now.” Another caller commented, “When do we declare Cindy Wilson’s birthday a holiday?” Yet another caller lamented, “Can we hang Joey Preston and Bill McAbee at once or do we have to hang them separate, and what do we do with Brian McCarty?”

There were some lamentations from some members of council. Council Member Ron Wilson seemed especially distraught. Mr. Wilson commented, “The first time I got a chance to vote for secession, and I felt I could not. I was torn. I hope Bedford Forrest forgives me.” Gracie Floyd kept referring to the Lord. Cindy Wilson sheepishly said that she did not lead the secession movement but that she wanted to make sure little old ladies in Williamston got their yards raked. Bob Waldrep asked, “What did we just vote on?”

New Anderson County President Eddie Moore announced his public enemies list. At the top was Joey Preston. Secret agents in pickup trucks were ordered to watch various people in the county. The Anderson County Council ordered “that any person who speaks against how we spend money is against the people and we will order their detainment.”

South Carolina’s Governor and President Obama found rare agreement in learning of the Anderson County secession. They issued a joint statement that stated, “Good riddance. We are tired of dealing with those nutcases.” In response, Moore responded, “at least I don’t have a black President and Lindsey Graham as my senator. Gracie, we are coming for you now. Just because we can’t get some Latina hottie does not mean we don’t have the power. ”

No news on what the diplomatic relations between Anderson County and the United States are to be. There was also no comment on how Anderson County refugees would be handled by the United States.

So it's Dwight Drake

For weeks, Democratic insiders have been hinting that a game changing super candidate was going to enter the 2010 Gubernatorial Primary. Dwight Drake, a powerful lobbyist and lawyer, was mentioned often in circles in Columbia. Now, it appears that Drake is indeed the secret super candidate.

Most South Carolinians do not know who Dwight Drake is. Since the days of Governor West in the early 1970s, Drake has been a major backroom player for the Democrats in Columbia. Drake has represented big business interests and some controversial interests, such as video poker and those who wish to place their waste in South Carolina. Drake’s insider knowledge of South Carolina power politics and his ability to raise money are respected by people in both the Democratic and Republican parties. In other words, Drake is a major player behind the scenes. Politicians return his phone calls.

However, being a major player behind the scenes has not resulted in winning statewide elections in South Carolina in modern history. Indeed, since the Constitution of 1895, no lobbyist has been elected Governor of South Carolina. Thus, it appears Drake is in an uphill fight. His lobbyist work alone will be exposed a lot more than Drake probably thinks. There is a big difference between being a staffer and being a candidate. How Drake navigates that difference will determine how well he does in the Democratic primary.

While Drake should not be seen as a game changing super candidate, Drake does have some assets that could make him formidable in the Democratic Primary. First, he is the ultimate insider. Drake knows where the political bodies are buried and whose buttons to push. Second, he is able to raise a boatload of money from the first factor. Third, Drake benefits from the lack of support that the establishment Democrats in Columbia have for Jim Rex, who they did not even choose as delegate to the Democratic National Convention, and Vincent Sheheen, who they fear as a youthful reformer. Fourth, Drake has hired the people who advised Obama in South Carolina, which strongly hints that the Obama organization could give him support.

The above factors make Drake a serious player in the 2010 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary. However, it is unlikely that Drake would be a strong General Election candidate. Drake could be if everyone else dropped out of the primary and closed ranks behind him for the nomination, as was the case with Jim Hodges in 1997 and 1998. The same could be said for either Rex or Sheheen.

However, the atmosphere just does not seem to be right for that. Democrats are sensing a chance to make big gains in South Carolina in wake of the Sanford scandal, and are likely to fight out a tough and bitter primary for the Governor.

The Republicans are likely to do the same. The difference is the Republican nominee will have to fight off the urge to size the drapes in the Governor’s Mansion if Drake is the Democratic nominee. Such an assertion is no offense to Drake. By all accounts he is a smart and good man. However, in the General Election, those special interests he has represented will be difficult to explain to swing voters in South Carolina that typically swing Republican. A Democratic nominee has to give voters a reason to split their ticket in South Carolina. It does not seem Drake can do that.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

This week's Top 9

This weeks Top 9 takes a look at neighbors. From small towns to big cities, we all have neighbors. Some we know. Some we don't. Some we love and some we hate and some we both love and hate. Well here are the Top 9 tips on how to be a better neighbor:

9) If you are playing your music loud enough for your neighbors to listen to, make sure its not crap.

8) Pull down the shades. People really don't want to see that.

7) If you over 40, put a shirt on when you are out in the yard.

6) If you need to ask your neighbor for money or if you can borrow something, it helps to ask when sober.

5) If your BBQ stinks up the neighborhood, don't be offended when some neighbors show up looking for something to eat.

4) If your neighbors can hear your more intimate moments, they all know you are faking.

3) Peeking out the blinds at your neighbors while they are in their yard makes you seem creepy.

2) Your backyard is not a bathroom. Even if people can't see your privates from a distance, they don't want to think about it. Share your self pride more privately.

1) If your neighbor speaks out against President Obama's health care plan, do your neighbor a favor and turn them into the White House email that has been set up for such. Re-education is harmless and will leave your neighbor more progressive in the eyes of the great leaders of our country.

For the record, the staff of VUI love their neighbors. :)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Obama goes beyond Chicago style politics

Civil libertarians who thought that the Bush polices on the war on terror were troubling ought to be alarmed at how the national Democratic Party leadership is responding to the protests found at town hall style meetings about health care reform.

First, the Democratic National Committee launched ads that accused the Republican party of organizing the protests. The White House joined in the accusation and condemnation. Then, the Democrats, sensing that was not enough to stem the protests, went up a level. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated that the protestors were sabotaging the democratic process. In that spirit, the White House started an email address in which people could email any communications they received about health care reform they were concerned about.

Let that sink in for a moment. The Leader of the United States Senate says that those who exercise their constitutional right to speech and protest are “sabotaging” the democratic process. Further, the President of the United States is asking you to turn in your friends and neighbors who forward an email to you questioning his policies. No matter where one stands on health care reform, the tactics of Senator Reid and President Obama are chilling to the American way of life.

Further, Senator Reid and the President are hypocritical when it comes to criticizing groups for organizing protests or activity. Neither condemned the anti war protestors during the Bush Administration who were often organized by highly paid professional protestors. Neither condemned the heavy handed tactics of labor unions against the individual’s right to choose for himself what job and what wage fits him.

The heart of the hypocrisy is found in how many of the health care town halls are being organized by a group called Organizing for America. Organizing for America is the political lovechild of the Obama for President Campaign and ACORN. In other words, the President and the Democrats are calling conservatives sinister for organizing attendance at the meetings in which the President’s supporters are trying to organize and pack with Obama sycophants.

What the President is missing is the depth of the real anger and fear out there. People hear about trillion dollar bailouts to banks, but can not get a loan. People hear about trillion dollar stimulus packages, but are told their local park has to be closed and their local police department has to lay off officers, even with a tax increase. People hear about how the union businesses, such as the Big 3 automakers , get government bailouts and incentive programs, but their business does not have a union, so it is own its own. Now, they are told the people who brought all of that are going to change their health care. People with no money and no coverage are even concerned when they hear things like mandatory coverage and their once private medical records being all put public. The list of fears and concerns goes on.

To add insult to injury, the President of the United States and the Leader of the United States Senates address those concerns by trying to turn those who voice such concerns into villains. Instead of the open and cooperative government promised by the President we are getting a Chicago style administration, where those who dare to speak out are reached out and “touched” so speak.

Frankly, if President Obama and Harry Reid want to punish another politician for not backing them, fine, hardball politics has been played among politicians since this nation started. However, when two of the most powerful politicians in the United States use hardball tactics to chill the 1st Amendment Rights of the American people, it goes beyond Chicago style politics and becomes something all of us, regardless of party or position, should be concerned about.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Time to put up or shut up on Barrett rumors

The FITS News blog ran by Will Folks and other bloggers and politicos are hinting heavily that Congressman Gresham Barrett has a personal problem that will emerge soon that will caste Barrett out of the Governor’s race. Frankly, it’s a rumor of a rumor right now, and any whispered details do not deserve to be published on VUI or anywhere else until someone steps up and shows a credible source.

That said there are some things at play. Barrett has benefited the most from the Sanford scandal. Barrett raised a large sum of money lately, and looks better than the other candidates out there. While Barrett quietly raised money and support, McMaster’s law and order do right persona was hit by McMaster’s politically calculated moves on the Sanford mess. Lt. Governor Bauer was especially hit, as an unexpected wave of “not Andre” hit from those who did not want Bauer to be the sitting Governor in 2010. Rep. Nikki Haley was also hit, given her close ties to Sanford. Thus, Barrett came out of the Sanford mess the strongest candidate for 2010 at this point, and the other camps had to act somehow.

What better way to act then to report on a rumor of one another’s rumors on blogs and in talking circles among the chattering political classes? VUI does not know Barrett well enough to know what is true or not about his personal life. Frankly, we do not really care that much. However, the big scandals break without rumors about rumors. Two weeks before the Sanford scandal broke, there were no hints of it. There is a reason for that. When a blogger or news person worth their salt gets a really scandalous story down cold, they break it. If they sense how big it can be, they hold it to themselves while they work their sources. It is simply hard to believe that a blogger or a reporter could have damaging information about a sitting United States Congressman and tell everyone they have something before they break it. It goes against the grain of having the scoop, so to speak.

That said, there is something else telling about the Barrett rumors of rumors spreading on the blogs. There appears to be a division in the coalition of libertarian/conservative paid politicos that formed the Sanford movement. With Sanford’s career done, it seems that a battle is developing as to which candidate is the messenger of that agenda and which activists and politicos are behind that candidate. Consider this. The Club for Growth recently backed Bauer, but the Will Folks faction spread the rumors of a rumor from those working with other elements of the party.

Frankly, South Carolina Republican politics seems to now be at the lowest level of debate. Instead of challenging Barrett on his record or the issues, which are legitimate things to question, it seems his opponents are having their activists take on the role of the high school girls gossiping about the girl who is the front runner for homecoming queen. The big difference is the gossipers are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by various interests who want to run South Carolina. Frankly, Gresham Barrett has not been a favorite of VUI on a number of things, but the man has a family, has served his state in General Assembly and in the United States Congress, and he deserves for his opponents to either “put up or shut up,” when it comes to rumors about rumors of his personal life.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Some more history on the race for Governor

Governor Mark Sanford’s insistence on staying in office has the most direct political effect upon Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, who is seeking the Governor’s post in 2010. Historically, sitting Lt. Governors who have tried to move up the Governor’s Mansion have had a difficult time. Being the sitting Lt. Governor of South Carolina has historically been no asset to winning the Governor’s race. (However, Robert McNair, the last Lt. Governor to assume the office of Governor, was easily elected in his own right for a term.)

Bob Peeler lost his bid to Mark Sanford in 2002. Nick Theodore lost his bid to David Beasley in 1994. Mike Daniel lost his bid to Carroll Campbell in 1986. All three were thought to be capable political forces in their time, but somehow fell short of the Governor’s office.

Indeed, the last sitting Lt. Governor to be elected Governor was nearly forty years ago, when then Lt. Governor John West was elected in 1970. Before West, only two other sitting Lt. Governors had been elected Governor since the current constitution of 1895: Fritz Holllings in 1958 and George Bell Timmerman, Jr. in 1954.

Thus, being the sitting Lt. Governor proves to be no historical advantage. One thing that does stand out as an historical trend is previous service in the South Carolina General Assembly. Only five of the 31 governors under the constitution of 1895 have not had some experience in the South Carolina General Assembly. Current Governor Mark Sanford is one of them. Before Sanford, one has to go back to 1962 when University of South Carolina President Donald Russell was elected Governor. Before Russell was Charleston Mayor Burnet R. Maybank in 1938. The other two are Duncan Heyward in 1902 and William Ellerbe in 1896.

Combined with the previous post about the Third Congressional District, one thing is certain for 2010, there is a good chance for history to be made. Congressman Barrett will defy the Third District Congressional dead end if he wins. Lt. Governor Bauer will defy forty years of bad history for sitting Lt. Governors if he wins. Henry McMaster will become the first sitting Attorney General to be elected Governor if he wins. Nikki Haley will become the first woman Governor of South Carolina if she wins. History is perhaps with State Senator Larry Grooms, for he has the safest historical resume of the field.

The Democrats are yet to reveal their history changing candidate they keep hinting about. State Senator Vincent Sheheen is their best bet in trying to win in November of 2010, but Hollings was younger when he was elected Governor. The Democrats just keep hinting at some game changing candidate. Rumors are it could be Darla Moore, the businesswoman who has been so generous to the University of South Carolina. Nikky Haley versus Darla Moore in the fall of 2010 would certainly make the history books.

Time will tell. VUI will take a look at the other state constitutional offices in the coming days. Stay tuned.

Top nine things overheard at the White House Beer Summit

This week, VUI looks at the most publicized beer consumption gathering in recent American history. Here we go:

9) Well, Joe, I seen you found W's stash of non alcoholic beer. Don't choke on that pretzel.

8) Professor, please calm down sir, please calm down. Everyone has to show their ID to get into the White House.

7) I am sorry, Mr. Biden, just what is it you do for a living? Biden replied, "Sir, I am your Vice President."

6) Both you guys pull for the Patriots, right? No wonder so many Americans are upset with you.

5) Sorry, guys, I might be President, but I can not arrange a summit for John and Kate. They just won't return my calls.

4) Relax Professor, I think we all will buy your book.

3) No, Professor, I can not give you and the officer a ride on Air Force One if he arrests you again.

2) Officer, isn't Blue Moon brewed with white wheat?

1) Yeah, I know Bud Light tastes like crap, but if people think I drink it maybe those nuts will get off my back about whether or not I was born an American.