Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Voting under the Influence thanks you for reading and wishes all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2010. The new year will be rich with all sort of political twists and turns as elections heat up.

Enjoy your drink. Enjoy the fireworks. Enjoy the football games. But, remember, if you have had too much to drink, find a ride home. Inconvenience is a small price to pay for not risking your life and the lives of others. So, walk home, call a cab, catch a ride with a friend. Whatever you do, do not drive drunk.

Next week, VUI will ring in the new year with a look at the Top 9 most powerful politicians in SC, how the statewide races are shaping up and some other "good stuff."

For now and over the New Year's weekend, VUI is going to take some time off. It is time to ring in the new year and cheer for the Gamecocks!

Happy New Year!

Columbia vandals belong on the trash heap of history

The year 2009 has not been a great one for South Carolina politics. Mark Sanford’s trip on the Argentina trail kicked off a second half to 2009 that was strange to say the least. Two small town mayors made headlines, with the Mayor of Atlantic Beach getting arrested yet again, and the Mayor of Wellford having a strange policy of police not chasing suspects and even stranger press remarks. Then, of course, there was Joe Wilson’s “you lie!” yelled at President Obama.

Political realities led VUI to call Steven Benjamin likely the next Mayor of Columbia. Well, apparently Benjamin’s status did not set well with some. The State newspaper and other media sources are reporting that the Columbia City Hall was vandalized recently with racist graffiti that used the n word and the word die.

That graffiti is unacceptable. While it might seem to be just the latest bizarre twist in South Carolina politics, such graffiti goes beyond normal political discourse. A racial slur is bad enough. Using the word “die” brings it to another level. Calling for the death of a politician, or a pundit for that matter, goes against the heart of what a free democracy is all about.

Those who vandalized Columbia’s City Hall committed a criminal act. Law enforcement should investigate the matter fully and bring those who committed the act to justice. VUI condemns the vandalism without any reservation. Those who engage in such racism, and try to intimidate, do not represent Columbia. They do not represent South Carolina. They do not represent America. They do not represent conservatives or Republicans. Instead they represent a narrow band of bigots whose proper place is on the trash heap of history.

Another New Year's Top 9

Top 9 things not to say on New Year's Eve

9) Sorry, Bubba, I guess I done went and kissed the wrong wife. Still, your ole lady seemed to enjoy it. I was just doing you a favor, getting her all warmed up.

8) Hey, ya’ll watch this. Junior is gonna launch my sparkler bomb right from my own hand.

7) Look Uncle Earl, Dick Clark talks like you do.

6) Will you guys put me on You Tube if I launch a bottle rocket from between my butt cheeks?

5) Damn, baby, that sister of yours is wearing one really tight sweater. I think I will get her another glass of champagne. I feel my Tiger Woods coming on.

4) Officer, would you like a swig? It is the good stuff.

3) Come on baby, nobody gets pregnant on New Year’s Eve. It’s a law.

2) Sorry, Governor, there are no flights to Argentina.

1) Officer, I cannot stand on one foot sober, much less after all I had to drink.

Top 9 stories of 2009

In compiling this Top 9 list, VUI diverts from its usual humor from such and looks at the serious news events that seemed to shape the culture in South Carolina and beyond.

9) The death of Senator Teddy Kennedy. Like Kennedy or not, he was the left’s old champion. Even those of us who disagreed with Kennedy’s politics can respect the dignified way he fought brain cancer and recognize the significance of his death.

8) The change of culture in American sports, such as college football. Successful coaches such as Mark Mangino of Kansas and Mike Leach of Texas Tech were fired for events concerning their treatment of players. The days of the successful coach who made their players run until they puked are over. American culture now demands coaches of sports win and be nice. Further, sports seems to be less important, as college and professional sports had a hard time in 2009 putting butts in the seats so to speak. Then there was the disappointment that was Tiger Woods. Sports is no longer the escape from politics, economics and scandal it once was.

7) The passing of great pundits, such as Robert Novak, William Safire and Walter Conkrite. Like them or not, those men represented an old fashioned honesty in telling it like they saw it that is missing in American politics and punditry today.

6) The so called “stimulus” package. Never before in American history has so much money been spent by Congress in such a short period of time. The bill creates unprecedented debt for the American people.

5) “You lie!” Those famous words shouted out by South Carolina’s Joe Wilson became a rallying cry on both the right and left of American politics.

4) Barack Obama becoming President of the United States. Not only is Barack Obama the first African American to become President, his policies shifted the war on terror to more of a criminal justice action and he pushed through the above mentioned stimulus package. Agree or disagree, Obama’s taking the White House shifted policy significantly.

3) The death of Michael Jackson. VUI never really cared much for Jackson and most of his music, but American Presidents have passed away with less media attention. Jackson also was an example of how tragic a life of constant fame and attention can become.

2) (Tied) Governor Mark Sanford’s trip on the Argentine Trail. In May, Mark Sanford was being considered for President of the United States. By July, he was a joke on late night talk shows. By December, his wife was filing for divorce. The dueling interviews of the Sanfords and all the hoopla surrounding Sanford’s trips not only made South Carolina the butt of political jokes, it derailed the Presidential plans of a candidate who had been groomed by the Club for Growth and Howard Rich.

2) (Tied) The saga of Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin remained a larger than life figure in 2009, despite the McCain Palin ticket’s defeat in 2008. Palin resigned the office of Governor of Alaska abruptly in the summer. Palin’s daughter’s “baby daddy” posed for Playgirl. The mainstream media scorned Palin. Yet, when Palin released her book and went on tour, she played to record crowds and had record sales. Palin seemed to tap into the anger people have about big government being ran by big business.

1) The economy. President Obama and the Democrats leading Congress offered the record stimulus package, continued Bush’s policy of bailing out banks and auto makers, but unemployment still rose. Each time in 2009 Americans were told there was a light at the end of the economic tunnel, that light seemed to be an oncoming train ready to hit them. Even good economic stories in South Carolina, such as the Boeing investment, were met with staggering job loss numbers.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Upstate traffic headache in 2010

The South Carolina Department of Transportation will close Interstate 385 in Laurens County on January 4th, 2010 in order to complete what it dubs the “Interstate 385 Rehab Project.” The surface of the highway and the “flyover” bridges will be dealt with. The project is scheduled to be completed by August 15, 2010, which means Interstate 385 will likely be closed for eight months, if there are no delays.

The closure of Interstate 385 is historic. Never before in the history of South Carolina has an interstate highway been closed outright for a construction project. Lane closures happen on a regular basis, but the closing of an entire interstate highway is unprecedented.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation says the dramatic act is necessary in order to save $34.6 million in construction costs. Perhaps the DOT is correct in its assessment. However, the DOT left a lot to be desired in considering how local businesses, commuters, and local roads used as detours would be affected.

Interstate 385 has connected Greenville with Columbia and the ports of Charleston since 1984. In Laurens County, Wal-Mart set up a distribution center adjacent to Interstate 385 because of the relative ease of access its trucks would have. At that particular interstate exit, businesses have been set up. Those businesses will be hurting with eight months of no interstate traffic whatsoever.

The detour routes go through the city of Laurens and the town of Gray Court. While increased traffic might add to some local businesses, the cost of that increased traffic via the wear and tear of the local roads will be significant. Eight months of just twice the heavy truck traffic will have considerable impact on road conditions. Further, local law enforcement will have a more difficult time enforcing the local traffic laws on such an increased volume of traffic.

Then there is Greenville and the Southern Connector Toll Road. Greenville has become accustomed to having a straight shot to Columbia. As things currently stand, if a business needs to ship a part between Greenville and Columbia, it’s about an hour and half trip. That will change January 4th. Also, the Southern Connector is struggling to make its next bond payment. The closure of Interstate 385 will likely drive drivers away from using the Southern Connector to bypass Greenville to get to Interstate 385. That increases the impact on other upstate local roads as drivers try to find other ways to get to Interstate 26.

Indeed, the entire upstate will have traffic headaches in 2010 due to the closure of Interstate 385.

There is also politics at play. The upstate simply does not have the political clout it once had to deter such a situation. Can one imagine the current leadership of the state, including the Governor, the Secretary of Transportation, the Senate President Pro Tempore and the House Speaker, embracing a project that would shut down the Mark Clark Expressway (Interstate 526) in Charleston for over eight months? Can one imagine those Low Country politicians embracing such during an election year? Can one imagine the DOT doing such a thing in the Charleston area and not meeting with local officials and finding ways to help handle the impact? Published reports have even the DOT stating they should have handled local officials in the upstate better.

VUI is not saying that Low Country politicians who lead the way on DOT projects are out to get their rather independent upstate counterparts. The closure of Interstate 385 is not some sort of “RINO” hunt. The closure of Interstate 385, and how it was handled is indicative of how blind the Low Country folks are to the concerns and people in an area of the state that seems foreign to them. Bless their hearts, it is hard to think of how people in a place like Gray Court can be impacted when all you know is Charleston and the islands.

VUI Video of the Week from Hank Williams Jr.

Hank Williams Jr.'s "A Country Boy Can Survive" became an instant Southern classic more than two decades ago. Hank Jr. updated the song by releasing a video to it a few years ago. With people worried about the Obama health care plan, terrorists, Mark Sanford, and whatever else, VUI presents the video that says "We will make it."


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A power play made in the name of reform

Some conservative bloggers are pretty pleased with State Senator Glenn McConnell’s proposed Senate Bill 899, which calls for the Lt. Governor and Governor to run on the same ticket come 2014. Twenty four of the forty-two states that have Lt. Governors elect both the Governor and Lt. Governor on the same ticket. Under McConnell’s proposed bill, it appears that if voters amended the state constitution as McConnell wishes, candidates for Governor would have to run with their Lt. Governors in primaries and beyond. Such would bring South Carolina in line with some other states, and create some interesting political choices by those running for Governor.

However, before one can call McConnell’s proposal a move towards reform, one must look at the rest of the bill, which is a mishmash of current political events and self interests. In reaction to the Sanford scandal, the bill proposes amending the constitution so that the Lt. Governor can take over if a majority of a body selected by the General Assembly deems it necessary. Such sounds good, but begs the question, what body? Suppose the General Assembly decides that the Honea Path Dogwood Garden Club could decide such? The example is exaggerated, of course, but with such broad and undefined language, the door is open for the General Assembly to have more say, not less, over who wields the power of Governor for the people.

Further, McConnell’s proposal strips the Presidency of the State Senate from the Lt. Governor and instead has the members of the State Senate elect their own President. Those who are falling all over themselves for stronger executive power as reform seem to miss that. Under McConnell’s proposal, the General Assembly will be getting the executive department out of its business once and for all.

Under McConnell’s proposal, he could likely take the “pro tempore” off of his title of “President Pro Tempore” of the South Carolina State Senate. McConnell’s self interests aside, the members of the State Senate, both Democrat and Republican, have worked for the past 15 years or so to strip the Lt. Governor of powers presiding over them. There is just something about having someone elected by all the people of South Carolina presiding over them that so many South Carolina State Senate members do not like.

Thus, it appears, in the name of so called reform, South Carolina is getting a power play. Conservatives who have longed for the Governor and Lt. Governor running together on the same ticket as some sort of reform will be sold that in exchange for giving the South Carolina State Senate more power.

Frankly, the McConnell proposal is being presented while so many are still in the heat of emotion over the Sanford affair. Rarely are good decisions made in such an atmosphere. As things currently stand, the people, not political hacks or the members of the State Senate, decide who their Lt. Governor and President of the State Senate is. As the State Senate represents all of South Carolina, it seems fitting that the people of all of South Carolina select its ceremonial leader. Perhaps that irks Governor Sanford and Senator McConnell and others who seem to want South Carolina’s state government to be more like the federal government. So be it. One thing is for certain. Those who think McConnell’s proposal is some sort of reform are being duped by that crafty old state senator from Charleston. McConnell’s version of reform is a power play that gives him and the South Carolina Senate more power and less power to the Executive Department and the people.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What will come in the second decade of the 21st Century?

In a few days, the year 2010 will be upon us, marking the end of the first decade of the Twenty-first Century. It has been a decade since Americans and people around the world feared the so called Y2K computer glitch. That glitch did not come to pass, but so much did happen in the first decade of the Twenty-first Century.

First, there was the Presidential election of 2000. Who can forget the controversy over the vote in Florida that year as George W. Bush became only the second son of a President to become President. Like his predecessor in such an honor, John Q. Adams, Bush was elected President in controversy without enjoying a majority in the popular vote. The controversy around the 2000 Presidential vote tested America’s constitutional resolve and led to widespread election ballot reforms.

Less than a year after that test, America faced another test when the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 occurred. The United States rallied behind the once controversial President George W. Bush and the heroes and victims of that day. War in Afghanistan and Iraq resulted from that day. Sweeping reforms to airline regulations and personal communications were passed through with the Patriot Act.

In 2004, President Bush was re-elected, in part due to his leadership on the War on Terror. Eight months into President Bush’s second term, the very leadership in crisis traits Bush was lauded for became his second term’s undoing. Hurricane Katrina struck and the city of New Orleans, especially, was devastated. Horror stories about people left stranded and the horrors of what went on in the Louisiana Super Dome made the national news night after night. President Bush and the federal government seemed inept. Poor folks stranded on roof tops and struggling to survive in what became the filth of the Super Dome defined all that was wrong with America to so many.

That apparent ineptness turned into a national disgust. That national disgust led to the Democrats taking over Congress for the first time in 12 years in 2006. In the aftermath of the Democrats’ victory came finger pointing about every Bush policy from agriculture to the space program. Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, the hero of the first Bush term, resigned in disgrace. Nancy Pelosi, once a California political hack, made history as the first woman to become Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

What followed was a mish mash of political events that created the atmosphere of 2008. Democrats and Republicans, both influenced by lobbyists, combined to create policies that lead to the great financial crisis of the Fall of 2008 and the great bailout of financial institutions. That sense of crisis aided in the historic election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

The election of President Obama created a false sense of hope in America and around the world. After only two weeks in office, President Obama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. As 2009 comes to an end, President Obama is sending more troops to Afghanistan and the American economic situation still seems to be in trouble, despite an historic economic stimulus package that spent more money than ever in American history. Indeed, in 2009, millions of Americans took the streets against that stimulus plan and against Obama’s health insurance stimulus plan.

What an incredible decade. First, we had a Presidential election that redefined how we approached such. Then, we suffered terrorist attacks that sparked two wars and forever changed our daily routines in so many endeavors. Then came Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, which created an electoral shift that resulted in the historic election of Barack Obama in 2008. President Obama and the Democrats in Congress then in turn created a situation in 2009 that revived the soul of the conservative movement.

Though it all, great political names, on the right and left, fell. Governors of New York and New Jersey fell to their sins. Mark Sanford kept his office, but fell as a national figure. (Sanford’s attempt to define so many SC Republicans as “RINOs” went down in flames with his June trip to Argentina.) America lost the likes of Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Strom Thurmond to that old foe, death. Legendary banks went down. China became a world economic power.

Indeed, in the past decade, so much has happened to redefine politics and history that was unforeseen. Think about it. George W. Bush was the Governor of Texas ten years ago. Barack Obama was a young Illinois state senator. Few, if any, had heard of Osama Bin Laden. Such are things to keep in mind as we embrace the changes and flow of history that will come during the second decade of the Twenty-first Century.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Voting under the Influence. We thank you for reading this blog during 2009 and look forward to 2010. Whether you agree or disagree with what VUI posts, we wish you and yours a Merry Christmas. May you and yours have a safe and Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

For 60 years now, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer has been nearly as ingrained in American Christmas culture as Santa Claus.

Like the current image of Santa Claus, Rudolph was a creation of corporate America. In the late 1930s, Robert L. May created Rudolph while working for the Montgomery Ward chain of department stores. May created the classic American underdog story with Rudolph. Born with a big red, glowing nose, Rudolph was made fun of by his peers, only to save Christmas for the children when Santa called on him to lead the reindeer on "one foggy Christmas Eve."

When Rudolph was created, the United States was still in difficult economic times. The American people also faced being underdogs themselves to the rising powers of Nazi Germany and the Japanese war machine. Further, the political and cultural leaders of the time championed the so called "little man," making ripe a story about a little reindeer who used a God given gift to overcome ridicule and his awkwardness to save the day.

As such, Rudolph became a growing part of American culture at Christmas. Rudolph's stature rocketed in the 1949, when legendary cowboy crooner Gene Autry recorded a song written by Johnny Marks entitled, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." At the time the song was recorded, American G.I.'s from World War II were settling down and raising families. There were millions of so called "little guys" who had saved the day for America and freedom starting to play Santa Claus to their kids. The story of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer became the best way to tell the American story of overcoming adversity to save the day for children.

As such, the song was an incredible hit. The song has been recorded by a score of artists. Cartoons and movies have been made about Rudolph. Books have been written adapting the story. Today, parents wanting to get their little ones to bed for Santa's big moment claim to see Rudolph's shining red nose in the sky.

Here is a clip of the original song sung by Gene Autry that brought the can do spirit of the American underdog to the Christmas tradition.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Santa and the Christmas tree

While religious types, such as myself, think of the birth of Christ in the manger first at Christmas, so many think of the image of Santa leaving gifts under the Christmas tree. Santa Claus and the Christmas tree have become as much of a part of the American Christmas season as any other icons. It seems to so many that is how it has always been. Frankly, it has not been that way.

The Christmas tree was introduced to the United States in the early 1800s by early German immigrants, who saw the fir tree as a symbol of Christianity. However, for decades, the German Christmas tree stayed among the German immigrants. It was not until the late 19th Century that the Christmas tree as we know it took its place in American Christmas culture.

Indeed, for much of the life of America before 1900, Christmas was an honored holiday, but there were no decorated trees. There were limited decorations of blue and silver color and some holly. Gift giving was limited by today's standards. Instead, people celebrated Christmas with religious observances and feasts. In the South during this period, slaves would have a rare day of rest on Christmas and would celebrate on Christmas Eve with what we now call a party.

However, what we know of the Christmas tree and Santa Claus simply did not exist. While there was the legend of Saint Nicholas that was told, Santa as we know him did not come to be a cultural icon until the image created by Hadden Sunblom was embraced by the Coca Cola Company in the 1930s. Though Sunblom's image was based on other presentations of the jolly man from the North Pole, it was his image of St. Nick that became the Santa Claus we know today. That image of Santa rose about the same time as the idea of it being necessary in America to have a Christmas tree in the living room of every home to celebrate Christmas.

Don't get us at VUI wrong. We enjoy beautiful Christmas trees and we embrace the myth of Santa Claus, because it gives kids the power of hoping and dreaming. However, both the Christmas tree and Santa are relatively recent cultural creations for America and the world. For hundreds of years, the people of the Middle East, Europe and America celebrated Christmas without either trees or Santas. For those who embrace history, a Christmas tree or our current vision of Santa would never be embraced by the Old South, black or white. While we enjoy the traditions of our time, we must not pretend that they are the traditions of all time.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ

Even if one forgoes the more religious aspects of Jesus Christ, there is no denying that his birth forever changed the world. With the entire buzz about shopping, and Santa, and the politically correct “holidays,” the impact of Jesus Christ seems to be lost.

The birth of Christ started one of the world’s greatest religions. The entire staff of VUI are guilty of at least professing a belief in Christianity. However, as stated before, take away the religious aspect, and there is still an incredible story.

A boy was born in what we call a barn. That is what a manger was. It was a barn. There were livestock placed in there. The boy’s mother was denied a room in a comfortable inn, even though she was in labor pains. They put her and her party in the barn out back. Those who put the laboring mother in the barn blamed the government, because the government of the time was holding a census, and that caused many to fill the inns of the day as they returned to their hometowns to be counted.

That was perhaps the best example of the life lesson that you never really know who you are dealing with. Someone might appear poor, dirty and broken before you, but you really never know who they are. If you treat them with little respect, you might go down in history as the man who denied the son of God a proper place to be born. It was also a lesson about how big government can infringe upon the comfort of even the likes of God’s only begotten son.

Indeed, humanity’s business and government of the time was oblivious of the important event that was about to happen in Bethlehem. The government was worried about its census and its taxes. The businessman was worried about his paying guests. One has to wonder what was going through that innkeeper’s mind when those respected wise men arrived at the barn out back. That innkeeper is not alone in history. Time and time again, people that acted “professionally” did not know the greatness in front of them.

The event that the innkeeper and the government were oblivious to forever changed human history. In that barn was born a baby boy. That baby boy would grow up to teach lessons that created a major religion and provided the basis for the ideals of Western democracy and human rights. The wealthy and the powerful found humility in the teachings of that baby boy. The poor and the powerless found dignity and hope yet unseen in the world. Great works of art and literature were created upon the words and acts of that little boy born in a barn.

A couple of thousand of years later, humanity has not improved much. Chances are a poor single mother seeking help from business or big government in her hour of birth pangs would be treated the same way. The innkeeper would demand a credit card for deposit on the room. Government would come in and offer assistance, but such assistance would come with strings attached. Chances are the Department of Social Services would take the Christ child into custody, and make Mary take parenting classes to prove she was worthy of custody. Incomes of Mary and the baby’s step father, Joseph, would be taken into account. Both would have criminal background checks.

Perhaps that is the beauty of the story of the birth of Christ, and God’s lesson to us all. In the birth story of Christ, we are reminded that humanity’s most treasured institutions, government and commerce, can be blinded by their seemingly logical approach to situations to the point in which they miss one of humanity’s greatest events. Further, the story of the birth of Christ reminds us all, as human beings, to respect our fellow human beings, for we never know who among the least among us will rise to be among the greatest when their time comes. Further, it is perhaps the kindness a man we consider a bum shows to a child that will lead that child to find greatness. It is perhaps the rudeness of what we consider an upstanding citizen to a child or another that will create a monster.

The birth of Christ presented a radical thought to the world. His birth and His teachings forced humanity to think of treating what we perceive the least among us with care and respect. Through the story of His birth, through His teachings, and even in the story of the moments before His death on the cross, Jesus Christ taught humanity that those who we consider the least and the worst among us can redeem themselves and rise up to serve and love their fellow human beings. The story of Christ is perhaps the most hopeful story ever told.

That hopeful story is something to keep in mind if you encounter some politically correct person who seems angry that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. You will never win them over on the religious arguments. Most of the politically correct crowd made that choice long ago. However, the hope of redemption and uplifting that the story of Christ gives us is alone reason enough for people to celebrate Christmas as honoring the birth of Jesus Christ without apology to anyone. Those who see otherwise have a particularly craven way of looking at life.

Santa Reid stuffs senators' stockings

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid played the role of Santa Claus on Saturday, stuffing senators stockings to make sure that they fell in line to vote for the Obama health insurance stimulus plan. Those who thought Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana got an early Christmas present last month for one of her votes on the matter, should check out what Santa Reid put in Senator Ben Nelson's and Senator Bernie Sanders's stockings.

Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska, got a number of Christmas goodies for his vote. The press seems to dwell upon watered down restrictions on abortion funding, but the big present for Nelson was federal funding for Nebraska to provide Medicaid benefits to all people who are below 133 percent of the poverty level. All fifty states will be required to provide such coverage and deal with the adjusted costs, save Nebraska. Nebraska will have the people from the rest of the country pay the bill for such.

Santa Reid also put $10 billion for public health clinics in Senator Bernie Sanders's of Vermont's stocking.

How is Santa Reid and the Democrats planning to pay for all of the above? They will be using IRS elves to collect $400 billion in "revenue enhancements." It will hit middle and upper lower class people in their wallets. First, there is a fine, enforced by the power of the IRS, for people who do not have health insurance coverage. Indeed, that is one big stocking stuffer for the insurance industry, as they will be offering a product people have to buy. The insurance industry has for years gave members of Congress a lot more than milk and cookies, it seems that it will be rewarded for its efforts.

The second interesting tax increase is a ten percent usage tax on tanning beds. One has to wonder what clever elf drew up that provision for Santa Reid. Women make up the majority of tanning bed customers. Women also tend to vote Democratic. Who knew that women would make Santa Reid's naughty list and get such a lump of coal this holiday season?

The elderly on Medicare also made Santa Reid's naughty list, as they will face cuts to Medicare coverage to help pay for some the goodies in the current bill. Again, the elderly, especially in the bigger states, tend to vote for the Democratic Party.

Thus, it seems Santa Reid has handed out a big lump of coal to the American people, and even his party's strongest supporters. The current bill does not address the leftover costs people face once insurance has paid its part. It simply makes people who are struggling to have health insurance pay a fine for not being covered. It makes businesses struggling to operate pay a fine for not covering their employees. It cuts funding for elderly and disabled health care. It taxes what some Americans see as a form of simple enjoyment. It punishes those Americans who work hard and achieve and make more than Santa Reid thinks they should.

Years ago, there was an article written entitled, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." That article dwelt on the goodness of the Christmas spirit. This Christmas Season, we have Santa Reid, his elves in the Senate and a President who has handed the reigns of the national sleigh over to him. Santa Reid appears to be a tool of big business, who uses big government to reward reward them and his cronies in the United States Senate. A holiday movie could not have a better villain. Unfortunately, Santa Reid is not a movie character. Santa Reid and his elves in the Congress are real, and they will be presenting us the bill for their gift giving soon. How fitting that they plan to pass the Obama health insurance stimulus plan on Christmas Eve.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Perhaps the greatest Christmas gift of all

I talked recently with my parents about what I thought of as my best childhood Christmas. My parents are great people, and they have always sacrificed for me and my brother. Both of them are people who would give up whatever they had to for me and my brother. Having such parents is a Christmas gift for all time.

Yet, we got on the topic of Christmas things past. Years before my brother was born, I had my favorite Christmas as a child. It was back in the late 1970s. Santa brought me a bb gun, a hunting knife, some hotwheels cars, and a toy Pepsi truck, with an opening trailer. That trailer was filled with packs of bb pellets. I was a kid in the so called "hog heaven." I still can remember the joy of opening the trailer door of that model Pepsi truck and finding it stuffed with packs of BB pellets.

As a grown man, I came to understand that Christmas. My dad, though he has done well since, had been laid off from his job. He and my mother found a way to make Christmas special for their boy, which was me. Back then, I wanted a hunting knife and a BB gun, and loved the Pepsi Colas that we could get for 25 cents at Mr. Gault's store. My parents did not spend a lot of money on me that Christmas, but they knew their boy. To get a BB rifle, a hunting knife, and a Pepsi Cola model truck filled with BBs, well, it was Christmas bliss for a boy like me at that time. I have had some great Christmas memories since, with all sorts of factors involved, but when it comes right down to it, that Christmas was perhaps my favorite. I thought of that Christmas when I had my own chances to play Santa.

I think of my favorite Christmas memory today, as people seem to trample all over one another for the latest video game or gift. Even in these difficult economic times, people do not seem to "get it." So many of us spend far beyond our means looking for what can trump what our friends and neighbors give to their kids. Very few of us seem to realize that being sensitive to our loved ones and giving a gift that makes their days is not something that costs a lot of money. What it does cost is time and the dedication to know just what will make our loved ones day and show them we know them. My parents knew me back when I was boy in the 1970s. Perhaps really giving the gift of taking the time to know your kids, your loved ones and your friends is the greatest Christmas gift of all.

It is Christmas week and this week's VUI Top 9

It is Christmas week. During the next week, VUI will take a break from most things political and write Christmas related posts. Some will be political, such as our take on the now "politically correct" holiday season. Others will be sentimental and funny. VUI kicks off Christmas week with the Top 9 things you don't want to hear during the Christmas holidays. Here we go:

9) “Hey baby, when’s the last time you got your stocking stuffed on Christmas Eve?”

8) “Sorry about that Santa, but it is deer season.”

7) “Daddy, I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus, and Santa looked a lot like Mark Sanford.”

6) “Come down my chimney you commie fat ass, and you got a 12 gauge pump shotgun waiting on you. I will shoot the red off of your long haired, bearded hippie ass.”

5) “Merry Christmas from your wife and her attorney, sir. You have been served.”

4) “Dear little Johnny, next year instead of cookies and milk, could you please leave bourbon and your mom’s oxycotin?” Santa

3) “Officer, I am drunk, but my reindeer are not.”

2) “Just because you name your baby Jesus does not mean I am going to pay you child support.”

1) “But, Santa, Tiger told me being naughty with him was being nice.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Discussing small town renewal

I was born in the small town of Ninety Six, SC, and was raised in the small town of Honea Path, SC. Honea Path of the late 1970s and early 1980s remains to me an idyllic place. Honea Path was a place I could ride my bicycle as a boy to the town library or to the Wilson’s Dime Store to buy baseball cards without my parents worrying about me. In the background of downtown was the low hum of the textile mill, humming with hundreds of jobs. Honea Path was a place where your neighbor and your scout master joined your father in teaching you values. It was a place where I learned about God, hard work, and persevering through all sorts of obstacles. Sundown, not a cell phone, was one's call call home.

Today, Honea Path and so many other towns like it are different. The hum of the mill has been replaced by the odd smell of methamphetamine cooking. The once busy downtown stands half empty. Once proud town governments struggle to just pay for basic services for their people.

It is a scene found not only the upstate of South Carolina, but throughout the nation. The traditions and values of small town life are being hijacked by the realities of today’s world. Increased bureaucracy and defeated spirits combine to crush the pride that could be found in renewal.

Small town officials are not truly to blame. The vast majority of them go into service to their towns with the best of intentions. But, in today’s bureaucratic heavy local governments, so called professionals convince the elected the leaders of the limits of what can be done, instead of pushing them to what can and should be done.

What can and should be done is a renewal of town governments in this state. We who live in small towns must demand of our leaders the willingness to do the so called “homework” and “lobbying” themselves. For every small town dollar spent on bureaucracy is one less small town dollar spent on investment. We must demand that our elected officials get their priorities in order. Public safety, such as police, fire and EMS services, must come first. Then, infrastructure and economic development needs to be addressed.

When it comes to economic development, efforts must be made on realistic goals and efforts should be made to insure a united front is presented to those who wish to invest in our small towns. Divided interests cannot be afforded if we are to renew ourselves and move forward in today’s global economy.

In the end, those of us who live and work in small towns must realize that, despite our races, or relative stations in life, we all occupy a very small piece of ground on Earth. It is in all our interests that we work towards streamlining small town government so that it is effective, less burdensome, and creates a richening of the economic soil so that our children and grandchildren can thrive and be as proud to be “small town” as we are.

VUI video of the week 2: An old school holiday warning from Joe Tex

Holiday parties can be fun or awkward affairs. Sometimes, you got to take the old school Joe Tex take on things.

Enjoy, or well, be afraid, take your pick. Happy Holidays.

VUI video of the week 1: holiday familiy time

It is that time of year again. Time for family, both good and bad. Ah...the holidays.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lord's gamble

If you believe all the rumors bouncing around, Leighton Lord,III, a Republican candidate for Attorney General, is mounting a so called “whisper” campaign about how the next Attorney General ought not to be an experienced prosecutor. Fair enough.

Mr. Lord has his reasons for believing such. Lord spent years managing a big law firm, and it is natural that he would like to see the Attorney General’s office viewed as a big law firm that he could manage. Mr. Lord is entitled to his perception of the office.

However, the public perception of the office of Attorney General has been different than Mr. Lord’s apparent perception. Over the past few decades, the Attorney General of South Carolina has been seen as sort of the state’s top cop. There is good reason for that. The Attorney General is the state’s top prosecutor, and holds sort of a supervisory role over the state’s solicitors. While there might be civil litigation here and there that holds the state’s attention, it is the role of chief prosecutor against crime that the Attorney General is best known for.

That is what makes Lord’s alleged contention about the office a bit puzzling. Does Lord really believe that people will choose an office manager over a fighter for justice? Perhaps Lord and his people have no choice but to shift the argument. Lord’s chief opponent, Alan Wilson, is not only a proven prosecutor, but a veteran of the Iraq war. If the campaign becomes about who fights for justice, there is no comparison.

Thus, it seems, Lord and his people are quietly trying to shift the discussion to who has office management skills. It might work. Lord does have an incredible amount of money to spend. But, it is risky. Should the discussion not be successfully shifted to office management, Lord has opened himself to his greatest weakness: no significant prosecutorial experience. People tend to see the Attorney General as SC’s top cop. If that holds, Lord can spend a fortune and find himself conceding to a proven prosecutor and vet like Wilson in June.

A tough first year for President Obama

While Democrats will blame George W. Bush somehow, President Obama’s approval ratings are beginning to reflect the lack of actual accomplishment achieved by the Obama Administration so far.

According to Rasmussen, President Obama has a 44% approval rating and a 55% disapproval rating. Those numbers are pretty bad, especially when one notes they are on the heels of President Obama accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. No recent President has been that disliked as quickly by the voters. President’s Obama’s numbers are similar to those of President Bush in December 2005 in the wake of the Katrina fiasco.

Rasmussen’s numbers also show that President Obama is losing ground with a key part of the coalition that elected him: white moderates. Only 36 of independent people surveyed approve of the President’s job performance, only 37 % of whites overall do.

According to Real Clear Politics, 60% of Americans think that the country is headed in the wrong direction, and Republicans for the first time in years actually hold a lead in the generic Congressional polling.

How did this happen to a President who entered the White House with rock star approval ratings? There are several reasons.

First, the President appears to be a weak leader on his signature issue, heath care reform. Candidate Obama was clear on what he wanted to do, agree or disagree with his ideas. President Obama seems to sit back and want Congress to do the heavy lifting. When the White House let slip out a “deadline” of the Labor Day recess for health care reform to be passed, but left it up to Congress to do it, the White House was schooled in Washington politics. As the fall passed on, Congress’s version of health care reform kept being morphed into a mishmash of ideas that seems to create more government involvement with little real change. That lost the moderates and some liberals for the President and emboldened the conservatives in their opposition. Thus, with the President seeming out of control of events, his approval numbers on health care plummeted, along with his overall approval ratings.

Then, there are national security issues. The decision to close GITMO might have seemed appealing to the Left of America, but facing the reality of terrorists being tried in civilian courts has not set well with middle of the road Americans. Also, imagine the potential anguish if for whatever reason, some of the cases are dismissed. There will likely be a new Attorney General by 2011 if that happens.

Then there is Afghanistan. The President made the right decision committing to victory in Afghanistan, but that commitment cost him considerable goodwill among liberals and some moderates. Further, the President’s gratuitous deadlines offended conservatives and did nothing to calm the left.

That brings us to the stimulus and bailout spending that has yet to be felt by most Americans. Government actions seem to help big business, labor unions and government, but not people by and large who are unemployed and hurting. There is angst in America that the change that America bargained for is not going to happen.

Indeed, Obama has done little, if anything, to make those who felt disconnected in November of 2008 feel connected today. The President spent thousands of taxpayer dollars taking his wife on a date night to New York. He spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to travel to Europe to lobby for his hometown political cronies to get the Olympic Games, and failed. There was the infamous “beer summit” that made police officers around the United States feel, right or wrong, that they did not have a friend in the President of the United States.

The President embraces plans that will force people to buy health insurance or be fined and wonders why people don’t embrace the plan. The President embraces an energy plan that will raise the energy bills of working families by hundreds up to thousands of dollars a year and wonders why they cannot make up that with the $11 a week tax cut his stimulus bill gave them.

One Obama voter summed up the mood of moderate and liberal voters when he referred to the President as “George W. Obama.” Conservative voters have dubbed Obama as “Jimmy Carter’s second term.” The rock star status is gone because serious leadership blunders have been made. Whether or not the Obama Administration accepts that, and deals with it, will determine the success or failure of the Obama Presidency. The first year was a tough for President Obama, and rough on us all.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

McMaster campaign looking for the knockout

Mark Sanford’s victory this week in regards to the SC House Subcommittee voting against impeachment was a bigger victory for Attorney General Henry McMaster. Not only did the subcommittee’s decision keep Lt. Governor Andre Bauer from having the elevated status as a sitting Governor in the 2010 election, it gave Attorney General McMaster a way out of the Sanford mess in regards to criminal activity. If the SC House, whose members seem to loathe Sanford, found no cause for impeachment, Attorney General McMaster is on safe grounds in finding no criminal activity and moving on.

Such is welcomed news for the frontrunner McMaster and his people. As it stands, McMaster has a fairly large lead over Lt. Governor Bauer and Congressman Gresham Barrett and the assorted other candidates. Privately, McMaster supporters are talking about how they want a first round knockout for the nomination and not go “Theodore.” Going “Theodore” is a reference to Democrat Nick Theodore in 1994. Theodore was a popular Lt. Governor and heavy favorite not only for his party’s nomination but for the Governorship. Theodore barely fell under the fifty percent plus one rule in South Carolina party primaries. What followed was a bruising runoff against Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. Theodore won the nomination but was wounded for the fall campaign.

The hopes of a first round knockout by McMaster are not unfounded. McMaster enjoys a double digit lead in nearly every poll conducted. Further, McMaster has far greater name identification than any of his opponents. South Carolinians like the guy. The wildcard in the primary was and remains Lt. Governor Andre Bauer.

If Sanford had been tossed from office, a sitting Governor Bauer would have made things interesting. Now, Bauer and Barrett face the challenge of creating an interesting primary race against a frontrunner that seems in control. McMaster is handled by Quinn and Associates, old hands at politics in South Carolina. As such, a grave mistake by the McMaster campaign is not to be expected. Instead, Bauer will have to gain traction on his own and make a dent in the race for it not to be over before it starts.

Barrett supporters might cry out, but frankly, though Barrett is a good and decent man, only Bauer has the statewide appeal that could throw the gubernatorial primary into a runoff. Barrett could finish ahead of Bauer and face McMaster in a runoff, but if Bauer does not get traction, McMaster is likely to get the nomination in the first round.

If McMaster fails to win on primary night, watch out. Runoffs are crazy events. Lt. Governor Bauer proved his mettle in a runoff in 2006 when he defeated favorite Mike Campbell. Though they would never publically admit such, you can bet McMaster’s people do not want to face Bauer in a runoff. That is why VUI believes that McMaster will spend the next few months going for the first round knockout of his primary opponents.

The Democrats McMaster, or some other nominee will face, will be addressed in a later post. The Democrats have an old fashioned brawl about to happen for their gubernatorial nomination. But, for now, watch for McMaster to try to deliver the knockout punch.

Jim DeMint stands tall in the GOP saddle

Even opponents of Senator Jim DeMint have to give him the fact that DeMint is a man who talks about big ideas, be it tax reform, conservative approaches to healthcare or the like. Jim DeMint is not the petty type and that drives liberals nuts. Liberals looking to find someone to caricature have a hard time with DeMint. The man speaks about big ideas and does not bite on the small stuff.

Therefore, it is easy to understand why so many far left liberals hate the guy. DeMint does not play their game. However frustrating DeMint is to the left, he is refreshing to conservatives and middle of the road voters. In DeMint, South Carolina has a senator who reflects the will of its people and talks about principles and ideas. If you are looking for the next Tiger Woods story, don’t look to DeMint. DeMint seems too worried about making freedom work in the United States for such distractions.

VUI swung at South Carolina’s other so called conservative Senator, Lindsey Graham, deeming him unplugged. Frankly, VUI still believes that Graham deserves that for his support of Obama’s tax and cap, uh, cap and trade energy bill that will cost South Carolinians in their energy bills.

Therefore it is only fair that VUI praises our other United States Senator, Jim DeMint, who stands tall in the conservative saddle. Agree with DeMint on this or that issue or not, you cannot lump DeMint in with those who dwell on the petty. DeMint has spent his five years in the United States Senate standing for ideas and principles. And, even to those who might disagree with him, it has to be refreshing to see someone actually be honest and stand up for what he believes needs to be done.

DeMint does no apologize for his point of view. In a recent interview, Senator DeMint stated, "The problem here in the Republican Party is not that our base has gone to the right. The problem in the Republican Party is that the leadership has gone to the left and the tea parties and the Republicans out across the country are right there where American principles have always been and I’m trying to pull the party back to the mainstream of where America really is."

DeMint understands that the people of South Carolina want government out of their lives. They want government to get out of the way of success. Further, Senator DeMint tells you what he believes and acts upon it. That is rare in politics today, be it right or left. No wonder DeMint seems poised to cruise to re-election. People tend to find the honest man refreshing.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Some suggestions for future Governors of South Carolina

The activities of Governor Mark Sanford have pointed out some glaring problems when it comes to South Carolina’s Governor. The Sanford arguments aside, there are some measures that can be taken to insure someone is in charge if some sort of disaster happens and that things such as airplane usage and old campaign funds are addressed.

First, let’s address the problem of an absent Governor, or someone with his or her authority. While events such as a hurricanes can be seen coming days in advance, events such as the train wreck involving cars with deadly gasses in them in Aiken County a few years ago cannot be. One does not know when a train accident, nuclear accident or terrorist attack could happen. During those times, there are measures to invoke emergency powers that only a Governor, or someone acting as Governor, can take.

For that reason, VUI proposes the following. First, the Governor must let the Lt. Governor and the Governor’s security detail know when the Governor will be out of the state of South Carolina and how to contact him in the event of an emergency. Further, if the Governor is unable to be contacted, the Lt. Governor should become Acting Governor until the Governor is no longer incommunicado. The Lt. Governor should have the same standard. The Lt. Governor must communicate to the Governor when he will be out of the state. At no time shall both the Lt. Governor and Governor be outside the state of South Carolina at the same time. (I realize that political conventions could cause one of them to sit at home instead of hobnob with national party leaders, but so be it.)

As for plane travel, the Governor of South Carolina shall travel first class on any commercial flights. I know some will gnash their teeth at such a suggestion, but the Governor is the representative of South Carolina to the world, and as such, he should not spend hours eating stale peanuts in coach and meet potential international investors in the state after a flight with little sleep. On the other hand, the use of the state plane should be limited to state emergencies and other extraordinary state duties. There is no place in South Carolina a three hour drive cannot get the Governor to. Speaking to the Wahalla Rotary Club does not merit a ride in the state airplane, nor does going to one’s hometown for the holidays.

As for using campaign funds from previous elections, the solution is simple. Once a campaign is over, the fund can remain operational for six months to clear up campaign debts and outstanding invoices. After that, campaign accounts and fundraising for those accounts must close. Thus, if someone is re-elected Governor in 2014, six months after that re-election, that account must be closed and all fundraising and spending stopped. It is absurd that current law allows a candidate to raise and spend money supposedly for an office in which that candidate cannot run for.

The above suggestions are raw and are open to discussion and improvement. But, they are a step in the right direction to make sure we never go through another Governor related fiasco as we have in 2009.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lindsey Graham unplugged

Senator Lindsey Graham had relatively free rides to the Republican nomination for the United States Senate in 2002 and 2008. Further, his Democratic opposition left a lot to be desired. Potential heavyweights sat out 2002 and 2008 on both sides of the aisle, giving Graham easy wins.

With two easy wins, five years left on his current term, and money in the bank, Lindsey Graham is less confined by the will of the people he represents. It is human nature for the Senator to have confidence in such a situation. Whether or not that confidence is bold or arrogant will be the question on Republican minds especially as events in Washington unfold.

South Carolina Republicans cringed when they saw Senator Graham laughing it up with John Kerry recently at Graham's announcement of support for the Obama "cap and trade" energy plan. Most Republicans see support of that plan as toxic. They do so with good reason, because "cap and trade" is actually a defacto tax increase on families. According to the Treasury Department, American families will endure increased energy costs of at least hundreds, if not thousands, or dollars per year.

That might not be much in the eyes of United States Senator, but for a working family trying to make ends meet, spending more money on gassing up the car or keeping the electricity on is just one more problem to deal with in these difficult economic times. It is ironic that the United States Senator who will make Obama's plan "bipartisan" represents a state that does not support it and can least afford it.

Graham supporters note that the Senator's support is due to the provision in the Obama plan that would open up offshore drilling and more nuclear energy. While both measures are needed, should they be obtained by adding more basic living costs to middle class and poor people?

Perhaps those who say that increased energy costs are necessary to make the American people conserve energy should take into account the average American family, or individual, for that matter, that pays already for what is accepted as basic human needs. The promise of offshore drilling offers little comfort to someone who is already scrambling to pay the electric bill. Those Americans are already conserving to just get by. So many South Carolinians face that everyday.

Such is the great disconnect between elected officials and those they are supposed to represent. South Carolina voters gave Lindsey Graham big victories. In return, Senator Graham seems increasingly disconnected from what most of the people he represents go through in just paying the bills. Perhaps history will note Graham as some sort of courageous statesman, but right now, Senator Graham seems unplugged from the people he represents.

Pray for Jake Nicolopulos and his family

The staff of VUI are big fans of South Carolina High School football. Usually, VUI opines about the the games played and the like. Now, VUI asks for you to pray for one of the kids that played the game this past season.

T.L. Hanna linebacker Jake Nicolopulos suffered a stroke this week, and remains in serious condition at the AnMed hospital. Nicolopulos was a star player for the yellow jackets, and was committed to Clemson.

VUI offers its thoughts and prayers to Nicolopulos, his family, his friends, and the entire T.L. Hanna community. May God be with them all during this trying time.

VUI video of the week for the Sanfords

Jenny Sanford is filing for divorce. Classic country music has a way to deal with such a thing. Barbara Walters is nowhere to be found.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Sanfords just will not go away

Tonight, estranged First Lady Jenny Sanford will appear on ABC in an interview with Barbara Walters. It is predictable how Jenny Sanford will answer questions. She will try to hold the Governor accountable for his personal life and try to grab some star light from the appearance. Jenny Sanford's upcoming book on her life with the Governor should do about the same.

Jenny Sanford's interview with Barbara Walters is going to be aired on the very day the SC House Judiciary Committee gets into the meat of the Sanford impeachment show. While it is likely the Governor will not be impeached, one has to wonder if the timing of the Jenny Sanford interview is coordinated somehow.

It is taboo to criticize the wronged First Lady. But, let's be frank. Her Barbara Walters interview and her book deal are not indicative of humility. Like her husband, Jenny Sanford goes for the spotlight, and the reputation of South Carolina is secondary. It is naive for people to think of Jenny Sanford as some poor little innocent flower without her own agenda.

Jenny Sanford was the force behind the Governor's elections. She served as a defacto Chief of Staff to the Governor. For that reason, her interviews and book deal ought to be scrutinized as being part of a possible Sanford rehabilitation. Think about it. Jenny Sanford's Barbara Walter's interview is aired on the one of the most important days of her husband's impeachment proceedings. Her book is set to be released in the midst of the Republican primary for Governor.

Perhaps the people around the estranged First Lady are just working the angles to make sure she gets the most exposure at the right times to make the most money off of her husband's indiscretions. If so, fair enough.

But, more cynical types see something else. The Sanfords are plotting rehabilitation in their eyes. Once the Governor beats impeachment, as expected, those cynics see the Sanfords on Oprah Winfrey or Dr. Phil's shows, tearfully reconciling for the nation to see. After the Lifetime movie, they can take their fatter wallets back into politics. In that scenario, a chastened Governor Sanford dutifully changes his ways and reconciles with his saint of a wife and they work together towards the US Senate or the White House. It would have the makings of another book and movie.

Chances are the Sanfords are done in their political ambitions. But, it is clear that both of them are selfish. The idea of putting the people and reputation of South Carolina first is foreign to them both. The Governor will not resign and go quietly. Neither Sanford will avoid the spotlight. They both can talk about their family and South Carolina until their faces turn blue as the state flag, but in the end, they both put such things aside to take the ride in the public spotlight.

The episode has been an embarrassment to South Carolina and to the Republican Party. Never before in South Carolina's history have we had a first couple so bent on making so public things most of us, far below their stations in life, know to keep private and to ourselves. The degree of self importance both Sanfords hold is incredible. It is a sign that the Sanfords will not go away after the Governor's term is over. Some people just will not be ignored.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Grady Patterson: an example for us all

South Carolina lost one of champions on Monday, when former Treasurer Grady Patterson, 85, passed away. While others will be more long winded and more eloquent in their description of Grady Patterson, VUI will keep it simple. Grady Patterson was a man we should strive to be. He was loyal to his family. He served his country as a fighter pilot. He served his state for 40 years as a constant steward of the people's tax money.

In this age of self centered politicos touting their own abilities for the next paycheck and politicians who seem to wear the badge of scandal as a symbol of some sort of perverted pride, Grady Patterson reminded us of what a stand up guy was all about.

South Carolina was fortunate to have Grady Patterson serve us so well. May God bless and comfort the family and friends of Treasurer Patterson. May we all be thankful for his honorable service to our state. We should all hope to serve our state and country so well.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

High School football: Weekend of Champions has one huge upset

Williams-Brice Stadium was once again the host to South Carolina high school footballs "weekend of champions." While a good many in the Palmetto State were concerned over Clemson's fall to Georgia Tech in Tampa for the ACC crown, thousands were on hand this weekend to see who would be state champions.

The return to Williams Brice of the Weekend of Champions did not disappoint. In the Class AA ranks, Dillon overcome some miscues and downed Central 21-20 in a classic close one. In the AAA ranks, the Clinton rushing machine rushed to the state title with a 35-26 win over Myrtle Beach. On Friday night, Berkeley picked up the Class AAAA Division 2 crown.

It was the Class AAAA Divison I crown where the big upset happened. Byrnes has been the representative to the country of South Carolina high school football for several years now. The Byrnes Rebels have traveled to Ohio, Georgia and Florida carrying the banner of SC high school football. Their home games are like college games, and they have often whipped their opponents like a college team versus a high school team would. Byrnes walked into the state championship game the big favorite.

They faced the Cavs of Dorman. Dorman, another Spartanburg County team, had lost to Byrnes earlier in the season. Most high school football followers, including VUI, saw the rematch as just a formality on the way to naming Byrnes state champions yet again.

Dorman thought there was actually a game to be played and showed up to play. In one of the great sports upsets of our time, the Cavs shut down the heralded Byrnes offense, and scored two fourth quarter touchdowns, one on offense, and one on a defensive interception return, to shock the Rebels, 28-17. Dorman's win not only gained a state championship, but will probably gain national respect for them. It is a great lesson to be learned by anyone in that your reputation might be mighty, but in the end, the winners are decided on the field.

Thus, the high school football season in South Carolina is now over. VUI congratulates all the state champions, and all who play, coach and support the game. It will all start again next August, with coaches, players, supporters, and fans all full of the desire to be the best. There are so many stories of achievement to be told, such as Dorman's and there is nothing like high school football to bring people of all races and walks of life together to cheer for the home team. August 2010 can't get here fast enough.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

TOP 9 signs it might be time to get a life

9) You spend all of your free time trying to prove that President Obama was in fact born in Nigeria and that Joe Biden is the real President.

8) You create a blog to discuss the typo you found in Sarah Palin’s book.

7) You try to think how former President Bush caused you to overdraw your checking account. Somehow that SOB is getting a commission on those overdraft fees!

6) You go on Facebook and blast your wife’s ex husband to show what a real man you are.

5) You ask your husband to do such a thing.

4) Your prom date in 1985 did not look at you right at the high school reunion. So, to get even, you blast them online, being sure to block them from reading your comments. You got ‘em!

3) You cannot sleep at night since you found out the mom on Family Ties is gay. Thoughts of her and Justine Bateman (Malorie) just keep racing in your head.

2) You suffer head wounds from your buddy hitting you with a golf club trying to prove what really happened to Tiger Woods.

1) You sit around and spend the time to come up with this Top 9 list.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The enemies we face

While it is tempting to pick apart President Obama’ s speech on Afghanistan for partisan purposes, the nature of the enemy we face must not be forgotten. As such, we who are critics of President Obama must rise beyond partisan politics and support the President of the United States as he stands for the national security of the United States. Indeed, those on the right and left who criticize the commitment to win in Afghanistan are simply ignorant of the enemies we face.

The enemies we face are extremists. They twist the religious teachings of Islam to inspire people to see the perverted reward of having sex with virgins as a reward for killing innocent people. They believe that women are property. They believe that those with diverse views are to be killed, not tolerated. Their fervor is so strong that normal political considerations cannot be applied. The terrorists want to kill us, not deal us. They will use negotiations to buy time to find a way to kill us.

If you have any doubts about that, consider the history we have lived through. There are the attacks of September 11th. The warped sense of calling of those attackers led them to party in strip bars but supposedly purify themselves by killing innocent people. Then, there are people, like the innocent truck driver from a few years ago, who was barbarically murdered by terrorists. So many are like that truck driver, they only tried to work to make a living, but in the name of a false God, they were brutally murdered.

But, we can not underestimate the power of those twisted beliefs. So many in Southwest Asia embrace the perversion of Islam as their way to find some self worth and meaning. Their embracement is strong and they are committed to take down the evils of the United States, which, to them, revolves upon our sense of tolerance and the rights we give women.

Those fanatics work tirelessly to have control of a nuclear weapon. If Afghanistan is left to become a failed state again, it will become a safe harbor for those who would make Pakistan failed state. Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Failure in southwest Asia could lead to Islamic terrorists having control over nuclear weapons. Make no mistake; the United States would become a target of those nuclear weapons, regardless of what the United States does. It is simply naïve of those on the right and left to believe that if the United States withdraws immediately from southwest Asia that the terrorists who hate us so will just leave us alone.

Those people want to kill us. They hate everything about us. From time to time, an issue comes up that is bigger than politics. Winning in Afghanistan is one those issues. The President is right to commit to victory. We conservatives owe the President and our military our support. If they fail, the consequences to the national security of the United States will go far beyond any political setback. Islamic terrorism is the fight for freedom of our time. Those terrorists stand against everything we believe in, and they cannot be negotiated with. Dealing with those terrorist in southwest Asia is not a conservative or liberal thing, it is an American thing. It is a duty we must meet to keep America and the American ideals safe.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sanford impeachment for entertainment purposes only

A committee of lawmakers will meet again today to discuss the impeachment of Governor Mark Sanford. If their previous meetings are any indication of what will occur, prepare for Mark Sanford to finish out his term as Governor of South Carolina.

Instead of addressing the Governor’s disappearance last June, the committee seems to concern itself with other travels by the Governor and campaign fund reimbursements. While it is interesting, and certainly against the high standards the Governor claims to hold for himself and others, a plane ride here and there and the continued use of his 2006 gubernatorial campaign fund is not at the crux of what should remove Sanford from office. Sanford’s dereliction of duty in June is the issue, plain and simple.

Simply put, we are watching a show. Legislators know that the public does not want the Sanford situation ignored, but they also know the political realities and the political forces that do not want Sanford’s removal from office to influence the 2010 campaign. Thus, people in both political parties are putting on a show that will likely result in little or nothing being done about the Governor. A good number of Republicans do not want to elevate Andre Bauer and Democrats want Sanford to kick around in the fall.

If the legislature was serious about dealing with Sanford and removing him from office, it could have been dealt with months ago, in the wake of dereliction of duty. Sanford went incommunicado for almost a week; embarrassing the state and leaving questions about who was in charge should some major event demand gubernatorial leadership. That is the issue.

Clouding that issue is just a way for the General Assembly to appear to be doing something when it is doing nothing. Such action tells VUI that legislators are not serious about dealing with Sanford, and instead want to appear be taking action while actually doing nothing.

Indeed, if the General Assembly was serious about dealing with the problems around Sanford, some things would be addressed. First, the General Assembly would deal with Sanford’s dereliction of duty to the state first. Then, the General Assembly would act to make sure that campaign accounts have to be closed out six months after the stated election that they were created for. As for the Governor’s travel problems, perhaps the General Assembly could offer some strict travel policy, but frankly, the Governor of South Carolina should travel first class, especially on foreign trips. Do we really want a frumpy, tired governor being the face of South Carolina?

South Carolinians will likely not see any such action. South Carolinians will also likely not see the General Assembly get to the point of the Governor being missing and embarrassing the state. Instead we will get some very serious posturing from members of both parties are very serious about doing little or nothing. Too many politicians have too many interests in Sanford remaining for Sanford to go anywhere. The impeachment proceedings are for entertainment purposes only.

VUI Video of the week

This week we highlight an older video that went around the internet. This video, from a news station in Mobile, Alabama, is a classic. Enjoy. Find the gold. :)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Supporting the President on Afghanistan

President Barack Obama bucked the vocal left wing of the Democratic Party and Congress, and committed the United States to victory in Afghanistan. Though Republicans might pick at this and that part of the President’s proposal, President Obama’s commitment of 30,000 additional troops and his reasons for doing so are in line generally with President Bush’s proposals a year ago.

Some will blame some sort of political equation for President Obama’s decision. Left wingers are certain to go bit nuts about it. But, perhaps there is something larger at work.

When a man becomes President of the United States, he becomes privy to information that was unavailable to him as a candidate. Further, by and large, that information is unavailable to most members of Congress and certainly to political activists. The information is presented to the President by military professionals committed to the security of the United States, not any partisan agenda.

Thus, any man who occupies the office of President of the United States and is sincerely committed to the security of the United States will come to similar conclusions another President of the opposite political party made. Therefore, it is no surprise that President Obama is taking a course in Afghanistan that is similar to Bush policy. The Presidency moderates the occupant on national security, but will national security moderate Obama critics on the right and left?

President Obama should be applauded for realizing that the national security issues in southwest Asia are far bigger than domestic partisan politics. The President has made some big mistakes in his ten months in office, but his decision to commit to victory in southwest Asia is not one of them. Though the Obama Afghanistan plan is not perfect, it is in line with national security interests. Therefore, Republicans and conservatives should support the President on the Afghanistan plan and work with him for its success.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Environmentalists: the world's newest religious fantatics

The recent scandal involving academic email exchanges among researchers working to present a report to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations highlights what happens when science becomes religious. Various reports confirm that the emails, though obtained by hacking, present a picture of researchers wanting to leave out information that did not fit the global warming agenda. Such is what happens when science is used to advance a cause. If the researcher believes in the cause, or has the faith, so speak, it becomes personally difficult for that researcher to report facts that might detract from the faith.

The irony of the current environmental movement is that many of those who are part of it are quick to deride people of religious faith for their views, while not seeing that the environmental movement is a religion on its own. Just as religious fundamentalists might turn a deaf ear to any other interpretation of Holy Scriptures than their own, the environmental religion quickly derides anyone who offers any facts contrary to their fundamental belief that man’s economic advancements are going to cause a dramatic climate change.

As with any other narrow religious fanatics, fanatic environmentalists are whipped into a frenzy that defies logic and common sense. Take for example, the environmentalist group Asheville Rising Tide. On Monday, four members of that group were arrested in Greenville for protesting atop a generator that Duke Energy is moving to a new plant in North Carolina. According to The State, the group’s spokesperson, Attila Nemecz stated that “We are tired of waiting. We’re going to take serious enough action to stop construction of this global warming pollution causing death machine.”

Those are dramatic words, not unlike the words found in any narrow based religion. It is a tired old story. A group of fanatics believe, so arrogantly, that their view of the world is so correct, that the rules and norms of society do not apply to them. True believers are pushed to an emotional state in which breaking the law seems like a duty, an obligation to the faith, if you will. Mother Earth, like Allah, God, whatever, will reward them.

That said, there are times in history when civil disobedience has led to the greater good. Men like Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. come to mind. Those two men, for example were men who transcended their societies and reached the heart of humanity. They did so because they uplifted the progress of humanity, not condemn it. Far too often, fanatics invoke their names and even try their tactics in hopes of being against something. Chances are fanatics would turn on a Ghandi or a King if either man were alive today and questioned their tactics and goals.
That fanaticism is what is now happening in the environmental movement. It is what drives people to ignore facts and try to hide them. It was what drives people to break the law for apparently no real reason. It is what drives them to think that the rules the rest of us live do not apply to them. It is also what makes so many of them such hypocrites. Is there anything more amusing then seeing environmental protesters drive up in an SUV or read a website protesting a power company that is administered by a computer that draws power from that power company’s grid?

Indeed, the common factor in traditional religious fanatics and the new environmental religion fanatics is their obsession over the failure of humanity. They seem to relish the idea that the rest of the world are fools and will destroy society. They seem to live for that day to happen. There is a loathing of their fellow human beings that they claim to want to protect. They embrace the smugness that comes with the self delusional idea that they are better than the rest of us. That smugness brings a sense of worth and security that no facts to the contrary can easily be allowed to interfere with.

Florida State and American culture

For thirty-four years, Bobby Bowden has been the head football coach of Florida State. Along the way, Bowden racked up 12 conference titles, two national championships and 321 victories. Bowden’s 388 coaching wins overall is second only to Penn State’s Joe Paterno.

Simply put, Bobby Bowden built Florida State football. Before Bowden, Florida State football was a joke around the South. A former all female school, Florida State was everyone’s favorite homecoming opponent. Then Bowden took over. Under Bowden, the football team flourished, the stadium was expanded, and the university got a name around the nation, attracting athletes and scholars alike.

What did Bobby Bowden get for creating such a program? He got the choice to retire or be figurehead. ESPN reports that Bowden will retire. Frankly, if those are his choices, VUI hopes Bowden retires. The man who built Florida State should not suffer the indignity of being a figurehead.

Such is how the “baby boomer” generation and the so called “generation X” people treat those who actually created what they live off of. What is happening at Florida State is happening all over the nation. The old guy who created the business or the organization is treated like a child. “Thanks, old man,” the blow dried hair guy in the Men’s Wearhouse suit says, “You go retire now so I can refinance the business with debt and get paid my bonus.”

What happens in American athletics is reflective of American life. There is no concern about the future. There is no respect given in American business to the people who made America great. Loyalty to those who built what we have is not to be found, be it to the football coach or the businessman. Instead, people in cheap suits wrap themselves around their degrees and hire who looks the best, tells them what they want to hear and is politically correct. Then, people stand in amazement as a bunch of colorless, well dressed, self centered blowhards are unable to compete against China and the rest of the world.

Sitting and being judged by such people has to be hard for a man like Bowden. Like Bowden or not, he has accomplished more in his life than the people who sit and patronize him ever will. But, that is America now. We elected a President who did little, but “spoke the language” of success. We churn out graduates from business schools who learn more about how to speak to one another than to achieve long term success. Being loyal, appreciative and able to compete are almost taboo in our current culture. Indeed, we are a culture that is more concerned about Tiger Woods’s automobile accident than about war policy. We are a society that is more worried about who snuck into a White House dinner than what the President and the guest of honor discussed and agreed upon.

And, we are the society in which old men who built it are pushed aside unceremoniously and patronized. Who wouldn’t walk away from such nonsense? Florida State is doing what is the new American norm. Some will applaud Florida State. VUI will not. Because, every time one of those old guys who created American institutions and businesses are unappreciated, it hurts us all.