Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Again we offer things not to say on New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve is a mixed time.  People who are glad to throw out the old year and welcome the new one often celebrate to extremes.  They often get drunk and out of control and say things that are inappropriate.  As a public service, we at VUI will offer the Top 9 things that you should not say on New Year’s Eve.  At least they are the things we hope are never actually said.  Here we go.

9) Governor, you need to be blogged by someone who knows how.  You will want to write a book after you have been blogged by the best.

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

7) Look Uncle Will, Dick Clark talks like you and Rick Perry do.

6) Will you guys put me on You Tube if I launch a bottle rocket from between my butt cheeks?  I will scream “Sarah Palin forever!”

5) Look at this picture of me, baby.  Forget Congressman Weiner or Herman Cain, I got your politics right here, baby. Occupy this!

4) All I am doing is drinking beer, deputy. Wal-Mart ain’t got any signs about me having to wear clothes.  I am a customer, and the customer is always right. Naked is right to me. 

3) Come on baby, nobody gets pregnant on New Year’s Eve. It’s a law.  I used to be in Congress, I know.

2) Newt is your real name?  No wonder you are such a jerk, dude.  You are the guy with one wife at a time, right?  You’re good, dude. Drink up.

1) Trooper whatever your name is, I can’t stand on one leg sober.  How in the Hell do you expect me to after all I had to drink? Walk a line now?  Do I look like Johnny Cash?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thoughts about Christmas and the birth of Christ

Historical academics debate the actual time of the birth of Christ.  Some are certain it happened in the summer.  Others are quick to point out that that the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ was set by the early Church to coincide with already established Winter Solstice Celebrations. So be it. 

Whatever time we choose to celebrate the birth of Christ, it cannot be denied the impact He had or the nature of His birth  Christ was born in a manger of a second rate inn that would not have Him and his parents.  He was born of the Virgin Mary.  But, if one dismisses that as religious hyperbole, there are the teachings of Christ to consider. 

The teachings of Christ forever redefined man and the Western world.  Christ was the first to set value on women and children and the poor and the downtrodden.  Christ taught to treat women and children as human beings, not property.  Christ taught us to respect the poor and downtrodden.  

Jesus Christ never set foot in a great college.  Jesus never ran a big corporation. Jesus was a man who was the step son of a man who had people whisper about his heritage.  Today, the Department of Social Services and some Guardian Ad Litem would intervene and try to prove to us all this little kid named Jesus was not being raised right. 

But, God had other plans.  His only begotten son, born in the most humble of situations, would not only go on to remind us that humble birth has nothing to do with God's Will, but would go on to teach mankind how to relate to one another. 

The teachings of Christ have impacted the world like no other.  The good guys, such as Gandhi and Buddha, really can not compare in shaping the world in what it became.  The evils guys, like Bin Laden, Hitler and Stalin did their thing, but did not even come close to impacting the world as the boy born in a humble manger did.

Think on it.  A boy, born in the humblest of circumstances, forever changed the world and it how it dealt with so many things.  Truly, only a Son of God could do such a thing.  

That said, a lot is done, especially politically, in the name of Christ, that is nothing near what he taught.  Christ spoke against the rich and the lawyers.  (Gulp).  Christ spoke up for the downtrodden, the accused, the women and the children. Indeed, the birth, death and Resurrection of Christ created a New Covenant between humans and God, a New Covenant that was more understanding, more loving, more generous and called for us all to put aside hate.  

It is an indictment on humanity that so many of us will embrace Christmas, celebrate it, and then go on to do in our daily lives and in our political lives things that go against what Christ taught.  

We should be more aware of that.  The goodwill and cheer of the Christmas Season is what Christ wanted us to do all the time.  That is why the historical arguments about the birth of Christ do not really matter.  Christ was born.  He offered his teachings.  It is our hard hearts against those teachings and our fellow human beings that makes the world what it is.  God tried to help us.  Christmas celebrates that.  If we refuse the help, it is all on us. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The US House says "Bah! Humbug!" to taxpayers

Just when it seems that President Obama might be in real trouble, the Republican leadership in the United States House give him a chance to win.  

This time they did so by acting like junior high student council members in refusing to compromise to keep the tax cuts for working Americans in place.  That is right.  Republicans virtually decided to raise your taxes with their actions in the House.  

Here is how it happened.  The United States Senate voted 89-7 to extend the payroll tax cut for working Americans for two months so the tax cuts would not expire during negotiations. Thirty-nine Republicans joined fifty Democrats in that vote.    That is strong bipartisan support.  Then, the House leadership decided to not agree to the two month extension, digging in their heels, and thus raising taxes on working Americans.  

The negotiations in the United States Senate on the extension were worked out with both parties talking to one another and to the House leadership.  But, as habit with the House lately, when the goal was met, it was suddenly moved again. 

It shows how out of touch the US House leadership really is with people.  In this economy, fifty dollars a month here or there makes a real difference in peoples lives.  But, when you have total healthcare coverage, make six digits, and have a paid staff that defers to you, well, it is hard to actually know anyone, I mean really know anyone, who might miss a credit card payment, or make arrangements on an electric bill because of the defacto tax increase.  

It is a growing problem.  Not only in politics but in business, law, and other endeavors, a divide is growing in the nation.  One that has not been seen in decades.  Increasingly, people who are in trusted positions choose gamesmanship over statesmanship or leadership.  They come up with verbal legerdemain to try to seem earnest about something such as "job creators," but the truth is that they care more about playing the game than serving the people.  

That is why Americans are so frustrated, even during the holiday season. But, with Republican Congressional approval ratings hovering in the teens, this act of "bah humbug" might be the first step in the re-election of President Obama.  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why I love Christmas

Since I was a kid, I always loved Christmas.  Of course there are religious reasons to observe and celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, but more tangible for me as a kid growing up were other things. 
First, there were the big family gatherings.  Those were usually on Christmas Eve.  I remember we would go to the home of my father’s parents around lunch time, load up with food and gifts and then go to my mother’s parents’ home a few miles away for dinner and the same.  I remember things that seem silly to some.  I remember the year that my father’s parents gave me a radio.  I remember the year my mother’s parents gave me a set of little toy cars. I remember my father’s parents having a little electronic bell that played Christmas songs.  My grandmother found it to put up again this year.   I also remember my great grandmother and how she, when I was a boy, trimmed her tree with simple things like paper and stringed popcorn. I also loved Peanuts and Charlie Brown and Snoopy at Christmas. 

Most of all, I remember everyone being happy, jovial and full of life, including those who are now gone.  Everyone got a gift.  It might be cheap or small to some, but everyone, especially the children, was included.  I remember my father’s father giving us bags of candy, fruit and nuts, a tradition he continued for us grandkids on into adulthood.  That bag and the little electronic bell are seared into my memory forever.  So is the stringed popcorn that donned the natural Christmas tree at my great grandmother’s.

For my mom and dad, I also remember the role of Santa, not only for me, but my little brother, who is 13 years my junior in age.  My parents might have forgotten, but I have not, one particular Christmas when we lived at Fork Shoals. My dad had been laid off.  I had my doubts about Santa.  I was a rather intelligent boy.   I specifically remember Santa leaving me a hunting knife, a BB gun, and a toy Pepsi truck that had its trailer filled with packs of BBs.  That is heady stuff for a young boy.  I am sure Santa left other things, but those stand out. That particular Christmas morning came upon the heels of us finding where a fire was as we came home that Christmas Eve from the family festivities.  Again, that is heady stuff for a young boy.

My brother, who is now a deputy sheriff, might not appreciate this.  I remember, as a young college student, standing guard at his bedroom door so that if he awoke, Santa would not be interrupted in his delivery.  Now my little brother stands guard over all of us.  But, he is always that little brother to stand watch over to me. 

I am also proud of another man, another little brother if you will.  I remember how Christmas Day was spent with our neighbors, and a man who grew up like a brother to me who is a half world away this holiday season in Kuwait.  The families would gather, have a huge breakfast, and 
that man, who is like a brother to me, and I would check out one another’s presents and play with things like the Atari game until exhaustion.  And, yes, I still wonder how he managed to kick a 62 yard field goal to beat me in Atari 2600 football.  It had to be a glitch in the programming.

There is also the young person I watched grow up all too fast, at least for me and her mother.  One day she was all amazed at the lights at Riverbanks Zoo, the next it seemed she knew everything.  But, I remember the tot on my shoulders. I helped Santa out with her as well.  Now, I beam with pride over her college grades.  And, she probably will not like it, but she will always be my little buddy, all excited about Christmas. No one else would make me search all over for the best Princess Carriage for Barbi.  That young person and her mom gave me the greatest gift: the desire to be better. 

God help me, I remember it all.  Everything. 

I was asked recently why I loved Christmas so much.  Well, the above and more are why.  Not only do we that profess the Christian faith celebrate the birth of our Savior, but memories are brought back.  Things that really make us who we are deep down are remembered.  Some might be even saddened by such memories of such things.  But, I am not.  I feel blessed.  I lived those memories.  They are mine.  They are Christmas to me.  And, they are the reason I find myself of good cheer and sport the colorful lights this time of year.  They inspire me to make more memories. 

Merry Christmas. Be of good cheer.  Embrace the memories.  

Top 9 things you don't want to hear at Christmas

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 Herman Cain.” 

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. I got a Tea Party waiting for you.”  Then former Governor Palin was moved away from the cameras. 

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, that blogger told me being naughty with him was being nice. Besides, I am the Governor. ”

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The 12 Days of Political Christmas in SC

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
12 Tea Partiers
11 Occupiers
10 Reps. Pipin'
9 scandals a leakin’
8 Dems a prancin’
7 staff as lemmings
6 donors  syawin’
5 wives for Mitt
4 Vodkas served
3 years for Ard in the pen
2 bloggers love
And a failed Guv named Haley

Friday, December 16, 2011

Haley faces more scandal as she plans for the holidays

As we posted earlier this week, the political tigers are in the tall grass waiting to pounce on Governor Nikki Haley.  The pouncing is now commencing.  

There are now published reports about three different potentially scandalous activities by the Governor.  First, there is a report about the Governor letting T. Poone Pickens pay for her to travel to his Texas ranch and have a nice weekend there.  That brings back memories of the yacht ride.  Second, there are reports of the Governor's handpicked Department of Natural Resources Board members removing a DNR Director liked by sportsman and environmentalists but disliked by real estate developers.  Third, there is a damaging story about Haley's South Carolina Health Planning Committee and how she supposedly manipulated the committee's role in deciding whether or not South Carolina should have a health insurance exchange.  

The later story is especially damaging to Haley.  Reporter Renee Dudley from the Charleston Post and Courier paints an ugly picture inside the Haley Administration.   Here is the quote that stands out in Dudley's article published in The State: 

"In a March 31 email thread that included Haley, her top advisers and the committee member who eventually wrote the report, Haley wrote, “The whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT create a state exchange,” which is eventually what happened."

That might not seem much until one realizes that the state of South Carolina took a one million dollar grant to form a commission to study the feasibility of the said insurance exchange.  The grant was conditioned on a non partisan commission looking independently at the idea.  That email shows that was not adhered to by the Governor.  Mayors in this state have went to jail for not spending grant money correctly.  

Also, the Governor's response to questions about the committee was just bad.  When pressed by a reporter after the South Carolina Budget and Control Board meeting about the issue, the Governor was silent, and let a security guard do the talking.  If someone advised the Governor to do that, they were wrong.  It just added to the sense more and more South Carolinians are having that Governor Haley is smug and aloof.  That adds to the feeling of betrayal.  See the video for yourself. 

To make matters worse, Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey, in published reports, suggested that the Governor had responded to the questions but could not now because she was busy preparing for the holidays.  Just what holiday preparation was the Governor making when she was standing there waiting on an elevator while the reporter was brushed away by someone else? 

It is all troubling.  It is troubling that the Governor appeared to dictate to a board she took federal money for to be independent.  It is troubling that the Governor and her staff seem so inept, first by even emailing such things, and second, by a response that just invites more questions and even contempt from reporters and politicos.  Add to that the fact the State Senate is going to look into the DNR matter.  One expects that eventually, some Haley staffer will email "Look, Ken Ard ends up Governor if you keep this up, you want that?"

What a mess.  It makes one nostalgic for the days when a Governor simply went AWOL to meet a extramarital lover.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thoughts on state retirement changes

State employees are in an uproar.  A South Carolina House Sub Committee approved changes to the South Carolina State Retirement System.  There a reason that such was addressed.  The long running South Carolina State Retirement System, which has been benefits based instead of contributions based, is in long term financial trouble.  Thus, lawmakers are looking at how to save it.  

Those lawmakers are hampered by legal decisions involving state retirement.  When TERRI, a retired teachers incentive program meant to keep teachers who retire on the job, was implemented, the South Carolina Courts ruled it had to apply to all employees in the South Carolina State Retirement System.  Now, on the flip side of that, physically demanding jobs such as firefighters and police are lumped in with all other jobs in the South Carolina State Retirement System when elected officials consider ways to save the system.  

On a common sense level that makes little sense.  Other states and municipalities recognize that physically demanding and dangerous jobs such as firefighting and policing are separate from being a government clerk or dare we at VUI say, teaching school or the like.  Those in such demanding and dangerous jobs are justly rewarded in those other venues for their service with relatively earlier retirement plans.  

But, in South Carolina, we lump everyone together.  Thus, the changes proposed effect all members in the SC State Retirement System, from the State Trooper to the paper pusher. 

Here are the proposed changes that will be in force, if approved, for all SC State Retirement System participants who have 23 years or less of service: 

1) Participants will pay 7.5% of their salaries into the system instead of the 6.5% that they currently pay. 

2) The benefits based formula for retirement payments will consider the last five years of salary instead of the current three year salary consideration. 

3) Participants can retire after thirty years of service, but will not be able to collect any benefits until age 62.  Thus, a 22 year old State Trooper can work the roads for thirty years, but will have to wait ten years to draw a check. 

4) Those receiving benefits will not have the now automatic one percent cost of living adjustment, but instead the South Carolina General Assembly will determine the amount of, if any, adjustment that is made. 

All of that seems well and good for people who have jobs similar to those in the private sector.  VUI has contended for a long time now that such people should have a contribution based retirement plan supplemented with Social Security like the rest of us who work so called "normal" jobs do.  

But, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and first responders should be treated differently.  It might offend teachers and other government employees, but so be it. Those in law enforcement, fire fighting and first responding are at another level in the physical demand and danger that they face.  They are also at another level in the service that they give the state and local communities.  They protect lives.  They save lives.  They protect and save our very way of life on the front line.  For that, they should be rewarded with a retirement plan that recognizes what they do. 

Again, teachers and other government employees can and do make a difference in this world.  There is no arguing that.  But, they are not asked to protect us from the guy with a gun, rush into the burning building, or save our lives as we ride in the back of an ambulance.  There is a difference.  And, it is a travesty that South Carolina's leaders do not recognize that in their reform efforts of the South Carolina State Retirement System.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

South Carolina's crush on Nikki Haley is over

A year ago, it seemed everyone in South Carolina had a political crush on Nikki Haley.  She had not even taken office yet, and politicos were wondering if she would be nominated for Vice President.  A book deal was done.  If a man had video and DNA about an affair with Haley, the South Carolina press would have ignored it.
34% approve of Governor Haley

Haley and her minions were in a strong position to really influence South Carolina.  For the better or worse, it appeared Haley would be a force in Columbia to be reckoned with.  That has not happened. 

Instead, Haley ranks as one of the most unpopular and ineffective Governors in the nation.  A Winthrop University poll has Governor Haley's approval rating at 34%.  Only 52% of Republicans surveyed support Governor Haley.  Another poll has President Obama's approval rating at 44%.

Those are dismal numbers for a Governor who has not finished a year in office and a drop of nearly 30 points.  

Ironically, Governor Haley is going through exactly what President Obama went through in sudden unpopularity.  Like the President, Governor Haley was the anti establishment candidate who had incredible good will from the press.  People were truly inspired to vote for her as they were for President Obama.  

Then, reality hit.  The Governor and her staff have proven to be typical politicians, with the pettiness and the selfishness that people were already fed up with.  Their confidence, outsider status and youth, once thought of as refreshing, is now seen as smug and inept.  

The drop began with a rather arrogant act by the Governor and her people.  Only a few months into office, they decided to issue "report cards" about members of the General Assembly.  Those report cards were based on how a member agreed with Governor Haley on a set of issues.  They made it clear from the start of the session that legislators would be punished.  Thus, Haley and her people tried to use political coercion instead of persuasion.  It smacks of the Chicago style tactics President Obama's former chief of staff used at the the start of the Obama Administration.

Such tactics, especially in the midst of a bad economy, will and did backfire.  The goodwill from the press and the chattering people around Columbia is over. 

Indeed, some of those people are angry and motivated.  Things that might have been once overlooked, such as questionable political ties to the Savannah port deal, the activities of the Mansion Chef, the First Spouse wanting a modern wine cellar, the free booze, the yacht ride, etc., get focused on. 

Such things have happened before under a South Carolina Governor.  Rumors about luxurious excess, affairs and defacto bribes have circulated before about a number of Governors.  People expect that from politicians.  

But, when a politician gets elected by playing the victim of dirty tricks and a promise to be open and clean in a time of great trial for the state, and opens up by attacking people who criticize or disagree with her without a real effort at persuasion and compromise, the political tigers start waiting in the tall grass, ready to pounce.     

The people pay attention to those political tigers because they are hurting and expected more from the Governor than politics as usual.  People feel fooled.  

People also do not like being told that the man or woman that they elected from their community is not worthy to serve because some person they never heard of who works in the Governor's office thinks so.  When a Governor who is attending "high roller" fundraisers in Atlanta and riding a yacht goes after a member of the General Assembly who people in his community know personally and like, the Governor loses goodwill.  And, the member of the General Assembly is actually empowered more not to do what the Governor wants.  

Some will argue that the economy is the reason.  It a reason in that people demand more from politicians.  However, it is more likely that a young Governor and her staff, elected with a modern marketing campaign in a time of trial, lacks the depth of experience to understand how things work with people, and further seems to lack the respect for people, elected officials and the state to actually try to learn instead of demand. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Flounder floundering on his staff?

A couple of blogs in South Carolina, and our sources confirm, that State Rep. Thad Viers is having a campaign staff shakeup going on.  

Loyal readers know Viers.  We call him Flounder.  Because no one in South Carolina politics reminds us more of the Animal House character than Viers.  Not only does Viers look like the character, he has acted like him over the years.  Who can forget Viers having to get legal counsel after his nasty phone calls to his soon to be ex in laws?  And, his reputation in Columbia, well it is Flounder worthy.  

Now, South Carolina's Flounder wants to be a Congressman.  The newly drawn Seventh District of South Carolina gives him the chance.  And, really, who can blame the guy?  If getting loaded and calling people up is your talent, among other things, why not join those in Congress? 

The problem appears that Flounder's campaign is, in a word, floundering.  Despite some nice fundraising numbers, Viers can not get traction in the race.  So, South Carolina's Flounder is borrowing from the Dean and tossing out some political hands.  Good for him.  Now, if he will just say "Fat, drunk  and stupid is no way to go through life...," we might have some respect for him.  

But, for now, we at VUI will remain "fat, drunk and intelligent," and say the latest developments in the Viers campaign for Congress will likely keep him from joining his cohorts in D.C.  But, we do hope Viers runs for re-election in the SC House.  It would be boring to comment without him.   Who knows. "Fat, drunk and stupid," describes most member of Congress so Viers might just make it after all.

Thank you, Rep. Viers for the material.  

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Top 9 things you might want to avoid giving as holiday gifts

It is the Christmas Season.  A time that people feel the need to give gifts to the kids, friends and loved ones in their lives.  It can be confusing.  We at VUI are here to help. We offer the Top 9 things you might want to avoid giving as gifts.  

9) The Lego Meth Lab set

8) Fruitcake and tea…it ends up in a Tea Party

7) Monopoly, the Chinese version…where the Chinese own all the mortgages on the streets and Board Walk is Board Wok, and when you land on it, you get a collection notice from the Chinese government.

6) Women’s wear from the Ken Ard Collection… but we hear it is discounted by campaign funds.

5) The conspiracy book named, “Why NASCAR always turns Left:  The Truth about how that ‘forergner’ Obama is trying to lure Rednecks to Think Left and Be Liberal

4) Cookies and milk for Santa.  Let’s face it the guy is overweight and probably has high blood sugar.  You really want to give an elderly overweight diabetic cookies and milk?

3) The video game named “Penn State Ball Boy Challenge”

2) The Nikki Haley action doll.  You squeeze it and it goes, “Give me some money and I will give you your port” and “I never messed around with bloggers” and “It is a great day in South Carolina.”

1) The “Herman Cain and Friends Very Special Christmas” DVD.  Trust us; it’s not for kids and most adults. 

Seventy Years Ago Today

Sunday, December 7th, 1941 started out as a typical Sunday morning in Hawaii.  United States Army and Navy personnel were either nursing hangovers or preparing to attend church.  But, as the sun rose on Hawaii, the Japanese Navy task force attacked Wheeler Air Field and Pearl Harbor Navy Base.  It ranked as one of the greatest surprise attacks in military history and dealt a solid blow to the United States. 

Yet, it turned out be a blunder.  For the surprise attack on the United States awoken a sleeping giant who would prove to be terrible in its resolve.  Japan would four years later be devastated.  The United States would take the stage as a world superpower.  

That said, there were sailors and soldiers lost that day.  Those who survived that day are now dwindling in their numbers.  But, we should never forget what happened that day and the spirit of nation awoken to defend itself.  

VUI offers Franklin Roosevelt's stirring speech on December 8th, 1941 below.  Never forget Pearl Harbor! 

Friday, December 02, 2011

Welcome to Newt Land

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has not held elective office since he resigned over thirteen years ago.  But, the former House Speaker is enjoying the political spotlight as he has become the new front runner for the GOP nomination in Iowa, Florida and South Carolina.  Gingrich is also gaining poll number ground in New Hampshire, long thought as Romney country.  

Gingrich was politically dead in June of this year.  Professionals were leaving his staff.  Pundits wrote Gingrich off.  Gingrich seemed too old, too Washington, too brainy for the GOP.  After all, politics has become the only profession in America were having the least experience and being the least knowledgeable is an asset.  It resulted in our past two elected Presidents, President George W. Bush, who had a little over five years as Governor of Texas, and President Obama, who had yet to serve a full term in the United States Senate.  

But, with two wars and a sagging economy, perhaps America is changing.  Maybe Americans, even Republicans, want someone who knows how to get things done in Washington.  At least that is what Gingrich is hoping for.  

But, the road to the GOP nomination and the White House for Gingrich has a big road block named Mitt Romney.  Romney is a private business man, whose only political experience is one term as a moderate Governor of Massachusetts and a stint heading up the Winter Olympic Games.  But, Romney has been running for President for five years now.  

There is not doubt that since the Herman Cain scandals, America has become Newt Land.  Gingrich is surging in the polls, on television, making news.  But, his baggage still remains.  Will Gingrich be just another failed alternative to Romney of will Gingrich get the nomination?  

Remember the previous alternatives to Romney.  Michelle Bachman had people all fired up, then America learned she was on prescription mood altering drugs.  Rick Perry came in with big money and then he came across as just flat dumb.  Herman Cain and his 9-9-9 plan captured the GOP nation's attention until woman after woman emerged and Cain was dubbed "Spermin' Herman" by comedians. 

Now there is Newt Gingrich.  Gingrich is the smartest man in the room when GOP candidates meet.  So was Richard Nixon.  Will Gingrich's personal baggage catch up with him?

Gingrich's two road blocks to the White House, Romney and the President of the United States, have sterling personal lives.  And, both are smart and accused of being computer like as Gingrich.  

Then, there are intangibles.  Romney is polished, fit, comes across as the local tv news anchor with a picture perfect family.  President Obama still has some of that rock star status that elected him in the first place.  And, even as the President seems inept at times, people like him, his wife and daughters.  Gingrich, full of ideas, still comes across as the chubby old college professor that made us think in the classroom.  Gingrich is a guy you might turn to for advice on something, but Romney and the President are the guys people are more likely to choose to see everyday on television.  

It is said that President Obama was a law school professor who got elected President.  But, in reality, the last professional academic who was a professor and academic solely for his living that was elected President was Woodrow Wilson in 1912.  Wilson benefited from former President Theodore Roosevelt dividing the vote with President Taft.  

There has never been a former Speaker of the House elected President.  Thus, an academic like Newt Gingrich has to know that history is against him.  

But, history was against a black man with the name Barack Hussein Obama being elected President of the United States.  So, who knows?  

Gingrich has showed the intelligence to embrace the 21st Century in his campaign and dwells on issues.  It is re-mindful of how Richard Nixon tapped into the fears of a nation tired of war in 1968 and tired of protests in 1972.  But, Nixon never had to deal with the instant visual and informational world we live in today.  

In the end, VUI believes that will end the quest for Newt Land.  Romney will win the GOP nomination and then be narrowly defeated by President Obama.  If somehow Gingrich is the GOP nominee, it will be good for the country, because those debates with President Obama will ones for the ages.  But, Obama still wins a close one.  

The GOP has to ask, Jeb Bush, where are you when we need you?  Bush would win Florida and have a big bank roll, and that would give him the win. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Is the icing about to be put on the Haley political scandal cake?

Some folks are taking lightly the charge by South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Hartpootlian that Governor Haley is using her chef to handout birthday cakes to pet staff members.  Sure, it might seem small stuff, and it has likely been done before by a Governor.  But, Hartpootlian is an old political pro.  He knows what he is doing.  His press rant about the cakes is the icing on the Haley political scandal cake.

It started with reports about the Governor having her bodyguards fetch drinks for her and her guests.  Then, there was the famous yacht ride.  That was followed by the state paid for trip to Paris.  Wisely, the Haley trip to India was put off.  Then bloggers and others reported that she got free booze from a Columbia liquor and beer distributor and that her husband actually wanted tax payers to pay to keep the wine chilled.  Let’s not forget how Haley waffled on the Amazon development to appease Wal Mart and its power political operation.  The Govenor’s staff has destroyed public emails, and their salaries are frankly very good. 

But, all of that: cakes, booze, trips, it pales in comparison to the allegations being made about the Savannah port deal.   Governor Haley’s freshly appointed DHEC board gave the go ahead for the state of Georgia to dredge the Savannah River to expand the port at Savannah to be a deep water port that rivals that of Charleston. 

There has been a lot of head scratching over that decision by a number of political and business leaders.  Several years ago, then Governor Sanford struck up a deal with then Governor Purdue of Georgia to create a Jasper County port that would bring jobs and revenue to South Carolina.  Governor Haley seems to have broken the unwritten code of Governors of South Carolina, both Democrat and Republican, to keep to their predecessors’ word on things related to economic development for the state. 

Frankly, acting outside of the political box is Haley’s forte.  She is a rebel, have no doubt about it.  But, is she a rebel for good or for herself?  That is the question.  Blogs, such as FITSNEWS, and other sources we checked out have confirmed that Georgia businessmen with ties to the Savannah port held a fundraiser for Haley.  Then, Haley’s DHEC board gives Georgia the go ahead on Savannah, all but killing the Jasper port idea and any notions of expanding business at the Charleston port.   We are not saying there was any quid pro quo.  VUI is just saying that kind of thing looks bad, like deleting public emails does. 

It looks so bad that State Senator Harvey Peeler, (R-Gaffney), the Senate Majority Leader and Chairman of the Medical Affairs Committee of the State Senate that oversees DHEC, asked the Governor and her staff to come testify to his committee.  The Governor refused.  She did offer to turn over some emails and things like that. That is either funny or outrageous when one considers the Governor’s email deletion scandal. 

Such events make clear one of two things is going on.  First, the Governor and her people are such true believers and so inept that they keep stumbling into situations that more experienced politicos would avoid.  Or, they have fallen in love with their poll numbers and the handful of jobs they have announced and think that they are above the political fray and can do what they want with no consequences. 

Either scenario is dangerous for the Governor.  After all, the Governor is not even a year into her term and scandal seems to be the talk of politicos. And, make no mistake, Dick Hartpootlian is an old experienced chef who knows how and when to put the icing on the political cake. 

All that said, here is the ad being ran in the Lowcountry against Haley:

Monday, November 28, 2011

This stuff must be exposed and stopped

Syracuse University announced it fired assistant men's basketball coach Bernie Fine after ESPN aired comments between Fine's wife and one of the young men who accuse Fine of molesting him.  The remarks were damning, not only to Fine, but to legendary Syracuse head coach Jim Boehiem, who with all his wins and championships, looks really bad.  Boehiem not only defended his friend and assistant coach Fine, but he attacked the accusers.  

The courts will have to deal with all the allegations and who knows how that will work out.  But, things are bad in the coaching profession.  Joe Paterno already has been fired over the allegations against his assistant, Jerry Sandusky at Penn State.  Now a legendary basketball coach seems in trouble.  Add to that the situation right here in South Carolina, where the Citadel, with its sterling reputation, faces its own molestation scandal.  Indeed, former State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, a Citadel man with his own problems, wrote publicly that the Citadel President should resign.  

The situation is disgusting for someone like me.  I have coached youth basketball and football.  I currently coach interscholastic football.  I have coached championship teams.  I have coached a losing team.  I have coached with great men and lesser men. I coach for the love the game, and to see young people learn and have fun.  Never, for one moment, have I thought I coached with a pervert.  

And, lets get it straight, perverts are what these men are if they take advantage of their relationship with kids as a coach.  Such men are sick and just evil in the damage that they do to kids.  And, frankly, it is just as evil for head coaches and administrators to gloss over such behavior to protect their winning programs or institutions.  

One coach I spoke with recently presented an example that made me cringe.  He suggested that if a college recruit in a place like Bamberg or Allendale had a major college assistant coach visit him, and take his younger brother out for ice cream, and acted perverted, the little kid would not be believed.  After all he is just some poor little kid from a rural town.  His big brother not only would not get the chance to get a scholarship but would be labeled a trouble maker.  So, the abuse has a chance to flourish. 

As a coach and as a human being, I say such must be exposed and stopped.  The NCAA is all about its rules.  But those rules often lack common sense.  Maybe a coach should not be alone with kid.  That actually protects the coach from unfair allegations and the kid from a chance to be abused.  Frankly, what is worse, some assistant coach paying for a kid to attend his grandma's funeral, or going years abusing children?  The NCAA will put a program on probation for buying a kid the plane or bus ticket, but seems silent on coaches abusing kids. 

Further, what is really outrageous is the Penn State situation.  Supposedly a coach saw another coach abuse a kid.  That coach sat on that information for week or so and told the head coach, Joe Paterno.  Paterno followed university procedure and left it at that.  The assistant coach hired the abusive coach later to help him recruit, with Paterno watching over it all.  Paterno and Penn State were more worried about winning and the reputation at Penn State then sending someone with abuse allegations against him out into the community representing them.  Penn State was right to fire Paterno, but it was too late.  It is insulting that the scandal did not break until after Paterno passed Eddie Robinson for career Divison I wins.  

Now, we have the legendary Syracuse basketball program.  Boehiem acted aggressively against the young men who said they were abused. Fire him.  Send a message.  

The situation at the Citadel is something we will get into later this week.  If true, it too is disgusting.  

One thing comes from all of this.  Sexual abuse of kids must not be tolerated.  Perverts must be brought to justice.  The NCAA should step in, and if the allegations prove true, give the death penalty to any program in any sport that has a head coach and administrators who ignore such abuse. 

Frankly, if I were a head coach with Penn State on my football schedule or Syracuse on my men's basketball schedule, I would not lead my kids to compete with them.  Programs like that do not deserve the honor of competing in honored games.  Coaching, from the recreational leagues to the college ranks is about teaching kids how to compete and grow with honor and be good people.  Winning comes through that.  

If a coach, a program, or institution sacrifices the well being of just one kid to protect itself, it tarnishes the game and coaching.  There is no place for that. Time will tell what the law and the NCAA does with the scandals going on.  But, again, this abuse stuff must be exposed and stopped.  There is a sacred trust between coach and kid, and when that trust violated, all of us, not only as coaches, but as human beings, must demand that the perverts be brought to justice. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Sixth Annual VUI Thanksgiving Political Awards

Again, VUI is handing out its coveted Thanksgiving political awards. This is the sixth year we have done so. This year, we will keep it simple and just list the winners.  Here we go. 

The Cornbread Dressing Award for Career Achievement goes to former State Representative Dan Cooper of Williamston.  Cooper resigned at the end of the session of General Assembly  this Spring.  Cooper served as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and was often a conservative voice with reason in that position. Cooper resigned to spend more time with his family, something we at VUI applaud.  Cooper served the people of South Carolina well in his time in office and earned our recognition. 

The Cranberry Sauce Award for Local Government achievement goes to Aiken County Assistant Solicitor Steve Kodman.  Kodman lost his battle with cancer on November 14th of this year. But, as he battled cancer, Kodman continued to move cases along as a prosecutor.  He showed how a man does things as he goes out.  Kodman served the people well until his last day.  That said, VUI must mention Kodman's boss, Strom Thurmond, Jr., and how he worked with and honored Kodman.

The Holiday Ham Award, given to the biggest self promoter in South Carolina politics again goes to Will Folks.  His self important blogging about his love hate relationship with Governor Haley and the University of South Carolina continues at a high level.  Folks is not a bad guy, but no one loves to read his own words on the internet more than he does. 

That brings us at VUI to the political Turkey of the Year Award.  This one is difficult.  There are so many to choose from.  Michelle Bachmann comes to mind.  Ron Paul comes to mind.  Herman Cain comes to mind.  President Obama has a claim.  But, in the end, we at VUI give the award to Lt. Governor Ken Ard. Ard was a hero a year ago, but remains under investigation for his campaign finance issues now.  We give the nod to Ard, because his antics give ammunition to people who want to make his position appointed instead of elected.  Few have degraded the prestige of their office the way Ard has.  It will only get worse in 2012.

That brings us to the Holiday Fruitcake Award.  This one has been controversial.  People get upset when their pet political figures are called fruitcakes.  Again, Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul come to mind. But in the end we dub the "Occupy" movement.  Those folks claim to be for the people, but they urinate and defecate in parks and grounds that belong to the people.  When responsible government officials ask to clear them and just clean up, the "Occupy" people sue and go nuts.  God bless them for excersing their rights to assemble and protest.  But, geez, come on, let people clean up after you.  What started out as a legitmitate protest has turned into people disrespecting their fellow taxpayers by defecating and urinating in public places.  Grow up people!

The Golden Drumstick goes to the politician or politico with the best performance.  Attorney General Alan Wilson deserves some recognition for his performance.  Wilson had a lot of naysayers, but he has turned out to be a proven crime fighter and good lawyer for South Carolina.  But, the Golden Drumstick goes to Newt Gingrich. Six months ago, Newt was done. The so called professionals left him.  Now his idea driven campaign makes him a real contender in South Carolina and for the nomination to be President of the United States.  Newt's return from the politically dead earns him the Golden Drumstick.

Newt Gingrich is the smartest man in the room

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich showed again Tuesday night what we at VUI have known all along, he is the smartest man in the room when Republicans get together to debate. 

Gingrich does not throw out red meat for conservative activists on issues like Medicare and immigration.  Instead he delivers heaping doses of reality and reason and argues for conservative approaches that deal with reality.  

Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan is solid on the economic front.  But, frankly, Gingrich has more depth on the wide range of issues that faces a President of the United States.  Rick Perry seems lost.  Michelle Bachman and Ron Paul's ideological zeal does not embrace reality.  Jon Huntsman seems to be running for Secretary of State.  The former Senator from Pennsylvania seems to be running for the head of the Christian Coalition.  Mitt Romney, despite his money and the fact he has been running for five years, still comes across as a mid market tv news anchor trying to craft his words to keep his market share. 

Then, there is Gingrich.  He is a man with admitted personal baggage.  But, he has the experience and the depth of knowledge to know what he can do and what he can't do.  Gingrich is serious and thoughtful.  The others seem handled.  

Frankly put, a debate between President Obama and Gingrich would be one for the ages.  It would rival Kennedy and Nixon.  Such a race would give America a real debate and real choice between two heavyweights. 

In that match, VUI thinks Gingrich would prevail.  But, for that to happen, Gingrich must win the GOP nomination.  Nominating Gingrich would be the smart thing for the GOP to do, but the question is will the GOP do it? 

It will be a classic showdown.  Romney will have the professionally crafted soundbites.  Others will throw out the so call red meat.  Gingrich will appeal to thinking about solutions to our problems.  

One thing is certain, big Obama supporters do not want to face Gingrich.  They might act like they are chomping at the bit to go after his personal issues, but more than one Obama supporter has told VUI that they fear facing Gingrich in a debate. 

They should.  He is the smartest man in the room among the Republicans and would be with the President.  To be clear, the President can and will beat the others.  Gingrich would make the President seem like a lightweight. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Emails are public record

Say what you will about the Occupy Columbia movement, but one of the attorneys representing the protesters stumbled upon something that should bother us all.  Governor Nikki Haley and her staff routinely delete taxpayer paid for email messages to one another.  

Now we all delete emails.  Most of our email inboxes are filled with junk emails ranging from schemes to get us to deposit money to get money to things that tell us how to have better sex lives.  

But, in this age, government emails are public records.  Emails are the typed memos of yesterday that give the public and the press an idea about how decisions are made in government and how state government officials react to events of the day.  The people are entitled to have such emails saved and available for public scrutiny. 

We now know that Governor Haley and her people delete their emails to one another.  Such is self serving and an insult to the people of South Carolina.  It is especially insulting when one considers how Governor Haley ran a campaign promising open and accountable state government. Frankly put, deleting emails slaps the face of every South Carolinian who voted for Governor Haley thinking she would be open. 

Perhaps Governor Haley and her people are just ignorant. But, one thing is clear.  The taxpayers of South Carolina pay for the government internet access and the emails in question.  As such, they are entitled to know the contents of such emails that they pay for. 

If Governor Haley and her staff have things that must be deleted, let them email via private accounts that they pay for.  Otherwise, deleting official emails plays into the hands of conspiracy theorists, activists and others.  In other words, it is just plain politically dumb.  

If you doubt that, look at what deleting official emails has done to Governor Haley's position on the Occupy Columbia crowd.  Haley had ordered them to leave State House grounds by 6PM.  Now she is backing off that stand as it becomes obvious that the Governor who promised to be so open is not that open after all. 

Chances are there is nothing sinister in the deleted emails.  But, the act of deleting them begs the question of what was in them.  Such a trivial thing can derail a Governor's agenda.  It also shows a marked ignorance of the world we live in today.

For we live in a world in which emails and text messages are the accepted form of communication.  When such things are deleted by government officials, it is as offensive to the public as destroying files and memos.  And it is certainly not the stuff a Governor and Administration committed to openness does.  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Steve Kodman

I lost one of my best friends recently.  Most of you in the political world will never know the name of Steve Kodman.  Frankly, Kodman would have it that way.

But, he was my friend, one of my truest friends.  I met him way back in 1988 at a scholarship competition at then Lander College.  We both were interviewing for full scholarships.  Kodman oozed confidence.  He spoke to me, right away, about a girl he wanted to date.  She was a softball star named Jennifer.  Steve and I both ended up at Lander with scholarships and we struck a friendship up that has been one of the richest in my life.  Steve taught me how to coach when we coached basketball together.

When Steve’s car was not up to par, I would drive him to Clemson to see his softball star. I was fortunate to be one of the men who stood by Steve as he took Jennifer for his wife back in 1994.  I was there when their first boy was born. As fate would have, I was one of the men who toted Steve to his final resting place.  All of it was a privilege .  Steve was there for me in so many ways.

Fraternally, he was my “big brother,” ushering me through the pledging process.  But, more than that, he always was a brother to me. He was a real big brother.  He was my coach, my mentor. He was a man who showed me, even sick, how to be a man.   I always looked up to him and followed him to USC Law and took his career advice.  At my lowest moments, Steve always had my back.

So, it crushed me when I could not have his.  After we worked together to get Alan Wilson nominated as the Republican candidate for Attorney General last summer, I learned that Steve was diagnosed with Stage Four Lung Cancer.  When he was diagnosed, Steve had cancer that had spread to his bones in his ribs.

Steve spent his life fighting for the right things, as a prosecutor in Aiken, Lexington and Horry counties and in the Attorney General’s office.  So when faced with the fight of his life, Steve fought with the courage that defined him.  Steve had a way of encouraging people who were trying to encourage him. That was his way.  Steve Kodman was John Wayne in a puissant world and I will get sideways with anyone who says otherwise.

But, like so many, Steve lost his fight.  I lost one of the best friends I ever had.  But my own self pity is tempered when I think how his wife Jennifer lost a beloved husband and how his boys, Patrick, Thomas and Drew lost a devoted father.

I have traveled a lot through this state.  I met all kinds of people.  God has blessed me with that.  But, in all my travels, in all my experiences, I never met a soul more dedicated to doing right than Steve Kodman.  He was loyal to his wife and kids.  He was loyal to his friends.  He fought for justice.  I will miss him so much, and this world will be less without him in it.  Rest in Peace, my brother.

Monday, October 10, 2011

We will be back soon

The Editor and staff of VUI have been busy with other endeavors lately, but that does not mean that we do not care about South Carolina.  Indeed, as we get things together over the new few days, we are going to be back like never before.  We are working on stories about public schools, high school football, the Haley administration and possible corruption in a Solicitors office in SC.  

VUI told you state retirement was going broke long before the mainstream media, among other stories.  We like to get things right here and not write to see our words in print.  So, watch out, we are going to be digging and getting into things full forced and informing and entertaining as we always set out to do.  

Rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated.  Just wait and see.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years ago

It has been ten years since that fateful September day. I was standing in a customer's office. The tv in the office was blaring out something about a tragic accident involving an airliner flying into the World Trade Center.

I left that customer's office and started to make my way down to Bamberg, South Carolina, where I had to examine a real estate title. My mobile phone rang. It was my mother. She said another plane hit the other World Trade Center tower. She also reminded me of something I had not thought of, my father was on an airplane headed for Chicago.

I turned around the first chance I got. The title exam in Bamberg could wait. I went to my home. By the time I got to my suburban Columbia home, The Pentagon was hit. I still remember VH1 of all stations having the news on.

I spoke again to my mother. She had yet to hear from my father. I quickly made plans to go to their home in Honea Path. Between the time I left for Honea Path and arrived, my mother spoke to my father. He was stranded in Columbus Ohio with some business associates.

I had a chevy astro van at the time, something I had for NASCAR races and the like. But, it became clear that my van and I were Ohio bound. My father's best friend, a man I call "Uncle Skip" was at my parents house and ready to go with me. "Uncle Skip" was an old army special forces guy, a guy who had been called up to go and rescue the ship Mayaguez during the Ford administration. Having old Skip with me was invaluable. He kept me both awake and sane.

And, there were crazy things Skip and I saw in our trip from Honea Path to Ohio the night of September 11th and the day of September 12th. There was an improvised checkpoint in the state of Tennessee. For what, I still don't know. There was a soldier and his wife we met at rest stop in Kentucky on his way to Ft. Campbell after being recalled from leave. There was gas prices as high as $5 a gallon in Kentucky and Ohio. We both listened intently to President Bush on the radio.

I got tired. I got irritated. But, ole Skip kept me sane. He kept saying things like " we got a duty here boy," and the like.

Eventually, we reached my father and his business associates in Columbus. They cramped into my little van and made their way home. They were grateful for the ride home. For, you see, there were no airflights, and all rentals had been frozen as well.

Many people remember where they were when they heard that an attack had happened. I remember that as well. I also remember the long, weird night into day trip I had with ole Skip to go get my father and his business associates. The time was surreal. So much was so odd.

I will never forget what happened on September 11, 2001, not only because of the tragedy, but because of what I learned about the best and worst of America. The best was ole Skip, a true friend who was a companion in getting my dad back home. The worst was the folks who wanted to charge us $5 a gallon for gas south of Cincinnati.

If I live to be a hundred, I will never forget that day, and the barbarians who threw our lives into surreality. It is something we should remember. I will never, ever,forget the images of people jumping from the trade tower out of my head. I will never, ever, forget the images of the towers falling. I will never, ever, forget the surreal night and day Skip and I had to get my father and his business associates home.

So many of us forget what happened that day. Politics or whatever inspires so many of us to forget. I will never forget. When I later learned that the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania came very close to my father's flight, I cringed.

Ten years later, the memories of September 11th burn in my mind. It is why I am proud that I voted for President Bush twice. At least he got the fact we have to fight the Islamic fascists head on.

Regardless of the politics, I will never forget, and I will always be grateful to ole Skip. He is one helluva man.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Enjoy Labor Day, but drive sober

Enjoy the Labor Day weekend.  But, if you a few cold ones, ride home with a friend or call a cab.  Two reasons for that.  First, you will not be risking lives if you do not drive drunk.  The other reason is the boys in blue are out to get you and they will see you before you see them.  Thanks to all the deputies and troopers out there who work to keep the roads safe. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Whats wrong with blogging today

I like blogging.  I have broke some stories here that it took the mainstream media a couple of weeks to catch on to.  I take pride that not one of those posts were proven false or without merit.  But, I do this just to inform and entertain, not to make myself famous or make a buck off of running down someone’s name.

Recently, FITS News , ran by Will Folks, a blog and a man I actually have defended on this blog, posted allegations that South Carolina Gamecock baseball hero Scott Wingo  had someone else take his SAT for him.  Follow up posts were promised but as of this post, were not delivered.

Frankly, I do not worry about such being posted.  Perhaps they will be.  But, the great problem with blogging, face book, twitter, all of it is made clear by that point.  Some guy tells some blogger some story that will  make the blogger famous if it is true.  So, the blogger runs with it.  Fair enough.

When such happens in politics, it is par for the course, so to speak.  Politics is nasty in South Carolina.  We are known for it.  But, when a kid, a civilian if you  will,  is maligned over an anonymous tip without digging deep, it shows the problem with the blog media.  I am not going to accuse Folks of this, but too many bloggers are willing to post allegations they know are flimsy in the hopes that they prove true and get them on ESPN or  Fox News or wherever to drive up their hits and satisfy their ad buyers.

The problem is with the people that are hurt by it.  In Wingo’s case, it is extraordinarily difficult to have someone take the SAT in your place.  Procedures are in place that are far more stringent than getting a SCDL or voting, even under the new voter identification law.  The College Board’s currency is its credibility with the colleges and universities of the nation. To think they would allow a slip up for, at the time, a medium talent baseball recruit at South Carolina is just dim.

Further, Coach Ray Tanner has a reputation of impeccable adherence to rules and ethics.  The kid in question has performed in the class room and on the field.  To malign Tanner, the University of South Carolina, and some kid who plays ball, to have a shot a ESPN type fame is irresponsible.

But, such happens all the time now.  People block ex wives or business partners from seeing their social network pages and blast them on them.  Blogs like the Huffington Post fire off with little substance.  The list of those types of blogs go and on.  The truth gets lost in the din of noise of those who write the loudest.

And, who is hurt?  Well, all us are to some degree.   But, that kid is hurt especially bad.  He has his whole professional life ahead.  And, now, with one of the most prominent writers publishing allegations he cheated, that will go with him.  Once the allegation is made, there are some people who believe it even if its proven wrong.

That’s fine for politics.  But, in sports and other private endeavors, those of us who claim to inform, commentate or entertain have to have some sense of decency, especially when it comes to young people.  Again, not making allegations,  but if a blogger  makes allegations based on anonymous and flimsy information just to take a shot at being famous, well, that blogger  has got a hole in his soul.

I  imagine the folks like that won’t like how I put things and gun for me.  That only will make the hole for them bigger.  And, it will make my point stronger,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Polling numbers and the national angst

Numbers are hard things to argue with.  While statisticians and pollsters can “massage” numbers with questions, samples, etc, large numbers just stay about the same.  Reviewing some of the GALLUP organization's most recent polling data shows Americans are unhappy not only with the President, but with Congress, the Tea Party, and life.

Nearly half of Americans polled, (48 percent), say they are either struggling or suffering.  That national angst is focused on the political leaders.

President Obama has an approval rating of just 38 percent and a disapproval of 54 percent.  That is a horrible number for a incumbent President a little over a year away from a re-election contest.  In normal political climates, it was be easy to predict Obama’s  sound defeat next Fall with those numbers.

However, these are not normal times.  The President remains more popular than Congress, who comes in at 13 percent approval, (by far the lowest in polling history), and the chief rival of President Obama, the so called “Tea Party”  has only a 25 percent approval rating.    Frankly put, the American people do not like any of the players on the current political scene.  The majority of Americans simply do not approve of or trust the major players.

That makes 2012 an unpredictable election.  Of course paid for consultants, who are actually a part of the disconnect, will argue how both sides are sure to win.  But, the situation actually is fluid.  A dark horse candidate could win the White House.  The President could win re-election in a landslide.  Events will be bigger than the candidates for Congress and for the White House.  Because when the half the nation consider themselves struggling or suffering, traditional political wisdom is all but useless.

Think on it.  The Democrats took the House because the American people were tired of the Republican Congress and President Bush.  President Obama was elected in part because Bush was so unpopular. The Republicans took back the House because the Democratic Congress was so unpopular.  Now, the Republican House, the Democratic Senate, the Tea Party, and the President all are solidly disapproved of by the American people.,  There are districts and states in Congress where the Republican or Democrat should win.  But, in the middle that decides national power, there is no telling what will happen.

If VUI had to call it, we would give a slight edge to the President.  For, at 38 percent, he is the most popular player in the national political game.  And, that says  a lot about the state of America.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The NCAA should take a different approach with cheaters

Even casual sports fans know about the scandal involving the University of Miami and a booster who allegedly was a ponzi scheme artist who used is his ill gotten gain to shower athletes with cash, parties, and even women.  It is college sports at its worst.  

All sorts of rumors about how the NCAA is going to address the situation are floating around, including a harsh probation or even a death penalty for the Miami football program.  

The death penalty for Miami is not just and will not deter other cheaters.  Here is how.  First, new coach Al Golden, his staff and most of the current players had nothing to do with the alleged scandal.  How is it just for them to be punished for the acts of others?  Further, Miami does not interact in the college football world alone.  There are other teams in their conference and elsewhere that have scheduled them, count on the revenue that comes from playing them, etc.  How is punishing those programs just?

If the NCAA really wants to do justice and wants to make its rules be taken seriously, it should ban all coaches, players, and administrators guilty of such from participating in NCAA sports as a player or coach for life.  Any administrator who oversaw such nonsense should be banned as well.  Simply ban those folks from being employed, volunteering, being a booster, being in a Hall of Fame, etc., from any member school in the NCAA.  In that way, the culprits get the punishment.  

As things stand, a President can oversee an Athletics Director who can oversee a Coach and his staff that allows a booster to cheat.  All the before mentioned move on to other schools, with no consequences, and their old school and the new coaches and players are punished.  The system as it is seems to reward cheating.  

Change it.  Punish the culprits and watch people start to get interested in running bad boosters and the like off their campuses. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Think the debt ceiling fight did not matter? Think again

The debt ceiling fight between Congress and the President made great headlines.  It made financial institutions think about things.  Some say it led to Standard and Poor's to lower the the US credit rating.  It certainly made interesting news for the cable news networks.  

Another thing the debate on the debt ceiling accomplished is not not noted.  Democrats and Republicans alike do not want this secret out about what their political game playing meant.  But, we at VUI, we tell it straight.  

Strong sources in the military tell us that military pay checks did not go out on time.  The staff of VUI has been told directly, by members of the military, that they did not get their pay checks on time.  Their pay checks were delayed.  The blame was put on the budget showdown.  

Fair enough.  VUI made clear, a over a week ago that the SC DOT could not pay its bills.  Now the mainstream media is picking up on it.  That insult to hard working contractors was and is outrageous.  

But, even more outrageous is the fact, and we have verified, the fact that hard working military folks, the folks we ask to defend our way of life, were delayed paychecks because of political points being made, both right and left.  While politicians were scoring points, playing golf, getting face time on cable news shows, the men and women of the military were being told, "wait another week" for their pay.  

Those folks did get paid.  But, that is not the point.  With what we pay the military, so many of  those folks and their families live paycheck to paycheck.  Holding a paycheck for several days puts those folks in a bind. The fact that payment to them was denied because of political gamesmanship on both sides is a dadgummed outrage.  

We ask the men and women of the military to give, as Lincoln put it, "the full measure of devotion," to our nation.  In return, our political leaders get in a urinating contest that results in folks not being paid on time.  It is an outrage.  Indeed, the insult to the military and to us all, is deep from these clowns.  They would rather score political points then run the country.  Consultants say do this to win the Tea Party. Other consultants say this to win the Move On crowd.  All the while, actually running the country gets left all alone. No wonder we have the problems we do.  We elected them. 

High School Friday Nights are back

All around South Carolina, young men and coaches have been working on the game of football.  The fans got their first glimpse of the work the coaches and young men do over the weekend with Jamborees that have teams scrimmaging against each other.  Next, week, so called Week Zero to the SCHL, football gets real.  A full slate of games follows the next Friday night.  

High school football is ingrained in the culture of South Carolina.  Even the kids that do not go out for the team have pride in their school's team.  At most schools, dozens, if not hundreds of kids work hard to be good football players, good band members, good cheerleaders, managers, and spirit club members.  All the students and the coaches, be them paid or volunteer, of the football team, the band, the cheerleaders, they all work hard to put on a Friday night for the fans.  Others are involved, like the transportation people who make sure the kids and coaches get the buses and vans needed to get to the games and do not forget the officials and the people with South Carolina High School League and South Carolina Band Directors Association that work to make the contests fair and safe.  

All those people come to come together to be a part of the special tradition that is fall high school Friday nights in South Carolina.  Life is fast, it comes and goes so quick, but all those involved from the fan, to the head coach, to the band director to the guy volunteering to sell tickets or sodas, to the cop who works for half his pay or free to provide security,  they are a part of the tradition of fall Friday nights that lives on. 

Indeed, the uniting force and tradition of high school Friday nights brings together all sorts of people.  People of different races, incomes, political ideas, agendas, beliefs, talents, they come together to give us the games.  When one thinks of that, it is hard not passionate about something that does so much good, even in the worst of times. 

Think on it, when it is fourth down and goal at the one and the home team has the ball, down by six with a few seconds left, the liberal and conservatives both cheer for the touchdown for the home team and , if they cheer on the other side, they cheer for the defense to hold.  Nothing transcends all our differences in South Carolina like our high school football teams.  And, our bands add to it, some of them with outstanding performances  that get the same different people up cheering and clapping for the same team.  

Having coached two sports now, basketball and football, I believe that every kid counts on a team.  The kid who shows up to practice and practices hard makes the starters better.  He or she makes a difference.  But, in the big scheme, everyone counts on this great tradition that is High School Friday nights.  Every role in that night counts and makes South Carolina a better place to live.  It is a special thing.  

So, if you are looking for something to do in the next several Friday nights, go to a high school football game.  Buy a hot dog, watch the game, enjoy the band.  Look around and see the best of South Carolina from towns like little McBee to big cities like Columbia.  The money you spend for a ticket, for the hot dog, etc., goes to the worthy cause of  giving South Carolina one of is finest traditions that brings out the best in people:  High School Friday Night. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Health care costs are the problem

As the United States deals with its debt crisis and deals with Standard and Poor’s downgrading the United States federal government’s credit rating, one of the growing debates is about health care.

The President and the Democrats who had control of Congress passed a so called Health Care Reform Act.  That act did absolutely nothing to lower health care prices.  What it did was cater to health insurance companies, and make criminal not having health insurance coverage.  Now, why the Act offers subsidies to pay the lesser among us some sort of subsidies for that heath insurance coverage, it still was something that did nothing to lower prices.

Let’s face real facts here.  The great frustration of rank and file Americans is not having health insurance, it is having health insurance and still being put in a financial hole.  A man or woman can spend their entire lives having health insurance, get sick, and be stuck with big bills after insurance pays.

Here is how that happens.  America has seen a shift in the health care profession, from being non profit to profit.  As health care went to profit, so called financial professionals have been hired by health care providers to maximize profits.  Here is how that works.  Supposed a procedure will be paid $100, to be simple, by insurance companies.  Health care financial experts take that number, then figure out you can pay thirty dollars yourself.  So they charge you $130 for the act.  Your insurance company pays $100 and you are stuck with the $30 leftover. VUI choose low numbers to make a point simple.  But, frankly there are folks out there who paid their entire lives for health insurance, had something like a heart attack and find themselves, after insurance will bills ten or twenty times that after insurance.   The health care providers are in the business of maximizing profits. And with people choosing living or dying, getting those profits are like shooting fish in a barrel. You got a $100,000 in your savings after a lifetime, they will take it.

Health care providers will tell you that that Americans have access to the best health care in the world, the most innovative treatments.  That is true if you have good insurance coverage and money.  What they do not tell you is that millions of dollars of money is spent lobbying state legislatures to make health care malpractice harder to go after.   They do not tell you that they lobby to make sure they will not cover simple tests that find things like cancer in the earlier stages. In other words, big health care, spending big money, raises your bills to outrageous levels and  spends millions to make it harder for you or you family to recover if your health care provider messes up.  No other profession in America enjoys such protections.

That said, there is another part of the health care industry that is outrageous, and that is elderly care.  If a man or woman lives their whole life saving some money, and paying insurance, God help them if they get dementia or something like that and need nursing home care.  The nursing home health care provider runs through their savings, and takes every dollar of their Social Security benefits.  What is even more outrageous is that such care is often provided by people who frankly have no business doing it.  It is all about the profit and administrators of such care get relatively big money leeching off people who made their livings working hard. Think on it.  There are people out there, with no formal medical training, with not even a Bachelor’s degree in such things, making big salaries and deciding what is good for your grandfather or grandmother, all the while running through the lifetime of savings you grandfather or grandmother built. VUI really does not blame the folks who have to make that decision, but the big for profit folks who hire them for cheap because they do not have the formal training.

That, folks, is what is wrong with America and health care.  We live in a country that touts freedom, but if you live your life the right way, save your money, and you get sick, you lose it all to the health care leeches.  That is why so many American are tired of things.  They see our politicians all but paid off.  Indeed, we live in a country in which states must and do regulate things like a cable television bill and a electric bill, but health care providers are free to drain you dry.  And, living, that is probably the most irrational economic act people make.  Health care for profit folks take advantage of that.  Ten dollar aspirins and taking the savings of old folks is the tip of so called iceberg.  Nowhere in the world, but America, can a man or woman in the middle class build a small fortune and watch it all go away just to get basic health care, even with insurance.  Obama missed that.  The Tea Party Republicans missed that.  And, that folks is why so many remained so ticked off in this country.  And, making it criminal that poor folks do not get insurance will not do a damn thing about it.  The for profit health care industry bleeds the middle class and government alike.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

President Obama has reached his low point

Weeks of bickering with Republicans over the debt ceiling did take its toll. Standard and Poor’s downgraded the United States credit rating to AA+, citing the inability of the Congress and President to get their acts together on the national debt. The credit rating agency left them both to blame. 
But, there is only one man in the White House, the focal point of credit and blame, and that is Barack Obama. As the news, as odd as it came on a Friday night, came in about the Standard and Poor’s decision, a more pressing matter came into the White House.

In Afghanistan, 31 American troops were killed in one shot from a Taliban supporter’s anti aircraft weapon against a Chinook helicopter. Seven Aghans were killed as well. The war in Afghanistan, thought to be one the United States was winding down victory in, is all too real again.

Add to that dismal economic numbers that came out this week, along with a sluggish stock market. We are indeed a long way from the heady day in January 2009, when the President took office, and even farther from his campaign promises to win in Afghanistan, get out finances in order, and get our economy moving again.

Indeed, this President, whose election was to so many a dream come true, is living a nightmare. The bad news just keeps coming to his desk. And, fair or not, he will take the blame. That is how life in the Oval Office goes. Sometimes the circumstances overwhelms the man holding the job.

It happened in 1968. Lyndon Johnson passed more legislation to help the poor than any President in history. He also did more to fight the communist menace than any President during the Cold War. But it whipped him politically, and he wisely sought no second term on his own.

Perhaps President Obama should think of Lyndon Johnson. The economy suffers, our credit is downgraded, the war he promised to win for us is still hot, perhaps the President should shock the world and remove himself for re-election. It would give his Presidency a boost past this low point and be a real act of patriotism. Besides, a former President Obama will live a comfortable life with book and speaking deals and secret service to boot.

Chances are Obama will run re-election. And, as he does, he will, by the force of campaigning, have to divide this nation. The President will do the very thing that Standard and Poor’s says is the problem. The Republicans will answer him in kind. Doing business in this country is secondary to their respective political whims.

But, one thing is not a whim. Like him or not, President Obama has overseen growing debt and military and economic setbacks. His promise is nowhere near being fulfilled. Indeed, his Presidency, with the recent news is at a low point not seen since that of Jimmy Carter.