Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A lifelong politician to consider

This man spent his life in politics and academics. He studied the ways of man and of science. He wrote. He served in political positions most of his life. He always studied science, making contributions that made real differences in the fields of electricity and meteorology. 
His personal life was colorful. He had a common law wife. He had a illegitimate son. He was known for sitting with the windows open in the nude to take an air bath. His religious views were never known, but he was known to ridicule those who were self righteous.

Was this some great liberal that today’s Tea Party folks would hang in effigy? Is it Al Gore or someone like that?

Nope. It is Ben Franklin, one the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was intelligent and irreverent. He spent his life in public service. He actually liked the idea of things like public schools. Indeed, he founded the first volunteer fire department in the United States. His estate actually left small sums of money in trust for the cities of Boston and Philidelphia.

Franklin, like other Founding Fathers, was a champion of freedom, but also a champion of people having good sense and studying and having knowledge when they spoke out. Franklin demanded people know what they were talking about. He loathed those who spoke out just to speak out of emotion.

Other Founding Fathers were like him. Franklin paid the price in his time. Sure, we honor him now in so many ways. But, during his life, especially his earlier life, he was viciously attacked by people who saw him as immoral or eccentric for telling the truth as he saw it.

It is little different today. Suppose a guy with some good ideas came along and presented himself to the current Tea Party or even the Republican Party. What would people say about him when they found out he loved scientific reasoning, was not really married to his wife, had an illegitimate child, and did not go to church on a regular basis?

The irony is those who cry out the most for the values of the Founding Fathers are the least like them. Founding Father John Adams once wrote that “Facts are stubborn things…and those who ignore them do so at their own peril.” That is true of the new GOP. They claim to embrace the Founding Fathers, but are ignorant of them and their histories. They want to lead, but only want leaders who pass litmus tests. Even Ronald Reagan would be a RINO now.

As we prepare to celebrate the Independence Day holiday, VUI will take a look at the Founding Fathers, that group of crazy men who actually gave up their fortunes and lives to create this nation. They did not have lobbyists to steer them to consulting fees like our Governor did in the State House and so many legislators do. They did not look for big pay checks after government service. They lost their homes, their fortunes and some their lives.   They did not have some billionaire giving millions of dollars to political groups and consultants.

Yet, we have these politicians who tell us public service is something bad. They run campaigns boasting about their lack of experience serving people. They ridicule folks who work for the government.    But, when they hold office, they feather their nests, just as Jefferson and Franklin warned us against. Something to ponder.

Gamecocks do it again

When the South Carolina Gamecocks won the national championship in baseball last year, the staff of VUI thought we saw a once in a lifetime event.  Winning a national championship in any college sport is difficult.  When it happens for your school, it is something to savor.  Winning back to back titles, well that is incredible.  The only other South Carolina college or university to pull off such a feat in any college sport is Lander University.  At Lander , the men's tennis team had a string of national championships at the NAIA and NCAA division II levels.  

What South Carolina did in baseball this year was simply incredible.  They overcame injuries to key players, had key players play hurt, made outstanding plays in the toughest of situations, and defended their national championship with heart and class.  Other teams had more talent.  But, those others teams did not play like champions like the Gamecocks did. 

Congratulations to Coach Ray Tanner, his staff, and his players.  We also say " thank you" to them for showing the world what Palmetto State champions are made of.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

another guest contributed cartoon...this about Governor Haley

Cartoon Disclaimer: All cartoons submitted are strictly the opinion of the artist, are not copyrighted and may be used freely as seen fit by the receiver. Jamie W. Walton

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Top 9 things a Governor does not want to hear from staff

9) “I know Governor, but Glenn McConnell has pictures.”

8) “No Governor, we can not make the call sign of a plane you are on Air National Guard One.”

7) “Sorry, Governor, Donald Trump says next years Celebrity Apprentice is already booked up.”

6) “Governor, you got an urgent email from Ex Congressman Weiner.  He says he wants you to forget you ever got the pictures he sent.”

5) “ Governor, Jakie Knotts is in pretty good health and is running for re-election”

4) “Sorry Governor but the agents protecting you do not have to serve as wait staff for you and your friends.”

3) “Calm down, Governor, sure, the approval ratings are low, but they are a couple of points above your age, so we got something there.”

2) “No, Governor, you cannot fire members of the State Supreme Court.”

1) “Ah, come on Governor, another blogger?  Geeez!”

Atheists and others need to get over it

 We at VUI believe in freedom of religion and freedom from religion.  What goes on in Utah, with the Mormans knowing house by house who is a member of their church and not is apalling.  That said, equally appalling is the minority religious beliefs that think they can dictate culture. 

In the South, even the town drunk pays respect to God at the ball game when prayer is offered. He is not worried about the dollar or so spent of his tax money to allow the prayer.  But, the yankee athesist is.  Such folks get all bent out of shape, threaten to sue already suffering public schools, all in the name of their No God. 

Fair enough, I suppose.  But, it does make us at VUI wonder at the arrogance of those who claim to not believe in God or be so offended by the Christian religion.  Here is why.  Say you are at a high school football game.  A prayer before the game is offered.  You do not have to join.  Frankly no one really notices if you do not join.  The vast majority in this democracy of ours embrace such.  If you do not, frankly no one cares.  We at VUI have been at hundreds of high school football games over the years, and searched the internet.  We can not find anything legitmitate about someone being harassed for not praying.

But, you self righteous types come along and you believe the freedom of the vast majority of people to say a prayer is not near as important as you not having to hear it.  Further, some of you think that your religious beliefs entitle you to skirt common sense laws like pictures for drivers licenses.  It is pure arrogance and a sense of self importance.  We do have religious freedom in this country,and freedom from religion, and that also means freedom from religion, including atheism, that a minority would put on the rest of us.  Your freedom ends where others liberty begins. Life is not Burger King, where you can get it your way everytime.

Think a bit on it.  If you believe that my religious beliefs are so wrong you have to punch me in the nose, your freedom to believe that ends where my liberty to have my nose left alone begins.  Such a theory expands.  If the vast majority want to acknowledge some prayer at a football game or the like, what right, and what arrogance, do you have to tell folks in a free democracy they cannot?  Further, we live in a land in which you can sit silent, not go to church, etc.  That is the freedom.  If you doubt that, try the ideals of some of those on the left taking over the places like Egypt.  They would execute you for not agreeing with them on religion.  And, the same folks who worry about prayers at ball games here think those folks are for freedom.  It would be laughable if it were not so real.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Another guest cartoon....about Weiner

 The Weiner problem is really getting big for House Democrats, so we enjoyed this guess sumbitted cartoon and hope the readers get a laugh.  Thanks again.

Cartoon Disclaimer: All cartoons submitted are strictly the opinion of the artist, are not copyrighted and may be used freely as seen fit by the receiver. Jamie W. Walton

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The other side of life and how state government deals with it

Most of us do the right things, even if we fail at business, are unemployed, have bad credit, drink too much, whatever, we tend to mostly be a people that have a sense of honor and respect for kids and old folks and to some point, each other.  Plainly put, most of us want to take care of the kids and mama and them, despite whatever faults we have.

Perhaps that is why it is hard for folks to understand the value of things like public education and the Department of Social Services.  But, the folks in law enforcement, the DSS, and yes even in public education, see firsthand the other side of life.  The side that does not care about kids or mama or them. They see the folks that in this world deal real harm to others.

As the legendary Hank Williams once wrote, “in the world’s mighty gallery of pictures…the saddest of all are the pictures from life’s other side.”  Those pictures are all around us, if we only dare to see them.  There are the kids who live in a home filled with abuse.  They could be next door.  There is the old widow who has adult children who more worry about who gets her pension check and her car than her care.  The stories of abuse of our most vulnerable that law enforcement, social workers and public educators can tell would curl most folks blood.    It is out there.  It is real.  And, our lack of doing something about it defines us a people.

For, we are only as a good of  a people as we treat and respect the most vulnerable among us.  Christ told us that.  But, we do not listen to that any more.  State and local governments formed entities to take care of our most vulnerable.  Today, we are told such things are not important.  Such things cannot be afforded.

Fair enough.  But, VUI believes our leaders tell us such because the vulnerable do not have lobbyists who give contributions and throw big parties for them.  Public service is about serving all the public, not just those who pay your bar tab.

And for those out there who say, “I take care of mine you take care of yours,”  think on this.  We all live here together.  When you shut an abused kid out of a chance, you create someone who we have to pay for in the criminal system later.  And, when you let someone abuse an old person, you just flat go against God, which so many politicians in this state claim to embrace.  Is that worth the money spent for some guy in the Department of Commerce to dine like a king?

Let’s be brutally honest.  There is no limited government champions anymore.  The Republicans, even in SC ,seem to be for who pays them to act and write bills that suit their business interests.  So, if there is to be no limited government anymore, then lets have a government that pays for the law enforcement, the social workers, the public educators, and even the health care workers to care for the kids and mama and them. After all, taking care of the kids and mama and them is as important to us as our guns.  Read the budget of South Carolina and make your own decisions.  We seem bought and paid for and the folks don’t have a chance.  Do not get VUI started on legislators and consulting fees that they take from big business.  Too bad some abused kids can not hire them to consult.  Those kids could really use some help getting funding for programs to help them.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Top 9 things not to do this summer

We at VUI want you to have a safe and happy summer.  But, summer is a time in which the heat, alcohol and lack of common sense seem to  join forces to ruin the day.  The staff of VUI has seen and heard things that well, defy logic in the summer.  So, as a public service, we offer:

Top 9 things to avoid doing this summer.

9) Tie sparklers to a roman candle, hold them in your hand and light the fuse.

8) Anything that makes you say, “hey ya’ll, watch this.”

7) Drink to the point in which you go, “who needs tongs?” as you reach to turn over something on the grill with your hand.

6) Walk around the back yard with nothing on but your Depends underwear.

5) Drink to the point you tell your wife, “That gal down the street can really fill out a bikini.”

4) Shove a cop at a summer  festival just to see what he will do.

3) Put on sweat clothes to go running in 100 degree heat to prove how tough you are.

2) Drink to the point you actually walk down the street, in your Depends, and ask that gal in the bikini, “are those real?”

1) Get naked around fishing lures.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Want real reform? Reform state and local government retirement

Thousands of South Carolina workers work for either the state government or the various local governments.  They do sometimes thankless jobs for us all.  They also work beside friends and neighbors in the private sector who do just as important jobs.

The difference is the good folks who work for government can retire at a relatively early age with a benefits based retirement plan that pays them nicely, while folks in the private sector must work to the SSI retirement age and have SSI checks and their own contributions to things like a 401{k} get them through the retirement years.  State employees rely on us to keep paying taxes.

Perhaps there was a time in which state employees needed such benefits to draw talent to work for the state.  That time has passed.  We now live in hard economic times, times in which state government struggles to make its way.

So, with the growing number of retirees versus folks who are working and paying taxes, perhaps it is time to reexamine state retirement. Forget who answers what role call in the State House, going  after this perk is real reform.

Lets be clear.  South Carolina will keep its commitment to all those retired or about to retire.  We made a deal with those folks, we have to keep it.  But, for others, we can change things.

First, let’s just eliminate the state retirement benefit for members of the House and Senate.  Their jobs are part time, and it is absurd that they can make more retired than in office.  Again, we keep our commitment to those retired, but we say from this point forward no more of that.

And, we have to go after state and local workers at lower levels.  Sorry.  It has to be done.  South Carolina should phase out the retirement system it has.  Even if we raised taxes on the so called wealthy, we cannot afford a benefits based retirement system that pays folks so much for not working.  We have to phase South Carolina government workers into the SSI program, offering them a contributions based retirement plan like a 401{k} and leave it at that.

Perhaps there could be some exception for fire fighters and police to retire earlier than most.  Their jobs have understandable physical demands.  But, for the vast majority of government workers, teachers included, it is time they worked and lived like the private sector.  Retiring with a benefits based pension at 50 or so no longer cuts it.  Let them participate in SSI and have a contributions based retirement like the rest of us.

I know some will cry foul about such an idea.  But, before you do, just think of the mechanic, the construction worker, the manufacturing worker, all of which pay taxes and have to work until the SSI retirement age and all they have is that SSI check and what they contributed to their own savings accounts.  Folks like that are the ones that actually help to pay the cushy retirements of state workers.  They cannot afford to do so any longer, and we have to see that and take on the state retirement issue.

Putting younger state workers in a contribution based retirement program helps them.  It is something that they can count on.  Tax revenues for benefit based retirements might be there and they might not be.  A contribution based retirement account is solid.

Reforming state retirement is the 500 pound gorilla in the political room. Not even Governor Haley wants to touch it. But, if we want to put this state on sound financial footing, we have to.  Let the vast majority of state and local workers live like the rest of us in the private sector.  Let them retire at the SSI age, get SSI benefits and  supplement their retirements with various contribution based savings.  We just cannot pay for what is going on now any longer.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

guest cartoon

We at VUI welcome guest submissions of remarks and cartoons.  We got this cartoon about the costs of the Pee Dee Interstate and offer it to the readers.  Enjoy.  Hopefully there will be more to come. 

Cartoon Disclaimer:  All cartoons submitted are strictly the opinion of the artist, are not copyrighted and may be used freely as seen fit by the receiver.  Jamie W. Walton
Bio:  Walton, who lives in Rock Hill with his wife Josette, is a retired Lt. Colonel from the U.S. Army.  A native of Lexington, SC, he graduated from the Citadel with a B.S. degree in Chemistry and holds a Master's degree in Journalism from USC.  He served as the Managing Editor for the Military Review Magazine.  In the Army, he served as Public Affairs Officer for the United States V Corps, Europe and in Washington, DC, where he oversaw media communications related to the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery affairs.  He was also a speechwriter for President Ronald Regan for military events.  He is a combat veteran of Vietnam and Korea.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Watch out! Haley and hers will hit the SC Supreme Court

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley got schooled on South Carolina Constitutional law when the South Carolina State Supreme Court ruled against her call to bring back the South Carolina General Assembly in recess to deal with some pet issues of hers that did not get passed this session.

It was a great day for the rule of law in the land and declared that South Carolina was not some third world state that the executive could haul the legislative body back into session to give the executive more power.  Of course the Court did not say that, but end the end that is what they accomplished.

Think on it.  Governor Haley and those who support her claim to be conservative.  But, Haley tried to use her power as Governor to call the General Assembly to do her bidding to centralize power in the executive branch.  We at VUI are not kidding around.  That sort of thing happens in third world countries, not South Carolina.

The South Carolina Supreme Court said “No.”  That has left Haley and her folks in a downright tizzy fit.  Haley issued a statement, misleading as it was, rambling on about courts around the country disagree.  Wrong answer, Governor.  Conservatives believe that each state has its right to rule its own state government.  True conservatives do not cry out that South Carolina should do as other states.  Further, the courts around the country offer no decisions in the Governor’s defense.  She and her people are just flat going nuts, as one old political hand puts it.   Perhaps we ought to be thankful Haley can not call out the National Guard to surround the SC Supreme Court.

But, that statement does give us an indication of what is going to happen next.  Haley and her well funded operation from out of state money is going to go after the South Carolina Supreme Court.  Bank on it.  In the coming weeks, VUI predicts Haley and her minions saying all sorts of things unsavory about the South Carolina Supreme Court.  How dare they! They opposed Darling Nikki and they must pay!  All sorts of things will come out.  Regardless, the fact we are state of laws, and not personalities is at stake.

Let’s look at the issue the Supreme Court dodged.  The Supreme Court ruled that since the General Assembly was still in session, Governor Haley could not dictate their meetings, essentially.  Good ruling on solid grounds without question.  But, there is a larger issue.  Should South Carolina end up the Venezuela of the United States and have a Governor who keeps calling back the General Assembly in session until her pet issues, especially the ones that give her more power, are carried out?

Is that  type behavior really conservative?  Or is megalomania?  Again think on it.  For decades conservatives have championed the idea of the people having a voice in every decision and decentralizing power.  Along comes Governor Haley, and she tries to use her powers to call back the General Assembly to centralize more government power under her.  The sad thing is, many so called conservatives lap up at the chance to serve her ego and cry out against those who want to check government power.

That is why we at VUI say watch out.  The SC Supreme Court, often a voice of reason in the state beyond normal politics, is about to be taken into the political world via Haley and her minions.  You do not tell Her Majesty “No” and not pay a cost.  Watch the next few weeks and months unfold and remember we told you so. 

Sunday, June 05, 2011


Sixty-sevn years ago, thousands of Allied forces died during the greatest invasion the world has ever known.  Led by Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower, thousands of Americans, British, Canadian and free French soldiers took on the German fortress that was occupied Normandy in France.  

Though it seems hard to believe, the issue was in doubt for much of the day.  German forces were extraordinarily well fortified and casualty rates for the first waves of attackers were larger than expected.  Indeed, the issue was in such doubt that General Eisenhower walked around that day with a statement in his pocket about how the invasion had failed and forces were withdrawing back to England.  

Of course, the note was not needed. The drive and intensity of the men fighting that day carried that day.  Frankly, we often think of our grandfather when it comes to anything from World War II.  Too often people  see it as old and slow.  

Well, it wasn't.  Looking for some way to honor the men of D-Day, the staff came across a tribute video set to Iron Maiden's "Longest Day," which was about D-Day.  It shows the intensity and speed of events.  Enjoy and look at that old guys a different way.  God Bless those Men.  They saved the world from tyranny. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Copper is the new gold for thieves, but should we pass more laws over it?

With South Carolina's economy still struggling, especially in construction and real estate, folks with some knowhow are chasing after the new gold:  stolen copper.  
Copper thieves strike rural churches and homes especially.  Air conditioning units are their usual target.  They strip the copper and sell it to scrap dealers for a nice amount of money.  Law enforcement around the state is worried about the problem and seems almost helpless in stopping it.  The church or homeowner hit ends up paying thousands for repairs.  It is a real problem today.  

So, the General Assembly is trying to act on it.  Everyone from police groups to insurance companies want the General Assembly to pass a copper theft bill that includes a provision that requires anyone who sells more than ten pounds of copper to a scrap dealer to have a permit from the county sheriff to do so.  That seems reasonable on some level.  

But, State Senator Glen Reese of Spartanburg County is holding up the legislation.  SC Senate rules allow just one senator to do so.  Some hate that rule, but it might be a good for something like this.  Here is why. 

First, the vast majority of salvage people are honest and work hard.  Getting scrap metal of any kind is hard work and most folks who do that work are not crooks.  Adding another layer of government bureaucracy for them to deal with just hurts a sector of our economy already struggling.  

Second, the most political and personal of jobs in most counties in South Carolina is the office of County Sheriff.  Most of our Sheriffs are good men.  But, can we count on that from here on out?  Having a Sheriff decide who gets a permit to sell copper and who does not is a dangerous thing.  Such a process is just ripe for good ole boy politics and playing political favorites.  What is to prevent Sheriff Whomever to decide his brother in law can get a permit but the guy who gave to his opponent can not?  

There lies the danger of well meaning legislation carried out in the real political world.  That brings up the third reason.  New laws made rarely, if ever, make people accountable to existing laws.  We have laws against theft and against receiving stolen goods in this state.  Politicians like to act like they are solving a problem with a new law to address the lack of enforcement of the laws already there.  But, what really makes copper theft more important, then say, plastic or iron theft?  Sure it is the problem of the day, but a law is usually forever. 

So, we say hooray for Senator Reese in pausing the rush to a new law pushed by high paid lobbyists.  And hooray for the framers of our State Senate who made that provision for a senator to slow such things down.  Indeed, a new law and a new set of political hoops to jump through for honest people will do nothing to solve the copper theft problem. It will, like most things politicians do, feel good for a moment, but only result in more hassle and little results.  If the General Assembly really wants to get serious about copper theft, then it should find some money to give the Sheriffs for more deputies and money for the Solicitors to prosecute thieves.  But, no one is taking folks out to dinner and lobbying them for that.