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Why It's Time to Remove the Confederate Flag

By Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

"The best time to plant a tree is 20 year ago. The second best time is now."
-  Chinese Proverb

This proverb is at least 1,000 years old, but could easily be paraphrased as a perfect prescription for the situation the state of South Carolina is currently facing.

The best time to take the Confederate Battle Flag off the State House grounds in Columbia was 50 years ago. The second best time is now.

With only a single House member of the Anderson County Legislative Delegation even willing to open debate on the subject, which represents five of the 10 votes against discussion, Anderson County is being painted nationally as the area with most backward, ill-informed and reactionary elected state officials in the Palmetto State.

Exactly 103 other members in the General Assembly agreed with S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s call to get the Confederate flag off from the State House Grounds in the wake of the recent murders at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church. The alleged killer is an avowed racist who has stated he wanted to start a race war in the state. Boy, did he pick the wrong state for that twisted goal.

Much has already been said of the amazing Christian grace and racial unity and support in a city already reeling from the killing on an unarmed African American man with no violent history or record, by a white police officer during a routine traffic stop. The kindling was already lit when the church slayings shocked Charleston, the rest of the state and the world. But unlike Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore and New York where other incidents involving the deaths in African American communities erupted into riots, looting and other violence, what happened in Charleston was something few expected.

At the arraignment of the suspect who gunned down nine people in the church after spending an hour in bible study with them, the families of those nine victims offered Christian forgiveness. In the week since, unity marches, not riots, have marked the event. Prayer meetings, not looting, have been the rule of the day. And even outside groups which traveled to Charleston seeking to fan the flames of hate, were drowned out by singing.

It reflects what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said was a part of his dream:

“We are coming to see now, the psychiatrists are saying to us, that many of the strange things that happen in the sub-conscience, many of the inner conflicts, are rooted in hate. And so they are saying, "Love or perish." But Jesus told us this a long time ago. And I can still hear that voice crying through the vista of time, saying, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." And there is still a voice saying to every potential Peter, "Put up your sword." History is replete with the bleached bones of nations, history is cluttered with the wreckage of communities that failed to follow this command. And isn’t it marvelous to have a method of struggle where it is possible to stand up against an unjust system, fight it with all of your might, never accept it, and yet not stoop to violence and hatred in the process? This is what we have.”

Haley understands the core teaching of this call, and does not want South Carolina to be “cluttered with the wreckage of communities” that failed to follow Jesus’ command. The leadership in the African American community in this state, the families who lost loved ones in the church shooting, and countless others across the state recognize the clear hand of love, the olive branch of peace being extended as a demonstration of how to properly stand up to a unjust system to bring lasting change.

Most seem to clearly recognize these gestures and are responding in kind, with the type of love Jesus talked about when he said the only command greater than loving God is to love your neighbor.

If you lived in a community where you understood your neighbor worked swing shifts, you might remember to tone down your noise in the daylight hours when you knew they were sleeping. Or if you knew your neighbor was a widow, whose husband died serving this country during World War II in the Pacific, is is unlikely you would fly the flag of the Japanese Imperial Navy in your front yard, out of respect.

The Confederate Battle Flag is both offensive and threatening to many in the African American community, and with good reason. While the flag is nothing more than a dyed piece of cloth on a stick, what it represents is determined by how it is used. Some argue that is not fair, but fairness is not at issue in this debate. The truth is the Ku Klux Klan, and according to one report, 500 other extremist groups use the flag as at least one of their symbols. While certainly most who fly that flag do not agree with what these groups stand for, it does not change the fact that there is an association with hatred and bigotry connected to that particular emblem.

Some have tried to argue the flag is a symbol of heritage, not hate, and for a few people that could be true. But few of those are among the groups targeted by those who have chosen the symbol as a weapon of warning and ignorance. As a Southerner whose family roots in South Carolina go back at least seven generations, it is clear many of my people fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. But that war ended 150 years ago, and when it did the Confederate flags in Columbia came down. It was only during the centennial celebration it was added to the capitol dome, which conveniently coincided with the state’s fierce opposition to the legal requirements of Brown vs. the Board of Education which said that “separate but equal” schools were not to be allowed in America.

The flag was clearly intended, not just in South Carolina but across the South and in many other parts of the country, as a signal of opposition to the racial integration of schools and a general opposition to the civil rights movement calling for an end to excluding minorities from voting and being allowed in “whites only” businesses and transportation interests.

Many today have never forgotten than between the turn of the last century and 1968, more than 3,400 African Americas were lynched in this country and most of those were in the South. South Carolina had 156, Georgia 492, Mississippi 539, Tennessee 204, Lousiana 335, Alabama 299, Texas 352, Arkansas 226, Florida 257 and Kentucky 142. Those numbers represent a lot of families who have not forgotten the terror of those times, the KKK was already using the Confederate battle flag as their flag before 1900.

So as those have been wronged offer forgiveness, why is it that these members of the Anderson County Delegation House members - Craig A. Gagnon, District 11, Michael W. "Mike" Gambrell, District 7, Jonathan D. Hill, District 8, Anne J. Thayer, District 9 and W. Brian White, District 6 - voted against the idea of of even debating the issue.
It is a wildly overused phrase, but one which still holds meaning on this issue: these representatives are on the wrong side of history.

South Carolina today is the U.S. headquarters of BMW, Michelin (and soon Volvo) and is home to hundreds of other international businesses. It is foolhardy to think the current controversy is lost on the leaders of these industries. We are a state which had a long way to come, but one where we have made great progress, and now is the time to demonstrate our commitment to moving ahead.

In a state where nearly a third of our citizens are African American - only four states have a slightly higher percentage - and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott is one of one three African Americans in the U.S. Senate, clearly we are ready to move forward.

The flying of the Confederate flag in South Carolina is one controversy we finally have the vision to put to rest.

Let’s hope the General Assembly demonstrates the leadership and wisdom to make it happen.

Contact the Anderson County Delegation here to tell them you expect them to be a part of this historic move, and remind them the primary season for 2016 elections is closer than they might think.


MLK's Dream Lives

By Richard Land , Christian Post

What extraordinary and compelling images have emerged from Charleston in the past week.

First, we were assaulted with the images of the senseless slaughter of nine innocent Christians attending a Wednesday night Bible study in their church, Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. These people were killed by a hate-filled white supremacist just because they were black. The brutality of the crime profoundly shocked the nation.

Then came the extraordinary reaction of the victims' loved ones and fellow church members. As Christians, through their heartbreak and personal loss, they confronted the perpetrator and told him they forgave him and prayed for his soul. What a profound witness to the transformative power of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

These black brothers and sisters, capturing and modeling the true spirit of the Gospel so vividly testified to two generations ago by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who proclaimed in the face of the particularly malevolent brand of evil that would blow up four little girls in church on a Sunday morning in Birmingham, "those you would change, you must first love."

To witness the faith and forgiveness of the African-American members of Charleston's Emanuel AME Church is to expose the current generation to the life-changing impact and power of the non-violent, reconciling message of the 1960s civil rights revolution that transformed our nation in so many very important and critical ways.

Dr. King and his followers refused to allow hate to stifle and shrivel their hearts and souls, and instead became "ambassadors" of reconciliation, preaching that love conquers evil (II Cor. 5:17-21). They triumphed over the implacable evil of the KKK and the White Citizens Councils of their day, and in doing so liberated all Americans, black and white, victim and victimizer, from the corrosive evil of Jim Crow racism.

Now, a half century later, in the very heart of the former Confederacy, where the armed conflict of the Civil War actually started at Fort Sumter in Charleston's harbor, these African-American Christian brothers and sisters vividly illustrate that Dr. King's dream still lives of an America where all people "will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." ("I Have a Dream" speech, 1963).

The white supremacist murderer wanted his evil deeds to start a race war. Instead, the black Christians from Charleston are leading a suddenly reborn, vibrant movement of racial reconciliation in America. A church born in slavery in 1816, burned to the ground in 1822 by white slaveholders in the wake of Denmark Vesey's attempted slave uprising, forced to worship underground until after the Civil War, is now functioning as the thermostat all churches should be. Dr. King made this very point in his "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" (1963), where he explained that in the early centuries of the church, convictional Christianity "was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion, it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society."

What a difference a half century can make. Charleston's Christians, black and white, are uniting to be reconcilers, not revilers. This is the life-transforming power that is defeating evil in the human heart.

And as we witness and experience the exhilarating hope generated by the "Charleston Way," let us pause to contrast it with the recent suggestion that in the wake of the declining influence of civil Christianity in America, that convictional Christians should voluntarily withdraw from society, and function in separate social communities, institutions and ways of living, in an effort to preserve and defend authentic Christianity against an ever-darkening civilization.

This budding movement among Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical Christians is being called the "Benedict" option after St. Benedict of Nursia (480-543 AD), a fifth century Christian whose monastery movement helped guard, protect, and preserve Christianity and Western Civilization after the barbarians engulfed the Roman Empire. Popularized by the former Catholic, now Orthodox, Christian commentator and writer Rod Dreher, the movement calls for varying degrees of disengagement with an ever more intolerant and transcendent secular culture.

What has happened in Charleston these past few days is a vivid illustration and reminder of what society would lose if convictional Christians chose the Benedict option. A society in which Christian mores and values are in decline is an ever more self-centered, self-absorbed, selfish society increasingly concerned with ever more libidinous, self-gratifying pursuits. Such a society will generate a lot more Fergusons and Baltimores and no more Charlestons.

As Christians, if we are to follow our Lord and Saviour's commands to be salt and light in society (Mtt. 5:13-16), withdrawing from the playing field is not an option. Faithfulness does not require or promise victory in this world, but it does demand obedience.

And if we think American society is crass, selfish, shallow, and destructive now, imagine what it would be like if convictional Christians disengaged and withdrew inward into self-contained communities and abandoned the rest of society to stew in its own corrosive juices.

No, we must remain faithful, bearing witness in word and deed to the transforming love of the Gospel and doing so, like the prophet Jeremiah, speaking God's truth in love and compassion, with a catch in our voice and tears in our eyes as we weep and grieve for the pain and suffering caused by the people's destructive behaviors.


Time to End Confederate Flag Talk and Take it Down


If the South Carolina General Assembly doesn’t get the Confederate battle flag off the Statehouse grounds after what happened last week in Charleston, then we might as well replace the Palmetto Tree on the proper state flag – the beautiful blue one – with a swastika.

I’m sick of the cockeyed excuses from state politicians about why the Confederate flag issue is so complicated.

Nine innocent black people are murdered by a 21-year-old white man consumed with racist hatred. He embraces the symbols that divide people, including the Confederate flag, and declares his murderous intentions in racist manifestos and photos posted online.

Could it be any clearer what that flag now represents to most people? How complicated is that?

Some members of the families of the victims – my fellow South Carolinians – did a remarkable thing at the first court hearing on Friday: They forgave him. How is that possible?

It’s because many black Americans – particularly here in the American South – have in previous generations undergone so much oppression, injustice and terrorism that they have had to learn to forgive the worst in other humans just to survive and move on. It’s a coping mechanism.

My family has been here in the American South since the 1700s, and my great-great-grandfather was a Confederate soldier. He was a printer. He printed currency. After the South lost the war and the United States emerged intact – thank God – he became a newspaperman.

The family business he started continues today, and now six generations of my American family have been dedicated to supporting the communities we serve and protecting the First Amendment of the United States of America through publishing and communication. We have a track record, so here’s some free speech for those who want to keep the Confederate battle flag on the Statehouse grounds as some twisted symbol of Southern heritage: You’re misguided and morally blind. Snap out of it.

The Southern pride, heritage and bravery I recognize and appreciate – and what I pray my children and their children will carry forward – is that of U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and my own father.

It’s a legacy of teaching, serving the public good and demonstrating through action the importance of trying to do the right thing by all people. It’s a legacy of moving South Carolina forward in spite of the old hatreds that fester like a genetic cancer in so many.

I’ve seen these people. I’ve known them all my life. I don’t like them, but I do feel sorry for them and have tried to forgive them for one very important reason: They’re spiritually sick, and they know not what they do.

The Southern pride, heritage and bravery I want to be associated with is that of the families of the victims who on Friday forgave the monster who murdered their loved ones in cold blood. The only grace and love that could have enabled such an action comes from a faith in God and humanity so deep that we should all pray for some small part of it in our own spirit. I’m praying for just a piece of that amazing grace for all South Carolinians this week as the victims are buried.

This is South Carolina’s time to show the world our true, united colors as a people. Start with the flag. Do the right thing.

Graham Osteen is editor-at-large of The Item. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GrahamOsteen, or visit

© 2015 SCNow. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Amazing Grace in Charleston

By Cal Thomas
Fifteen minutes before the beginning of the Sunday morning church service, guests are told the building is filled to capacity and they must leave the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

It is such a rare act that most do not know how to respond, except in stunned silence. Relatives of the nine people murdered while attending a Bible study and prayer meeting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, told the accused killer they forgive him.

In violent streets we have become used to calls for retribution, appeals for justice, rioting, looting, marches and self-appointed civil rights leaders hogging cameras and microphones with angry people standing behind them and chants of "no justice, no peace."

But this; this act of forgiveness by grandsons and sons, daughters, husbands and other relatives of the dead is so out of character, so distant from the "norm" we have come to expect, so not Ferguson, Missouri, or Baltimore, so not the Middle East, that it makes the world stop and pause.

Preachers call it "grace," which they define as "unmerited favor." The accused killer doesn't deserve it, but he is offered forgiveness nonetheless. It speaks volumes about the character and spiritual strength of those extending grace to him. In a normal person, grace might bring repentance and, yes, salvation, which is what at least one of the relatives said she was praying would happen to Dylann Roof, a deeply troubled 21-year-old who is accused of the murders.

When the world sees such acts of kindness, it doesn't know what to say. For many it is unfamiliar territory. And yet it is precisely the outworking of what those in that prayer meeting found in the Bible they were studying and the God to whom they prayed. It is a part of the nonviolence taught and practiced by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His refusal to respond to violence with violence helped turn the hearts of many and change the laws of a nation.

Pictures of church services following the killings showed a racial diversity and a coming together that might not just heal Charleston, but serve as a model for the rest of the nation about how to react to senseless violence. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's emotional response to the murders also served as a needed balm that can help heal Charleston's deep wound.

"Amazing Grace" is a hymn sung in churches, at funerals and on other occasions. It is familiar even to those who are not regular churchgoers and may not fully appreciate its meaning. The author, John Newton, was a slave trader. The story of his remorse, repentance and salvation has been told in books and films, but never better than in the first verse of his hymn:

"Amazing grace! How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found;

Was blind, but now I see."

Those sweet people who unknowingly but graciously welcomed Dylann Roof into their prayer meeting, only to come face to face with a man who in the parlance of the church must have been possessed by a demon, if not Satan himself, are now receiving the fruits of God's grace. Relatives of the dead who have extended grace to Root have also modeled it to the rest of the country. In doing so they are examples of the One they follow, who, though innocent of any wrongdoing, said to His Father while hanging on a cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Cal Thomas, America's most-syndicated columnist, is the author of 10 books.

Why TPP a Bad Deal for America

by Elizabeth Warren

Recently Hillary Clinton joined Nancy Pelosi and many others in Congress to call on the president to reorient our trade policy so that it produces a good deal for all Americans — not just for a handful of big corporations. Here’s a realistic starting point: Fix the way we enforce trade agreements to ensure a level playing field for everyone. Many of our close allies — major trading partners like Australia, Germany, France, India, South Africa, and Brazil — are already moving in this direction. American negotiators should stop fighting those efforts and start leading them.

We live in a largely free trade world. Over the past 50 years, we’ve opened up countless markets, so that tariffs today are generally low. As a result, modern trade agreements are less about reducing tariffs and more about writing new rules for everything from labor, health, and environmental standards to food safety, prescription drug access, and copyright protections.

Even if those rules strike the right balance among competing interests, the true impact of a trade deal will turn on how well those rules are enforced. And that is the fundamental problem: America’s current trade policy makes it nearly impossible to enforce rules that protect hard-working families, but very easy to enforce rules that favor multinational corporations.

For example, anyone who wishes to enforce rules that impose labor or environmental standards must plead with our government to bring a claim on their behalf. Reports from the Government Accountability Office, the Labor Department, and the State Department have shown that the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations have rarely brought such claims, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of violations. Without strong enforcement, promises that American workers won’t have to compete against 50-cent-an-hour foreign laborers or promises that countries with terrible environmental records will raise their standards are meaningless.

But multinational corporations don’t have to plead with the government to enforce their claims. Instead, modern trade deals give corporations the right to go straight to an arbitration panel when a country passes new laws or applies existing laws in ways that the corporations believe will cost them money. Known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), these international arbitration panels can force countries to pony up billions of dollars in compensation. And these awards stick: No matter how crazy or outrageous the decision, no appeals are permitted. Once the arbitration panel rules, taxpayers must pay.

Because of how costly these awards can be, ISDS creates enormous pressure on governments to avoid actions that might offend corporate interests. Corporations have brought ISDS cases against countries that have raised their minimum wage, attempted to cut smoking rates, or prohibited dumping toxic chemicals. Just last month, a foreign corporation successfully challenged Canada’s decision to deny a blasting permit because of concerns about the environmental impact on nearby fishing grounds, and now the company could get up to $300 million from Canadian taxpayers. Will Canada’s environmental regulators hesitate before they say no to the next foreign corporation that wants to dump, blast, or drill?

Leading economic and legal experts have called on America to drop ISDS from its trade deals. Hillary Clinton recently called ISDS “a fundamentally antidemocratic process.” The conservative Cato Institute agrees, noting that ISDS is “ripe for exploitation by creative lawyers” looking to challenge the “world’s laws and regulations.”

And here lies the double standard at the heart of our trade deals: Once they sign on, countries know that if they strengthen worker, health, or environmental standards, they invite corporate ISDS claims that can bleed taxpayers dry. But countries also know that if they fail to raise wages or stop dumping in the river — even if they made such promises in the trade deal — the US government will likely do nothing.

While American negotiators ignore this problem, the rest of the world is waking up and fighting back. After Phillip Morris targeted it for billions in ISDS compensation, Australia began raising significant objections to ISDS. Negotiations with Europe over a massive new trade deal have stalled in part because of objections to ISDS, including from Germany and France. India is considering abandoning ISDS. So is South Africa, after being hit with an ISDS action challenging — incredibly — its postapartheid policies promoting minority ownership in its mining sector. Brazil has flatly refused to include ISDS in any of its trade agreements.

America needs trade — but not trade agreements that offer gold-plated enforcement for giant corporations and meaningless promises for everyone else. If we truly want better deals that work for everyone, we should stop clinging to our enforcement double standard and start joining our allies in trying to level the playing field.

Elizabeth Warren is a US senator from Massachusetts.


Painful Truth: Hillary Not Qualified to Be President

By Thomas Sowell

There are no sure things in politics, but Hillary Clinton is the closest thing to a sure thing to become the Democrats' candidate for president in 2016.

This is one of the painful but inescapable signs of our time. There is nothing in her history that would qualify her for the presidency, and much that should disqualify her. What is even more painful is that none of that matters politically. Many people simply want "a woman" to be president, and Hillary is the best-known woman in politics, though by no means the best qualified.

What is Hillary's history? In the most important job she has ever held — Secretary of State — American foreign policy has had one setback after another, punctuated by disasters.

U.S. intervention in Libya and Egypt, undermining governments that were no threat to American interests, led to Islamic extremists taking over in Egypt and terrorist chaos in Libya, where the American ambassador was killed, along with three other Americans.

Fortunately, the Egyptian military has gotten rid of that country's extremist government that was persecuting Christians, threatening Israel and aligning itself with our enemies. But that was in spite of American foreign policy.

In Europe, as in the Middle East, our foreign policy during Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State was to undermine our friends and cater to our enemies.

The famous "reset" in our foreign policy with Russia began with the Obama administration reneging on a pre-existing American commitment to supply defensive technology to shield Poland and the Czech Republic from missile attacks. This left both countries vulnerable to pressures and threats from Russia — and left other countries elsewhere wondering how much they could rely on American promises.

Even after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Obama administration refused to let the Ukrainians have weapons with which to defend themselves. President Obama, like other presidents, has made his own foreign policy. But Hillary Clinton, like other Secretaries of State, had the option of resigning if she did not agree with it. In reality, she shared the same flawed vision of the world as Obama's when they were both in the Senate.

Both of them opposed the military "surge" in Iraq, under General David Petraeus, that defeated the terrorists there. Even after the surge succeeded, Hillary Clinton was among those who fiercely denied initially that it had succeeded, and sought to discredit General Petraeus, though eventually the evidence of the surge's success became undeniable, even among those who had opposed it.

The truly historic catastrophe of American foreign policy — not only failing to stop Iran from going nuclear, but making it more difficult for Israel to stop them — was also something that happened on Hillary Clinton's watch as Secretary of State.

What the administration's protracted and repeatedly extended negotiations with Iran accomplished was to allow Iran time to multiply, bury and reinforce its nuclear facilities, to the point where it was uncertain whether Israel still had the military capacity to destroy those facilities.

There are no offsetting foreign policy triumphs under Secretary of State Clinton. Syria, China and North Korea are other scenes of similar setbacks.

The fact that many people are still prepared to vote for Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States, in times made incredibly dangerous by the foreign policy disasters on her watch as Secretary of State, raises painful questions about this country.

A President of the United States — any president — has the lives of more than 300 million Americans in his or her hands, and the future of Western civilization. If the debacles and disasters of the Obama administration have still not demonstrated the irresponsibility of choosing a president on the basis of demographic characteristics, it is hard to imagine what could.

With our enemies around the world arming while we are disarming, such self-indulgent choices for president can leave our children and grandchildren a future that will be grim, if not catastrophic.


Anderson County Hits Solid Triple with 2016 Budget

By Greg Wilson/Anderson Observer

It has been nearly a week since Anderson County Council passed the budget for the coming fiscal year, and after looking carefully at the details in the final document over the past week, it looks like council hit a solid triple this year.

No new taxes or fees, that should elate many voters and citizens who are too lazy/apathetic to vote, almost adequate funding for repairing and maintaining our roads and, finally, meaningful raises for law enforcement officers and 911 dispatch operators.

Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns and the council members are to be commended for their furious race to the finish line on this budget, which was nothing short of a mess following a second reading which no one seemed to support.

Thank your council person for working in a progressive fashion this year. After years of inadequate funding, many of our roads were headed toward a place where replacement would be cheaper than repair. No longer. While still about $1.5 million short of the perfect funding level, this year's $5.5 million for roads is the best we’ve seen in a very long time.

Also give them a high five for finally recognizing that our men and women who wear badges and answer the “every call could be life or death” phones at the 911 dispatch center, deserved far better than Anderson County has provided for nearly a decade. The raises put in place not only bring starting salaries up close to a level of other counties, but provide substantial raises to our veteran folks who have labored in a severely underpaid state for nearly a decade. The move will also help stop the bleeding of our best front line public servants, and for that we can all sleep easier.

Finally, the only real quibble I have with the budget is it lacks similar raises for long-time employees of the county who are not in the law enforcement division. Granted, those at the bottom of the ladder, some of whom were making less than $18,000 per year, will see a minimum salary of $20,000. Others will benefit from the realignment of pay grades, which is also a good thing, but many of those who have served the county well for years are left with a raise of less than $100 per month after watching their budgets (and sometimes staffs) shrink dramatically over the austere budgets since 2008.

It is likely those additional funds would have required a 2-mil tax hike this year, but that would still be a good investment. Most Andersonians would be willing to pay between $4-$20 a year to see their neighbors who have worked long and well for Anderson County be fairly compensated for their sacrifices and hard work. This oversight could also impact hiring top-notch folks from outside the county to fill future openings.

This misfire is all that keeps this year’s budget from being an uncontested home run.

But a solid triple is a good thing, one that shows progress and a vision for the future of Anderson County. Good work, folks.


Saying Goodbye to Late Night's Brightest Mind

From Where I Sit

By Greg Wilson

I said goodbye to an old friend, Friday night. Makes little difference I never met the man.

Craig Ferguson signed off his final “Late, Late, Show” on CBS Friday night with the same tv-is-not-to-be-taken-seriously attitude that marked his 10-year run. You can catch it on if you haven’t already heard the payoff.

But while Ferguson was the master of silly, his approach to deconstructing the format to which he was attached was unmatched.

“I do a show,” Ferguson once said. “It comes on late at night on TV. And if that means I'm a late-night talk show host, then I guess I am, but in every other regard I resign my commission, I don't care for it.”

As someone who started watching late night televison when Jack Parr was a year away from handing over the reigns to Johnny Carson, who (even though his wishes were ignored) passed the torch (if not the tonight show) to David Letterman 30 years later, there is no one I will miss more than Craig Ferguson.

It was Letterman’s brilliant, snarky, mocking of the talk show format that built the platform from which Ferguson launched the neutron bomb which blew up completely up.

From tearing up the screener’s questions on air before every interview, to his never-ending stream of consciousness monologues which generally reached the desk afterward, he was never a part the joke machine fraternity that even the best of the others who populate the format have not overcome.

During the last weeks he got a haircut (he called it “more mohawk, less anchorman”) which he asked the audience if it made him look more Samuel Beckett or Adolf Hitler. Actually, his resemblance to Beckett was striking. All the while he engaged in conversation with Geoff Peterson, his gay robot skeleton sidekick (and his dozens of spot-on celebrity voice impersonations) who shared the spotlight with Ferguson across the stage from two guys in a horse suit for the last half of the shows run.

Don’t get me wrong, Ferguson is wickedly funny. I have seen most of the top-tier stand ups, from acts at the Comedy Cellar in New York City and the Comedy Store in Los Angeles, the high dollar tours of legends like Bill Cosby and Bob Newhart. None of them can match the raw energy and diamond precision madness of one of Ferguson’s live shows. At one 90-minute set, I was astounded that he managed to get funnier and funnier as the night went on. Think Robin Williams channeling Steven Wright and Sam Kinnison with Dick Cavett as a writer and you might pick up some of the energy Ferguson generates on stage.

And he brought a lot of that to his CBS show. But what always set him apart from the others with a monologue, a desk and guests, was how he was never shy about injecting thoughtful quotes, ideas and sometimes even serious guests into the madness.

Just last week, after being censored for cursing about some news story, he tossed out “the more humanity advances, the more it is degraded,” a quote from Gustave Flaubert and maybe the most acute analysis of our age.

In 2013, after asking Stephen King to autograph a book live on the air, Ferguson proceeded to discuss the Jungian nature of King’s work and ask him about Jung’s “Red Book.”

My personal favorite quote, though was after a beautiful dissecting of why this generation is the first society that worships youth, or in his words, why everything sucks:

“I’ve figured it out. I’ve figured it out What? Everything. Why everything sucks.
Here’s why. In the 1950s, late ’50s, early ’60s, a bunch of advertising guys got together on Madison Avenue and decided to try to sell products to younger people. We should try to sell to younger people because then they will buy things their whole lives. We’ll try to sell them soft drinks, or bread, or cigars — or whatever the hell they were trying to sell them. It was just an advertising thing, they didn’t mean any harm by it, just a bit of market research.

So they told the television companies, and the movie companies, and the record companies — and everybody started targeting the youth. Because the youth was the place where you were going to be able to sell things.

What happened was, in a strange kind of quirk of fate, youth began to be celebrated by society. This was in a way that it had never been at any time in human history. What used to be celebrated was experience, and cleverness. But what became valuable was youth — and the quality of youth was being a consumer.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re saying “but wait a minute, Craig, in Ancient Greece they deified youth.” No they didn’t. They deified beauty. Different.

What happened is youth became more important and became more important. Society started to turn on its head. Because youth has a byproduct — inexperience. By the nature of youth you don’t have any experience. It’s not your fault. You’re just kind of stupid.

So the deification of youth evolved, and turned into the deification of imbecility. It became fashionable to be young and to be stupid. And that grew, and that grew, and that grew, and now that’s what all the kids want to be. “I just want to be young and stupid!” But you know what? That’s not what you want to be. You do not want to be young and stupid.

Then what happened is that people were frightened to not be young. They started dyeing their hair, they started mutilating their faces and their bodies in order to look young. But you can’t be young forever, that’s against the laws of the universe. To try to make yourself younger is to buy into the idea that young people are somehow better, and they’re not.”

Amen. When I heard this rant, I wondered where were the other voices that should be shouting this (until I remembered they are all getting facelifts and dyeing their hair to look good for the next campaign cycle.)

But Ferguson himself trended mostly toward modesty. He once said: “I'm a terrible interviewer. “I'm not a journalist - although I have a Peabody Award - and I'm not really a late-night host. What I am is honest.”

He was only partially right. His Peabody was for a stunningly strong interview with Bishop Desmond Tutu, one which he introduced with the the most amazing summary of what had happened in South Africa over the past 500 years. And he did it in five clever minutes. No monolog that night, no cue cards, telepromters, just passionate conversations with one of the most important figures of the 20th century.

He also managed to put any guest willing to be honest at ease. And so many were. Those who were not, he forced to think on their feet. He talked about what interested him, and pulled them into conversations.

And Ferguson was never afraid to talk about his own battle with addiction and his 25 great years of sobriety, his divorces and career struggles. He also was never one to pile on to those in trouble for some of the same things.

In 2007, while the rest of the late night world tore Britney Spears apart for her breakdown, Ferguson dedicated his monologue to defending her, opening up about his alcoholism, drug abuse and near suicide. He spent a whole episode each to eulogize his parents after their individual deaths. A man so enthusiastic in his patriotism that he reminded us every day that it was, in fact, a great day for America, he dedicated his first show back after being granted United States citizenship to his new status, including a taped segment on the ceremony and a pipe and drums performance by The Wicked Tinkers, which Ferguson joined in on to prove he was still just as Scottish as he was American.

And yet, after 2,058 episodes, Ferguson and what he did still defies an easy definition. It’s not something that makes talking point conversation around the water cooler. And that is exactly the point. Those of us who discovered Ferguson and his brand of brainy, compassionate insanity and have made it a part of our late night (or dvr) lives, are left with great memories and a nagging hope that he will return again soon, reinventing the talk show format yet again. Until that time, Beannachd Dia dhuit, Craig.


Candidates Struggle to Overcome Poorly Done Debate

By Greg Wilson

The jack-o'-lanterns are on the front porches. Plastic skeletons are hanging from doors and fence posts. It can only mean one thing - election day is getting closer.

From Where I SitAnd nothing says elections like a good debate. That's why there were a variety of reasons to be disappointed in Tuesday night's South Carolina gubernatorial debate. The problem was not as much with the candidates, but with the over-wrought format and C-Span's truncated coverage snafus.

The debate, scheduled for a 9 p.m. start, was delayed 10 minutes while C-Span aired expanded coverage following the Arkansas Senatorial debate, including television commercials from each of the candidates. When the poorly lighted, poorly staged event actually began, things did not get much better.

Some of the issues were a result of the fact the debate was sponsored by The Charleston Post and Courier, WCIV-TV in Charleston, WACH-TV in Columbia, WPDE-TV in Myrtle Beach and WLOS-TV/WMYA-TV, created some of the problems.

Too many representatives of sponsors, each with questions for the candidates, made for an awkward and unsatisfying debate both for the candidates and viewers.

Each candidate was given 60 seconds to answer a question, and offered 30 seconds for rebuttal. Few got the opportunity to use their rebuttal time during the 40-minute debate.

The candidates and voters of South Carolina deserved better.

The five candidates handled the poor format and time restraints as well as can be expected.

Here is are the essential messages and performance rankings from each candidate, based on a rating scale of 1-5:

1. Independent Tom Ervin - 4

Ervin stayed with his talking points of improve the economy, improve wages for citizens and repairing the state's crumbling and aging road system. 

2. Democrat Vincent Sheheen - 3.5

Sheheen hammered away at citizens of South Carolina paying for Medicaid expansion in other states, due directly to the fact that Haley spearheaded the rejection of the federally funded expansion of the program in our own state, a move which is costing South Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars, which comes out of the pockets or working citizens in the state. 

3. Rebulican Nikki Haley - 3

Haley maintained, in very broad terms, the state had added thousands of jobs during her first term and accused Sheheen of wanting to expand Obamacare by suggesting Medicaid expansion was good for South Carolina. Haley seemed a bit detatched and distracted during the debate, and missed opportunities to challenge some of the criticisms leveled at her.

4. Libertarian Steve French - 2

French was consistent in his Libertarian views promoting less taxation and essentially no restraints on personal choices by citizens. But his comments on jobs made Reeves ramblings seem almost sane. Criticizing Haley on incentives for businesees, French said: "I look at jobs like I look at sex. You shouldn't brag about it if you have to pay for it."

5. Green/United Citizens Morgan Bruce Reeves 1

It is hard to take any candidate seriously who finds a way to imply that all of the state's problems would be solved by legalizing hemp and marijuana. His implications that supporting full legalization of the drug was a spiritual matter just made him seem plain weird. I confess I don't like the fact this guy can run on the ballot twice, which garnered him 20,000 votes in 2010. 

A second gubernatorial debate scheduled for Oct. 21 at Furman University in Greenville will focus on education and health care.


County Leadership: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Last week’s announcements that two out-of-state companies are bringing nearly 400 jobs - and millions in investment - to Anderson County is something to celebrate, but for reasons which go beyond the economic impact of new jobs and investment.

By Greg Wilson Editor/Publisher Anderson ObserverAnderson County Administrator Rusty Burns said it best: “Every single person who works for Anderson County should get credit for the announcements this week." Burns said the county’s various departments are making a concerted effort to work closely with the economic development folks and county council to ensure that any business considering locating in Anderson has met with every entity whose help they will need - from permits to roads and infrastructure to quality of life issues - when considering a move to Anderson. 

Making it easier on relocating companies is both wise and good for both those looking for a place to do business and for the county. It is a direction that just makes sense, and Anderson County leadership should be commended for embracing such an approach. It is also why yet another announcement of new jobs and investment is likely in the days ahead. 

Those involved in making it happen should be commended. For almost a decade, Anderson County has lagged in job growth, but under the current leadership things are indeed changing.  

So if you get a chance, thank your council member for their efforts in opening the door to this change. And while you’re at it, send a note of support to Burns and Anderson County Economic Development Director Burris Nelson for aggressively working to build the kind of partnerships and cooperative efforts with other local institutions and groups necessary to attract the kind of stable, family-owned industries which offer decent wages and seem a good fit for our community.

If you know any county employee, also extend thanks to their willingness to continue their hard work despite years of no raises and increased insurance costs. As Burns said, every county employee had a hand in the current economic development announcements. Several council members have also publicly thanked county employees for their part in the success. Hope this provides potential impetus for discussion pay increases for all county workers the 2014 budget. 

Anderson County still has a lot of work to do in many areas, but today we can celebrate that for now economic development seems to be on the right track. Let’s hope such cooperation and leadership extends to other county efforts and concerns in the days ahead.